Des Moines offers affordable attractions for student budgets

Opinion by Sarah Coleman

Photos by Luke Nankivell

SarahColeman-w2000-h2000Whether you have pocket lint or a small wad of cash, it helps to have some go-to inexpensive places to take a date or a bunch of friends.

First off, if you’re like me, you are up all night doing homework and struggle to get out of bed the next day. It happens, we are in college, after all. The perfect solution for your earlier-than-noon date with a night owl is to grab coffee together.  Nothing beats getting warm, fuzzy feelings from a great conversation and some smooth coffee.

My best recommendation is to head over and try the new Scooter’s in West Village. The best part is, if you aren’t a fan of coffee, they have great smoothies.

Are you dying to check out the downtown area? Try the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. With over 20 outstanding pieces of art, this is a popular spot to take pictures. With pieces ranging in size and color, it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite. I personally am a fan of Ancient Forest by Debora Butterfield, a horse-shaped statue.

Think you can only go once? The park adds pieces on a regular basis, so it might have something new next time you visit.

places4_luke-w2000-h2000The Blank Park Zoo is another great place to visit. With over 800 animals, the park hopes to educate the public about different species and create a fun environment. This is a perfect trip to make while your family is around, and nothing beats a little monkey business on the weekends.

While the University of Iowa might have a golden girl, Drake University happens to be close to the golden dome of the Iowa State Capitol.

The 23-carat gold that covers the dome isn’t the only impressive thing.  The capitol also allows free tours, which offer some insight into the history of the building as well as the work that is done there. Over the 90-minute tours, you can learn more about Iowa’s history.

places1_luke-w2000-h2000Des Moines has some lovely landscapes and has plenty of parks to visit or walk. The Des Moines River trail takes you by Gray’s Lake, which is well shaded and has plenty of water fountains. Once you reach Gray’s Lake, you’ll find restrooms and parking. The trail is well maintained and has quite the view. It’s perfect for the spring, summer and fall seasons.

The Des Moines Art Center is a great chance to see amazing original pieces of art. They currently have an exhibit called “Etchasketchathon.” The exhibit is described as, “British artists and brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman attack human depravity and cruelty with some of the most gory but witty art of our time. Intentionally adopting a strategy of ‘tastelessness’ in order to shock viewers with their outrage, they nevertheless manage to amuse.”

places2_luke-w2000-h2000Zombie Burger is another must-visit restaurant. It is known for shakes, burgers and detailed zombie theme. This theme is seen in the menu items and decorations.  Many people often get items to share, like a Walking Ched or an extremely large milkshake.


Coleman is a first-year journalism major and can be reached at

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