"Spider" by Louise Bourgeois at the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park.
Why Now: With the U.S. presidential campaign season heating up, candidates swoop into Iowa almost daily to vie for attention ahead of the Iowa caucuses. They base their campaign offices in Des Moines, where they’re within easy reach of festivals and county fairs. This is your big chance to shake hands with a future president.
Where to Go: Spend the night at the Renaissance Savery Hotel, for years a favorite of politicians and journalists. It’s a stone’s throw away from the East Village, a quirky, never-been-hotter neighborhood at the foot of the state capitol. Among the area’s 60 or so indie shops are Domestica, known for handmade Etsy-esque home décor, and Raygun, a lofty design studio and showroom that prints clever, irreverent tees. Grab lunch at Zombie Burger + Drink Lab, where the Dead Moines burger comes with smoked Gouda, prosciutto, ham and truffle mayo. Or duck into tiny Tacopocalypse for bacon-chorizo, wasabi brisket and other unconventional tacos. Refueled, stroll along a revitalized riverfront or through the world-class John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. But even here, don’t always count on calm: The area by the park hosts the nationally recognized Des Moines Art Festival (June 26-28) and the 80/35 Music Festival (July 10-11), this year with Weezer and Wilco as headliners.