Des Moines blew away our expectations. From the art and theater scene to the amazing gastronomic experiences, Des Moines had it all.
We had been wanting to see Hamilton for months, but tickets in New York were hundreds a piece. Fortunately, last July when we were traveling to Des Moines, so was Hamilton. The best part was that tickets were much more reasonably priced. The show one hundred percent lived up to all the hype. The story line, music and actors were some of the best I have seen on stage. The cast was extremely versatile and talented, dancing a traditional waltz then breaking out in rap. The Des Moines Performing Arts Center also had comfortable seats with plenty of leg room.
All of our meals were delicious, and also very affordable. Our best meal was at Bubba. The restaurant had southern comfort food, paired with modern healthy eats all in an upscale atmosphere. I had the grilled salmon salad for lunch, which was perfectly cooked and had just the right amount of zest from the apple cider vinegar dressing. My boyfriend had a cup of their gumbo and said it was the best he had ever had. We wish they would open a sister restaurant closer to us!
Another surprising favorite was Hy-Vee Market Grill. Hy-Vee is a midwestern grocery chain headquartered in West Des Moines. I was a little skeptical at first of having a meal at a grocery store while on vacation, but I am so glad we did. We went for breakfast and when you enter their Market Grill, you would have no idea it was connected to a grocery store. It was a fabulous restaurant with fantastic service and top-notch food at a very reasonable price. One of my go-to breakfasts at restaurants is scrambled eggs with a side of fruit and toast. I could tell the eggs were fresh and not from a liquid or powder. There was no extra charge for the fruit instead of potatoes, which was very fresh as well. We couldn’t conclude our meal without a scrumptious donut. We saw a plate of them when we came in and they looked so good we just couldn’t resist. Hy-Vee should expand to the East Coast. If so, I would definitely shop and eat there frequently.
For dinners we ate at St. Kilda and RoCA. We found both restaurants on OpenTable and made reservations in advance. St. Kilda was casual with sandwiches and salads. The wait staff was helpful with suggestions. RoCA was a little more upscale and had a wide variety of shared plates ranging from Asian lettuce wraps to ratatouille. As you can tell, we ate our way through Des Moines and loved every minute of it.
I couldn’t forget about Zombie Burger. It was very popular so we ate at the counter. They had zombie themed burgers and shakes named after characters from shows like The Walking Dead. If you are a fan of zombies or burgers, this is the place to go.
Des Moines also had a huge farmers’ market on Saturday morning. This was one of the largest I have ever seen, spanning several city blocks downtown with tons of vendors showcasing everything from ice cream to hand carved wooden crafts.
Aside from all the food, we also took in a lot of the sites. We visited the Blank Park Zoo, which was so much fun. The weather was great (although quite hot in July) and we saw everything from flamingos to tortoises and bald eagles to giraffes.
After the zoo we walked through the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Admission was free and it was so cool to see these large sculptures right in the middle of the city. The sculptures definitely made you feel small as many towered above you.
We continued our walk along the river and came across the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge. I absolutely loved the sentiment behind this pedestrian bridge to honor women from Iowa who have made outstanding contributions to advancing the well-being of others. I appreciate the recognition of these women for making such great strides and think this pedestrian bridge is the perfect way to pay homage to their amazing efforts. It also has a beautiful view and you can walk through different paths to other attractions along the Riverwalk, such as the Asian Cultural Temple.
We also wanted to explore some of the history of the city and visited the State Capitol where we caught part of a tour and awed at the grand architecture, especially the gorgeous ceiling.
Not too far from the Capitol was the State Historical Society of Iowa. Admission was free and the museum was even larger than we expected with multiple levels to explore. Greeters welcomed us as did large airplanes hanging from the ceiling. The front open space was being set up for a wedding that was scheduled to take place later that afternoon. Part of a historical exhibit pertained to Women’s Suffrage which paired perfectly with our walk over the Women of Achievement Bridge.
The museum had a great mix of history and culture, ranging from the Civil War to Hollywood history and celebrities from the state. Did you know Ashton Kutcher is from Iowa?
Last but not least, we popped in at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. It was quite hot outside so we didn’t spend a ton of time here and I think we were past floral peak, but the grounds were lovely and they were setting up for a wedding here as well.
Our trip to Des Moines has been one of my and my boyfriend’s favorite new state trips together so far. Between the amazing food, affordability, culture and charm of the city, we would definitely go back.