I have lived in Des Moines for quite a few many years, it is one of the few places in the USA that has not been hit as hard by the recession as some of the other larger cities. Des Moines like anywhere has some crime and gang activity, though it has gone down in recent years. Some of the neighborhoods in the east and northeast of the city are a bit tougher, but they aren't like the slums or ghetto. Traffic can be annoying at times, but it's not a huge issue, especially if you know the back roads to avoid the freeway.
During the summer there is a lot to do. There are plenty of art festivals, concerts and other attractions to keep you more than busy. There is the WineFest, LatinoFest, there is Lazerfest as well as the Iowa State Fair. The downtown East Village, downtown is full of great restaurants and shopping. In the wintertime there is plenty to do as well, we have a professional hockey team, a basketball team, a Skating rink, and there are always holiday events. We have a great art environment, the Civic Center puts on Broadway shows, the Des Moines Playhouse puts on some great shows as well, and if you are in the mood for a night of classical music we have the Des Moines Symphony.
There are a lot of visitors that feel we are not very friendly or welcoming. We are very friendly, a lot of tourists have strange views of life in Iowa. They perceive us as having a limited viewpoint on the world. The interesting thing is Des Moines has been rated as one of the top Ten U.S. Cities to raise a family, rent a house, start a business and be a patriotic American. We have a lot to offer, but if you are looking for a New York mentality in Des Moines you won't find it here and will probably not be very happy living here.