Top Tips for an Iowa State Capitol Tour

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Have you been thinking about taking an Iowa State Capitol tour? It was on my list of things to do for quite some time! Now that I’ve done it, I can tell you it’s definitely worth your time to tour the Iowa Capitol building.

Des Moines, Iowa, Capitol

While I’ve known for a while (I’m talking years here) that we could tour the Iowa State Capitol building, we hadn’t made the time to do it. While we were at the Capitol for the march this weekend, I made a comment about how some weekend we need to make time to take a tour of the Capitol.

“Why not now?” my husband suggested.

Iowa State Capitol Tour with Kids

I wasn’t sure we’d be able to get a tour by just walking in last minute. I was surprised to learn that tours run regularly Monday through Saturday, and while they recommend scheduling a tour, they can often accommodate walk-ins. 

We went through security and were able to quickly join a guided tour that had started a few minutes prior. The front desk was incredibly helpful and let us join an in-progress tour as we didn’t want to wait a half hour for the next one (waiting and kids don’t always mix well). 

Our guide was friendly, knowledgeable, and adept at entertaining the mix of adults and kids in our group. I wasn’t sure how interested my kids would be in the tour, but they LOVED it! 

We all learned a lot about the Des Moines Capitol, from its history to the interior decor to funny stories about our state senators.

The one thing I enjoyed about doing this tour on a Saturday was that we had access to several rooms we wouldn’t have been allowed in during the weekdays. The library, for example, was my favorite room. 

The Library of the Des Moines Capitol with 4 stories and winding staircase.

If the House and/or the Senate were in session, our guide wouldn’t have been able to speak while we were in those rooms. That’s where we got all of the good stories – another benefit of a Saturday tour! 

However, I would like to go back during the week sometime so we could see the building while it’s bustling.

Des Moines, Iowa, Capitol

The Iowa Statehouse was built from 1871-1886 and displays magnificent 19th-century architecture. The gorgeous dome is gilded with 23-karat gold leaf. The highlight of our tour came at the very end when we had the option to go up into that amazing dome! 

Unfortunately, children need to be ages 6+ to climb up into the dome. Our youngest is 5 1/2  and our oldest is afraid of heights. There was nowhere for them to wait by themselves, so Hubs had to miss out while our middle child and I went. 

We loved looking down and being so close to the top, but the walk up the winding narrow staircase was a tad dizzying for me and a few others in our group.

Looking up into the dome of the Iowa State Capitol.

Tips for Touring the Des Moines Capitol Building

Where is the Iowa State Capitol building? The Iowa Capitol building is located at 1007 E. Grand Avenue in Des Moines

Where do you park at the Iowa State Capitol? Complimentary parking is available in the Capitol Complex Parking Garage located at the corner of East Grand Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. Metered parking is also available on the street surrounding the building.

What time are Iowa State Capitol tours? Tours are available Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm, and Saturday 8 am to 4 pm. Tours last approximately 75 to 90 minutes.

What is the cost to tour the Des Moines Capitol? Tours are free. You can book a tour by calling 515-281-5591. The tour guides and gift shop are located on the ground floor of the rotunda. For more info, visit: 

Des Moines, Iowa, Capitol

I’m still shocked at how well the kids did with this tour and how much they learned. There’s also an option to do a self-tour of the building, but I highly recommend doing a guided tour because you get good, inside info.

Whether you live nearby or are planning to visit Iowa, I highly recommend making a plan to tour the Iowa State Capitol today!

About the Author

Ashlen Sheaffer is a proud Des Moines resident who was born and raised here. Ashlen wears many hats: mom, wife, daycare provider at her in-home daycare, blogger and co-owner at The Kidsperts, children’s book author, and co-director and producer for the upcoming play Expressing Motherhood play. In her free time Ashlen enjoys exploring all Des Moines has to offer, road trips, and adventuring all with the kids in tow. Ashlen is super excited to be able to share some of her family’s adventuring with other Iowans and get other families out into the community.

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One thought on “Top Tips for an Iowa State Capitol Tour

  1. Will capital tours on September 28 be occurring?

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