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Where to Stay in Des Moines: 4 Best Areas & Neighborhoods

Des Moines, Iowa, is one of those perfect state capital cities that’s not too big but still has lots to do and see, from historic buildings and museums to a world-class botanic garden.

In June, an art festival draws artists and collectors from around the U.S. So, although you may think of Des Moines as all-government, it’s much more.

In this Des Moines travel guide, we’re taking an in-depth look at everything the city offers and the best areas to visit.

We’ll also recommend some great hotels in Des Moines and where you’ll find them. Before we get started, we’d also like to recommend for travel insurance to cover your costs and other losses in case of cancellation. They make it easy to find coverage from multiple plan providers.

Trip insurance is becoming as essential to travel with as your wallet. So visit them and see their affordable protection options. Let’s go to Des Moines, Iowa!

TL;DR: Our Favorite Accommodation in Des Moines

Let's find out where to stay in Des Moines

We highly recommend staying in downtown Des Moines. The location is perfect for visiting Des Moines’ most popular attractions and the area is easy to get around.

Many downtown Des Moines hotels offer airport shuttles too. But here are our favorite places to stay in and outside of downtown Des Moines.

Best Areas to Stay in Des Moines

Des Moines offers something for everyone. Downtown Des Moines is a great place to stay and sightsee, especially if it’s your first time visiting or with family.

But if you’re ready to branch out, here is all the neighborhoods we’re highlighting and the best things they offer.

  • Best Area for First-Timers /Tourists – Downtown Des Moines
  • Best Area for Budget Travelers – Des Moines International Airport
  • Best Area for Luxury Travelers – Downtown Des Moines
  • Best Area for Safety – West Des Moines
  • Best Area for Families – Downtown Des Moines or West Des Moines
  • Best Area for Culture/History – East Village
  • Best Area for Nightlife – East Village

Des Moines International Airport

Des Moines Airport Lobby

​​The bustling airport serving Des Moines since the 1930s is only five miles southwest of town. If you’re flying in, check for great deals on Skyscanner.

Plus, unlike larger city airports that are a pain to get in and out of, Des Moines International Airport is accessible with fun, family-friendly attractions nearby.

  • Blank Park Zoo – Open daily from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Blank Park Zoo is a delightful zoo, easy to get around with plenty of shady benches.

    Among the animals housed are giraffes, zebras, lions, and sea lions. Rides on the zoo train are also available.

    Most families can see the whole zoo in about two to three hours. Blank Park Zoo is approximately 2 miles from Des Moines International Airport.
  • Gray’s Lake Park – Between Des Moines International Airport and downtown Des Moines is a great family-friendly park with a sandy beach on Gray’s Lake.

    The best way to enjoy the lake is by renting canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, 4-person pedal boats, or sailboats–perfect for relaxing fun on the water.

    You’ll also find restrooms, plenty of parking, a playground, and a walking and biking path, all just 2.5 miles from the airport.
  • Skip’s – Food in Des Moines is diverse and chef-forward. One of the most popular restaurants serving the city since 1981 and close to the airport is Skips.

    The menu includes pasta, steak, and seafood dishes, plus a variety of appetizers, soups, and salads. They also have an extensive beer and wine selection.

    Skip’s restaurant is a Des Moines institution and shouldn’t be missed.
  • Fleur Cinema – If you’re looking for Des Moines nightlife close to the airport, you’ll find it at the independent Fleur Cinema.

    The retro-style movie house shows indie films and has a full-service coffee bar. Beer, wine, Italian soda, desserts, and, of course, popcorn are also available.

    It’s less than a mile from the airport and has free parking. And will make you feel as if you’ve fabulously stepped back in time when seeing a movie was a Big Deal.
  • Salisbury House and Gardens – A wonderful 1920s stone historic mansion with an art gallery, a concert venue, a library, and gorgeous gardens. 

Budget Hotels Near Des Moines Airport

Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham Des Moines Airport

Days Inn & Suites Airport Hotel
Image by Wyndham Hotels

1901 Hackley Avenue
Des Moines IA  50315

The Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham Des Moines Airport offers an indoor pool, complimentary breakfast, and free Wi-fi.

All guest rooms feature flat-screen TVs, microwaves, and mini-fridges. The suites are nice for families, but the location makes this a good option for anyone flying in and out of Des Moines.

Hampton Inn Des Moines – Airport

Hampton Inn Des Moines - Airport
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5001 Fleur Drive
Des Moines IA  50321

The Hampton Inn offers an airport shuttle and ample parking. It’s a nice Des Moines budget hotel that’s close to the airport yet only a 15-minute drive to downtown Des Moines.

The property offers a fitness center and business center, as well as an outdoor pool and a daily complimentary breakfast.

AmericInn by Wyndham Des Moines Airport

AmericInn by Wyndham Des Moines Airport
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1920 Hackley Avenue
Des Moines IA  50315

Guests at the AmericInn can enjoy the indoor pool and whirlpool. There’s a fitness center and complimentary daily breakfast too. The hotel is convenient to Blank Park Zoo, as well as various shopping and dining options in East Village and downtown.

Mid-Range Hotels Near Des Moines Airport

Holiday Inn Des Moines – Airport Conference Center

Holiday Inn Des Moines - Airport Conference Center
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6111 Fleur Drive
Des Moines IA  50321

The Holiday Day Inn is a great mid-range choice for either business or vacation travel. Since it’s close to the airport, they offer a complimentary airport shuttle.

The hotel offers an on-site restaurant and all guest rooms have free Wi-Fi access, a microwave, and a mini-fridge. 

Doubletree Des Moines Airport

Doubletree Des Moines Airport
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6800 Fleur Drive
Des Moines IA  50321

The hotel’s on-site restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Guests can also enjoy cocktails in the bar. The Doubletree offers an indoor pool and fitness center.

The Iowa Events Center is only six miles away. And all guests still receive that warm chocolate chip cookie when they arrive!

Fairfield Inn & Suites Des Moines Airport

Fairfield Inn and suites
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6880 Fleur Drive
Des Moines IA  50321

The Fairfield Inn & Suites offers a complimentary airport shuttle and is comfortable for either business or vacation. A hot breakfast is served daily and there is a business center, fitness center,  and a heated pool and whirlpool. All guest rooms have flat-screen TVs and free Wi-fi.

Rentals Near Des Moines Airport

You can also find rentals in Des Moines close to the airport. VRBO shows several options in all types and sizes, including a two-bedroom, two-full-bath apartment that averages $86 per night.

So ditch putting up with cheap hotels in Des Moines. That’s a great rate in a clean, private space with complimentary Wi-Fi, beverages, and snacks!

Downtown Des Moines

Chinese Pagoda on the River in Des Moines

If you want to stay in the heart of town, close to attractions then downtown Des Moines is the best area for you.

There are many great Des Moines attractions with lovely hotels and interesting restaurants nearby. And the Des Moines Airport is only about five miles away.

  • Pappajohn Sculpture Park – It’s a 4.4-acre public park that marks the entryway into downtown Des Moines and holds two dozen works of art from around the world.

    It’s also a family-friendly place to bike, walk, and picnic. Guided tours are available, but you are also free to walk around enjoying the sculptures and contemplating your place in the universe.
  • Science Center of Iowa – The Science Center is a family-friendly science museum with interactive exhibits, materials for creating, and shows great for kids of all ages.

    Guests explore multiple levels and learn about technology and robotics, build with LEGOs, and make paper airplanes to watch them soar.

    I know from personal experience, that if you have little ones, they will want to spend hours here. Go mid-week to avoid crowds.
  • Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market – The downtown farmers market is a lovely way to spend a summer Saturday morning.

    You’ll find the best in Iowa fresh produce, of course. But you’ll also see vendors selling artisan items, baked goods, and prepared food.
    There is also live music. Bring your camera for cute, brightly-colored, Instagrammable pics.
  • Centro Restaurant – For some of the best food in Des Moines, head over to Centro Restaurant preparing and serving Italian-American favorites with vegetarian options.

    This place is a favorite for locals who love the friendly service and the chicken saltimbocca. Desserts are reported to be amazing here too.
  • Court Avenue – Now that you’re in the heart of the city, experience Des Moines nightlife on Court Avenue.

    This area is filled with restaurants and bars. You can come early and sample different kitchens showcasing great Des Moines food or come out (without the kids) later for a pub crawl.

Budget Hotels in Downtown Des Moines

Hampton Inn Suites Des Moines Downtown

Hampton Inn and Suites
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120 SW Water Street
Des Moines IA  50309

The Hampton Inn Suites Des Moines Downtown is a highly-rated hotel adjacent to the Des Moines River and offers lovely water views. This Des Moines budget hotel is comfortable and within walking distance of Court Avenue and Principal Park where the minor-league baseball team, the Iowa Cubs, play. It’s one of Des Moines’ pet-friendly hotels too. The suites make it great for families.

Comfort Inn & Suites Event Center

Comfort Inn
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929 3rd Street
Des Moines IA  50309

Features an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, free wi-fi, and complimentary daily breakfast. It’s a classic, comfortable hotel.

Walk to the Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens and to the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. It’s also pet-friendly and is highly rated for cleanliness.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Des Moines Downtown, an IHG Hotel

Holyday Inn Express Suites
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333 SW 11th Street
Des Moines IA  50309

The Holiday Inn Express is a relaxing hotel with an indoor pool and fitness center. It offers free parking, daily breakfast, and Wi-fi.

Guests rated it highly for its comfortable beds and cleanliness. It’s perfect for visitors because of its central location close to sightseeing and dining.

Mid-Range Hotels in Downtown Des Moines

Residence Inn Suites Des Moines Downtown

Residence Inn Suites Des Moines Downtown
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100 SW Water Street
Des Moines IA  50309

This has a great downtown Des Moines location right on the river across from the vibrant East Village neighborhood. The Residence Inn Suites Des Moines Downtown is the only all-suite hotel in downtown Des Moines.

The hotel offers studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedrooms with living areas and complete kitchens. It also has free Wi-Fi and a complimentary hot breakfast buffet. Guests also have use of the fitness center and indoor pool.

Hilton Des Moines Downtown

Hilton Des Moines Downtown
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435 Park Street
Des Moines IA  50309

The downtown Hilton is an excellent mid-range option and is particularly good for business travel.

It’s part of the Des Moines Skywalk system and is conveniently connected to the Iowa Events Center.

The Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater and Historic East Village are less than a mile. The Hilton Des Moines Downtown also offers a free airport shuttle.

Des Moines Marriott Downtown

Des Moines Marriott Downtown
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700 Grand Avenue
Des Moines IA  50309

For consistently excellent service and accommodations, check out the Des Moines Marriott Downtown. It’s in the business district and is within walking distance of shopping, restaurants, and bars all connected by a skywalk.

The Des Moines Marriott Downtown offers comfortable guest rooms and suites with beautiful city views. It also offers a luxurious concierge level at an upgrade. Guests of the Marriott Hotel Des Moines Downtown also enjoy free Wi-FI, the indoor pool, a fitness facility, and onsite dining at Mash + MARROW.

Luxury Hotels in Downtown Des Moines

Hotel Fort Des Moines, Curio Collection by Hilton

Hotel Fort Des Moines, Curio Collection by Hilton
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1000 Walnut Street
Des Moines IA  50309

This is one of the most charming and historic hotels in Des Moines having hosted presidents since its opening in 1919 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Hotel Fort Des Moines has a boutique, sophisticated feel you notice as soon as you enter the grand lobby.

It’s also within walking distance of the Science Center of Iowa and Hy-Vee Hall and close to the Iowa Events Center.

The property offers free Wi-Fi and an onsite restaurant. Past guest reviews say the staff at the Hotel Fort Des Moines are wonderful and extremely accommodating.

The hotel features two queen beds and a fully stocked kitchen. From there, you can walk to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park and restaurants.

Des Lux Hotel

Des Lux Hotel
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800 Locust Street
Des Moines IA  50309

The famed Des Lux Hotel was opened in 1912 and offers opulent decor in wood and brick.

Gargoyles welcome guests inside the Des Lux Hotel doors for a fun, historic touch. The hotel offers a full-service salon with a full menu of styling and make-up services.

Guests enjoy martinis and other cocktails in the wood-paneled bar. The large fitness facility features a full array of equipment, showers, a sauna, a steam room, and a heated whirlpool. A complimentary airport shuttle is based on availability.

Vacation Rentals in Downtown Des Moines

You can also find fully-equipped rentals and apartments in Des Moines on VRBO. A contemporary two-bedroom apartment downtown averages $152 per night.

West Des Moines

West and east fork of the Des Moines River
Image by Brandonrush used under C.C. License

We love this neighborhood for its shopping, dining, and beautiful parks. It’s a darling destination within this sweet, little city.

  • Historic Valley Junction – This is a family-friendly street that seemingly comes out of nowhere. But it’s lined with antique shops, boutiques, restaurants, and sweet shops.

    It’s the perfect area to grab some homemade fudge and go window shopping. You’ll find unique and homemade gifts. Have dinner and drinks at Cooper’s on the 5th.
  • Jordan Creek Town Center – Jordan Creek Town Center is Iowa’s biggest shopping and entertainment center. Find all your favorite stores at Jordan Creek Town Center.

    And with friendly West Des Moines service, you’ll come away with everything you were looking for. Maybe more!

    You’ll also find those great mall restaurants that serve huge portions from their tasty (and familiar) menus. Choose from The Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s, and others.
  • Raccoon River Park – Folks living in Des Moines love this park for its walking trails, beaches, nature center, and archery range.

    Bring a picnic and spend a pleasant afternoon relaxing and enjoying the river views in this beautiful green space. There’s swimming, kayaking, and fishing too.
  • Biaggi’s Ristorante – This upscale Italian restaurant is a favorite for fine food in Des Moines and is known for its chef-forward kitchen, service, and atmosphere.

    It’s open for lunch and dinner. But it’s the lobster everyone seems to rave about. So if you’re craving a buttery lobster for dinner in the heartland, this is the place to go.
  • Fox Brewing – A favorite hangout for visitors and locals for enjoying West Des Moines nightlife. It’s a fun space for craft beer lovers to sample what’s on tap while making new friends.

    Play one of the games available or just hang out on the patio with a flight. You don’t have to wait until night for a visit either.

    They’re close to one of the bike trails if you’d like to stop for refreshment one afternoon.

Budget Hotels in West Des Moines

Sleep Inn & Suites West Des Moines near Jordan Creek

Sleep Inn and Suites
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885 S 51st Street
West Des Moines IA 50265

The hotel features free parking, Wi-fi, and a fitness center. All rooms also have a flat-screen TV and the suites have relaxing sitting areas. The location and service get great ratings.

Hampton Inn Suites Des Moines West

Hampton Inn Suites Des Moines West
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6160 Mills Civic Parkway
West Des Moines IA  50266

Across the street from Jordan Creek Town Center, it offers an indoor pool, fitness center, and heated whirlpool as well as free parking and Wi-fi.

All guest rooms have a flat-screen TV, a microwave, and a mini-fridge.

TownePlace Suites West Des Moines

TownePlace Suites West Des Moines
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125 S 68th Street
West Des Moines IA  50266

The TownPlace Suites in West Des Moines is an affordable suite option with kitchenettes, an indoor pool, a gym, free Wi-fi, and a complimentary hot breakfast.

Mid-Range Hotels in West Des Moines

Holiday Inn & Suites West Des Moines

Holiday Inn & Suites West Des Moines
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240 Jordan Creek Parkway
West Des Moines IA  50266

The Holiday Inn & Suites in West Des Moines offers free Wi-fi and hot breakfast and is thoughtfully designed with bedside power outlets and plush pillows and duvets.

Hyatt Place West Des Moines/Jordan Creek

Hyatt Place West Des Moines/Jordan Creek
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240 Jordan Creek Parkway
West Des Moines IA  50266

This lovely hotel features free parking and Wi-fi. It also has an indoor pool and a fitness center.

The Des Moines hotel location is fantastic; close to shopping, dining, and everything else Jordan Creek has to offer. You’ll also be less than 8-miles from downtown Des Moines.

West Des Moines Marriott

West Des Moines Marriott
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1250 Jordan Creek Parkway
West Des Moines IA  50266

The West Des Moines Marriott offers high-quality service and guest rooms. The guest reviews rave about how perfect this Des Moines hotel is for couples particularly. It offers a complimentary airport shuttle and is close to Jordan Center and Wells Fargo Arena.

Guest rooms at the West Des Moines Marriott are appointed with pillowtop mattresses and smart TVs. Room service is available too, but an onsite restaurant is open to serving delicious meals and cocktails. Guests also have use of the indoor pool and gym.

Luxury Hotels in West Des Moines

Rewind West Des Moines, Tapestry Collection by Hilton

Rewind West Des Moines, Tapestry Collection by Hilton
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6075 Mills Civic Parkway
West Des Moines IA  50266

You’ll find this upscale Des Moines hotel between Jordan Creek Town Center and West Glen Town Center which is another shopper’s paradise in West Des Moines.

The rooms are appointed in luxe furnishings and guests can dine in Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse which is onsite and very popular with locals.

Revel Hotel Des Moines Urbandale, Tapestry Collection by Hilton

Revel Hotel Des Moines Urbandale, Tapestry Collection by Hilton
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11211 Hickman Road
Urbandale IA  50322

The Revel Hotel offers stylish guest rooms and a relaxed vibe. Guests can enjoy the elegant lounge, fitness center, and complimentary wi-fi.

Living History Farms is only a 5-minute walk and a short drive from the Des Moines Art Center and State Historical Museum of Iowa.

Vacation Rentals in West Des Moines

Plenty of rentals in the Des Moines area on the west side too. Check VRBO for the availability of homes and apartments.

Check out the rental called Sequoia. It’s a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment near Jordan Creek with access to an outdoor pool and sun deck. It averages $170 per night.

East Village

East Village - Des Moines
Image by Eric Friedebach used under Attribution 3.0 Unported License

This vibrant neighborhood sits between the Des Moines River downtown and the Iowa State Capitol Building.

There are many fascinating Des Moines attractions in this cute and funky area. You’ll also find amazing options for your Des Moines hotel too.

  • Iowa State Capitol Building – The hub of Iowa’s government is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, and on Saturday, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.

    Guided tours are available for groups of ten or more. Or you can take one of the regular 90-minute tours.

    Call ahead for times but a tour of this grand and historic building is highly recommended.

    It was constructed between 1871 and 1886 and is a state treasure. You’ll see beautiful marble, art pieces, and wooden and stone carvings throughout.

    But the dome is what makes the Iowa State Capitol Building really special. Made of brick and steel, the dome is covered in 23-karat gold leaf, and on top is perched a lantern of gold.

    Four smaller lanterns of gold are attached to their own copper dome fixed at each corner of the building.

    Visitors from around the world are drawn to this incredible example of 19th-century architecture and one of the finest capitol buildings in the U.S.
  • Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens – Come and see the best ornamental flowers and native plants in the Midwest at the beautiful 14-acre garden lining the Des Moines River.

    The garden’s conservatory holds more than 1,000 varieties from all over the world. Visitors also enjoy the fragrant herbs, tropical flowers, desert plants, and an impressive array of bonsai.
  • State Historical Museum – Family-friendly and educational, the State Historical Museum displays artifacts from the Civil War and World War II.

    You’ll also find interesting and unique exhibits about Iowa, Iowa’s history, and its essential role in farming and transportation. You could spend a few hours in this fascinating museum.
  • Alba – Find great Des Moines food here at Alba on E. 6th Street. This place is great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and/or drinks.

    When you’re there, look up at the ceiling. It’s been cleverly lined with reclaimed front doors. The whole restaurant is artful and unconventional with a delicious seasonal menu.
  • Zombie Burger + Drink Lab – Find Des Moines nightlife here in the theme of the walking dead. Zombie Burger + Drink Lab is a cute “undead” burger joint with reinvented food and drinks.

    Try their “Goremet Bashed Burgers” with a “Special Grind” of meat paired with a craft beer or shake.

    The Zombie Unicorn, made with vanilla ice cream, marshmallow cream, Fruity Pebbles, and optional Tequila Rose Strawberry Cream, will sweeten the nightmares to come.

    Open late if you’d like to stay and imbibe on a rum zombie, bloody mary, or a dark & stormy cocktail before running all the way back to your hotel in the dark.
  • Iowa Taproom – Belly up to the bar-top salvaged from an 1880 Jewell, Iowa, tavern and enjoy some fantastic local and state brews in a fun atmosphere.

    Calling itself “unapologetically Iowan,” the Iowa Taproom offers an incredible menu of Iowa beer and delicious pub food.

    The taproom showcases the farms, towns, and brewmasters whose talents and energy go into creating the unique brews that make Iowa’s craft beer industry so special.

    The decor is all warm barn wood, historic signs, and salvaged equipment and machinery. This might be the easiest-going bar you’ll ever find.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in Iowa

Budget Hotels in East Village

Staybridge Suites Des Moines Downtown

Staybridge Suites Des Moines Downtown
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201 E. Locust Street
Des Moines IA  50309

The Staybridge Suites in downtown Des Moines is an excellent and affordable option for a stay in the East Village.

The suites make this hotel family-friendly as well as perfect for a long stay. It’s within walking distance of the Iowa State Capitol and close to Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines Performing Arts Center, the Iowa Events Center, and the State Historical Museum.

Free Wi-Fi is available throughout and a daily complimentary breakfast is served. A manager’s reception is offered on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. There is also an indoor pool, whirlpool, and fitness center.

Mid-Range Hotels in East Village

Embassy Suites Des Moines Downtown

Embassy Suites Des Moines Downtown
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101 E. Locust Street
Des Moines IA  50309

Situated on the river, it’s the closest hotel to the state capitol and the rest of the East Village.

Catch the riverwalk outside of the hotel doors and walk to many Des Moines attractions or to the downtown Des Moines ice-skating rink.

The hotel features free Wi-Fi and an onsite restaurant and lounge. A daily complimentary hot breakfast is served.

Luxury Hotels in East Village

AC Hotel Des Moines Downtown

AC Hotel Des Moines Downtown
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401 E. Grand Avenue
Des Moines IA  50309

This stylish hotel is centrally located and features thoughtfully appointed guest rooms with free Wi-Fi, adjustable reading lamps, and plush linens.

Suites are available as well as a choice of city or capitol views. The sixth-floor lounge is an elegant place to enjoy a cocktail and views of downtown Des Moines.

Vacation Rentals in East Village

You can get a real feel for being a local with one of the many rentals in Des Moines in the East Village. VRBO lists dozens of condos in stylish high rises that are centrally located.

Many offer an indoor pool and come with fully equipped kitchens, free parking, free wi-fi, and all the other comforts of home. Prices average $330 per night.

See Related: Best Travel Resources

Getting Around Des Moines

Des Moines

Des Moines is a small city, so getting around is easy. The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) is the city’s bus line. Ride and taxi services are also available.

You can also find nice rates for car rentals on Skyscanner or Kayak. Pick your vehicle up at the airport, Then you’ll be good to go to explore all the Des Moines goodness.

The attractions in West Des Moines are the large shopping malls. If you decide to base yourself here, it’s best to have your own car or rental so you can browse all the stores.

You’ll find the most dynamic and diverse dining, shopping, and nightlife in the historic East Village and all of it is easy to travel by public transportation, car, or on foot.


What is considered downtown Des Moines?

Downtown Des Moines proper is between the Des Moines River to the east, Center Street to the north, Raccoon River to the south, and 15th and 18th Streets to the west.

Where is the best area to stay in Des Moines for restaurants?

Downtown Des Moines offers the best variety of dining options. There’s great live music too.

Where is a good place to stay near Wells Fargo Arena?

The Hilton Des Moines Downtown is a six-minute walk. It’s also on the skywalk system and close to other points of interest.

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