Destinations

Tour Stop: Discovering Des Moines

Groups are flocking to Iowa’s capital city. Here’s why you should, too.

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Located in the middle of America’s heartland, Iowa’s capital city is part of the fastest-growing metro in the Midwest, and for good reason. Boasting a dynamic and walkable downtown, exciting eateries, and unique attractions, Des Moines blends Midwest charm with urban amenities, assuring that there’s something for every interest. Home to nationally recognized events such as the Iowa State Fair, the Downtown Farmers’ Market, and Des Moines Arts Festival, Des Moines has undergone a renaissance over the past 20 years, transforming from a sleepy insurance town to a buzzy bucket-list destination. 

“Once groups visit Des Moines, any preconceived notions they had about the region go out the window,” says Catch Des Moines President and CEO Greg Edwards. “From historic sites like our beautiful State Capitol Building, the historic Jordan House Museum, and Bridges of Madison County to our diverse shopping and dining options, there are authentic surprises at every turn.” 

Experience Des Moines this summer with our exclusive two-day itinerary timed around the Iowa State Fair, and then visit catchdesmoines.com/group-travel to find out why groups are excited to come back all seasons of the year. 

Day 1 

Your trip to Des Moines begins when you book one of the 13,000 hotel rooms in Greater Des Moines, with nearly 3,000 hotel rooms located downtown alone. Whether you are looking for a historic hotel, boutique hotel, or brand hotel where you can earn some reward points, Greater Des Moines has just the place for your group to check in while here. 

The Historic East Village welcomes groups with a free guided or self-guided tour of the Iowa State Capitol. One of the finest examples of 19th-century architecture, the impressive landmark is the only five-domed capitol building in the country, with its top dome covered in 23-karat gold. Allow about 90 minutes for your tour, including the legislative chambers, gift shop, and the stunning law library, which is a must-see and the most photographed room in the state. 

The East Village is also the perfect place to explore boutique shops, cozy eateries, and cocktail bars. A portion of the East 

Village was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2019, with some of the buildings having historical associations with European immigrants. Grab a souvenir at the popular Raygun store, a honey latte at Daisy Chain Coffee, a free-range chicken burrito at HoQ, or a cocktail at The Continental. 

Iowa state capitol building
Groups can schedule a guided tour of the Iowa State Capitol for Monday through Saturday and enjoy convenient bus unloading, loading, and parking.

Once you get your fill of East Village eats, head to the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates, located across the Des Moines River in downtown Des Moines. Before it was the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates, the century-old building housed the Des Moines Public Library. Restored and renamed as the Dr. Norman E. Borlaug World Food Prize Hall of Laureates as a tribute to the Nobel Peace Prize winner and World Food Prize Founder Dr. Norman Borlaug, the Hall of Laureates serves as a museum recognizing the importance of food sustainability and the fight against hunger.

Day 2

No summer trip to the capital city is complete without a trip to the Downtown Farmers’ Market, happening every Saturday morning from May through October. Spanning multiple blocks of the Historic Court District, the market features more than 200 Iowa vendors who sell everything from fresh produce and baked goods to art and plants and flowers. It’s also a great spot to grab breakfast, listen to live music, and people-watch. 

Speaking of people-watching, nothing compares to the sights you’ll see at the Iowa State Fair. Spanning 11 days each August (Aug. 8–18, 2024), the Iowa State Fair attracts more than a million people each year and is one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country.

aerial view of Iowa state fair
The largest event in the state, the Iowa State Fair is the perfect place for a group outing as it caters to all ages and interests.

Walk through the animal barns to view different breeds of sheep, pigs, cows, and horses. Get a bird’s-eye view of the fairgrounds from atop the iconic Ferris wheel and Sky Glider. Enjoy live entertainment at the Grandstand, as well as free concerts, talent shows, husband-calling, and more throughout the fairgrounds. And of course, there’s the food— including the famous mobile food on a stick (have you ever seen salad or a smoothie on a stick?) and the ooey gooey Barksdale Cookies. 

“The Iowa State Fair is a one-of-a-kind, can’t-miss experience,” says Catch Des Moines Director of Event Experience Chris Baker. “Groups that attend the state fair will want to spend an extra day just to make sure they try all the food and see the famous butter cow.” 

The team at Catch Des Moines is ready to help customize your group visit. Call (800) 451-2625, email chris@catchdesmoines.com, or visit catchdesmoines.com/group-travel


Catch Des Moines | catchdemoines.com, (800) 451-2625

Alex Wilson is the communications and public relations manager at Catch Des Moines. 

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