Not every weekend can be a camping weekend, and sometimes you don't have a lot of time for a far off adventure. It's funny, when we travel out of Iowa we always make a long list of the attractions we want to visit. Then we neglect to visit the tourism gems that rest in our own backyard. Somehow the fact that we can visit these sites at anytime means we end up never visiting them. And it's a shame. My kids are fascinated every time we drive past the State Capitol Building in Des Moines. They spot it on the horizon and yell, "The Golden Castle!" To a kid it seems larger than life and full of magic and mystery. Fortunately the capitol is super easy to visit, even for young children.
Capitol tours are held regularly. I highly recommend a guided tour because you'll learn lots of facts and have access to areas you won't get to visit on your own. That being said I can't really tell you any of those interesting facts because Lydia, our two year old, wasn't interested in facts and I spent a good majority of our tour entertaining her wishes and keeping her out of a career in politics. There are plenty of surprises and unique things to amuse children in the capitol. My kids loved the giant model of the USS Iowa and the collection of dolls wearing replica dresses of Iowa's first ladies. If you're the type of person that finds dolls in any way creepy I suggest you skip that part. There was an old school water fountain and fun ceiling paintings of the zodiac signs. Everywhere they looked there was something they'd never seen before.
Part of what I love about the capitol is that there is so much for the kids to touch. They can feel the tiles of the amazing murals and the smooth stone of the elaborate columns. The whole place feels extravagant and most places like that aren't kid friendly; it was refreshing to see the kids fully immerse themselves in everything around them. They got to climb the amazing spiral staircase in the library and dance on the glass floor in the vestibule. Even with Lydia being crazy I never felt like I had to leave an area, everything felt very open to the public, even the loud child public.
Make sure you take the time to walk around outside too. There are lots of interesting statues, including one that likens Iowa to a nursing mother. That one is fun to explain to your five-year-old. There is a beautiful view of downtown as well so make sure you've got the camera. All in all I'd say our highlights were the library and the walk up the staircase to the dome. Best of all? The visit is free! You can't beat that. The golden castle is amazing inside and out and will leave memories for your kids to treasure forever.
As always see more pics at Crunchy Camping Pics.