5 Fun Outdoor Things to do With Kids in Des Moines, Iowa

Outdoor Things to do in Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa is a great place to visit all year round, but summer may be the perfect time to visit with your family. If you are coming from out of town (or live here for that matter) make sure you do these five things!

Des Moines, Iowa, Outdoors

Jester Park

Jester Park is a great place to visit or even camp when visiting Des Moines. This. 1,675-acre park sits on the western part of Saylorville Lake. It offers camping, golfing, picnic areas, hiking trails, fishing, canoeing, natural playscape, bison to see and much more. Jester Park also offers an equestrian center which has horse rides and other fun activities throughout the year.

Jester Park, Iowa, Granger, Naturescape

Jester Park offers more than 168 campsites and four modern rental cabins. Each cabin has a two-story walkout floor plan. These cabins book out more than a year in advance, so make your reservations now!

Our favorite area, we visit frequently, is the natural playscape. It is easily to spend a half day just at this portion. There is water, bison and elk to see and rocks to climb. A few tips if you head to the natural playscape:

  1. Bring bathing suits and/or a change of clothes. The fountain and pond are the best parts for the kids so be prepared to get wet!
  2. Make sure to bring tennis shoes or hiking shoes, if you plan to explore the trails.
  3. Bring a picnic lunch and/or healthy snacks and waters.


Does your family love rollercoasters? Adventureland Amusement Park is located in Altoona just east of Des Moines.  Adventureland consists of an amusement park and Adventure Bay Waterpark which contains over 100 rides for all ages. They also offer fun games and shows.

Right next door is Adventureland Inn which is a great place to stay if you are in the area. They offer an assortment of different room types ranging from standard accommodations to suites. They also have two different courtyard areas with pools, including a zero depth entry pool for your little ones. This may be a perfect option if it is raining or cold when you come to stay. Adventureland also offers a huge campground, if camping is more your style.

If you add Adventureland to your list of things-to-do while in Des Moines make sure you check out our most important tips and how you can get discounted tickets.

Blank Park Zoo

The Blank Park Zoo is not a very large zoo, but it offers tons of fun for all ages. You will not want to miss the sea lion shows, lions, monkeys, feeding the giraffes and more. The zoo offers an area where you can feed and pet the goats, feed the fish and a large wooden playground where kids can play for hours.

Des Moines, Iowa, Blank Park Zoo

Our children love to ride the train through the park, riding the camels and the carousel! Feel free to bring in a sack lunch and/or snacks. They offer several special activities and events throughout the day. Take a look at their event calendar before you go to plan your day.

Historical Valley Junction

The Historical Valley Junction is a great place to wander around outdoors. It offers fun, unique, local shops, and restaurants. If you are visiting during the Summer, make sure you visit on a Thursday evening. Every Thursday starting at 4 p.m. they offer a Farmers’ Market and Music in the Junction. It is a great way to enjoy music outdoors and grab some local produce or other fun items from local vendors.

Historical Valley Junction, West Des Moines, Iowa

Downtown Farmers’ Market

Downtown Des Moines is a hot spot with loads of fun. One of the most popular farmers’ markets, the Downtown Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday from May through October. There are nearly 300 vendors including vendors with fresh produce, baked items, food, handmade products, plants, flowers and so much more. There is live music and fun children’s activities. The farmers’ market is located just off the Des Moines river. After wandering the market, walk along the Des Moines river!

Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market, Des Moines, Iowa, Farmers Market

Looking for other Farmers’ Markets? Check out my huge list.

Des Moines, Iowa is a great place to visit for a family getaway. There are always hundreds of events and activities going on around the city. Before visiting, plan your trip and find more fun things to do with kids in Des Moines using the Des Moines Parent event calendar which is loaded with lots of fun.


Erin Huiatt

Erin is a reliable resource and stepping stone for women and families to find support and make connections within our community. She wants families to feel confident to reach out and ask for help and advice to get pointed in the right direction. She enjoys traveling and exploring with her two children in tow!

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