Located at the center of the great state of Iowa – known to many as the corncob state because of the many miles of sprawling cornfields – you will find the clean and pristine, bustling city of Des Moines. Originally founded in mid-1800s as a fort for the US military, this city has grown proportionally ever since and now is the largest city in the state. Aside from being an epicenter for American farmers, Iowa is actually one of the insurance company capitols of the world, sitting in third place next to London and Hartford, Connecticut, respectively. There is much to see here away from flashy insurance company buildings and cornfields, however. If you are planning on traveling to Des Moines in the near future, then make sure that you add a few of these top five must-see destinations and attractions to your list before embarking on your trip.
Iowa State Capitol
Originally constructed during the late 1800s, this building represents the very best of the early 1900s architectural designs. The steel and brick dome is coated with a thick layer of gold leaf that really makes it stand out on a bright and sunny day. The city offers free daily and guided tours of this amazing capitol building. Make sure that you do not miss this structure when you travel to Des Moines.
Des Moines Botanical Center
One of the coolest botanical centers in the country, this awesome fourteen acre center sets adjacent to the Des Moines River and is one of the most popular of all attractions that can be found in this city. It annually sees hundreds of thousands of visitors and can be very packed during certain times of the year. Make sure that you call ahead when you are here so that you can find out the best time to visit this must-see destination. Also make sure that you set aside plenty of time to really take in all of the sights that are here; it is recommended that you set aside at least half a day.
Blank Park Zoo
The mission statement for this zoo reads as follows, "To inspire an appreciation of the natural world through conservation, education and recreation." This is exactly how you will feel and what you will find when you visit this not-to-be-missed, world class zoo in Des Moines. Take a gander at over a hundred different species of animals and nearly 1,500 different specimens as you browse through this awesome, must-see attraction.
Walnut Woods State Park
This reserved state park is awesome. Its 260 acres of preserved land meets at the Raccoon River in West Des Moines. This park is open 365 days per year and hosts many different activities that vary by season including, but not limited to: cross country skiing, backpacking, hiking, hunting, camping, horseback riding, fishing, bird watching, waterside activities such as rafting and boating, and many more.
This house is the historically preserved house of the original founder of Valley Junction, James Jordan; one of the coolest, occasional, historical mansions that you can visit when you travel to Des Moines. The gothic and Victorian architecture is literally awe-inspiring. There is a rich history attached to this mansion, which is best known for being a part of the intracy Underground Railroad that helped to free southern slaves to the north during the 1800s and the Civil War. Today it is a museum where you can enjoy a guided tour, and it is also one of the oldest houses in the state.