Get ready for summer fun in Des Moines!
We’ve made it easy for you to have your best summer ever by compiling over 125 of our favorite ideas for every budget, interest, and age. (Please check each event/business website for the most up-to-date information.)
Start planning your summer now! Simply scroll down and click on the category to jump to that list.
Print out our FREE summer planner below and you can fill in what you want to do to truly customize your summer!
Thank you to Children’s Dental Center of Central Iowa, PLC, for partnering with us and making the production of this guide possible for Des Moines families!
Children’s Dental Center of Central Iowa isn’t just a dental office. It’s a place that children look forward to visiting – and a place where parents are just as comfortable as patients! That’s because they make sure healthy always comes with a big dose of happy. They’re proud to say they make going to the dentist fun!
Bookmark this page and start planning your best summer ever!
Des Moines Summer Festivals
Summer means festivals and they’re back in full force this summer! Grab your calendar, because there is something to celebrate all summer around Des Moines.
- Winefest Des Moines June 1-12
- Cajun Fest June 6
- Grimes Governor’s Days June 10-12
- Valley Junction Arts Festival June 13
- Johnston Green Days June 17-20
- Des Moines Arts Festival June 25-27
- Celebrate Ankeny July 10
- Polk City Four Seasons Festival July 17
- National Balloon Classic July 30-August 7 in Indianola
- Hinterland Music Festival August 6-8 St. Charles, IA
- Iowa State Fair August 12-22
- Adel Sweet Corn Festival August 13-14
- Dallas Center Fall Festival August 27-28
- Ingersoll Live August 28
- Riverview Music Festival September 4
- World Food & Music Festival September 17-19
- Beaverdale Fall Festival September 18
- Latino Heritage Festival September 25-26 Western Gateway Park
- Oktoberfest September 24-25 Historic Court District
We Love DSM
- Check out the Lauridsen Skate Park, the coolest new attraction in Des Moines.
- The Iowa State Fair is back this year and we’re here for it! Here are our tips for making the most of your trip.
- Be a tourist in our great city! Spend a day exploring all the fun things to do in Des Moines with your family.
- Cheer on the Iowa Cubs. Go to a Friday night game and enjoy the fireworks show after the game.
- Walk through the PappaJohn Sculpture Park downtown.
- Head to a Farmers Market on a weekday and get the ingredients to make a farm-fresh dinner.
- Support small businesses and pick up a summer read from a local bookstore. We recommend Beaverdale Books or Storyhouse BookPub opening later this summer.
- Shop at Raygun for a snarky t-shirt.
- Grab some chairs or a blanket and enjoy an outdoor concert. There are plenty to choose from!
- Take a tour of the state capitol building. It’s free!
- Love Ted Lasso? Cheer on the Des Moines Menace soccer team at Valley Stadium.
- Experience the wonder of fine art at the Des Moines Art Center. Be sure to check out the gardens while you’re there.
Des Moines Summer Family Fun
- Find as many murals as you can around Des Moines and take pictures of them.
- Take a walk on the wild side at the 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!
- Spend a day riding the rides at Adventureland and relaxing at the waterpark!
- Get a jump start on the holidays and schedule a family photo shoot at one of our favorite locations.
- Plant a garden with your kiddos!
- Geek out at the Science Center of Iowa
- Hit the rails with a ride on 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 campout
- Join the fight against hunger and pack meals with Meals from the Heartland annual hunger fight.
- Step back in time and explore 300 years of farming history at Living History Farms.
Des Moines Summer Eats + Drinks
- Check out one of Des Moines’ many tasty 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 and grill it with this easy recipe.
- ‘Tis the season for iced coffee. Check out our Coffee Shop Guide for the spots to get caffeinated.
- Pick up a to-go charcuterie board at The Cheese Shop for a fun date night.
- Food tastes better outside. Enjoy dinner and drinks at one of our favorite patios.
- What’s better than pizza night? Pizza on the Prairie! Enjoy brick oven pizza topped with farm-fresh veggies and local meats at the Wallace Centers of Iowa on Friday nights.
- Make BLTs. The combination of a juicy homegrown tomato with crunchy lettuce and crispy bacon can’t be beat.
Des Moines Summer Outside Adventures
- Rent a boat at Easter Lake. They have canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and motorboats.
- Go fishing! Check out our tips for fishing in Iowa before grabbing a pole.
- 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. Check out this guide to more good hikes in central Iowa.
- Make a list of parks to visit around the Des Moines area
- Take a family bike ride.
- Go geocaching.
- Let the kids stay up late and catch fireflies.
- Load up your bikes and ride the High Trestle Trail.
- Enjoy a free outdoor movie at a local park. Pack blankets and snacks and enjoy a family-friendly flick.
- Hit up the Jester Park Outdoor Recreation & Wellness Center and check out their bouldering room, indoor archery, and watercraft rentals.
- Try the bike trails at the Ewing Park BMX trails.
- Get lost in the hedge maze and check out the views from Clark Tower in Winterset.
Des Moines Summer Kids Activities
- Keep your kids busy at a summer camp.
- Join a summer reading program at your local library.
- Play outside! Here are 20 ideas to get you started.
- Sign up for Kids Bowl Free and get 2 free games a day at Warrior Lanes.
- Staying home this summer? Check out these virtual camps for kids.
- 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.
- Check out the best parks for older kids.
- Get a pen pal and start writing letters.
- Try our favorite sensory activity. Kids love it, and it’s cheap and easy!
- Visit the alpacas at Rusty Stars Alpacas in Winterset. Check their website for times.
- Moms of littles, if you’re stuck at home with nap schedules and little kids, check out these fun driveway activities.
- The skater scene in Des Moines is pretty rad. Grab a scooter or skateboard and check out all the skate parks around the metro.
- Review these water safety tips and take the Safer Swimmer Pledge with Goldfish Swim School.
- Spend a morning at the DSM Children’s Museum at Valley West Mall.
- Visit the Clive Greenbelt Goats, located next to Clive City Hall.
Beat the Heat
- Hit up a sprayground or wading pool. They are FREE and open May 1 through September 30.
- 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.
- Spend an afternoon at one of the local swimming pools.
- 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 with a movie marathon at home.
- Make these super easy and delicious watermelon popsicles.
- Too hot to play outside? Check out 50 fun indoor activities.
- Get off the beaten path and explore the best places for creek walking. Ledges State Park in Madrid is our favorite!
- Run through the Lauridsen Fountain at Cowles Commons.
- Pick up items to help other families in need, fill a donation box
- Make s’mores.
- Hang a large sheet and rent a projector for a “drive-in” movie experience
- 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.
- Have a lemonade or freeze pop stand.
- Got the decluttering bug? Have a garage sale!
- Plan a neighborhood block party or Fourth of July Parade around the block.
Midwest Road Trips
- Pack up the car and go on a day trip in central Iowa.
- Discover the beauty of Decorah.
- Visit the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque.
- Spend a weekend in Omaha.
- Explore Kansas City. We love Science City!
- 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.
- Learn about Dutch heritage in Pella.
- Find out what families love about Ames.
- Explore the “OrigamiintheGarden²” exhibit at Reiman Gardens in Ames.
- Visit Iowa’s 99 Counties.