Des Moines, City of Monks, da moinz… call it what you wish. But this mid-sized city in the very midwestern state of Iowa is truly one of the most up-and-coming places to live, work, and play. Although I didn’t make it here often as a child (just the occasional trip to Adventureland or the State Fair), once I was allowed to travel sans-parents, my visits to the Iowa capitol because much more frequent. Why? Well, why not!?
This glowing city (literally! the capitol dome is shiny, actual gold!) is full of unique locations to spice up your Instagram (or Snapchat) stories. You’ll find a plethora of parks, iconic and historic landmarks, and plenty of great food and drinks to boost your photo hunt. See the city in a day, or stay forever. Your choice! ;)
For your ease, I’ve complied some of what I consider to be the 8 most Instagram-able locations in Des Moines, Iowa! You can discover endless other spots, of course, but these are some of the most classic… or newest!… spaces in town. Enjoy!
1. The PappaJohn Sculpture Park
A pretty popular space to catch ‘em all, take a new selfie, or walk to any number of festivals… the PappaJohn Sculpture park engages thousands of tourists and locals alike. Just in the past few weeks (July 2019), a new sculpture was unveiled and has since become the hot spot for Instagram photos and selfies! If this art seems familiar, you’re correct. Created by American pop artist Robert Indiana, you can find versions literally all around the world— most popularly, in NYC and Philadelphia.
2. Colonial Bread Sign
Before Sara Lee bought them out, Colonial Bread Co. provided Americans with self-proclaimed “GOOD” bread. Even today, many wise folks (if ya catch my drift) will tell stories about how their families ONLY purchased Colonial! Started in the early 1920s by Iowan Carl W. Skogsberg, this sign is all that remains of good bread from the “good ol’ days.”
3. Des Moines Skyline
Don’t even consider a trip to this city without taking in the skyline! One of the best views, day or night, comes from the capitol lawn. Visit in the spring or summer, and you’ll have plenty of plant and flowers to enjoy as well!
4. Iowa Capitol Building
Flip right on around after photo #3, because just as good as the skyline is the capitol building! Historic and dramatic, you can photograph up close (take a look at the old canons and statues) or from a distance. You also can tour the building, so make sure to check out their website for information on the interior!
5. Heritage Carousel of Des Moines
Kids and adults will find a ride on the heritage carousel enjoyable. Bonus: it’s super cheap! $.50 for kiddos, and $1 per adult, you can ride this a few times around and not break the bank! Enjoy the classic carnival tunes, and enjoy the detailed artwork which tells the story of Iowa and the Des Moines area from the 1800s to modern times. Find more info out on their website, here.
6. Black Cat Ice Cream
A summer instagram feed only lives up to its true potential when ice cream is involved—right!? Black Cat is a literal hole in the wall, but don’t let that fool you. They often run out of some or all ice creams by the end of a shift! So come early if you want a wider variety or guarantee of ice cream. Take your ‘gram on the black wall next door, or walk across to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park!
Des Moines’ newest (and coolest!) bar— if you’re 21+, this place is a must. Come early for happy hour deals, or stay late… but you must grab a photo with your tiki style drink and the very cool wallpaper. The vibe, as described by my roommate Abbey, implies a “Hawaiian Star Wars” feel. (I think the owners were attempting a Brooklyn Diner/Palm Beach bar energy… but I like Abbey’s wording better!)
8. elevencherry neon sign
Unless you get your hair done at this salon, or have purchased a plant from Art Terrarium, you may never have known this existed! Purposefully on the corner of 11th and Cherry, this white brick building with cherry red neon sign is just the spot for a minimalistic photo. Do stop in and support local art & plants when you drop by!
9. BONUS: Raccoon River Beach
We may not be near a lot of pretty lakes or oceans, but you can at least get your fill of sand and sun at this small beach in West Des Moines. It’s the perfect place to showcase your new summer suit, or your current library read.
Let’s be honest… I could have blogged another 8 places to visit! Des Moines holds so many fun shops, alleys, bars, and parks to explore. Follow me on Instagram to see more of my fav locales in this amazing city!
Also, I’d love to know: what of these spots have you been to? Are any of them new to you? And what did I miss? Leave a comment below to clue me in! Who knows… maybe I’ll just have to make another guide. :)