Des Moines: Unveiling the Secrets Only Locals Know

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Des Moines, Iowa’s charming capital city, offers more than just state fairs and political intrigue. Beyond the well-trodden tourist path lies a treasure trove of hidden gems and quirky experiences known only to those who call Des Moines home. So, ditch the guidebooks and join us on a journey into the heart of Des Moines, where the locals share their secrets!

Foodie Finds: Beyond the Tourist Traps

  • Pete’s Pizza: Forget fancy gourmet pies – for a taste of true Des Moines pizza perfection, head to Pete’s Pizza in Indianola, a short drive from downtown. This no-frills pizzeria is a local favorite, famous for its thin crust and unique toppings like the Rogalla (pepperoni and cream cheese) and the Jontie (Canadian bacon, green pepper, and onion, topped with lettuce and creamy Italian dressing).
  • Breakfast Bliss: While upscale brunch spots are trendy, Des Moines locals know the true breakfast champions reside in unassuming diners. Head to La Mie for a hearty and delicious breakfast burrito, or visit Gateway Market for their legendary cinnamon rolls – so big they’re practically a meal in themselves!
  • Cone Zone: For a truly nostalgic Des Moines treat, skip the national ice cream chains and head to Cone Zone, a local institution since 1948. This beloved drive-in boasts a seemingly endless selection of soft-serve ice cream flavors, perfect for a hot summer day. Don’t miss their signature “Tornado,” a cup overflowing with soft serve, toppings, and a cherry on top.

Hidden Hangouts: Where the Locals Unwind

  • East Village Escape: Des Moines’ East Village is a treasure trove of trendy shops, vibrant cafes, and hidden gems known only to locals. Escape the crowds and explore Beaverdale Books, a charming independent bookstore with a knowledgeable staff and a welcoming atmosphere. For a unique cocktail experience, head to Hello Marjorie! This 1920s-themed speakeasy boasts creative drinks and a sophisticated ambiance.
  • Brewery Hopping Like a Local: Des Moines’ craft beer scene is thriving, but some hidden gems deserve special mention. Venture beyond the well-known breweries and discover Confluence Brewing Company, known for its innovative brews and relaxed atmosphere. For a true hole-in-the-wall experience, check out 515 Brewing, a favorite among locals for its laid-back vibe and delicious, no-frills beers.
  • Secluded Parks and Green Spaces: While Gray’s Lake Park is a popular spot, Des Moines boasts hidden green havens perfect for escaping the urban buzz. Locals recommend Wakonda State Park, offering scenic hiking trails and breathtaking views of the Des Moines River Valley. For a touch of history, explore the grounds of the Salisbury House and Gardens, a Tudor mansion surrounded by enchanting gardens.

Local Lingo and Quirky Traditions

  • “Des Moines-ian” vs. “Des Moinian”: This might seem like a minor detail, but true Des Moines-ians (pronounced “Dez Moin-ee-uhns”) know the correct way to identify themselves is not “Des Moinian,” but simply “Des Moines-ian.”
  • “Crick” Not “Creek”: Don’t be surprised to hear locals refer to a “crick” instead of a creek. This Midwestern pronunciation quirk is a subtle giveaway that you’re talking to a true Des Moines native.
  • RAGBRAI: Every July, Iowa comes alive with RAGBRAI (The Register’s Annual Great Bike Race Across Iowa). This week-long cycling event attracts thousands of participants and creates a festive atmosphere across the state. Even if you’re not a cyclist, soaking up the RAGBRAI spirit is a quintessential Des Moines experience.

Unveiling the Soul of the City

Des Moines offers a unique blend of Midwestern charm and unexpected delights. By venturing beyond the tourist trail and embracing the secrets locals hold dear, you’ll discover the true soul of the city. So, grab a Pete’s Pizza slice, explore the hidden gems of the East Village, and listen to the locals say “crick” – you’re well on your way to becoming an honorary Des Moines-ian!