Downtown Des Moines Skywalk System with Kids

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Downtown Des Moines Skywalk System with Kids

One of our favorite free places to move our bodies in the winter, on a rainy or absurdly hot day is to go hiking in the downtown Des Moines Skywalk. The Des Moines Skywalk system is a 4-mile-long climate-controlled system that connects different buildings throughout downtown. We also loved using the skywalk this winter to help train for all the walking we would do on a family trip to Disney. We also love that you can bring a stroller along for those little feet.

Take a look at these other guides to fun in Downtown Des Moines:

If you are new to exploring the skywalk, there are easy-to-read maps posted throughout the skywalk showing where you are. I will also pull up this interactive map on my phone if I am exploring a part I am not familiar with. 

What to see in the Des Moines skywalks

My kids love observing the world around them and exploring the skywalks is such a unique place to observe. They love looking out the glass on the skywalks over the streets to see the cars go by or in the winter watching the blowing snow. There are also so many different public art displays, window art, and murals. 

The family’s favorite spot to observe is in the walkway through the Iowa Events Center. Multiple times we have walked through when there was an event happening and loved observing what was going on through the giant skywalk window. Their favorite day was when a gymnastics meet was happening. I also love that after you walk through the Iowa Event Center on the East side there is a little coffee shop there.

Many kids love to visit the light wall in the Davis Brown Tower. The easiest way to find it from the street level is to enter the tower at the main entrance (512 10th St.). It is on the main level there. Also if you go up the stairs on your right or up the elevator straight ahead you will see a second light wall. To then enter the Des Moines skywalk, head down the hallway away from the 2nd floor light wall and it curves to the main skywalk. 

If already in the Skywalk system, follow the signs to Davis Brown Tower and then enter through the double doors to the Davis Brown Tower, and then follow the ramp around the corner. The light wall is just past the elevators. 

How can you access the skywalk system?

There are many different places to gain access to the skywalk. You can gain access via most of the city-owned parking ramps. To enter via street-level access, you will see a red circle sign with a large S attached to the building signifying there is public skywalk street access at that location. You can find them on this map. Some of our preferred easy street access points are

  • On 10th St near Walnut St.
  • On Walnut St near 3rd St.
  • On Grand near 9th St.
  • On Walnut St near 12th St.

Also within the Skywalk system, if you need street access, these points are marked by a red circle sign with a large S attached to the exit.

Where should we park?

There is metered street parking found throughout downtown. Monday through Saturday you pay for parking via parking pay stations or the ParkDSM app. Street parking on Sundays is free. If you want to park for free during the week and walk a bit, parking along the bridges over the river is free. You can also park in many of the city-owned parking ramps for varying fees to gain access directly to the skywalk.

If we go exploring on a weeknight after 5:30 or on the weekend, we like to park on the third level of the Wells Fargo parking ramp at 750 Mulberry St. This parking ramp is free and open to the public during this time. Parking on the 3rd level allows you to be feet from the entrance to the skywalk.

I need a bathroom! Where can I find restrooms?

Restrooms are very limited, especially on the weekends so be prepared for that. We have used the restrooms at the Iowa Event Center on the weekends. They are located on the East side of the building past the large viewing windows near the small coffee shop.
Not directly in the skywalk system but two restrooms within a block of the system, are the Des Moines Central Library if exploring during library hours, and the Downtown Starbucks, 909 Locust St, also has restrooms available for paying customers during their business hours.  

Kaci Kennedy

Kaci Kennedy

Kaci is an adventurer and park enthusiast. She will often be exploring Central Iowa parks and finding hidden treasures with her five kids. Most of all, Kaci enjoys sharing all of her discoveries with those around her. Give her a follow on Instagram at @kennedysdoparks.

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