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Des Moines: My Unexpected Adventure

DSM USA Adventure

October 24, 2019

I’m writing this while sitting at the counter at Zanzibar's, drinking an iced vanilla latte with soymilk. The baristas are laughing and discussing who’s better at cleaning the dishes. To my right, someone is annotating a book — I can’t see the title. To my left is a room full of people smiling, talking and sipping coffee. The sun has finally peeked out from behind the clouds and sneaks in through the front windows.

I’m surrounded by a community that values relationships and hometown pride, like most places.

The difference?

Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is unknown territory to me.

It’s my unexpected adventure.

From Chicago to Downtown DSM



Anything new, exciting and unknown (Google includes the word “hazardous”, but the only real hazard I’ve seen is driving into the sun. Haha!)

When you think of adventure, you don’t think Iowa …

At least I didn’t until this past August.

I was born and raised in the Chicagoland area. My last place of residence was in the heart of downtown Chicago. Living there was a beautiful adventure: Grant Park and Lake Michigan to one side; the historic Printer’s Row — once the Midwest hub for the printing industry — on the other. I lived the never-sleep, hustle-and-bustle city life for a little over a year, and while it was full of deep-dish pizza, Second City shows and pedestrian versus taxi battles, I was itching for change.

I didn’t know Iowa would be the answer.

Before late summer, I had only been to DSM one other time. It was 2016. My boyfriend and I were on our way home from a road trip and pit-stopped at Malo before heading back to Illinois (shout out to Malo for their killer vegetarian burrito).

[Learn more about the best places to eat in Downtown DSM.]

On that trip, I only saw the outskirts occupied by corn fields and endless roads. Downtown DSM was 99.99% unknown to me. It should also be noted that I’ve never lived out of state before  and most people I know live in Illinois.

So, when my boyfriend and I took the next step in our careers, leading us right to the heart of Downtown DSM, my eyes were completely closed.

And in the darkness, I saw corn.


That changed, when I took the blindfold off.

Calling Downtown DSM Home

Since coming to DSM, here are 10 things I’ve observed about my new home:

DSM has…


  • Killer coffee (Zanzibar, Ritual, Horizon Line, Java Joes, DreiBerge — I have a whole list to try still)
  • A cool art scene (I recently walked through the Monument Valley exhibit at the Des Moines Art Center.)
  • Vegetarian-friendly options (I see you, Dirt Burger)
  • Running trails for days (The Grays Lake route is beautiful in the morning!)
  • Stellar sun action (I try to sit on the balcony most mornings and evenings to watch the sun rise and set.)
  • THEEE best farmer’s market (I went four weekends in a row!)
  • Dogs EVERYWHERE (Any adoption shelter recommendations? I’m all ears.)
  • Unique, affordable beauty salons (@bristyles_ at Allegory spent three hours giving me a new look and I love it! P.S. The Allegory branding is beautiful.)
  • A potting bar (I got my hands dirty on my first visit to the Art Terrarium and haven’t killed a plant yet.)
  • Adventure beyond the stereotypes (that Raygun so sarcastically plasters across their t-shirts)

You know that cheesy line people always say about judging a book by its cover?

When I moved here and wandered around Downtown DSM, I realized, beyond the highways and farm fields, there are living, breathing stories and adventures.

There are businesses run by locals who have a dream of being part of their community. There are murals tucked around (almost) every corner — many of which feature the skyline (some say too many). There are classic “townie” bars that have bartenders who are greatly offended if you ask if a microbrewery sour is good … oops (or ope?). There are festivals and events celebrating culture around the world. There are skywalks connecting Downtown DSM to help with travel in the winter.

There’s SO MUCH here that you don’t see.

Now I see DSM has character. It has adventure.

Between the adventures my career has brought me — shooting video of three historic homes moving to a new location; trying our client’s ice cream (I’m selling my heart to Thelma’s); and helping a local town document what’s in their water to try to win a custom water tower…

to the adventures I’ve discovered while walking the streets of Downtown DSM, (coffee in hand, of course), I’ve realized something.

I f**king moved to Iowa. *

*Thanks, Raygun


Are you interested in moving to Greater Des Moines (DSM)? Relocation Packets offer information on everything from neighborhoods and shopping to parks and local attractions. Or, kick start your career by checking out the DSM USA Career Center. It has over 10,000 jobs listed!

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.

Steph Snyder

Steph Snyder is a content creator and account manager at MACLYN. She's been in the marketing and advertising realm for the last four years. When she's not creating things, she's attempting to keep her Art Terrarium plants alive, taking photos or scoping out her next caffeine fix.