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!
Print out our FREE summer planner below and you can fill in what you want to do to truly customize your summer!
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Explore all Des Moines has to offer this summer and plan your fun with this FREE printable!
We Love DSM
- Visit the new EMC Downtown Park at 701 Walnut Street, slated to open the beginning of June. It will have a half-basketball court, pickleball court, playstructure, raised flower beds, and seating.
- Check out the Lauridsen Skate Park, along the Des Moines River downtown or one of the other skate parks around Des Moines.
- The Iowa State Fair is a must! 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. Check out the newest addition, a 12-foot bronze sculpture of a female figure with a missing arm and peg leg.
- Head to a Farmers’ Market and get the ingredients to make a farm-fresh dinner.
- Support small businesses and pick up a summer read from a local bookstore. Here are some of our favorite local bookstores.
- Go to Bozz Prints in Valley Junction for a t-shirt or Midwest-inspired print.
- 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. Admission is free. The latest exhibit is Rembrandt and His World. Be sure to check out the gardens while you’re there.
Des Moines Summer Family Fun
- Go to a FREE outdoor family event put on by Des Moines Performing Arts at parks around the metro.
- Celebrate culture, listen to music, or experience small-town traditions at a local festival.
- Ride the rails with Rail Explorers at Boone Scenic Railroad. Book now, spots fill quickly!
- 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.
- Hold a family meeting and come up with some summer family goals.
- Set up a 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
- Celebrate Donut Day, June 2, (or any day) with a sweet treat from these local bake shops.
- Go out for brunch at one of our favorite spots!
- Check out one of Des Moines’ many tasty food trucks.
- Head 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.
- Head to the Des Moines Biergarten in Water Works Park. The German-Theme popup is open Wednesday through Sunday May 17–the end of October.
- Get an ice cream cone at Outside Scoop in Ankeny or Indianola, the creamery in Polk City, 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
- RAGBRAI is coming to Des Moines July 26! Even if you don’t ride your bike, don’t miss all the festivities, including a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.
- Grab some paddles and balls and join the pickleball craze! Here’s where to find pickleball courts around Des Moines.
- If camping isn’t your thing, but you still want to sleep outside, try glamping with Traveling Basket.
- Rent a boat at Saylorville Lake or Lake Red Rock.
- Try an outdoor yoga class. Many are free!
- 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.
- Take photos in a sunflower field. They are as stunning as they look!
- 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
- 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.
- Head to Imagination Street in Ankeny and let kids play to their heart’s content.
- Have a kid who’s obsessed with the garbage man? Check out the Education Center at the Metro Recycling Facility in Grimes.
- 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.
- Bookmark 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 for you kid and have them 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.
- Spend a morning getting your wiggles out at the DSM Children’s Museum at Valley West Mall.
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.
- Too hot to be outside? 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.
- Rainy day have you stuck inside? 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.
- Load up on graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows and 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
- Head to the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City. It’s a kids’ dream!
- Spend a couple days in Minneapolis.
- Pack up the car and go on a day trip in central Iowa.
- Drive to Iowa City for the day and tour the Old Capitol Museum and walk the ped mall.
- Eat, play, and shop in Overland Park, Kansas.
- Leave the kids at home and enjoy an adults-only weekend in Omaha.
- Discover the beauty of Decorah.
- Visit the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque.
- Take a day trip to the Omaha Zoo.
- 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.
- Head to the Amanas and experience German culture in the seven scenic villages.
- Learn about Dutch heritage in Pella.
- Find out what families love about Ames.
- Check out the “Glass in Flight” exhibit at Reiman Gardens in Ames.