You were given the gift of 48-hours without kids by your parents.
What do you do?
A. Get caught up on all the projects around the house.
B. Have a 48-hour Netflix binge-fest.
C. Get in the car, drive 2.5 hours and enjoy a couples getaway in Des Moines, IA.
If you were hubs and I, you chose “C” and had a surprising and awesome time in Des Moines, Iowa.
Things To Do On A Couples Getaway to Des Moines, IA
As a Nebraska-raised girl and Kansas transplant, I understand that “Iowa” is not synonymous with metropolitan.
It’s home of Field of Dreams, Bridges of Madison County, Presidential Election War Ground, and corn. (Lots and lots of corn.)
But roll with me here, because I’m going to prove to you through our weekend itinerary that Des Moines can be as “big city” as you want with all of the “small city” conveniences (aka…super clean, safe, everyone is nice and helpful, and nearly impossible to get lost.)
Where We Stayed in Des Moines
Stay downtown, period.
Why? Because there are so many things to do in the downtown area that are within walking distance.
We parked our car on Friday and did not drive it again till Sunday when we were ready to go home. Plus, staying downtown provides you with a “metropolitan indie-vibe” vs. “just hanging in the suburbs again”. There are several “swanky” hotels available in downtown, we stayed at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott.
What We Did in Des Moines
Did you know that the Des Moines Farmer’s Market is the 2nd largest in the country with over nine blocks of vendors? So we got up bright and early on Saturday morning and enjoyed some of the most amazing street-food (hello, Breakfast Poutine) and beverages (homemade Ginger Beer). Plus, it’s super fun to walk around looking at art, vegetables, homemade wares and garden art, and listening to live music. Amazing way to enjoy the morning.
Right at the end of the Farmer’s Market (or beginning, depending on how you look at it) is the Principal River Walk. It’s a great place to grab a Bloody Mary, take a picture, or walk down by the river on the paved walkway. We did all three. (PS: My husband can’t take a selfie to save his life. I might have to have my kids give him a tutorial.)
Walk just a few blocks further past the River Walk and you will be in the heart of East Village. The East Village is an eclectic mix of boutiques, coffee houses, restaurants, bars, and Raygun. (The funniest t-shirt shop you will ever be in during your lifetime.)
When we were there, the East Village was hosting Pridefest, so the people watching was OUT OF THIS WORLD. It was the perfect spot to grab a cup of coffee, sit on a park bench, and watch the world around you.
Des Moines has an up and coming beer scene and Hubs wanted to try out one of the local (and acclaimed) breweries.
It was a bit of a walk from East Village to the Madhouse Brewery, but it was so worth it.
It had an amazing patio and the owners were onsite to answer any questions. It was a great way to end the afternoon before going back to the hotel and getting in a quick nap before dinner.
Take a walk through this grassy park and experience over 28-different pieces of fun, outrageous and thought provoking sculpture art.
The Nomade, a three-story-tall hollow human constructed of white steel alphabet letters was my favorite (and has become the unofficial icon of Des Moines). Added bonus: The Des Moines Art Center even offers FREE cellphone tours.
While we were busy enough, if we were to go back again, we would definitely arrive earlier in Des Moines and take in the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden.
Where We Ate in Des Moines
I’m pretty sure Hubs and I ate and drank our way through the Des Moines Independent Food Scene.
(aka…we didn’t eat a chain ONCE during our 48-hour stay, unless you count our caffeine addiction at Starbucks.)
As always, we used Yelp to help us pick restaurants and all of them were FABULOUS, FUNKY, and REASONABLY PRICED. Here were our picks for the weekend.
Do you love Asian food? Me too.
At Fong’s, you get it on a pizza. So think Crab Rangoon meets a thin-and-crispy pizza…it’s strange, weird and delicious.
We had the Thai Chicken Pizza (because someone who will remain nameless is lactose intolerant and cream cheese is a deal breaker) and two of the world’s famous Tiki Drinks – Suffering Bastard and Beachcomber.
We were lucky and arrived early on Friday night, so we were able to sit at the bar without a problem…but if we would have showed up 20 minutes later, the wait would have been close to two hours. So if you want Fong’s…show up early or show up late or expect to wait.
This was our lunch stop on Saturday afternoon after hanging out in the East Village. I was NOT a Zombie Burger virgin, but Hubs was and he was in HEAVEN.
It’s a restaurant that prides itself in crazy burgers, crazy cooking techniques, and crazy good food. The burger selection is insane. There is one…The Walking Ched that has a mac and cheese bun that has been deep fried. I’ve had it before…and it is amazing-sauce.
We enjoyed an appetizer of fried pickles (the best I’ve ever had) and shared a Raygun (the fried jalapeños pushed me over) and a basket of their house cut fries. Needless to say, I had a full-belly full of awesomeness when we left.
Before dinner on Saturday night, we decided to have a drink at Proof so we could figure out where we wanted to eat.
(As a side note, we most likely would have eaten at Proof, but they were hosting their private Second Saturday event and you needed a reservation. So Mara, the beautiful bartender, let us just sit at the bar and have a drink and the other people that were at the event just stared at us and wondered “Why the hell are they in here for this private event?” But I digress.)
I ordered a glass of wine and Hubs ordered a French 75.
I have never had a French 75 before, but it is now my new favorite summer drink. This mixture of gin, lemon, prosecco, and brandied cherries was the right amount of tart to sweet to dry. And it was so darn pretty! Seriously, who wouldn’t want an ombre drink?
We asked the bartender at the Proof, Mara, about dinner options. We gave her three were thinking about…and she looked at us and said, “Do you want to have an adventure? I think you should go to The Hole In The Wall.”
The Hole in the Wall is literally a hole in the wall lean-to attached to Gas Lamp, one of downtown Des Moines “live music venues” and bars. The kitchen size is roughly the same as a McMansion Closet and you order through a window.
Rumor has it that the “genius” behind the restaurant makes everything from two hot plates, a microwave and cooler. Sounds scary, right?
Without a doubt, it was some of the best food we had on the trip. His Brussel Sprouts & Chorizo Appetizer was out of this world. I’m pretty sure I could have eaten my weight in it given the opportunity.)And the steamed-bun sandwiches were funky, flavorful, and delicious – we ordered BBQ and Fried Avocado. But the crowning glory was the Fudgesicle. I’ve never eaten a more amazing frozen treat in my life – dark chocolate, caramel, and sugar cookie pieces. Amazing-sauce.
Sunday Morning Brunch, anyone? To cap off our weekend getaway we had famous brunch at the “Americana”. While we didn’t take part in the all-you-can-drink Mimosa and Bloody Mary Bar, we did experience the grilled cheese bar and amazing breakfast casseroles and desserts. Go hungry, because you are going to want to try everything.
Final Thoughts On A Couples Getaway to Des Moines
My husband summed it up best.
“I was just excited to get away with you for a couple of days, so it wouldn’t have mattered where we went. But I got to say, surprisingly, Des Moines was a blast.”
That’s right, Hubs, it was the perfect couples getaway.
Disclosure: CatchDesMoines.com provided accommodations and a stipend to pay for gas and enjoy restaurants and attractions while in Des Moines, but I was not compensated in any other way. The written remarks and opinions, as well as my ability eat and drink my way through Des Moines is all my own. Want more information – check out my full disclosure statement.