What's it like to live in Des Moines, IA?

Profile written by local expert:

Sara Diekelmann

The capital of this so-called flyover state may not top your to-visit list, but Des Moines is a great place to live and raise a family. Elegant colonial and Tudor-style homes built in the early 1900s hide in quiet neighborhoods minutes from buzzy downtown, where lofts and condos draw the younger crowd. Many families with kids flock to the suburbs where new housing developments continually pop up.

And there's plenty to do and see in Des Moines. Cultural events and festivals draw all ages to the downtown area. One-of-a-kind shops, locally owned restaurants and hip bars enliven entertainment districts. And plenty of bike trails and parks (and even a few lakes) provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.

The metro area of more than 600,000 has a small-town, know-your-neighbor feel to it. It's a place where you'll bump into people you know at the grocery store and get invited to backyard barbecues. Newcomers, take note: The people of Des Moines are some of the nicest you'll ever meet.


U.S. News analyzed 150 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people's desire to live there.

Des Moines, Iowa is ranked:

#7 in Best Places to Live

#52 in Best Places to Retire

#2 in Safest Places to Live

#3 in Cheapest Places to Live

#18 in Best Places to Live for Quality of Life




Best Places to Live

  • Desirability
  • Value
  • Job Market
  • Quality of Life
  • Net Migration

Read how we rank places

Des Moines, IA Quick Stats

  • 634,201

    Metro Population

  • $52,220

    Average Annual Salary

  • 60.3° / 41.4°

    Avg High/Low Temps

  • 35.8

    Median Age

  • $196,067

    Median Home Price

  • 36.0 inches

    AVG Annual Rainfall

  • 2.7%

    Unemployment Rate

  • $880

    Median Monthly Rent

  • 20.4 minutes

    Avg Commute Time

What is there to do in Des Moines, IA?

Residents enjoy the performing arts at a number of different venues, including the Civic Center and the Wells Fargo Arena. For outdoorsy types, the metro area boasts 600 miles of biking and walking trails, and the nearby Ledges State Park and Jester Park are great for hiking and camping.

Baseball fans cheer on the minor league Iowa Cubs. Other favorites include the Iowa Wolves (basketball), the Des Moines Buccaneers (hockey), the Iowa Wild (hockey) and the Iowa Barnstormers (arena football).

From May through October, the downtown farmers market spreads out across eight blocks in the Court District, and festivals like the Des Moines Arts Festival in June energize the region. And, yes, locals do visit the annual Iowa State Fair to glimpse the life-size butter cow sculpture and taste the latest food on a stick.

What's the cost of living in Des Moines, IA?

The cost of living in Des Moines is lower than the national average. Housing prices in Des Moines proper are well below the national median. Downtown, housing costs tend to be especially reasonable. But venture out to suburban areas like West Des Moines, Ankeny and Urbandale, and home prices increase.

Looking for financial advice? Find a local financial advisor in Des Moines, Iowa.

Value Index

Index Score: 8.4 /10

How we calculate this.

Des Moines offers a better value than similarly sized metro areas when you compare housing costs to median household income.

Housing Costs 2019

Des Moines


Housing Costs Over Time

Data sourced from Zillow median home sale price data series. Additional data provided by the Austin Board of Realtors, Houston Association of Realtors, Intermountain MLS, Omaha Area Board of Realtors, San Antonio Board of Realtors, and the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Buying or selling a home? Find top real estate agents in Des Moines, IA.

What's the weather like in Des Moines, IA?

In the winter, expect a handful of snow days and low temps. At the first sign of spring, eager school kids wear shorts and flip-flops, even if it's only 50 degrees out. Iowans relish late spring and summertime when temperatures warm. August is often hot and humid, while fall is typically cool and pleasant for football games, tailgating and trips to area orchards.

Seasonal Temperature (Avgs)









Seasonal Rainfall (Avgs)

1.4 in


4.7 in


4.9 in


3.1 in


Monthly High and Low Temperatures (°F)

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center.

What's the best way to get around Des Moines, IA?

Navigating Des Moines is easy, but you'll need a car. Unfortunately, the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority only offers limited bus service on nights and weekends.

Downtown Des Moines and the historic East Village are walkable, and certain streets have bike lanes. Des Moines also offers the BCycle bike-share program. Plus, downtown has a skywalk system, which makes getting around downtown on foot more comfortable on chilly days.

Des Moines International Airport is a 15-minute drive from downtown and is serviced by American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Air. Charter buses also stop in the region, while Amtrak trains stop in Osceola, about an hour south of Des Moines.

Commuting in Des Moines, IA

Means of Transportation
Above national average

Equal to national average

Equal to national average

Public Transit
Below national average
Average Commute Time

20.4 minutes

6.2 minutes less than national average

Average Commute Times by Zip Code

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

Who lives in Des Moines, IA?

Des Moines' strong job market, low cost of living and entertainment options have lured many young professionals to the metro area. In fact, many area homebuyers are between 25 and 34 years old. Young families are part of that buying boom, and the fast-expanding surrounding suburbs are known for top-notch schools and clean, safe neighborhoods.

Residents of Des Moines are well-educated, with almost 90% obtaining a high school degree and a quarter receiving a bachelor's degree.

Almost half of metro area's residents consider themselves religious. The most prevalent affiliations are mainline Protestant, evangelical Protestant and Catholic.

Age Distribution

Marital Status Breakdown

Fewer single people in Des Moines than
national average

Data sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey.