Yes, there are a few good reasons besides “primary fever” to plan a Des Moines, Iowa, getaway. While the city is known for having one of the country’s best state fairs, its downtown East Village neighborhood is becoming one of the Midwest’s hip new places to visit. Plus, Des Moines has added and improved some attractions, making the city all the more visitor-friendly.
Try to time your getaway to coincide with the Iowa State Fair (August 7 to 17), the state’s biggest event by far, attracting more than a million people annually. The fair hosts one of the world’s largest livestock contests, a 900-category produce and foods competition, a midway packed with rides, five stages of free live music performances, and more than 600 exhibitor and concessions stands (where you can buy 30 different types of food-on-a-stick!). Admission is $7 if you buy your tickets online in advance (July 7 to August 6), or $10 at the gate.
Whether you’re around for the fair or not, plan some time to check out a few of the city’s museums. Art lovers can visit the free Des Moines Art Center, which houses notable pieces from artists like Jasper Johns and Henri Matisse, and the newer Art Center Downtown, which features rotating contemporary exhibitions. Kids will like the new Science Center of Iowa ($8 per adult, $6 per child) which has a variety of hand-on learning exhibits, an IMAX theater, and traveling exhibitions like its current dinosaur fossil display.
You’ll find many of the town’s best and most eclectic restaurants and cafes in its East Village neighborhood. Sample gourmet Tuscan-inspired cuisine at Lucca, where multi-course prix fixe dinners start at $24. For something more affordable, stop by The House of Bricks, one of Des Moines’ top music venues, where you can get burgers, beer, and a show for less than $20 per person.
Read more of the 50 Affordable Stateside Escapes.
Have a recommendation for Des Moines, or another great getaway in Iowa? Post your comment below.