Downtown Des Moines is a real treasure and if you are like me, you probably live out in the suburbs and don’t make it down there as often as you should. On a recent cool morning my son and I headed down to the Capitol City to do some exploring. We found lots of fun things to do for free.
Pappajohn Sculpture Park
I was originally a little skeptical of taking my three year old to the sculpture park as I wasn’t sure if he would find it fun or not. My suspicions were wrong and he loved it. As soon as we got out of the car he said, “What IS this PLACE??” and loved looking at all the art and describing it in his own words. He especially loved running up and down the big hill by the Nomade piece. The grass is especially nice at the park which makes it excellent for having a little picnic lunch.
Meredith Test Gardens
The Meredith Test Gardens are right next to the Sculpture park, just over one block. They are beautiful gardens where they photograph and grow things for Meredith publications. They always have unusual plants and flowers for the horticulture enthusiast but it is also fun for kids to explore with little paths, benches hidden in the trees, and a fish pond. A very fun fountain is the centerpiece of a central courtyard with nice table and chairs that is perfect for picnic lunches. It is a little tricky to visit here because the gardens are only open to the public on Fridays from noon until two.
Free Downtown Shuttle
The shuttle ride was totally my son’s idea. He really wanted to ride “Charlie” when he saw the little trolley shuttle doing a loop around the sculpture park. So we hopped on and it took us on a loop from the Meredith building to the Capitol grounds. We didn’t get off and explore the Capitol gardens today but it would been another fun thing to do on your free day downtown. The whole loop took about 25 minutes and my son loved every minute of it.
The Downtown has a really fun kids area with puzzles, toys, and a playhouse. I love going in the building because it is so fun to look out of those neat windows. We don’t visit the downtown library often so this is a treat for my son.
Fountains outside the library
There is a series of fountains that are outside the library and run around the south side of the green space outside. If your children are like mine, there is nothing more fun than splashing around in a little bit of water. They can wade away in these super fun fountains and hopefully not get too wet. The green space outside the library is also a great spot for picnics and I love the sculptures there that blow in the breeze.
If you’ve had a successful morning so far you can reward yourself and your kids with a drink from Starbucks (sorry, this part is not free!) which is right next to the library. I love going in the Temple for Performing Arts and if you are feeling adventurous you can take your kids up the stairwell to see the grass roof on top of the library. What I want to know is- who gets to mow up there? It seems like a fun job.
Do you enjoy exploring downtown also? Are there any fun free things I missed on my list? Please share!