This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my advertiser disclosure for more details.
Another one of our stops during our time in Des Moines was the Iowa State Capitol Building. I know what you’re probably thinking. I thought the same thing. Uhh, the Iowa Capitol Building? Why would that be high on your list of places to visit? Long story short? Because it’s stunning. Take a look for yourself:
When researching sites to see in Des Moines, the Iowa State Capitol Building was tops on pretty much every list. So, we decided to give it a try. And we were not disappointed! Not to mention, it is totally free! Even the guided tour options.
We opted for the guided tour option, and I’m glad that we did. It was great to have the highlights pointed out to us and explained as we went along.
For example, I probably would have been puzzled by this display of porcelain dolls in the Capitol Building:
But, as the tour guide explained, the dolls are meant to represent the former Iowa First Ladies (the wives of the governors). The dolls are dressed with gowns that are replicas of their inagurual gowns. Interestingly though, as the tour guide explained, Iowa elected its first female governor in 2017. So, her husband would be getting a “first spouse” doll as well in the collection!
Supreme Court Chamber Tour in Iowa State Capitol Building
Our tour included a stop in the Supreme Court Chamber, housed within the State Capitol Building:
There are intricate wooden carvings throughout the room. The guide also explained that Iowa increased the number of justices at some point (I can’t remember what year she said, but it was a long time ago). So, the intricate designs on the benches had to be replicated to make it longer to accommodate the new justices.
Iowa Capitol Building Inner Dome
The main star of the Capitol Building, however, is the huge rotunda / inner dome area. I had a hard time even fitting it in one camera shot since I didn’t have a wide angle lens!
As the tour progressed, we made our way to the very top of the rotunda (making many stops along the way). That allowed for even closer views of the details in the dome.
Ken even opted to go to the very top of the dome with the guide. Most of the tour group did as well, except for me. The tour guide warned that the walk to the top involved a very narrow staircase. Since I’m clumsy AF and know my limits, I decided to skip that part. (That might sound familiar if you’re a regular reader of the blog. You might remember I also skipped the spiral staircase at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona).
Anyway, here is a photo from the very top of the dome:
And, the staircase that the group took to get up (and down) from the top of the dome:
Artwork in the Iowa State Capitol Building
As we made our way toward the top of the building, our guide made many stops along the way. She took a lot of time explaining the intricate tile and artwork along the way.
As we got closer to some of them, she pointed out that many of them are actually individual tile chips put together to make a picture.
That tiled artwork reminded me a lot of the intricate tiled art we saw when we were in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Legislative Chambers at the Iowa State Capitol
Our tour guide also took us to both the Senate and House sides of the Iowa Capitol Building:
The state legislature was not in session, so the chambers were empty. Our tour guide mentioned that state legislators in Iowa are typically part-time and continue to serve in normal full-time jobs outside of their normal legislator responsibilities. I can’t recall exactly how much, but the state legislature is only in session a few months per year.
It’s worth noting that the seating and viewing area for the legislative chambers were only accessible via very steep (but short) stairs.
Miscellaneous Photos from our Tour
Here are a few additional photos from our tour that don’t quite fit in the other categories. But, I just wanted to share them because the building was so beautiful!
Our tour guide also spent quite a bit of time telling us about the battleship USS Iowa, a model of which was inside the Capitol Building. The Capitol also housed one of the ship’s bells.
Exterior of the Iowa capitol Building
The building’s exterior was undergoing a restoration, and it was kind of difficult for me to get the enormous structure in one shot. But here are some of the best photos we took:
Whew! Who knew a post for a state legislative building would be so long and full of photos? What are some other lesser-known spots that have blown you away?
I loved this tour of the Iowa State Capitol Building! It’s so beautiful!! Very impressive!!! I live in New York but I have a good friend who grew up in Iowa and I’m going to send her a link to this site. It’s totally wondrous!! Thank you!! I loved the photos and the tour!! Absolutely gorgeous!!! (Who knew?!…)