Contrary to what some may believe, you can find more activities in Des Moines than sitting on a tractor and staring at a field of corn. With a little bit of something for every resident or visitor in the capital city of Iowa, these events will bring out your inner superhero one weekend and a wine connoisseur the next. If someone tells you there is nothing to do in Iowa, they haven’t entered the exotic wonderland of downtown Des Moines.
These 10 events in Des Moines will make the capital city the apple of your (Hawk)eye.
1. Wizard World Comic Con
For those currently processing their grief after the stab in the heart that was Avengers: Infinity War, the Wizard World Comic Con has flown to the rescue. Surrounded by thousands of fellow pop culture lovers, you’ll celebrate all aspects of the pop culture world from comics to art to video games and movies at this event. Held at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines, you’ll have three full days to become the master of cosplay or support the celebrities that do it for a living. “People love to come and be themselves or to celebrate a form of art or character that they love. Those attending for the first time will learn things about the aspects of the culture that they didn’t even know they would love,” said Wizard World Public Relations Manager Jerry Milani. The annual convention attracts fans of all ages as they continue to fall more and more in love with the culture and the featured guests considered to be comic con royalty.
2. Downtown Farmers’ Market
The early bird gets the farm fresh produce. Appearing every Saturday in downtown Des Moines, farmers open their booths from 7 a.m. until 12 p.m. for all of the early risers throughout the summer months. The season of summer basically requires unconsciousness until the crack of noon. Now before you take your stance of defiance against the early wake up call, let me guide you to the reason to wake up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday. Vendors throughout the market sell a variety of fresh foods that will make you regret the microwave mac and cheese you bought for dinner last night. Live music and entertainment sprinkle the market as you browse with friends and family, keeping everyone busy throughout the morning. You’ll walk away with local foods from over 50 Iowa counties and great memories to recount to those who regretfully decided to spend the morning asleep. If you want a way to support local farmers and get that 2018 healthy eating resolution back on track, then turn your “Circle of Life” alarm back on to full power and greet each Saturday with a trip to the market.
3. 2018 Pride Fest
Break out the rainbow flags. Celebrating the 40th year of Pride Fest, the 2018 installment of the festival honors the achievements and groundbreaking steps of the LGBTQ community since the original installment. Pride Fest provides the opportunity for members of the Des Moines community, the LGBTQ community and their allies, to gather for two days full of fun as they extend pride to all in attendance. Take some time to let loose with friends with activities like a silent disco to a 5K Fun Run, the Pride Parade and Main Stage performances like Drag King DSM and Kimbra. The festival offers a little bit of everything throughout the day as they celebrate love and unity throughout the Historic East Village in downtown Des Moines.
4. World Refugee Day
Some people even from homelands far away actually land in this flyover state. Organized by the Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa, World Refugee Day celebrates the cultures of those who traveled to Iowa from various countries around the world. The one-day event on June 23 highlights multiple cultures as they showcase their talents and cuisine for all who attend. Initiated in 2015 and held in the Valley Community Center, the event features musical performances, the preparation of traditional foods and various other forms of entertainment catered to each culture represented within the Des Moines Community. In the same location, the World Refugee Day event features the World Refugee Day Cup. This soccer tournament features teams representing more than 12 different countries as they compete for first place. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., you can drink in these various activities in celebration of multiple cultures from around the world.
5. Des Moines Arts Festival
Some may say that thoughtfully viewing rows and rows of art threatens a yawn from your mouth. Those people are wrong. From the first festival in 1958 to the upcoming festival on June 22 to June 24 this summer, the Des Moines Arts Festival has grown from a small event celebrating the art created by community members to nearly 200,000 attendees passionate about supporting their local artists. Even to this day, the festival goes the extra step to honor the creative culture thriving in the Des Moines area by constantly communicating with artists about changes or things that the staff can do to make the event a pleasurable experience for them. “We want to continue to inspire an appreciation of the arts and to celebrate the original that impacts the community. We really roll out the red carpet for our artists,” said Des Moines Arts Festival Spokesperson Belle Duchene. The amount of activities and events featured throughout the festival will keep you on your toes from start to finish. The countless interactive art stations, an art tour through downtown Des Moines, food, live music on the Hy-Vee Mainstage and a laser show express only a fraction of the activities available. Don’t think this festival can get any better? Well, I’ve got one word that sounds like a symphony to the ears of college students: free. Mark the calendars now, folks.
6. 2018 Winefest Week
Do you love wine but know little to nothing about it except that one can purchase it either in a bottle or a box? Prepare to sample the world of wine and fancy food (for those 21 or older, of course). The Greater Des Moines Wine Festival Foundation events, held at various locations throughout downtown, promote education and awareness for the culture and the art of a perfect glass of wine. Enjoy a week full of food, wine and mingling with those passionate about the wine industry in Des Moines and beyond. Prices vary from event to event throughout the week, and you can attend as little or as many events that will satisfy your inner connoisseur. Celebrate the festival’s Sweet 16 as you support their mission to enrich the local community in the world of wine.
7. Iowa Women’s Art Exhibition
Feminism and fine art: this combination might rival peanut butter and jelly. In celebration of local female artists, the Iowa Women’s Art Exhibition features art by Alexandra Ackerman, Stephanie Failmezger and Molly Wood. You’ll find the display in the Governor’s Formal Office in the State Capitol through June 30. Experience the powerful messages through the beautiful contributions to the art community created by the local women featured in the exhibition. In an effort to highlight the importance of female artists in the community, multiple pieces of work have been featured in this location since the beginning of 2018. The pieces capture aspects of nature that represent the ethereal beauty and balance amongst the Des Moines area. Available for viewing for freeduring the week between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., the pieces give viewers a small look at the works that continue to inspire those within the community to embrace the beauty of both nature and art surrounding them every day.
8. Anime Iowa
Pick out your most kawaii outfit. The anime phenomenon has now become an interactive reality for those in the Des Moines area with the installment of yet another year of Anime Iowa. Held at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines, the event takes place for three days from July 13 to July 15 beginning at 8 a.m. With over 3,000 attendees every year, the largest anime convention in Iowa returns for yet another round of anime celebration. This event goes above and beyond by offering activities that feature interest to multiple aspects of the Japanese culture including manga, costumes, video games and appearances from those currently active within the industry. The days to register ahead of the convention itself have unfortunately passed, but no worries. All attendees have the option to register at the entrance for $65.00 and enjoy three full days immersed in the world of all things anime.
9. Iowa State Fair
Look, I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, but I’m here to tell you that if you haven’t seen a cow made completely out of butter, you’re doing something wrong. The Iowa State Fair features not only numerous sculptures made out of butter, they also feature livestock (butter free), events and competitions, concerts, rides and of course amazing food. What won’t they fry?! Starting August 9 through August 19, the fair brings in millions of people from all over the country. “The Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is Iowa’s great celebration, a salute to the state’s best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and competition. Each and every person has their own unique traditions,” said CEO and Fair Manager Gary Slater. What better way to make family memories than in 90-degree weather at the fair? Worried you’ll form permanent stains on your light grey T-shirt you just so happened to wear to a day full of fair fun? First of all, we need to acknowledge that mistakes have been made and you’ll probably want to burn that shirt the moment you get home. Second, numerous places all over the fairgrounds that are equipped with air conditioning or giant fans, perfect to cool off in an attempt to hide those major pit stains.
10. John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Once again, I will gift all of the broke college students that work three jobs with a free day trip. While the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines doesn’t host an official event, it consider the park a social attraction for the masses. Created in 2009, the 4.4 acres of land on the corner of 13th Street and Locust Street features 28 works of art of various style and design. Whether you want to grab a majestic Instagram picture or relax with a picnic amongst a field of art, the park brings a little bit of everything to the table for tourists and residents alike. No need to mess with your complicated work schedule because, much like your Netflix account, the beauty of the park will always be there for you.