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Life in the Heart of Iowa — Why I Love Living + Working in Downtown Des Moines

Living in the Heart of Iowa

October 26, 2023

It was late 2022 when I felt the itch for a change of pace. I was living in my college town, rounding out my first year post-grad. It wasn’t that I was necessarily unhappy, but I was certainly ready for something new. As someone who grew up just 30 miles east of Des Moines in Newton, I have always considered myself a central Iowa girl at heart — so when an opportunity arose to move to Downtown Des Moines (DSM), the decision was a no-brainer.

Fast forward to April of 2023, I took the leap and moved to Downtown DSM. And now after six-ish months of living and working downtown, I can attest that I made the right decision.

Here are just a few of the reasons why I love living and working in Downtown DSM:

Walkability of Downtown Des Moines

Upon moving to Downtown DSM, getting my 10,000 steps a day went from being nearly impossible to an easy feat. Downtown is set up to be pedestrian friendly, allowing me to leave my car behind and take advantage of the beautiful Iowa weather. I frequently find myself walking anywhere and everywhere, including to work, local restaurants, the Downtown Farmers’ Market and church.

I make sure to take advantage of Downtown DSM’s walkability throughout my workday as well. You’ll often catch me and my co-workers going on a midday coffee run to Starbucks or walking to Local Bites for lunch. Downtown DSM’s walkability not only saves me gas and money but also helps improve both my physical and mental well-being. (Fun fact: a Harvard study showed that walking at least 20 mins a day, at least 5 days a week can boost immune function).

However, it’s no secret that Iowa can have some unpredictable weather and winters are often brutal, which certainly puts a damper on the walkability factor. However, I am lucky enough to work in OpenLoop Tower which is connected to the skywalk system. The skywalk allows me to walk to many of my favorite restaurants and coffee shops without having to endure the cold or rain. The skywalk is also nice for those days when you just need to take a quick brain break walk but don’t want to venture all the way outside.

At the Heart of Everything in Downtown Des Moines

In addition to walkability, another reason I love both living and working downtown is that I am essentially at the heart of everything. I rarely must drive further than a few minutes to enjoy places like the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, Gray’s Lake or the Historic East Village. It is extremely nice to have a plethora of things to do and places to go within just a few minutes’ drive of my apartment — which is a welcomed change for sure as I was used to driving at least 15-30 minutes to get anywhere.

Festivals, Food + Fun in Downtown Des Moines

Throughout my first summer living downtown, I found that there was no shortage of fun things to do. A weekly favorite of mine was of course Saturday mornings at the Downtown Farmers’ Market. With tons of vendors, live music and so many cute dogs, it’s the perfect place to spend a Saturday morning.

In addition to the weekly Market, there were also many festivals that periodically took place throughout the summer that I was able to enjoy. Two of my personal favorites were the World Food & Music Festival and the Des Moines Arts Festival. It was fun to experience such a wide range of food, music and art, essentially right in my backyard. And one of the benefits of working downtown is when these festivals were happening, my co-workers and I were able to enjoy the event during our lunch break!

Feels like Home in Downtown Des Moines

Having grown up close to Des Moines, moving here felt like returning home (well almost). Many places in Downtown DSM bring back nostalgic memories of school field trips, sports competitions and more. So now, living in Des Moines in my 20s, I can continue to enjoy parts of downtown I have always loved while making new memories.

So, for anyone considering the transition to downtown living, I would highly recommend it (even if you aren’t a self-proclaimed central Iowa girl at heart).

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.

Carter Lee

Carter Lee, an Iowa native, grew up in Newton just 30 miles east of Des Moines. She moved to Des Moines in early 2023 and is the Public Relations and Media specialist at OpenLoop Health. Carter is also a certified yoga instructor and teaches at Rooted Yoga + Fitness.