Discover Des Moines

A tiny town with tons of charm

Photos by Rachel Coward

Loaded with local-owned restaurants, specialty shops, outdoor recreation and lively events, Des Moines is one of the best-kept secrets in the South Sound. Home to about 30,000 residents, Des Moines hugs the Puget Sound between Seattle and Tacoma. This charming little town is a wonderful escape from the hustle and bustle of nearby cities, especially in summer, when it really comes alive.

With everything from fast food to fine dining, Des Moines has something to suit just about every palate. For those wanting a little ethnic flavor, Arturo’s Mexican Restaurant, Lago Azul and Athens Pizza and Pasta will tickle your taste buds. Athens Pizza and Pasta offers a variety of pizzas, grinders, salads and starters with a Greek flair. Try the Athens special pizza with salami, sausage, green peppers, onions, pepperoni, mushrooms and cheese, or a traditional Greek entrée like moussaka, gyros, tyropita or spanakopita. It’s one of the best pizza places around.

Seafood lovers have several options to choose from, including area staples like Anthony’s Home Port and Salty’s Waterfront Seafood Grill at Redondo, both with excellent happy hours and seasonal specials. For a more casual dining experience, check out Wally’s Chowder House for fresh clams, broiled halibut, coconut prawns or king salmon. Wally’s is a popular spot, so plan on a little wait time.

Want a burger? The Lighthouse Lounge has you covered with a burger so juicy it comes wrapped in waxed paper to keep all the goodies inside. Delicious fries, clam strips and adult beverages can be found here, too.

REC_9866Auntie Irene’s is a convenient stop on the way to work for your morning espresso. Enjoy a homemade pastry, cookie or muffin with your java, or swing by for a lunchtime sandwich or an ice cream cone to top off your day. If you’ve got a little time, enjoy your treats in the outdoor seating area.

For a casual but elegant dining experience, The Scotch and Vine is an excellent choice. With more than 250 single malts and a selection of beer and wine, this cozy bistro boasts an inviting atmosphere with creative chefs and an attentive staff that will make you feel like you’re the only guest. For a quick bite, try a selection of artisan cheeses, squirrel food — a house-made candied nut sampler — the S&V charcuterie platter, seared scallops or steak skewers served over black bean corn salsa with chipotle garlic aioli. For something a little heartier, you can’t go wrong with a Kobe burger, ribeye steak or seafood puntanesca.


Saturday farmers market

Shopping and Specialty Stores

Des Moines doesn’t have a shopping district, but it has shops and specialty stores sprinkled throughout, most on or near the main drag, Marine View Drive. B & E Meats and Seafood is the next thing to heaven for foodies, offering a variety of fresh meats and seafood, rubs, sauces and seasonings. Whether you are entertaining two or 20, you’ll find delicious salmon, scallops, prawns, crab cakes, rib roasts, pork chops, bacon and more, sure to delight guests.

Looking for unique snacks or gifts? Check out Freedom Snacks on 219th Street. You can buy in bulk to create your own popcorn buffet, or order smaller sizes, choosing from dozens of unique flavors and gourmet combinations. Want something sweet? Try fruity confetti, sea salt caramel or red velvet. Prefer something a little salty? Try bacon cheddar, buttermilk ranch or a favorite, Chicago style, a tasty mix of cheddar and caramel popcorn.

Quilters will love Carriage Country Quilts, which features hand-dyed wool, fabrics, patterns, quilt kits, books and classes. Gardeners will enjoy Zenith Holland Gardens, Des Moines’ oldest business. Though primarily a wholesale company, it’s open to the public on weekends during summer.


Des Moines has nearly 20 parks and trails, including the Des Moines Marina and Redondo pier, boat launch and boardwalk. It also offers parks, playgrounds, lookout points and walking and biking trails. Next to the marina, Des Moines Beach Park on Cliff Avenue is a great spot for picnicking or just enjoying the magnificent view. It is adjacent to Des Moines Creek Trail, a relatively flat, paved trail that runs between Des Moines and SeaTac. Saltwater State Park, an 85-acre park, is also in Des Moines.

For those looking for indoor recreation, the Mount Rainier Pool has lap swimming, swimming lessons, classes and open swim time. Along Redondo Beach is the Marine Science and Technology Center which features an aquarium with touch tanks and 250 native Puget Sound species.

REC_9640How do you say Des Moines?

Our readers were split about whether the s (both of them) in Des Moines was silent. According to the Des Moines Historical Society’s past president, Richard T. Kennedy, both are silent: “Yes, I can confirm that both s’s in Des Moines are silent. The Des Moines Historical Society is in possession of early 20th century photographs where the name is often written as ‘Des Moin.’ There is also a motion (possibly in the 1980s) by the Des Moines City Council stating that the s’s are silent.”


Des Moines offers a lively lineup of summer events, including the incredibly popular Saturday farmers markets and free summer concerts at Des Moines Beach Park. Plan for the Poverty Bay Blues and Brews Fest on Aug. 23, a fundraiser hosted by the Des Moines Rotary Club to benefit Music4Life.

The next time you’re looking for a mini escape, or just want a change of pace, check out Des Moines, where you’ll find good food, fun and adventure around every corner. Learn more at Des Moines.

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