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- Des Moines At-a-glance
- What it’s like to live in Des Moines
- Economy and job outlook in Des Moines
- Real estate in Des Moines
- The top neighborhoods in Des Moines
- How to get around in Des Moines
- School and education snapshot
- Weather and climate in Des Moines
- 10 can’t miss things to do in Des Moines
Des Moines At-A-Glance
When people think about moving to a new city, the bustling metropolises of New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago often come to mind. But for those seeking a change of pace and a city that combines the best of urban living with a friendly, community-oriented atmosphere, Des Moines, Iowa, may be the perfect destination.
Des Moines is one of the fastest-growing metros in the nation and it’s easy to see why. The Greater DSM Partnership says, “you’ll find affordable living, vibrant downtown amenities, welcoming suburbs, world-class education and commute times averaging 20 minutes or less — all while enjoying an ideal work-life balance.”
If having it all is at the top of your wish list, take a look at the plethora of reasons why moving to Des Moines should (quickly) be on your radar.
Des Moines is Known for its Tight-Knit and Welcoming Community
Des Moines, located in the heart of the Midwest, offers a unique blend of urban and small-town charm. With a population of just over 214,000 residents, it’s the most populous city in Iowa and serves as the state’s capital. If you’re looking for a city that offers the perfect blend of community spirit, economic opportunity, and affordable living, look no further than Des Moines to call home.
Despite its modest size, Des Moines offers a diverse range of neighborhoods, educational opportunities, and a vibrant cultural scene, all while maintaining a strong job market. The city is home to numerous museums, art galleries, theaters, and cultural events that cater to a wide range of tastes.
The city’s four-season climate and numerous outdoor activities make it an ideal place for families, young professionals, and anyone looking for a change of pace from larger urban areas.
If you’re considering a move to a welcoming and dynamic city in the heart of America, Des Moines is a city that offers an excellent quality of life and a warm, friendly atmosphere that will make you feel right at home.
Des Moines Has a Robust and Diversified Economy
Des Moines is often referred to as the “Hartford of the West” due to its concentration of insurance and financial service companies, including Principal Financial Group, Athene, Nationwide, FBL Financial Group, etc. Because it’s home to several major insurers and banks, the city offers a wide range of employment opportunities in the financial sector. The city has also been steadily growing its technology and healthcare sectors. Tech startups and healthcare institutions are becoming more prominent in Des Moines, attracting professionals from around the country.
It wouldn’t be the Midwest without a nod to agriculture. Iowa is known for its fertile farmlands and agriculture, and Des Moines benefits from its proximity to this industry. Agribusiness and related industries provide numerous jobs and career prospects.
Because of the robust and diversified employers, the city’s economic landscape continues to benefit from a strong job market. The job market has increased by 2.7 percent over the last year and future job growth over the next 10 years is predicted to be 37.4 percent, which is higher than the national average of 33.5 percent.
Des Moines also consistently maintains a low unemployment rate, which means job seekers have a better chance of finding employment here compared to many other cities.
Unemployment rate: 3.0% (as of August 2023)
Average weekly wages for all industries: $1,305 (as of October 2023)
Enjoy a High Quality of Life Thanks to Affordable Housing
One of the most appealing aspects of living in Des Moines is the affordability of housing. Whether you’re looking to rent or buy, you’ll find a variety of options to suit your needs and budget. The city offers a mix of historic and modern properties, allowing residents to choose homes that align with their preferences. From historic homes in charming neighborhoods to modern condominiums and apartments in the downtown area, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a young professional or a family.
Compared to major metropolitan areas, Des Moines is incredibly affordable and you can find comfortable family homes at a fraction of the price you’d pay in larger cities. As of September 2023, the median sale price of a home is $208K, which is 51 percent lower than the national average. The overall cost of living in Des Moines is also 13 percent lower than compared with the U.S. average. Rental prices are also budget-friendly, expect to pay $1,043 per month for a one-bedroom apartment.
Des Moines Has Many Communities to Call Home
Des Moines offers a variety of neighborhoods, each with its unique characteristics. Whether you’re looking for a serene neighborhood that offers a peaceful escape or the hustle and bustle of the city, these are some of the top neighborhoods in Des Moines:
Historic East Village: If you love a blend of old-world charm and modern amenities, the Historic East Village is an excellent choice. This neighborhood offers boutique shops, trendy restaurants, and a vibrant arts scene.
Beaverdale: Beaverdale is a family-friendly neighborhood with tree-lined streets and well-maintained homes. It’s a close-knit community known for its local events and strong sense of camaraderie. It’s also one of the more affordable neighborhoods that still has close proximity to everything.
West Des Moines: Before it focused on revitalizing the downtown area, Des Moines residents flocked west to get to anywhere trendy. West Des Moines, then, still offers a mix of urban and suburban living. It has excellent schools, shopping centers, and a range of dining options. It’s a popular choice for families and young professionals.
Downtown: If you prefer city living, downtown Des Moines is experiencing an unparalleled growth spurt. In the past 10 years alone, $3 billion has been invested in the capital city. It’s the epicenter of the city’s cultural scene, with museums, theaters, and nightlife. Living here puts you in the heart of the action.
You’ll Enjoy a City That’s Easy to Navigate
Des Moines is a city that’s easy to navigate, with several transportation options at your disposal. Many residents rely on their cars to get around. The city’s road network is well-maintained, and traffic is generally manageable, even during rush hours. According to a survey conducted by INRIX, drivers will lose just seven hours on average every year to traffic woes at a measly cost of $122 per driver.
On the other hand, Des Moines is also a bike-friendly city that encourages eco-friendly commuting. The city has invested in its bike infrastructure, with dedicated bike lanes and trails. No matter the season, visitors and locals can navigate the city with ease thanks to the four miles of climate-controlled skywalks making the downtown area highly walkable. You can easily explore the city on foot, enjoying its parks, shops, and dining options.
Hawkeyes and Cyclones are the State’s Beloved Educational Mascots
The city consistently ranks well in education, with a strong commitment to providing quality learning experiences for students of all ages. For families moving to Des Moines looking to make education a top priority, the city offers a variety of educational options. Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) is the largest public school district in the state and provides a range of programs and extracurricular activities for students. There are several private schools in the area, offering alternative education options for families who prefer a more specialized approach to learning.
Des Moines is home to several private colleges and universities, including Drake University, Grand View University, and Des Moines Area Community College. The two state schools, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa, however, are where most of the focus goes. Because Iowa is not home to any professional sports teams, people love to root for their beloved Cyclones and Hawkeyes.
Des Moines’ Climate Snapshot: Humid, Snow and Tornado Alley
Des Moines experiences a four-season climate, which is a defining feature of life in the Midwest. If you don’t love hot humid weather in the summer or frigid, snow-covered winters, it may not be the city for you. Also, Des Moines is located in “Tornado Alley,” which means severe weather can include thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Spring in Des Moines is a beautiful time with blooming flowers and milder temperatures. Summers are warm and humid, with temperatures often reaching the 80s and 90s (Fahrenheit). Depending on your taste for heat (and stickiness), both seasons are perfect for enjoying outdoor activities and venturing out to the city’s parks, lakes, and outdoor festivals.
Autumn brings colorful foliage and cooler temperatures. It’s an ideal season for those who love the scenic beauty of the area. Winters are cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing even though the last few decades the climate has been warming. Snowfall is common, with an average of 36.5” falling every cold season.
Summer Average (June – August): 84°F high, 64°F low
Winter Average (December – February): 33°F high, 16°F low
10 Can’t-Miss Things to Do in Des Moines
Greater Des Moines is experiencing a wave of momentum. You’ll hit a little bit of everything with these 10 can’t miss things to do in this growing city:
- Visit the Iowa State Capitol: Take a tour of the stunning Iowa State Capitol building, a remarkable piece of architecture with a gold-domed roof.
- Pappajohn Sculpture Park: Explore this unique sculpture park in downtown Des Moines, featuring contemporary art installations in an open-air setting.
- Blank Park Zoo: Enjoy a day at the zoo with your family. Blank Park Zoo is home to a diverse range of animals and offers educational programs for all ages.
- Science Center of Iowa: Dive into interactive science exhibits and planetarium shows at the Science Center, a great place for kids and adults alike.
- Principal Park: Catch a minor league baseball game at Principal Park, home to the Iowa Cubs, and enjoy America’s favorite pastime.
- Historical Villages: Discover Iowa’s history at Living History Farms and Jordan House, which provide a glimpse into the state’s past.
- Des Moines Art Center: Explore a world-class collection of modern and contemporary art at the Des Moines Art Center.
- Biking and Hiking: Take advantage of the city’s extensive trail system, which offers numerous biking and hiking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
- Downtown Farmers’ Market: Shop for fresh produce, artisan goods, and local crafts at the Downtown Farmers’ Market, a beloved Des Moines tradition.
- Annual Festivals: Don’t miss out on Des Moines’ lively festivals, including the Des Moines Arts Festival, the Iowa State Fair, and the World Food and Music Festival.