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Visit to Des Moines

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Hello. I'm visiting Drake University w/my daughter in March. Any suggestions on where to stay and what places to eat/see in order for her to get a feel for the town? Thanks.

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    I see you posted this request nearly a month ago. I hope I am in time to help you. Drake is located north and west of downtown and the compact campus is bordered to the south by University Avenue, a main thoroughfare through the city. 41st Street / Beaver Avenue to the west and MLK to the east create the borders that make up the Drake neighborhood.

    You might try the Holiday Inn Express near the campus if you intend to spend long days at Drake. Otherwise, one of the downtown hotels (I think Embassy Suites might be your best bet) will serve you well.

    Des Moines, and particularly downtown, are going through a renaissance of sorts right now with more than $1 billion in investments in recent years. They include a new central library, an events center, a Science Center (museum), and the development of green space along the river in the downtown area. Hundreds of loft apartments have also been added downtown and together, all of this is bringing new life to an area that almost literally rolled up its sidewalks after 6 p.m. a few years ago.

    You should plan a quick trip to the East Village, in the shadows of the state capitol building, for funky shopping and eateries plus some of the bars she won't tell you she is spending evenings visiting. Likewise, Court Avenue on the west side of the river will offer a variety of eateries and booze palaces.

    Ingersoll Avenue is another hot area of town. Try the Star Bar for interesting tapas in a smoke-free environment in the early evening. Across the street, Stam offers terrific Dutch chocolate and gelatto.

    I suppose you should (or could) drive out to Jordan Creek Mall in West Des Moines, our newish babylon of shopping. There, you will find all your outposts of retail giants (Barnes and Noble, William Sonoma, all your major clothing stores, etc. There's also a Cheesecake Factory and a P.F. Chang if you want your food in Des Moines to taste exactly like it does whereever you are coming from.

    There's plenty to see here. In the spring and summer, the downtown farmers market is a great weekly event held each Saturday. You won't experience it in March, though. You might think about the Des Moines Art Festival in June, rated one of the best art festivals in the country. Similarly, if you like are be sure to visit our underappreciated Des Moines Art Center for a wonderful collect of works, including Edward Hoppers "Automat" and lots of other stuff I shold know but really don't.

    We have a disproportionate number of Asian restaurants here. Iowa is the only state in the country with a government-funded Refugee Services Bureau. It was founded in the 1970s when Vietnamese who were friendly to U.S. troops were fleeing the country after the fall of Saigon. Iowans -- mostly church groups -- took thousands of Vietnamese in and their presence here is still very evident. Since then, we've also seen refreshing influx of Bosnians and Sudanese, as well as other immigrants and their culture is enriching us all. Thai Flavors, on the east side, is my favorite Asian restaurant in town. And for pure American, check out the Library Cafe -- a Drake campus joint -- for great sandwiches, wings, nachos, etc. Lots of other places I could mention. Check out my website to contact me or learn more:


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    Thank you for your recent post. I am leaving for Des Moines tomorrow.

    I have reservations at the Holiday Inn Express near Drake recommended by the student I spoke to while setting up our visit. I'm not sure that's really the best place to go after looking at posts on Tripadvisor. Still, my main interest is getting a sense of what Des Moines offers.
    At this moment, we will have Monday evening to just hang out. I'm looking for a good place to eat and a movie theater. We'll probably spend a good portion of the next day on campus.

    Again, thank you.

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