Top Ten Winter Activities to do in Des Moines

Picture courtesy of Sleepy Hollow Sports Park

Des Moines has a plethora of activities to choose from during the winter months. The following are the best things to do in Des Moines when the weather turns chilly.

  1. Snow tubing/snowboarding at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park Sleepy Hollow creates their own snow for their winter sports areas so even if the rest of Des Moines hasn’t seen a snowstorm yet, you’ll still be able to get in some snow tubing and snowboarding. Their snow tubing hill is 15 stories high and they offer a ride back up to the top of the hill so you can spend more time going downhill than trudging uphill. Their skiing/snowboarding areas offer a variety of runs so no matter what your skills you should find a spot that will be appropriate.  This is the perfect spot in Des Moines for the hardcore winter sports enthusiasts to don’t want to leave town to get to practice their favorite sport.

  2. Ice Skate at Brenton Ice Skating Rink– Ice skating is both a fun way to get in some exercise during the winter months and a chance to show off your skills if you’ve done it before. It’ll cost $4.75 to rent skates if you don’t bring your own and admission is $9 for adults and $5.50 for seniors 62+ and children over the age of 5, children under 5 are free. For those not wanting to skate, there’s plenty of seating to watch the skaters fly by while you enjoy a nice hot chocolate or to recover from falling too many times while on the ice.

  3. Learn about the Underground Railroad at the Jordan HouseThe Jordan House has been a museum since 1993 since it was acquired by the West Des Moines historical society.  During the tour, you’ll go through the house that James Jordan lived in and was a designated stopover for the Underground Railroad.You’ll learn more about the many things Jordan accomplished in Des Moines like bringing the railroad here and serving on both the Senate and House of Representatives. They do have limited hours so plan to visit during either the 11am-noon slot or the 1pm-2pm slot on Fridays and Sundays. They are closed during the entire month of January and on Easter Sunday.

  4. Sledding at Waveland Golf Course–  The Waveland Golf course is one of the best places in Des Moines to go sledding.  There are hills for every age group and level of bravery.  Late night sledding will be available for those who want to go well after everyone else has gone home for the day. Sledding is only available when the gates are open and there’s at least 4.5 inches of snow on the ground.  The parking is kind of tricky if it’s a particularly busy day but you should be able to find a spot after circling the lot a few times.

  5. Learn about Iowa’s history at the State Historical Building of IowaFor those days that are too cold to even go sledding, the Historical Building is an interactive spot to go to while away the afternoon or at least a few hours. The museum offers visitors the chance to learn about Iowa’s history starting with life before the settlers through modern times with an exhibit devoted to Ragbrai. The First in the Nation exhibit is a great way to have a more hands on understanding of Iowa being the first in the nation with our caucus and how we effect the rest of the country with who we pick as our top candidates.  Admission is free for everyone.

  6. Go Swimming at Urbandale’s Indoor PoolDon’t let the fact that it’s cold outside keep you from swimming this winter. The Urbandale indoor swimming pool is open from 1pm-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays so you can spend a few hours pretending it’s still summer outside while you swim away your worries. There’s different water fitness classes to choose from for those wanting to do deep water toning or water aerobics. Admission is $5 for everyone over the age of 3.

  7. Climb the walls at Climb IowaThis is an awesome spot to take your family when you’re getting cabin fever or everyone needs somewhere to go to burn off some excess energy but you don’t want to be outdoors to do it. Climb Iowa has 10,000 square feet and over 200 routes to choose from at the Grimes location and they recently added a second location in the East Village. There’s also a fitness room and yoga studio for those scared of heights or who want to get their workout in with their feet firmly on the ground.  A day pass costs $18 and the daily rental gear package is the best bet for $10 since it includes a harness, rental shoes to use, chalk bag and a belay device.

  8. Watch a basketball game at Drake UniversityIf you’re wanting to watch someone else be active for a little while, watching a basketball game at Drake gives you the chance to relax while the team does all of the running around. You could potentially be watching future NBA players in the making or at least see the bulldogs do their best to beat their opponents.  Ticket prices vary based on where the seats are but range from $10-$20 for adults and $5-$15 for children.

  9. Be a Scientist for the DayThe Science Center of Iowa will give you a warm place to escape the cold while also providing a chance to teach everyone in your family some new information at the same time.  Though this is geared more for children, the Science Center goes out of it’s way to make sure everyone will find something interesting to do and will leave the center feeling like they’re a budding scientist. Admission is $9 for children ages 2-12 and seniors and $13 for ages 13-64.

  10. Go Snowshoeing at Jester Park–  Snowshoeing is the best sport for those of us who are uncoordinated and want something easy to learn.  There’s various trails in Des Moines to go snowshoeing including trails at Yellow Banks Park and Easter Lake Park but the trail at Jester park is the best for newbies with the Hickory Ridge Trail.  You can rent snowshoes by calling (515)323-5339 and you pickup/drop off the shoes at Jester Park.  You can also rent snowshoes for $10 a day through the Des Moines Parks and Recreation department at the Richard A. Clark Municipal Service Center.


For the best pizza places in the Des Moines area, click here.

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