In And Around Des Moines

Heading to the heartland this summer? Its central location makes Des Moines a good starting point for exploring the nation's breadbasket. Below are some attractions and events right in Iowa, and a link for more on the Midwest.

The Bridges of Madison County

Just a few miles south of Des Moines is the county of Madison and its covered bridges. The romance surrounding these historic sites inspired Robert James Waller's novel The Bridges of Madison County and the movie of the same name.

Maps and directions to the six country bridges are available through the Madison County Chamber of Commerce in the nearby town of Winterset.

Field of Dreams

The Kevin Costner film about a baseball field carved out of a cornfield comes to life in Dyersville, Iowa. The Field of Dreams Movie Site is now a tourist attraction that draws thousands to play on the fictional field of magic that brought the great slugger "Shoeless" Joe Jackson back from obscurity. Admission is free. The last weekend of each summer month, the Ghost Players, many of whom portrayed baseball players from the movie, don the traditional baggy uniforms and put on an exhibition of their baseball skills.

Pella Historical Village

A recreation of the lives of early Iowa settlers, The Pella Historical Village displays architectural models and antique Dutch heirlooms brought to Pella by immigrants from the Netherlands. Twenty-one steep Dutch-roofed buildings house exhibitions of wooden shoemaking, flower shows and Dutch crafts.

Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad

Just south of Des Moines, one of the last commercially built steam engines pulls eight fully restored train cars along tracks built more than 100 years ago. The Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad operates on what is left of the Fort Dodge-to-Des Moines line, part of the Southern railroad. The two-hour tour winds through some of the area's most beautiful backwoods.

The Underground Railroad

Three Iowa sites of the Underground Railroad are now national historic sites. The Underground Railroad was a network of abolitionist sympathizers and activists who aided runaway slaves in finding safe passage to the free North prior to the Civil War. Todd House in Tabor, George B. Hitchcock House in Lewis and The Henderson Lewelling House in Salem stand as reminders of the struggle for freedom.

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge
Jasper County

The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge offers visitors a glimpse of the prairie before it was settled and cultivated in the 1800s. The miles of trails permeating the 8,000 acres of high-grass savanna create opportunities for hiking, biking, mushrooming and wildlife watching. Visitors can also drive through the 800-acre enclosed bison range.

2000 National Balloon Classic
July 28 - Aug. 5

The skies of central Iowa become dotted with hundreds of hot air balloons at the 2000 National Balloon Classic. Activities include balloon rides, fireworks and a parade. The Special Shapes event is a real crowd pleaser, awing spectators with balloons shaped like dinosaurs, hamburgers and champagne bottles.

Adventureland Amusement Park
Des Moines

A big summer attraction for residents of the Midwest, Adventureland Amusement Park has thrill rides and roller coasters including the Space Shot, a free fall from a 200-foot tower. A big top circus is included in the price of admission.

Area Sports
Des Moines

Des Moines is home to several sports franchises. The Iowa Cubs, the minor league team of the Chicago Cubs, play in Des Moines as well as the Iowa Barnstormers of the Area Football League. Both teams will be playing in the area throughout the summer.


For more on activities in Iowa, the Iowa Division of Tourism has information and links to many destinations throughout the state.

The Best of Iowa has links to attractions in the Des Moines area.

For a broader reference of areas of interest in the Midwest, America's Heartland has information on destinations in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Oklahoma.