A to Z Guide to Family Fun in Des Moines


Whether you need a change of pace, somewhere new to take the kids, or a fabulous off-the-beaten-track place to take your out-of-town visitors, look no further than our ultimate Des Moines Guide! It’s packed with some of our favorite places and things to see and do in and around the Des Moines area.

Des MoinesUltimate Family Guide to Des Moines 


Adventureland A new roller coaster called the Phoenix opened in 2019 as well as a super fun waterpark, you’re sure to have a “fun-filled day” at this close-to-home theme park.

Art Center A free museum offering tours of both the permanent and special exhibitions, you won’t want to miss this Des Moines gem and its outdoor extension (see Pappajohn Sculpture Park). In addition, check out the website for classes that they offer.

Art Festival Held in Des Moines’ Western Gateway Park in June, this premier festival combines a varied selection of visual arts, live music, performing arts, interactive arts, and a film festival.

AR Workshop Flex your creative muscles at this fun, interactive DIY workshop studio. Choose your project design, then register to come to a group workshop or plan a private event for a group of friends. Customize your project with your choice of stains, colors, and techniques. 

Axe Throwing Des Moines touts not one, but TWO axe throwing destinations (think darts with muscles). At Lumber Axe DSM, you’ll enjoy a full social entertainment experience, with Escape Chambers, Tactical Laser Tag, and Elixir Pub in addition to axe throwing. At Ironside Axe Club in you can enjoy a fun group activity with family, friends, or co-workers.



Backyard Adventures An outdoor playset showroom that has indoor open play for children during the week and is available for birthday parties on evenings and weekends.

Bass Pro Shop I know, I know… it’s a sporting goods store, but, rest assured you and your kids can be entertained for hours here. With over 145,000 square feet, this megastore has over 900 taxidermy specimens as well as an impressive aquarium. You can call ahead and help feed the fish or set up a guided tour! Not to mention, if you get hungry or feel the need to go bowling, stop into Buck’s Fishbowl and Grill, a nautical-themed restaurant with 12 lanes of under-the-sea bowling.

Big Creek State Park Just to the north of the metro, a fun place to let the kids play on the playground, explore the beach, or take a swim. Also available: boat rental, fishing, hiking trails, and picnic shelters.

Black Cat Ice Cream Crazy delicious, old-fashioned ice cream made right here in Des Moines! They use grass-fed natural dairy and ingredients sourced from local producers to create bold flavors!

Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival Held in February and dubbed as “The World’s Premier Baconfest,” the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival will be sure to please the bacon lover in your life.

Board + Brush Live DIY workshops will teach you how to make custom wood signs that you can use for creating décor pieces for your home. Scratch your DIY itch during a fun night out will friends! 

Boone Scenic Valley Railroad —With a stunning view and several special events throughout the year (like Thomas and the Santa Express), it’s a perfect day trip for the young and old.

Bottle and Bottega – Spice up your birthday, bachelorette party, or business outing with a unique wine and paint party. Grab your friends, a bottle of wine, and get ready to uncork your creativity. 

Botanical Garden Explore the beautiful gardens in Des Moines, no matter the season! Be sure to check out the number of events and programs that they offer.

Bowling – Air Lanes Bowling Center  – Merle Hay LanesGreat EscapeVal Lanes Recreation CenterWarrior Lanes BRollBowlingBowlerama

Breakout Games Thrilling escape rooms with a variety of game themes that are perfect for having fun with your friends, family, or even a team-building exercise with your co-workers.

Brenton Skating Plaza A beautiful, outdoor ice skating rink. Come on downtown for the public skating, lessons, broomball, birthday parties, and much more.

Brenton Arboretum This living museum of more than 2,200 trees, shrubs, and native plants is an ideal spot to hike, explore nature, and relax as a family. It’s located west of Des Moines in Dallas Center. Be sure to stop by the O’Brien Nature Play Area and check out their events calendar for more family-friendly outdoor fun. 



Center Grove Orchard Open from September to December (see website for specific dates). Think pumpkin patch on steroids! Check out all the farm fun they offer as well as their special events.

Civic Center Des Moines’ premier venue for performing arts. Check the website for current and upcoming events.

Climb Iowa From beginners to experts, this indoor rock climbing facility offers classes, memberships, and parties, truly offering something for everyone.

Clive Greenbelt Trail A beautiful trail nestled in the heart of the city. With over 11 miles of paved surface and shelters and playgrounds along the way, your whole family will fall in love.

Covered Bridges of Madison County Made famous by the movie in the 1990s, these six covered bridges have been renovated for everyone to enjoy. Take a tour and see their beauty in person.

Cowles Commons Previously called Nollen Plaza, the multi-functional Cowles Commons space features the popular Crusoe Umbrella by artist Claus Oldenburg and a new lighting sculpture called Swirl by artist Jim Campbell. You’ll also find the popular zero-depth Lauridsen Fountain, which is a favorite of little ones throughout the warm months.

Creme Cupcake Beyond delicious cupcakes, you’ll find custom cakes, cookies, and other treats. Stop in after 5 p.m. to enjoy their unique dessert and drinks lounge that’s sure to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. 


Dam to DSM This 20K popped up in 2019 to replace an old favorite (Dam to Dam), and the route runs from the EMC Saylorville Dam to Cowles Commons in Downtown Des Moines. 

DSM Children’s Museum Located in Valley West Mall, the Des Moines Children’s Museum helps build the foundation of lifelong learning by promoting the power of child-led play. Your kiddos will enjoy the evolving displays, including the ice cream truck, farm, light wall, dress up, and variety of building toys.  

Des Moines Marathon Choose from participating in a kid’s run, 5-Mile Fun Run, 5K, Half-Marathon, Marathon Relay, Full Marathon, or just cheer loudly for those crazy runners in your life. Any way you choose, you are bound to have a wonderful time. Be sure to check out the events before and after the races as well.

Des Moines Playhouse A place for local actors to shine. Adults and children can attend classes, workshops, and even learn how to tap dance. Visit the website for showtimes and schedules.

Dinner Dispatch Make busy nights easier with pre-made meals. Choose from an ever-changing menu including gluten-free and dairy-free options. Order your meals and have them delivered to your door. All you have to do is cook!

Donut Hut You’ll instantly feel at home in this family-owned local donut shop with a large assortment of fancy baked goods, jelly and cream-filled donuts, cinnamon rolls and more. The apple fritters and donut holes (in three flavors!) are both customer favorites! 

Donut King After their original location closed because of redevelopment, the Donut King came back in 2018 serving their popular donuts at two locations, across from the Iowa State Fairgrounds and inside Bauder’s Pharmacy on Ingersoll Avenue.

Downtown Farmers’ Market Head downtown to Court Avenue on Saturday mornings between May and October for all things good and home-grown or home-made. Come for breakfast and stay until lunch. There is also a Winter Market in November and December at Capital Square.

Drake University Athletics Looking for a college sporting event right down the road? Head over and check out what is going on at Drake.



Easter Lake Park A beautiful retreat offering multiple shelters and playgrounds as well as fishing, boating, hiking, and swimming all conveniently located on the south side of Des Moines. The lake reopened in 2019 for swimming and kayaking. 

East Village Hit up this trendy hot spot for shopping and dining — and don’t forget to stay and enjoy the nightlife.

Escape Chambers You have 60 minutes to escape. Can you and your friends (or complete strangers) solve the clues and get out in time? Choose from five different rooms with different scenarios and get ready to put your thinking caps on to earn the coveted bumper sticker proving you’ve made it out. 

Ewing Park This huge park offers a little something for everyone. It has a traditional playground, the Ashley Oakland Star playground, an 18-hole disc golf course, and a dog park. My favorite part is the Lilac Arboretum, where you can find hundreds of lilac varieties blooming in the spring. 

Exile Brewing Co. An old warehouse turned into a microbrewery and a restaurant, perfect for a date night or a group outing. 



Farmers’ Markets In addition to the Downtown Farmers’ Market, check out this guide to farmers’ markets in surrounding areas.

515 Brewing A group of friends with a shared interest in brewing beer started this local brewery in 2013 and the community quickly fell in love. They expanded in 2015 and now serve a dozen of their own beers, plus guest brews as well. It’s family-friendly with a location near a bike trail, and board games on hand. Kids are welcome with an adult and leashed pets are welcome on the patio. You can also bring your own food or grab a bite from a visiting food truck. 

Flix Brewhouse This theater/microbrewery/restaurant combination is a hit. Now it’s easy to hit dinner and a movie without running around town and spending a fortune on a sitter.

Flying Mango A truly unique Des Moines favorite, once featured in Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives on The Food Network, you will want to see what all the hype is about.

Fong’s Pizza Now with three locations (downtown, Drake, and Ankeny), you will have no excuse not to get there more often. If you haven’t ever been, three words: Crab Rangoon Pizza. You’re welcome.

Fort Des Moines Park Another beautiful park and arboretum on Des Moines’ south side.

Funny Bone Comedy Club A 19 and older comedy club featuring acts and headliners from all over the world. Check out their website for upcoming performers.



Gateway Market Des Moines’ premier natural and specialty grocer offering organic, and specialty foods, ready-to-eat cafe items, plus flowers, catering, and much more. 

Get Air This indoor trampoline park has wall-to-wall jumping surfaces, foam pits, slamball, dodgeball, ninja obstacles, and more! If you’ve got little ones, you’ll appreciate the kiddie court for anyone under 46 inches.

Glazed Expressions This DIY art studio offers pottery painting, candle making, soap making, canvas painting, and board art painting. Walk-ins are always welcome, and they host parties too!

Golf Courses – Copper CreekJester ParkLake Panorama National Golf ResortLegacyOtter CreekTCIWaveland

Grandview University Athletics Another fun, close option for college-level sporting events. Check the website for schedules.

Gray’s Lake A fun retreat right in the heart of Des Moines with a 1.9-mile paved trail encircling the lake. Rent a bike, swim, or learn to sail, paddleboat, or paddleboard just minutes from downtown.

Goldfish Swim School — Swimming lessons are fun for all ages at this indoor swim school in Urbandale. Weekly swim lessons are available for children ages 4 months to 12 at all skill levels. 

Gong Fu Tea A fun place to check out teas from around the world and attend tea tastings when available.

Gusto Pizza Some of the most unique, made-from-scratch pizzas and sandwiches in Des Moines. Enjoy a slice with family and friends at one of their metro-area locations or find their food truck at a local event. 



The Hall With the look of an authentic German beer hall, the Hall invites you to make new friends over long tables and conversations. Order unique, fresh food from your favorite food trucks and hang out on the patio with your kiddos. There’s plenty of music and games for everyone to enjoy. 

High Trestle Trail You are sure to be impressed with this breathtaking view of the Des Moines River Valley. Altogether, the trail runs 25 miles from Ankeny to Woodward. Fear not, you can park by the bridge and use as much (or as little) of the trail as you wish. The lights on the bridge are especially impressive in the evening.

Hop-A-Lot Indoors Find your favorite outdoor party inflatables at their indoor location in Merle Hay Mall. The mix of inflatables is changed regularly, so you’ll enjoy a different experience every time you go. 

Howell’s Greenhouse and Pumpkin Patch So much more than just a pumpkin patch, Howell’s boasts a Christmas tree selection, greenhouse, and dried florals.

Hoyt Sherman Place Take a tour or take in a performance at this gorgeous, historic venue.

Hurts Donut Unique donuts that break the rules with amped-up flavors! They’re always open (25 hours a day, 8 days a week)!



IMAX The Science Center boasts a six-story dome-shaped screen that surrounds your field of view, front-to-back and top-to-bottom, making it a must-see experience. The theater has been closed since 2018 due to roof damage, but check the website for updates on when it will reopen. The Palms Theater in Waukee also has IMAX featuring a dual 4K laser projection system. 

Iowa Cubs Have some serious fun rooting for the home team at one (or more) of their 70+ home games. Be sure to check out their open house where you can score some free food and get a chance to see the locker room, press box, and play catch down on the field. And don’t miss the free fireworks show after Friday night games. 

Iowa Events Center Encompassing the Wells Fargo Arena, Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center, Hy-Vee Hall, and the Iowa Hall of Pride, this multi-venue has a lot to offer for entertainment in the Des Moines area. Be sure to check out the teams that call the Iowa Events Center their home: the Iowa Barnstormers, Iowa Wolves, and Iowa Wild.

Iowa Speedway Rev up the excitement with some professional races only a short distance away in Newton. Head over to the website to check out the schedule of events.

Iowa State Capitol With such a beautiful building that holds so much history right down the road, why not tour it? Best of all? It’s free! 

Iowa State Fair What can we say about the Iowa State Fair? So much fun, so much food, so much great people-watching. A must-attend event each and every year! See website for dates and a list of free concerts and Grandstand performances.

Iowa State University and Athletics Come tour one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. Stay for one of the amazing sporting events.

Iowa Tap Room All Iowa beers in one amazing place. The Iowa Taproom supports the growing tradition of diversity, creativity, and excellence in Iowa beer.


Jasper Winery – An estate-style winery just minutes from downtown, stop by for a wine tasting or enjoy a special event like yoga, wine & canvas, jewelry class, or their summer concert series.

Jethro’s With seven uniquely themed metro area locations, this homegrown barbecue chain has something to satisfy the appetite of your whole family. Their delicious smoked meats have won a lot of national awards and have also been featured on national TV shows like “Man vs. Food.”

Jester Park Equestrian Center Come out for a trail ride, wagon ride (or sleigh ride in the winter), lessons, Therapeutic Horsemanship Program, or many more activities. You’ll be glad you did!

Jester Park Natural Playscape and Nature Lodge This outdoor play area is constructed using natural materials such as boulders, logs, vines, earth mounds, and water features that encourage children to use their imagination and senses to explore and learn. The Playscape is free and open to the public! Be sure to wear shoes and clothes that can get wet and dirty. The Nature Lodge has fun hands-on activities for kids to explore.

Jordan House A truly amazing piece of history right here in West Des Moines. The Jordan House, a beautiful Victorian home, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program. Tours are available every Friday and the first Saturday of the month, or you can schedule a private tour by visiting the website.



Kate Goldman Children’s Theater Check out what is on the schedule for kid-friendly plays the whole family will enjoy. A part of the Des Moines Playhouse.

Karaoke – AJ’s on East CourtCatoor’s on GrandRockstar Bar and Grill



Lauridsen Amphitheater The new Lauridsen Amphitheater in Water Works Park launched its concert season in June 2019. Check the website for upcoming concerts and events at this unique, multi-facing amphitheater venue. 

Ledges State Park Such a great place to feel like you have “gotten away from it all” only a half-hour away from the metro. Enjoy more than four miles of challenging hiking up and down the steep ledges, but also know there is a fully accessible hike to Lost Lake. Wade through the beautiful Peas Creek that cuts in and out of Canyon Road.

Living History Farms There is no other place quite like Living History Farms. Experience authentic simulations of typical historical farm sites from different eras gone by. Join in for special events and programming as well.



Main Street Cultural District Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Ames Main Street Cultural District covers 81 properties in the historic commercial district from Duff Avenue to Clark Street, between the railroad tracks and 5th Street.

MB2 Raceway Race around a challenging indoor track right here in Grimes with your friends or with your kiddos (48 inches or taller). Check out all they have to offer!

Meals from the Heartland If you are looking for an unforgettable way to volunteer with your whole family (or friends, or coworkers, etc.), look no further. Meals from the Heartland’s mission to package meals to deliver to starving people all over the world needs people like you to help.

Miracle Playground A wonderful playground built on the premise of including everyone. Families with special needs will find this park especially refreshing. 

Molly’s Cupcakes In addition to their delicious cupcakes and treats, Molly’s Cupcakes offers cake decorating classes for adults and cupcake decorating classes for kids. Your kiddos will love sitting on the swings at the counter while enjoying their sweet treat!  



National Balloon Classic This nine-day event in late July/early August has a lot to offer! Head down to Indianola for food, music, kids activities, and, of course, hot air balloons.

Natural Grocers The original “good4u” grocer aims to empower the health and wellness in the communities they serve by offering the highest-quality products at always affordable prices while using environmentally friendly practices. 

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge and Prairie Learning & Visitor Center Truly a gem of the Midwest, this wildlife refuge is home to bison, birds, pollinators, and more. With 5,600 acres to hunt, hike, or even to snowshoe, you will want to check out all that they offer. 

Nothing Bundt Cakes Freshly-baked Bundt cakes in ten luscious flavors with 40 unique cake designs. You’ll also find a treasure trove of unique gifts, charming cards, and inspired decorator items. 



Octagon Center for the Arts Known as the cultural arts cornerstone in Ames for almost 50 years, you will find plenty to do here. Take a class, view the rotating exhibits, visit the gallery shop, or visit the annual festival.

One Sweet Kitchen If you’re in the mood for something other than cake or cupcakes, One Sweet Kitchen is the bakery you’ve been looking for. They bake the “best-tasting cookies and pies in Central Iowa,” for everything from custom wedding favors to corporate gifts that will leave a lasting impression.

The Outside Scoop This little ice cream shop is an ice cream connoisseur’s dream. Homemade ice cream flavors include goat cheese with roasted cherries, snickerdoodle, salty caramel with toffee, and much, much more. This must-hit seasonal spot in Indianola also has a mobile truck that can be spotted in downtown Des Moines and at wineries and orchards across the metro. 

Over the top This family-owned and operated ice cream business in Pleasant Hill makes their premium flavors with the best ingredients, sourced from local Iowa dairies and small businesses. The menu includes more than 36 fabulicious flavors, along with non-dairy and vegan options made fresh each week. 


Pappajohn Sculpture Park You and your kids will love wandering through the larger than life art displays in the heart of downtown.

Pirate Cove Park  – A cozy gem of a park in Altoona with a pirate ship structure, a sea monster, and an Easter Island head statue to spark the little one’s imagination.

Prairie Meadows A bit of gambling, a little racing, concerts, restaurants, and much, much more. Venture out of your comfort zone for a little entertainment here.

Playground for Kids This indoor playground features a mix of inflatables and indoor playground structures to keep your little ones entertained (and help them burn off some energy). It’s always a big hit for birthday parties! 

Painting with a Twist You bring your friends, family, and coworkers, they’ll host the party, including all supplies and step-by-step instruction. The artists are local, fun, and ready to show you how to tap into your creative side! 

Pumpkin patches Fall and pumpkins go hand in hand. Check out this list of our favorite places to get pumpkins and enjoy fall fun in Des Moines and Central Iowa.

Pump it Up This indoor inflatable destination features massive inflatables that are fun for all ages and will spark your child’s imagination while they get some exercise. It’s also a popular destination for birthday parties. Parents: Check out the Parents’ Night Out events the next time you’re in need of a date night (or your babysitter cancels).



Quiet times at the library Cultivate your and your child’s love of books by visiting your local library. Grab your library card and check out much more than books, or participate in storytime activities for all ages. Visit one of the six Des Moines locations, or try one of the surrounding suburbs: Altoona, Ankeny, Johnston, Norwalk, Pleasant Hill, Urbandale, Waukee, or West Des Moines.

Quilting Connections Offering classes and events, this quilting store has more than 10,000 bolts of fabric in-store and has all your sewing and quilting needs covered.



Rainbow Play of the Heartland Check out the open play times at Rainbow Play of the Heartland on a rainy or hot day to keep the kids entertained. There are no limits to the grins and giggles as your kids jump, climb, swing, and play in this indoor showroom 

Raygun Located in the East Village, this T-shirt company is heavy on the hilarity. It’s an ideal spot to find a gift for that hard to buy for a friend or family member.

Raccoon River Excursions If tubing down the Raccoon River sounds like fun to you, check out the services that Raccoon River Excursions offers!

Raccoon River Park This park in West Des Moines has it all: swimming beach, fishing pier, multi-use trail, dog park, archery facility, nature lodge, reservable shelters, playgrounds, boat ramp, sports complex, and more.

Raccoon River Valley Trail This 89-mile trail through 14 communities is perfect for your long runs, bike rides, or snowmobiling excursions. Home to the Market to Market relay in the spring, it starts in Jefferson, Iowa, and connects to many other trails in Des Moines.

Reiman Gardens Constantly changing with the seasons, you will see a different garden each time you make the short drive up to Ames to explore Reiman Gardens. Visit their website to see what events and classes are coming up.

Rock-n-Row Adventures This Iowa resort has been leading floats on the Iowa River since 1994. A shuttle will take you to the starting spot, and the average float is 3-5 hours, dropping you back at Camp Rock-n-Row where you can camp overnight and enjoy live music. 



Salisbury House Take a guided or self-guided tour of this stately house from the 1920s. Enjoy an event, gallery showing, or performance. See the calendar on their website for more information.

Saylorville Lake & Visitor’s Center In addition to providing flood control, this 26,000-acre man-made lake is a host to dozens of outdoor recreation activities. Bring your own boat or rent one at the marina, and spend the weekend camping close to home. A visit to the spillway is always a highlight as well. Head north on the trail/path from the Visitor’s Center to explore the enchanting butterfly garden.

Science Center A popular spot to visit, this place has so much to offer for kids and adults of all ages. Home of the Blank IMAX Dome Theatre, interactive exhibits, storytimes, a variety of programming, Mixology (for adults), and more.

Scratch Cupcakery  Making people smile, one cupcake at a time, there’s no doubt Scratch cupcakes are one of Des Moines’ favorite sweet treats. 

Seven Oaks Recreation Open all seasons, choose from tubing, canoeing, kayaking down the river, grab some friends for paintball or mountain biking in the summer, or enjoy some skiing, tubing, or snowboarding in the winter.

Shear Madness With its cool vehicle seats and TV screens at every station, your kids might not even notice they’re getting a haircut! They even have a large selection of kids’ hair care products, girls’ accessories, and plenty of toys. Check out their location in West Des Moines or Ankeny

Skate Park Des Moines’ much-anticipated skate park is expected to open spring 2021. The finished Lauridsen Skate Park will have 88,000 square feet of skate-able surface, making it the largest skate park in the United States. 

SkyZone With trampolines from wall to wall, get your jump on during open jump, a birthday party, or one of their other options like Toddler Time, Ultimate Dodgeball, or Sky Slam.

Sleepy Hollow Sports Park Just south of the fairgrounds in Des Moines, this place has got a lot going on in either winter or summer. Home to the Des Moines Renaissance Faire and the Haunted Scream Park, it’s more than just tubing and skiing.

Smash Park A year-round backyard party with food, drink, pickleball, and assorted yard and arcade games. Lots of the games are free, and the patio and Hall are family-friendly. 

Snookies Easily the most famous ice cream shop in Des Moines. Located in the Beaverdale area, enjoy amazing ice cream treats and bring along your dog for a free pup cone!

Splash Pads American Legion ParkAshby ParkUnion ParkGreenwood ParkColumbus Park

State Historical Museum The State Historical Museum celebrates Iowans, their ambitions, accomplishments, disappointments, and their contributions. Open seven days a week but closed on official state holidays, admission is free.

Sweet Swirls Rolled Ice Cream Ice cream like you’ve never eaten it before! This rolled ice cream starts with fresh, homemade, liquid vanilla cream on a -12 degree cold plate. From there, flavors and mix-ins are added, chopped, and spread before your finished creation is rolled up and served. 



Tasty Tacos Family owned and operated for over 50 years, this taco joint that has grown to five locations is truly a Des Moines treasure.

Terrace Hill Come tour “Iowa’s Home,” an 18,000-square foot building that serves the dual purpose of the official governor’s residence and a National Historic Landmark.

Thelma’s Satisfy your sweet tooth with one (or twenty) of Thelma’s freshly baked cookies or handmade ice cream sandwiches.

Toad Valley Mini Golf Experience 18 holes of miniature golf on the beautiful Field of Greens course, complete with waterfalls and fountains. It’s the perfect outing for family, friends, or team building.

Tulip Time A must-see in the springtime. Visit Pella’s Dutch heritage and enjoy crafts, recitals, food, shows, and parades all while basking in the beauty of the many varieties of tulips planted just for this event.



Urban Air – This indoor trampoline park in Ankeny is next-level fun for the whole family! It features a ropes course, climbing wall, zipline, and tons of tramplines. 

Union Park Home of the Heritage Carousel of Des Moines (a 50-cent ride), a super fun antique “rocket slide,” and a splash pad, this is one of Des Moines’ first five original parks established in 1892. 

Up-Down If you are looking for something different, this unique bar features more than 40 arcade games from the ‘80s and ‘90s, pinball machines, three classic skee-ball alleys, Nintendo and Sega console gaming, and life-size Jenga and Connect Four. Release your inner child for fun while indulging in unique adult beverages. Visit the website for daily specials and activities.



Valle Drive-In Theatre A short trip away in Newton, Iowa, this is the only spot around to catch an outdoor double feature. Remember to bring cash, and visit the website to check for season dates and showings.

Valley Community Center A place to let the children play, grab a coffee, take a class, or hold an event, this gift to the community from Valley Church is a popular spot for playdates.

Valley Junction With over 150 specialty shops, restaurants, and services, this mix of small-town charm and big-city shopping may become a favorite place to frequent. Make sure to stop by for one of the many festivals, gallery showings, and much, much more. 

Vintage + Made FairThis bi-annual event is a favorite among anyone who loves things vintage and handmade. It features antiques and vintage home décor, jewelry, handcrafted goods, outdoor accents, seasonal flora, and local eats.



Walker Johnston Park A beautiful park featuring ball fields, multiple playgrounds (including the fastest slide in the metro), and a skate park.

Water Works Park Located near downtown, this wooded park with almost 1,500 acres running along the Raccoon River is a beautiful spot to bike, jog, picnic, fish, and hike.

West Grand Golf Whether you fancy trying out the mini-golf, driving range, lessons, clinics, or camps, check out this facility and you won’t be disappointed.

World Food Prize Hall of Laureates Located in the former Des Moines Public Library, this tribute tells the story of the men and women who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food throughout the world is sure to have you thinking differently about your food.



X-fit (Crossfit) Looking for a great workout? Check out one the many local gyms.

X marks the spot (Geocaching) Geocaching is a popular activity that involves hiding a geocache container from public view for others to locate. Once located, the participants can take an item from the geocache and replace it with one that they contribute. Participants may sign and date the logbook found inside as well!



YMCA So much going on at your local YMCA! Check the website for the location nearest you and all the different classes and activities they offer for you and your children.

Yoga in the Park Get out and enjoy some fresh air and yoga with others in the Des Moines area. 



Zanzibar’s Coffee Adventure — A must-visit for coffee lovers. They roast their beans in the store and the walls feature a rotating gallery of artwork.

Zap Laser Tag This full-service event firm offers laser tag, arrow tag, water tag, foam parties, mobile cinema, inflatables, and more. They handle everything from backyard birthdays to multi-day festivals, making each one an event to remember.

Z’mariks Parents and kids alike love this noodle café. Plus, kids eat free on Saturday! Check out all the locations in the Des Moines area to find the one nearest you.

Zombie Burger This über cool burger joint with zombie-themed burgers, shakes “to die for,” and weekly specials is sure to make a lasting impression. Now with two locations to enjoy… although, the original in East Village is the place to go for the atmosphere and decor.

Zoo (Blank Park Zoo) The zoo keeps getting better and better. With experiences like giraffe, ostrich, or parakeet feeding, and train, camel, or carousel rides, you will have plenty to do on your visit here.


What would you add to our Des Moines Guide?

Des Moines GuideWe work hard to ensure the accuracy of this information. However, you should always call ahead to confirm dates, times, location, and other information before heading to an event or activity, since it may change.

This guide was originally published in 2019 but is updated regularly as new attractions come to the area.


  1. This is a great list! Maybe you could provide an A-Z on local Des Moines services too just in case people need a good recommendation for services like sump pump installation or other plumbing services.


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