Top Ten Family Activities in Des Moines

Des Moines has plenty of choices in things to do that are also family friendly. Though some of these are only available during limited times during the year, the following are cheap or even free things to do with your family.

    1. Adventureland– Located in Altoona, they’re the quintessential place to take your kids starting in late April through the end of September. They offer rides that are appropriate for all age levels as well as the water park. They offer season passes for $125 per person which includes free parking which cuts down on the cost per trip if your family frequents the park a lot during the season. For more information, go to their website
    2. Blank Park Zoo– Located on the south side of Des Moines, the park is open year round. They do have limited exhibits from October to April but this is the perfect place to let your children learn about wildlife for a fairly cheap price- children under 2 are free and it’s just $12 for children ages 3-12. They offer early education classes as well as camps during the summer. Their website is
    3. Science Center of Iowa– Perfect for everyone in your family, they offer everything from IMAX movies to live programs to themed exhibit spaces.  My favorite experience from the Science center- though I’m aging myself since I went to the former home that is now the Bergman Academy- was the Star theater where they would do a whole show about constellations and planets. Prices are $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 2-12. Their website is
    4. State Historical Museum of Iowa– Located in the heart of downtown Des Moines, this is a free spot to learn more about Iowa’s history. They offer themed exhibits throughout the year. This is a great way to learn more about Iowa in a hands on way for both children and adults.  Their website is
    5. Iowa Hall of Pride– Located in the Iowa Events center, another great spot to learn more about Iowa’s rich history in the world of sports. The people who are recognized at the exhibits are all former/current Iowans. There’s even a game room to test your sports skills in football, basketball and a virtual soccer.   Grades K-12 have free admission and it’s $10 for adults. For more information, go to
    6. Iowa State Capital– This is a popular place for field trips for schools for good reason. The capital offers an up close view of Iowa legislation with free guided tours Monday through Saturday. The famous 23 karat golden dome makes a great background for your family pictures and the grounds offer a variety of gorgeously landscaped areas to relax in. To schedule a tour, call (515) 281- 5591 or see their brochure
    7. Jester Park Equestrian Center– Located in Granger, this is a little known spot both for the riding enthusiasts as well as for the riding newbies, Jester Park offers the opportunity to pursue your equestrian interests. They offer year round lessons as well as season events like wagon rides in the fall and sleigh rides around Christmas time.  For more information call (515)999-2818 or visit
    8. Boone Scenic Valley Railroad– Located in Boone, they offer a basic excursion that will take you through Boone to the old mining town of Fraser and back. I took my husband to the Dinner Train option and we loved the food. They offer a dessert train as well as a picnic train option for those who don’t want to commit to a full dinner. They have special Days with Thomas the Train engine and even a ride with Santa option around Christmas. Their website is
    9. Heritage Carousel– This is a Des Moines landmark in Union Park. This a turn of the century replica carousel featuring 30 animals and 2 chariots. Kids ride for 50 cents and adult tickets are only $1. Season passes are available as well. Wheelchair accessible. Union park offers a popular rocket slide as well as a free splash pool. Call (515) 323-8200 or go to their website,
    10. Iowa Arboretum–  Located in Madrid, this 378 acre facility has plenty of outdoor options to keep your entire family busy. A 40 acre “library of living plants” spotlights hundreds of different species of trees, flowers and shrubs. There are also wooded trails and a restored prairie walk.  For more information, their website is

For futher reading I have included a link above to a book covering family fun in Iowa.

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