5 Fun Fall Activities in Des Moines


family looking down trail. fun fall activities When September rolls around, I can’t wait for the temperature to drop to enjoy some fun fall activities! Sure, nothing beats a sunny summer day, but if you ask me fall is where it’s at. And fall in Des Moines has so much to offer families.

5 Fun Fall Activities

1. Hit the apple orchard

By early to mid September many of the local orchards are ripe for the picking (see what I did there)! My family loves spending an afternoon at Iowa Orchard. With two locations there are plenty of apples to go around. The Urbandale location is a great quick stop if you want someone to do the picking for you; while in Grimes you can grab a basket and head to the orchard and claim your haul.

In addition to delicious apples of all varieties, you can purchase fresh apple cider, caramel apples, apple donuts, and almost any type of pie you can imagine. We never leave without at least one caramel apple; they are the best! This fall, at the Grimes location you can even pick your own sunflowers. 

2. Step back in time

Living History Farms is a great fall destination. Living History Farms has great programming year round, so gather the family and spend a day learning while having a great time.  While some events, like dinners, require an additional fee, your admission fee will unlock some great experiences this fall. From Historic Baseball to Indigenous Iowans Day and Apple Fest there is always so much to see and do.

If you go for a special event, don’t forget to walk around the rest of Living History Farms to check out the history of Iowa in the different sections of the farm. You and your family can experience what life was like in Iowa from the 1700’s-1900’s. There are often in-person exhibits to enjoy.

3. See bison 

Jester Park, just a short drive from the metro, is a great place to spend a day immersed in nature. On the west shore of Saylorville Lake, Jester Park has something for every family.  If you are feeling adventurous, pack some snacks and water bottles and head for a hike on the trails. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the great outdoors on a beautiful afternoon. The natural playscapes are a great place for little ones to burn off some energy. 

My favorite thing to do at Jester Park is to look for the bison that call the 1600-plus acre park home. After a few hours enjoying all the park has to offer, we will hop back in the car and drive around the park to look for bison. I love seeing the majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Don’t worry, the bison are fenced in, so you can enjoy their beauty from a safe distance. 

4. Catch a train

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad has themed train rides all fall long. During September, you can catch a ride with Thomas the Train. Your little ones will be amazed that they get to take a train ride on Thomas himself. In addition to the train ride, your ticket allows you to enjoy a full day of fun. From story time to arts and crafts among other things, this event is sure to please. Don’t forget to check out the train museum while you are there.

In October you can go on the Pumpkin Express. You and your family will take a train ride to a pumpkin patch where you get to pick your very own pumpkin from a pumpkin patch. On the ride back, kids enjoy a treat, and an activity book. Make it extra fun and wear your Halloween costumes.

5. Enjoy a festival

While you may think that summer is the prime season for festivals here in Des Moines, September is always a popular month for weekend festivals. 

Head to Western Gateway Park September 16-18 for the World Food and Music Festival. With vendors representing 27 countries, there is something for everyone. This festival is a great way to learn about different cultures and includes art, music, and of course, food!

The Latino Heritage Festival is September 24-25 in Western Gateway Park. You can enjoy some authentic food from the many vendors while listening to authentic Latin music.  There are also artist displays, cultural booths and children’s activities. This is one festival my family never misses!

A newer addition to the Des Moines Festival scene is Des Moines Biergarten. You can find this event every Thursday to Sunday in September at Water Works Park. Enjoy authentic German food, beer and music with the family. In addition to the natural playscapes at Water Works Park, yard games will also be available. Don’t forget blankets and lawn chairs!

This list is just a small sample of the exciting things going on in Des Moines this fall.  Drop a comment if you plan on doing any of these things with your fam. Share your favorite fun fall activities to do in the metro. I am always looking for new adventures!


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