Free summer activities for the kids in Des Moines

“I’m bored!”

“There’s nothing to do!”

If you have kids, at this point of the summer, you’ve probably heard these all too familiar phrases. While a little boredom is good and can spur creativity, sometimes you just have to get them out of the house!

Never fear! There are lots of activities to keep your kids busy during the summer in the Des Moines area! And, better yet, many of them are FREE. So, if you’re having one of those long summer days, check out a few of the free things to do in the area:

Free summer activities for the kids in Des Moines, Iowa

Journey through the State Historical Museum of Iowa

Learn about Iowa’s history from the great 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!

Tour the Iowa State Capitol

You can’t miss the 23 karat gold dome (yes – it really is gold)! The Iowa State Capitol building is a work of art, inside and out. Free cell phone audio tours and guided tours are available upon request.

Explore the Des Moines Art Center

The Des Moines Art Center offers special programs for kids. It’s home to a collection of paintings, sculpture, modern art and mixed media housed inside a beautiful building designed by three well-known architects. Admission is free.

Check out the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park

This 4.4-acre sculpture park in downtown Des Moines offers a unique, outdoor art exhibit the kids will love. Guided tours are offered April through October, and audio tours are available year round.

Attend a library program

All the local libraries have free kids programming throughout the summer. Check out your local library for their calendar of kids events.

Altoona Public Library
Ankeny Public LIbrary
Des Moines Public Library
Grimes Public Library
Johnston Public Library
Urbandale Public Library
Waukee Public Library
West Des Moines Public Library

Take an adventure to a local park

Raccoon River Park has a playground, picnic shelters, archery range, dog park, multi-use trail, and nature lodge. Blue Heron Lake offers a public swimming beach, fishing, and boating (no wake).

Gray’s Lake is located just south of downtown Des Moines, offering the perfect escape to nature right in the middle of the city. Fishing and swimming are permitted in designated areas.

Jester Park has it all! Whether you love camping, fishing, hiking or golfing, this park has something for everyone. Kids will enjoy the natural playscape while they watch the elk and bison graze nearby.

Saylorville Lake has fishing areas, swimming beaches, and more. The visitor’s center offers wildlife and nature exhibits, as well as a theater and educational programming kids enjoy.

The Clive Greenbelt Trail is a fun paved trail, whether you’re biking, walking, jogging or just exploring. Enjoy the beautiful trees, creeks and trailside parks. Kids will love the Art Along the Trail during the warmer months.

Cool off at the local spraygrounds and wading pools

Those hot summer days are the perfect opportunity to cool off in one of the many area spraygrounds, splash pads or wading pools. And, as a bonus, most of them are FREE! Here is an excellent list from dsm4kids.com of local water playgrounds in the Des Moines area.

The next time the kids are bored this summer and you just need to get out for a while, visit one of these area attractions to keep them entertained on a budget! It’s a win-win for everyone!


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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