10+ Free Things to Do in Des Moines this Summer


Who doesn’t love a family activity that’s free!? We found a ton of fun things you can do with your family this summer that won’t cost you anything. Enjoy!

Free Activities in Des Moines

1. Check out free outdoor events from Des Moines Performing Arts

Don’t miss the family-friendly, multi-generational arts and cultural events happening all summer long at parks around Des Moines. 

2. Watch an outdoor movie

There’s something about watching a movie outside under the stars that is quintessentially summer. Check out our guide to outdoor movies and add one to your calendar. 

3. Take a yoga class outside 

Find your zen at one of the many free yoga classes offered around Des Moines this summer. 

4. Go to the beach

Des Moines (and Iowa) may not have a coast, but there are plenty of lakes you can dip your toes in. Be sure to check out the brand new Athene North Shore Recreation Area at Easter Lake. Check out other area beaches and enjoy a day on the water. 

5. Check out a local festival

Summer is prime time for festivals, whether it’s a small town celebration or a cultural event, there’s one for you! 

6. Play at a new park 

Des Moines has so many great parks, it can be hard to choose! Some of our favorites are the new Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines, Triumph Park in Waukee, Walker Johnston Park in Urbandale, and McHenry Park in Des Moines. 

7. Take photos with sunflowers

Sunflowers in central Iowa are usually at their peak in July and August. Check out our guide for where to find them near Des Moines. 

8. Go for a hike

Unplug and spend an afternoon exploring one of the great trails around Des Moines. Jester Park in Granger has a nice nature center and Ledges State Park in Madrid is great for creek walking.  

9. Listen to live music at Jasper Winery 

Thursday nights are for listening to music and relaxing. The Summer Concert Series at Jasper Winery is a family favorite. Food and drinks are available for purchase, but you’re welcome to bring your own food. 

10. Cool off at a spray ground or splash pad

Des Moines has more than so many spray grounds and wading pools (including new ones in Urbandale and Grimes)! And they’re all free! These are great when your kids are little and going to the pool seems overwhelming! 

11. Sign up for a library reading programs

Encourage kids to read this summer and sign up for a summer reading program. Most offer fun (and free!) incentives for finishing. Check with your local library for details. 

12. Take in some art

Walk the Pappajohn Sculpture Park or drive around to see the ever-growing array of murals around town.

What free events or activities would you add to our list? 

More Summer Events and Activities


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