Family Activities in Des Moines

If you have read a few other blog posts, you have probably caught on that we don’t stay home much. Well, we have been staying home more since we moved into the apartment. What can I say, we LOVE to adventure! Especially during the winter months, it can become quite brutal to just be cooped up in the house all the time. These family friendly places are in the Des Moines area, so if you’re wanting to stay in the city or trek outside the city a ways you can find a fun activity. Let’s get started with outdoor activities!

#1: Ledges State Park

Perfect to walk around in the water, have a picnic, or do some hiking. Just 45 minutes outside of Des Moines, it feels like you are in a whole other part of Iowa. We love to go here and have a picnic and just hangout!

#2: Adventureland

Now we haven’t taken Julian to adventureland yet (he’s still pretty little and my husband isn’t a huge fan), but this is perfect for a day full of fun!

#3: Aquatic centers/Pools

There are many aquatic centers like the one in Clive, Des Moines, Ankeny. Our favorite is the one in Ankeny, they have a great children’s area. Ankeny Aquatic Center

#4: Splash pads

Okay, we love splash pads. Our favorite splash pad is Ashby Park. It is a splash pad and a wading pool. They also have a lifeguard on duty. They also have a great park and green space with tennis courts. There are so many splash pads around the Des Moines area and they are free!

#5: The Blank Park Zoo

Let me be honest, the zoo is not our favorite place to go and my husband does not like the zoo, but I think it is fun for Julian to run around and see the animals. This is maybe a half day trip. If you get a library adventure pass you can go for free once a year (we love this perk)! During the summer and fall they also have family activities like “Night eyes”. 

#6: Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Let the kids run free!!!! Afterwards stop by one of the restaurants for lunch or dinner or even desserts at Dough Crazy. We also love to go on walks on the sidewalks around the park. We just love that whole area!

#7: Gray’s Lake and Raccoon River Park

Go on a walk, run, rollerblade on the path around the lake, hit up the park, or swim in the lake if you choose. They also have canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, etc for rent during the summer months. 

#7: Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market

The farmer’s market has a sweet spot in our hearts because we were vendors for 2 years. Honestly, this is a great place to get some breakfast or lunch and just walk around. People watch, pet the dogs, buy some awesome things. You can’t go wrong here. The same goes for the Valley Junction Farmers Market, Beaverdale Farmers Market, and Ankeny Farmers Market. Check them all out!

#8: Walking around Valley Junction and East Village

Do some shopping and grab a bite to eat. Or just walk around and enjoy some family time. Don’t forget to grab a cupcake at Molly’s Cupcakes!

#9: Many parks in Des Moines

There are so many parks to explore and take your kids to. Our favorites are Ashby Park, Tower Park, and Miracle Park. 

#10: Brenton Skating Plaza

If you enjoy ice skating this one’s for you! My balance is not that great so ice skating is not in my future. 

#11: Living History Farms

They have many family friendly events and activities all year round. You can also tour in the summer months. Living History farms is an outdoor history museum where you can see some of the history of the Midwest. 

#12: Center Grove Orchard

We love to strawberry pick here! There are so many things to do for the whole family. It is a little expensive so plan to make a day out of it!

Indoor Activities

#1: Des Moines Children’s Museum

Pay $6 per child and your kids can play all day. Located in Valley West Mall, the converted what was once a store into a children’s museum with tons of activities for kids ages 1-6. They have a “big kids area” as well, but it’s geared more towards little kids. 

#2: Flix Brewhouse

The movie experience at Flix Brewhouse is wild. You can eat while watching the movie without leaving your seat to get anything. We went to Sing 2 and it was a really fun time!

#3: Des Moines Botanical Garden

If you are a plant lover or you’re looking for a slower paced family activity I highly recommend you check out the Botanical Garden. We have been a couple times and while Julian doesn’t really care, he loves to walk around and look at the waterfall. The outdoor area is also very pretty!

#4: Science Center

We recently took Julian to the science center and it did not disappoint! Again, if you have a library adventure pass you can book the science center one every year. So many things for kids to do that they will engage with all day. 

#5: Get Air or Sky Zone

If you have a younger kiddo, both of these places have specific times for kids ages 2-5 to jump. Also, it’s just as fun for adults! The whole family will need a nap after this.

#6: Chuck E Cheese

We have not taken Julian here because ya know, COVID. I do know he would thoroughly enjoy himself. 

#7: The playground for kids

This is an indoor playground in Ankeny. It is tons of fun with inflatables and “a park-like” area. Julian loved it here and I know your kiddos will too! Let them run around and blow off some steam. They also have snacks to purchase. It’s $9 per kid. The Playground for kids

#8: Hop A Lot

Located in Merle Hay Mall, this huge indoor inflatable park is super fun for the kids. Don’t forget to grab a bite to eat when you’re done!

#9: Valley Community Center

WE LOVE IT HERE! Free to enter and free coffee. There is an indoor playground and one or two days a week the gym have activities as well. We usually go for a couple hours once a week and Julian loves it. 

#10: Public libraries

I feel like the library is very underrated. There are so many libraries to choose from and it’s not just books. They also have toys and story times. At the library in Ankeny, every Friday they have a play time from 9-11 and free coffee from Smokey Row. 

#11: Kid’s Warrior Gym

We have not taken Julian here because it’s for ages 3+, but I have looked into it and it looks like so much fun!

I hope you can take away some fun activities from here for your next family outing! A reminder that these are not all things to do in the Des Moines area, just a select few.

We love our adventures and hope you do too 🙂


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