10 Must-Try Restaurants in Des Moines

Tucked between the rolling cornfields in the center of the state, Des Moines is a fantastic place for a Midwest getaway. There are many reasons to visit Des Moines, from arts and cultural attractions to its unique ways to experience the outdoors. But to top it all off, Iowa’s capital city is home to some truly incredible locally-owned restaurants. 

From steakhouses and traditional American eats to cuisine from across the globe, Des Moines has it all. Whether you’re searching for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you won’t want to miss these 10 must-try restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa. 

Looking for the best restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa for breakfast, lunch or  dinner? Here's a list of 10 must-try Des Moines restaurants! These are a local's recommendations. #DesMoines #Iowa #Midwest #foodie #goodeats

The Cheese Bar

What could be better than a shop dedicated to delicious cheese? The Cheese Bar, an entire restaurant devoted to dairy delicacies. When the Cheese Shop expanded to add a larger restaurant location along Ingersoll Avenue, it brought even more cheesy goodness to the city.

A must-try restaurant in Des Moines, The Cheese Bar
Photo courtesy Megan Bannister

Not only can you build your own cast iron mac and cheese but the restaurant also offers a wide variety of inventive grilled cheese sandwiches in addition to tabletop fondue and truly impressive charcuterie boards. 

Eatery A

Eatery A’s cozy, dimly lit interior and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine makes for incredible brunch or dinner, no matter the occasion. The restaurant’s creative pizzas and savory entrees shine alongside delectable salads and tempting appetizers.

Interior of Eatery A
Photo courtesy Catch Des Moines

Eatery A is also home to one of the best happy hours in Des Moines, which includes half off all pizzas, beer, and wine every day from 3–6 pm. If you’ve saved room for dessert, you can’t go wrong with the Salted Caramel Budino.

Fong’s Pizza

Located in a former Chinese restaurant Fong’s Pizza is a Des Moines staple. With tiki-inspired drinks and specialties like the popular Crab Rangoon Pizza, this fusion restaurant is a must for any lover of unique cuisine.

Slice of crab rangoon pizza and a tiki drink at Fong's Pizza in Des Moines

Plus, their late-night slices are especially popular with the bar crowd along Court Avenue. 

Related post: Fong’s Pizza also made it onto the list of 10+ Best Restaurants in Iowa!

Hagar’s Manhattan Deli 

Every city needs a good classic deli and in Des Moines, that’s Hagar’s Manhattan Deli. This popular lunch spot serves up hearty hoagies alongside an impressive array of pasta salads and homemade desserts.

If you’re lucky enough to visit on a Thursday, you have to order the daily special—the ultimate Italian grinder. 

Jesse’s Embers

Old-school steakhouses are a Des Moines staple, and Jesse’s Embers is a long-standing favorite.

Steak at Jesse's Embers, a steakhouse staple in Des Moines, Iowa
Photo courtesy Megan Bannister

With perfectly grilled steaks, burgers dripping with cheese and onion rings worth filling up on, Jesse’s menu is the definition of Midwest comfort food. 

Kathmandu Restaurant

Des Moines may be in the center of the heartland, but Iowa’s capital city has some truly delicious international food. With strong flavors and an expansive menu, it’s no surprise that the Nepalese Kathmandu Restaurant is a citywide favorite.

Stop in for an impressive lunch buffet or order off-menu for dinner to enjoy the restaurant’s wide variety of specialities including momo, biryani, tandor dishes, and more. 

Lucky Lotus

If you’re looking for southeast Asian cuisine in Des Moines, there’s no better place than Lucky Lotus. Located along Ingersoll Avenue, Lucky Lotus serves a delectable menu of shareable snacks, noodles, curries, and more.

Lucky Lotus  serves southeast Asian cuisine in Des Moines
Photo courtesy Megan Bannister

With pastel interiors and floral paper umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, the atmosphere at Lucky Lotus is just as beautiful as the food being served. 


Often rated as one of the best fine dining establishments in the city, Proof is known for its inventive cuisine. With a mixture of both small and large plates and an ever-changing menu, diners can expect a meal the kitchen has put thought and talent into.

Interior of Proof, a fine dining restaurant in Des Moines, Iowa
Photo courtesy Catch Des Moines

If you’re dining on an extra special occasion, consider making a reservation for Proof’s Second Saturday 10-course blind tasting menu. 

St. Kilda Cafe & Bakery

Home of the city’s most iconic avocado toast, St. Kilda Cafe & Bakery is the perfect place for brunch. Strong coffee, fresh ingredients and seasonal specials make every meal at St. Kilda special.

Brunch at St. Kilda Cafe & Bakery in Des Moines
Photo courtesy Megan Bannister

Last year the owners of St. Kilda opened a new restaurant, St. Kilda Surf + Turf, which expands on diner’s favorite items to offer a wider variety of meat and fish-based entrees. 

Zombie Burger + Shake Lab

Located in Des Moines’ East Village, Zombie Burger + Shake Lab is quite possibly one of the city’s most unique eateries. Set in a horror movie-inspired dining room that the restaurant’s owners call “post-apocalyptic chic,” this is not your typical burger joint.

Cheeseburger and fries at the popular Des Moines eatery, Zombie Burger + Shake Lab

Unique menu items like the Walking Ched (made with fried mac and cheese patties as buns) and the Undead Elvis (a burger topped with peanut butter, fried bananas and bacon) are fan favorites.

And if you have a sweet tooth, you won’t want to miss this restaurant’s boozy milkshakes. 

Kim’s tip: There are several locations of Zombie Burger in the Des Moines area. East Village is the place with the most ambiance, though the photo used in this post if from the Ankeny location.

About the guest blogger

Megan Bannister is a freelance writer and blogger at Olio in Iowa based in Des Moines, Iowa. When she’s not sampling and writing about food, Megan enjoys visiting unique destinations, roadside attractions, and “world’s largest” things across the Midwest and beyond. 

Planning a trip to Des Moines? I asked a local where's the best place to go for breakfast, lunch & dinner and she shared her favorite locally-owned Des Moines restaurants. Here's her list of the best restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa. #DesMoines #DSM #Iowa #localguide #eatlocal

Exploring The Science Center of Iowa

My kids are starting to love visiting science centers when we’re traveling. When planning trips, I check if our destination has a museum or science center that’s part of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, or ASTC. Why? The four of us will get in free admission thanks to the reciprocal membership benefits we get with our Omaha Children’s Museum membership. Sweet, right?

This summer, we had a chance to make use of that free admission perk to visit Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines.

A fun day for the family at the Science Center of Iowa located in downtown Des Moines

Highlights of the Science Center of Iowa

The Science Center of Iowa was a fun morning for my family on a day that looked like it might rain at any moment. 

We spent the most time in the room called When Things Get Moving, where the kids could make paper rockets to shoot, test egg cradles, and building LEGO race cars.

Ball exhibit inside Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines
When Things Get Moving is a popular permanent exhibit at the Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines.

The space exhibit, Why The Sky, was also a great one to explore. This was probably the most entertaining exhibit for both adults and kids. After testing out several exhibits there, we found our way to the planetarium. Turns out, it was a great place to lay flat on the floor and rest while watching a show.

Space exhibit inside Science Center in Des Moines, Iowa
Why The Sky was an exhibit that explored space and spacecraft at the Science Center of Iowa.

The IMAX theater was another space to sit and rest for a spell. It was not very crowded the afternoon we went. The great thing is that planetarium shows are included with admission. Here’s a list of their programs at the science center.

There are a few other rooms, including one for natural sciences, a Makers Space, and one dedicated to LEGO building . If you visit with toddlers, there is also a separate room for that age group to explore.

Testing out circuits at the Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines
My daughter liked building circuits while we were at the Science Center of Iowa.

You can easily spend two hours or more at the Science Center of Iowa. If you attend one of the science shows or a planetarium show, expect to spend a minimum of three hours.

If you go

Science Center of Iowa

Where: 401 W. Martin Luther King Jr Parkway, Des Moines, Iowa


Looking for a fun thing to do indoors with kids in Des Moines? The Science Center of Iowa was great for a few hours of playing and learning. #Iowa #sciencecenter

What’s near the Science Center of Iowa

Our afternoon at the Science Center of Iowa timed out well for us to visit the Des Moines Farmers Market in the morning. There are vendors practically at the front door of the science center. Strolling the market, you’ll find an abundance of samples (food and wine), plus tons of dogs, which are always a hit with my kids.

The Des Moines Farmers Market in the downtown area was one of the largest I’ve ever been to.

The science center isn’t too far from the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, with plenty of space for kids to run around and some pretty iconic photo opps.

Fong's Pizza's most well-known pie is the crab rangoon pizza. It's delicious and lives up to the hype.
Fong’s Pizza’s most well-known pie is the crab rangoon pizza. It’s delicious and lives up to the hype.

For food, I can’t tell you enough to go try Fong’s Pizza, which is walkable from Science Center of Iowa.

Plan a Des Moines Family Getaway

We visited the Science Center of Iowa on a weekend getaway in the summer. Read all about the fun things we did in this post. We spent a day at Adventureland and an afternoon at Blank Park Zoo during the trip.

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Tips For Visiting Blank Park Zoo In Des Moines

Tips for visiting Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa

Blank Park Zoo is a hidden gem that’s a bit off the beaten path in Des Moines, Iowa. My family is most familiar with the downtown area and, of course, Adventureland; however, we decided this summer, it was time to pay this zoo a visit. I’m glad we did! I just wish we had allowed more time to explore – we visited on the last day of a great weekend in Des Moines.

Headed to Des Moines, Iowa? Here's why you don't want to skip a trip to Blank Park Zoo if you're going with kids! #thisisiowa #zoos #familytravel

Disclosure: Our trip was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

You can explore the zoo in an afternoon – there are 22 acres of exhibits and facilities to see.

Indoor rainforest at the zoo in Des Moines
The zoo in Des Moines has an indoor rainforest with a low-hanging rope bridge.

Here are some of the things we discovered at the Des Moines zoo:

Not-to-miss animal encounters

Blank Park Zoo loads their summer days with animal encounters, keeper chats, feedings and more. You can see a schedule here. They are, of course, subject to change. We caught one of the Look & Learn educational programs near the penguins. It’s held daily at 11 a.m. If you arrive to the area at 10:45, you can watch the penguins being fed and then you’re just a few steps away from the animal program.

There are other encounters for an additional fee. My kids begged and begged to ride the camel, so we forked over the $6 each for them to ride.

Des Moines Zoo Camel Ride
For an additional fee, kids can ride a camel at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa.

A few of the other activities that are an additional fee include feeding parakeets ($2 for a feed stick, $1 for admission only), the train ride ($2.25 per person or $2 for members), and the carousel ($2.25 per person or $2 for members). They also had a face painting stand, which seemed like a sweaty mess waiting to happen.

One of my favorite add-ons was the giraffe feeding, which I thought was reasonably priced. My daughter and I also fed giraffes for $2 a treat (which was actually like several lettuce leaves). I thought it was more fun getting up close to giraffes than camels, but my daughter may have a different opinion about it.

Feeding giraffes at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa
Feeding giraffes at Blank Park Zoo was an additional fee but definitely a memorable experience.

Behind the Scenes Tours

I can’t vouch for how a one-on-one tour with a zoo keeper and animal goes, but Blank Park Zoo has several different Behind The Scenes Tours that sound awesome. Sign me up for the sea lion and penguin experience, pronto.

Note that each tour has a different age restriction, so younger kiddos might not be able to take some of the tours. Prices for non-members are $50 for kids younger than 11 and $100 for kids 12 and older.

If your family loves incredible animal encounters and small-group tours, check out Tanganyika Park in Kansas!

Most unique ways to see animals

I appreciate it when a zoo finds an interesting way to get you (safely) close to animals to observe them. Two of my favorites were at Blank Park Zoo.

There’s an underwater viewing area for the sea lion exhibit that was one of our favorites. The animals would swim past the windows frequently.

Des Moines Zoo Seal Viewing Window
The seal exhibit had above water and below water viewing areas. We especially enjoyed watching the animals swim underwater.

My kids liked crawling through the prairie dog tunnels and popping their heads into the bubble in the exhibit. Only attempt crawling through them yourselves if you don’t mind looking super awkward.

There’s also an area called the Australia Adventure. In theory, this exhibit sounds awesome – the animals, like a wallaby, roam freely as you walk the trail. However, the trail was closed the day we visited, so I’m not sure how many animals one would actually get to see in the exhibit. If you’ve visited and got to walk the trail, let me know how it was!

Best kids play area

Des Moines Zoo Kids Area
Inside the Kids Kingdom at the zoo in Des Moines, you’ll find a petting zoo and wooden playground.

Having visited many Midwest zoos, there always seems to be a playground of some sort planted somewhere within. Blank Park Zoo has a fantastic space that’s tied in with its petting zoo. Don’t skip Kids Kingdom, with plenty of room to climb and play.

Playground at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa USA
The playground at the Blank Park Zoo could be a destination in itself. It keeps kids busy for a long time.

And so you don’t have disappointed kids, you’ll need a $1 per food cup so your kids can feed the goats and llamas.

How to get a discount to Blank Park Zoo

If you have a membership to a zoo that belongs to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, you may get 50 percent off or event FREE admission to the zoo. For example, Omaha zoo members receive 50% off admission, while members of the Lincoln Children’s Zoo get FREE admission. Visit this AZA Reciprocal Admission Program page for more details and to check to see if your zoo participates. It’s also a good idea to call ahead to be sure.

I’ve written about the benefits of reciprocal programs for zoos, museums and botanical gardens, so check it out!

Want to explore more of Des Moines?

Living History Farms in West Des Moines, Iowa
My son liked the interactive exhibits at Living History Farms in West Des Moines.

This is the second time we’ve visited Des Moines with the kids. If you’re interested in seeing what there is to do in West Des Moines (like the Living History Farms), check out this post. To learn more about downtown Des Moines attractions, read this post.

To plan your own Des Moines family getaway, start with the Des Moines Bucket List.

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Where To Stay Near Adventureland

Our long weekend in Des Moines, Iowa this summer included a day at Adventureland. Since the theme park was the main reason we were making this trip, it made sense to stay at a place nearby like Fairfield Inn & Suites. If you’re looking for a hotel near Adventureland, here’s what our stay was like.

Disclosure: Our weekend in Des Moines was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Near Adventureland

This Fairfield Inn & Suites is technically in Altoona, Iowa, but simplicity’s sake, we’ll say it’s in Des Moines, since most of us out-of-towners think Adventureland is in Des Moines. The important thing is that it’s super close to Adventureland, right?

If you’ve stayed at a Fairfield Inn & Suites before, you are familiar with this Marriott brand hotel. It’s comfy and family-friendly and affordable. The bonus with this particular location is that it’s new, so everything is pristine and fresh.

The lobby of the Fairfield Inn and Suite near Adventureland.

The amenities I expect from a Fairfield are consistent the Marriott brand line of hotels: Complimentary hot breakfast, comfortable beds, small pool, and a hip, modern-looking lobby. This location also had a hot tub and a lake view. There’s an outdoor patio by the lake that will be nice eventually, but since this is such a new hotel, there still is some landscaping to do. There’s a door to the patio from the pool area.

This hotel had a nice touch for those who’ve spent a day outdoors in the summer: Cucumber-infused ice water in the lobby. If you’ve sweated your way through Adventureland in June, this is a refreshing and pleasant surprise to arrive to.

What I liked about the hotel

As a parent, I liked the convenience of walking down to the lobby for a hot breakfast, as well as having a variety of food to choose from. Fresh fruit is always a welcomed option at these breakfasts.

The view from the dining area in the Fairfield Inn & Suites.

I also liked the proximity to Adventureland. It wasn’t as near our other destinations that weekend, like Blank Park Zoo or downtown Des Moines, though. We’ve stayed at a hotel in West Des Moines on our last visit, and if you know the area, that’s even further from Adventureland. Anyway, after a long day at Adventureland, it was great to drive just about a mile to get back to our room.

The rooms themselves are great for families, spacious enough for a family of four. We had two queen beds, plus a pull-out couch. The “suite” area of the room consisted of that couch, plus a desk and TV.

This is what happens when your 6-year-old art directs the photo of a hotel room. You can see the suite area with the pull-out bed couch in the background.

There’s a small toiletry and snack store located in the lobby, in case you forgot necessities. I opted to head to the nearby Target, though, for things I had forgotten.

What the kids liked

As usual, the pool was the biggest hit with the kids. It’s not very deep, so it was good for my little ones. The hot tub was their second favorite area.

What’s near the hotel

The Fairfield Inn & Suites is in a new commercial development in Altoona. It includes the Outlets of Des Moines and the Bass Pro Shop, plus a few restaurants. You could feasibly walk to all of them, but we did not. It looked like there could be a walking path constructed down the road, connecting the hotel to the nearest restaurant, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse.

If you’re wondering about nearby restaurants, I was more satisfied with the variety and unique dining experiences in downtown Des Moines. The restaurants closest to this hotel are all chains, which may or may not be what you’re looking for. We tried to go to Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse one night since they had provided some coupons to hotel guests, but the wait was too long for our kids to stand patiently.

Here are some distances to note:

Outlets of Des Moines – Walkable

Adventureland – Less than 2 miles

Target – Less than 2 miles

Nearest movie theater (Cinemark) – 2 miles

Downtown Des Moines (includes Science Center of Iowa, Fongs Pizza, Des Moines Farmers Market, Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, state capitol building and more attractions) – About 10 miles

Blank Park Zoo – About 16 miles

Living History Farms – 18 miles


If you go

Fairfield Inn & Suites Altoona


Where: 460 Bass Pro Drive NW, Altoona, Iowa



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Best Family Getaway To Des Moines

A weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, was the perfect way to start summer for my family this year. Over the course of three days, our getaway to Des Moines included thrill rides, feeding giraffes, and visiting a few downtown attractions. Here’s how you can have an affordable and fun weekend in Des Moines.

Disclosure: Our trip was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Things to do in Des Moines with kids

Adventureland – We arrived first thing in the morning to Adventureland and enjoyed super short waits for the roller coasters and other rides. It turns out, having near 100-degree weather was a benefit, and meant we had close to no waits all day.

We arrived at Adventureland right when it opened to enjoy no waits for rides like The Dragon. Adventureland is in Altoona, Iowa, and near Des Moines.

We didn’t go to the waterpark attached to Adentureland—it wasn’t open. But, what’s good for you to know is that it’s included with admission and looks like the oasis you need on a crazy hot summer day.

Top rides for the kids were the Galleon and the Dragon. Top show was the magic show. I rather liked the magic show, too, but more because the A/C was full blast.

Blank Park Zoo – This charming zoo isn’t near any of the others on this list, but will be a highlight for your family, especially if you have little ones. It’s easy to fit in a visit under three hours. There is a lot of shade there, and plenty of opportunities to get up close to animals. They also had frequent animal feedings and keeper talks. There are some extras that you can add to make the visit extra special. We fed giraffes and rode a camel.

Feeding giraffes at Blank Park Zoo was an additional fee but definitely a memorable experience.

Science Center of Iowa – In the heart of downtown Des Moines, the Science Center of Iowa is a wonderful, indoor place to explore. It was a rainy morning, making it a perfect spot for us to retreat to. My kids are at the ideal age to really begin to dive into activities at the science center.

The science center is located in downtown Des Moines. Families can easily spend several hours there.

Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market – We timed our visit to the science center to coincide with the Saturday morning farmers market (it’s pretty much right in front of the science center). This is a giant farmers market, and we didn’t see it all. We sampled some food (and wine), as well as tried fresh watermelon.

The Des Moines Farmers Market in downtown Des Moines was the largest I’d ever been to. There were vendors selling produce, clothing, wine and more.

Pappajohn Sculpture Garden – We first visited this sculpture garden during the Des Moines Summer Arts Festival a few years ago. It was nice to return without the crowd. My kids enjoyed the wide open space to run, and I liked seeing some impressive works of art. It’s fairly close to the Science Center of Iowa. We walked it, but it wasn’t without a fair amount of complaining, so I’d recommend driving.

Not far from the sculpture garden are some water features that kids enjoy dipping their feet in. It’s good to know about if you’re there on a hot summer day.

Playing in the water feature in downtown Des Moines is not a bad idea when it’s nearing 100 degrees.

Additional ideas: We visited Des Moines two years ago, and enjoyed visiting Living History Farms. It wasn’t near our hotel this time around. If you’re looking for a FREE option with the kids, the Iowa capitol building is a good one. The law library is impressive, with spiral staircases you’ll want to get a picture of.

An interactive exhibit at Living History Farms in Des Moines.

Kid-friendly restaurants in Des Moines

Fong’s Pizza – This was, by far, the star restaurant for our family. Try their legendary crab rangoon pizza. The kids ordered from the kid’s menu and stuck to the familiar. Parents, there are some tasty mixed drinks served in kitchy glasses.

Fongs Pizza’s most well-known pie is the crab rangoon pizza. It’s delicious and lives up to the hype.

Zombie Burger – This is one we went to on our last visit. The food is also delicious the menu is funny, and you can pretty much expect a wait. The only drawback is that the zombies may not appeal to some younger kids.

I tried the Dead Moines Burger from Zombie Burger in Des Moines, Iowa.

Iowa Tap Room – I wanted to like this place more than I did, but I’m chalking it up to bad timing on a busy Friday night. It is kid-friendly, though, and there was one bartender who was phenomenal with our kids while we waited to be seated.

Drake Diner – On this trip, we enjoyed the hot, complimentary breakfast at our hotel. But on our last visit, the Drake Diner was a great breakfast spot.

Where to stay in Des Moines

Fairfield Inn & Suites – We stayed at a new Fairfield Inn & Suites in Altoona, very near Adventureland and the Des Moines Outlets. It also put us within about 10 minutes of downtown Des Moines.

The view from the dining area in the Fairfield Inn & Suites. The hotel is near Adventureland and Des Moines Outlets, as well as the interstate.

As mentioned earlier, it had a hot, complimentary breakfast each morning, so it’s a good option for families. There’s a pool, workout center, and it’s facing a nice pond. The area is still be developed, and I imagine the pond is going to eventually have a walking path around it.

Des Moines family vacation

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Driving to Des Moines? Plan stops along the way! Here’s my Pinterest board with things to do in Des Moines with kids:


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Family-Friendly Des Moines Hotel, Wildwood Lodge

Des Moines, Iowa, is a city with attractions spread throughout the metro area, so choosing a hotel for a home base can be tough. It’s an easy-to-navigate city, but knowing what you want to do there will help narrow down your options.

I was set on seeing the Living History Farms for the first time, so being hosted to the city by Catch Des Moines, I was hooked up with the Wildwood Lodge, located in Clive, a suburb of West Des Moines.

What to expect at Wildwood Lodge

The fireplace in the lobby of Wildwood Lodge in Clive, Iowa.
The fireplace in the rustically decorated lobby of Wildwood Lodge, a West Des Moines hotel located in the suburb of Clive, Iowa.

The location of Wildwood Lodge isn’t exactly what I typically look for – it’s nestled among chain restaurants like Chili’s and Applebee’s. But it’s also near the Living History Farms, as well as Clive Aquatic Center, Jordan Creek Town Center and the interstate. Its convenience could not be beat.

The front lobby of Wildwood was my favorite thing of the entire hotel. It has a cabin theme throughout.

A close eye for detail was maintained throughout the Wildwood Lobby.
A close eye for detail was maintained throughout the Wildwood Lobby.

I spent one afternoon reading by the fireplace while everyone in my family napped. If I squinted real hard, I could imagine the parking lot was a lake.

If you’re traveling with little ones, you know the pool is a make or break thing. Here, the pool was large enough for play, plus there was a great hot tub.

The pool at Wildwood Lodge went up to 6 feet. The hot tub is behind the fake boulders.
The pool at Wildwood Lodge went up to 6 feet. The hot tub is behind the fake boulders.

If you aren’t traveling with kids, you’ll be happy to know they kick them out after 9:30 p.m. (which is plenty late for my kiddos, so I wasn’t put out).

The hotel offers a couple extras for guests, including a complimentary happy hour appetizer during the week and breakfast every day. During the week, that breakfast includes some hot elements. One day it was scrambled eggs for us, the next biscuits and gravy. Guests arriving Sunday through Thursday receive a cookie, too.

Complimentary breakfast is served in the lobby of Wildwood Lodge seven days a week.
Complimentary breakfast is served daily in the lobby of Wildwood Lodge.

The hotel also has free wi-fi, which I love.

The rooms carried some of the cabin theme into them. Our first room overlooked the pool area, which is cool in theory, but in reality, it made the room reek of chlorine. The front desk staff promptly helped us change rooms.

A room with two queen size beds was enough space for my family of four.
A room with two queen size beds was enough space for my family of four.

The rooms are pretty standard for mid-range hotel – there weren’t a whole lot of frills to it, but it was comfortable.

Dining near Wildwood Lodge

There are several restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. They’re all national chains, which you might want the familiarity.

I like to find local restaurants near hotels I’m staying at. One of the most well-known Des Moines Restaurant is about a five-minute drive: The Machine Shed. Go with a big appetite!

You'll be stuffed after eating a meal at the Machine Shed, but how can you not save room for dessert?
You’ll be stuffed after eating a meal at the Machine Shed, but how can you not save room for dessert?

And a camera, because we had a lot of fun taking pictures in front of the restaurant.

I asked the clerk at the front desk what she’d recommend and she recommended the Waterfront Seafood Market. She said they had the best clam chowder (she added that she’s a Boston native with a nod of authority).

Attractions near Wildwood Lodge

The 1900 Horse-Powered Farm at the Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa, was my kids' favorite because there were so many animals there.
The 1900 Horse-Powered Farm at the Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa, was my kids’ favorite because there were so many animals there.

One of the biggest draws to this West Des Moines area is The Living History Farms, which depict Iowa farm life over three centuries. It’s about 2 miles from the hotel – a very quick drive!

Even a shorter distance from the hotel is the Clive Aquatic Center. Cool off at this outdoor water park (not in the “big water park sense,” but one with a couple slides, a cute kids pool area and a huge pool).

About 3 miles in the other direction is the huge mall and shopping center, Jordan Creek Town Center. We found a lot of families walking around the lake, looking at the cute ducklings and loud geese. There are several higher-end chain restaurants around the lake with outdoor seating to enjoy the view. The mall has a movie theater, as well.

The walking path around the Jordan Creek Town Center is stroller-friendly and short enough for little legs to manage.
The walking path around the Jordan Creek Town Center is stroller-friendly and short enough for little legs to manage.

The drive to downtown Des Moines from the hotel is about 10 miles – very manageable if you plan on visiting any of the attractions there.


If you go

Wildwood Lodge

Where: 11431 Forest Ave, Clive, Iowa (being an out-of-towner who doesn’t know better, I still consider this a Des Moines hotel)

Get more hotel information here!

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Plan your own Great Iowa Road Trip!

Iowa Collage

To learn more about some of the destinations on this trip, visit the blog over the next few weeks. I can’t wait to tell you about these places:

A room with a view at South Shore Inn in Clear Lake, Iowa

Adventure in a Yurt in Clear Lake, Iowa

Fun on the rails with Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

Get even more inspiration from The Great Iowa Road Trip Post, plus my bucket lists for Des Moines and Clear Lake!