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Author Bill Bryson views Des Moines, Iowa as the Mecca of Iowa-a center of sophistication in the middle of a state full of cornfields. Obviously, this description of Iowa is a bit stretched, but there is some truth to it. Des Moines is indeed considered the cultural center of Iowa. It is the capital city of Iowa and the most populous city in the state.
Des Moines was named after the Des Moines River, which translates to "River of the Monks" in French. Originally named Fort Des Moines, the city's title was shortened to Des Moines in 1857. This was also the year in which Des Moines was given the distinction of State Capital. The early economy of Des Moines was based on coal mining, but transitioned to other industries after the coalmines were exhausted near the turn of the century. The city saw a sharp decline following World War II and did not fully recover until the 1980s. Today, Des Moines is often referred to as the Hartford of the Midwest, owing to the many insurance companies headquartered there.
Some visitors find it surprising that a city with an economy dependent on the insurance and financial industry can also be a haven for the arts. However, the arts are every bit as important to the residents of Des Moines as the capital earning industries. The city is home to a number of artistic venues and museums, including the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, the Des Moines Playhouse, the Temple for the Performing Arts, the Des Moines Arts Center, the Salisbury House and Gardens, Pappajohn Sculpture Park, the Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater and the Wells Fargo Arena, to name a few. The city hosts several artistic events and festivals each year as well. One favorite is Jazz in July; during which free jazz performances are held daily.
The artistic venues listed above attract a number of tourists to Des Moines every year. Other significant tourist attractions include State of Iowa Historical Museum, Terrace Hill, the Science Center of Iowa, the Des Moines Botanical Gardens, and the historic Wallace House and Jordan House, among others. The neighboring city of Altoona is home to Adventureland Park and the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino.
Des Moines is also home to the Iowa State Capitol. The beautiful Capitol building features a huge 23-karat golden dome with four smaller golden domes surrounding it.
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Whether you're in the mood to browse through a mall or spend some time in a boutique, Des Moines has the place for you!
From American cuisine to international menus, Des Moines plays host to a diverse group of dining venues.
Local attractions in Des Moines include historic landmarks, festivals, events, and performances.
Travelers can rent a car or use public transportation. Des Moines has many options for your traveling needs.