Iowa

Our Dog-Friendly Guide to Des Moines

If you read our previous post, you’ll know that we’re newly obsessed with Des Moines, Iowa. (And if you haven’t read our previous post, read it, and then you’ll know why.) This city is a dream for so many reasons - for humans, and for pups! We’re realizing that the Midwest in general is extremely dog friendly, and Des Moines is no exception.

If you’re headed this way with your fur baby in tow (and you should be), here’s our Dog Friendly Guide to Des Moines!

WHERE TO GO WITH YOUR PUP

Downtown Farmers Market: Every Saturday from May to October, one of the biggest (and best) farmers markets takes place in downtown Des Moines… and it’s dog friendly! There’s multiple vendors selling dog treats, leashes, homemade food, and more!

Pappajohn Sculpture Park: One of our favorite parks to explore in Des Moines is not only fun for humans - but fun for pups! There’s 22 iconic sculptures to admire, and an unlimited amount of absolutely adorable photo opportunities. Just make sure you keep your dog on a leash!

Ankeny Dog Park: This 7.5-acre park is a dream for dogs of all sizes - with fenced in areas for small and large pups, a picturesque pond, and plenty of open space to run free!

Racoon River Dog Park: Another epic option when it comes to getting your pup’s “wiggles out”, this sprawling dog park is over 10 acres - bring a ball (and some water), and your dog is sure to leave exhausted, and oh-so-happy!

Walk the downtown:  It may be obvious, but we just have to include a walk around Des Moines beautiful and bustling downtown! We took our Bernedoodle Sally with us all over the city - whether we were walking to coffee or admiring the sights, it’s such a fun place to explore with your four-legged friend!

We loved exploring Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Sally chasing sticks at Raccoon River Dog Park

WHERE TO EAT WITH YOUR PUP

Gazali’s (patio):  Looking for healthy, fresh, and authentic Mediterranean cuisine that you can enjoy with your dog in tow? Head straight to Gazali’s! Their outdoor patio is dog-friendly and their lunch and dinner options are affordable and really delicious.

Smokey D’s BBQ (patio):  If you love BBQ, you’ll love Smokey D’s BBQ. (I mean, anything that’s been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives has to be epic, right?!) Best part is, they have a dog friendly patio!

Snookie’s Malt Shop (patio): We’ll take any excuse to get an ice cream cone, and the adorable Snookie’s Malt Shop is not to be missed… whether you’re a human or a dog! They serve free “pup cones” - little puppy size ice cream cones with any purchase. Win/win!

WHERE TO DRINK WITH YOUR PUP

Confluence Brewing Company (patio): We can’t think of a better way to spend a Summer day then at Confluence Brewing! Their dog friendly deck and beer garden sits right along the Gray’s Lake Bike Trail - order a few brews, pack a bully stick for your pup and a deck of cards for you and your friends, and you’ve got the makings for a perfect afternoon!

515 Brewing (patio):  Another great brewery that allows pets on their patio is 515 Brewing. This friendly and innovative craft brewery is a favorite among Des Moines locals, and it’s sure to be your pup’s new favorite, too!

Tipsy Crow Tavern (patio):  Cornhole, live music, games, strong drinks, and they welcome dogs… you can’t beat the patio at Tipsy Crow Tavern! Stop by on a Saturday afternoon for a drink and some appetizers after you’ve enjoyed the downtown Farmers Market!

Sally likes brewery hopping too :)

WHERE TO STAY WITH YOUR PUP

Embassy Suites:  We recently stayed at the Embassy Suites in downtown Des Moines and absolutely loved it. Not only is the location ideal, but the rooms are spacious, the included breakfasts are amazing, and Sally was ushered right in without a problem!

I See It, I Like It, I Want It, Des Moines Got It

For years our friends in Iowa have told us about how cool Des Moines is. How the restaurant scene is unparalleled, how their Farmer’s Market is unlike any other, how quickly the downtown scene is changing and growing… They would go on and on. And it wasn’t that we didn’t believe them, we just didn’t have a good excuse to come and see Des Moines for ourselves. Until this Spring, when we decided to roadtrip cross-country, and made Des Moines our final destination. Des Moines had big shoes to fill - our expectations were high, and we were really hoping to end our month-long adventure on the road with a bang. Well folks, we did just that and our friends were right.

Des Moines is everything we hoped it would be - and more.

Let’s start with the obvious. Being the capital city of Iowa, we knew Des Moines would be relatively cosmopolitan, with a busy downtown and a handful of sophisticated hotels. What we didn’t expect to see is such a hip, quirky, and playful city - with chic cocktail bars, modern cafes, trendy boutiques, sculpture gardens, and so much more! It’s midwest charm meets big city perks - and we’re officially obsessed.

THE FOOD.

Des Moines culinary scene is incredibly advanced, with sleek, stylish restaurants like St. Kilda Surf & Turf - that boasts a fresh and creative menu that’s as visually stunning as it is delicious, unusual and offbeat restaurants like El Bait Shop - that serves tater tots and pizza pockets alongside their 260+ beers on draft, and posh, elevated restaurants like Centro Trattoria & Bar - an urban and posh Italian eatery that specializes in fresh, homemade pizza and pasta.

While we were only in Des Moine for two nights, it’s safe to say that we ate our way through the city, and we have a loooong list of places we plan to hit up next time we’re in town. But onto the next category...

Obsessed with the goods at St. Kilda

Love the vibe at St. Kilda

Not enough beers at El Bait Shop… hehe jk

THE DRINKS

From specialty coffee shops to family-owned microbreweries and eclectic cocktail bars, you won’t go thirsty when you’re in Des Moines. Neighborhood coffee shops like Horizon Line Coffee and Mars Coffee Bar are exactly the kind of places we’d frequent if we were locals - they’re cool and friendly and are experts at crafting a good cup of joe.

Hello, Marjorie is a creative (and super Instagrammable) craft cocktail bar in the heart of downtown Des Moines that quickly became one of the highlights of our trip. Their signature cocktail, The Marjorie, made with Absolut Pear, sloe gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup, is perfectly smooth and refreshing. If you’re more of a beer connoisseur, head to Confluence Brewing! Their dog friendly deck and beer garden sits right along the Gray’s Lake Bike Trail, making it the perfect place to spend the afternoon when the weather is warm!

THE DOWNTOWN

In 2018 Des Moines was named the “#4 Best Places to Live in the US” by U.S. News, and after spending a few days in downtown Des Moines, we totally get it. The city is clean and inviting, and it seems as though fun concerts and events are always happening. The Saturday night we in town, there was a baseball game and a Kenny Chesney concert happening blocks away from each other - and the city was buzzing!

Located right in the middle of downtown Des Moines is the Pappajohn Sculpture Park - a 4.4 acre park that features artwork by 22 celebrated and iconic artists. It’s one of the most unique and well maintained parks we’ve seen, and the sculptures are incredible! While we didn’t have time to visit the adjoining Des Moines Art Center, that’s high on our list for next time.

THE FARMERS MARKET

We’re big farmers market people. If we happen to be in a town that has one, we make sure to hit it up. You can learn a lot about a place by their farmers market - what’s grown locally, who the farmers are, the goods that area is known for… some of our best souvenirs have been bought from local vendors at farmers markets!

That being said, we had no idea what we were in for when we decided to check out the famous Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market! Over 300 vendors come from across the state of Iowa to take part in the Downtown Farmers Market, and over 25,000 visitors attend each Saturday - from May through October! You’ll find everything from Iowa raised meat, to fresh flowers and seasonal candles… and it’s quite the sight to see! (Make sure you try a Thelma’s Treats Ice Cream Sandwich - SO GOOD!)

Our time in Des Moines may have been short, but it sure was sweet. If there’s anything that we learned, it’s that this city is on the rise - and we can’t wait to come back!

Road Tripping This Summer? Stop in Dubuque!

One of our favorite parts about roadtripping is the quaint small towns we stumble upon. Towns that take us by surprise, towns that have character and charm, towns that easily fall under the radar... We get almost giddy when we discover a new “hidden gem” of a spot - because we get to share it with you! That’s what we love about this big, beautiful country that we live in… there is still so much to discover.

Most recently we happened upon one of those places, Dubuque, Iowa.

Don’t let the fact that it’s Iowa’s oldest city sway you into thinking Dubuque is outdated - it’s an epic fusion of old and new, with plenty of activities, award-winning restaurants, breathtaking sites, and a revitalizing downtown. If you’re planning a roadtrip this summer (or any time of the year), make sure you spend at least a few days in Dubuque. Here’s why:

IT’S WHERE IOWA STARTED

Like we said, Dubuque is Iowa’s oldest city, and dates back to 1833 - 13 years before the state of Iowa even existed! French-Canadian fur trader Julien Dubuque first settled in the area and befriended the Mesquakie Tribe, and the rest is (literally) history!

Known as the “Gateway to the West”, Dubuque sits along the Mississippi River, and borders Illinois and Wisconsin. We think it’s pretty rad that when you’re standing in Dubuque, you can actually see all three states!

We were obsessed with the architecture!

Love these buildings!

IT’S  AN OUTDOOR LOVERS DREAM

From picking apples in the fall, to hitting the slopes in the winter, to hiking to the Mines of Spain in the springtime, Dubuque is an outdoor lovers dream, no matter the time of year.

Summertime however, is an exceptional time to pass through, as you’ll find locals and visitors alike soaking in the sunshine - whether they’re on a pontoon in the Mississippi River or enjoying a glass of wine by the waterfront! If you’re a hiker, Dubuque has numerous picturesque trails to explore, and if you’re an adventure-seeker, their zipline is a must! There’s also kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, road biking, camping, and so much more.

IT’S A FOODIE CITY

It may sound weird, but we’d roadtrip back to Dubuque just for the restaurants! This bustling city is home to some of the best restaurants in the Midwest, each one with a unique and distinctly ‘Dubuque’ style.

Brazen Open Kitchen serves farm fresh food that is literally from local farms, and their ever-changing menu is always fresh and always a crowd-pleaser.

For an elevated and authentic Thai food experience, Pete’s Thai Kitchen dishes up family recipes that were passed down from generation to generation, in a playful and contemporary setting. Don’t miss the Pad Thai!

Located in the Historic Millworks District, 7 Hills Brewing is a modern brewpub that specializes in craft beer, craft cocktails, and mouth-watering comfort food. Their happy hour is one of the best in town!

Stone Cliff Winery sits along the Mississippi River, and is the perfect spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch on a warm, summer day. This family owned and operated winery is not only known for their award-winning wine, but for their extensive (and delicious) lunch menu, too!

Catch the sunset at Smokestack Dubuque, a rooftop venue with unparalleled views of the Dubuque skyline! Pull up a chair, make some friends, and you’re bound to fall more in love with this lively and captivating city.

Afternoon drinks at 7 Hills Brewing

Brazen Kitchen had amazing cocktails too!

Pete’s Thai made us feel like we were in Southeast Asia!

Stone Cliff Winery is located in the old Dubuque Star Brewery building

Drinks and snacks at Stone Cliff Winery. Sally is thinking the snacks are for her…

Brazen Kitchen creations :)

IT’S ICONIC

One of Dubuque’s most well-known attractions is the famous Fenelon Place Elevator. Not only are the views extraordinary, but the historic elevator is the shortest and steepest scenic railway in the world! You’ll see panoramic views of the Historic Downtown, the Mississippi River, and three states! (Do you remember which three?) Plus, the elevator is dog friendly!! Which leads us to our last point...

About to head up the Fenelon Place Elevator

IT’S DOG FRIENDLY

Our Bernedoodle Sally loved exploring Dubuque, and the city really is set up well for pets. We stayed at the brand new ? that was walking distance to just about everything, even the Fenelon Place Elevator! We took Sally to the adorable River Lights Bookstore, where they not only welcome dogs inside - but they give them treats, too!

We had a blast walking along the Mississippi River Walk with Sally, and she was permitted to join us while we enjoyed a light lunch at the nearby Stone Cliff Winery.

Our last night in Dubuque we went for an early evening hike with Sally around The Mines of Spain, which ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. (If Sally could talk, she would agree!) And pizza at Magoo’s is a must - and their outdoor patio allows pets!

Sally LOVED the Mississippi River Walk

Story time at River Lights Bookstore

Delicious pizza at Magoo’s

While we’re only beginning to scratch the surface on all that Dubuque has to offer, we hope this sparks the desire to add it to your summer roadtrip! Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, but it’s packed with adventure - and tasty treats. ;) If you do head to Dubuque, make sure you let us know where you went and what you did! See you on the road!