thumbnail text

Des Moines was once regarded as the capital of Midwest flyover country, a place of abundant corn and corporate conclaves, notable for being the first place to call its votes in every presidential election. The past 20 years, however, have breathed fresh life into Iowa’s state capital: it has a dining scene that’s outsized for a city of only half a million people and exceptional public art collections are commonplace.


20221006_serna_hm_monocle_dsc5799_1.jpg

Midwest apothecary Eden is situated in a historic 6th Street building and offers a curated selection of homeware and self-care products.

20221005_serna_hm_monocle_dsc3764.jpg

A gilded dome inside the Iowa State Capitol building.


Much of the change began downtown, which for decades was a place that emptied of people after 18.00. The turnaround came in the 1990s when city leaders called on the expertise of Argentine urbanist Mario Gandelsonas. He came up with a radical plan to turn vast swaths of urban sprawl into new parks, revitalise the river and build desirable residential buildings. The initiative set things in motion and green shoots slowly emerged in worn-out neighbourhoods. 

Today, the East Village is a notable nook, home to excellent shops and places to drink and dine. Despite such growth, the old stereotype of “Iowa Nice” is alive and well in Des Moines but that’s no bad thing: this is a fast-growing city with a small-town soul, as well as a history – and a happy hour at local bar Hello Marjorie – that continues to inspire the Holmes Murphy team.


20221005_serna_hm_monocle_dsc4503.jpg

The Pappajohn Sculpture Park is one of the best outdoor art collections in the US.

20221005_serna_hm_monocle_dsc4623.jpg

The Pappajohn Sculpture Park is one of the best outdoor art collections in the US.

20221005_serna_hm_monocle_dsc4338.jpg

The 67-hectare Gray’s Lake Park in the heart of Des Moines is popular with walkers.


Stay

Hotel Fort Des Moines
A favourite among political correspondents that once had Nikita Khruschev to stay.
1000 Walnut St
hotelfortdesmoines.com

Surety Hotel
Dark wood and deep leather sofas in this artfully restored former bank.
206 6th Avenue
suretyhotel.com


Shop

Eden
Sunlit shop with a thoughtful edit of international homeware and skincare brands.
418 East 6th Street
edeniowa.com

The Cheese Shop
Stock up on the best from Iowa’s farmhouses and local and global vineyards.
833 42nd Street
thecheeseshopdsm.com


Drink

Harbinger
Makes a mean cuba libre-inflected old fashioned; couple it with a steamed gua bao.
2724 Ingersoll Avenue
harbingerdsm.com

Horizon Line Coffee
Bright, white coffee bar with friendly baristas and bags of local roasts to take home.
1417 Walnut Street
horizonlinecoffee.com


Eat

Lucca
Bare-brick Italian restaurant with a sharp menu and a warm welcome.
420 Locust Street 
luccadsm.com

Proof
Fine-dining institution with an emphasis on honest, hearty Iowan produce.
1301 Locust Street
proofdsm.com

Share on:

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIn

Email

Go back: Contents
Next:

6.

/

sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now

Loading...

/

15

15

Live
Monocle 24

00:0001:00

  • The Briefing