The Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines

Place/Event: The Iowa State Capitol
Location: 1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50319
Cost: Free
Grade/age range: Prek-12 – any age can enter but limited interest for younger students
Group size: large or small
Hands-on: Limited
Stroller friendly: Yes but some areas of the building are more narrow
Bathrooms: Yes – ask if there is a baby changing station. I never saw one.
Food: Yes and can bring in food

We took the opportunity to go on a fieldtrip at the Iowa State Capitol with Home School Iowa this past spring for their Capitol Day. It’s pretty exciting to be at the capitol while the House and Senate are in session.

Parking and Entrance 

So first things first – you have to find a parking spot and find the door! It’s not a trick, our elected leaders really aren’t trying to keep us out of the building. The Iowa Legislature Page has maps and lots of great information.  

There is a FREE public parking garage on the northwest corner of E Grand Ave & Pennsylvania Ave.  The Capitol is about a 2 block walk uphill from here. As you come up the hill to the Capitol, on the north side of the building is a driveway/sidewalk and the public entrance.

fieldtrip at the Iowa State Capitol
group of home schooling families heading into the capitol


Ground Level, First and Second Floors

Once inside you’ll find yourself on the ground level where there is a cafeteria, gift shop and a place to sign up for a Capitol Tour. On a Capitol Tour you can experience visiting the top of the dome. We didn’t fit that in for this trip, but hopefully next time. There are age restrictions, so make sure to ask!

Iowa Capitol Dome - fieldtrip at the Iowa State Capitol

The First Floor houses the governor’s office and there are several glass display cases. Home School Iowa invited Brian Bopp for historical roleplaying as President Teddy Roosevelt.

On the Second Floor is the Mailroom, Library, House and Senate Chambers. The library is magnificent and a favorite of my kids.

Iowa State Capitol Library North Staircase
library staircase

The public is allowed to walk up one flight of stairs on the south end. – Keep in mind this is a working library and little ones need to be quite.


Meet Your Legislator 

Next on the Second Floor is visiting with your legislator. If you have never been to the capitol and met with one of your leaders, I really encourage you to try it! It’s fun and exciting!

There is a lot going on, lots of lobbyist, lots of tour groups, even foreign tourist, but this is our working government whom we voted for! Find Your Legislator Here

  1. Decided to chat with either the House or the Senate
  2. At the bottom of the steps leading to the doors of the chamber is a small desk/table – Find this.
  3. Fill out a little slip of paper with your info and the legislator you want to visit with. The doorman or a page can help you.
  4. Hand the slip to the doorman and then wait for them to deliver your message.

NOW – a couple of things will happen

  1. Your Legislator will come out of the chamber and visit with you.
  2. Your legislator may be busy and will send their clerk. (sometimes a page) That’s OK! Chat with the clerk and pass on any information you want your legislator to know. Even if it’s just a simple Thank You!
  3. You can always come back and try again another time of the day or another day!
Iowa Senator Jack Whitver
Iowa Senator Jack Whitver

Ok, confession time – I didn’t know my senator… I have written down all the names of our elected leaders on our wall to remind our family to pray for them… But Senator Whitver wasn’t more than a name on a notepad I received at a parade.

I am not sure what I was expecting when my senator walked out the chamber doors, maybe some big bureaucrat smoking a cigar who I disagreed with???… 

but right way Senator Whitver was relaxed and attentive to my children and I. He stood and talked to us for much longer then I expected and shared with me about his family. He has three little children of his own and we chatted about education and how important it is and to have options in Iowa. We agreed on a several ideas and he was very open to hearing my perceptive.

I really appreciated the time talking with him and felt that my opinions were heard. I walked away thinking, gosh, this guy would make a great neighbor…and he is! Found out that Senator Whitver lives within 3 miles of me which by “rural Iowa Country Living Standards” that makes him my neighbor.


House and Senate Chambers 

The kids and I also climbed the winding staircase up to the Senate Balcony.

Iowa Senate - fieldtrip at the Iowa State Capitol
Iowa Senate Floor

The woman in black on the right side is a tour guide. There wasn’t much happening at the moment in the senate but the kids were amazed looking around.

The double doors pictured above lead to a flat platform balcony that you could bring a stroller onto, however, keep in mind that kids need to be quite. We then took the narrow catwalk around to the other side and peaked in on the House Chambers.

Iowa State Capitol.jpg

Overall – Great Day to have a fieldtrip at the Iowa State Capitol!!!


Iowa State Capitol


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