No matter where you are in Iowa, Des Moines is no farther than 200 miles away. That drive brings you to one of the strongest concentrations of culture—arts, history, sports, dining or otherwise—in the state. Child, teen or grown-up, there is something for everyone in the center of Iowa.
Make your way to the East Village of Des Moines for a weekend getaway with everything you need within a few city blocks. Saved from the wrecking ball about 10 years ago, the 150-year-old area now known as the East Village houses one-of-a-kind shops. Radiating out from the capitol, the thriving area draws people with its history, charm and personality-laden shops.
What to Do
You don’t have to crane your neck to see the gilded dome of the Iowa State Capitol; two flights get you a peek up at the dome. Follow the docent back down to walk halls of government past a Civil War battle flag, law library and a collection of dolls wearing the First Ladies’ inaugural gowns. A short walk to the base of capitol hill brings you to the State of Iowa Historical Museum. A wooly mammoth greets you in the three-story atrium. Spend a couple of hours trying your hand at pushing a plow, wondering at Iowa’s aviation history and learning about natural resources.
It feels like summer in the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Everyone appreciates the tropical temps! Wide pathways lead families past walls of orchids, amid lush growth and over a pond where koi swim. Bundle up and burn off some energy at the Brenton Skating Plaza. The open-air skating rink rents equipment and offers lessons (set days/times) for folks who may want to practice their ice moves. Take a break over beverages, snacks, pizzas and popcorn in the warming shelter.
Where to Shop
Raygun t-shirts are cool and its not just because they’re made in the USA. Clever sayings—IOWA 75% vowels, 100% awesome and I lived in Kansas City before it was cool—poke fun at the Midwest but make you proud to be a Midwesterner. Just as fun and imaginative, Sticks sells distinctive wood furniture and home accessories all decorated in Sticks’ distinctive combination of words and colorful images.
Exotic, obscure and everyday spices, salts, rubs and seasonings star at Allspice, which carries almost 20 kinds of salt alone. Sample various olive oils and balsamic vinegars; online recipe cards inspire uses. For the rest of your baking and cooking gadgets, Kitchen Collage delivers. The store carries dishes, barware, pots and pans, knives—basically anything an at-home chef needs to put dinner on the table or host a party.
A feminine vibe fills the space at Aimee, a boutique where trendy clothes tempt shoppers looking for something decidedly unique. Pamper yourself with bath and body products like Kiehl’s and L’Occitane from Eden, which also sells upscale children's and baby goods.
Treasure hunters get rewarded with shabby chic or antiques at Found Things and Porch Light. Handmade crafts and vintage home accessories (antique juice glasses, fridge magnets) fill Porch Light. For quirky odds and ends (metal roller skates, billiard balls, black-and-white photos) and antiques, Found Things fills two floors.
Coffee or Tea?
For an afternoon latte or quick caffeine fix, Village Bean makes a convenient stop. Tea-lovers or those just needing a relaxing ritual love Gong Fu Tea. Settle in while passionate owners or staff brew you a taste of more than a hundred loose-leaf teas.
Where to Eat
The name says it all. You can dine on killer burgers and hand-cut fries under zombie-theme art at Zombie Burger. It’s doubtful you’ll have room, but the brain freeze shakes are to die for. Plan on a wait or zip through the to-go counter for quick service. Looking for something a little more upscale? Ultra hip Alba Restaurant uses seasonal ingredients such as parsnips, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts and hazelnuts to create sophisticated dishes. The menu changes often, but options include the likes of salads of seasonal veggies, delicate gnocchi, herb-rubbed steaks and burgers topped with a fusion of flavors.
Where to Stay
Along the Des Moines River, Embassy Suites sits on the edge of East Village. True to its name, two-room suites come with standard amenities. In the morning, follow the aromas to a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast before the kids jump into the pool and you relax in the hot tub.
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