Catching On

27 women bridgeLinda Burton posting from Des Moines, Iowa – We try to avoid catching a cold, but we are happy when we catch a fish. We say to a friend “I’ll catch you later,” and here in Des Moines, the catch-phrase of the year seems to be “catching” every thing good there is in town. As I thumbed through the “Official Guide” for spring/summer 2013, a publication of the Visitors Bureau, I started to get the idea. Catch A River View, for instance. Des Moines has two rivers downtown, the Des Moines and the Raccoon, and the city apparently takes full advantage of what that means. Like the Principal Riverwalk, a system featuring lighted, landscaped public spaces, world-class public 27 red railroad bridgeart, and unique pedestrian bridges and pathways that connect 300 miles of Central Iowa trails. At the north end is the “Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge,” a stunning arched span with two separate pathways – one for walkers and joggers, and one for bicyclists. To the south is the now-people-friendly Union Railroad Bridge, repainted its original “caboose red,” with cantilevers on either side allowing pedestrians to stop and “catch” the view. In between, both sides of the river offer destination points: the Brenton Skating Plaza with winter skating and summer events; the Long Look Garden with formal landscaping and a grand staircase; the Hansen Triangle with bronze sculpture and fountain; the Hub Spot, The 27 meredith trailPromenade, and various waterfront trails. The Guide goes on to list other “catches” of Des Moines – from arts to action; even lazy things to do. I started a list of events to catch while I’m here and bingo, right off the bat I found the 15th Annual Arts Festival, coming up this weekend at Western Gateway Park. Painting, photography, sculpture, metalwork, music, kid’s crafts, food, and about 200,000 people. Wow.

27 zooAlphabetically, I proceeded; the Blank Park Zoo is open all year and they’ve got something new going on. It’s the $4.5 million Jaama Kwa Africa exhibit, with a pair of endangered black rhinos (one of the largest land mammals on earth); an eland, ostrich, African tortoise, kori bustards, and a variety of African birds are also part of the show. I put an X by that one to catch.

The Downtown Farmers’ Market, ah, every Saturday May through October 7 am to Noon; farmers from 51 counties across Iowa bring in the fresh stuff; I need to go and find some Iowa 27 marketcorn, for sure. More food at Graziano Brothers Italian Foods; offering Italian meats and cheeses since 1912.

There’s the turn-of-the-century Heritage Carousel in Union Park, open all summer; it is hand-carved, hand-painted, and has 30 animals and two chariots; that’s historical and fun; the Jordan House on Fuller Road is an 1850’s Victorian house that was an official site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom; that’s historical and informative.

The Iowa State Capitol is where I’ll spend a lot of my time, the first one I’ve come to that has five domes to explore! The Des Moines River is very angry now due to all the storms that have been passing through, so not much chance of a lunch or dinner cruise on the Jon Anderson White Riverboat just down the hill from the Capitol; that would have been fun and another great way to catch a riverview perspective of the city.

27 couple at farmLiving History Farms – the farmer in me likes the sound of that; a 500-acre, open-air museum. It’s all set up to tell the story of Midwestern agriculture and rural life; interpreters wear period costumes and recreate the daily routines of early Iowans; there is a 1700 Ioway Indian Village, an 1850 Pioneer Farm, an 1875 Frontier Town, a 1900 Horse-Powered Farm, and an Exhibit Center. Always something special going on, such as Pioneer Weddings, and Day 27 4th livingCamps; there’ll be an Independence Day celebration July 4th with pie eating contests, foot races, spelling bees, and an 1875-rules baseball game. Barbecue, lemonade, and ice cream fresh churned (powered by a 1940’s John Deere engine); I know where I’ll catch my patriotism on the 4th, who could resist that?.

27 salisburyI’ll need a rest day after that; so, a visit to the more sedate Salisbury House and Gardens on Tonawanda Drive; it’s a 42-room 1920’s mansion filled with antiques from around the world; I’m interested in the story behind that. At the 110,000 square-foot Science Center I can head straight for the IMAX to catch a movie; Born To Be Wild (rainforests of Borneo!) and Flight Of The Butterflies (where do they go in the fall?) are playing now, I see.

27 world food prizeIn the food-growing state of Iowa, I definitely have to set a day aside to catch the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. The World Food Prize is known as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture;” at the Hall of Laureates they have both art and interactive exhibits that show global achievements in science, agriculture, and humanitarian efforts to keep the world fed.

Stay tuned, I’m catching on to Des Moines, though I haven’t even started researching the restaurants people are fond of here. A little bird told me about Fong’s Pizza, Des Moines first 27river viewand only Chinese-Pizza place, offering Crab Rangoon Pizza; Food Network Magazine named it the Best Pizza in Iowa in 2011. That same little bird told me about The Royal Mile, a British pub; Hessen Haus, for traditional German food; Buzzard Billy’s for Cajun; and Mullets, which has been voted as having “the best breakfast in town” and has a deck overlooking the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers; one more delightful way to catch a river view.