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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Wild Weekend in Des Moines

On my quest to travel to every state in the U.S., I ventured to Des Moines, Iowa. Let me begin by saying I do not recommend two overnight bus trips, especially for a two day adventure. In my frugal state of mind, I thought this would be a good idea to avoid housing for two nights. I learned a valuable lesson - saving money isn't worth total sleep deprivation and being "homeless" for up to 15 hours/day due to arrival and departure times. 

My one night accommodation was at an Airbnb, staying in a beautiful townhome with generous and hospitable hosts. Guests receive the luxury of a private bedroom and bath while sleeping on the most comfortable bed in the world. Check out their profile - 

What drew me to Des Moines you ask? No charade here - beer and food venues! This girl can never get her fill. With names like el Bait Shop and Fong's Pizza, how could you go wrong?

All my activities were downtown, which is extremely easy to navigate on foot, regardless of your sense of direction. I did pick up a nice little placemat-style map at the public library, located at 1000 Grand Ave. 

The downtown area is divided into three neighborhoods - Court District, Western Gateway, and East Village. You will find restaurants, hotels, bars, a library, a beautiful riverwalk along the Des Moines River, the stunning Capitol, cool art and more. I really like the diversity that is offered, and admire the city's dedication to the arts.

Do you desire rowdy nightlife? Then head to the Court Avenue district, which is like spring break at Daytona Beach without the beach. Lots of people, bars, music, and perhaps even a taping of the reality TV show "The Bachelor." I discovered the newest bachelor, Chris Soules, who hails from Des Moines, was taping at RoCA. 

To add to the excitement, Van Holmgren was painting a mural of the lovely couple on an exterior wall of RoCA. A bevy of fans went wild when the happy twosome emerged and kissed in front of the finished mural. I was head over heels in love with watching the mural unfold rather than the couple:)

Moving on to my recommendations for what to see, do, eat and drink. First, I want to emphasize a couple of activities that are a must - the downtown Farmer's Market and John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. 

The Farmer's Market was recognized nationally by Midwest Living Magazine as "one of the best," and it runs from May 3rd to October 25th. The market is expansive with oodles of vendors and live music at just about every corner. I even met Toto, Dorothy and Scarecrow (photo to prove it). I was also introduced to an amazing local band called Mighty Shady. Here is a song they performed:

The Pappajohn Sculpture Park is beautifully landscaped, and you will quickly forget that you are in an urban area. The park offers 22 pieces of remarkable art that are thought-provoking and camera worthy. My apologies to the newly wedded couple who were taking photos. I stood in front of a sculpture that was being used as a tripod, awaiting to videotape them exiting a limo. Oops!

  • Downtown Farmer's Market
  • Pappajohn Sculpture Park
  • Iowa State Capitol
  • Historic East Village (unique retail here)
  • Principal Riverwalk and Hub
  • Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens
  • Plain Talk Books & Coffee
  • Chris Vance Mural on the Metro Waste Authority building at 300 E. Locust 
I enjoyed everything I ate and drank at the restaurants and bars noted below. Ritual Cafe is a great place to hang out. They offer up great food (I had the Breakfast Plate), coffee, music and walls displaying local artists' work. I devoured mouth-watering Curry Turnovers and the Garlic Garlic Dinner with Tofu at Blu Thai. Fong's Pizza is a quirky must-see (their crab rangoon pizza was featured on the Travel Channel). I had my first vegan pizza and it was delish! New World Cafe is 100% vegan and their menu changes weekly. I had the yummy Falafel Melt and wished I had time to go back for a second meal. Zombie Burger is one of a kind, and I ingested an entire basket of crispy fries and vegetarian chili. 

What can I say about el Bait Shop? A very chill place to imbibe on more than 100 drafts; it's like being in beer heaven! I had an Evil Twin Lowlife and the Flight Over Iowa. Royal Mile is a cozy British pub where I had a snack consisting of Peanut Ginger Slaw and a Hobgoblin English Ale. Unfortunately, Court Avenue Brewing was a quick pit stop and I only had time for one brew, an Honest Lawyer IPA.

  • Ritual Cafe
  • Blu Thai Food & Sushi
  • Fong's Pizza
  • New World Cafe
  • Zombie Burger & Drink Lab
  • el Bait Shop
  • Royal Mile
  • Court Avenue Brewing Co.
Thank you for a fetching and entertaining time Des Moines! There are still many things that I simply didn't have time for, so I shall return. I would love to check out the city during the summer season and you should too!

The extraordinary Farmer's Market

The stunning Capitol and grounds

Spectacular mural by Chris Vance

Food and beer photos (drooling acceptable)

Ritual Cafe

I promise they don't bite

Great art at the Hub Spot

John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Pavilion at Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens

Mural by Van Holmgren

Chris Soules and his date Whitney Bischoff

Random shots that caught my eye

My first photo on an early foggy morning

Such a pretty wall

Perfect leaf placement on every step

The color really makes this bridge stand out

Reflection at its finest

Beauty along the river

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