20+ Places to Visit in Des Moines with the Grandparents

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20+ Places to Visit in Des Moines with the Grandparents

Have you heard of “The Sandwich Generation?” This term describes a group of adults who are raising their own children while caring for an aging parent. This group is rapidly growing to include more than half of Americans in their 40s. There are many challenges to juggling these roles – including finding suitable activities for both growing children and aging parents. The good news is there are many opportunities in the Des Moines Metro that are accessible to both strollers and mobility devices.

Before we jump into the details, let me introduce myself. My name is Sydney Marshman and I am a local occupational therapist. Occupational Therapy serves individuals of all ages, from helping with sensory processing in young children to helping adults recover from injury or illness. We focus on meaningful tasks throughout our day and this includes enjoying the community. There are several fun, accessible places in Des Moines for individuals of all ages; however, it’s important that we consider the needs of each individual. For example, spaces with a significant echo may make it harder for an aging parent to hear or open-air spaces may be less than ideal for individuals who are at risk for elopement.

One of the many barriers I hear about from the sandwich generation is accessibility. In private homes, multiple steps to enter can pose challenges to aging parents who utilize mobility devices such as walkers, wheelchairs, or scooters. Next Day Access Des Moines can provide rental ramps as a short-term solution for entering and exiting the home. For aging parents or loved ones with mobility challenges, a scooter rental from Central States Mobility may increase everyone’s ability to visit Des Moines. If you’re struggling to find if a location is accessible, google it! Google launched a new accessibility feature in Google Maps.  

When you’re ready to hit the town, you have some options. This list includes both locations that are free to access and that require admission fees. Many of the options below are available at no cost through the adventure pass

Bookmark this list of places to visit in Des Moines with Grandparents.

Gray’s Lake

Address: 2101 Fleur Drive, Des Moines

Hours: Daily 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

This park is a great place to enjoy a picnic and take a walk around the lake. There are a ton of activities available such as fishing, sailing, canoeing, and swimming. There is also a small playground for kids to climb on. Although they offer many activities, children have just as much fun by just walking across the huge bridge. Gray’s Lake also offers a lot of shady areas and plenty of parking options.

Bowling at Warrior Lanes

Address: 190 SE Laurel Street, Waukee

Phone: 515-987-4840

Want to get out of the heat this summer? Take the kids bowling at Warrior Lanes. During the Summer each child can register for Kids Bowl Free. When you register each child receives 2-free games of bowling every day, all summer long. Must pay for shoe rental and for yourself, if you would like to bowl too. Take a look at all the places to bowl in the Des Moines area.

Riverview Park

Address: 710 Corning Ave, Des Moines, IA 50313

Hours: Daily 6 AM – 10 PM

This park is designed with universal design concepts meaning it’s able to be enjoyed by individuals regardless of age or ability. It offers ample shaded bench seating. The park has multiple swing options and musical instruments. The playground has a ramp leading up to several key pieces of equipment allowing all to enjoy.  

Blank Park Zoo

Address: 7401 SW 9th St, Des Moines, IA 50315

Summer Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM

Admission:  Children 1 year and younger free, $12 Children (2-12 years), $18 Adults (13-64 years), $16 Seniors (65+ years)

Weather permitting, the zoo is enjoyable for all. Blank Park Zoo is dedicated to an inclusive space for all with several key features including quiet zones, accessible restrooms with adult-sized changing tables, and a Mother’s room. The zoo offers inexpensive stroller, wheelchair, and electric scooter rentals. Both the Carousel and Train offer accessibility accommodations.

Science Center of Iowa

Address: 401 W Martin Luther King Jr Pkwy, Des Moines, IA 50309

Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 9 AM-4 PM

Admission: Children under 2 years free, $15 for Children and Adults, $13 for Seniors

The Science Center of Iowa has an entire page dedicated to planning your visit. They offer a number of activities for kids of all ages, as well as accessibility features like free wheelchair rentals and sensory backpacks. They publish a social story on their website for everyone to enjoy to prepare for a visit.

Science Center of Iowa, science museum, Des Moines, Iowa, summer camp, science programming, exhibits, downtown Des Moines

Enabling Garden

Address: 1050 First Ave S, Altoona, IA 50009

Hours: 7 AM – 8 PM

The Enabling Garden in Altoona demonstrates a beautiful design alongside barrier-free gardens. Visitors will enjoy the soft sounds of the water feature and beautiful blooms throughout summer and fall.

Water Works Park

Address: 2201 George Flagg Pkwy, Des Moines, IA 50321

Hours: 6 AM – 10 PM Daily

This park offers a variety of options from summer concerts and walking trails. It’s the perfect place for a Sunday drive with the windows down. You may consider bringing binoculars for bird watching or spotting deer.

The Des Moines Children’s Museum

Admission: Ages 1-10 $6 

Located in Valley West Mall, The Des Moines Children’s Museum offers ample room for all. This location offers multiple parking options with the easiest entrance located on the southwest side of the mall. The Children’s Museum has multiple play areas in addition to seating opportunities for adults. 

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Address: 909 Robert D. Ray Drive, Des Moines

Phone: 515-323-6290

Hours: Daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays

Admission: Adults $12; Seniors $11; Military $11; Children 2-12 $9; Children 1 and under are FREE

Take the outdoors indoors at the Des Moines Botanical Garden. This is a great place to explore and walk around if it is too hot or rainy outside. Walk around the gardens at your own pace. They also offer a Story Sprouts program most Fridays. Take a look at their event calendar for dates. This class is an additional $3 on top of admission. Story Sprouts is an interactive storytime that explores nature and plants. Take a break and enjoy lunch at the Trellis Cafe! Eat inside or sit out on their patio overlooking the Des Moines River.

Des Moines Central Library + Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Address: 1330 Grand Avenue, Des Moines

You can spend an entire morning in Western Gateway Park which includes Central Library and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Enjoy a morning storytime and activity at the library, then walk through the several pieces of artwork in Pappajohn Sculpture Park. There are several picnic benches and green space, so pack a lunch to enjoy. Bring a change of clothes for the kids, because there is a fun water feature in the park where the kids and walk through and get wet.

Des Moines, Iowa, Pappajohn sculpture park

Bass Pro Shop

Address: 1000 Bass Pro Dr. NW, Altoona

Phone: 515-957-5500

You would not think there would be so many fun things to do at a store! Wander around the store and look at the several taxidermies, mounts, wildlife facts, and more. Watch the fish and even feed them during scheduled fish feedings. Bowl and eat at Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl & Grill. This is another great option to beat the heat.

The Playground for Kids

Address: 2401 SE Tones Drive #7, Ankeny

Phone: 515-965-9899

The Playground for Kids is a fun place to bring the kids to burn off some energy. There is a cafe area where you can sit back and relax while they climb, run and play. There is not much activity needed from you except watching them enjoy themselves.

Valley Community Center

Address: 4444 Fuller Road, West Des Moines

Phone: 515-327-6000

The Valley Community Center is a great place to grab a coffee while the kids play in the indoor play area. The play area is free and includes a small cafe of coffee drinks, juice, and snacks at a small cost. They also have fun classes/activities throughout the week including Kids Zumba, Creative Movement, and more. Classes available start for children ages 3 and older. The cost is $5 per class or $3 per class with a punch card. Take a look at the schedule by clicking the link above. 

Greenwood/Ashworth Park + Sprayground

Address: 4500 Grand Avenue, Des Moines

The Des Moines Parks and Recreation completed renovating this park last year. Greenwood/Ashworth Park is tucked behind the Des Moines Arts Center with a lot of shade and trees. There is a playground, sprayground, shelter, and bathroom facility. Pack a lunch and enjoy a day at the park!

Greenwood Park, Des Moines

Ashby Park

Address: 3200 38th Street, Des Moines

Are the kids looking to swim, but not interested in getting in yourself? Ashby Park is the perfect option! This park located in Beaverdale offers a splash pool about 1 to 2 feet deep. It also has two great playgrounds, tennis courts, shelter, shade, and bathroom facility.


The Historical Building

Address: 600 East Locust, Des Moines

Phone: 515-281-5111

Admission: Free

This is a great place to explore and learn about the history of Iowa. Get out of the heat and/or rain and walk through the several exhibits at The Historical Building. There is also a specific hands-on area for the children to play which includes a large tractor, a huge train table, rubbing fossils, a story nook, and much more.

State of Iowa Historical Building, Des Moines


Various locations

Note: Closed Sundays

This is a great place to grab lunch or dinner and let the kids play in the play area. The staff brings out your food and will often stop to ask and refill your beverage. Bonus, their food tastes pretty good!

Chocolaterie Stam

Address: 2814 Ingersoll Avenue, Des Moines

Phone: 515-282-9575

What child doesn’t love chocolate? Chocolaterie Stam is much more than just chocolate, it is also a fun experience. Take the kids to the local chocolate shop to pick out their favorites and enjoy them right in the store. Make sure you check their website for special events.

Address: 725 Thompson Avenue, Des Moines

A Des Moines original park offers a ton of activities for everyone. Ride the Heritage Carousel ($0.50 admission), walk through the Union Park Floral Garden, watch the kids climb and play on the rocket slide or splash in the water play area. There are a lot of picnic benches and shady areas available.

Downtown Skywalk

Walkthrough the downtown skywalks. The kids will love walking across the bridges and watching cars drive underneath, grabbing lunch or a snack at the many restaurants available.

Art Terrarium

Address: 520 Euclid Ave Suite 101, Des Moines, IA 50313

Phone: 515-346-4155

Take the kids to learn about plants and create their own terrarium. Art Terrarium’s staff is knowledgeable and patient with small kids. Let the kids get their hands dirty and create their own growing masterpiece.

Bauder’s Pharmacy and Donut King

Address: 3802 Ingersoll Avenue; Des Moines

Take the kids to enjoy an old-fashioned soda fountain at Bauder’s Pharmacy on Ingersoll. They also offer delicious ice cream. A great experience for the entire family.

Des Moines Community Playhouse

Address: 831 42nd Street, Des Moines

Phone: 515-277-6261

Take the kids to their first theater performance at the Des Moines Community Playhouse. They offer several great shows for the entire family each year.

Barnes & Noble

Various locations

Barnes & Noble is a great place to find some great children’s books and educational toys. They have a great children’s area where they offer storytime each week and a small area for kids to explore and use their imaginations. Most locations also offer a small cafe with lunch, drink, and dessert.

Barnes & Noble, West Des Moines, Iowa

The Brenton Arboretum

Address: 25141 260th Street, Dallas Center

Phone: 515-992-4211

Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Admission: Free

Spend the day wandering through beautiful trees and connecting to nature. Nature play is encouraged with the children and there are plenty of opportunities available. There is a bench and shaded Pavilion, where you can relax as they play.

Brenton Arboretum, Iowa


Polk County Conservation announced they’re on a mission to design the most accessible park in America, right here in Iowa. The Athene North Shore Recreation Area will be a great place for individuals of all ages and abilities.

About the Author

Sydney Marshman is the founder of Happy at Home Consulting based in Des Moines, Iowa. She received her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy from Drake University. In her free time, Sydney enjoys spending time with her husband, son, and their three dogs. 


Guest Contributor

One thought on “20+ Places to Visit in Des Moines with the Grandparents

  1. We would love to see you and your grandparents visit the Des Moines Children’s Museum @ Valley West Mall!!

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