Over the past 15 years, Des Moines has developed into an exciting, energetic and stylish city. What used to be a dull place has transformed into an intriguing city filled with artwork, more job opportunities and overall growth in community pride. Fortunately for Simpson students, Des Moines is close to Indianola, meaning students have the opportunity to seek internships and jobs in a near-by city they are likely familiar with. This proximity also gives students the chance to experience the unique places that are significant to the growth of Des Moines.
Center Street Pedestrian Bridge
Need an idea for something to do with your date on a summer evening? Experience a beautiful view of downtown Des Moines by taking a walk on the Center Street Pedestrian Bridge.
This bridge has a 90-foot arch above the walkway, is 400 feet wide and contains 1.4 million pounds of steel. It’s one of the fanciest modern bridges in Des Moines and has twin curved decks that allow a large amount of space for pedestrians to walk or ride their bikes. Below the deck is the Center Street Dam, allowing individuals to admire the motion and force of the water created by the dam. The bridge also has lighting illuminating the arch, causing the bridge to stand out at nighttime.
Center Street Pedestrian Bridge was built as part of the 125th anniversary of the Principal Financial Group and the project to develop the bike trail. Arup, the bridge designer, is a London-based firm that handles building, infrastructure and consulting projects around the world. The firm managed the design and service for construction and the bridge was opened in June 2010. With plaques added to the bridge annually, the bridge recognizes historical, deceased women in Iowa who’ve had amazing accomplishments throughout their lives.
John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park
The John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a beautiful landscape filled with unique and complex sculptures and it’s definitely the place to go if you want remarkable photos.
This 4.4-acre park is located at 1330 Grand Ave. in downtown Des Moines and has been open to visitors since Sept. 2009. The park is filled with sculptures by some of the world’s most celebrated artists. One of the most interesting sculptures in the park is known as “Nomade”. This sculpture is by Juame Plensa, a Spanish sculptor, and is a 27-foot-tall hollow human form made of white steel letters. Other sculptures include “T8,” the orange-red steel crossed I-beams with a center similar to a sunburst, wheel or clock, “Gymnast III”, a 7-foot-tall bronze sculpture reflecting the form of a strong and flexible athlete and the “Five Plate Pentagon”, which is made up of five unpainted steel plates attached in a way that resembles playing cards balanced against one another.
The park gets its name from John and Mary Pappajohn, who gave over 20 sculptures to the community through the Des Moines Art Center. Not only is this the most significant donation of artwork ever made the art center, but these sculptures are valued at some $40 million.
Rollins Mansion/Salisbury House
Rollins Mansion is a beautiful home that was built by Ralph Rollins in 1925-1927. Byron Boyd and Herbert Moore, the architects who designed this mansion, spent time studying English homes and Tudor architecture. These studies led to construction of a46-room mansion with beautiful stained glass by Frank Lloyd Wright and ceiling beams from an inn where William Shakespeare had performed.
Rollins Mansion is located at 2801 Fleur Drive and can be rented for weddings, receptions, rehearsal dinners, corporate meetings and private gatherings. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many guests have commented on the beauty of this home and enjoy touring the house and discovering the history behind it.
Salisbury House, which was also designed by these same architects and built by Carl Weeks, contains 42 rooms and was modeled after the King’s House in Salisbury, England. This furnished 1920s stone mansion houses an art museum, library, concert venue and botanical garden and is open to the public for tours and private rentals. Salisbury House contains several works of art from artists like Sir Thomas Lawrence, John Carroll, Joseph Stella, Lillian Genth and George Romney and the library has books written by authors including James Joyce, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and many others.
Des Moines Social Club
If you’re looking for a place to watch live music, participate in trivia competitions or take dance, circus, film or photography classes, then you should consider making a trip to the Des Moines Social Club.
Located at 900 Mulberry St. in downtown Des Moines in a historic Art Deco firehouse renovated for $8 million, this arts and entertainment venue opened in 2014 and has something for people of every age. Attracting 25,000 people a month, this club has several activities available. The first floor has an outdoor courtyard, art gallery, theater, restaurant and coffee shop. The second floor has a recording studio, culinary loft, classrooms and non-profit office spaces. The basement is the place for trivia nights, dance parties, live music and open mics and you also have the option to rent out the space for your own private party.
Des Moines Social Club is unique to Des Moines and a positive social environment. Zack Mannheimer, executive director of the club, left New York for downtown Des Moines knowing it was the perfect metro area to solve retention and recruitment problems of young people and to increase the arts scene that was not yet recognized. Fortunately, Mannheimer accomplished this goal. The Des Moines Social Club has not only brought art to life, but the club has attracted tons of people who live in the area.
Iowa State Fair
The Iowa State Fair attracts more than a million people from around the world every year in August. This large agricultural event is also known as “America’s classic state fair” and is located in a park-like, 450-acre setting with campgrounds surrounding the park. The Iowa State Fair is a fun experience and a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family.
There are several activities to do at the Iowa State Fair such as attending livestock shows, art shows, concerts, displays, exhibitions, demonstrations, competitions and much more. One popular attraction at the fair is the Butter Cow. J.K. Daniels sculpted the first Butter Cow in 1911 and a woman named Sarah Pratt of West Des Moines became the fifth butter sculptor in 2006. Another popular attraction is the Bill Riley Iowa State Fair Talent Search, where performers compete on the famous Grandstand. Across the state, nearly 100 local shows are held at county fairs.
If you haven’t been to the Iowa State Fair, trying the food is a must. The fair is known for its food on a stick, most of which are deep-fried. These include snickers, cheesecake, pickle dawg and butter. They also have meat-on-the-stick options including pork chop and a bacon-wrapped hot dog dipped in a cornmeal batter.
This hip store located at 505 E Grand Ave. in the East Village of Des Moines is filled with items like t-shirts, cardigans, sunglasses, bags, dresses, magnets, buttons, post cards, koozies, coasters and much more. RAYGUN makes their shirts in-store and 95 percent of the merchandise in the store is made and assembled in the U.S. Many of their shirts include slogans like “Iowa: Wave the next time you fly over!” “Des Moines: Hell Yes.” and “Quit Playing Ames With My Heart.”
RAYGUN started from a man named Mike Draper. Draper was in college when he started selling t-shirts on the street and in 2005, he opened his first outpost in downtown Des Moines. Draper spent 18 months working on the new space. On top of making t-shirts people are proud to wear, the clothing company’s goal is to make products that create laughter.
RAYGUN attracts many young people, including Simpson students. Freshman Emma Schlenker, who’s from Arizona, is a big fan of RAYGUN “because it’s charming, witty and makes Iowa seem endearing.”
Story: Madison Wilson
Photos: Michelle Hartmann