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


Winter Bucket ListWinters in Iowa can go on for what seems like forever. Beat those wintertime blues with a bucket list of fun winter activities in Des Moines.

From winter-only events 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)!

Use our handy printable to make your own list with inspiration from some of our favorites below. Click here!

30+ Family-Friendly Winter Activities in Des Moines

Explore Des Moines

Book an igloo at Barntown Brewing. Grab some friends and enjoy your own cozy igloo keeping you warm while dining and imbibing outside. See their website for full details. Or try another brewery.

Grab a cup of coffee or hot cocoa. Try a new shop every weekend. 

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. 

Pretend you’re somewhere tropical at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens. Ditch the gloves and hats and enjoy nature inside in the heart of downtown Des Moines.

Get your steps in at 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. 

Enjoy indoor sports at Spare Time or Smash Park, located close to each other in West Des Moines you can bowl in the afternoon and play pickleball at night.

Great Escape in Altoona also offers bowling, laser tag, virtual reality, and more. Plus there is great food and drinks for all-day family fun.

Get Creative

Make your own snow! Get a big bin and make fake snow inside for the kids to play in without having to get all the gear on and face the cold.

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

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’s and women’s Drake Basketball teams! Here’s the schedule.

Attend an Iowa Wolves basketball game. See big-time talent right here in Des Moines.

Catch a hockey game! Cheer on the Des Moines Bucs or Iowa Wild

Get Outside!

When it snows, go sledding. 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.

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.

Try your hand at a new winter sport at Jester Park. Rent cross-country skis or snowshoes and enjoy the sites of the park during winter.

Indoor Reading Fun

Spend an afternoon at the library! 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 meals, etc.), or check your library for programs like Waukee Public Library’s Winter Bingo Challenge.

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

Play floor is lava. You have a floor, now figure out a clever way not to use it. Create bridges with pillows, books, and whatever else you can find.

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. Create a playlist with some family-friendly tunes and dance the day away.

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. For even more fun, grab some Hot Cocoa Bombs ahead of time.

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 free, and admission is $5.

Like ice skating, but warmer, rollerskating is a fun way to spend a winter’s day Skateland 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.

Take a staycation just for the pool. All around the metro you can pretend you’re somewhere warm with a dip in the pool.

And of course, we have our guide to indoor play areas in Des Moines.

What are your go-to activities for winter fun and beating cabin fever? 


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