It’s a special friend who will journey all the way to Iowa for a visit. Now, I am not bashing Iowa. I have grown to love this state and in the past year have tried my hardest to both explore the far corners and attend the most popular events. However, for those outside the state or Midwest in general, Iowa is not known as a tourist hotspot. My parents visited last year but I honestly thought that would be it for my visitors.
That’s why Allison is the best <3
I spent the weekend frolicking around Des Moines and Ankeny showing Allison my favorite spots, which essentially meant eating and drinking ourselves sick. It was perfect!
Allison is a friend from Tallahassee. We met the second day of FSU DURP orientation (Florida State University Department of Urban and Regional Planning) and became quick friends, even living together for the last two years of DURP. Our mutual love of pretzels, beer cheese, wine nights, gchatting, and working out (not all at the same time), coupled with our dislike of all the same people, cemented our friends over the past 7 years (thank you Facebook for that reminder!).
I was so excited when she said she was going to visit!
Being a true planner, and knowing how we can both be super indecisive, I made a meal-by-meal plan with a few activities in between and we hit up all the best spots! I am letting this post serve as both a recap of the weekend and a list of recommendations for anyone visiting Des Moines for the first time or locals who are entertaining out-of-town company. Please let me know what I missed!
- Tacopocolypse – Our first stop was for lunch after picking Allison up at the airport around 11:45am. I wanted to bring her into the Historic Eats Village to show her around my office neighborhood and couldn’t think of a better spot than this Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives restaurant. We both had burritos and were sufficiently stuffed!
- Fong’s Pizza – Dinner on Friday was pizza at Fong’s! While many might say it isn’t the best pizza in Des Moines (and I honestly haven’t tried many traditional pizza spots) it is definitely the most unique and a very easy drive from my house! We each got our own pizzas and ended up taking half of it home! I ordered the mac n cheese with grilled onions, my absolutely favorite!
- Fletcher’s – Sunday morning we slept in and then went to Fletcher’s for brunch. It is a buffet style brunch with a bottomless mimosas option. This was only my second time having brunch here and it was so yummy! They have an omelet and pancake art station and a wide variety of fresh food, breakfast options, and savory choices. Sticky buns and gouda potatoes were the highlights!
- Zombie Burger – For Allison’s final dinner, I took her to Zombie Burger in Historic East Village! While Ankeny has their own Zombie Burger, I much prefer the atmosphere of the one in East Village. As usual, we ate way too much but enjoyed it all! I even had a spiked chocolate cake shake that was amazing! So good but we were hurting afterwards!
- Krunkwich – I like to think I saved the best for last! For lunch before dropping Allison off at the airport, we went to Krunckwich. I love Krunkwich and I am still slightly bitter that they moved from East Village to Ingersoll (might be for the best… my wallet thanks them!). I had the krunk rice with egg and ordered tots with “cheese” to share. It was amazing and huge. I brought half back to the office with me! So good and a great way to wrap up an indulgent weekend!
- El Bait Shop/The High Life Lounge – After lunch on Friday, we headed to El Bait Shop with a quick walk through The High Life Lounge. While the High Life is a fun environment to check out, El Bait Shop is a better spot for beer flights and trying out local midwest beers as we kicked off a short happy hour bar crawl.
- Americana – Second stop on our Friday bar crawl was Americana, a first for me and I will definitely be back! They have champagne Fridays with $5 champagne cocktails and happy hour snacks. We each had a cocktail (mine with honey and hers with strawberries) and split truffle fries. So amazing! I am figuring out how to get here every Friday!
- Firetrucker – Our final bar crawl stop on Friday before dinner was my favorite local brewery, Firetrucker! We met up with a couple of my Ankeny friends, Madeline and Ryan, and their pup, Charlie, and enjoyed a “beer-cocktail” designed with a state fair theme. We found a spot in the shade outside and hung out for a few hours before dinner. We returned to Firetrucker on Sunday after losing at volleyball across the street.
- Fox Brewing – After Valley Junction we stopped in Fox Brewing for a quick flight of beers. This is one of my favorite small breweries in the Des Moines area. It is a cool space, they have a wide selection of good beers, and I love the amusing beer names! We didn’t have much time to spend here but it was a fun, quick stop!
- Zanzibar Coffee Adventure – We woke up to a rainy Monday morning and decided that our plans to go to a local you-pick was not going to happen. Instead we went to Zanzibar for coffee before an early lunch and heading to the airport. We both splurged on “fancy drinks” and I even had a biscotti! It was the perfect fit for a rainy Monday morning.
- John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park – After El Bait Shop on Friday, I decided to select a happy hour spot that would put us at the sculpture park so I could show off this urban park! While it is not an area I frequent, I love to bring visitors here on a pretty day to wander around and enjoy the variety of works in the 4.4 acre park, right in the heart of urban Des Moines.
- OrangeTheory Ankeny – While some might not consider a workout to be “fun”, I was excited to be able to share this experience with Allison. We are both very loyal to our workout programs, she has a kick-boxing instructor that she follows religiously through both a private gym and city-offered classes. After months of talking about OTF, it was fun to bring her with me to see what it is like firsthand!
- Ankeny Dog Park – After our Saturday workout, we decided to take it easy instead of rushing through the Des Moines Farmer’s Market to get to the Iowa State Fair. We passed on the market, had breakfast at the house, and took the pups to the dog park. Madeline and Ryan met up with us again and we hung out for about an hour watching the dogs run themselves ragged (or at least mine did… Charlie is never tired!). The Ankeny Dog Park is an amazing 7.5 acre park that is entirely fenced in. It’s perfect for the pups and I feel so spoiled to have that option in our city!
- Iowa State Fair – The majority of Saturday was spent eating and drinking all the things at the fair! It was so much fun! Madeline joined Allison and I and acted as the most perfect navigator! (Thanks, Madeline!) Aside from a bizarre Uber ride on the way to the fair (the only way to get there, parking is a pain and then you can enjoy adult beverages!), everything was perfect. It was hot but not miserable, things were busy but we never had to wait in too long of lines. It was a great (third) visit to the fair. I won’t bore you with too many stories but here is the laundry list of everything we ate and drank:
- Edible Cookie Dough
- Craft Beers
- Local Wines
- Hard-boiled Eggs
- Porkchop on a Stick
- Cheese Curds
- Fried Pickles
- Bucket of Cookies
- Waffle Fries & Queso
- Margarita Pizza
- More Beer
- Historic Valley Junction – After a heavy lunch, we grabbed coffees from Starbucks and went to Historic Valley Junction to walk off some calories and check out the stores. This was my first visit to Valley Junction in West Des Moines and I will definitely be back! Such a great spot to get gifts or home decorations. We didn’t stay long but were impressed by the quality in the couple stores we went into and the affordable prices.
Despite the fact that I am now going to have to detox from our drink and food-filled weekend, we had so much fun and I am so grateful for her visit! Now it will be my turn to get back to Tallahassee and visit her!
Des Moines residents (or anyone who has been to Des Moines):
- What did we miss and what should I add to my list for future visitors?
- Where are the secret spots that I haven’t discovered yet and should?
- Do you plan out visits when you have guests?
- How did you spend your weekend?