School’s out and it’s time for summer fun in Des Moines!
We realize this summer looks a little different due to COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still be fun! We did our best to take social distancing into consideration with our list. Of course, every family feels differently about what is safe right now, so use your best judgment and make sure to follow city and state guidelines while you’re out and about.
It’s also a good idea to check websites/social media for the locations you’ll be visiting since statuses and policies are constantly changing.
We’ve made it easy for you to have your best summer ever by compiling over 75 out-and-about AND stay at home ideas to have the best summer! Start planning now!
Print out our FREE summer planner below and you can fill in to customize your summer!
Bookmark this page and start planning your summer!
- Reserve a timed ticket for Blank Park Zoo.
- Book a weekend of camping fun at The Ledges State Park.
- Kids need something to do? Check out our summer boredom busters!
- Adventureland is now open as well as their waterpark!
- Get a jump start on the holidays and schedule a family photoshoot at one of our favorite locations.
- Find as many murals as you can around Des Moines and take pictures of them.
- Plant a garden with your kiddos!
- Volunteer at ChildServe
- Catch a ride or check out the Boone Scenic Railroad
- Hold a family meeting and come up with some summer family goals
- Set up your own tent and fire pit for a fun backyard family camp out
- Check out one of Des Moines’ many delicious food trucks.
- Head out to Bondurant and grab a to-go growler of Root Beer at Reclaimed Rails to share with the family
- Go berry picking and then make a pie.
- Help your kids in a grill off competition using these tips!
- Pack a picnic and head to a local winery.
- Get an ice cream cone at Snookies or visit one (or all) of our favorite spots for ice cream.
- Buy fresh sweet corn from a stand.
- Stay caffeinated with cold brew or nitro coffee from DSM Brew
- Pick up a to-go charcuterie board at The Cheese Shop for a fun date night idea!
We Love DSM
- Be a tourist in our great city! Spend a day exploring all the fun things to do in Des Moines with your family.
- Walk through the PappaJohn Sculpture Park downtown.
- Check out a Farmers Market on a weekday and get the ingredients to make a farm-fresh dinner.
- Plan a staycation. Eat at a new restaurant, shop in the East Village, and watch the sunset from the steps of the state capitol.
- Join a summer reading program at your local library and pick up books curbside.
- Rent a boat at Easter Lake. They have canoes, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, and motor boats.
- Want to go fishing? Check out our tips for fishing in Iowa before grabbing a pole.
- Kids love to be outside and summer is a great time to explore the great outdoors. Head to Brenton Arboretum in Dallas Center, start a rock collection or go for a hike
- See bison and tallgrass prairie at the Neil Smith Wildlife Refuge, just east of Des Moines off of I-80
- Take a hike! Walnut Woods State Park, located on the southern edge of West Des Moines has several easy trails that are perfect for young families
- Make a list of parks to visit around the Des Moines area
- Take a family bike ride.
- Go geocaching.
- Run, walk, swim, or bike 31 miles in the 31 days of July with Des Moines Parks & Rec.
- Let the kids stay up late and catch fireflies.
- Load up your bikes and ride the High Trestle Trail.
For the Kids
- Sign your kids up for a summer camp.
- Play outside! Here are 20 ideas to get you started.
- Sign up for Lutheran Church of Hope Virtual VBS, July 13-17.
- Check out out a virtual class at Des Moines Performing Arts
- Check this list of boredom busters for older kids before they say they’re bored.
- Unplug and give your kids a simple summer like we had growing up in the 1980s and 1990s.
- Find the best parks for older kids.
- Let the kids be bored. It’s good for them!
- Get a pen pal and start writing letters.
- Try our favorite sensory activity. Kids love it, and it’s cheap and easy!
Beat the Heat
- Stay cool at the pools and spraygrounds that are open this summer.
- Iowa may not have a coast, but there are some beaches. Head to Blue Heron Lake at Raccoon River Park or Big Creek State Park.
- Need to get some wiggles out? Check out our indoor play guide for the best places to burn off some energy, make sure to check for COVID-19 policies and times.
- Have a water balloon fight. These self-sealing balloons are our favorite!
- Get out the hose, buckets, and towels and have a car or bike wash.
- Cool off at a movie marathon at home.
- Make these super easy and delicious watermelon popsicles.
- Too hot to play outside? Check out 50 fun indoor activities.
- Pick up items to help other families in need, fill a donation box
- Got the decluttering bug? Have a garage sale!
- Have a bonfire and make s’mores.
- Hang a large sheet and rent a projector for a “drive-in” movie experience
- Grow your own vegetables and plant a garden.
- Get creative and paint rocks to hide around your community.
- Invite friends over and grill out.
- Create a ninja warrior course in the backyard.
- Start a little free library.
Load up the car and hit the road! Whether you have a day, a weekend, or longer, there are plenty of places to visit that are driving distance from Des Moines.
- Pack up the car and go on a day trip in central Iowa.
- Discover how beautiful Decorah is.
- Head to Clear Lake for a day or a long weekend.
- Relax at Lake Okoboji
- Take the family to Honey Creek Resort
- Explore the Amanas
- See Pella
- Find out what families love about Ames
- Explore the “Nature Connects®: Art with LEGO® Bricks” exhibit at Reiman Gardens in Ames through July 5.
- Visit Iowa’s 99 Counties.
Just For Moms
- Host a fun outdoor party with Tent Ventures, they also have kid packages!
- Get a spray tan at Tanique.
- Pick up some select wines from WineStyles.
- Head out to Winterset for a fun evening at Covered Bridges Winery.
- Go through your wardrobe and construct new outfits with these tips.
- Have a spa night at home with a manicure, pedicure, and face mask.
- Get those closets organized.
- Train for a 5K just because you can.
- Summer reading isn’t just for kids! Sign yourself up for the summer reading program at Des Moines Public Library and get lost in a good book!