Iowa is known for three things: corn, cows, and caucuses. But the capital city offers much more than that. This Midwestern metropolis has become something of a hipster heaven and nothing short of a foodie’s nirvana.
And it isn’t just residents who think so—Forbes dubbed the central hub the best city for young professionals.
But before you pack up your moving truck and head for the Heartland, keep this guide in mind.
1. Business is booming
Insurance, healthcare, and publishing are all thriving in this town. This city puts the “home” in Better Homes and Gardens. Really, the magazine is based here, along with Family Circle, Principal Financial Group, an Allstate branch, and the Pulitzer-winning Des Moines Register.
QB Cade Fortin (@Cade410) picks up another offer from the Iowa State Cyclones pic.twitter.com/4PG0jJOlzC
— Youth Passing League (@YPL13) May 13, 2016
2. You’ll have to pick a team
A sports team, that is. Everyone around you is either rooting for the Iowa State Cyclones or the Iowa Hawkeyes. Choose your poison and forever be a part of a community that cheers, drinks, and plays together.
3. The winters are cold
Ice cold. The roads will be icy—put chains on your tires, sandbags in the back of your pickup, and the lining back in your parka. Oh, and keep an ice scraper in your car from October to May. On the bright side, snow days are a reality for business professionals here, too.
Love having the farmer's market back in Des Moines on Saturdays! Summer has arrived! pic.twitter.com/VesvAKCBJr
— Josh Wilson (@JoshWilsonIA) May 7, 2016
4. But summers in Des Moines are the best in the world (we think)
It may be humid, but you’ll never find yourself with idle hands. Whether you’re drinking on your bike during the renowned Ragbrai races or chowing down on a chocolate-covered key lime dream bar on a stick (it’s a thing) at the Iowa State Fair, you’ll be full, happy, an never bored.
5. Coffee culture has a curfew
Des Moines has myriad coffee shops that range from hipster havens to refined bakeries. But there’s a last call. Most coffee shops close by 11, so don’t expect to pull an all-nighter fueled with coffee from anywhere but Kum & Go.
6. It’s a foodie city.
Around every corner is eatery ecstasy. Whether you’re looking for authentic Italian or soy-sauces-soaked sashimi, you’ll find it in Des Moines. And you haven’t had a real burger until you’ve tasted Zombie Burger’s “The Walking Ched” burger, complete with deep-fried macaroni and cheese bun, bacon, mayo, and caramelized onion more macaroni. Oh, and cheese.
So. This is the beer glass that I got at Fuzzy's in Des Moines. Amazing. @SChasenKU pic.twitter.com/JQh5tCmGxg
— Derek Skillett (@derek_skillett) March 19, 2016
7. But it’s also a drinking city
If you come for the food, you’ll stay for the hopping bar scene. Whether you’re looking for a dive bar with a hearty selection of craft beer or a night club with an “nst, nst, nst “ vibe, the city that sometimes sleeps is sure to have a venue you’ll feel comfortable drinking up until you fall down in.
8. The live music scene is far from dead
Des Moines has multiple venues that host live musicians year-round. In the last year, Wooly’s has hosted big names from Mayday Parade to A Great Big World. The 80/35 music festival attracts about 30,000 concert-goers to Des Moines every summer with sounds ranging from folk to rock to feel-good alternative.
9. A buck will go a long way
The cost of living here in Des Moines was six points below the national average. This means more cheesy buns chased with cocktails, and less financial stress.
10. But you may want to save up for a shopping spree
Stores selling quirky, urban street wear and contemporary lifestyle buys permeate the East Village’s shopping scene. If you’re looking for more mainstream merch, Jordan Creek Mall is the place to go.
Crab Rangoon Pizza – Fong's Pizza / Des Moines pic.twitter.com/QGWwTcwO3S
— Bun Boy Eats (@BunBoyEats) June 21, 2015
11. This isn’t New York, but we take our bagels and pizza seriously
Des Moines is New York’s underrated cousin when it comes to the bagel and pizza scene. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried Fong’s Crab Rangoon pizza at 2 a.m., chased by a morning rosemary olive oil bagel from Bruegger’s 6 hours later.
12. Diversity is prominent
Though Iowa itself isn’t thought of as the most culturally divergent state, this city is steeped in diversity and is home to more than 685,000 residents with multi-cultural faiths and backgrounds.
Will a skate park usher millennials to #Des Moines? CC: @catchdesmoines: https://t.co/NO5o60yL5X pic.twitter.com/Iwubxu5wks
— Courtney Crowder (@CourtneyCare) January 19, 2016
13. Millennials are everywhere
Des Moines is many things—and crawling with millennials is one of them. Housing data showed that young people were congregating in this city. Curmudgeons beware.
14. Farmers’ markets are cool again
Ask any Des Moines local what they’re doing on Saturday morning from May to October, and you’ll here one answer. People don’t just live by the swarming assembly of local vendors—they live for it.
15. It’s a liberal city
Though this isn’t true across all of Iowa, the city of Des Moines is considered to be a liberally inclined. Iowa was the third state to legalize gay marriage, and residents tend to bleed blue.
16. Travel is easy
Interstate 235 will take you nearly anywhere you need to go in this navigationally simple city. But try to avoid rush hour. This city is a city and still has considerable traffic.
17. So, cars are preferable, but not required
Getting around Des Moines is one slice short of a cake walk if you have a car, but the public transportation system is reliable, though it may not take you to the lesser-traveled corners of the city.
Des Moines construction workers rock with art. #LFK, @marchmadness pic.twitter.com/4U5bQyTH9g
— Mike Yoder (@mikeyoderljw) March 16, 2016
18. The art scene is burgeoning
Des Moines artistry is sure to catch your eye. Between the sculpture garden downtown and the Des Moines Art Center, there are plenty of paintings and picturesque craftsmanship to soak in. And be sure to keep your eye on the newspaper, which advertise pop up exhibitions around the city.
19. Escaping the concrete jungle is easy
The city is surrounded by an entire state’s worth of lakes and landscapes, but you don’t have to leave the city limits to enjoy the great outdoors. There are plenty of parks, ponds, and green areas dotting the neighborhoods of Des Moines.
20. People are friendly
One small-town Iowa stereotype rings true in this city: Folks are friendly. Expect a warm smile from people on the street and a kind-hearted “take care” when you leave a room from Des Moines residents, old and young.