The Merle Hay Neighborhood is one of the most well-known and visited neighborhoods in Des Moines. It’s centrally located with an abundance of beautiful homes and friendly neighbors. Merle Hay has many shopping, dining and entertainment options, making it not only a favorite spot to live, but a great place to visit. With its tree-lined streets and convenient access to everything, it’s not one to miss. Welcome to Merle Hay.
Merle Hay is one of the most centrally located neighborhoods in Des Moines, with easy access to both downtown Des Moines and the suburbs. You can get almost anywhere in the Des Moines area within just a few short minutes.
Residents living in the Merle Hay Neighborhood actively work together to make the neighborhood one of the best in Des Moines. The neighborhood association is continually involved in the betterment of the community. The Beautification Committee volunteers help plant and care for flower beds throughout the neighborhood. Also, the association hosts neighborhood dinners, food and clothing drives, and other community activities.
One of Merle Hay neighborhood’s most popular annual events is National Night Out. Each August, residents gather together to get to know one another, provide safety education, and have a ton of fun. With a bounce house, entertainment, food, and prizes, residents of all ages are sure to have a great time.
In 1890, the Merle Hay neighborhood officially became a part of the City of Des Moines (it was once part of what was considered “Urbandale”). In 1917, the neighborhood was named after Private Merle David Hay, a Glidden, Iowa soldier who died in World War I. Around the same time, the road previously known as 58th Street was renamed Merle Hay Road. This street was the main roadway that connected Des Moines and Camp Dodge, where thousands of soldiers were trained.
The development of the neighborhood before WWII was influenced by its proximity to Camp Dodge. Many roads were paved and the area received running water and electrical service in the early 1900s. Also, Douglas Avenue and Merle Hay Road were designated as highways by the Iowa Highway Commission in the 1920s.
The first residential homes appeared in the neighborhood in the 1890s. When the interurban railroad tracks were put in along Urbandale Avenue in 1905, this spurred further development until The Great Depression. After that, growth slowed in the area until after WWII.
After WWII, the Merle Hay neighborhood underwent a time of considerable growth. Subdivisions with basic, affordable housing popped up to accommodate veterans and their families. The homes were typically small (under 1000 square feet), with just one floor, and were built on larger lots to allow space for additions later on.
The residential growth was accompanied by the construction of churches, grocery stores, drug stores and more.
Merle Hay Plaza – the largest shopping center in Iowa at the time – opened in 1959. At the time, this open-air mall offered 31 stores and a bowling alley. In 1965, a movie theater and office building were added. The mall was enclosed in 1972 and renamed Merle Hay Mall. Expansion and renovations eventually made Merle Hay Mall twice it’s original size. By the 1990s, Merle Hay Mall had competition in several suburban shopping centers, including Valley West Mall in West Des Moines.
Des Moines population: 215,500 (and growing)
The Merle Hay Neighborhood is one of 51 recognized neighborhoods in Des Moines
The Merle Hay Neighborhood is officially located between Aurora Avenue on the north, University Avenue on the south, 49th Street on the east and the Des Moines city limits on the west.
Merle Hay has two public elementary schools: Hillis and Winsor (& also Cowles Montessori)
Wasabi Chi is a local favorite that offers New York style sushi, along with other Japanese favorites. Be sure to check out their creative custom cocktails!
Felix and Oscar’s (F&O’s) has what you’re craving. From great sandwiches to their authentic Chicago Deep Dish pizza, you’ll have trouble deciding what to eat. And F&O’s has the perfect room to hold your next meeting or party.
El Michoacano Ice Cream and Mexican Food is a unique, family owned restaurant with delicious Mexican food (and ice cream!) and excellent service. The offer traditional dishes, with vegan and vegetarian menu options.
3B Grill is a highly-rated Bosnian diner, located on Merle Hay Road between Doulas Avenue and Urbandale Avenue.
Bennigan’s On Merle Hay is a restaurant and tavern that offers American food with a touch of Irish flare. Go for the food and drinks, but enjoy the lively atmosphere!
Buffalo Wild Wings is a great place to go to watch the game and enjoy some tasty wings and beer. You can also order online and take your wings home.
Applebee’s Grill and Bar offers up your choice of American food in a casual atmosphere. Their Carside To Go service is a great option if you’re in a hurry!
Airports – The Des Moines International Airport is located at 5800 Fleur Dr., on the southwest side of Des Moines. It has connections to 21 major airline hubs so that you can get anywhere you need to go.
Public Transportation – Bus service is available via the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART). DART operates 150 buses that travel about 15,000 miles each day throughout the Des Moines area, including downtown, shopping malls, schools, and residential areas.
Major Roads and Interstates – Merle Hay has easy access to major roads and is conveniently located between both Interstates 35/80 and 235.
Merle Hay Mall has over 90 stores and restaurants to choose from. Some of the more popular spots include Target, Flix Brewhouse, Applebee’s, Sears, Justice, Torrid, Helzberg Diamonds and more.
The multi-use Inter-Urban Trail runs right along Urbandale Avenue on what was the old interurban railway. It connects to the Trestle to Trestle Trail on the west and the Neil Smith Trail on the east, which runs all the way up to Saylorville Lake and Big Creek State Park through Riley Park. Or you can explore many of the other trails in the area.
At Tower Park, you can play tennis, have a picnic, or take the kids to the wading pool to cool off on a hot summer day.
Hoyt Sherman Place – Hoyt Sherman, located in historical Sherman Hill, entertains all ages, along with banquet and meeting facilities. Come for the show and enjoy the classic elegance of the building’s architecture and historic features.
Waveland Golf Course – Waveland is just blocks from Merle Hay. It’s a municipal golf course that offers a traditional 18 hole course with beautiful hillsides and mature trees.
Merle Hay nightlife – For a night on the town, head to Jeannie’s Bottle for karaoke or Wisco Grub & Pub for happy hour and trivia night. Whether you’re looking for a relaxed, casual atmosphere or a fun night out with friends, you don’t have to look far to find it.
Wells Fargo Arena – The arena has 16,980 seats and is part of the Iowa Events Center, an extensive community complex. The arena hosts large sporting events and concerts from well-known artists, like Taylor Swift, as well as family shows, such as Disney On Ice.