5 kids laughing in a field near Des Moines, Iowa.
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Kid Friendly Activities In and Around Des Moines, IA

photo: DesMoinesFairgrounds.com
photo: DesMoinesFairgrounds.com

Thank you to our friend Jody Halsted of HaveKidWillTravel.com for this great guest post on Des Moines, Iowa!

 What comes to your mind when I say Des Moines?  (cue Jeopardy music)

Nothing.  I know.  Unless you work in insurance: it is the #1 spot for US insurance companies to do business and is home to ING Group, Aviva, Principal Financial Group, Nationwide, Holmes Murphy and others.  Banking is also big here with Wells Fargo recently building a 176 acre, $250 million campus in West Des Moines.  In fact, Meredith Publishing is headquartered in downtown.  So we are very popular with businesses.

 Des Moines is also becoming quite the popular place to live as noted by Kiplinger,#9; ArticlesBase.com, #6 and Forbes.  And the suburb of Ankeny (my home) was touted as one of the 10 Best Towns for Families by Family Circle.

 So, that’s all fine and dandy, you’re thinking, but what is there to do?  Let me just say…  More than you might imagine.


 It wasn’t long ago that downtown Des Moines seemed to roll up its sidewalks at night.  The revitalization of downtown has changed that.  With new condos and lofts replacing vacant buildings downtown Des Moines has responded with great restaurants and activities.

 If you’re looking for funky charm the East Village, which sits just below the state capitol, provides an eclectic atmosphere for retail therapy and amazing dining.

 For night life and more food head over to Court Avenue and take your pick from dozens of amusements.  A family friendly atmosphere can be found at Spaghetti Works, Court Avenue Brewing Company and the Royal Mile.


For dining and gaming fun head to AllPlay, formerly InPlay, for food, mini bowling and two floors of games for the whole family.

 Des Moines has culture, too.  The Civic Center features Broadway plays and musicals, Hoyt Sherman Place and the Temple of Performing Arts host more intimate performances.  Des Moines even has a ballet, a symphony and a Dance Theater.  You can also explore a couple of art galleries and every summer brings the Des Moines Arts Festival.


For sports fans we have the Barnstormers minor league arena football, the Iowa Cubs minor league baseball, the Iowa Chops AHL hockey, the Des Moines Buccaneers US Hockey League, and the Iowa Energy NBA Developmental League basketball.   Want to get out and be active yourself?  Explore the Riverwalk or the Grey’s Lake area.


More kid friendly activities include the wonderful Science Center and the Des Moines Zoo, which isn’t really downtown but is mighty close.


If you happen to be in Des Moines on a Saturday between May and September Court Avenue closes to traffic and is filled with vendors for the Downtown Farmer’s Market.  Fresh produce, food stalls and crafts line the street.


Out from Downtown


If you’re searching for history you’ll want to head west out of downtown on Grand Avenue.  As you crest the hill you can’t miss our governor’s mansion, Terrace Hill, overlooking the city.  Terrace Hill was given to the state in 1971 and has been home to our governors, who live on the 3rd floor, since that time.  Tours are available Tuesday- Saturday from March thru December.


As you continue west watch for the signs for Salisbury House, modeled after the King’s House in Salisbury, England.  Built from 1923-1928 this majestic building was a family home and now houses amazing collections of swords, art and books.  The house is available to tour March thru December, Tuesday thru Friday and Sunday.  Many events also take place here including weddings, classical concerts, teas, Shakespeare of the Lawn and the Salisbury Classic Auto Show.


Historic Valley Junction is just a bit farther west and offers dining, unique shops, art galleries and a look back at Des Moines history.


If you want to take a “step back in time” be sure to visit Living History Farms in the suburb of Urbandale.  See how life was “in the olden days” from the native Indians to the settlers that farmed the rich soil.

The Suburbs


For upscale shopping and dining head to West Des Moines’ Jordan Creek and West Glen areas.  Jordan Creek Town Center houses stores like Sephora, Godiva, Barnes & Noble, Build-a-Bear and many others.  It also has a large theater and dining at restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory, Champps and Panera.


Surrounding the mall is the Lake District and the Village, home to more shops (like DSW and Ulta as well as the new Aveda school) and restaurants like Joe’s Crab Shack, Fleming’s Steak House and PF Chang’s.


The West Glen Town Center, just off Interstate 35, brings exclusive shops, scrumptious dining and urban living together with a small town feel.


In Altoona you’ll find Adventureland, an amusement park for all ages.


The remaining suburbs- Ankeny, Waukee, Norwalk, Grimes, Johnston and others- provide parks, pools, libraries, golf, summer festivals and other year round amusements.


Iowa State Fair


I can’t really talk about Des Moines without at least mentioning our great state fair.  The setting for movies, songs and Broadway musicals the fairgrounds sit on Des Moines’ east side.  The Iowa State Fair runs for 10 days in mid-August and brings people from absolutely everywhere in the world.


How to Get Here


Des Moines is located in the center of the great state of Iowa.  It is serviced by the Des Moines International Airport.  Des Moines is also the meeting place of two main interstates- I-80 & I-35, making it an easy destination to get to.




Jody is a native of Iowa, but travels the world with her two kids.  Read more about her adventures and travel tips at her website, HaveKidWillTravel.com

Find Top Hotel Deals in Des Moines! 

photo: DesMoinesFairgrounds.com
photo: DesMoinesFairgrounds.com

Thank you to our friend Jody Halstad of HaveKidWillTravel.com for this great guest post on Des Moines, Iowa!





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