City Spotlight: Des Moines

Frontdesk welcomes you to Des Moines, IA! The “Hartford of the West” is the most populous city and the state capital of Iowa. Des Moines (DSM) is most well known for hosting the Iowa State Fair and the country’s first caucuses during election season. This city has a lot to offer to both locals and visitors alike. Keep reading to learn more about what to do, where to eat, and how to get around Des Moines.

Things to do in Des Moines

There are many fun things to see and do in Des Moines. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, there is a wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy.

Iowa State Capitol

Iowa State Capitol Building

The iconic gold dome is a symbol of the city, but nothing compares to visiting it in-person. Free tours are available Monday through Saturday, where you can see the house of representatives, admire the amazing architecture of the dome, and explore the huge five-story law library, which houses more than 100,000 volumes!

Des Moines Botanical Garden

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is home to thousands of plants and flowers, with a greenhouse dome, plus seven acres of outdoor gardens. They are known for their Bonsai collection but have more uncommon plant species as well. The Botanical Garden hosts many events, from blues concerts to yoga and more.

Downtown Farmer's Market in Des Moines Iowa

Downtown Farmer’s Market

This isn’t your average farmer’s market. From May to October, between 25,000 to 40,000 visitors come each Saturday for great food, fresh produce, flowers, handmade crafts, and more! The Downtown Farmer’s Market even hosts events year-round, so you can join in the fun no matter what time of year you visit!

Des Moines Art Center

Des Moines Art Center

Des Moines Art Center has an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, modern art, and mixed media by the likes of Grant Wood, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frank Hopper, and more. It also includes the famous Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Even better? It’s completely free!

Best Restaurants and Bars in Des Moines

If you want to sit down to a large, hearty brunch, Mullets Restaurant is the place to go. They serve up three-egg omelets, breakfast burritos, meatloaf hashbrowns, and much more. All in a location overlooking the downtown skyline. There is usually a bit of a wait, so if you need a more on-the-go breakfast, pop into Scenic Route Bakery for a quick cup of coffee and breakfast pastry.

What do you get when you cross Asian fusion with pizza? Fong’s. It may not sound like it goes together, but trust us, it does. Fong’s Pizza is a Des Moines staple that even Food Network star Alton Brown has raved about. We recommend trying their most popular dish, the Crab Rangoon Pizza.

For dinner, head to Zombie Burger, one of the most popular restaurants in Des Moines. On their menu, you’ll find more than 25 inventive “gore-met” burger creations, plus more than a dozen milkshakes that can be spiked with alcohol on request. Vegans will be happy to hear that there are a few plant-based options on the menu (although you’ll have to skip the shakes). Great burgers + boozy milkshakes = sign us up!

For beer lovers, check out Confluence Brewing. The taproom has more than 30 beers on tap and there is also an outdoor beer garden for when the weather is nice. The laid-back establishment even has board games you can play while you drink. Or, head to Hello, Marjorie for some great craft cocktails.

Hidden Gems in Des Moines

  • The Hall – a cafeteria-style food hall with beer and different food trucks daily
  • Iowa Beef Steakhouse – pick out your own cut of steak and grill it up yourself over charcoal
  • Flying Mango – barbeque restaurant that also features Carribean and Cajun flavors
  • RAYGUN – a t-shirt symposium known for its quirky, witty sayings on shirts
  • High Trestle Trail Bridge & Gray’s Lake Park pedestrian bridge – public art pieces with LED and colored lights
  • Salisbury House – historical Tudor mansion that offers tours
High Trestle Trail Bridge in Des Moines Iowa

Des Moines Neighborhoods

East Village in Des Moines Iowa

The bustling Downtown Des Moines area is made up of several smaller districts. It is home to great attractions like Pappajohn Sculpture Park, the Science Center, and the Des Moines Civic Center where you can catch a Broadway show.

East Village
East Village, technically considered part of Downtown, is a trendy historic neighborhood located just east of Downtown. The area features historic buildings, boutique shopping like RAYGUN, music venues, and award-winning restaurants and bars.

Historic Court District
The Historic Court District is Downtown’s pedestrian-friendly entertainment district. Here you will find lots of cultural and entertainment attractions, plus the Downtown Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.

West Des Moines
West Des Moines has several shopping districts with a blend of boutique shops and big-box retailers, plus great dining options such as The Hall. Here you will also find lots of parks and trails, including the 631-acre Raccoon River Park.

Fort Des Moines
The Historic Fort Des Moines area, located to the south, is home to the 117-acre Fort Des Moines Park and lake, as well as Blank Park Zoo, which is the only accredited zoo in Iowa.

Historic Court District in Des Moines Iowa

Our Favorite Suites

Best Way to Get Around Des Moines

Des Moines is a very bike-friendly city, with miles of bike trails and a bike-sharing program. You can also opt to use the DART shuttle service, which has many free routes. Downtown Des Moines also has four miles of climate-controlled Skywalks. Plus, there is always the option to take a taxi or Uber/Lyft.

Frequently Asked Questions About Des Moines

The city was incorporated in 1851 as “Fort Des Moines,” which was shortened to just “Des Moines” in 1857.

The city was named after the Des Moines River, which likely was adapted from the early French name, Rivière des Moines, which means “River of the Monks.”

The Iowa State Fair is held every August in Des Moines, where you can eat anything you can imagine deep-fried on a stick, plus see the famous 600-pound butter sculpture of a cow. The dates for the 2020 fair are August 13-23.

Des Moines summers are warm, humid, and wet with temperatures in the 70-80° range. Winters are freezing, dry, and windy with temperatures between 20-40°. The most popular time of year to visit Des Moines is from early June to mid-September.

Music Lover’s Guide to Memphis

Memphis, Tennessee is known for two things: barbeque (we’ve got another blog on that) and music. From blues to soul to rock ‘n’ roll, Memphis’ history and modern-day world is JAM-packed with entertainment for all audiences. 

When visiting a new area, it’s hard to know where to begin your journey. Let us provide some Frontdesk help! Here are all the things you’ll want to include in your music lover itinerary for visiting Memphis.

Tours and Museums

Graceland Mansion
Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, is a must-visit for any music lover and offers a range of tour options. In Graceland Mansion, you can tour many rooms including the famous Jungle Room. In the Elvis Presley’s Memphis entertainment complex, you can tour the Elvis The Entertainer Career Museum, Presley Motors Automobile Museum, and the Elvis Discovery Exhibits.

Sun Studio
Sun Studio is a recording studio that opened in 1950 and is known as “the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll.” Legendary artists including B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded there. The studio offers 45-minute guided tours daily.

Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum
The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, located on Beale Street, offers a comprehensive look at the history of Memphis music from the 1930s through the 1970s. It highlights the influences of Beale Street and Sun, Stax, and Hi Records, as well as the impact of the civil rights movement. Audio-guided tours are offered daily.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music
Stax Museum, located on the original site of the Stax Records studio, pays tribute to the artists who recorded there as well as other American soul legends. The museum has more than 2,000 artifacts, interactive exhibits, films, and galleries. Tours are offered every day except Monday.

Tip: If you’re visiting all four, look into discount admission bundles like the Backstage Pass, which can be purchased at either the Stax Museum or the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music

Clubs and Music Venues

Beale Street
When you’re in Memphis, you’re visiting Beale Street – it’s non-negotiable! Beale Street encompasses three blocks of nightclubs and restaurants in downtown Memphis where you can hear the sounds of live music pouring out of almost every doorway. We recommend hopping between clubs to get the true Beale Street experience, but the most famous is likely B.B. King’s Blues Club.

Earnestine and Hazel’s
This dive bar was once frequented by legends like B.B. King, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, and more. It has a famous (haunted) jukebox plus live bands that play soul, jazz, and blues all night long – not to mention great burgers and beer.

Paula & Raiford’s Disco
Legendary disco owner and DJ Robert “Hollywood” Raiford opened his famous music club in 1976. While the current club stands in a different location than the original and is now run by his daughter Paula, the space is a reimagining of the original and is just as popular.

Hi-Tone Cafe
This bar and music venue hosts live shows most nights of the week, with music crossing all genres. It has two separate venue rooms and draws both touring headliners and local artists.

Places to Eat

Arcade Restaurant
The Arcade, known as Memphis’ oldest cafe, was one of Elvis Presley’s most frequented restaurants. The original booth where he would sit is still there and the restaurant also serves up a peanut butter banana sandwich, AKA the Elvis Sandwich.

Marlowe’s Ribs
Another favorite spot of The King, especially being located only 1.5 miles from Graceland, Marlowe has fully embraced its Elvis history. The barbeque joint, while known for its ribs, also serves an Elvis burger and a peanut butter banana sandwich, plus has lots of Elvis decor and memorabilia.

Jerry Lee Lewis Cafe & Honky Tonk
Rockabilly musician Jerry Lee Lewis opened the Cafe & Honky Tonk in 2013 on Beale Street. It is filled with Jerry Lee Lewis memorabilia including his piano, motorcycle, photos, and more. Live music plays every night and for food, they serve up delicious Southern favorites.

Rum Boogie Cafe
Also located on Beale Street is Rum Boogie Cafe. It houses music memorabilia including more than 200 autographed guitars from artists such as Elvis, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Booker T and the MGs, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, and more. Like the other clubs on Beale Street, live music plays nightly. Rum Boogie Cafe is known for its signature dishes like red beans and rice, fried catfish, and hickory-smoked BBQ ribs.

The Arcade Restaurant

Where to Stay

While visiting Memphis, you’ll want to stay somewhere in the middle of the action, close to all the popular attractions and restaurants. That’s where Frontdesk comes in. We offer many suites and short-term rentals that are conveniently located, that includes amenities needed to enjoy a comfortable and memorable stay. We recommend this colorful one bedroom with a pool and gym, this light and airy two bedroom with city views, or selecting a different Frontdesk Memphis suite to make your trip one to remember!

Travel Tips for the Holidays

It’s that time of the year again! As the crisp autumn air fades into the chill of winter, people across the country are beginning to prepare for all of the joy (and chaos) that the holidays bring. Here are some of our favorite holiday tips and tricks to ensure things run smoothly as you prepare for the festivities!

1. Plan Ahead

When it comes to holiday travel, planning ahead is key! Begin planning your trip as soon as your plans are set in stone so that you don’t miss out on the best holiday deals. Many travel experts say that booking your flights and travel accommodations at least 70 days in advance will ensure that you get the best deal despite the ever-fluctuating prices. Additionally, there are several great travel apps that you can download on your phone that alert you when good deals arise.

When looking for a place to stay during your travels, Frontdesk has everything you need to make you feel right at home! You can search all of our destinations as well as check out our current holiday availability here. We’d love to be your home away from home for the holidays!

2. Prepare for Delays

Unfortunately, as the weather changes in many parts of the country, travel delays can be a real concern during this time of year. If you’re like many travelers, you find yourself anxiously watching the weather during the time leading up to your departure. No matter how fine-tuned your weather watching skills are, most times it just ends up being a case of planning for the worst and hoping for the best! Additionally, most airlines typically offer travel insurance so that in the event of a delay or cancellation, they can offer some sort of compensation for your troubles!

While we’re sure things will go off without a hitch, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you’re not left out to dry if your travel plans are delayed or canceled. Make sure that your phone is fully charged on travel day, and bring a charger along in your carry on just in case. This way, you can receive real-time updates and have something to pass the time. Don’t forget to pack plenty of snacks and maybe a good book to accompany you during the delay.


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3. Packing Gifts

When visiting friends and relatives, it’s not uncommon to bring gifts to give to celebrate the season. However, you may find yourself on ice when it comes time to go through security with a wrapped gift. Generally, TSA doesn’t mind if you bring wrapped gifts in your carry on, however, they are required to unwrap the gift if it sets off any alarms while going through the scanner. Ho Ho No! In addition to making sure that your gift is TSA compliant, we recommend avoiding flying with wine or spirits, as they will have to go in your checked luggage and you run the risk of ruining your clothes should something happen during transport. You can avoid a Christmas calamity (and maybe even save some time) having your gifts shipped to your destination ahead of time!

4. Avoid Peak Travel Day

There’s nothing worse than a busy airport — and we mean nothing. You can avoid the long lines at security and jam-packed airport terminals by avoiding peak travel days and times during the holidays! Studies show that traveling early in the morning or as late as is available in the evening will typically offer you the lowest prices available. Here are the best days to travel around major holidays this year:

Best day to travel: Monday 11/25, Thanksgiving Day (11/28), Friday 11/29 (Black Friday), or anytime within the 2 weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday
Worst days to travel: Avoid traveling the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day or the Saturday/Sunday that follow. Data shows that over 50% of return flights for this holiday happen on the Sunday that follows.

Best day to travel: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or the Saturday that follows
Worst days to travel: Avoid travel on the weekend before Christmas and the Sunday after, if possible

We hope that you find our holiday travel tips and tricks useful during this busy and exciting time. Possibly the most important tip that we can give as you finalize your holiday travel plans is this: RELAX! The holidays are a special time to spend with the people you love, whether it be your family or friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season and forget what truly matters. Sit back, relax, breathe, and enjoy the moments spent with your loved ones. Happy Holiday planning!

Explaining the Frontdesk Guidebook

If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you’ve recently booked your stay with Frontdesk in one of our many coveted destinations. If you’re still looking for a place to stay during your travels, you can search and book directly through us! Whether you’re traveling to a destination you visit regularly or if this will be your first time in town, our local travel experts have put together a guidebook for each of one our destinations that fits every travel. We offer a downloadable PDF file, as well as a hard copy in each of our suites. Every city guidebook features a welcome section, a detailed neighborhood map, an individual breakdown of things to do in each neighborhood, and lastly a list of some of the hottest places to visit during your stay. Here’s how you can get the most out of our guidebooks during your travels!

"Welcome to the Neighborhood" Page

This page is self-explanatory but is definitely worth the read. This section of the guidebook is where you can find important contact information for your hosts during your stay, as well as local emergency contacts — just in case!

Neighborhood Map and Breakdown

Our neighborhood map is the pilot to the most popular areas of the destination you’re visiting. We’ve applied a description to each neighborhood outlining the character of the area. On the following pages, each neighborhood gets its time to shine! We’ve taken some of the guesswork out of the age-old question “What do you want to eat?” and have listed some of our favorite places to grab a bite or a nice drink in each of these hot spots. Take some time to flip through each of the neighborhood pages and read the descriptions we’ve given of each restaurant and bar to help you find exactly the fare that you’re looking for!

Places to Visit

Last but not least, we’ve included a list of the best places to visit while staying at a Frontdesk suite. There is something for everyone on our “Places to Visit” page. It includes everything from parks and breathtaking outdoor attractions, to local favorites, to popular tourist destinations and historical monuments. We do our best to make sure that each of our suggestions is close to one or more of our suites, as we strive to ensure everything about your stay is as convenient as possible!

Whether you choose to take advantage of a Frontdesk guidebook or if you’re a vigilante and like to explore the city on your own, we promise you’ll find that there is no end to the number of things to do and see in any of our Frontdesk destinations. Our guests are our top priority, and we strive to make sure that you are able to have a comfortable and convenient stay with us, no matter where your travels may take you! Don’t see the location you’re looking for? Check back often, as we are rapidly growing to become your go-to for a memorable stay.

City Spotlight: Phoenix

Frontdesk welcomes you to Phoenix, AZ! Nicknamed the “Valley of the Sun,” Phoenix is located in south-central Arizona in the Salt River Valley. Phoenix is known for its heat, sunshine, and landscape – and while you’ll certainly want to explore the outdoors, there is a lot to do there beyond hiking the mountains! The city is home to great tourist attractions and fantastic restaurants so however long you’re in town, you’ll find plenty to do.

Phoenix Vacations

Whether you prefer to keep busy and hit all the top attractions or to enjoy some pampering and relaxation, Phoenix will have something for you. This southwestern city makes a great vacation destination!

Phoenix Business Trips

If you tend to travel a lot for work, chances are you will end up in Phoenix because it is such a hub for business. Soak up the A/C while you’re working, but also be sure to venture out into the city to enjoy the views and all the activities Phoenix has to offer.

Phoenix Villages

Phoenix is a vast, and spread out city. It is separated into 15 urban villages: Ahwatukee Foothills, Alhambra, Camelback East, Central City, Deer Valley, Desert View, Encanto, Estrella, Laveen, Maryvale, North Gateway, North Mountain, Paradise Valley, Rio Vista, and South Mountain.

Central City (Downtown)
Central City Village, which is downtown Phoenix, is an entertainment and culture hub with the Arizona Science Center, Chase Field, the airport, and much more. Central City contains the walkable arts district Roosevelt Row and the historic Victorian-era Heritage Square. Downtown also hosts a monthly First Friday Art Walk.

South Mountain
South Mountain Village, located directly below Central City, is bordered by the South Mountain Park and Preserve to the south. This makes it a great area for hiking and to get great views of the city from high points. Here you can also visit the Mystery Castle, a unique 1930s stone palace with an interesting history.

Camelback East
Camelback East, located to the northeast of the downtown area, has several prominent landmarks. These include Papago Park, Piestewa Peak, Camelback Mountain, Arizona Biltmore, the Phoenix Zoo, and the Desert Botanical Gardens.

North Mountain
North Mountain Village is a quieter area north of downtown. It contains part of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, making it a great hiking spot, as well as a few golf courses and the Arizona State University West Campus.

Paradise Valley
To the north of Phoenix, is Paradise Valley Village. This village is known for its Paradise Valley Mall, which draws shoppers from around the region. This village also shares part of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, which means plenty of hiking trails and other recreational opportunities. Paradise Valley also has several country and golf clubs.

Phoenix Arizona

What is there to do in Phoenix?

Whether you prefer spending time outdoors, relaxing at the spa, or visiting top tourist attractions, Phoenix has no shortage of things to do. The city is also known for its great restaurants and bars! Here are a few of the hotspots we recommend checking out while in Phoenix, AZ.

Phoenix Zoo

The Phoenix Zoo in Phoenix Arizona

The Phoenix Zoo is the largest privately owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. It is home to more than 3,000 animals separated into four zones: Arizona Trail, Africa Trail, Tropics Trail, and the Children’s Trail (a petting zoo). You will see traditional zoo animals like tigers, giraffes, and elephants, as well as desert-native creatures and even stingrays. The zoo also has play areas, splash pads, camel rides, and a 4-D theater.

Desert Spas

The Aji Spa in Phoenix Arizona

Spas in Phoenix don’t just overlook the desert; many use desert botanicals and minerals as part of the spa experience and draw from Native American traditions. We recommend Aji Spa, a consistently top-rated luxury spa located about 20 minutes south of downtown. If you would prefer to stay close to downtown, The Roose Parlour and Salon is a day spa located in a historic house downtown. Facials, massages, pools, wraps … kick back and #treatyoself!

Mountains and Deserts

Camelback Mountain in Phoenix Arizona

Arizona is known for its beautiful desert scenery and rocky terrain. You can’t visit Phoenix without spending time outdoors, challenging yourself against nature! The top two peaks in Phoenix – both in terms of popularity and height – are Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak. If you want to explore the desert but don’t enjoy or aren’t able to hike, take a trip to the Desert Botanical Garden instead. It features 50,000 arid-landscape plants from around the world.

Musical Museum

Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix Arizona

Most cities top the charts with their art or history museums, but Phoenix’s top museum is a little more unique and niche. The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), located about 20 minutes north of downtown, was rated Phoenix’s #1 attraction by TripAdvisor. The MIM displays more than 6,800 musical instruments and objects from around the world. You will learn more about the music of other cultures, try out some instruments hands-on, and see memorabilia from famous musical artists.

The Barrio Cafe in Phoenix Arizona

Restaurants & Bars

Start your morning in Phoenix off right with a large omelette or stack of pancakes at Matt’s Big Breakfast. The menu has all your favorite breakfast items, made with cage-free eggs and local organic produce. Later, enjoy a slice at Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix’s famous pizza spot that celebs like Oprah and Martha Stewart have raved about. And of course, you can’t visit Arizona without enjoying some Mexican-inspired cuisine. Barrio Cafe serves up regional Mexican favorites like Cochinita Pibil and Chiles en Nogada – and yes, there are also tacos and guacamole for the less adventurous, plus over 200 tequilas.

For alcoholic options beyond tequila, head to Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Lounge. The stylish space has an extensive and innovative craft cocktail list as well as beer, wine, and late-night bites.

Frequently Asked Questions About Phoenix

The city was settled in 1867 as an agricultural community and incorporated as a city in 1881.

Phoenix was named after the mythical creature, to represent a city born from the ruins of a former civilization.
Both Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak are moderate to strenuous hikes that may not be suitable for beginners. Camelback has a 2,704 ft summit with paths that are uneven, narrow and rocky in parts. Piestewa has a 2,608 ft summit with many steep sections. The views from the top are certainly worth the challenge, though!

Hot! From May through September, temperatures average above 85°, reaching up to 107°. In November through March, temperatures average in the 40-60° range. Phoenix is generally dry and sunny.