The Jewel of the Midwest, Des Moines is located in the middle of the heartland. Iowa’s largest city is an exciting place to visit, as it’s also the political and cultural capital of Iowa. In the heart of the city you can find the Iowa State Capital, the Iowa Historical Building, and the beautifully restored Court Avenue and Fourth Street areas.
Des Moines has a vibrant gay community, with several gay bars in the East Village. From here, through Sherman Hill to Drake University there are gay-friendly neighborhoods. Check it out for yourself in June, when Capital City Pride brings thousands out from all around the state.
Des Moines International Airport is only four miles from downtown. Taxis are quick and cheap.
Waking is a great way to see Des Moines. Downtown has a unique Skywalk system connecting you to a variety of shops and restaurants.
For public transit see Des Moines Regional RTA
What to do
The downtown Civic Center of Greater Des Moines brings in traveling Broadway shows and a dance series that includes Pilobolus, and the James Sewell and Martha Graham dance companies. The Des Moines Symphony offers up your favorite artists in concert. Ballet Des Moines launched its first professional ballet company in 2012, training young dancers and offering an expanded performance season.
The Repertory Theater of Iowa is home to central Iowa's most passionate and skilled artist ensemble, presenting both classic and new stage productions to challenge and inspire.
Local museums include the Des Moines Art Center modern art museum featuring works bt artists from Matisse to Warhol, in a building by I M Pei. The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden has an interesting collection of tropical and temperate flora from around the world.
In quiet downtown streets "scooping the loop" has long been a favorite late evening pastime and popular hangout for those under 21, and after-the-bars crowd - both gay and straight - who drive around downtown reving engines, blasting stereos, and hooking up.
Media & Resources
Accessline is Iowa’s gay newspaper. It’s filled with current events, opinion pieces, and arts coverage.
CityView is the local alternative weekly paper with listings, news and reviews.
The blog DesMoinesIsNotBoring has tips on what to do around town.
For map locations and website links to the businesses below, and more, see our gay Des Moines listings pages.
Blazing Saddle (416 East 5th Ave), bears, leathermen, dancing, bingo, guest porn stars, Mr Iowa Leather contest, drag, Imperial Court pageants, latin nights. beer busts.
Buddy's Corral (418 East 5th St) mixed, relaxed neighborhood bar with jukebox, karaoke, next to Blazing Saddle.
The Garden (112 SE 4th St), every night dance club, four bars, shows, patio, strippers, porn stars, body contests, drag shows; Drake University students, big screen TV.
Le Boi (508 Indianola) dancing, male strippers, drag shows, summertime roof deck.
Alba Restaurant (524 E 6th St), seasonal, contemporary American fare, lunch/ dinner; weekday specials, seasonal patio, wine bar.
Cafe di Scala (641 18th St, Sherman Hill), minutes from the clubs, fine contemporary Italian cuisine and wines, Calabrese style in elegant Victorian mansion setting. Reservations not required, but suggested.
Drake Diner (1111 25th St), student favorite, good diner fare, all-day breakfast, lunch, dinner; burgers, homemade meatloaf, vegetarian options, made-from-scratch pies and cakes, shakes and malts.
Kurry Xpress (1679 86th St, Clive), popular west-side nook for Indian meat and veggie appetizers, Biryanis and curries, chaat, appetizers, lassis, deserts.
Java Joe's (214 4th St), young, alternative crowd hangout before the Loop or clubs. Live weekend entertainment, coffee and sandwiches.
Lucca Restaurant (420 E Locust St), 2-course prix fixe changing Italian/ North African menu, lunch/ dinner, wine list.
New World Cafe (223 E Walnut St), inspired, organic, natural vegan foods, lunch/dinner and Saturday brunch. Juice smoothies, shakes, coffees, chai, teas.
Olympic Flame Restaurant (514 E Grand Ave), authentic Greek meals, sandwiches, salads, vegetarian options, healthy Mediterranean meals, American favorites; lunch, dinner, take-out.
Ritual Cafe (1301 Locust St), coffee house, delicious vegetarian food, breakfast, lunch, dinner and made-from-scratch treats from best local bakers; live performances, artworks.
Splash Seafood Bar & Grill (303 Locust St), salt water aquariums, seafood daily from Hawaii, Oyster Bar, Alaskan King Crab, shrimp, Maine lobster and caviar; Reggae music.
Tacos Mariana’s (1305 University Ave), authentic Mexican street-style tacos, tamales, gorditas, asada, carnitas, tripas, flan; veggie options.
Zombie Burger + Drink Lab (300 E Grand Ave), lunch, dinner, late-night dining; cocktails, spiked milk shakes; poutines, burger of the week, shake of the day.
Liberty Gifts (333 E Grand Ave, suite 105) gay pride gift store, body jewelry: tongue, eye brow, belly button, nipple, gauges, plugs, labrets or noise pieces; bone & hemp stainless steel rings, tobbaco glass blown pipes.
For some Hotels & Guesthouses suggestions - see our listings page.