|Des Moines, Iowa
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Corn, cattle, and rolling
fields all bring to mind the State of Iowa, as do covered bridges and fields of
brilliant wildflowers. Iowa, the backdrop for the famous Grant Wood painting
entitled American Gothic, was also the first state to legalize riverboat
gamblingâ€¦and then, there is Des Moines.
The area now known as Des
Moines began as a military post in the 1840's. Several of such posts were set up
in the area to protect the rights of the Sac Indians. The garrison, named Fort
Des Moines, was decommissioned shortly thereafter. The town of Fort Des Moines
emerged from the few people who remained. By the late 1850's, 'Des Moines' was
officially the capital of Iowa.
As Iowa's capital city, Des
Moines is a hub of government action, business activity, arts and cultural
affairs. With a city population approaching 200,000 and a metro population of
nearly 500,000, Des Moines offers some of the nation's best schools, superb
public services, and friendly, caring neighborhoods. Des Moines is headquarters
for many and varied businesses but in the forefront is the Insurance industry.
Iowa holds the distinction of being one of the top three centers for insurance
in the world. More than 385 factories in Des Moines produce everything from
farm machinery to food products.
The state's capital city is bisected by the Des Moines River. The gold-domed
state capitol, which contains elaborate wood trim and multicolored marble, canâ€™t
be missed. The nearby State of Iowa Historical Building contains exhibits
related to the state's development, including a Conestoga wagon, examples of
Native American beadwork and crafts from the Amana community.
Architects Eero Saarinen, I.
M. Pei and Richard Meier each designed a section of the striking Des Moines Arts
Center museum, which houses a collection of American and European masterpieces
and modern sculpture. Just behind the art center is the Science Center of Iowa,
filled with hands-on exhibits exploring nature and physics. The Living History
Farms (open May through October) is a 600-acre complex of working farms west of
town that cover three centuries of history. The farms contain a replica of an
Ioway Indian village circa 1700, a pioneer farm from the mid 1800s, a horse farm
from the early 20th century, and a modern-day agricultural operation.
There are a number of historic homes in Des Moines,
particularly in the Sherman Hill neighborhood, that are open to visitors.
Terrace Hill was built in 1869 and now serves as the residence of the governor.
Jordan House, built in 1850, was once the home of James Jordan, who aided
escaped slaves as they fled north. The Hoyt Sherman Place is a Victorian mansion
built in 1877 that now contains an art gallery and period furnishings.
The Des Moines Botanical
Center displays a rich collection of exotic plants under a 75-foot dome, and the
Blank Park Zoo affords visitors a delightful walk through natural-habitat
exhibits. After seeing the sights, relax and eat at the refurbished Court Avenue
District, a center for food and entertainment. The Civic Center of Greater Des
Moines is home to Ballet Iowa and the Des Moines Symphony. Next to the Center
is Nollen Plaza, a park that features a waterfall, a reflecting pool, and a
2,000 seat amphitheater.28 blocks of downtown Des Moines are connected by
several miles of enclosed, climate-controlled skywalks which provide total
comfort in navigating from place to place for shopping, dining, and business.
Depending on the season,
sports fans might want to catch a minor league baseball game when the Iowa Cubs
play at Taylor Stadium. Football fans can enjoy an afternoon with the Iowa
Barnstormers, an arena football team. The Buccaneers excel at Hockey.
While in Des Moines, antique
collectors will want to explore Valley Junction, a most interesting collection
of antique and specialty shops. The town also hosts a Farmers Market every
Saturday, from late May to September.
For family fun, take in the
thrills and excitement of Adventureland Park. This theme park has a wooden
roller coaster as the centerpiece of its Wild West area. There is also fun and
adventure waiting at White Water University: a water park with a variety of
slides, a wave pool, a childrenâ€™s play area, and miniature golf. For the
adults, a popular Des Moines area destination is Prairie Meadows in neighboring
Altoona where there is a horse track and casino.
Snowmobiling and ice fishing
are winter activities enjoyed at Big Creek State Park. Water Works Park
sparkles with the annual Jolly Holiday light display and animations in
December. Des Moines is thriving. It is a place of enthusiasm and
productivity, and also a city of beauty and tranquility.