One of my absolute favorite things to do in the summer in Des Moines is to attend the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market. The market happens every Saturday morning from 7-12 AM from May – October. The Market supports 300 local companies that include artisans, bakers, farmers, restaurants, and more. The vendors at the Market represent 50 counties across Iowa. The open-air market is held across nine city blocks in Historic District in downtown Des Moines known locally as the Court Avenue District.
The Market began in 1976 with only 15 vendors and an average of 200 visitors and only were open July – September. That sure didn’t last though. As of today, the Market boasts nearly 300 vendors and an average of 25,000 visitors each Saturday.
Honestly, downtown Des Moines isn’t the easiest place for parking. You will probably have ot pay at a parking ramp or on a side street somewhere. However, there are approximately 30,000 public parking spots and 4,000 meters. The meters are free on the weekend though. There are plenty of parking garages in Des Moines, but you have to make sure you find the ones closest to the Market.
As of 2017, the Market has partnered with Des Moines Regional Transit Authority (DART) to help with visitors parking near the D-Line get to the Market. You can find out more about parking transportation from the link here.
As mentioned above, the vendors range from artisans, bakers, entrepreneurs, farmers, etc. The Market has a multitude of fresh produce stands, one of my favorites is the all cheese stand, with produce from all over Iowa.
Additionally, there are multitudes of food stands. They range from Chinese, Indian, El Salvadorian, smoothies, pastries, breakfast stands, popcorn, and so so many more. And trust me, you can’t beat egg rolls at 7:30 on a beautiful morning. One of my absolute favorites is a local pastry shop called La Mie that has my favorite chocolate croissants. Tip: Don’t just go to the first one you see, walk around and see what hits your stomach and your wallet. Each stand will have different prices so it is good to check around. (My chocolate croissant costs me $2.25, and many of the breakfast sandwiches range from $4-7).
Many of the local restaurants on the street open around 10 and you can treat yourself to some morning drinking.
In addition to food, there are also artisans. What you will mostly see are jewelry, pottery, yard ornaments, clothing, and baskets. They all range in price and style so make sure you check around. Also, not every stand can take cards some only take cash, so make sure you have some with you just in case! (Don’t fret too much though, if you need cash there are ATMs around, but they will charge you a fee).
NOTE: Not every vendor will be there every weekend. Some come and go and you can use this link to see what will be there each week or there is also an informational stand at the Market with a list of all the vendors who are there that day. My parents and I went there recently to see a potter we liked and forgot to check and he wasn’t there, so check before hand if you are going for something specific.
Why I love the Farmers Market
Oh let me count the ways. But seriously, who can’t beat walking around on a beautiful Saturday morning surrounded by fresh produce, foods, and art. And honestly, most of the time I don’t actually go to buy anything, but just to experience the atmosphere. If I really like something I may buy it or come back another weekend and get it.
I love being in the crowd and seeing what everyone has to offer and tasting all of the free food that they have. It is worth the trip to experience something that everyday Iowans do every Saturday in the summer.