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Des Moines: This Plains City is Anything but Plain
by CL Hendricks

The next time you're planning a family vacation you might want to consider Iowa and specifically its capital city, Des Moines. If you're looking to explore America's heartland there is no better place to start. In the midst of this agriculturally based state sits Des Moines.

Originally Des Moines was a fort created in 1843 by the military to look after the rights of the Sak and Fox tribal communities. It has changed tremendously since those beginnings and is now the largest city in Iowa and has gained a reputation for being the epicenter of the insurance industry. However, Des Moines has a lot more to offer visitors than just agriculture and insurance industries. If you decide to make Des Moines a vacation, stop then there are some places & things to do that may be of interest.

A first stop may be a visit to the Iowa State Capitol building. It was built in the late 1800's, between 1871 and 1886, and architecturally showcases the best of 19th century design. Beautiful 23 karat gold leaf covers the magnificent dome and gives it a glow, especially when the sun is out. Daily tours are offered for this impressive structure so be sure to take advantage and add this to your travel itinerary.

Another popular attraction is the Des Moines Botanical Center. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly and is located by the Des Moines River. It's a lovely place to visit, relax and discover nature's beauty. Be sure to contact the Center to discover the perfect time for visiting and set aside enough time to stroll through these 14 acres.

Des Moines is also a place for animal lovers. The Blank Park Zoo has thousands of animal species to view and offers fun for children and adults alike. Their mission now includes conservation and education about animals and their habitats. The entire family can enjoy the animals and learn a little as well.

If your taste runs to outdoor activities then consider Walnut Woods State Park. It is a 260 acre land preserved forest that meets at the Racoon River in Des Moines. You can do any number of activities, from river rafting to hunting, hiking, camping, fishing, bird watching, horseback riding and all sorts of other outdoor fun. The enjoyment is limitless and the best part is the preserves are open all year long.

If you're interested in history then the Jordan House is a must visit. This house was known as a stop on the famous Underground Railroad. The owner of the house, James Jordan, was an abolitionist who took this issue to heart by helping slaves escape to freedom. Today his house is a museum and a place to learn about America's past.

Another historical house to visit is the Wallace House. It is the former home of agricultural secretary Henry Wallace. It is an historical landmark and does offer tours.

If you really have an interest in historical houses, you should add the Mathias Ham House to your itinerary. It is one of the oldest houses in the state and built by the architect for the state capitol, John F. Rague. It is located in Dubuque, Iowa, but its close enough to make a nice day trip. It does have a log cabin located next to the mansion that might be of particular interest.

If you have the time, take a walk through the Iowa State University campus. It has a reputation as a pristine campus and it is filled with numerous historical buildings. It might be an enjoyable way to spend part of your vacation.

Baseball is a great past time and Iowa does have a Minor league team that plays in the area. They're called the Iowa Cubs and are actually affiliated with the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Stop by and see a game, you never know which one of these players will eventually be sent up to the major leagues. It's a way to see baseball stars before they were stars, or a way to just have a good time at a game.

Finally, if you simply want to relax and play a good game of golf then take a look at Willow Creek Golf course. It has 36 holes and is considered to be one of the best golf courses in Des Moines. Go out to the driving range, swing a few clubs, and just enjoy vacationing in Iowa.

About the Author

C.L. Hendricks has been a Jill-of-all-trades and become an expert in some. She has also traveled extensively and now writes about travel destinations around the world for Family Vacation Spots and Best Vacation Getaways

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