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  • Overview

    An oasis of modernity amidst miles of rolling farmland, Des Moines is the biggest city in Iowa and its cultural capital. The city's skyline houses a major business centre for the Midwest, and visitors expecting a country town will come away with a vastly different impression of their holiday in Des Moines.

    Located at the intersection of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, the city was formed in 1843 when settlers built a fort for trading with the local Sauk and Meskwaki Indians. The city grew rapidly, and today is home to more than 200,000 people.

    It has a number of historic buildings, including the gold-domed Capitol Building, the Tudor-style Salisbury House, and the Governor's residence at Terrace Hill. Other Des Moines attractions include the Des Moines Art Center, the State Historical Society, and Hoyt Sherman Place.

    Children will have plenty to see and do in Des Moines as well, like feeding the giraffes at the Blank Park Zoo, playing in Bubble Bay at the Science Center of Iowa, and riding the roller coasters at Adventureland Park.

    Des Moines has a busy and eclectic arts community, with many theatres and live music venues; the city boasts its own symphony, ballet, and opera. The East Village has a broad range of buildings, shops, restaurants, and art galleries, and is a pleasant neighbourhood to explore.

    The Court Avenue Entertainment District is the heart of Des Moines' nightlife, with a number of restaurants and nightclubs. The city hosts several festivals over the summer, including the Des Moines Arts Festival and the World Food and Music Festival, among many others dedicated to food, wine, film, music, and more.

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    Iowa lies in the humid continental zone and generally has hot summers, cold winters, and a wet springtime. Des Moines is located far from any large bodies of water and has warm and humid summers, with daytime high temperatures averaging 86°F (30°C) in July. Tropical air masses from the Gulf of Mexico bring frequent thunderstorms, with persistent rain in June. Winters are cold, with January temperatures averaging between 14°F (-10°C) and 31°F (-1°C). Snowfall is light compared to other states. Autumn (late September to early November) is a pleasant time to visit Des Moines, as the colourful fall foliage can be spectacular.

    Des Moines International Airport
    Location: The airport is located five miles (8km) from downtown Des Moines.
    Time: GMT -6 (GMT -5 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
    Getting to the city: The Des Moines Area Transit Authority (DART) Route 8 offers service to and from the airport to downtown Des Moines. A one-way fare is $1.75. The Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency (HIRTA) provides door-to-door service to all counties within the Greater Des Moines Metro Area, while intercity connections can be made via the Greyhound, Jefferson, or Trailways bus lines. Car rental and taxi options are available.
    Car Rental: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty counters are located in the baggage claim area.
    Airport Taxis: Metered taxis are available from the airport. Officially recommended companies include Capito and Yellow Cab. Both Uber and Lyft operate at the airport.
    Facilities: Facilities at the airport include restaurants, a food court, shops, a meet and greet area, ATMs, and conference rooms. Disabled facilities are good.
    Parking Several parking garages are located adjacent to the terminal, with rates starting at $1 per 20 minutes and $15 per day in the long-term parking lot, and $1 per 20 minutes or $36 per day for short-term parking. A free shuttle service operates from the economy lots, which offer lower rates starting from $2 per hour up to $6 per day. Cash and major credit cards are accepted.
    Iowa State Fair

    Over one million attendees, over 11 days, the Iowa State Fair is an experience other states cannot compare to. Held every year in August, the fair includes notable traditions like a cow statue carved from butter, and the crowning of the Fair Queen. There are also offbeat competitions like cow chip throwing, pigeon rolling, pie eating, rooster crowing, and monster arm wrestling. The Iowa State Fair has its roots firmly planted on the many farms in Iowa, and the heart of the event is in the livestock shows, food and craft competitions, and trade shows. However, city slickers won't be bored with the midway rides, concerts, parades, and endless food to be found at the fair.

    Venue: State Fairgrounds, Des Moines
    Iowa State Fair Iowa State Fair Phil Roeder
    Des Moines Arts Festival

    The Des Moines Arts Festival is an annual arts festival held in Western Gateway Park in the state capital of Des Moines. The festival is a three-day affair drawing in more than 200,000 people, and is ranked among the most notable festivals in the United States. Now an international phenomenon, the festival had evolved dramatically since its start in 1958. It now encompasses a diverse selection of the arts; everything from classic visual arts, live performance in music and theatre, to interactive arts and a film festival. As well as an array of outstanding art on show, there is also a large selection of eclectic food booths and trucks to choose from, as well as a beer tent. This all makes for a full day of fun and entertainment for the whole family.

    Venue: Western Gateway Park
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    Getting around in Des Moines is simple thanks to the Des Moines River, which flows through the centre of town and acts as an orienting landmark. Streets east of the river are prefixed with 'East', and those west of it have 'West' or no prefix at all. The streets are easy to navigate. However, driving in winter is not something to be attempted lightly, as snow and ice make conditions difficult for inexperienced winter drivers. The Des Moines Area Regional Transit (DART) system has a network of buses covering most of the city, and service that runs into the evening. There are several taxi companies available 24 hours, but cabs must be called in advance.


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