There’s so much to do in Downtown Des Moines. Take time to explore for a day, weekend, or more! And don’t miss a stop at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park.
The sculpture park is a one-of-a-kind outdoor art exhibit for all ages. Located on Downtown Des Moines’ western edge, it’s part of the 13-acre Western Gateway Park.
A Brief History of the Sculpture Park
John and Mary Pappajohn donated 31 pieces of sculpture art to the Des Moines Art Center. Made by world-renowned artists, the pieces were the starting point for the unique art exhibit.
The park came to life in 2009 as a joint effort. The Pappajohn’s, Des Moines Art Center, and the City of Des Moines, along with corporate and private donors, made it all possible.
Ways to Explore Pappajohn Sculpture Park
There are many ways to explore the sculpture park, from wandering through on your own to guided tours.
The park offers plenty of green space, accessible sidewalks, and benches throughout. Bring a picnic or grab a coffee, relax, and enjoy this extraordinary display of modern and contemporary art.*
*To preserve the sculpture’s beauty and integrity, please don’t touch, climb, or sit on them. The exception to this rule is Scott Burton’s Seating for Eight, which offers the perfect photo op!
Use the Exploration Guide. Explore the Sculpture park on your own with the free, printable Exploration Guide from the Art Center. There is so much to do in this guide! It’s perfect for small group activities, with lots of suggestions kids enjoy.
Take an audio tour. Take your audio tour by phone or online.
For a phone audio tour, dial 515-657-8264 and enter the stop number of a sculpture you want to learn about. To go to the next sculpture, press # and the number of the new stop. There are 33 stops, and you stay on the phone or hang up and call back as often as you like.
For more details, go here, or download a transcript.
Learn about the park from home. Want to learn more before your visit? Learn about many of the park’s sculptures online through the Des Moines Public Art Foundation.
Schedule a guided tour through the Des Moines Art Center from April through October. Tours must be scheduled three weeks in advance and are available during limited days and times. See the Des Moines Art Center site to schedule a guided tour.
Visit the Sculpture Park today!
Pappajohn Sculpture Park is located 1330 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50309.
Park hours are sunrise to midnight.
Parking. Metered parking is available nearby, at Grand Avenue, Locust Street, 15th Street, and 13th Street. Paid parking is available at 10th and Mulberry, 9th and Locust, and at the Nationwide Insurance ramp at 12th and Mulberry. Ramp parking is $1 per hour ($10 max).
For more parking information, see the Downtown Des Moines Parking Map.
Take the D-Line. DART offers a free Downtown Des Moines shuttle. It runs a loop from the Western Gateway (near the Sculpture Park) to the East Village, every 10-15 minutes.
No public restrooms are available at the park. Find restrooms nearby at the Des Moines Central Library, at 1000 Grand Avenue. Some local restaurants also have facilities for patrons.
Things To Do Nearby
When you’re visiting Pappajohn Sculpture Park, you’ll find many other things to do in Downtown Des Moines.
Restaurants near the park include Jimmy Johns, Americana, Centro, and the Exile Brewing Company, to name a few. Or grab a coffee at Horizon Line Coffee or a few blocks east at Starbucks.
Visit the Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden on Grand and 15th. Enjoy 2500 beautiful plants, including a shade garden, meadow, perennial garden, and more! The test garden is a display and photo studio for their publications. They’re usually open to the public on Fridays, from May-October, from noon – 2:00 pm (or you can schedule a tour). See the BHG website or call 515-284-3994 before heading out to make sure they’re open.
Experience more of the great outdoors at Gray’s Lake Park and Des Moines Water Works Park. Both are about a mile south of the sculpture park. You can reach these parks by foot or bike via the SW 15th Trail/Meridith Trail. Or drive south on Fleur about a mile. The parks make up over 1500 acres of urban parkland, with lots of trails and other outdoor activities.