Fall Sensory Friendly and Inclusive Events in Des Moines 2023

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Fall Sensory Friendly and Inclusive Events in Des Moines 2023

Fall events and activities are in full swing in Des Moines, Iowa. We have gathered events that are sensory-friendly and inclusive in hopes of helping all families plan their fall season. If you have an event to add please let us know!


Kevin Burt at xBk: Sensory Friendly Show

September 9 at 10:30 a.m.

1159 24th Street in Des Moines

This performance is meant to be accessible to all people without cost as a barrier, but it takes money to put on a show! For complete details of the show and what to expect view the event here. This performance is Pay What You Can, with suggested pricing of:

$2 – I’m excited to come

$7 – Suggested for kids

$15 – Suggested for adults

$30 – You’re an arts champion!

All Ages

*All xBk shows are standing rooms with limited seating. If you require ADA accommodations please reach out to info@xbklive.com*

Dan and Claudia Zanes Concert

September 15th at Jamie Hurd Amphitheater in West Des Moines at 6:30 p.m.

September 16th at Doanes Park in Pleasant Hill at 10:30 a.m.

Enjoy this FREE family-friendly concert presented by Des Moines Performing Arts. Dan Zanes is a Grammy award-winning children’s performer and his wife, Claudia, is a Haitian-American music therapist and jazz vocalist. They strive to make their concerts inclusive and sensory-friendly so that their concert is enjoyable for all. Learn more about these efforts here.

Des Moines Performing Arts, Des Moines, Iowa, free summer programming, free concert, Des Moines parks, free family events

Touch a Truck with the Des Moines Children’s Museum

September 19th from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sensory Friendly

10 a.m. to 1 p.m. full event

Valley West Mall Parking Lot

This FREE annual event lets kids get up close and personal with a variety of trucks such as fire trucks, police trucks, a snowplow, and more. During the Sensory Friendly time, the lights on the trucks will be turned off and horns will stay quiet. A calming tent will be available with mats, yoga balls, and sensory bins and there will be a few noise-cancelling headphones for use.

Sensory Spaces in the Metro

September 30 from 9 to 10 a.m.

Grimes Public Library

Grimes Public Library is one of many Metro Area Libraries offering special hours for members of the public who appreciate a sensory-friendly environment. While individuals and families with special needs are welcome at our libraries during regular hours, these times are dedicated to offering a quieter browsing experience. Additional programming and or adaptive services may vary by location.


2nd Annual Fall Carnival

October 1st from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Cultivating Hope Farms in Ames

This fall carnival is open for families living with autism and special needs. Enjoy food from Whatcha Smokin’ BBQ + Brew, face painting, hayrides, animal shows, amusement rides, games, and sensory activities. A free-will offering will be available at the entrance. Cultivating Hope Farms is an inclusive farm that uses farming practices to help develop social skills, life skills, and job skills.

Sensory Spaces in the Metro

October 7th from 4 to 5 p.m.

Waukee Public Library

The Waukee Public Library will stay open an extra hour to provide quiet browsing and inclusive programming for individuals of all ages with special sensory needs and their families or caregivers. The library will offer a dimmed calm room, a computer, and access to library materials.

For this month’s Sensory Spaces, they will have a slightly spooky monster-themed party with a simple craft and dancing. Registration requested.

2023 Fall Festival and Walk 

October 7th from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Easterseals Iowa & Camp Sunnyside

Support Easterseals mission of inclusion and access for all Iowans with a short (less than a mile) walk around Lake Cheerio at Campy Sunnyside followed by a fall festival. The path is accessible for all to use. The event is FREE but donations are accepted to support 2024 programs. Festival activities include crafts, horseback riding, food trucks, meeting superheroes and princesses, contests, face painting, and more.

Polk County Sheriff’s Office Candy Crawl

October 7th from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Sensory Friendly 

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. full event

Grimes South Sports Complex

Grimes Parks and Recreation and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office are hosting this annual Fall Festival with bounce houses, candy, food trucks, balloons, and fun family activities. During the sensory-friendly time, there won’t be any lights or sirens from the trucks. Wear your costume to this fun and FREE family event.

Sensory Spaces in the Metro

October 8 from 1 to 3 p.m.

West Des Moines Public Library

Sensory Spaces are Metro area libraries offering special hours for members of the public who appreciate a sensory-friendly environment. While individuals and families with special needs are welcome at our libraries during regular hours, these sensory times will offer quieter browsing, special programming, and other adaptive services that will vary by location.

For all ages, no registration is required. 

Art Spectrums Class

October 8th, November 12th and December 10th

1:00-3:00 p.m.

Des Moines Art Studio

The purpose of Art Spectrums is to enable children ages 5-12 with autism and their families to engage with artwork and have fun at a museum. In this FREE program, children on the autism spectrum and their family members explore and make art together. Participants will visit and discuss a work of art in the Art Center’s collection for inspiration. Next, children and family members make their own artwork. This program will be a great opportunity for children with autism, siblings, parents, and other family members to have fun and make memories with art.

Registration is one month at a time and will open on the first of each month.

Music Class for Tots

October 10 from 6 to 7 p.m.

Music Class for Tots through Gigi’s Playhouse

In celebration of Kids Music Day coming up in October, Music Class for Tots is excited to offer a FREE SENSORY FRIENDLY music class for families at Gigi’s Playhouse! In this inclusive class, students of any age will experience music through instruments, dancing, art, and play. Children of all abilities are welcome! Spots are limited for this event and registration is required. Register through Gigi’s website here.

Spirits in the Gardens

Saturday, October 14, and Sunday October 15

Saturday, October 21, and Sunday, October 22

5:00-9:00 p.m.

Reiman Gardens

View 1,000 hand-carved Jack-O-Lanterns, Hollusion hologram projections, glowing orbs, and the Sycamore Falls lighted tower at Spirits of the Gardens. Candy is available at the end of the route and a local community group will be selling pre-packaged snacks and warm drinks as a fundraiser near Lake Helen.

Tickets are for a specific day and entry time window.

  • $15 Adult General Public
  • $13 Adult Members and ISU Students
  • $7 Youth ages 2-12
  • Free for Youth under 2

The path is ADA accessible with 90% paved and one small section is turf. While they are unable to allow the use of their wheelchairs and mobility scooters during the event due to liability issues, guests can bring their own motorized mobility scooter or wheelchair. For special accommodations contact the Director of Guest Services at 515-294-8994.

Sensory Friendly Play Time

October 17th and 24th from 1:00-4:00 p.m.

Imagination Street

We are excited to offer this time to families with children on the Autism Spectrum or with other sensory sensitivities. Our sensory-friendly play time will offer families the opportunity to connect and explore in a safe, calm, quiet environment with limited capacity (max 10 children). Guests will get to enjoy our play space including sensory exploration. The cost is $10 per child 1+. Advanced booking is required online or call 515-601-4396.

Trunk or Treat

October 19th from 6:00-7:30 p.m.

Ankeny High School: East Parking Lot

All Children and families are welcome for fun, games, treats, activities, and more. Costumes are welcomed but not required. Sweet Swirls Food Truck will be selling ice cream, hot cocoa, and coffee!

This is a FREE sensory-friendly event. There will be no strobe lights, loud music, or super scary costumes worn by the hosts.

Trunk or Treat

October 22nd from 3:00-4:00 p.m.

Dallas Center-Grimes High School

This Trunk or Treat is hosted by the Dallas Center-Grimes High School Best Buddies chapter. Best Buddies Iowa facilitates one-to-one friendships between individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities with individuals who do not in middle schools, high schools, colleges, and corporations. Costumes are encouraged.

Drive Thru Fall Event

October 22nd from 4:30-5:15 p.m.

Valley Community Center

Join the Autism Society of Iowa for a Drive Fall Event in the Valley Community Center Parking Lot. Designed for those with Autism and other special needs to enjoy the safety of their vehicles! Free entry to drive-thru! Goody bags will be passed out to the first 100 registered participants. Register here.

Pumpkin Party

October 22nd from 2:00-3:30 p.m.

Lutheran Church of Hope in Ankeny

All kids (0-12 years) with special needs and their families are invited to join other families for a fun time of crafts, snacks, games, pumpkin painting, and fellowship. This event is offered in partnership with the Lutheran Church of Hope Ankeny, Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Parish, and The Ridge.

The Great Pumpkin Party

October 23rd-26th from 6 to 8 p.m.

Valley Church and Valley Community Center

This free event held by Valley Church for the community celebrates fall with costumes, inflatables, barrel train rides, carnival rides, popcorn, and lots of fun activities like balloon animals and face painting.

The Night for Families with Special Needs is Sunday, October 22nd from 6 to 8 p.m. It will be at Valley Church and include fun activities like an outdoor petting zoo, carnival games, inflatables, barrel trains, superheroes, and more.

Harvest Hoedown is also held on Friday, October 20 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for those 14 and up with special needs at the Valley Community Center. Come dressed for a hoedown and enjoy dinner, karaoke, wagon rides, and games. This is a FREE event but please register here.

Sensory-Friendly Halloween with Midwest

October 26th from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Midwest Autism Center

Waukee, IAJoin us for an evening of spooky, sensory-friendly fun at our 1st annual Halloween night! Stop by our Waukee campus for trick-or-treating, games, prizes, and more. This event is FREE and open to the whole community.

Sensory Circus

October 26th from 10:00-10:35 a.m.

Cirque Wonderland Studios West Des Moines

Sensory Circus is a delightful circus-themed class designed for children aged 2 years and older who would benefit from a sensory-rich environment.

This interactive and inclusive class offers a unique combination of circus activities and sensory experiences that promote motor skills, sensory exploration, and overall development.

Expect circus tents, ball pits, tunnels, aerial hammocks, juggling scarves, sensory bins, and more.

With a limited class size, each child receives personal attention and ample spaces to explore and engage in the wonders of circus activities amidst our bright and colorful studios.

Visit their website to purchase tickets. These are $35 total including the child and parent/caregiver.

ASD Halloween Hoedown

October 26th from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Adventures in Social Development (ASD) in the Simpson Barn (Johnston)

All ages and abilities are welcome for sensory-friendly Halloween fun! Featuring: dance party with music by DJ Joe, face painting, games, food, silent auction, raffle, photo booth and more. RSVP on their website.

Sensory Friendly Halloween Party

October 27th from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m.

Des Moines Children’s Museum

Celebrate Halloween with a calmer and quieter time for kids and their families who may be sensory-sensitive. Play games and explore Halloween-themed sensory bins during this FREE event. Their calming area will also be available. 

Metro West Trunk or Treat

October 28th from 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Metro West Learning Center, LLC 

They will provide a sensory-friendly experience for the community while also providing space and choice for children and families to enjoy themselves in a safe and understanding environment. Trained staff will be available for assistance and ready to engage the children in fun activities as they explore. Edible and non-edible trick-or-treat items for children will be available, as spooky-fun activities, and opportunities to get pictures taken as you enjoy yourselves.

This is a FREE event and no registration is required.

Spooky Science

October 28th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Science Center of Iowa

Wear your costumes and enjoy experiments, creepy-crawly critters, and other activities to celebrate Halloween. The Science Center of Iowa provides Sensory Backpacks for checkout at the SCI Box Office filled with tools such as noise-reducing headphones, sunglasses, fidget materials, and weighted stuffed animals to help make the experience enjoyable for all kids.


Sensory Spaces in the Metro 

November 5th from 12:00-1:00 p.m.

Urbandale Public Library

  • Sensory Spaces are Metro area libraries offering special hours for members of the public who appreciate a sensory-friendly environment. 
  • The library will have ear plugs, ear coverings, and more available for those who experience sensory defensiveness. 
  • The lighting will be reduced throughout the library and there will be areas for noise and quiet. 
  • A therapy animal will be available for attendees to take a moment to socialize with in the Magazine/ Reading Room.
  • In Meeting Room A organizations serving as critical supports in our community have been invited to attend the event to share information regarding their services.
  • Drop in for some hands-on sensory activities in Meeting Room B. Unstructured, free exploration is encouraged!
  • Adults and teens can take a break in the Teen Area for coloring, games, and puzzles.
  • As always our friendly staff will be on hand to answer questions and help you utilize any of the regular resources that we offer including using a computer, checking out material, and more in an environment that is safe for sensory needs.

Sensory Sensitive Playdate

November 17th from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Des Moines Children’s Museum

Join the Des Moines Children’s Museum for special hours for children on the autism spectrum or with other sensory sensitivities and their families to connect and explore! They will have sensory bins, communication boards, and a low-light calming space.

* This month’s will take place on the third Friday of the month instead of the fourth, due to the Thanksgiving holiday *

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L

Whitney Alaniz, MOT OTR/L is an occupational therapist turned (mostly) stay-at-home mom. She has worked with adults to young toddlers and has a special interest in early childhood development targeting fine motor skills, feeding, sensory processing, and coordination. She loves incorporating this knowledge with her own two little boys through play. When she’s not running after her little ones she enjoys traveling, cooking new recipes and eating chocolate from her secret stash.

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