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Feature Story

70 wonders of Des Moines


“Is this heaven?” You probably remember the now famous “Field of Dreams” query, where a man who is experiencing some sort of an afterlife emerges from the Kevin-Costner character’s corn rows onto a baseball field. This man gets to suit up and play the sport he loves, which is something he likely never thought he’d do again.

Given the confused man’s state of limbo between unknown realities, he somewhat rationally surmises that he has arrived in the best place possible, but the Kevin-Costner character knows otherwise. This baseball diamond is idyllic, no doubt, but it isn’t heaven.

“No,” the Costner character informs the man. “It’s Iowa.”

COVID-19 and the efforts to slow its spread have brought about a strange sort of parallel universe to our lives as well. We’ve all been thrust into this confusion, stuck in limbo, and we collectively ask one another, “Where exactly are we?”

During this particular time, it is doubtful that anyone would mistake this given place for heaven. But, as uncomfortable as things can be, it’s
important to remember that they aren’t worse, and they certainly could be. And while things could, and hopefully will, be better soon, why not take this lull in the action as an opportunity to take a look at central Iowa’s unique attributes?

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa (June 1)CNA - Stop HIV Iowa (June 2)

Some of these highlights might elicit shock and awe, and some are sure to delight, but, like everywhere else on Earth, central Iowa has warts, too, and we didn’t seek to exclude them.

You already know central Iowa isn’t heaven — we’ve all experienced too many cold winter months to think otherwise — but the place we call home is splendid, spectacular, sordid and saintly… all at the same time. Normally, this would be our Fall and Winter Entertainment story informing readers of three months’ worth of fun things to do, but, instead, here are the 70 Wonders of Des Moines, the place we call home.

We are sure we missed something, and you will no doubt let us know where you strongly disagree, and that’s fine. Feel free to narrow this down or add a few others and construct your own 70 Wonders. It’s kind of fun, and let’s be real, there isn’t a lot of other entertainment to get out and do right now.


Leaders in…


Our great state ranks No. 1 in the nation in pork production, which accounts for nearly one-third of the country’s hogs. At any given time, 20-24 million pigs populate Iowa.

Moms, sisters, daughters and wives…


“The prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines.” Even though Jack Kerouac is suspected to have been doing drugs while he penned these famous words in his timeless novel, “On the Road,” the statement’s undeniable truth stands — regardless of if he was referring to physical appearance or inner beauty. This observable fact easily offsets any potential downside that comes with sharing our state with 6,200 pig farms.

More than 1 million people annually attend…


Iowa State Fairgrounds; More than 1 million people, who are watching other people, who are watching 1,000-plus pound pigs, who are watching people pigging out on corn dogs and fried-everything-on-a-stick, who aren’t watching their weight… Plus a Ferris wheel, carnival games, funnel cakes, blue ribbons and world-class concerts. Nothing compares to the Iowa State Fair.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Aug. 12-22, 2021

First-in-the-nation status…


Presidential politics and Iowa are like peanut butter and jelly, a match made possible by crushing a bunch of nuts mixed with sugary-sweet-but-slippery substances, and then covering up the whole mess with a couple of heels. The Democratic Party first held its first-in-the-nation
caucuses in Iowa in 1972; the GOP then did the same in 1976, and Iowa has enjoyed first-in-the-nation status ever since. Politicians spend months or sometimes years campaigning here, debating, glad-handing, mugging for cameras and traversing all 99 Iowa counties. Making
this important selection is a responsibility our citizenry takes seriously. The caucuses are organized somewhat like neighborhood meetings, generally starting at 7 p.m. and lasting for about an hour. The party-run functions are open only to registered party members.

Top dog equals oxymoron…


2507 University Ave., Des Moines; For more than four decades, 40 English Bulldogs have walked the “pup-way” seeking to impress the judges and become the “Most Beautiful Bulldog.” The winner wears the crown and serves a one-year reign as Drake Relays mascot. For a list of past winners with photos, visit

Longest serving governor in the republic’s history…


Terry Branstad’s 8,169 days as captain of Iowa’s ship make him the longest-serving governor in U.S. history. Love him or hate him, Branstad’s accomplishment is remarkable.

NOTE: Judging by his margin of victory in his last Iowa election, it would appear that most of Iowa loves him. Branstad dominated the polls against his Democrat challenger, Jack Hatch, in 2014, winning by a margin of 59 percent to 37 percent.

Ronald Reagan once manned the mics at…


As a regular on-air personality for WHO Radio in the mid-1930s, the nation’s 40th president helped the talk radio station grow into what it is now, a 50,000-watt blowtorch that boasts such a powerful signal that its night-time programming can be broadcast into most of the contiguous 48 states.

LISTEN UP! Central Iowa icon Van Harden (who will retire soon) begins each weekday at 4:59 a.m.

Listener-supported radio…

KFMG 98.9 FM
KFMG is a low-power station offering an “Eclectic Triple A” format that stands for Adult Album Alternative. The station broadcasts from Mainframe Studios, 900 Keo Way in downtown Des Moines.

FUN FACT: What does it mean to be “listener supported”? A significant portion of KFMG’s revenues come from people rather than advertising.

The dam that enables…


5600 N.W. 78th Ave., Johnston;
Generally regarded as central Iowa’s king for being outdoors and near water, Saylorville is a massive man-made lake with a full slate of autumn and winter activities, including bird watching, boating, camping, picnic areas, beaches, fishing and ice fishing.

CHECK IT OUT: Pelicans frequently congregate in the area in the spring and fall as they migrate.

Scoop the Gray’s Lake loop…


2101 Fleur Drive, Des Moines;
A 1.9-mile trail circles around Gray’s Lake and its 167 acres of water. This easy 40-minute exercise can be accomplished without breaking a sweat — weather permitting. Gray’s is arguably the most popular recreational hotspot within the metro. Warmer-weather activities include paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and fun under the sun on a sandy beach.

SAY WHAT? Pro football hall-of-fame quarterback Kurt Warner was baptized in the waters of Gray’s Lake. Before going on to NFL superstardom, Warner played in Des Moines for the Iowa Barnstormers while famously stocking shelves at Hy-Vee. When the arena-leaguer had his come-to-Jesus moment, he and some friends backed a pickup to the water and… dunk city.

Plenty of fish in the…


2500 Grand Ave., West Des Moines;
Awkward love birds enjoy this first-date hotspot and its multi-use walkable trail looping around the 232-acre Blue Heron Lake. The park boasts 631 acres of recreational activities plus wildlife, a 225-foot fishing pier, boating, birding and a 500-foot-long beach.

ON TARGET: The park’s archery facility is the first of its kind in Iowa and includes 12 shooting lanes and target distances of up to 40 yards.

On your left!…


A bevy of bike trails — more than 600 miles in central Iowa — spoil central Iowa’s cyclers, runners and walkers. Highlights include the Greenbelt that runs through Clive and High Trestle Trail’s ½-mile, 13-story bridge across the Des Moines River Valley that lights up at night. For more information, visit Map:

Runaway slaves sought refuge at…


2001 Fuller Road, West Des Moines;
Radical abolitionist John Brown and other freedom-seeking slaves hid within the fields, barns and outbuildings at the Jordan House during its time as a stopover on the Underground Railroad. The stately Victorian home is one of Polk County’s oldest structures. It was built by James C. Jordan, one of Iowa’s most influential early settlers and a staunch abolitionist. Jordan served as Polk County’s “chief conductor.” Today Jordan House serves as a museum and as the office for the West Des Moines Historical Society.

Shrunken heads…


4025 Tonawanda Drive, Des Moines;
Two shrunken human heads are among the many rare artifacts at Salisbury House. Also called tsantsas, these craniums are believed to be authentic, but it is unknown when and where the skulls were acquired — or who they originally belonged to. The shrunken heads are sometimes kept in storage due to their fragility and modern sensibilities, so be sure to check the website or call for availability before venturing to take a look.

Iowa’s global reputation for romance…


Just south and west of the metro;
Iowa is smack dab in the middle of the world’s bread basket. The state is also home to more than 20 million pigs. Be that as it may, Iowa must also be a breeding ground for love stories, as it is home to the setting that inspired one of the hottest romantic fictions of modern history, “The Bridges of Madison County,” by Robert James Waller.

Better than a time machine…


11121 Hickman Road, Urbandale;
As an interactive outdoor history museum, Living History Farms (LHF) recreates the daily routines of yesteryear’s farm families. Actors actually “live history” true to how people would have while working farms from the past.

A 30-foot-tall unidentified flying egg-shaped object…


At the corner of Southwest Eighth and McKinley;
When life gives you lemons, making lemonade is the best course of action. When local vandals, drug-addicts and other undesirables routinely desecrate the vacant lot across from your home, buying said lot and installing dozens of behemoth artwork structures unlike anything else on the planet… Isn’t that lemonade delicious? The park includes a giant steel pyramid, the world’s largest functioning paper clip — it weighs 300 pounds — a 6-foot bullseye target with a 25-foot-long arrow, and many other sculptures. The privately owned park is free to visit and is open to the public — as long as you behave.

A pondering rabbit… giant garden trowel… alphabet head…


At 15th and Locust streets in downtown Des Moines;
More than two dozen masterpieces sprawl across 4.4 acres within downtown Des Moines. The giant creations at John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in the Western Gateway generate an atmosphere conducive to unplanned socialbility. When the weather is right, it isn’t uncommon to see droves of visitors congregating, conversating, hacky-sacking or enjoying other leisure-time activities. Admission to the park is free.

Infinite joy. Can I get an amen?…


925 Jordan Creek Parkway, West Des Moines;
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” says the Bible. If you want to learn the rest, “…seek and you will find.” Lutheran Church of HOPE is often listed as among one of the 20 largest churches in America.

Dreams of Olympic rings come true…


2218 Chow’s Olympic Ave., West Des Moines;
For balance beams, uneven bars, vaulting apparatuses and learning floor routines that amaze even the stingiest of international judges, no one outdoes Chow’s at training some of the best gymnasts in the world.

And here is hoping for 70 more…


In 5,000 B.C…. homo sapiens arrived to occupy the area now known as Des Moines, which means people have lived in Iowa for 7,000 years.

Des Moines was almost named…


Nearly 180 years ago, when Captain James Allen began construction of a military fort at the intersection of the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers, he initially preferred Fort Raccoon for a name. But the captain was overruled by the War Department, and Fort Des Moines eventually became home sweet Des Moines.

Say it isn’t so…


No one knows for certain what the meaning of “Des Moines” originally meant. Some say it meant “the monks,” and others insist it referred to the burial mounds located near the downtown river banks. Those answers are plausible, but recent findings suggest “Des Moines” derives from a 330-year-old practical joke.

In 1673, so the story goes, Father Jacques Marquette is said to have met with representatives of the Peoria tribe near the mouth of the modern-day Des Moines River. When Marquette asked them the name of the rival tribe living further along the river, the Peoria crew told him they were called the “Moingoana,” which apparently became the root of our “Moines.” A modern researcher named Michael McCafferty of Indiana University, while studying the now extinct Miami-Illinois language, contends that he has discovered that Moingoana, if translated literally, would have meant “sh#!faces.” So if McCafferty is right, it seems the Peoria people were having some fun at their rival’s expense, and we ended up on the wrong end of it.

Speaking of jokes, knock, knock…


Knock, knock? Who is there? Kids all around the city have earned their sugar highs by telling jokes, but this local tradition is said to have begun several decades ago and coincides with “Beggars Night” being a different day that is separate from Halloween. Rumor has it that we share the Beggars Night tradition with a handful of other regions, but few, if any, other places tell jokes like our kids do.

YIKES! No laughing matter…


500 Locust St., Des Moines;
Located “in the black heart of downtown dead moines!” This gruesome fright show annually leaves onlookers — even those with the most iron-clad and unshakeable demeanors — scared out of their wits. But don’t take our word for it… You’ve been warned.

But this is kind of funny…


A little more than 100 years ago, before Beaverdale was an official thing, it was a part of Urbandale. But when the territory now known as Urbandale seceded from what is now known as Beaverdale, it took the name Urbandale with it for itself. The jilted territory that remained — which is the area that is now known as Beaverdale — needed a name, and it eventually settled on calling itself Beaverdale. So that is how that happened.

100 years without an intermission…


831 42nd St., Des Moines;
Founded in 1919, The Playhouse is among the six oldest continuously operating community theaters in the country.

If you lose your stomach, check the lost and found…


3200 Adventureland Drive, Altoona;
Enjoy a surge of adrenaline via the fast-paced action at Adventureland. The park’s rip-roaring rollercoasters include the Tornado, The Monster and the Outlaw. The park also offers rides for smaller children and offers a variety of 21st-century fun.

Yippee Ki-Yay!…

Jump out of an airplane flying at 10,000 feet and live to laugh about it, now that is amazing. Skydiving is available in tandem or solo at Des Moines Skydivers in Winterset, billed as the metro’s “closest skydiving drop zone.”

Ankeny, Waukee, Johnston, Urbandale and West Des Moines…


Central Iowa supports Iowa’s capital city with the best dang suburbs in the country.

The combined population of Des Moines’ five most populous suburbs now outnumbers the people living in the city itself.
216,853 Des Moines’ population (2018)
220,724 populate the Big Five suburbs — 66,641 West Des Moines, 65,284 Ankeny, 43,949 Urbandale, 22,810 Waukee, 22,040 Johnston

208,982 Des Moines’ population (1960)
216,853 Des Moines’ population (2018)

Where the action is…

Not listed in the Big Five suburbs is Des Moines’ eastern friend of Altoona. This unique suburb has developed into an entertainment hotspot. Altoona boasts Adventureland, a casino and a horse track, and the area’s newest retail shopping destination, the Outlets of Des Moines.

The best culinary minds in world history…


Steak de Burgo is original to central Iowa, and it was generated out of the metro’s multitude of classic Italian-American cuisine, including Noah’s Ark, which is thought to have served the city’s first pizza; Latin King, home to the Chicken Spiedini; and Christopher’s.

NOTE: Some say Steak de Burgo originated first at Vic’s Tally Ho.

For makers who live to create…


900 Keosauqua Way, Des Moines;
Glass blowing, clothing design, woodworking, ceramics, painting and more, Mainframe Studios features a diverse assortment of more than 70 studios.

Priceless treasure gets found… at Hoyt Sherman Place


1501 Woodland Ave., Des Moines;
In 2016, Hoyt Sherman’s executive director rummaged through a little-used storeroom and somehow uncovered a painting that was wedged between a table and the wall. Upon further inspection, this piece of art was a priceless 400-year-old early Baroque panel painting depicting the figures of Apollo and Venus accompanied by her son Cupid. The relic’s condition has been greatly restored, and the results are said to be spectacular. Visitors at Hoyt Sherman Place can see for themselves, as Otto van Veen’s “Apollo and Venus” is on permanent display there.

NOTE: Hoyt Sherman Place Art Galleries house one of the most unique and notable art collections in the city. Many of its pieces were donated by Major Byers, a close friend of William T. Sherman — the brother of Hoyt Sherman.

Geodesic conservatory contains 665 Plexiglas panels…


909 Robert D. Ray Drive, Des Moines;
Central Iowa’s ultimate outdoor experience exists indoors. Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden tropical paradise offers learning opportunities, gardening items of intrigue and guided tours.

DON’T FORGET: After taking in the lush green spaces, the Trellis Café — located within the Botanical Garden — serves a locally sourced, plant-inspired menu and is regarded by many as offering one of the best lunches in Des Moines.

Weird and wacky facts and wonders inspire awe about our Earth, galaxy and beyond…


401 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Des Moines;
A lifelong journey of science and learning can begin at SCI. The local wonder engages and inspires attendees within its 110,000-square-foot downtown facility equipped with dynamic experience platforms and daily interactive science demonstrations.

The art is worth millions or more, but you can see it for free…


4700 Grand Ave., Des Moines;
Amazing work by amazing people is on display at the Des Moines Art Center, a not-for-profit art museum engaging local and international audiences. Admission to the art center is free.

Exotic animals from around the globe…


7401 S.W. Ninth St., Des Moines;
Is that an amur tiger? Is that an African lion? Is that an aldabra tortoise? The answers are: 1) Yes, 2) Yes, and 3) Yes. Blank Park Zoo is also home to penguins, a red panda, a sea lion, an eastern black rhinoceros and a variety of other creatures you would never normally see in the state.

Gold-plated dome…


1007 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines;
The gold leaf covering the Capitol’s dome is 250,000th of an inch thick and is 23 and 3/4 karats.

Nicknamed Peanut, Bubbly, America’s Sweetheart…


Shawn Johnson, gymnastics, 2008, grew up in West Des Moines.

The only female ever drafted by an NBA franchise…


In the 13th round of the 1969 NBA draft, the San Francisco Warriors selected a woman. That had never been done before, and it hasn’t been done since. As such, Iowa high school basketball legend Denise Long, a six-on-six hoopster forward for Union-Whitten High who averaged 62.8 points per game in her senior year (1969), was the first and only female to be chosen in an NBA Draft. The selection was later voided and labeled a publicity stunt.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT: Long once scored 111 points in a single game.

Dolph Pulliam versus the human skyhook…


The 1969 Drake University’s men’s basketball squad danced all the way to the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four. The Bulldogs then faced UCLA and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Drake gave the two-time defending NCAA champion Bruins a legit scare, but fell short, 85-82. Drake was led by Willie McCarter, Dolph Pulliam and Willie Wise on the court and by Coach Maury John roaming the sidelines. The Bulldogs ended up 26-5 and finished third in the nation in the AP college poll. Drake advanced to the Elite Eight during each of the next two seasons, but since 1971 — a stretch of nearly five decades — the program hasn’t won another NCAA Tournament contest, qualifying for the tournament only one time (2008).

On your left…

Originally billed as “The Great Six-Day Bicycle Ride,” RAGBRAI began in 1973 when two Register reporters dared each other to cycle across the state and write about their experiences. About 300 people participated in the first event, organized by The Des Moines Register, but the non-competitive ride has grown into what is said to be the largest bike-touring event in the world. RAGBRAI’s route traverses the state from west to east. RAGBRAI stands for: Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

On your mark… Get set… GO!…

“America’s Athletic Classic” is the second-oldest major track-and-field meet in the U.S. and originated in 1910. The event’s Saturday session has sold out every year since 1959, and many of track and field’s biggest names — Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, Herschel Walker, Gwen Torrence, Jim Ryun, Al Oerter, Steve Scott, Alan Webb, Ryan Crouser, Jeremy Wariner, Bob Hayes and others — have competed. In 2017, 68 former Olympians took part, including 10 gold medalists from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Attendees have witnessed 17 world records. Drake Relays is one of only a few U.S. track meets where athletes experience the type of atmosphere that makes the sport so popular in Europe — the track is so close to the stands that fans can exchange high-fives, get autographs and take selfies with world-class athletes as they take victory laps.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: April 2021 at the Blue Oval, Drake Stadium

“Hungry fo a good sangwich?”…


1601 S. Union St., Des Moines;
This world-famous authentic Italian sausage is a local wonder, according to anyone who has ever tasted it. The century-old southside treasure is located just across the river from downtown.

Home to both exotic eats and all-American treats…


B-Bop’s: Located throughout central Iowa, With its quarterpound cheeseburgers that melt in your mouth paired with perfectly salted french fries to dip into its chocolate milkshakes… Central Iowa adores this happy local hamburger habit.

Crab Rangoon pizza at Fong’s Pizza: Multiple locations;
With a unique menu combined with Chinese decor, Fong’s offers ambiance, tiki drinks, and world-famous crab Rangoon pizza.

The finest gas-station pizza anywhere(?)…

Despite incredible pizza places long known for exquisite eats — Noah’s, Chuck’s, Scornovacca’s, Bordenaro’s, Fong’s, Gusto, Big Tomato, Chuck Celsi’s Tavern, Pagliai’s, Northern Lights, deep-dish pizza at Felix and Oscars and more — it seems that somehow Casey’s has managed to wrangle more fans than any of them.

A house divided actually can stand….


Central Iowa craves fresh and healthy fare, but we also devour deep-fried sloppy. Arguably one of the best of its kind in the entire universe… Downtown Farmers’ Market offers the fresh foods to the delight of tens of thousands of visitors on a weekly basis in Des Moines’ Downtown Court Avenue District — Meanwhile… The chili-dog madness continues at
George the Chili King, which serves the opposite of fresh food, but this old-school eatery sure is tasty — 5722 Hickman Road, Des Moines. And so does Smitty’s, home of the original king tenderloin since 1952 and the winner of Best Of Des Moines’ Best Local Tenderloin for as long as anyone can remember — 1401 Army Post Road, Des Moines;

Lines form early outside the 60-seat eatery…


5800 Franklin Ave., Des Moines;
One bar, nine booths, a couple-three tables and a fish aquarium… That’s the inventory at Simon’s, but the eatery’s simple concoction of quality food that is well-prepared and offered within a comfortable, easy-going atmosphere, has made it one of central Iowa’s hotspots, despite being one of the smallest.

DID YOU KNOW: CITYVIEW makes no promises, but lots of free cake has been reportedly handed out to diners at Simon’s.

Bigger isn’t bad, either…


1011 Locust St., Des Moines;
Urban Italian eatery Centro has dazzled local foodies with delectable pasta offerings, brick-oven pizza, perfectly seared steaks and more. Buzzing with up-scale clientele, Centro’s ambiance includes the clinking of martini glasses and the pleasant rumble of people engaged in meaningful conversation. In all probability, this is the city’s most popular local restaurant of its kind.

Caffeinated haze…


1910 Cottage Grove, Des Moines;
This gargantuan coffeehouse, generally packed full of people at all hours of operation, is among the most well-liked destinations in town. The unusual space is housed in a century-old building featuring high ceilings and 5,000 square feet of coffee, food, snacks, first dates, soda jerks, occasional live music and more.

Iowa offers the finer side of life…


Respected worldwide, the Des Moines Arts Festival generally hosts 180 of the nation’s top artists within the 4.4-acre John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. The award-winning festival celebrates art and culture while attracting annually more than 200,000 people. Interrobang Film Festival coexists with the Arts Festival to make the event a can’t-miss for most of central Iowa’s population.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: June 25-27, 2021 in downtown Des Moines’ Western Gateway Park.;

Up, up and away!…


15335 Jewell St., Indianola;
The clear-blue Iowa sky fills with the brilliant colors of 100-plus hot-air balloons launching near Indianola. Sit back and enjoy the country air, listen to live music, get a bite to eat and be in awe. Mark your calendars: July 30-Aug. 7, 2021

10,000 people attend…

Seven-or-so tons of sweet corn gone in slightly more than 60 seconds… with much salt and butter, please! Approximately 10,000 visitors attend.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Aug. 14, 2021, the second Saturday in August in downtown Adel

Central Iowa has a quilt museum…


68 E. Court Ave., Winterset;
Tucked neatly into Winterset’s town square, the Iowa Quilt Museum welcomes quilters, quilt lovers, history buffs and appreciators of quilting. The museum offers changing exhibits — usually three to four per year — portraying American quilts both vintage and new.

Central Iowa also has jazz…


1326 Walnut St., Des Moines;
The jazz at Noce is smooth, cool, and often played by Des Moines’ own, Max Wellman. Noce is the city’s only club dedicated exclusively to jazz, and the upscale bar offers plush seating for 100.

Central Iowa also has…

“We are not your kind…” Two decades ago, nine central Iowa musicians joined forces to meld into a unit that eventually achieved global superstardom. Slipknot offers aggressive metal music with an energy sourced from, well… no one knows for sure. The group is led by Corey Taylor, its lead vocalist and lyricist.

Central Iowa also has superstars in training…


Iowa Cubs: Triple-A baseball
One Line Drive, Des Moines;
Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs

Iowa Wild: One step away from NHL hockey
Wells Fargo Arena;
Affiliate of the Minnesota Wild

Iowa Barnstormers: Pro indoor football
Wells Fargo Arena;

Iowa Wolves: NBA G league
Wells Fargo Arena;
Affiliate of the Minnesota Timberwolves

Des Moines Buccaneers: Junior A amateur hockey
Buccaneer Arena in Urbandale;

Central Iowa has…


What do puppy mills, sex-traffic slaves and crack cocaine all have in common? Sadly, the answer is Iowa. Our state is among the nation’s leaders in each disgusting industry.

Idea guy…

The co-founder of Pinterest is from central Iowa and graduated from Des Moines Central Academy and Des Moines Roosevelt (1999) before
attending Yale University.

Treasure hunting while amped on a stiff cup of coffee…


22 Ninth St., Des Moines;
Visitors at West End search its giant warehouse overflowing with four floors of jumbled treasures from near and far.

On the road again; another future superstar…

After the turn of the last century, many rural horse tracks were transformed into auto-racing ovals, and since rural Iowa had so many horse racing loops, our state became one of the “racingist” states in the nation. Several popular tracks surround the Des Moines metro area, including Knoxville Raceway, Boone Speedway and Newton’s paved Iowa Speedway. McKenna Haase is a homegrown rising star on the track. The 23-year-old sprint car driver from Des Moines recently acquired a 410 engine, which means she continues to step up in competition. “Sassy” became the first-ever female to win a sprint car race at Knoxville Raceway (2015), and she did it the day before graduating from her high school as valedictorian.

Crazy talented celebrities routinely rock the stage at…


Downtown, Des Moines;
The talent that travels through Wells Fargo Arena truly amazes onlookers on a regular basis. One could invent a list consisting solely of The 70 Wonders of Wells Fargo Arena.

Great stages; fantastic names…


Creating a top-notch music culture within a city is a team sport. No single venue can accomplish this on its own. It takes a village, so to speak, of stages ranging in size, scope and demographics, and that’s what Des Moines has, we had room to point out the following four.

Lefty’s, Wooly’s, Vaudeville Mews and Gas Lamp combine to make up a sizable chunk of central Iowa’s local live music, and the quartet
also boasts as unique a set of names as any four venues in the U.S.

Mall size matters…


101 Jordan Creek Parkway, West Des Moines;
Jam packed with more than 1.3 million square feet of shopping and entertainment space, Jordan Creek Town Center is Iowa’s largest shopping complex.

NOT so fast!…


Along Fifth Street in West Des Moines;
A wooden racetrack once ran through Valley Junction in the early part of the last century. When the illadvised idea was ultimately torn down — legend has it that too many drivers were dying due to it being too slippery when wet — the track’s wood was upcycled into the construction of the buildings that became the unique shopping hotspot that Valley Junction is today.

From peep-show capital of Iowa to a hotbed for boutiques…


East of downtown Des Moines;
Trendy salons, high-end hotels and rave-worthy retail opportunities currently line the streets of Des Moines’ East Village, but it hasn’t always been this way. Before the days of shoppers swarming to unique specialty shops such as Ichi Bikes and its custom-made rat-rod bicycles with motorized backups, or Raygun and its quippy T-shirts telling you about life, or Zombie Burger and its offerings of the undead… Before any of that, this area east and over the river from Des Moines’ downtown core was legendary for breeding the city’s worst seediness. So next time you witness its trend-setting boutiques, or treat yourself at its plush salons, or attend its gospel-preaching East Village Walnut Creek Church full of Jesus-following, Bible-believing worshippers, remember to be amazed at the once blighted urban wasteland’s transformation.

Two-mall town…


1551 Valley West Drive, West Des Moines;
Despite some national shopping trends indicating a general consumer pullback from large retail shopping centers, West Des Moines remains home to not one but two malls — Jordan Creek and Valley West.

We salute you…


3800 Merle Hay Road, Des Moines;
Merle Hay. That’s the name of the first Iowa serviceman and possibly the first one from America to die in WWI. Hay’s sacrifice is memorialized by the shopping center bearing his name, Merle Hay Mall, on the city’s northwest side. Something tells us that if Hay were
still with us, he’d love taking in a good film at Flix, an eight-screen, eat-in, movie complex. But if he was still here, what do you suppose the mall’s name would be? ♦

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Summer Stir (June 2023)