Fall Bucket List for Des Moines Families


Make family memories this fall with our ultimate fall bucket list.

Check out more than 65 things to do in Des Moines this fall.

No more generic fall bucket list: This Fall Bucket List was made with Des Moines families in mind. These budget-friendly, kid-friendly bucket list ideas include special central Iowa locations, must-try fall foods, experiences to remember, and more.

How many can you check off our fall bucket list for Des Moines families? Save this list, share with your friends, and start makin’ memories.

Due to COVID-19 some businesses and attractions have limited hours and/or mask requirements. We work hard to ensure the accuracy of this information. However, you should always call ahead to confirm dates, times, location, and other information before heading to an event or activity, since it may change.

Fall Bucket List: 65+ Ways to Enjoy Fall in Des Moines

  1. Hang a festive fall wreath.
  2. Visit the SUE T. rex exhibit at the Science Center of Iowa.
  3. Learn about butterflies and participate in a monarch tagging workshop through Des Moines Parks and Rec.
  4. Pick out yarn at Yarn Junction Co in Valley Junction and make a scarf just in time for cooler temps.
  5. Add fall color to your front step with a huge mum from Earl May.
  6. Satisfy your sweet tooth with some classic fall candy. (Are you team candy corn, or nah?)
  7. Spend a rainy day at the State Historical Society of Iowa‘s museum. (Bonus: It’s free!)
  8. Check out the view and take pictures of fall foliage from the top of Clark Tower in Winterset.
  9. Make cinnamon playdough with this easy recipe.
  10. Try these mom-approved tips for adding a little fall flair to your home.
  11. Treat yo’ self! Create a fall capsule wardrobe with these tried and true fall staples.
  12. Plant bulbs in your garden for next spring. (Never too early to think ahead!)
  13. Make a pinecone birdfeeder with your kids. (These directions from Martha Stewart make it easy!)
  14. Buy fall produce at the Drive-Thru Bite-Size Downtown Farmers Market, which runs until Oct. 31 at the Iowa State Capitol complex parking lot located at E. 13th and E. Grand Avenue in Downtown Des Moines
  15. Enjoy Living History Farm’s Applefest.
  16. Opt for a teal pumpkin.
  17. Host a fall potluck with your friends. (Everyone brings some soup or bread, and everyone leaves full and happy!) Try one of our favorite fall recipes.
  18. Grab some friends and enjoy live music and hard cider at Winterset Cidery.
  19. Visit a pumpkin patch. (Our central Iowa guide will help you pick which one!)
  20. Trek the trails of Ledges State Park.
  21. Head downtown and grab an apple pie or pumpkin spice cupcake from Molly’s Cupcakes.
  22. Try a handmade caramel from Beaverdale Confections.
  23. Check out fall-theme picture books from the library, grab some stuffed animals, and have a cozy, at-home story time with your preschooler.
  24. Get nostalgic and send a piece of your favorite childhood Halloween candy in your little one’s lunchbox.
  25. Buy a locally-made soy candle from Dirt Road Candle Co. with your fave fall scent.
  26. Navigate the 10-acre corn maze at Geisler Farms.
  27. Warm up with a pot of apple cider.
  28. Get creative with your pumpkin decorating! Pull out paints, glitter, pom-poms, and more.
  29. Invite the neighbors over for a fall bonfire. (Load up on hot dogs and s’more supplies!)
  30. Take a step back in time and go to the Renaissance Faire at Sleep Hollow Park. Attractions include full contact jousting, pirate cove, gypsy camp, royal court and more.
  31. Collect colorful leaves to make a leaf garland.
  32. Add canned pumpkin to a spice cake mix for super-easy pumpkin spice cupcakes!
  33. Gear up for a family bike ride on the High Trestle Trail. (The views are amazing this time of year!)
  34. Get a babysitter and head to a haunted house.
  35. Rake the leaves…so you can jump in them. (Set your DSLR to a fast shutter-speed to ensure some top-notch photos!)
  36. Create a family theme for Halloween costumes and get ready for Beggars’ Night! (Des Moines newbies: Beggars’ Night is an Iowa thing we do for trick-or-treating. Might as well bone up on your jokes, while you’re at it!)
  37. Take advantage of the cooler temps and go camping.
  38. Need to burn off energy? Head to Urban Air in Ankeny for an epic indoor play experience.
  39. Explore Brown’s Woods and bring a picnic to enjoy in the fresh autumn air when you’re finished.
  40. Watch a spooky Halloween movie.
  41. Plan a night out with friends at a local winery. Most offer the chance to unwind with free live music. (Wineries to consider: Jasper, Summerset, Prairie Moon, or Snus Hill!)
  42. Gather coats your little ones have outgrown and donate them.
  43. Nosh some pumpkin pancakes at Drake Diner.
  44. Make an apple pie with your kids and deliver it to someone who could use a smile. (Store-bought crust is okay!)
  45. Crack open the windows and enjoy the fresh air. (Simple, but sometimes we need the reminder to slow down and breathe!)
  46. Order a pumpkin spice latte at Grounds for Celebration. (You know you want to.)
  47. Take a hayride.
  48. Book an Airbnb for a romantic fall weekend getaway. (Central Iowa has lots of gorgeous options!)
  49. Toast pumpkin seeds after you’re done carving pumpkins.
  50. Jump on the giant jumping pillow at The Pumpkin Ranch in Winterset.
  51. Go old school and make a scarecrow. (Not too scary, obvs!)
  52. Create a playlist and play it while you drive over the mile-long Saylorville Lake bridge. The bold fall foliage will inspire you!
  53. Attend the Pumpkin Walk (it’s free!) in the Historic Valley Junction.
  54. Grab your slow cooker and make a big ol’ batch of chili.
  55. Get crafty! Gather your family to make (and decorate!) a list of everything you’re thankful for.
  56. Ride the Pumpkin Express at Boone Scenic Railway (kids love it!) and soak in the gorgeous fall foliage.
  57. Take a family hike in Jester Park.
  58. Get inspired by fine art at the Des Moines Art Center. Admission is free, but you must reserve tickets in advance.
  59. Spend a day picking apples at a local orchard and then bake with them.
  60. Take advantage of cooler temperatures by giving back and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of Central Iowa.
  61. Carve pumpkins.
  62. Grab a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks and walk through the PappaJohn Sculpture park downtown.
  63. Book a family photography session to capture the beautiful changing leaves. Here are some of our favorite spots for fall photos.
  64. Don your flannel and go on a camping adventure at Walnut Woods State Park. (Enjoy the country experience within city limits!)
  65. Go thrifting for some vintage flair to add to your fall decor. (We love retro thermoses and plaid blankets!)
  66. Play a round of mini-golf at Jester Park. How many holes in one can you get?
  67. Head up a fall adventure walk with your kids, collecting pine cones, acorns, leaves, and branches. Use them to decorate your fireplace mantel.fall bucket list


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