The best things to do and see in Des Moines, all right here

I affectionately think of Des Moines as the city with a small-town feel. There’s much to love about that hometown atmosphere, but don’t let that lead you to believe it’s boring here. Far from it! In fact, there’s no lack of amazing things to do and see in Des Moines, Iowa. They’re all right here…

Things to do in Des Moines

Adventureland Park

Adventureland is home to the Monster, named one of the top, new U.S. roller coasters in 2016.  With over 100 rides, shows and attractions, the park has something for everyone. Don’t miss Adventureland Bay – with 20 water slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river it’s sure to be a hit on those hot summer days! Visit website.

Science Center of Iowa

The Science Center is 110,000 square feet of fun and wonder! It’s sure to entertain and educate both kids and adults alike. With hands-on exhibits, daily interactive programs, live presentations, and the 6-story tall IMAX theater, you’ll want to go back again and again. Visit website.

State Historical Museum of Iowa

Learn about Iowa’s history from the exceptional exhibits at the State Historical Museum. From the days of the mammoth to the modern times, you’ll enjoy your journey through Iowa’s fascinating history. Admission and parking are free! Visit website.

Iowa State Capitol

You can’t miss the 23 karat gold dome when you’re driving through Des Moines (yes – it really is gold)! The state capitol building is a work of art, inside and out. Cell phone audio tours and guided tours are available upon request. Visit website.

Living History Farms

Living History Farms is a one-of-a-kind, interactive, outdoor museum. You’ll get to explore working farms representing 300 years of Iowa farm and settlement history. Spend a day (or two) learning, observing and working on the farms! Visit website.

Blank Park Zoo

Don’t miss “Iowa’s Wildest Adventure”! Blank Park Zoo is the only accredited zoo in Iowa and is home to over 800 amazing critters. The zoo’s exhibits, educational programming, and tours add to the fun. Visit website.

Des Moines Art Center

The Des Moines Art Center is home to an impressive collection of paintings, sculpture, modern art and mixed media housed inside a beautiful building designed by three well-known architects. Admission is free. Visit website.

Downtown Farmers’ Market

The Downtown Farmers’ Market is a popular destination spot on the weekends. It features over 300 Iowa vendors, offering a colorful variety of homegrown produce, eggs, meat, and cheese. Not only that, but local artists and musicians showcase their unique talents. The Market is open Saturdays, May – October. Visit website.

Raccoon River Park

Located in West Des Moines, Raccoon River Park has 631 acres of land where recreational opportunities abound. Blue Heron Lake offers a public swimming beach, fishing, and boating (no wake). The park also has a playground, picnic shelters, archery range, dog park, multi-use trail, ice rink, and nature lodge. Visit website.

Gray’s Lake Park

Gray’s Lake is located just south of downtown Des Moines, offering the perfect escape to nature right in the middle of the city. The trail around the lake is perfect for walking, running or biking, or you could rent a boat and try your hand at sailing or paddling on the lake. Fishing and swimming are also permitted. Visit website.

Jester Park

Jester Park offers too many recreational activities to mention. Whether you love camping, fishing, hiking or golfing, this Polk County park has something for everyone. Kids will adore the natural playscape while they watch the elk and bison graze nearby. Visit website.

Saylorville Lake and Visitors’ Center

Located just north of Des Moines, Saylorville Lake is a popular boating and recreation area. Surrounding the lake are modern campgrounds, fishing areas, swimming beaches, and more. The visitor’s center offers wildlife and nature exhibits, as well as a theater and educational programming. Visit website.

Brenton Skating Plaza

Go ice skating under the stars in the heart of downtown Des Moines! Brenton Skating Plaza offers public ice skating from November to March (weather permitting). The facility is available for rental and other public events are offered year round. Visit website.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Whether you garden or not, this 7-acre public garden is sure to bring you joy throughout the Iowa seasons. Visit to see what’s in bloom and have lunch at Trellis, the garden cafe. Visit website.

John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park

This 4.4-acre park in downtown Des Moines offers a unique, outdoor art exhibit everyone is sure to appreciate. Guided tours are offered April through October and audio tours are available year round. Visit website.

Heritage Carousel

Located in Union Park, Heritage Carousel is a hand carved, hand painted replica of a turn-of-the-century carousel and is operated by the Des Moines Carousel Foundation. The carousel is a work of art that brings a smile to all who ride it. And at only 50 cents a ride, it will fit any budget! Visit website.

Salisbury House and Gardens

Salisbury House is a 22,000 square foot Tudor, Gothic and Carolean style manor home built by the cosmetic mogul, Carl Weeks, and his wife in the 1920s. The home was designed after the King’s House in Salisbury, England. It’s open to the public for tours, events and private rental. Visit website.

Clive Greenbelt Trail

A truly unique paved trail, the Clive Greenbelt Trail is a treat whether you’re biking, walking, jogging or just exploring. Enjoy the beautiful trees, creeks and trailside parks, as well as Art Along the Trail during the warmer months. Visit website.

Climb Iowa

Whether you’re an expert climber or just looking for a little fun and fitness, Climb Iowa is a family-friendly climbing gym with over 10,000 square feet of climbing area, a gym and yoga classes. Let them “show you the ropes”! Visit website.

ICU Paintball

ICU Paintball is an indoor paintball field that offers everything you need for hours of fun and games with your friends. They accommodate groups and individuals 10 years and older. Visit website.

Escape Chambers

“Choose your adventure and escape reality!” is the motto at Escape Chambers. Your group will work together on your mission to escape a themed room…before time runs out! Escape chambers are great for team building, parties, or date nights! Visit website.

The Playground for Kids

When the kids have heaps of energy and the weather outside is frightful, The Playground for Kids is the answer. The Playground has inflatables, a huge treehouse, slides and much more, with open play hours each weekday. Visit website.

Need to keep the kids busy during the summer months, but don’t want to break the budget? Check out our list of free summer activities for kids in Des Moines!

Local Aquatic Centers and Pools

Whether you want to dive in or just dip your toes in the water on those hot summer days, you’re sure to find a pool near you in the Des Moines Area.


Altoona Aquatics Park (515) 967-6988


Cascade Falls Aquatic Center (515) 963-3569

Prairie Ridge Aquatic Center (515) 963-3569


Clive Aquatic Center  (515) 440-0599

Des Moines

Ashworth Swimming Pool (515) 243-3567

Birdland Swimming Pool  (515) 243-3567

Nahas Aquatic Center  (515) 243-3567

Northwest Aquatic Center  (515) 243-3567

Teachout Aquatic Center  (515) 243-3567

West Des Moines

Holiday Park Aquatic Center  (515) 273-0700

Valley View Aquatic Center  (515) 273-0700


Whether you’re selling or buying a home, the process can feel intimidating and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to. At Coluzzi Real Estate, we answer all your questions and simplify the process. We’re there for you every step of the way. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

Image credit: Pixabay


About the Author:

Amanda has lived in the Des Moines area since 1999, where she and her husband have bought and sold a handful of homes over the years, including a recent flip. Amanda enjoys writing, obsesses about personal finance and is fond of looking at houses. She loves sharing useful tips and info to make life easier for anyone wanting to buy or sell a home. In her spare time, Amanda cherishes time with her family, volunteers with IHYC, gardens, hikes, and practices TaeKwonDo. You can read more of her writing at whywemoney.com