Proving Des Moines is NOT boring

Top 7 Things Des Moines Is…

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Iowa for over four years now. I arrived from California after a trying day of air travel with my 6-month-old daughter in my arms, while my Iowa-native husband made the journey by car with our pets. Save for a couple of visits with my in-laws prior to moving here, Des Moines (and Iowa) were largely a big unknown for me.

I will admit, I felt like a fish out of water for a while—and there was little water to be found as we moved here in a drought year. When I connected with Pete and decided to start writing for Des Moines is NOT Boring (my husband Tom had been writing blog posts already), it was a chance to share impressions of my new city, to have a reason to get out of the house and explore, and document my pleasant surprise with what I found. Month by month, the fish out of water got a bit more comfortable and confident in her new environment, and here we are four years later.

Thanks A and G Urban Projects for the pic

Thanks A and G Urban Projects for the pic

As part of this month’s special feature on the top seven things to love about Des Moines, I’m going to share not just places and things, but what you can do and accomplish here.

Des Moines is family. Hands down, one of my favorite things about Des Moines is the number of things you can do as a family. From exploring art at the Sculpture Park, to dining at some of the city’s top restaurants, I never feel uncomfortable bringing our daughter along. This is not always the case in “big cities.”

Des Moines is love. Seriously, there must be something to this. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve met from around the country (and indeed the world) that have fallen for some Iowa native (guilty!). So there’s got to be something to that. And also, Des Moines is romantic—consider enjoying a glass of wine outside The Riverwalk Hub and watching the river, or savoring oysters and bubbles at Django, or doing a little shopping at Amour.

Des Moines is wine. Who knew? I’ll confess that after living in California, I wasn’t sure what I’d find here as far as wine culture—but put a big star in the “Hell yes!” column. Winefest is a favorite, and there are so many other wine-focused events in the city.

Des Moines is community. Speaking of wine, little did I know that Women Who Wine DSM—a social group that I co-founded with my sister-in-law Sheila Formaro and our friend Abbe Hendricks—would go from our first gathering of about 15 people to a Meetup group of over 1000 members. The community and friendships from the growth of this group have been fantastic, not to mention the support we’ve been able to give to local businesses and non-profits.

Des Moines is creative. From the Community Supported Art (CSA) program, to the launch of literary programs, to the outstanding music scene, Des Moines has so much to offer both artists and patrons of the arts. And again, so many wonderful programs for families and children to get creative, including music, dance and art at the Des Moines Social Club.

Des Moines is delicious. The food world in Des Moines has so much to offer, and the restaurateurs of the city continue to raise the bar. It’s tough for me to pick a favorite (and I would likely be called out on a bias with my last name being Formaro), so I won’t, but here’s a quick list of seven “anytime” favorite dishes and beverages:

The shrimp po-boy at Fat Tuesday

The poutine at Django

The “Original” margarita at Mi Mexico

The crab Rangoon at Thai Flavors

The spring rolls at A Dong

The margherita pizza at Centro

The lobster roll at Gateway Market

Des Moines is possibility. No doubt you’re already familiar with the top ten lists that feature Des Moines as an affordable city, with a decent cost of living and income to expense ratio, and place for great job opportunities. Beyond that, Des Moines makes other paths possible. Like being an independent publisher in addition to a day job, launching FlashDine (doing it again this year!), becoming an organic farmer, pursuing a life as an artist, or starting a business (something yours truly did last year). It’s been my observation that Des Moines supports and encircles those who make a start, take a risk, and do something new. I’ve also seen Des Moines (and Iowa overall) rally behind causes that are intrinsically close to the heart, like trying to save a local farm from a bulldozer.

I’d like to wrap-up by taking a moment to thank Pete and the other writers at Des Moines is NOT Boring. Thank you for sharing your Des Moines, and allowing me to be a contributor.