As a special tribute to Nobel Peace Prize winner and World Food Prize founder Dr. Norman Borlaug the World Food Prize Foundation restored the old Des Moines Public Library Building as the Dr. Norman E. Borlaug World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates serves as a world-class museum to recognize great achievements in agriculture and fighting hunger. This magnificently restored Beaux Arts space celebrates the spirit of giving, emphasizing the importance of global food security.
Know Before You Go
- Hours of Operation: Public Hours are Tuesday 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and Saturday 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Please note the Hall is closed for special events and holidays throughout the year.
- Cost of General Admission: FREE
- Parking: No on-site parking is available. Metered street parking is available around the museum.
- Prior to your visit check out the Hall’s website.
While You’re There
The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates is located downtown overlooking the river. We parked on Locust and walked in through the “front door”. As you enter there will be a small desk to the right. There is typically a volunteer docent or staff member sitting there that can direct you and provide a brochure describing the highlights of each floor of the Hall.
The Hall of Laureates is truly stunning and you’ll want to be prepared to take it all in. From the stained-glass skylight; to the murals depicting various agricultural landscapes around the world; to the crop sculptures; to the massive stained glass window depicting the harvest. Guided tours are given on Tuesdays at 9:00 am, 10:30 am, 12:00 noon and 1:30 pm. It is recommended that you arrive 10-15 minutes early for the guided tours. Tours on Saturdays are self-guided and visitors are welcome to explore the building and visit with volunteer docents that are located on each floor of the Hall.
We decided to tour the Hall on a Saturday after a visit to the Downtown Farmer’s Market. There were a couple of other small groups touring the building, but it really was not very busy the day we went. It didn’t take us long to make our way through the Hall as we spent about an hour and a half there. With a six year old and a nine year old, who both can get antsy, we moved from exhibit to exhibit pretty quickly.
We started our tour in the basement. There are a number of interactive educational exhibits focusing on the challenges of global hunger and the history of agriculture in Iowa. The kids liked pushing all of the buttons, listening on head phones and making their way through the displays. We had recently been to the Hoover Presidential Library and to my surprise they recognized a number of famous Iowans from that trip.
The next stop on our tour was back up to the First Floor. Back on this level we took a moment to take in all of the artwork and craftsmanship of this beautifully ornate building. We also ventured into the Main room, which highlights significant people and places in the history of agriculture. There were chairs set-up in here with a video depicting the history of the Foundation and the renovation of the building. We sat down for a few minutes to watch the video and then took a turn around the room. There is also a striking stained glass globe, a mural and the Ruan Lounge is located in this room.
Next we made our way up to the Mezzanine Level. The Iowa Gallery showcases works by Iowa artists depicting our state’s agricultural and humanitarian heritage. We also toured a photo exhibit with photography by Warren Buffet’s son Howard, titled 40 Chances. The photos highlight the struggles of farmers and issues of food security around the world.
Lastly, we made our way out to the garden on the west side of the hall. The kids probably enjoyed this area the most. They particularly enjoyed the large marble world map, the fountain, and the cagy bunny that kept giving them the slip. The flowers, landscaping and statues are a tranquil oasis amid the hubbub of downtown.
It was a fun family outing and would be a particularly good visit for kids on an early out day and especially for those studying Iowa or World history.
After Your Visit
Ask the kiddos what their favorite room or piece of artwork was in the Hall of Laureates. You can also ask them to name one thing that they learned. You’re downtown, so there are a lot of additional activities to enjoy. If you have some extra time, you can take a walk along the river, enjoy one of the shops in the East village or grab a bite to eat.
The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates
100 Locust Street
Des Moines, IA 50309
What are your tips for a family fun day at The World Food Prize Hall of Laureates?