So, our official first time in Des Moines was back in mid-Winter, when it was 20-below and our visit was all mostly secret (pending job offers and such). We stayed downtown at the Des Lux Hotel and visited a few of downtown’s restaurants — Centro (great cheese tray for me, but otherwise not a gluten-free friendly menu) and Proof (amazing dinner experience all-around) and looked at a LOT of houses with a Realtor. As much as I wanted to explore and walk around the city, it was impossible due to that wind chill (um, 20 BELOW), so we mostly drove around and/or stayed warm in the hotel (which had a freakin’ fireplace in the room!!!).
We’ve since had our first legit visit to downtown (for non-work visiting purposes) and entertained our first visitors over Memorial Day Weekend. Our plans typically include food and fun, and almost always starts with BRUNCH. This will be the first of a LOT of posts about my new city because it’s awesome here. And you should come visit me. Probably in August for the Iowa State Fair. 😉
Here’s some of my faves (and a reminder to myself that I DEFINITELY need to get back to Proof)…
Brunch at Americana: We’ve now been twice for their Bombshell Brunch, which includes unlimited Mimosas and Bloody Mary drinks that you can make your own AND two roomfuls of food buffets including the usual breakfast foods, a mashed potato bar, a taco bar, and a waffle bread pudding (!!!) — AND a grilled cheese station at the front bar. Their menu includes a few additional breakfast-themed shots, which are amazing. They also do brunch on both Saturday and Sunday.
Pappajohn Sculpture Park: The place most Instagrammed in all of Des Moines, I’m sure. Public art takes a whole new shape in downtown and even being down there a few times already, I always find something new to take in (and photograph, naturally). Feel free to bring down a lunch or picnic basket and hang out — they encourage enjoying the space!
Downtown Farmers Market: Holy cow, I cannot emphasize how massive this market it; it’s nothing like what I imagined and no open air farmers market compares. And now I understand why thousands of Iowans get out of bed early on Saturday to spend their mornings there. You can sample cheeses and wines, and shop all in-season produce, and even buy flowers, all while listening to live music and gawking at the city’s most adorable dog population. Also, the lines for the food trucks and stands are just INSANE. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, the farmer stands stretch down ANOTHER intersection and side street. It’s overwhelming to think you can do it all in two hours… so give yourself the entire morning.
East Village souvenir shopping: Raygun t-shirts is one of my favorite places to hang out and crack up. Not only do they have all the funny local tees, there are other fun localized postcards, books, magnets — something like a tourist shop for the Midwesterner. They also sell one of my favorite brands of casual clothes, Alternative Apparel.
BONUS: Just down the block is a place dedicated to a certain craft of the state: Iowa Tap Room (there’s even a good selection of ciders, wines, and meads for me) or a Della Viti wine bar (where you can buy a card and select your own samples!).
I’m also starting a Des Moines Bucket List, so if you’re from here or live here, tell me what I should go do!
For the summer, I’d like to:
- Bike ride in Madrid to High Trestle Bridge; I’d also like t take a second trip to Jasper Winery
- Eat my way around the Iowa State Fair – ALL THE… FRIED THINGS.
- Moonlight kayak on Gray’s Lake
- Hike Maquoketa Caves State Park
- Find an outdoor pop-up yoga downtown somewhere!