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5 Ways to Experience Downtown DSM This Fall

5 Ways to Experience Downtown DSM This Fall

September 25, 2018

Although I never want to wish away summer, I’ve definitely been counting down the days till fall. It’s my favorite season for many reasons, but the cool, colorful weather and abundance of seasonal activities that come with it are easily the top two.

If you live in Greater Des Moines (DSM), or if you’re visiting, you’re in luck. Downtown DSM stays bustling throughout autumn with a variety of events that everyone can enjoy. I’ve compiled a list of my top five picks for fun and festive fall activities.


Oktoberfest in Downtown DSMFor two days in September, part of the Historic Court District transforms to mirror an authentic German village. The streets are decorated with all of the most German-esque things you can think of. Get yourself a dirndl or a lederhosen and plan to drink (mugs and mugs of beer), eat, dance, and compete (yes, there are games, too) like the Germans do. And if you’re not of German descent, don’t worry, the event page assures that everyone’s German at Oktoberfest

Doors to the past — a walking tours of homes

Sherman Hill Doors to the PastSherman Hill is a historic district just northwest of Downtown. Homes went up starting in the 1870s, which means it’s DSM’s oldest neighborhood. Living in the area in an 1895-built home myself, Doors to the Past is one of my favorite events in the fall. It’s a walking tour that parades you around the picturesque neighborhood, inviting you to explore the inside walls of beautifully-preserved historic homes. 

Competitive races

If you’re looking for something more competitive, you have options. The Turkey Trot is a fun and friendly race where you get to dress up as … you guessed it, a turkey! There’s a 5-mile race, a 5K and a 200-meter tot trot for the little ones. The IMT Des Moines Marathon is happening this fall, too. With eight different races to choose from, including a virtual race, there’s literally something for everyone. And if you’re more of a multi-sport competitor, the Above + Beyond Adventure Tri is this October as well. Two miles of canoeing, nine miles of cycling and three miles of trail running all done in Water Works Park makes it the longest race in a single park in the US. Even better? The race benefits a public charity — Above + Beyond Cancer.

Des Moines’ Downtown Farmers’ Market

Downtown Farmers' Market in FallThe Downtown Farmers’ Market isn’t just a summer event, it goes through to the end of October. I love going in the fall because it’s cooler. There’s also just something about layering up and warming your hands with a hot coffee while meandering the market. Just like in the summer, you can find in-season fruits and veggies, as well as flowers — the deep plums and vibrant orange florals of fall are my favorite! And if you’re looking for a good pumpkin to carve, you can find that, too. 

East Village Holiday Promenade and Market Day Iowa

I’m a shopping kind of girl, so if you’re like me, these two are must-attend events. The Holiday Promenade usually happens mid-November. The Historic East Village is completely lit up, shops stay open late — some even offering drinks and snacks while you shop, and Christmas music joyfully rings down each street. On top of getting in the Christmas spirit, this event is a great opportunity to shop local. Market Day Iowa, which takes place on Black Friday every year, is another opportunity to shop small. Vendors from all over the Midwest come to DSM to sell handmade goods.

Enjoy what’s left of summer and have a great fall in Downtown DSM!

Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is a growing, vibrant community that offers the energy, sophistication, housing and attractions of a big city. It’s also easy to visit with plentiful and affordable street and ramp parking options.