Des Moines, which is often referred to as the Hartford of the West, is a destination for a family-friendly adventure.
This is home to several historic organizations such as the Fort Des Moines Provisional Army Officer Training School and the Hotel Fort Des Moines. This city also has museums, festivals, rich cultural history, and amusement parks.
Here is a list of things to do in Des Moines with the kids. Read through it and plan a perfect itinerary for your family vacation!
1. Heritage Carousel of Des Moines
Heritage Carousel is the perfect place for your kids to make fun-filled memories in Des Moines. You will find this piece of history at Union Park.
The carousel was started in 1998 and operates under a non-profit organization, the Des Moines Carousel Foundation.
With over 45,000 beautifully painted rides, your kids are in for a lifetime moment. The rides represent lots of unusual animals, making them the most striking activity for animal-loving kids.
The fun is diversified by the calliope-style music which accompanies the rides, and you will move at a speed of your choice while enjoying the background music.
This park also features two playgrounds and a splash pad available during summer so you can cool off.
2. Jester Park
Jester Park sits on 1,661 acres and is famous among locals and tourists. The place combines education, and recreation, making it an excellent spot for people of all ages.
Your little ones will love the park’s play area, Jester Park Natural Playscape. The play area is separated to accommodate pre-schoolers and older children.
The natural resources in this area create fun as the kids can dig into the sand, climb rocks, or soak under the fountain. Just pay attention to what they are doing since the rocks are slippery.
This park is also ideal for camping, boating, golfing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and picnicking.
3. Ledges State Park
Summer is good when spent in a park, and I recommend Ledges State Park especially.
This park is defined by stone buildings and bridges built in the early 1930s.
Additionally, Ledges State Park is a perfect camping site to spend a night in nature and enjoy a different experience with your loved ones.
You will also find several kid-friendly trails, so plan to hike, especially if your family is into camping.
4. Ashby Park
Banish boredom on a sunny day by taking the kids to Ashby Park.
The 11-acre park is located at 3200 38th Street and offers a lot of free fun to kids. It’s also a perfect place for adults who want to unwind in a secluded area.
The park features a small nature trail, two playgrounds with swings, and a large wading pool, which is the main attraction for kids. You need to bring swimsuits because the water fountains at the pool are irresistible.
For the older kids, the tennis court is sure to offer them endless delight.
The other amenities the park boasts include charcoal grills, a reserved shelter, and a rain garden.
Do you love picnicking? Bring your picnic essentials and spend your day eating and relaxing at the picnic area.
5. Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
Escape to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and find peace among plants for the whole family.
This garden is popularly known for its huge collection of native and ornamental plants. The 14-acre park is located on the Des Moines River and features a conservatory with more than 1,000 varieties of exotic plants from different parts of the world.
Additionally, you will find a herb garden and many desert and tropical plants in the nature center. There is no better place for your youngsters to learn about different plants than this conservatory. The knowledgeable and friendly guides make that possible.
You can also stroll on the lovely trails and enjoy beautiful views of the ponds, waterfall, or along the Des Moines River.
The facility also features an on-site restaurant, so plan to have lunch in a natural setting with your family.
6. Altoona Aquatics Park
Is the summer heat in Des Moines stifling you? Head to the Altoona Aquatics Park and cool off.
This park is located at 1200 Venbury Drive and it’s a great addition to your list of things to do with the kids in Des Moines. The kiddos will enjoy sliding on the twisted water slides and splashing into the water without a care.
This facility also offers beginner swimming lessons and is ideal for perfecting your diving skills.
7. Blank Park Zoo
Give your kids a chance to measure the height of a giraffe or get up close with an African lion at the Blank Park Zoo.
This zoo is home to amazing wild animals and has a lot of animal conservation exhibits that visitors can learn about.
The place is not only about animals, but the kids can also enjoy extended fun by taking a train ride or spinning around on the carousel. You also don’t have to take them to the desert for them to enjoy a camel ride, as Blank Park Zoo has camels to ride on.
One of the special activities for kiddos is feeding the animals. That’s an experience like no other. All this fun is available throughout the year, so plan a wild family day in Des Moines.
8. Pump It Up Urbandale
Located on 121st Street in Urbandale, Pump It Up is a fun-filled private indoor arena featuring huge inflatables. This place is a leader in kids’ entertainment and a delight for many, especially those who love bouncing.
The arena hosts open jump sessions daily that allow kids to jump, roll, crawl, and bounce to their satisfaction. The sessions also will enable them to play and make friends with other kids from different places.
9. Adventureland Park
If water and thrill rides are a thing your family loves, spend your weekend at Adventureland Park.
This park features some of the tallest and fastest rides in this part of the country, with the Tornado, Outlaw, and Monster being the most beloved rides.
Don’t worry if you visit this park with a baby because you’ll also find kiddy rides like the Reef Racer.
10. Raccoon River Park
Your children will be thrilled by the idea of spending an afternoon at Raccoon River Park. This adventure park is located in Southwest Des Moines, a favorite recreational spot for visitors and locals.
The kids will have lots of fun at the fully-equipped playground with a zipline, barrel roll, and monkey bars with spinning wheels. Additionally, the play area also has two sets of toddler-friendly swings and a giant sandbox area.
For additional fun, the youngsters can move to the sprayground area and soak themselves in water without a care.
Then they can move onto the beach area and build sand castles. The other fun activities include biking, hiking, or fishing.
11. Water Works Park
Water Works Park is a 1,500-acre park near Downtown Des Moines with a lake, woodlands, and a large sporting and play area.
Let the juniors release their energy at the play area as they jump, chase, balance, or play hide and seek in the wooden structures. The play area has a sandbox too.
The other activities in the park include biking, fishing, or picnicking.