Check Out Des Moines: The Heartland Has Got It Going On!!


In Iowa this weekend for the State Fair (post on Thursday). As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of the Heartland but even I was not prepared for how much I would love Des Moines – especially the East Village area.

Highly recommend a weekend here for my NYC and LA peeps. It takes us outside our bubbles, broadens our perspective and is an amazing way to scout out what’s going on culturally, socially and commercially around the country.

Here are 5 things you must put on your to-do list when you come visit:

Historic East Village

This is a fantastic area to explore on foot. Very vibrant, young and cool. We did not get to spend as much time here as we wanted – but there’s always next time!! Here are the highlights:

AC Hotel: Brand new hotel from Marriott, very stylish and modern. Highly recommend staying here, great staff, fabulous location. A bit pricey at $800 for 3 nights.

Scenic Route Bakery: One block from the hotel. Great vibe, Intelligentsia coffee, baked on-premise pastries and free wifi.

Raygun: Amazing store – reminded me of Urban Outfitters way back in the day but MUCH MUCH better. We bought tons of t-shirts. Great staff. And most interesting of all, the backstory on how this whole retail endeavor got underway. Worth a read – link, here.

Street Art Murals: Des Moines’ street art game is strong. Especially love the mural by Chris Vance behind the Scenic Route Bakery.

Read on below for other Des Moines favorites, as well as photos.

East Village Pics

AC Hotel Lobby

Chris Vance mural

Scenic Route Bakery

Antheia Flowery Gallery Mural

Raygun – AWESOME

Des Moines Public Piano Project with Ianthe Jones and Rob O’Neill


Des Moines Art Center

  • Blown away by this absolutely world-class collection of contemporary art.
  • And the work is installed brilliantly. So kudos to all.
  • Artists in the collection include: John Currin, Cecily Brown, Fred Wilson, Nick Cave, Dan Flavin, Ashley Bickerton, Jeff Koons, Alexander Calder, Anselm Kiefer, Alex Katz
  • The museum has 3 wings: the original designed by Eliel Saarinen in 1945. The second addition, for large-scale sculpture, designed by I.M. Pei in 1966. The third wing, designed by Richard Meier, was completed in 1985.

Dan Flavin

Nick Cave

Alex Katz

Isa Genzken (left) and Anselm Kiefer (right)




Salisbury House

  • Fascinating to tour this house after having visited Swan House in Atlanta earlier this week.
  • Both homes were built at roughly the same time and share a European design sensibility although Salisbury is modeled after English manor houses while Swan House is modeled after Italian palazzos.
  • Des Moines’ Salisbury House is a Tudor, Gothic and Carolean style manor home. It was built by cosmetic magnate Carl Weeks and his wife, Edith Van Slyke Weeks, between 1923 and 1928. It’s 22,000 sq. ft. and contains 42 rooms.
  • Highly recommend taking the guided tour, you’ll see and learn more. It takes 90 minutes and worth every penny.


Beautiful windows

Ice maker in the kitchen

Mrs. Weeks’  bedroom

Her bathroom and commode

Mr. Weeks’  bedroom



Terrace Hill Mansion

  • Terrace Hill, also known as Hubbell Mansion and Benjamin F. Allen House (the first millionaire in Iowa), is the official residence of the Governor of Iowa.
  • It is an example of Second Empire architecture and had very modern features for its time including hot and cold running water, indoor restrooms, an elevator and gas lights.
  • It is not as engaging, or comprehensive, a tour as Salisbury House but still well worth a visit. But note, 15 minutes of the 45 minute tour is taken up with a promotional video of the house.

Front entrance

Entry hall

Rear of the mansion facing the vegetable gardens


Pappajohn Sculpture Park

  • Highly recommend visiting this 4.4 acre sculpture park featuring artworks by 22 of the world’s most celebrated artists including Olafur Eliasson, Richard Serra, Mark di Suvero, Louise Bourgeois, Jaume Plensa, Ugo Rondinone, Yoshitomo Nara

Yoshitomo Nara

Jaume Plensa

Olafur Eliasson

Mark di Suvero

Ugo Rondinone (head sculpture)


Use Uber

  • Makes getting around so much easier
  • I had 5 drivers on Friday.
  • Three were excellent and thrilled to be working with Uber, one got hopelessly lost and didn’t speak enough English to follow GPS directions and one was actively working to recruit Uber drivers to his own startup car service.
  • But nevertheless still better than renting a car and having to drive myself

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