Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Iowa State Capitol

I'm a big fan of backyard tourism, or exploring local areas. I adore traveling, but our budget and schedule don't allow for fair flung exotic locales. We did do an amazing road trip last summer, but more often our adventures are all within a few hours of our home.

(Time for a confession: while I love traveling, I actually haven't been anywhere that requires a passport. I don't even have a passport. All the paperwork is filled out and ready to go. I just haven't been able to justify paying the fee when I know that the furthest I plan on going from home is the west coast.)

This last weekend, we made a trip to Des Moines, Iowa's capitol city. We've been to Des Moines quite a few times, and always enjoy our visits. We've been to the State Fair, the zoo, and the science center.

This trip, the weather was predicted to be cold and miserable, so any outdoor activities were automatically excluded. We liked the science center, but wanted to try something else. A friend suggested we tour the state capitol building. Apparently, many other people agree, because it is TripAdvisor's number one attaction in Des Moines.

Once we decided we were going to do this, I actually felt a little silly that we hadn't gone before. On our road trip, we made a concerted effort to stop at all the capitol buildings for each state we drove through (even Florida, which ended up being a big detour, because there isn't really a direct route from southern Florida to Tallahasee.) We'd seen the state capitol buildings of South Carolina and Kentucky, but not our own State.

On the outside, the Capitol Building is beautiful, with its gold-leafed dome and ornate architecture.

Inside, it's even more impressive. 

We decided to take a formal almost 2 hour tour so we could see all the rooms, even the ones that are normally locked during the weekend. I was a little nervous about how Duck would do. But securely on my back in his new mei tai wrap, he was actually happy nearly the entire time. The tour guide actually kept commenting about how he was the friendliest two year old she'd ever seen, since he kept peeking over my shoulder to say hi to her.

The tour was absolutley worth it, and if you ever find yourself in Des Moines with a couple of hours to spare, I cannot recommend this enough.  I initially worried the length of the tour might be too much for my children. No need to worry, it turns out. Bug and even Monkey were attentive the entire time and we all learned so much.

First, we started by standing in the rotunda underneath the main dome. All the lights and windows made for the most impressive view.

Down each hall way, we were surrounded by amazing carvings and impressive hand painted walls. 

Both the chamber for the senate and the house of representatives contained amazing chandeliers and stained glass windows. 

Being allowed to sit on 130 year old furniture scared me, especially with the swinging feet of my 8 year old son.

Beautiful mosaics lined the upper hall way. I loved seeing the amazement in my boys' faces when they realized that the huge pictures were actually all tiny pieces of tile.

Far and away my favorite place in the entire building was the library. It almost puts the library in Disney's Beauty and the Beast to shame. Because this one is real (although knowing that it is filled with law books and not amazing literature did slightly diminsh its appeal.) 

The spiraling staircases, the balconies, the smell of books. I could have stayed there all day. But the tour guide said I had to leave when she did. 

Hubster and the boys got to go up and walk around the highest walkway in the dome. Children under the age of 6 are not allowed up there. I stayed down below with Duck and took the opportunity to take even more pictures.

Touring a capitol building may not be what most people think of as a fun family adventure. However, when it's combined with history, impressive architecture, and a lot of winding staircases, it's the perfect afternoon spent being tourists in our own state.


  1. It has been years since I have been there. I am originally from Des Moines and I have been there many times with field trips as a student and as a parent with my boys. We do have a beautiful state capitol and the history is great there.

  2. Wow that is an amazing building! That library really is awesome. What a great place to take your kids and help them learn things along the way