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Best Places to Read in Downtown DSM

Downtown DSM Reading Locations

If you are the type to carry a book with you at all times, you might also be looking for the perfect spot to enjoy a good book while in Downtown Des Moines (DSM) — including during the workday over your lunch break! We’ve got both indoor and outdoor options for you that will provide you with quality views, an accompanying drink or snack, a quiet retreat or any combination of those.

Without any further ado, here are 10 places to read in Downtown DSM:

Indoor Locations

1. Central Library

Neighborhood: Western Gateway
Located within Western Gateway Park at 1000 Grand Ave., Des Moines near the Pappajohn Sculpture Park (an outdoor reading option with a view of the alphabetically inclined Nomad!)

Bring your own book or check one out at Central Library, where you’ll find two floors of space to accommodate your need for an indoor reading spot. Hours are 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and Noon – 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Central Library Reading

2. Kava DSM

Neighborhood: Historic Court District
Located at 300 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Des Moines

Grab an organic snack from Kava DSM, where you can sit in a plant-filled, tropical environment, sip on a smoothie and find yourself sucked into a new world by your favorite author. Try the “Chocolate Covered Strawberry Waffles,” a featured smoothie or the house coffee. Kava DSM is open 7:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

3. Storyhouse Bookpub

Neighborhood: Historic East Village
Located at 505 E. Grand Ave., Suite 102, Des Moines

Browse new books at locally owned Storyhouse Bookpub, where you can also hear excerpts read during author events for adults or storytimes for little readers. Come together with other bookworms to find your next read, then stop in at Daisy Chain Coffee to purchase some local honey or specialty coffee to enjoy while you read. Storyhouse is open 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sunday.  

Storyhouse Bookpub Children's Section

4. Trellis

Neighborhood: Historic East Village
Located within the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden at 909 Robert D. Ray Dr., Des Moines

At Trellis Café, try out the plant-based menu while you read your way to the next chapter. Then wander through the Conservatory, or if the weather is nice, enjoy the Trellis patio, with its views of the downtown skyline, river and more. Trellis is open from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

 5. Wellmark YMCA

Neighborhood: Downtown Core
Located at 501 Grand Ave., Des Moines

When you visit the Wellmark YMCA in Downtown DSM, you can catch up on your reading while you walk the 1/8-mile indoor track by listening to your favorite audiobook! Hours are 5 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 a.m. - 8 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sunday.

Outdoor Settings

6. Arie den Boer Crabapple Arboretum

Neighborhood: Gray’s Lake Area
Located within Water Works Park at 2201 George Flagg Parkway, Des Moines

With more than 800 trees in the Arboretum, Arie den Boer has one of the world’s largest collections. Visitors are welcomed year-round, but urged to visit during the last week of April and first week of May when the annual crabapple blossoms usually bloom.

Crabapples in Water Works Park

7. Cowles Commons

Neighborhood: Downtown Core
Located between the Des Moines Civic Center and Capital Square at 313 Walnut St., Des Moines

Open daily from 6 a.m. to Midnight, enjoy the view of local art and the Lauridsen Fountain while you find a peaceful spot within Cowles Commons. While great for people watching, this location also allows you to catch up on your reading in a convenient outdoor space.

8. Gray’s Lake

Neighborhood: Gray’s Lake Area
Located at 2101 Fleur Dr., Des Moines

With more than 166.6 acres to explore, Gray’s Lake Park offers beautiful views, shaded areas and walking trails to enjoy if you finish your chapter and want to explore a beautiful downtown setting. Bring a blanket and a picnic to fully take advantage of this awesome space.

Gray's Lake

9. Jasper Winery

Neighborhood: Gray’s Lake Area
Located at 2400 George Flagg Parkway, Des Moines

Bring your current read to Jasper Winery, where you can enjoy the outdoor patio along with a cheese tray and one of the winery’s classic wines, including “Edelweiss,” “Front Porch,” “Lucy Lane” and “Behind the Shed Red.” "All-Night White” and “Bed Head Red” are also available in the Winemaker’s Series. Jasper Winery is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 – 5 p.m. on Sunday.

10. Meredith Test Gardens

Neighborhood: Western Gateway
Located at Dotdash Meredith at the corner of Grand Avenue and 15th Street, Des Moines

The Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden is a beautiful, lesser-known location in Downtown DSM. Only open Fridays from Noon to 2 p.m. from May to September, this spot is a tranquil option surrounded by gorgeous garden favorites.

Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is a growing, vibrant community that offers the energy, sophistication, housing and attractions of a burgeoning city with a brilliant future. It’s also easy to visit with plentiful and affordable street and ramp parking options. Find event information and follow @downtownDSMUSA on Facebook and Instagram for other news, tips and events happening downtown.

More Downtown Des Moines (DSM) restaurants are opening all the time. Don’t miss out on bakeries, brunch, breakfast, lunch, dinner, pizza, seafood, bars and breweries in downtown. Here’s the in on where to eat locally in Downtown DSM.

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.