In the old, old days, the state slogan for Iowa was, “A Place to Grow.” My friends and I would would elliptically follow this with “old”. Nothing about Iowa screamed cool, hip, fun or even culture. Sure, some people tried, but it was never a combined, concentrated effort. Cool places would fold up and die slow painful deaths. It just was.
Then, sometime after I moved, it all changed. While the malls were dying, downtown Des Moines started springing to life. There was new construction, a lively must attend farmer’s market, independent coffee houses popped up, the downtown river area expanded, grew, and blossomed. Now Des Moines is on my must-see destination list because there’s a lot happening.
When I was in Des Moines in November, I took stock of the city for the first time in years. Maybe it’s nostalgia, or maybe it’s curiosity, but I now have a huge list of where I want to hang out when I go next. Funny, I had never played tourist in my hometown, but now it’s a requirement.
- The State Capital — I haven’t been in it for years
- The Old Main Library — It’s something else now, but I want to see what they’ve done inside first hand, take my own pictures
- Botanical Center — It’s been years, and I want to see how it’s grown up
- Art Center — They used to have one of the best modern art collections in the midwest due to a very amazing, forward curator. Now, I don’t know. But I want to see it for myself.
- Salisbury House — I’ve never been in. It’s time.
- Any restaurant owned by George Formaro — This includes Centro, Zombie Burger, South Union Bread Cafe, and other locations. I did love the food I got at the Gateway Market –especially the cheese!
- Historical Museum — I admit, I avoided it for years because money wasn’t put into maintaining its previous location. Yet, it’s time to go back and look at Iowa history. This was one of those places my dad always took us to (along with the capitol).
- East Village — The whole east side of the river has just exploded with restaurants and shops. I want to check them out. One place in particular, Sticks, is supposed to attract a very upscale clientele. Of course that means I can’t afford their stuff, but it’s fun to look.
I’m sure there are many other locations I’d love to see, visit, and photograph, but this is a start. After 17 years of living in California, I think I’m finally ready to rediscover my roots. You see, before I became a California girl, I used to be an Iowan.