8 Reasons People Love Living in Des Moines, Iowa

Some cities are great places to retire. Others are great places to start a career or raise a family. Des Moines is all three. Its low cost-of-living, thriving business sector, and strong civic community have made it a popular destination for Boomers, Millennials, and anyone else looking to build a better life. So whether you’re searching for fresh opportunities or a pleasant place to settle down, here are a few reasons why you should consider living in Des Moines, Iowa.

Affordable Housing and Low Prices

Living in Des Moines is like getting a raise. Home prices are 20 percent lower than the rest of the country. Rents are 50 percent lower. Food, transportation, healthcare, utilities, and consumer goods are cheaper too. This means paychecks stretch further, savings last longer, and debts get paid faster.

Successful Economy

Des Moines’ economy is diverse and multi-layered. The city is a major insurance hub, second only to Hartford, Connecticut, with over 80 large and specialized firms employing sixteen percent of the city’s workforce. But the low cost of business has also attracted a number of other companies, including financial firms, agribusinesses, wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, publishers, and logistics corporations.

There’s an expanding technology sector as well, which supplies software, analytics, and data management services throughout the Midwest. In fact, with over $5 billion in total wages and 2.8 percent annual job growth, Des Moines is one of the best cities to work in tech.

The city also funds a number of initiatives, such as BrokerTech and TechStars, designed to accelerate the growth of technology firms, making it both a great place to do business, and a great place to start one.

The sheer volume of economic activity is one of the reasons the city enjoys such low unemployment. Slowdowns and shake-ups don’t upset the business sector the way they do in other cities. When downturns occur, their effects are limited, allowing the rest of the market to soldier on.

Stress-Free Commute

While gridlock is a fact of life in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, it’s unheard of in Des Moines. Traffic flows smoothly here. The average commute is only 21 minutes and it’s rare to spend more than 30 minutes driving to work. In fact, the city barely has a rush hour. No matter when you leave home, travel times are almost always the same: morning, noon, and night.

Accomplished Schools

Iowa has one of the best education systems in the country. There are over 60 schools to choose from (38 elementary schools, 11 middle schools, five high schools, and ten alternative and specialized schools) and a low student/teacher ratio (14:1), ensuring each pupil gets plenty of personal instruction. Not surprisingly, eighty-eight percent of students graduate high school, with an average SAT score of over 1200 (3rd highest in the nation).

Great Outdoors

Living in Des Moines makes it easy to stay active. The abundance of parks, lakes, and rivers provides plenty of opportunities for:

  • Hiking and Biking. Des Moines has over 800 miles of trails, including the High Trestle Trail, which crosses over a 13-story railroad bridge, and the Racoon River Valley Trail, which runs through Iowa's prairies, woodlands, and farmlands.

  • Water Sports. Des Moines might be far from the ocean, but there are 34 lakes in and around the city, giving people plenty of opportunity to splash around in the water. They can either swim, sail, kayak, canoe, or rent a paddleboard and go exploring.

  • Fishing. Des Moines’ lakes, rivers, and streams are teeming with bluegill, channel catfish, and largemouth bass. There are fishing spots both inside and outside the city, including City Campus Pond, Fort Des Moines Pond, Yellow Banks Park Pond, and Thomas Mitchell Pond.

  • Golf. There are over 15 golf courses in Des Moines, including the Tournament Club of Iowa, designed by Arnold Palmer. Set amid dramatic bluffs and ravines, the course not only features a challenging set of uphill and downhill shots, but inspiring views of Big Creek Dam and Saylorville Lake.

Popular Entertainment

Des Moines is Iowa’s cultural center, a major focal point for events, festivals, and artwork. Many of the Midwest’s greatest attractions are located in the city, including:

  • Pappajohn Sculpture Park. A massive modern art display in downtown Des Moines. There are over two dozen works by major artists, spread out over 4.5 acres, a perfect spot to have a picnic and exercise your imagination.

  • Des Moines Arts Center. Its permanent and rotating exhibitions bring together traditional, inventive, and avant garde works from the Midwest, America, and beyond. Explore ancient Japanese watercolors, original Rembrandt paintings, and contemporary ceramics, as well as a number of other collections detailing influential art movements from the 19th and 20th centuries.

  • Des Moines Performing Arts Center. A gigantic, 2,700 seat theater that hosts major musical, comedy, and Broadway artists. Experience classical symphonies, contemporary jazz, and innovative mixed media performances from some of America’s most accomplished actors, singers, and dancers.

  • Des Moines Community Playhouse. One of Des Moines’ most celebrated theater companies, with performances geared towards children and adults. Check out old Broadway favorites, as well as kids productions based on classic and contemporary literature.

  • Science Center of Iowa. A hands-on museum full of dynamic and interactive exhibits that teach kids about technology, zoology, geology, physics, and the cosmos. There are even special events for adults, with cocktails and imaginative presentations on dinosaurs and quantum mechanics.

  • Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater. Set against the Des Moines Riverwalk, this outdoor venue has hosted some of the world’s biggest rock bands, including Michael Franti & Spearhead, the Wailers, Colbie Caillat, and the Barenaked Ladies.

Stellar Festivals

Though it slows down during winter, Des Moines never stays quiet for very long. The civic calendar is packed with events, such as:

  • Iowa State Fair. The largest event in the state and one of the oldest agricultural and industrial fairs in the country, with thrill rides, livestock shows, arts and crafts competitions, truck and tractor pulls, live cooking demonstrations, a giant butter cow, the world’s smallest horse, and seventy different foods you can eat on a stick.

  • 80/35 Music Festival. Turns downtown Des Moines into a giant concert for two days during the summer. With four free stages and dozens of musicians, you can party all night to artists from all genres playing their hearts out for thousands of screaming fans.

  • Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival. Iowa is famous for its hogs and wants you to know it. Visitors can sample bacon from dozens of vendors, try their luck at the bacon eating contest, and help crown the bacon queen. Between meals, check out the free music, craft beer, and no-holds barred wrestling matches.

  • Des Moines Arts Festival. What started as a way to celebrate local artists has grown into one of the biggest and most admired art festivals in the world, with hundreds of entries and over 200,000 attendees. After touring the galleries, swing by the music stage or art demonstrations, which delve into the technique, background, and inspiration of some of the show's biggest painters and sculptors.

Food You Won’t Find Anywhere Else

Living in Des Moines doesn’t mean giving up your favorite foods. Instead, it’s a chance to discover some new ones. While Des Moines has food from all over the world (including Ecuador, Mexico, Italy, and Vietnam), there are a few local delicacies that haven’t made their way out to the rest of the country, such as:

  • Pork Tenderloin Sandwich. If there was any doubt Iowans love pork, one look at this sandwich will lay them to rest. It’s made from a slab of pork the size of your face, breaded and fried to perfection, served on a kaiser roll with pickles, onions, mustard, and ketchup. A common staple at restaurants and the state fair.

  • Sweet Corn. A strain of corn with a uniquely high sugar content, normally eaten with salt and butter. Because the sugar turns to starch shortly after being picked, it’s almost impossible to find outside the state.

  • Steak de Burgo. Created by the chefs at Johnny & Kay’s, a hotel by the Des Moines Airport, this has become one of the most popular steak recipes in the Midwest: beef tenderloin topped with butter, garlic, and Italian herbs, such as oregano, basil, and thyme.

  • Panino. A Des Moines original, created in 1922 at Leo’s Italian Restaurant. This simple sandwich is made from sausage, pepperoni, and marinara sauce stuffed into a small loaf of Italian bread and baked to seal in its juices and flavor.

  • Sour Cream Raisin Pie. Despite the name, this dessert is made with custard rather than sour cream. Popularized by either German or Amish settlers (the history is unclear), it's a rich, creamy treat topped with a layer of meringue - perfect for summer, winter, fall, or spring.

Moving to Des Moines

Whether you’re moving to Des Moines from across the state or across the country, North American is there for you every step of the way. Our resources and experience means no problem is too big for us to handle, no move too complex. Whatever the challenge, we have the solution. Call us today for a free quote!