Winter Bucket List: What to Do in Des Moines this Winter


Winter weather making you and your kiddos a little antsy? Beat (or at least minimize) cabin fever with the mom-approved ideas.

From fun and unique things to do around Des Moines, to creative and boredom-busting ideas you can do from the comfort of your living room, there’s something for every age and stage!

Here’s the inside scoop on how to survive winter in Des Moines (and create some new memories along the way)!

How many items can you check off on this winter bucket list for kids and families?

Family-Friendly Winter Activities in Des Moines

Fun for the Whole Family

Love The Greatest Showman? Take the family to the Za-Ga-Zig Shrine Circus (Jan. 24-26) for a real-life experience including freestyle motorcross, trapeze acts, trampoline act, and more. 

Your kids will find plenty to enjoy at Kidsfest! This two-day festival (Jan. 17-18) is a fundraiser for Children & Families of Iowa held at the Varied Industries Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The fun includes live entertainment, bounce houses, superheroes and cartoon characters, games, crafts, and exhibitors.

Explore Des Moines

Take in some culture at the Des Moines Art CenterIt’s free! Check out their calendar for fun, family-friendly events like Baby + Me tours and workshops. 

Get your nature fix at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens. Ditch the gloves and hats and enjoy the tropical and temperate oasis in the heart of downtown Des Moines.

Burn some energy in the skywalks of downtown Des Moines. Whether you’re pushing a stroller or exploring with bigger kiddos (some even bring little bikes or scooters), there’s lots of room to run and plenty of cars to watch on the streets below.

Have older kids? Take a tour of the Iowa Capitol – it’s quite impressive! Tours are free. Click here for more information.

Explore Iowa’s history at the State Historical Society of Iowa Museum. You can learn about life in Iowa before it became a state, how it changed as settlers arrived and explore Iowa’s rich natural resources. There is a great section for kids, and admission is free!

Get Creative

Want to stay home? Grab some old magazines, a few kid-friendly scissors, construction paper, and glue to make winter-theme collages. It’s always fun to see what kids create!

Throw some water beads in the tub, turn on the water, and watch them grow! Let your kids wear their swimsuits as they enjoy the sensory fun of playing in a tub filled with squishy, bouncy, marble-sized beads. (A little goes a long way — one $13 bag will yield about 20 gallons of beads!)

Want a mom-approved way for your kids to entertain themselves? Get a large roll of drawing paper (you can find them at local craft stores), provide some crayons or markers, and sit back and relax.

Not a fan of supervising messy craft projects at home? Check out one of the fun, unique classes at Kids Create, a mobile art studio offering kid-friendly art classes in and around the Des Moines metro area. Your kids are sure to love the unique event themes and special (animal) guests! 

let it snow printable

Download this FREE Let it Snow printable from XO-LP and start coloring!

Cheer on the Home Team

There’s not a more wintery sport than hockey! Catch an Iowa Wild game at Iowa Events Center. Children under two are free, the rest will need tickets. (Mom tip: Warn your kiddos ahead of time that there might be some loud buzzer noises.)

Go Bulldogs! Don your blue and white and cheer on the men and women’s Drake Basketball teams! Here’s the schedule.

Argh! Attend a Des Moines Buccaneers hockey game. Tickets are affordable, and they boast frequent deal nights. (On Jan. 20, hotdogs, soda, and popcorn are only $1 each!)

Get Outside!

Kids have energy to burn? Go sledding! We hear Winter Park is a fun place to visit – it has a free outdoor ice arena, too. Some moms also rave about the hills at Waveland Golf Course. Be sure to enjoy some hot cocoa when you get home. Pass the marshmallows!

Add some winter whimsy to your weekend with a visit to Brenton Skating Plaza in downtown Des Moines. Skate under the stars, catch snowflakes on your tongue, and make memories! Children under five are free, and ice scooters are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Kids ages 5-12 are $5.50 and adults are $9. Skate rental is $5. (Sizes start at toddler size 8!)

Indoor Fun

A free and fun way to spend time with other parents and children? Storytime at local libraries, of course! Here’s a list of all the Des Moines Public Library locations and hours.

For some free indoor fun, visit Barnes and Noble (there’s one in Jordan Creek Town Center and one on University in West Des Moines). Grab a magazine while the kids play at the train table, and maybe you can leave with a new book to read for some quality family time! (Check out the local Barnes and Noble event calendar, they offer some fun themed story hours!) 

Burn energy at the Valley Community Center in West Des Moines. It has a small indoor play area, a coffee shop, and gym. They have weekly movies, family dodgeball, and more on their calendar of events

Have Fun at Home

Set up an indoor obstacle course. Whether your home is big or small, a little rearranging can turn a living room into a test track! Bring in bikes, scooters, Power Wheels, Cozy Coupes, play tents and tunnels.

Bring winter fun inside. Scoop up some snow and place into big bowls or plastic containers. Add food coloring and measuring cups, and you’ve got a good twenty minutes of solid entertainment for kids of all ages!

Enjoy some endorphins with a family dance party. Turn off the video games and turn up the music! Create a Spotify playlist with some family-friendly tunes (hey, Kidz Bop isn’t so bad….) and get your boogie on!

Warm-up in the kitchen! Have the kids help you make a pot of soup. Here are our three favorite soup recipes to try!

Go camping in your living room! Dig out the tent and sleeping bags and set up a pretend campfire for a fun indoor campout at home. Don’t forget to make a stop at the grocery store for marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers, because you can’t have a campout without s’mores! 

Get physical! Bring a small basketball hoop inside, set up a small trampoline, or push all the family room furniture to the side for a rousing soccer game. Tour your garage and challenge yourself to put an indoor twist on the fun items you already have. A little imagination goes a long way, and kids beating cabin fever saves your sanity, too!

Burn Some Energy

Too cold to go outside? Channel your inner ice skater with a stop at Metro Ice Sports Facility, which features two indoor NHL-sized rinks. There’s a lounge area with concessions, and beginners are welcome! Skate rental is $3, and kids 12 and under skate for $5. Admission for adults is $7.

Everyone thinks of ice skating during the winter, but rollerskating is also a fun way to burn some energy and beat cabin fever. Skate North Incrediroll in Des Moines has special “toddler time” and “tiny tot skate” — check out their schedule to find the right time and price for your family.

Try your hand at cosmic bowling at Warrior Lanes in Waukee. The bowling center features family bowling parties that include glow-in-the-dark bowling, mom-approved music, and yummy food. Check their schedule for upcoming events!

Sometimes you just need to pretend it’s summer! When you’re aching for warmer days, visit Urbandale’s indoor pool. Children 2 years of age and under are free with paid adult. Swimmers three and older are $5.

Check out the newest indoor amusement park in Ankeny: Urban Air Adventure Park. Kids (and adults) will have a blast on trampolines, ropes course, climbing wall, sky rider coaster, and more.

Sometimes, you just need to get out of the house. But where do you go? Check out our guide to indoor play areas in Des Moines.

What are your go-to’s for winter fun and beating cabin fever? Let us know!

winter activities


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