A Day in Des Moines, Iowa
Expectations are a funny thing, particularly when it comes to travel. When thinking of the Midwest, places like Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Minneapolis, or Milwaukee come to mind initially. Very rarely, when polled, would someone's first reference be to Iowa of all places. Abby and I certainly shared this opinion. A proud Midwesterner myself, I can only recall Iowa as being a place seemingly filled with corn and somewhere that all of a sudden becomes newsworthy around election time. Other than that it seemed to lay dormant, allowing other states and cities to make the noise and grab the headlines. Although sad circumstances brought us to Iowa (a family funeral), our time there will be something we cherish, not only for the memories made with loved ones but by our expectations being blown away by the cool, hip, and somewhat diamond in the rough city of Des Moines, Iowa.
If you happen to visit Des Moines Iowa and only have one breakfast then it has to be at the famous Drake Diner. It's certainly old school in appearance and the food is classic diner. My recommendation would be the pancakes or the biscuits and gravy. Boom that's good! And keep that coffee coming.
After fueling up it's shopping time and there's no cooler neighborhood now than the East Village. This downtown area has seen a huge increase in redevelopment and is filled to the brim with restaurants, boutiques, and art studios. For some antique treasure hunting Found Things is your place. Be patient and take your time and you're sure to find something that's worth your while.
We found some amazing antique copper pots for pennies on the dollar! They were quite the find and we bought them all. It also felt very special to come home with things we would cherish forever after an emotional weekend of saying good-bye to Austin's beloved aunt. She and Uncle Jim curated a beautiful, warm, and inviting home with things they found here and like their marriage, that is something we want to emulate so that made our purchase even more meaningful.
Keep moving down Grand Avenue and you'll find Eden, a cool cosmetic shop that smells great and stocks some really great organic products.
Des Moines is a real enclave of locally made product stores and artistic design spaces. A real psychedelic and funky shop is Sticks, where everything screams color and more color!
By this time the appetite is roaring and a pit stop is needed. We parked it at the Iowa Taproom for a great selection of beer and the midwest staple that is CHEESE CURDS!!!
A trip to the Midwest isn't complete without cheese curds. Gross sounding name, but delicious. It's like a mozzarella stick but in a ball and 10x better. We also split some fried pickles and onion rings, so obviously we were going for the most unhealthy but delicious meal award.
Now we came to find out that Des Moines has some pretty famous places and attractions but at the top of that list, unknown to us, was RAYGUN. This self described "Greatest Store in the Universe" is so cool! Essentially it's a T-Shirt shop that prides itself on funny, ironic, and sometimes controversial graphics and has them in abundance. There's literally a floor to ceiling selection.
When in need of a coffee or tea, there are two great local spots. For Abby's tea stop there's Gong Fu Tea, which has a ton of options depending on your mood. For my coffee, it was Mars Cafe. Dynamite Lattes and a great coffee selection.
Mars Cafe had an amazing lavender iced latte, which you can't find everywhere!
We had such a blast in Des Moines and loved how the city blew our expectations away. Like any good Midwestern city the beer is cold, the cheese curds are hot, and the people are friendly. And on top of that Des Moines' art scene is top notch. The people are so proud of what they do and where they come from that it can't help but be contagious.
Des Moines Itinerary
Eden - cosmetics and candles
Sticks - funky artistic home goods
Kitchen Collage - everything your kitchen will ever need
From Our Hands - collection of local artists work with paintings, carvings, glass work
RAYGUN - funny t-shirt store with an option for all tastes
Found Things - large antique store with some truly great finds
Christopher's - Italian restaurant with great lasagna and chicken parm
Iowa Taproom - Tons of regional beer options; cheese curds; Italian grinder
Mars Café - coffee; lattes
The Drake Diner - biscuits and gravy; pancakes
Gong Fu Tea - wide selection of teas
Baby Boomers Cookies - famous chocolate chunk cookies. We also heard they were Obama's favorite cookies!
Iowa State Capitol - a picturesque building with stunning architecture and character
John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park - green space in downtown Des Moines with some massive sculptures and installations
The High Trestle Bridge - a really cool and unique bridge display unlike any other
Free Art Friday - pop up galleries displaying local artists' work
West End Salvage - salvage inventory of antiques from all over the world. As seen on HGTV!