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Celebrate Des Moines. Iowa with 100 Things to Do Before You Die

100 Things to Do in Des Moines

September 20, 2023

Did you know on Sept. 22, 1851, Iowa's capital was incorporated as Fort Des Moines which was later shortened to 'Des Moines'? As Des Moines celebrates its 172nd birthday on Friday, Sept. 22, I am here to share three fun facts you may or may not have known about some places in Downtown Des Moines (DSM).

100 Things Book Cover 

3 Fun Facts About Downtown Des Moines

  1. The Surety Hotel is a popular spot to stay and dine in Downtown Des Moines. The former Iowa Loan & Trust Co. is a one-of-a-kind gem and has been restored to highlight its original elements. Built in 1913, The Midland Building — The Surety’s Hotel former name — was the tallest building in the state of Iowa. Today, The Surety is home to live music, delicious food, fun patio nights and more. Learn about other Downtown Des Moines accommodations.
  2. Riverview Park (or sometimes referred to as the “island:” park) is one of our family’s favorite places to play! But did you know that in 1889 the park was home to the Des Moines Zoological Gardens? In 1915, the Riverview Amusement Park opened with admission for five cents and different rides, such as the Jack Rabbit Roller Coaster. The first amusement park in Des Moines closed in 1978. Today, the park is full of nostalgia with an amusement-themed playground that has a nod to the original. Even better, the Variety Star playground welcomes all abilities to play. Learn about other Downtown Des Moines outdoor recreational opportunities.
  3. Halloween is just around the corner so make sure you mark this spooky event on your calendars! Halloween on the Hill takes place in the oldest neighborhood in Des Moines, Sherman Hill. The Sherman Hill neighborhood event was started when a couple of Halloween enthusiasts in the area decorated their homes but also wanted to have a positive impact on those around them. Front yards are covered in spooky decorations, while traditions like a “Thriller” performance fills the streets and Feddy Kreuger roams around. The celebrations are free, but attendees are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items or monetary donations for the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC). Save the date for Tuesday, Oct. 31! Learn more about the Sherman Hill neighborhood in Downtown Des Moines.

Des Moines offers a small-town feel with big city fun, with a great food scene, local breweries, miles of bike trails and tons of art and history. There are definitely more than three things to see and do in Des Moines. Interested in knowing all 100 Things to Do in Des Moines Before You Die? I have done the work so you can experience all the amazing things in Des Moines.

Storytime and Book Signing at Storyhouse Bookpub

Join me at the Storyhouse Bookpub in the Historic East Village on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 11 a.m. We will be celebrating Des Moines’ birthday with a story time, making birthday cards, signing books and more.

Story Time 

Get the book!

You can pick up your coffee at any local bookstore or purchase a copy at 100thingsDSM.com and start planning!

Erin Huiatt with Books

The Greater Des Moines Partnership calendar of events is a one-stop resource for activities taking place throughout the region. Find networking information for Greater Des Moines (DSM) businesses or events specific to Downtown DSM.

Erin Huiatt

Erin Huiatt is President of Des Moines Parent, a local, online resource for parents and families across the Midwest. She is a resource for parents to find support and make connections. When she is not out exploring Des Moines, you can find her traveling in the family popup camper.