Locals Only: Iowanderer's Staycation in Des Moines

Welcome to Locals Only, a week-long series written by Des Moines locals for Des Moines locals. Every day this week, a Midwesterner will be contributing a piece to the site about a topic of their choosing. Today we have Emily Boyd of Iowanderer's.

Emily is an Iowa native, currently living in Des Moines. She loves digital marketing, creating big and small adventures, and trying all the things in Des Moines (most importantly, food.)

You can find her blogging on her personal website or catch her on Instagram. She also runs Iowanderers with her fiancé, Zach. 

About six months ago, my fiance and I launched a website called Iowanderers. After making a bucket list of over 50 countries we wanted to visit, we knew that traveling was going to be a huge part of our life together, so why not share our incredible journeys with friends and family? 

Then we realized how many Iowans we know personally who have left us to live abroad or even acquaintances who go on amazing adventures and come back with memories to share. We thought: why not make Iowanderers a little online community for Iowa travelers? 

Vacations aren't just about leaving though, which is hard for me to remember. Des Moines is a city full of fun, free mini adventures that can help us understand our roots, the history of our city, and connect us to fellow Iowans. 

Here are three things on our radar for fall: 

  • The New Art Center's Newest Exhibit -- Vivian Maier: Through a Critical Lens

The Des Moines Art Center is an incredible place to spend an hour of your afternoon or even half of your day - with rotating exhibits and beautiful outdoor space, you'll always leave inspired. A newer exhibition that should be on everyone’s fall and winter bucket list is Vivian Maier: Through a Critical Lens. It's here now through January 22.

The exhibition features 70 photographers (50 black-and-white and 20 color prints) of people on the streets of Chicago, captured by the late photographer Vivain Maier (1926-2009.) 

Maier's photographers, taken between the late 1940's and the early 1980's, were kept completely private by Ms. Maier and caused quite a stir when they were first exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2011. 

Elusive, solitary, and clearly talented, Vivian Maier is the quintessential "undiscovered" artist of our time.

  • Understanding Our Roots at the State Historical Museum of Iowa

The State Historical Museum is yet another free option next to our beautiful state capital building. With the hustle and bustle of the East Village, it's easy to spend a full day in the area without getting bored. Since Iowanderers is all about connecting Iowans, this museum is a place where we can really immerse ourselves in the history, culture, and stories of our Hawkeye state.

Zach and I both love riding our bicycles; it's a fun way to exercise, bar hop, and get together with friends. With a strong cycling culture in Des Moines and throughout the state, we've added the Riding Through History exhibit to our list, which captures the store of RAGBRAI and how it came to be one of the most well-known cycling events in the nation. We haven't done RAGBRAI yet, but it's on our to-do list. 

  • Star Gaze at the Ashton Observatory

During my final year at Drake University, I had to finish with a science class, so I chose astronomy. One of the class requirements was to visit the Ashton Observatory. I still remember my fascination with the sky and learning more about life beyond the earth. 

The observatory is open to the public on Saturday evenings between April and October, and is home to a classroom where different lectures are offered from 8:00pm-9:00pm before stargazing occurs. 

From learning specifically about Jupiter to understanding how to measure the stars, these free events are an alternative to other nightlife activities that keep us busy on the weekends. 

And there you have it! Three ideas to help you learn more about our city, our state, and the people all around us.

Be sure to check out day one of LOCALS ONLY. You can read Ellen's essay about life in New York versus life in Des Moines by clicking here.