Tuesday, July 25, 2017

We Caught Des Moines

Last week we suddenly realized that we had a 4-day opening in our schedule and with that opening, we would take a spur of the moment trip to explore a place we have either never been nor have visited for a long while. We considered our options over a liter (or two) of bier at Cafe Bavaria. Bayfield, Wisconsin? I love that place and I've only visited it once. I sure would like to go back. Michigan's Upper Peninsula? In a way, my childhood home and the place where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried. It's always a wonderful place to visit, but we were just there last September. The Motor City? I have never visited the Henry Ford Museum and want to do that soon. Same for the Rock and Roll hall of Fame in Cleveland. We even considered a drive to Philly to catch the Brewers; thank goodness we discarded that idea -- the Brewers lost the series. How about Des Moines? What the heck is there to do in Des Moines??

And with that, I tweeted the following question to the Catch Des Moines, the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau:

@catchdesmoines, help. We're Milwaukeeans with four free days & are considering an exploratory trip to Des Moines for fun. Should we & why?

I told my wife, Kay, what I had just tweeted and she looked at me with a look that only a wife can give a husband. A look like, "Really, donkey? You honestly expect them to reply via twitter to a question like that?"

And within one minute after I set the tweet, I received the following.

 @catchdesmoines Is the farmers market on Saturday morning?

@catchdesmoines Ah, I've heard of @elbaitshop. I knew it was in Iowa, but I didn't know where. Now I do! And confirming... the farmer's market is Saturday?

@catchdesmoines, Thank you. You've been amazing. Great response and we're planning our trip now. See ya there, @kbctourcompany and me!!

All of that took place in a span of not much more than five minutes and I'm not even going to begin to touch the extensive follow-up by the business mentioned and others. It was impressive and we felt an energetic and proud Des Moinesian vibe bursting through the Internet.

A dork in Des Moines. A "stylish" dork in his new tee.
Kay's at the place
With that prompt and simple nudge from Catch Des Moines, we returned home and made our plans to visit Iowa's capitol city. Upon arriving to our hotel the next night, as promised, there was a gift package waiting for us. While we were driving, we tried to guess what items may be in the package: we had Visitors Guide and Can Koozies right, but we didn't think they'd spring for t-shirts. Lo and behold, they did. Two cool "Art & Beer & Festivals" tees -- one in medium and one in large. We really dig them and judging by the number of people who asked me where I got mine at the Des Moines' Farmers Market, others do too!

Des Moines turned out to be a wonderful place to visit. Taking the fastest route, it's about a five and a half hour trip from Milwaukee. The city proved to be full of pleasant surprises. We pride ourselves on beer here in Milwaukee, but Des Moines has only one-third of Cream City's population and just as many craft breweries: 12, and I think there are more on the way. Their Farmers' Market is nothing short of jaw-dropping it's so enormous. And when you visit the Market, make sure you arrive hungry -- there is so much good stuff to eat. And finally, we were impressed with a clean downtown and many displays of public art. We particularly enjoyed visiting the Capitol area and the Pappajohn Sculpture Garden.

Saturday (July 22, 2017) was beastly hot in Des Moines. After enduring the searing heat at the Farmers' Market, we took comfort in the air-conditioned cool of the Iowa Science Center and after that, well if you know us, it was all food and drink from that point forward. Hessen Haus, The Iowa Taproom, Peace Tree, Exile, Confluence, and then to top it all off... The Greenwood Lounge. We did walk between these places except for Exile to Confluence and then Confluence to The Greenwood Lounge. We used Lyft to take us to those haunts and finally back to our hotel, which I believe, too, may have been haunted.

We behaved well for the most part, but then Confluence happened where we met a few swilling cyclists and indulged heartily buying each other beers. But it was an excellent time and all we met were welcoming and friendly. Our new cycling friends were to meet us at The Greenwood Lounge, but they exercised better judgement and sent us a note that they realized they had enough and still had to ride their bicycles home.
This burger!

Sunday was cooler and we spent it walking around the city discovering those great public spaces around the historical Capitol and trendy art museum area. We also destroyed a couple of monster hamburgers at Zombie Burger. Part of me wonders, "Why don't we have a Zombie Burger in Milwaukee?" and then another part of me thinks, "Thank goodness we don't." Zombie's burgers are the best, but they're a dieter's nightmare. The last thing I need around Milwaukee is another delicious burger to eat.

There is lots going on in Des Moines and I encourage my friends and family to put it on their destination radar the next time they've got four or more open days. It really is worth... catching. ;)

And thank you, too, to the person or persons of Catch Des Moines who went to great lengths to engage with us before and throughout our trip. You made the entire experience personable and for that we are greatly appreciative. Thanks, too, for the awesome t-shirts!

P.S. - We also visited Reiman Gardens in Ames and spent the night in Cedar Rapids (Iowa Brewing Company and Brucemore) before exploring the historic streets of Dubuque where we took a roundtrip on the Fenelon Place Elevator. #thisisiowa


  1. Excellent travelogue. Suburb public relations on the part of Catch Des Moines. I believe there is something(s) to see anywhere you go, and now I know that Des Moines is a good destination.

  2. Very cool writeup. Love that t-shirt!

  3. Thank you for visiting our city! We are very proud of what Des Moines has to offer. Too bad you didn't visit this week. You would've been able to see (and smell) the Corpse Flower which just bloomed at the Botanical Garden! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKlHJTfZBOc

    1. You're welcome. We've had a Corpse Flower here in Milwaukee - it's not one I need to smell again! ;)

  4. Thanks for the comments. I moved here in the early nineties and Des Moines has come a long way. I spent a year in Milwaukee and sure appreciate the wonderful things happening there, too. Next time you come, don't miss the new Cheese Bar on Ingersoll. Part of The Cheese Shop. https://thecheeseshopdsm.com

    1. Thank you for the nice reply and the good recommendation. It's not like me to miss a good cheese shop, so I'll save that for next time for sure!