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5 Downtown DSM Attractions to See Along the RAGBRAI Route

Five Attractions in Downtown DSM

Planning to be in Downtown Des Moines (DSM) when RAGBRAI L, otherwise known as Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, rides through the city? The Des Moines-Apalooza: One Epic Ride. One Epic Party. will take place at Water Works Park and across Downtown DSM. But there are plenty of other places worth a stop while you’re downtown, too! So, check out the attractions below on Wednesday, July 26!

Downtown Des Moines Attractions

Explore the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Western Gateway Park

Our first suggestion is perfect if you’re planning to meet up in Downtown DSM with someone not riding RAGBRAI, but still want to be able to get around on two wheels. Have your friend stop by a downtown B-Cycle kiosk to get their own bike. Then, head to John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, which is easily accessible thanks to bike lanes along Grand Avenue, too!

Stop by the Riding Through History Exhibit at the Historical Museum in the Historic East Village

Another idea is to stop in at the State Historical Museum of Iowa to walk through the Riding Through History exhibit, which features clothing, accessories and even a bike from the very first RAGBRAI. It’s free to walk around the museum and the exhibit is just one of many showcasing our state. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the museum is open until 4:30 p.m.

Bike to the Garden in the Historic East Village

Visit the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden! The last time RAGBRAI stopped in Des Moines was back in 2013, the same year major interior renovations began at the Botanical Garden. Since then, the Botanical Garden has added:

  • A 265 sq. ft. living wall that is the first of its kind in Iowa
  • 7 acres of outdoor gardens
  • The Ruan Reflection Garden featuring a reflection pool and fountain
  • 20,000 plants in the Robert D. Ray Asian Garden
  • A 16-foot steel sculpture called “Threshold”
  • Naturalistic, sustainable planting-style gardens (The Founders Garden and hiller Family Rain Garden)

These are just a few of the awesome things to see at the Botanical Garden in Downtown DSM, so stop in during open hours on Wednesday or Thursday until 5 p.m. (The Robert D. Ray Asian Garden is open until 10 p.m.)

Take a Break + Watch the Action at Lauridsen Skatepark

Skaters of all ages flock to the the largest open skatepark in the nation, and you can see the latest tricks as you ride along Principal Riverwalk to the world-famous Lauridsen Skatepark. Located in the center of the city, it's easy to check out the WOW sculpture, the flow bowl and more until 10:30 p.m.

Enjoy the View at Gray’s Lake

Maybe the 50-mile route from Ames to Des Moines wasn’t enough of a workout for you. If that’s the case, head to Gray’s Lake before you make your way to Water Works Park for camping and live music. Rent a watercraft — there are canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and more — or just cruise along on the 2.1-mile Kruidenier Trail. Gray’s Lake has a variety of adult and children’s bicycles available to rent as well if you’re meeting non-RAGBRAI riding friends who might want to join for a short ride.

Whether it’s a morning on the lake or an evening spent exploring Greater Des Moines’ (DSM’s) 800 miles of connected recreational trails, the region has many outdoor options.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

DSM USA is the regional identifier for Greater Des Moines (DSM). DSM USA is a bold statement to the world: This is a welcoming, diverse and vibrant community with affordable and accessible amenities for residents and businesses. This regional identifier is the result of significant quantitative and qualitative research. The Partnership will champion the DSM USA message, and encourages its Investors, its more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and DSM USA Ambassadors to help share the region's story with One Voice.