The East Village (in Des Moines)…Really
When most people hear or speak of the East Village, they are referring to the trendy neighborhood in New York City but there is another East Village well worth visiting in Des Moines, Iowa. Known as the Historic East Village, this 6 square block area in downtown Des Moines (on the east side of the Des Moines River) is near the 23-carat gold domed Capital Building (which can be seen for miles).
Originally established as a commerce area more than 150 years ago, the East Village has an abundance of historic buildings that now house a museum, restaurants, cafes, bars, retail stores, an ice skating rink, an outdoor amphitheater and loft-style housing.
The East Village is a work-in-progress that began 15 years ago when several citizens and organizations came together to save the old vacant buildings because they envisioned a neighborhood that would have character, culture, and eclectic charm – not unlike the East Village in New York City. Although many people thought the idea radical at the time, the visionaries held firm and gained community support which is why Des Moines can now boast of having the best East Village west of the Mississippi (although the Des Moines River is a tributary of the Mississippi River).
So, what makes Des Moines’ East Village so special?
THE FOOD AND CAFE SCENE
The East Village has more than 30 restaurants including Noodle Zoo, New World Cafe (vegan), Tacopocalypse (Mexican), Café Barratta’s (bistro fare on the 3rd floor of the State Historical Museum), Lucca (illustrated below), and the Mad Meatball (pizza). For a complete list of restaurants, click here.
THE FOODIE STORES
Williams-Sonoma is a fabulous store but Kitchen Collage (pictured below) is the culinary store of culinary stores. Every square inch of this store is packed with products for the kitchen and dining room including Match Pewter dinnerware from Italy.
For spices, check out Allspice Culinarium (known as Allspice) which carries more than 350 herbs, spices, oils, vinegars, and dried mushrooms. Domestica is a home and personal accessories store but they also carry the delicious handcrafted nut butters by Big Spoon Roasters. And, the New Oriental Food Store (no website) has a full line of Asian foods and appliances.
More than a dozen stores carry products and art for the home including Green Goods For The Home (eco-friendly products), Eden (baby, bath, and home products) and From Our Hands (an American craft gallery featuring ceramics, paintings, sculptures, and more).
The East Village also offers more than a dozen fashion, jewelry, and accessory boutiques including Aimee, with more than 50 lines of clothing and Artisan’s Jewelry Designs, a store that specializes in jewelry making (including cufflinks), repair, and the redesign of jewelry.
The sports enthusiast may choose among two bicycle shops, DSM Collective (“changing Greater Des Moines two wheels at a time”) and ICHI Bike (a full service bakeshop including customization and repair, as illustrated below) while the skateboarder has Subsect Skateshop. Runners, triathletes, and weekend warriors will find athletic shoes and clothing in the very popular Fleet Street Sports.
For those interested in vintage clothing, antiques and more, there are a half-dozen stores to choose from including Bargain Basket (no website), Found Things, Fill Vintage & Knits, Metro N Retro, Reclaimed (where the junk lady’s philosophy is “one person’s junk is another person’s treasure,” as illustrated below) and Salvation Army.
The East Village has no shortage of hair salons and spas. If time is a factor, consider Blo Blow Dry Bar and if it isn’t, make an appointment at Beehive Salon, Bloom Salon Studios, Salon Revolution, or Vanity and Glamour. For those who want to be pampered, make plans to go to the East Village Spa or Salon Spa W.
THE SIMON ESTES AMPITHEATER
The Simon Estes Ampitheater is a beautiful location for concerts (Spring, Summer, and Fall), picnics and a place for walks, runs, and bike rides. For a list of upcoming events, click here.
BRENTON SKATING PLAZA
From November to March, the Brenton Skating Plaza offers people of all ages the chance to ice skate under the stars (and snowflakes, at times). During the Spring and summer months, the plaza is used as a venue for concerts and events. For more information, go to the official website: www.brentonplaza.com.
STATE HISTORICAL MUSEUM
The State Historical Museum celebrates Iowans with exhibits that show the history of the state and its citizens. Exhibits include mammoth bones, the civil war, the campaign for civil rights, the story of the USS Iowa, vintage aircraft, farming, mining treasures, Hollywood, model making, and more. For more information on the museum, hours, special exhibits, and tours, go to the museum website: www.iowahistory.org.
GREATER DES MOINES BOTANICAL GARDEN
The Botanical Garden is the perfect place to learn about plants and explore beautiful gardens. Exhibits are constantly changing although the geodesic-domed conservatory has been a constant draw with visitors able to experience tundra-like weather of the winter to the balmy atmosphere of the tropics. An ideal place to take children, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden offers a variety of programs including Toddler Time and Festivals. For more information, go to the official website: www.dmbotanicalgarden.com.
The East Village also houses the Iowa State Genealogical Society and the State Capital, which provides public tours of the most well-known building in Des Moines. The capital of Iowa may only have about 200,000 people, but the most vibrant and diverse district in the city – the East Village – has an abundance of cultural sites, event facilities, restaurants, cafes, bars, salons, studios, and stores. For more information and to download a map of the East Village, go to the official website: eastvillagedesmoines.com.