Sightseeing

Enjoying the Des Moines, IA Area

For those taking a break, or extra vacation, Des Moines and greater Iowa has many sightseeing opportunities. Here are some links to some favorites.

Des Moines:

Blank Park Zoo

Blank Park Zoo is a 49-acre zoological park on the south side of Des Moines, Iowa, United States, near historic Fort Des Moines. It is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is the only accredited zoo in Iowa.

Des Moines Botanical Garden

Des Moines Botanical Garden inspires and engages visitors through education, experience and exploration. As a renowned cultural institution, the Botanical Garden cultivates diverse plants and connects people to the environment surrounding them.

Science Center of Iowa

Centrally located in Downtown Des Moines, SCI features hands-on exhibits, special-format theaters, and unique programming to encourage learning and fun for all ages.

Iowa State Capitol

The 23-karat golden dome towering above the city is a favorite of sightseers. Four smaller domes flank the main dome. The Capitol houses the governor’s offices, legislature and the old Supreme Court room. Guided tours are available.

Des Moines Art Center

The Des Moines Art Center is an art museum with an extensive collection of paintings, sculpture, modern art and mixed media.

Des Moines Farmers Market

The Downtown Farmers’ Market connects urban and rural communities while supporting nearly 300 local entrepreneurs, including farmers, producers, bakers, and artists that represent 50 counties across the state of Iowa.

Historic East Village

The East Village is Des Moines’ most vibrant and diverse district, boasting many of the finest shopping, dining, nightlife and commerce in Iowa.

World Food Prize Hall of Laureates

This magnificently restored Beaux Arts space celebrates the spirit of giving, emphasizing the importance of global food security.

Court Avenue District

Nestled in the heart of Downtown Des Moines (DSM), the Historic Court District is the entertainment destination of Downtown DSM. It’s one of the oldest Downtown neighborhoods and the site of many Downtown DSM firsts.

Salisbury House

Salisbury House was built in the 1920s by cosmetics magnate Carl Weeks and his wife Edith. The home was modeled after the King’s House in Salisbury, England. The historic home contains authentic 16th century English oak woodwork, English flintwork and rafters that date back to the time of Shakespeare.

State Historical Museum

The museum has more than 80,000 objects and about 1,500 objects are on exhibit at any given time. More objects are on display in the capitol building and other museums in Iowa.

Des Moines Symphony

The Des Moines Symphony Orchestra is Central Iowa’s largest and most active year-round professional performing arts producing organization.

Living History Farms

Living History Farms is an interactive outdoor museum which educates, entertains, and connects people of all ages to Midwestern rural life experiences.

Prairie Meadows Racetrack Casino

Prairie Meadows offers nonstop casino action, live and simulcast horse racing, sports wagering, big-name entertainment, local and regional musical acts, and full-service dining amenities.

Adventureland Amusement Park and Adventure Bay Waterpark

Adventureland Amusement Park and Adventure Bay Waterpark contains over 100 rides, shows, and attractions.

Iowa Cubs Baseball

The Iowa Cubs are a Minor League Baseball team of the Triple-A East and the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs play their home games at Principal Park, which opened in 1992.

Central Iowa:

Ledges State Park

The park contains a sandstone gorge carved by Pea’s Creek, a tributary of the Des Moines River.

Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad

The Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad is a heritage railroad that operates freight and passenger excursions in Boone County, Iowa.

John Wayne Birthplace and Museum

With the opening of the 6,100 square foot John Wayne Birthplace Museum adjacent to the home, visitors can see the largest diversified exhibit of John Wayne artifacts in existence.

Reiman Gardens

Situated on a 17-acre site, the year-round attraction features distinct gardens both indoors and outdoors, a Conservatory with seasonal displays, and a 2,500-square-foot Butterfly Wing.

High Trestle Bike Trail

The High Trestle Trail runs for 25 miles through five towns in four counties and, because there are a variety of entry and access points, it is an ideal destination for cyclists of all interests and abilities.

Greater Iowa:

Amana Colonies

Step into a world of authentic German ambiance that was created by our ancestors and preserved today.

American Gothic House

In 1930, Grant Wood took a tour of a small Iowa town, and spotted a little white house with a large Gothic window. Inspired, Wood quickly sketched the house, and returned home to Cedar Rapids to paint American Gothic.

Surf Ballroom

The Surf Ballroom (also called the Surf) is a Historic Rock and Roll Landmark located in Clear Lake, Iowa. The Surf is closely associated with the event known colloquially as “The Day the Music Died” – early rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson gave their last performances at the Surf on February 2, 1959 as part of the “Winter Dance Party Tour”.

National Farm Toy Museum

Take a small-scale adventure into the history of agriculture! Revel in the Museum’s collections of farm toys and unique exhibits on agriculture’s amazing history.

Bridges of Madison County

Madison County is the Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa, with the largest group of covered bridges that exists in one area in the western half of the Mississippi Valley.

Maquoketa Caves State Park

With more caves than any state park, Maquoketa Caves is one of Iowa’s most unique outdoor attractions.

Backbone State Park

The steep and narrow ridge of bedrock from the Maquoketa River forms the highest point in northeast Iowa – The Devil’s Backbone – giving the park its legendary name.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

The mounds preserved here are considered sacred by many Americans, especially the Monument’s 20 culturally associated American Indian tribes. A visit offers opportunities to contemplate the meanings of the mounds and the people who built them.

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

Part aquarium, part museum, part science center, the Nation Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium inspires stewardship by creating educations experiences where history and rivers come alive!

Union Pacific Railroad Museum

Located in historic downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa, on the Missouri River, we’re a great place for friends and family to come and learn about the Union Pacific Railroad.

 

Plan your road trip:

Iowa Scenic Byway Passport