Des Moines, Iowa. Known by many professionals as the Insurance capital of America, and home to many booming Agricultural, Engineering and Technology firms. Whether you are swinging in for several days, or staying only for an overnight, Des Moines has options to intrigue even the most savvy business travellers.
Where to stay: To enjoy relaxation and culture in one swoop, stay at the historic Renaissance Savery, located in the heart of Downtown. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this unique and eclectic venue offers a pool, fitness centre, and first-class cuisine and cocktails at their BOS restaurant and CODA Lounge. For a stay-and-play on the outskirts of Des Moines, consider the newly renovated Prairie Meadows Hotel. With a complimentary airport shuttle, a saltwater spa pool and entertainment within steps of your suite, you may not find the time to take full advantage of their 24-hour business facilities.
Where to eat: Des Moines is a rising star in Iowa’s culinary scene, with several well-known chefs leading the charge. For an experiential evening of contemporary French cuisine and a tantalizing wine selection, make a reservation at David Baruthio’s Baru 66, in the Windsor Heights village. A notable Downtown lunch favourite worth trying is Zombie Burger + Drink Lab, known for their 20 custom burger choices including the Raygun – featuring fried jalapenos, guacamole and chipotle mayo.
Seeking romance and charm? Try Café Di Scala – nestled amongst the historic Sherman Hills homes just west of Downtown – or Eatery A, located along the Ingersoll Corridor and known for their fire and smoke wood-fired pizzas and craft beer.
Where to go for evening drinks: The Continental Lounge, tucked among the boutiques in Downtown’s East Village, is one of the best places to go for evening cocktails and small bites. Take a look at their website for information about live music, or simply settle in with a glass of Pinot Noir and their scrumptious Blue Cheese Crostini, featuring Iowa’s own Maytag Blue Cheese.
RoCA (Restaurant on Court Avenue) is a perfect mid-point locale, sandwiched between the Western Gateway and East Village districts. Grab a Midwestern-inspired cocktail or warm up to an aggressive Scotch Ale.
Happy hour may as well be every hour, as you navigate the signature sips at Americana in the Western Gateway district. You’ll feel a Rat-Pack vibe as you scan the scene, and be sure to take advantage of their $6 “˜Til 6 tapas menu, including $5 cocktails, $4 wine, $3 beers.
Top sights: The Iowa State Capitol, built in the 1870’s, is the pride of Des Moines, and the only five-domed capitol in the country – the Capitol sits atop a hill in the East Village district, overlooking Downtown with stately charm. Guided tours are offered, while more ambitious travellers may choose to make the climb to the top of the dome.
Highlighting the Western Gateway neighbourhood is the John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. This 4.4-acre park features the work of 22 celebrated artists, and was a gift to the City of Des Moines in 2009.
For those who wish to take in some indoor artwork, the Des Moines Art Center is a great place to visit between meetings or on a free afternoon. Hidden in a wooded area known as South of Grand, the Art Center is home to one of the finest galleries in the country, with more than 4,800 pieces in their 20th and 21st Century permanent collection.
Great gifts: For a truly unique Des Moines gift, be sure to visit Sticks, where each item (from furniture to object art) is custom crafted on birch, poplar or driftwood. Businessmen who wish to stay on-trend and perhaps leave Des Moines with a token fashion find make the trip to Badowers, a local boutique men’s clothier that has quickly become a target for designers such as Todd Snyder, and the Baldwin Denim line. Ladies won’t leave Des Moines empty handed, either. Des Moines’ own Aimee, located in the East Village, carries 50 lines of one-of-a-kind contemporary, fashion-forward clothing. Women are sure to find a signature piece, which suits conference calls and cocktails, alike. Or pick up some cute gifts to take back home.
Going local: You’d be hard-pressed to find a rival attraction to the Des Moines Farmers‘ Market, ranked as the #2 market in the country by The Daily Meal. The Downtown Farmers’ Market runs from May through October, and features food and vittles from 58 of the 99 Iowa counties.
If you happen to be fortunate enough to find your travels falling in June, the Winefest week of activities is a must. Running from 29th May – 6th June, Winefest offers Vintners, aficionados and novices the chance to pair vintages from all regions of the world.
Where to break curfew: What do you get when you combine aerial circus skills, belly dancing and jazz workshops, and house them all in a previously abandoned 1930’s fire station? A trendy local hangout that goes by the name of the Des Moines Social Club. Attracting artisans and socialites, and breeding a new wave of cultural talent in Des Moines, drop in for a culinary session, or simply swing by sister restaurant, Malo, for a Spanish-inspired cocktail as you peruse local art.
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Have you visited Des Moines on business? What are your favourite places to visit in the city? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Susan R. Hatten