When we think of vacation destinations, Des Moines, Iowa, is hardly the first to spring to mind. We conjure up images of bustling metropolises like Manhattan and Los Angeles, picturing sidewalks swarmed by passerby pedestrians and immaculate skyscrapers penetrating the clouds. Yet, what if we could have access to all the amenities big name big cities offer while enjoying a smaller and more intimate atmosphere? Enter Des Moines.

A hub of activity, Des Moines mimics Chicago’s metropolitan lifestyle but also boasts the personal touch of a small town. Friendly neighbors and local businesses are always willing to embrace someone, or something, new and it shows when you walk through the city streets. Congenial smiles greet you from every direction and even those in a rush have a minute to give you directions.

That’s why the next time you’re looking for a quick getaway to a new and exciting spot, you should heavily consider Iowa’s capital. Here’s a quick itinerary for those looking to make the most of their short time ‘flyover’ state’s reason to stop:

La Mie

First and foremost, you need to visit La Mie, the bakery over on 42nd street. Their delighted pastries have delighted customers for decades and their local passion for product reminds you of the old New York, the Manhattan before big banks and homogenization faded out small business. Remember the taste of food prepared not with precision, but with love.

Des Moines Art Center

On par with artistic centers even in the Big Apple, the Des Moines Art Center houses some phenomenal pieces created by the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Francis Bacon, and even Josef Albers. It was initially designed by Eliel Saarinen and expanded later by I.M. Pei and Richard Meier, which has collectively given it an aesthetic that is truly second to none.

The sculpture garden and rose gardens are fantastic displays for those looking to appreciate art while taking a nice picnic. As your eyes feast on mankind’s highest cultural accomplishments, your mouth devours homemade lunches. Save some cash by not eating out and find a better dining experience than you originally thought possible in this small town big city.

Downtown

Venture down to the central business district of the thriving city and take a moment to soak in the sights. The area’s unique architecture is due to the variety of boutiques and small business, one of which is West End Architectural Salvage. Over four stories are filled to the brim with antiques, guaranteeing any collector that they are bound to find something that resonates. There’s also a coffee shop on the ground floor to give you that extra push should you find yourself slowing down.

In the wake of ever expanding big business, America struggles to retain its identity. While Manhattan and Chicago become uniform reflections of bland corporate culture, Des Moines goes against the grain. Although growing, it sacrifices nothing in the way of community, culture, or history. It is a gem of individuality, and it is time America unearthed it.