Fun things to do in Des Moines

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Des Moines

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    Des Moines Arts Center - Meier Building

    by yooperprof Updated Jul 6, 2004

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    Richard Meier's is the most recently built section of the Art Center. It's also the most thoroughly successful in my view. The design echoes that found in Meier's High Museum of Art in Atlanta. It also suggests some of the building forms that Meier would employ in his grandest museum commission, that for the Getty in Lost Angeles (see my Los Angeles page).

    In front of the Meier building is a Henry Moore bronze, "Three Way Piece No. 1".

    I Ad-meier the design!
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    Downtown Des Moines

    by Jimma Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Downtown. Des Moines has many things to do right in the heart of the city. This is a picture of some giant artwork in Nollen Plaza. From this spot, it's a short walk to the Civic Center, Savory Hotel, Court Avenue Shopping District, Sec Taylor Stadium (Go I-Cubs!), and the downtown skywalk. Nollen Plaza is also the place to come for concerts and the start of the 'Dam to Dam' race.

    Check out the website below to see many of Des Moines attractions.

    Downtown Artwork
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    "History & Iowa"

    by yooperprof Written Jul 14, 2004

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    These allegorical figures are from the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Capitol Hill, and they are the most "controversial" part of the entire "piece." The original designer Harriet Ketcham wanted to have a grouping of the goddess of History giving instruction to the hopeful youth meant to represent the state of Iowa. But as executed by Carl Rohl Smith, History is a sour looking bald androgynous figure who does not deign to notice the kid at "its" side. Many Iowans present and past have not been pleased with this representation. They want History to be more hopeful, and certainly more attractive.

    Well. . . I'm a professional historian and I think I can understanding what the artist was trying to convey here. History is NOT a beautiful thing, and History does not necessarily pay heed to the young. it might be easier to accept this piece of sculpture in 2004 than it was in 1896, when it was first unveiled.

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    Des Moines Art Center

    by Tom_Fields Written Sep 18, 2005

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    Nothing to do in Des Moines? Well, that's not quite accurate. This museum has a good set of collections for a city this size. If you're passing through this way, and have a little extra time, check it out.

    The Des Moines Art Center
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    Allison Monument on Capitol Hill

    by yooperprof Written Jul 14, 2004

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    William Allison (1828-1908) served Iowa in the US House of Representitives for 43 years. After his death, his fellow Hawkeyes erected this monument in honor of his public service. The monument was designed - and the sculptures executed - by Evelyn B. Longman - in the nineteen teens. This Evelyn was a woman - which I think is worth mentioning, because the only other female sculptor of her time that I can think of is Camille Claudel.

    Longman studied with Lorado Taft and Daniel Chester French, but still would have faced a great deal of prejudice because of her gender. I'd like to know more about her and her work. I think these figures are quite fine - they represent "Peace, Humanity, and Prosperity."

    A forgotten master?
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    Soldiers and Sailors Memorial

    by yooperprof Updated Jul 14, 2004

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    Like other states - Massachusetts, for example - Iowa has a 19th century Soldiers and Sailors Memorial honoring its Civil War Veterans. And as is the case in Boston, the S & S Monument is in sight of the Capitol Dome.

    The design for the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was chosen in a public competition. The winner was an Iowa woman named Harriet Ketcham. Mrs. Ketcham died before the monument could be completed, and the figures decorating the base of the monument were actually executed (to Ketcham's designs) by Carl Rohl-Smith.

    This figure depicts Lt. James Horton, a Iowa soldier killed in a saber charge early in the war.

    Harriet Ketcham was the grandmother of Hank Ketcham, the American cartoonist who created Dennis the Menace. Hank K. contributed to the restoration of his grandmother's monument in the 1990s. (I swear I'm not making this up. It's amazing what you can find out on the internet.)

    Hawkeye Heroes
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    Judicial Branch Building

    by yooperprof Written Jul 14, 2004

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    This was a surprisingly interesting place that I hadn't expected.

    This is a new addition to Des Moines' "Capitol Hill" district. Just finished this year, the Judicial Branch Building is home to some of Iowa's most important courts,including its Supreme Court. It was designed by a local architectural firm, the DLR Group, and shows an impressive ability to "re-interpret" the classical style in an agreeably modern idiom.

    Inside there is a group of beautiful historic murals, salvaged from a 19th century State Supreme Court building that caught fire and was destroyed. These murals were originally created in the 1880s by a firm in Germany; they have now been skillfully restored and placed on public display for the first time in a century.

    Justice is blind, but it should be beautiful
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    State Capitol

    by mafootje Written Aug 1, 2004

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    When we drove to Pella we noticed this building on our way back to our hotel returning from Pella we decided to stop by.

    The golden dome really attracts the attention, for us it was the reason to take a closer look.

    This state capitol was build between 1871 and 1886. It is an good example of 19th century architecture. The interior of the building has many different types and colors of marble. But also fixtures and carvings in both wood and stone. The dome is covered with a 23-karat gold leaf.

    Since the building is on a hill you can have a great view of the surrounding area.


    Picture taken june 10, 2004

    State Capitol
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  • See an Iowa Cubs Game.

    by Burgfresh Written Sep 29, 2002

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    They play in one of the best stadiums in the Minor leagues, you get a great veiw of the Des Moines skyline from the right feild stands. The ticket prices are pretty low, from $5 and up. Check out Iowacubs.com for more info.

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    Des Moines Arts Center - Pei Building

    by yooperprof Updated Jul 6, 2004

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    The I.M. Pei structure was designed in the 1960s - before he discovered the wonders of glass. The use of concrete is somewhat ungainly from this viewpoint, but his section of the museum is well-proportioned, and the light in the galleries is very good. This part of the museum houses many "installations" from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s: pieces by Andy Warhol, Deborah Butterfield, Donald Judd, and Claus Oldenburg among them.

    Ironically, the two pieces in the Art Center's collection that I _most_ wanted to see were not on display on the day of my visit. They both had been used in major international retrospectives: a great Edward Hopper canvas, "Automat," and one of Francis Bacon's screaming Popes - "Study After Velasquez' Pope Innocent X." I'll have to come back here next time I'm passing through Des Moines.

    Pei as you Go
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    Des Moines Arts Center - Courtyard

    by yooperprof Written Jul 6, 2004

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    The Courtyard of the Museum is where the three buildings "come together" - so to speak. It's as if it is a collaborative work between Saarinen, Pei, and Meier.

    There is a reflecting pool, in the middle of which stands a Carl Milles' piece, "Man and Pegasus." The Swedish artist Milles, born in 1875, was a colleague of Eliel Saarinen on the faculty at the Cranbrook Academy.

    a meeting of minds?

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    Iowa State Capital

    by yooperprof Written Jul 14, 2004

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    Iowa's State Capital is quite interesting - not only does it have a central gilded dome, it also has four smaller "dome-lets" that surround it, almost like minarets.

    This is one of those domes that uses gold leaf to dazzle the observer. That must be a very interesting job: "gold-leaf applier." Is there a college somewhat with a major in that? Is there a long apprentice process? I was reading that the leaf on the Iowa State Capital is 23-carat gold, and that it is 1/250,000th of an inch thick. That's pretty thin! I also read that when the leaf was most recently re-applied, in the 1990s, it cost the good people of Iowa $400,000. Thank you, Iowans!

    All that glitters is not gold - but this is
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    Living History Farm is 600...

    by brdwtchr Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Living History Farm is 600 acres of land. There are different farms in operation there showing the different farming styles of the past. There is also a typical town of a hundred years ago and a neat old mansion.
    The hiking trails through the woods seperate the farms. It is like travelling through time and is quite interesting. People in period clothes demonstrate how they did things.

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  • The Salisbury House.

    by Burgfresh Written Aug 25, 2002

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    It's a very large mansion filled with paintings and antiques. It was built to resemble old English style mansions and was actually built with authentic English rafters from the 16th century. Don't miss the shruken heads in the basement or the room that has a rock form each of Iowa's 99 counties imbedded in it.

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    The Iowa State Fair is a...

    by SheDragon Written Aug 24, 2002

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    The Iowa State Fair is a definite must-see! Every August Iowans gather in Des Moines for corn dogs and rides and 1/2 pound pork tenderloin sandwiches and to see the Butter Cow! The Fair lasts about two weeks, and I've heard that it can take a person easily that long to see it all, and I believe it! Hubby and I mostly went to eat!

    See the travelogue for more pics!
    The Butter Cow. Every year a woman sculpts a cow out of butter and it is on display at the Fair. This year (2001) she also did a Butter John Wayne. Did you know John Wayne was from Iowa? I sure didn't!

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