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As Iowa's capital city, Des Moines is a hub of government action, business activity, arts and cultural affairs.

The city lies on the Des Moines River at its juncture with the Raccoon River in the south-central part of the state. Situated in the heart of the Corn Belt, it is the focus of Iowa's most populous metropolitan area, which includes the cities West Des Moines, Urbandale, and Pleasant Hill.

Des Moines, Iowa

Corn, cattle, and rolling fields all bring to mind the State of Iowa, as do covered bridges and fields of brilliant wildflowers. Iowa, the backdrop for the famous Grant Wood painting entitled American Gothic, was also the first state to legalize riverboat gambling…and then, there is Des Moines.

The area now known as Des Moines began as a military post in the 1840's. Several of such posts were set up in the area to protect the rights of the Sac Indians. The garrison, named Fort Des Moines, was decommissioned shortly thereafter. The town of Fort Des Moines emerged from the few people who remained. By the late 1850's, 'Des Moines' was officially the capital of Iowa.

As Iowa's capital city, Des Moines is a hub of government action, business activity, arts and cultural affairs. With a city population approaching 200,000 and a metro population of nearly 500,000, Des Moines offers some of the nation's best schools, superb public services, and friendly, caring neighborhoods. Des Moines is headquarters for many and varied businesses but in the forefront is the Insurance industry. Iowa holds the distinction of being one of the top three centers for insurance in the world. More than 385 factories in Des Moines produce everything from farm machinery to food products.

The state's capital city is bisected by the Des Moines River. The gold-domed state capitol, which contains elaborate wood trim and multicolored marble, can’t be missed. The nearby State of Iowa Historical Building contains exhibits related to the state's development, including a Conestoga wagon, examples of Native American beadwork and crafts from the Amana community.

Architects Eero Saarinen, I. M. Pei and Richard Meier each designed a section of the striking Des Moines Arts Center museum, which houses a collection of American and European masterpieces and modern sculpture. Just behind the art center is the Science Center of Iowa, filled with hands-on exhibits exploring nature and physics. The Living History Farms (open May through October) is a 600-acre complex of working farms west of town that cover three centuries of history. The farms contain a replica of an Ioway Indian village circa 1700, a pioneer farm from the mid 1800s, a horse farm from the early 20th century, and a modern-day agricultural operation.

There are a number of historic homes in Des Moines, particularly in the Sherman Hill neighborhood, that are open to visitors. Terrace Hill was built in 1869 and now serves as the residence of the governor. Jordan House, built in 1850, was once the home of James Jordan, who aided escaped slaves as they fled north. The Hoyt Sherman Place is a Victorian mansion built in 1877 that now contains an art gallery and period furnishings.

The Des Moines Botanical Center displays a rich collection of exotic plants under a 75-foot dome, and the Blank Park Zoo affords visitors a delightful walk through natural-habitat exhibits. After seeing the sights, relax and eat at the refurbished Court Avenue District, a center for food and entertainment. The Civic Center of Greater Des Moines is home to Ballet Iowa and the Des Moines Symphony. Next to the Center is Nollen Plaza, a park that features a waterfall, a reflecting pool, and a 2,000 seat amphitheater.28 blocks of downtown Des Moines are connected by several miles of enclosed, climate-controlled skywalks which provide total comfort in navigating from place to place for shopping, dining, and business.

Depending on the season, sports fans might want to catch a minor league baseball game when the Iowa Cubs play at Taylor Stadium. Football fans can enjoy an afternoon with the Iowa Barnstormers, an arena football team. The Buccaneers excel at Hockey.

While in Des Moines, antique collectors will want to explore Valley Junction, a most interesting collection of antique and specialty shops. The town also hosts a Farmers Market every Saturday, from late May to September.

For family fun, take in the thrills and excitement of Adventureland Park. This theme park has a wooden roller coaster as the centerpiece of its Wild West area. There is also fun and adventure waiting at White Water University: a water park with a variety of slides, a wave pool, a children’s play area, and miniature golf. For the adults, a popular Des Moines area destination is Prairie Meadows in neighboring Altoona where there is a horse track and casino.

Snowmobiling and ice fishing are winter activities enjoyed at Big Creek State Park. Water Works Park sparkles with the annual Jolly Holiday light display and animations in December. Des Moines is thriving. It is a place of enthusiasm and productivity, and also a city of beauty and tranquility.
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