Get to Know: Indianola 

Indianola is a community known for opportunity, ranging from unique things to do, affordable living and a strong breadth of employers.  Home to Simpson College, where more than 60 area employers offer reimbursed tuition costs, this community south of Des Moines is also where you’ll find Lake Ahquabi, the Des Moines Metro Opera and the annual National Balloon Classic hot air balloon festival. Located on the Indianola Square, The Groggy Dog serves up craft beer and pub-style food, while Summerset Winery offers wine tastings, tours and family-friendly concerts. (You read that right: Raise a glass, there are wineries here!) Summerset Winery is a great stop adjacent to the Summerset Trail that runs from Carlisle to Indianola. Families enjoy spending time in parks around Indianola, including Pickard Park which features a disc golf course, campground, sports complex and beautiful views, and Sesquicentennial Park (be sure to check out the clock tower!). 

image of a town sign

Indianola at a Glance 

  • Population: 15,747 (2021, U.S. Census Bureau) 
  • Location within Greater Des Moines: South 
  • Distance from Des Moines: 17.3 miles 
  • Type of Community: Town 
  • School District: Indianola Community School District 
  • County: Warren 

Indianola in one sentence: Just minutes from the Des Moines metro, Indianola combines the best in big-time events with small-town charm. 

The top five best things about Indianola: Festivals! Indianola hosts two can’t-miss summer events that capture national attention: the National Balloon Classic, where more than 100 hot air balloons take to the sky, and the Des Moines Metro Opera American Summer Opera Festival, which stages scores of performances each season. But year-round offerings also make Indianola shine. There’s the town square, a charming spot filled with local shops and eateries; Simpson College, which consistently ranks among the top liberal arts institutions in the country; and tons of recreational opportunities at area parks, trails and other natural habitats. 

Hidden gems and unexpected finds in Indianola: Tour the National Balloon Museum and Ballooning Hall of Fame, where you can learn all about the history of hot air ballooning through a variety of fascinating exhibits. 

Community traditions and annual events: Summer fun is calling at the Warren County Fair held annually in July, where you’ll find 4-H and FFA exhibits, delicious fair food, carnival rides, music and grandstand events.  

Best ways to get connected: Meet others interested in the arts by getting engaged with the Des Moines Metro Opera Guild or joining in the community theater fun with others at the Carousel Theatre of Indianola. Network with the Indianola Young Professionals, or find service opportunities with the Rotary, Lions or Kiwanis Clubs. You’ll be welcomed and drawn in quickly to the tight-knit feel in this community. 

image of a hot air balloon festivallBig things on the horizon for Indianola: A recent renovation project just spruced up Indianola’s downtown square, where the new Warren County Justice Center replaced the old courthouse. And in fall of 2022, voters approved a multimillion-dollar plan to upgrade Indianola’s public high school. 

If you’re coming to check out Indianola, be sure to spend your day ... Start with a home-cooked breakfast (biscuits and gravy, anyone?) at the family-owned Crouse Café. Take a stroll through Buxton Park Arboretum, home to a variety of gardens, including a butterfly garden and children’s garden, along with public art. Or journey just outside town to Lake Ahquabi State Park, home to six miles of bucolic trails. Grab lunch at Mishmash Bake Shop, a fun little restaurant in the old Indianola hotel building — you won’t want to miss the sandwiches served on made-from-scratch biscuits. Treat yourself to a wine tasting at Summerset Winery, which produces vintages from locally grown grapes, or La Vida Loca Winery, known for its creative varieties. Prefer a brew? Tap one of the craft beers or hard ciders served at West Hill Brewing Company on the square. Finish the day wowing your tastebuds with dinner at Winn’s Pizza & Steakhouse, a well-loved fixture on the Indianola Square. 

Some of the ways Indianola advances diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI): See Color – Be Change, a new group in Indianola, is working to make the city a more inclusive place for all people. A variety of organizations on the Simpson College campus foster cross-cultural awareness, including La Casa Unida Cultural Center, which hosts lectures, movie nights and game nights, and introduces the community to Hispanic cuisine, art and music. 

image of an outdoor concert