Advice Wanted for Move to Des Moines, Iowa
September 19, 2016 1:34 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are new empty nesters, and are considering moving to Des Moines, Iowa. What is it like to live there? What are the pluses and minuses? We are hoping to find a friendly, welcoming community with some larger city amenities. Ideally, we'd also find other non religious, politically moderate-to-liberal folks. Will we find it there?
posted by Long Way Home to Human Relations (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Des Moines is quite lovely. Over the past decade or so they've poured millions of dollars into it to make it cool and hip and try to keep young people there - and it's worked. Downtown is great, lots of good restaurants and breweries and such, a nice art museum. Trader Joes and Whole Foods. Good hospitals. Nice folks.

It's liberal enough - probably the second most non-religious place in Iowa, behind maybe only Iowa City. It's not like San Francisco liberal but you won't be at a loss for finding non-religious and left leaning people.

The worst thing about living in Iowa is that if you like to travel, flying is not convenient, and you'll always have to do the puddle jumper flight to Minneapolis or Chicago.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:44 PM on September 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

They have a world-class library in Des Moines and Iowa generally has a really good library system all the way to the state level.
posted by jessamyn at 2:34 PM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

This probably depends on where you're coming from.

I live in San Francisco, and come to Des Moines fairly often for work (in Ames, IA). Des Moines is certainly more progressive than Ames, and has amenities that'll interest you, but we don't know much about what amenities or interests you're looking for. Are there specifics you can share about what you're seeking?
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:35 PM on September 19, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers so far. Good point on it depends where I'm coming from, and what I'm interested in. We live in Dubuque, IA currently, which is an okay place but we are dissatisfied enough to uproot our lives and leave after 15 years. My biggest concern with Dubuque is that it is a provincial place where it actually matters if you were born there or not, where you went to high school, and what parish you belong to. People who live here tend to be from here, and have a large family and long time friend support infrastructure in place--no need for outsiders. While it has gotten better over the years, there still is not much to pull new people into Dubuque to mix up the community with new folks. Outsiders tend to make friends with outsiders. And, most locals are religious and largely conservative--that's okay (I'm not bashing), but just different than me and creates somewhat of a divide. So, I'm sure it won't be San Francisco liberal, just something more moderate would be welcome.

Regarding interests, just having access to good restaurants, a good farmer's market, tennis, some arts events, some concerts all would be great things. Maybe some meet up groups related to dogs or photography? And, I do use the library, so thanks to Jessamyn for mentioning that. I hear there are good biking/walking paths around town, which I'd likely use.
posted by Long Way Home at 3:11 PM on September 19, 2016

I have been a visitor to both Dubuque and Des Moines and my take was that Dubuque has a small center of revitalization going on but you get outside Dubuque (and you get outside fast) and it's rural and conservative. Which seems to work there! But for what it's worth that was not the feeling I got from Des Moines. It seemed friendlier to me (and outsider, in town for a few days for a conference) and definitely felt like it skewed somewhat younger and more open. I felt like, for example, that I had a few options for getting a good cup of coffee not "the one hip coffee place" I like the vibe of the Des Moines blog for example, and this other goofy website makes me smile.
posted by jessamyn at 3:35 PM on September 19, 2016

A number of my friends from school moved to Des Moines and have loved it. They are all liberal-leaning, non-religious. That said, any reason you're not considering Iowa City? We have a number of things on your list including farmer's markets and concerts. Plus, with the university there is always something interesting (and often free) going on.
posted by statsgirl at 4:36 PM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

FWIW, there's another place that's ~160 miles from Dubuque and offers plenty of big-city amenities: Chicago!
posted by charlemangy at 4:54 PM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I lived on Iowa's East coast for most of my life but lived in DSM for a year or so (with stints in Ames and IC to boot). I would gladly live in Des Moines again. We had little kids at the time so got to know the parks well and the museum's were nice too. No one cares about your religion or where you're from. As others have stated the downtown is revitalized and the creative -scene- is better than one might expect. The farmers market is legit. It's an event, not just a handful of stands in a parking lot.

Downside, you're no longer in day trip range of Chicago and probably further from the twin cities too. I think des Moines is a little short of the critical mass needed to be a great place. It's good, even really good. Easily the best place in the state for grown ups (sorry IC). Have you considered Madison?
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:34 PM on September 19, 2016

Response by poster: Great answers, everyone! This is my first post, and I really appreciate hearing from you all. Regarding considering other places, a favorable job situation in Des Moines and proximity to aging parents a couple hours away makes Des Moines an unusually good spot for us (at least we think). Also, the low cost of living is about the same as our current location, unlike if we moved to, say, Seattle or Chicago.
posted by Long Way Home at 4:46 AM on September 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Iowan here, though I've never lived in DM. I currently live in San Antonio TX. If you can, I would seriously consider getting away from winter. I know you're used to it, but I was surprised to find how truly debilitating it is.

Barring that, I might consider Omaha NE. I lived there for 15 years before moving here. It's not necessarily a hot bed of liberalism, but it is the most liberal place in the state. Their zoo is world class, they have cool museums, the Old Market, it's super easy to navigate and it's not very expensive. Top notch hospitals too.
posted by wwartorff at 8:44 AM on September 20, 2016

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