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

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winter bucket listWinter can drag on. Making a bucket list is a great way to help beat (or at least minimize) cabin fever with these 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?

30+ Family-Friendly Winter Activities in Des Moines

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. Due to Covid19 building hours may change. Please call before you visit the Capitol 515-281-5591.

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 (masks are required)!

Get Creative

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

Got boxes leftover from the holidays? Let the kids have them to create cities, games, food stands, robots.  A few markers and maybe a little tape can add to hours of creativity. 

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

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.

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. Families also rave about the hills at Waveland Golf Course. Be sure to enjoy some hot cocoa when you get home. Pass the marshmallows!

Head just a bit north for a little skiing and tubing. Seven Oaks Recreation is family-owned and operated and offers year-round outdoor recreation in central Iowa. Winter activities include skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing.  Check their website for schedules and pricing.

Take a hike! Bundle up and enjoy beautiful winter scapes along a hike in the metro area and beyond.

winter activitiesIndoor Fun

Many libraries in the area have limited hours right now. Most all are at least offering curbside pickup, so get reading! Here’s a list of all the Des Moines Public Library locations and hours.

Have a family reading challenge, set goals, and have special prizes(bookmarks, book-themed meal, etc.) or check your library for programs like Waukee Public Library’s Winter Bingo.

Find a book or series to read through as a family with a movie night goal. Check out this list of children’s books made into movies!

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 it 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!

Set up a hot cocoa bar. Pour some hot cocoa and let the family top their own with things like mini marshmallows, whipped cream, peppermint sticks, chocolate chips, or whatever your favorites are. 

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!

Check out some of our other resources for indoor activities, 7 Easy Toddler Activities & 50+ Things To Do When You’re Stuck at Home

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. Skate rental is $3, and kids 12 and under skate for $5. Admission for adults is $8.

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 open skates as well as lessons — 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 get out of the house. But where do you go safely? 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!

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