There are quite a few free things to do in Des Moines. You will in most cases you will have to spend a small amount in gas to get there though, but none the less its cheap entertainment. Here are a few suggestions.
1.Take a walk around Grays Lake – Grays Lake is a popular place for walking, biking, and canoeing. The trail is nice during the day, but at night the pedestrian bridge lights up and creates a quite a different effect. Grays lake is located just south of downtown, just off of Fluer Drive.
2. Watch a concert at Jazz in July – Jazz in July is a set of free concerts the city of Des Moines puts on during the month of July. The concerts are at a different venue every day. Click here for the schedule.
3.Visit the Iowa Historical Center – The Iowa Historical Center is a great stop when the weather is inclement. We have a tradition of going when the first snow of the year hits. The center covers history from not just Des Moines but throughout Iowa, and has a Wooly Mammoth, information about the early settlers of Iowa, and many other interesting exhibits. Click here for their website.
4.Take a bike ride on one of Des Moines many bike trails – Des Moines has enough bike trails to keep you busy for quite awhile. At last count there are over 400 miles of paved paths in Des Moines area. If you are so inclined you could easily do 100 miles without ever leaving a paved bike path. BikeIowa.com does an excellent job of informing the public about news, closures, work on the bike paths etc. Click here for more information and maps.
5.Go to a Des Moines Festival – There are several Des Moines festivals that don’t cost anything to attend, click here for some suggestions.
6.Go to the Des Moines Art Center – The Art center wasn’t always free, but it is now. The permanent collection is worth a visit, and they always seem to be featuring a traveling exhibit. A few years ago they even had the original “American Gothic” which I happily went to see. Click here for their website.
7.Take in a free movie on the lawn – This is quite the popular summer event especially for families. Watching the movie outside will give the kids a little room to run if they had a little too much sugar. Click here for a comprehensive list.
8.Go Fishing – Assuming you already have the gear and a license, fishing is free. There are lots of public places to fish in the Des Moines area. I can give a few suggestions, Fort Des Moines lake, Easter Lake, Big Creek Lake, Grays Lake, Ankeny city ponds (on the north side of Ankeny), Thomas Mitchell Park, and the Des Moines River.
9.Watch the fireworks on a Friday night after an I-Cubs home game – The I- Cubs have Fireworks every Friday home game. They are free to watch outside of the stadium and are set off after the game has ended. Click here for The I-Cubs schedule.
10.Go to Ledges State Park – Ledges is a little bit of a drive out of Des Moines but its well worth the trip. The road through the park winds through a deep canyon with cliffs on both sides, as you splash through a creek that winds through the canyon. There are lots of hiking paths, picnic spots, and wildlife. Click here for more information.
Looking for more things to do? Click here.