If you know what a 'squinny' is, you're probably from Des Moines.
The Good, the Bad and The Ugly
Des Moines has a river, an art museum, a symphony orchestra, an opera company, lots of insurance companies and a botanical garden with a geodesic dome. It has buildings by I.M. Pei, Renzo Piano as well as Eero Saarinen and his dad, Eliel. It has a gay bar called the Blazing Saddle.
There is a lot of buzz about Des Moines, as a place for normal people with normal incomes to rent or buy normal homes and lead their lives. Des Moines is one of those cities gentrifying its downtown. Great smells are spilling out, festivals are scheduled year-round and rehabbed lofts are fetching high prices. In recent years Des Moines has been named the best for young professionals (Forbes), families (Kiplinger), home renters (Time), businesses and careers (Forbes). It has the highest community pride in the nation, according to a Gallup poll last year, and in October topped a Bloomberg analysis of which cities in the United States were doing the best at attracting millennials to buy housing.
Des Moines is a major hub of the US insurance industry, plus there are significant financial services and publishing sectors. As such, the downtown landscape is still filled with office buildings rather than walkable retail. Historic preservation has caught on now but the city is catching up from the previous hollowing out.
It’s not big, just over 200,000 people. You need a car but you won’t have to drive for long.
The Best Thing About Des Moines?
From affordable, ample housing to easy-to-navigate interstates with little traffic, DSM is easy livin. Cool restaurants and boutique movie theaters and yoga studios — Des Moines has all those things, but you don’t have to spend 40 minutes stuck on an eight-lane freeway to get to them.
Here's a review from someone who grew up in Des Moines:
Other than Iowa City, there is no other city in Iowa where I would willingly reside. It has the amenities and attractions of a city 3–4 times it’s size and a surprisingly large and varied cultural scene. Is the winter a drawback? Not really. Road clearance is a science and art in the Midwest and Des Moines’ ability to keep traffic moving in all but the worst weather is top notch. As one responder noted, there are no major professional teams, but most of the mainstream sports have minor league or developmental teams in the area. It is conveniently located close to Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City and St Louis, so you are a short plane ride to more urban areas. While it is a relatively small city to be the largest in the state, the ease of travel, burgeoning cultural scene and great schools more than compensate for what some may miss in a metropolis.
The Worst Thing About Des Moines?
Frigid winters, muggy summers and a small city holed up in between endless corn fields.
Here's a California transplanter's pov on the weather:
As a fellow Californian transplant, your attitude and winter gear are the most important factors. There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear and bad attitude. The sun and blue skies are out every single day. There is also always a January thaw. The weather here is very up and down all winter, it never stays the same for more than a few days (no matter the season). Try to get outside and be active unless it’s icy.
Des Moines Lifestyle
Most people who live in Des Moines don’t actually live in Des Moines, but rather in one of the city’s suburbs: Altoona, Ankeny, Beaverdale, Bondurant, Carlisle, Clive, Grimes, Johnston, Norwalk, Pleasant Hill, Polk City, Urbandale, Waukee, West Des Moines or Windsor Heights.
Lots of cute neighborhoods aside from downtown like Waterbury, Beaverdale, Lower Beaver, Sherman Hill. The "cool" place to live if you're single and young has to be the East Village side of downtown, several options for apartments/townhomes/lofts there, but you will pay more than other areas. Today both young people and empty nesters are moving back to downtown and the adjacent East Village neighborhood, into conversions and new buildings.
West Des Moines is “the place” for young, successful professionals. It’s very safe & homogenous with little crime and good schools. Many of the older, historic neighborhoods like Waterbury or Waveland Heights outside Des Moines’ metro area are the most costly places to live. The least expensive neighborhoods are Fairground, King-Irving Park, Kirkwood Glen, Carpenter, and Cheatom Park.
Downtown is a favorite area for singles and young professionals, as well as couples not quite ready to set up shop on a common suburb-style subdivision. Many of the homes are modern, plus there’s a healthy mix of apartments, condos, and traditional single-family homes. While rent is a bit higher in this area than Waterbury and other areas a bit further out, home prices on average are lower for those looking to own. This community is a popular place for families with young children.
Check out the Des Moines calendar of events to see what locals get up to year-round: https://www.catchdesmoines.com/events/
Why You Should Move Here Now?
Come for 80/35 music festival, stay for the massive farmer’s markets and an affordable Beaverdale Brick house.