We Took A Trip To Iowa And Loved It

Des Moines Mural

Indeed, we visited Iowa and had an amazing time. Despite driving through Iowa countless times along Interstate 80, we never took the time to stop and explore – although we did stop at Interstate hotels to rest overnight. However, everything changed when Des Moines constructed the Lauridsen Skatepark, which is the most impressive skatepark in the country. The opportunity to see the new skatepark prompted us to visit Des Moines and Iowa, and we were pleasantly surprised by what we found. We initially had no interest in visiting Iowa before the skatepark was built, but our outlook changed once we arrived and realized the many attractions Iowa had to offer.

Join us as we recollect our trip to Iowa and explain why we enjoyed it so much. Despite our brief three-day stay, we left with the determination to never forget about Iowa again. It is no longer simply a place to sleep for a night or a state we pass through on our way to another location; it is now a destination in and of itself. Come along with us as we explore Iowa, and who knows, you may end up planning your own Iowa vacation.

First Impressions Are Everything

Des Lux Hotel Room
Des Lux Hotel Room

It is undeniable that first impressions hold significant weight. A favorable initial encounter can be imprinted in our memories forever. This was precisely the case when we arrived in Des Moines. Our first glimpse of the city was through the lens of the Des Lux Hotel, where we were staying. Despite having viewed photographs of the hotel beforehand, they did not do justice to the opulence and exclusivity we experienced firsthand. The unique and luxurious style of the Des Lux was a far cry from the standard Interstate 80 lodgings we had become accustomed to. The Des Lux elevated our perception of Iowa, which was unexpected but not entirely surprising, as we had never viewed Iowa in this light before.

Des Lux Hotel Bar
Des Lux Hotel Bar

Our stay at the Des Lux was eye-opening, and we were introduced to an Iowa that we had never encountered before. The hotel made an indelible first impression that we will not easily forget. In fact, we dedicated an entire post to our experience at the Des Lux Hotel, and we would be delighted if you read it. An Amazing Stay At The Des Lux Hotel In Des Moines might have you booking your Iowa vacation even before you finish the rest of our Iowa recap.

The Reason For Our Trip To Iowa

Wow Art at Des Moines Skatepark
Addison being wowed in Des Moines

As previously mentioned, the primary motivation for our trip to Iowa was to visit the new Des Moines Skatepark. Therefore, upon settling into the Des Lux Hotel, we made our way to the skatepark. It quickly became a daily destination for us during our trip. Although we had seen pictures and even watched the Dew Tour at Lauridsen Skatepark a few weeks prior, neither could have prepared us for the awe-inspiring experience we had when we saw it in person. The skatepark was unlike any other we had visited before, a true skateboarding mecca situated on the river in the heart of downtown Des Moines.

As we recount our Iowa adventure, it’s worth noting that we’ve provided full coverage of the Lauridsen Skatepark in our post entitled “The Des Moines Skatepark is the Best Skatepark in America“. The skatepark was the primary reason for our visit to Iowa, and it’s one of the top reasons that we plan to return

Dining During Our Trip To Iowa

Zombie Burger Des Moines Iowa
Zombie Burger

In our view, culinary experiences are one of the essential components of travel. The availability of good dining options can make or break a destination, in our opinion. Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry about poor dining choices while in Des Moines. We were delighted to discover a plethora of restaurants to choose from. However, with only two evenings available for dinner, we had to make prudent choices. Ultimately, we were not disappointed with either of our choices.

Zombie Burger

Undead Elvis at Zombie Burger
Undead Elvis at Zombie Burger

Whenever we travel, we make a point to seek out the finest burgers in town. Additionally, we prefer to patronize distinctive local establishments rather than national chain restaurants. As a result, we had been eagerly anticipating a visit to Zombie Burger long before our journey to Iowa. The restaurant had received positive feedback, the cuisine sounded intriguing, and the ambiance was certainly one-of-a-kind. Ultimately, it turned out to be one of the most exceptional burger spots we’ve ever been to. We understand that “cool” isn’t enough, but when you combine it with fantastic food, Zombie Burger becomes a must-visit destination in Des Moines.

To elaborate further, Zombie Burger is not your typical burger joint. The establishment is themed around a post-apocalyptic zombie invasion, with menu items named after zombies and horror films. The décor is equally impressive, with zombie-themed art and artifacts scattered throughout the restaurant. The burgers themselves are not to be missed, with creative combinations of toppings and sauces that make for a unique and flavorful experience. And for those who aren’t in the mood for burgers, Zombie Burger also offers a variety of sides, salads, and sandwiches, as well as a selection of craft beers and cocktails. All in all, Zombie Burger is an unforgettable dining experience that truly embodies the spirit of Des Moines.

What We Ate at Zombie Burger

The Three Little Pigs As Told By The Wolf is not your ordinary storybook. It’s actually an appetizer that Zombie Burger serves, consisting of pulled pork, ham, bacon, and other toppings all piled on top of tortilla chips. The flavor is so addictively delicious that it’s hard to stop eating, but we managed to save room for our main burgers. We ordered two appetizers, but the Three Little Pigs was the standout favorite that we couldn’t stop talking about even after we left. While both were good, this one was truly excellent.

We couldn’t resist trying out Zombie Burger’s burger options, since the restaurant is known for them. Each of us ordered a different type of burger, but the one that stood out the most was the Undead Elvis burger. It may sound like an unusual combination with its peanut butter, fried bananas, bacon, American cheese, egg, and mayo, but the flavors blended together seamlessly and made for a surprisingly tasty meal. Prior to visiting Zombie Burger, we had never considered having peanut butter and bananas on a burger, but now we’re glad we did. It just goes to show that sometimes, taking a chance on something unusual can really pay off.

The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile Des Moines Iowa
The Royal Mile

Choosing where to dine on our second night in Des Moines was a challenge due to the plethora of great-sounding restaurants. However, our love for British pubs made the decision easier when we stumbled upon The Royal Mile. The restaurant offered a lively atmosphere with classic pub vibes and delectable food. It turned out to be an excellent choice that did not disappoint.

Shepherd’s Pie Croquettes
Shepherd’s Pie Croquettes

Our experience at The Royal Mile exceeded our expectations in every aspect, including the outstanding service we received from a kind and genuine server who also shared our passion for skateboarding and the new skatepark. Among the delicious food, there were two dishes that stood out for us, but more on those in a moment. Having dined at various exceptional restaurants throughout our month-long trip, the service we received at The Royal Mile remains at the top of our list.

Moving on to the food, we had two exceptional dishes at The Royal Mile. First, the Shepherd’s Pie Croquettes – ground lamb and beef, breaded, fried and topped with pork gravy. It was a delicious way to kick off our meal. As for our main course, we opted for sandwiches, and they were all satisfying. However, The Earl was the star of the show – a masterpiece of turkey, ham, corned beef, bacon, Swiss cheese, sweet chili aioli, tomato, lettuce, and red onion piled high on marble rye bread. Just thinking about it still makes my mouth water. Along with its fun British pub atmosphere, The Royal Mile is definitely a must-visit restaurant in Des Moines.

Day Trip From Des Moines

Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad and Museum
Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad and Museum

Think our Iowa trip was all about Des Moines? Think again! We decided to take a day trip out to Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad and Museum, a 45-minute drive from Des Moines. While our youngest, Hendrix, is more interested in trains than skateboarding, we all had a blast exploring this unique destination. It was a fun experience for all four of us and allowed us to discover a different side of Iowa.

Boone Railroad Museum
Railroad Museum

We were all excited for our scenic train ride, but we arrived an hour early, which gave us the opportunity to explore the railroad museum. The museum boasts an extensive collection of railroading items from all eras in Iowa, covering 9,000 sq. ft. Visitors can marvel at replica train depots, authentic track equipment, toy trains, and many other railroading artifacts, too numerous to mention. Our daughter was particularly fond of the research library and was eager to spend the afternoon reading the available books. While we were happy about her love of reading and history, we had to depart promptly to catch our train.

Addison waiting for her train
Addison waiting for her train

After visiting the museum it was time to board our train. Lucky for us it started to downpour as we walked to our train car, but also lucky for us, it didn’t last long. The quick storm started to move out and we weren’t going to let being a little wet ruin our scenic train ride.

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad
Little wet, but ready for the scenic train ride.

Our journey began as we departed Boone in our coach cars from the 1920s, en route to Fraser, an old coal mining town. Our return trip would follow the same track, resulting in an overall ride time of approximately one hour and forty-five minutes. Initially, we encountered the familiar sight of the lush green farm fields of Iowa as we departed from the train station. However, as we proceeded further along the track, we were greeted by a side of Iowa that was unfamiliar to us. Rolling hills, dense forests, and a river valley offered breathtaking views that stretched as far as our eyes could see.

Boone Scenic Railroad - Trip to Iowa
Scenic River Views

Although it was the Des Moines Skatepark that initially drew us to Iowa, it was the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad that exposed us to the state’s hidden gems beyond the typical farm fields and windmills. This isn’t to say that we don’t appreciate the beauty of Iowa’s rolling hills and sprawling farm fields – in fact, we’re always in awe when driving down Interstate 80. However, the view of Iowa from the tracks was something truly unique and extraordinary that we had been missing out on for far too long.

Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad - Trip to Iowa
Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad

This Trip To Iowa Won’t Be Our Last

Undoubtedly, our recent trip to Iowa won’t be our last. While we initially ventured to Iowa for the world-renowned skatepark in Des Moines, we discovered so much more during our stay. We stumbled upon a hotel that quickly became one of our all-time favorite places to stay, as well as restaurants we can’t wait to revisit. We also enjoyed numerous family activities that left a lasting impression on all of us. Most importantly, the welcoming hospitality of the locals made us want to return to Iowa time and time again.

We owe Iowa an apology for having overlooked its beauty for so long. Previously, we had driven straight through without ever taking the time to explore its many treasures. However, our recent stay has provided us with a lifetime’s worth of memories. We’re sorry for ever underestimating Iowa, and we’re grateful for the invitation to explore its wonders. We can’t wait to uncover more of what this state has to offer, as we know we’ve only scratched the surface on this trip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *