This is my first winter back in the Midwest since my childhood years and I’ve got to tell you that I started to believe all the jokes about the “midwest hibernation” during this frigid season, meaning that towns shut down, there is nothing to do, etc.
I am extremely happy to report back though that Des Moines, Iowa does not hibernate during winter! In fact, I was taken by surprise with how much there was to do in this midwest city during the winter (way more than you could fit into a single weekend getaway).
With that said, here are 5 amazing things to do In Des Moines this winter during a weekend trip that made me think about this city in a whole new way!
Tour The State Capitol
Don’t pass up the opportunity to see and tour this beautiful, historic building. You can schedule a tour of the capitol building online if you have a group larger than 10 people. Otherwise, they prefer that smaller groups just call 515.281.5591.
Don’t necessarily like following around a tour guide? You also have the option for a self-tour! Please note, if you do decide to explore on your own you won’t have access to rooms like the Supreme Court room along with the giant library over the weekends.
Check out this pdf for additional information like hours, entrances (it took us several minutes to find they door in), etc.
Pro-tip- Don’t forget to look up!
Visit The Art Museum
The Des Moines Art Center is not only a museum, but a school, too! Inside the contemporary building complex (it was designed by three internationally recognized architects!), you’ll find a world class art collection, rotating exhibitions, a restaurant and gift shop.
Perhaps one of the neatest parts of this art museum in Des Moines is that it has free admission! You could easily spend a couple of hours here examining all the different sculptures and trying to understand the meaning behind the paintings.
Eat All You Can in Des Moines!
Before arriving in Des Moines, I was chatting with Mandy from the tourism office about all the different restaurants within the area. She joked that it’s not the “Freshman 15” you have to worry about, it’s the “Des Moines 20” that will get you!
How true that is! I didn’t even dare jump on the scale after getting home because I was sure I gained several pounds during our weekend getaway in Des Moines (but hey, calories don’t count on vacation, right?).
I’m going to highlight two places that we ate at and then give you a source of other recommendations that I received. First up, Park Street Kitchen located in the Hilton Downtown Des Moines hotel! Nick Marino says that he’s disrupting the “restaurant stereotype” and I’d have to agree! Don’t underestimate this restaurant just because it’s located inside of a hotel.
Park Street Kitchen’s Italian-inspired cuisine features Iowa pork and other local ingredients, homemade pastas and woodfired Neapolitan style pizzas along with signature cocktails from the Park Street Bar.
We ate here for dinner one night and splurged by ordering from the dinner menu along with the new bar menu! Come hungry and don’t forget to order dessert (the homemade churros with three different dipping sauces will change your life)!
The next place that I’d like to highlight is Eatery A. “Eatery A is your Des Moines destination for Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Perfecting simple dishes that focus on local, quality ingredients.”
What might surprise you about this Mediterranean restaurant is that you’ll also find hints of Spain, Morocco, Egypt and Italy through the dishes that they prepare. You can try something exotic like octopus with kale pesto and crispy leeks or enjoy their speciality wood-fired pizzas (which is what we did).
Pro-tip- Go during happy hour and enjoy half off pizzas!
For a full list of restaurant recommendations, visit the Restaurant Guide from the tourism board.
Go Ice Skating At The Outdoor Rink
I have to admit that I am not that great of an ice skater. The last time I went I hardly graduated from using the speciality “chair” as my aide. However, when you come across an affordable and conveniently located ice rink like the Brenton Skating Plaza, you face your fears and go for it!
What I loved apart from the ice skating, was the incredible view of the Des Moines skyline that this ice rink offered. It’s opened for most of the winter and can be best combined with shopping and eating at the Historic East Village.
Pro-tip- Before arriving, check the Coupon page to see if there are any discounts on skating or rentals.
Go Sledding At Sleep Hollow Sports Park
Yeah it may be a little chilly outside, but a local-favorite is bundling up to go snow tubing at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park! Here you’ll get to enjoy not only snow tubing, but also two different sledding experiences (depending on you adrenaline-seeking desires).
What’s unique about this particular sports park is that you can enjoy sledding during the day or at night. They light up their tubing courses in the evening just in case you want to do a date night or even go after work.
Additional Reading- 5 Fun Things To Do In Sioux Falls For The Adventure Lovers
Where To Stay In Des Moines
Like I mentioned before, there is no way that you can fit everything into a single weekend so you sure as heck can’t fit it into a single day. Which is why I recommend booking a hotel in downtown Des Moines!
There are plenty of hotels to choose from, but one in particular stands out among the crowd- the Hilton Des Moines Downtown hotel! Here’s just a few of the many reasons why I recommend staying at this hotel-
- The guest rooms and suites are spacious and offer stunning views of the skyline (see video below)
- The staff is friendly and will go out of their way to make sure everything is perfect during your stay
- They have an on-site restaurant that makes it super simple to organize dinner plans (or breakfast & lunch plans)
- The location is central to all of the activities, events, and restaurants that you will be visiting during your trip
- They have a pool and a large fitness center available to all guests
I hope you enjoy these five winter activities in Des Moines and much as we did during our winter, weekend getaway!