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Moving to Des Moines: How to Choose the Right Neighborhood For You

Des Moines Neighborhoods

November 7, 2019

Despite passionate residents who might try to convince you otherwise, there is no such thing as the best neighborhood in Des Moines. Each area brings its own unique characteristics to our community. Different factors are important to different people, and deciding where to live depends a lot on your lifestyle needs and goals. Check out our helpful tips for how to choose a neighborhood in Des Moines to call home.

Choosing a Neighborhood Step 1: Types of Homes in Des Moines

From the heart of Downtown to the surrounding suburbs, Des Moines is full of many types of homes. While many neighborhoods offer various types of housing, it’s helpful to decide if you’re looking for an apartment, townhome, condo or house. Also ask yourself if you want to live in a new development or an older, historic area. All of these options are available in Des Moines.

Renting in Des Moines

There are many options for renting in the Des Moines metro, and many Des Moines neighborhoods have very affordable rents. Check out brand new apartments and lofts near Downtown like Cityville, Soll Apartments and Flux, or look at beautiful, historic apartment buildings in neighborhoods like Sherman Hill. Suburbs like Waukee and Ankeny are growing quickly, and developers are building new apartment buildings to meet demand.

Homeownership in Des Moines

Des Moines is consistently recognized as one of the best cities in the nation for homebuyers because average housing prices are low, around 20% less than the national average. Of course, housing costs depend on many different factors, but overall, housing is much cheaper in Des Moines than in many other cities.

Choosing a Neighborhood Step 2: Location and Walkability in Des Moines

How long are you willing to commute to work? The answer will be different for everyone, but this question will help you narrow down your list of Des Moines neighborhoods.


If walkability is important to you, it’s a factor that will impact which neighborhoods in Des Moines are best for you. The further you are from the heart of Downtown Des Moines, the more likely you’ll need to use a car to run errands. Here are some of the top neighborhoods in Des Moines for walking to local shops and businesses:

  • Downtown Des Moines is obviously one of the most walkable areas in DSM. Downtown is more densely populated with housing, shops and restaurants, and it is easy to reach many places on foot. Try Downtown Des Moines neighborhoods such as Sherman Hill and the Historic Court District for easy walking to some of the city's top entertainment.
  • The Drake neighborhood is very walkable, which is important for Drake University students living in dorms or apartments near the campus. Residents can find convenience stores, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, banks, laundromats and a post office within a few blocks of the Drake campus.
  • Des Moines residents living in or near the Waveland Park neighborhood have walkable access to two shopping areas - the Shops at Roosevelt and Uptown Center on University Ave.
  • Valley Junction is another walkable neighborhood in West Des Moines. Valley Junction is known for its shopping, especially small boutiques, bars and restaurants.
  • Living in Windsor Heights means being able to walk to various restaurants, grocery stores and other shops.

Choosing a Neighborhood Step 3: Entertainment in Des Moines

Maybe walkability isn’t crucial for you, but you still want to be close to certain types of spaces. Des Moines is full of amazing entertainment options, including many brand new places to enjoy with your friends and family. When you’re looking for the best neighborhoods in Des Moines for entertainment, consider the following venues.

Movie Theaters

Music Venues

Performing Arts

Sports Fields, Facilities and Stadiums

Museums

Malls and Shopping

Outdoor Recreation

Learn more about Des Moines restaurants and nightlife, or explore what Downtown Des Moines has to offer.

Research different neighborhoods in Des Moines to find out what entertainment venues are there and what parks and trails are nearby. Des Moines neighborhoods are diverse, so no matter where you live, you won’t have to go far to find fun things to do.

Choosing a Neighborhood Step 4: Grocery Stores in Des Moines

If you’re thinking about moving to Des Moines, easy access to grocery stores is another important factor. Luckily, every neighborhood in Greater DSM has at least one or two grocery stores within a few minutes’ drive. There are more than 20 Hy-Vee grocery stores within Des Moines and surrounding suburbs, including Hy-Vee Fourth + Court in Downtown Des Moines, a new, convenient location for Downtown residents to do their grocery shopping.

If you prefer to shop at a small, locally owned grocery store, visit Gateway Market or Campbell’s Nutrition, and if you’re looking for specialty grocers, try Hilal Groceries, Graziano Brothers, La Tapatia or New Oriental Food Store. If bulk grocery shopping is your style, there is a Costco Wholesale location in West Des Moines and Sam’s Club in Windsor Heights.

Other grocery store chains in the area include Fareway, Target, Walmart, Whole Foods, Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Natural Grocers and Fresh Thyme. No matter which Des Moines neighborhood you live in, you’ll never be far from a grocery store.

Choosing a Neighborhood Step 4: School Districts in Des Moines

If you have school-age children or you’re planning for your future family, it’s important to consider the school districts wherever you live. Planning on moving to Des Moines with your family means perhaps choosing a neighborhood based on the school district. If you’d like to explore Des Moines area school district information, the Iowa Department of Education provides helpful maps with the boundaries of each district.

You’ll hear differing opinions about the best school district in Des Moines, but the reality is that all DSM area schools are highly rated, and all have robust academic programs, along with opportunities for extracurricular activities like sports, band and choir, theater and speech and more! Some local high schools are pioneering work-based learning experiences and college and career readiness programs for high school students. Des Moines area schools are among the best in the state, and many of them produce some of the best young scholars in the nation.

Best Des Moines Neighborhoods for Families

In addition to school district decisions, considering the best Des Moines neighborhoods for families means choosing what other features and amenities are important to you and your family. Look for things like playgrounds, parks, public libraries, sports fields and facilities, swimming pools and other spaces that may be important to you, like churches or daycares.

Choosing a Neighborhood Step 5: Low Crime Rates in Des Moines

According to the US News and World Report, Des Moines has a lower crime rate than similarly sized metro areas. Multiple DSM area cities made this list of Iowa’s safest cities, including Johnston, Ankeny, Urbandale and West Des Moines. Overall, most residents report feeling safe in most areas of Des Moines and surrounding neighborhoods.

The Best Neighborhoods in Des Moines

Ultimately, deciding on the best neighborhood for you is a personal choice that will depend on your lifestyle and preferences. Explore more resources and information about living in Des Moines!

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