Jester Park Natural Playscape

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Jester Park Natural Playscape

Just north of the metro and west of Saylorville Lake is Jester Park located in Granger, Iowa. There are many reasons why we love Jester Park such as the Jester Park Nature Center, miles of trails, and all the other available outdoor opportunities, but a big draw to this entire park is the Jester Park Natural Playscape. This is the perfect place for families to stip during the Summer months. Learn more about why we love the Jester Park Natural Playscape and some tips before you go! 

Jester Park Natural Playscape

What is a natural playscape?

You won’t find what you see at other playgrounds and parks in this play area. There isn’t a swing set, slide, or monkey bars. Many would refer to those as a fabricated playground. A natural playscape is not your run of the mill playground. 

However, the natural playscape has rocks to climb, wooden blocks to build, grass to hide in, a water feature to splash in, and a sand pit to dig in. The park is made of all-natural materials which encourages a different type of play (free play) and a great opportunity for children to explore the natural world in a different way. The purpose of it is to encourage kids’ imaginations while using creative play. This natural playground is perfect for hot summer days after exploring all the outdoor activities Jester Park has to offer. 

Where is the Jester Park Natural Playscape located?

As you head into the entrance of Jester Park you will want to take a left when you hit the main entrance near where the golf course is located. Keep driving around past the welcome center, the new nature center, and the Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center. You will enter at the very north end of Jester Park. While you are splashing and playing the whole family will enjoy the bison herds, elk exhibit, and bison educational plaza in the same area. 

A few ideas for your visit to the Jest Park Natural Playscape:

  1. Allow for plenty of playtime. We spent three hours and the kids still were not ready to leave. Let your child’s imagination go wild! 
  2. Bring bathing suits or a change of clothes. The fountain and pond are a fun way to cool off! 
  3. Bring tennis shoes for older kids. There are trails around the area to hike. You do not want to miss the network of natural trails. One of our favorite trails is Hickory Ridge Trail. 
  4. Help kids find ways to explore, learn, and connect with nature while you’re there.
Jester Park Natural Playscape

Your 1-Day Itinerary at Jester Park

There are so many great things to do at Jester Park and now that you know of a great place to cool off let me share with you a fun, 1-day itinerary for you and your family to enjoy outdoor nature-based recreation. 

  • Start your day at the Jester Park Nature Center. There is a large parking area. You can explore the nature center and head to the Outdoor Recreation & Wellness Center building to see what they have to offer. Jester Park Nature Center offers several events and activities that bring our children’s creativity. Take a look at their calendar and plan your visit when you can attend some of the fun activities already scheduled. You can try indoor archery or paddle boards. If you visit during the Winter months they offer snowshoe rentals, cross-country skis, and then head out to try cross-country skiing.
  • If you love horses you can start your day at the Jester Park Equestrian Center. Several times throughout the year they offer story time with the horses. In the Winter they offer sleigh rides! 
  • Next, enjoy some fresh air and the prairie grasses as you walk the trail down to the Discovery Pond.  
  • While you are down near the Discovery Pond you will come across picnic areas that have picnic tables and picnic shelters. Make sure you have your lunch with you so you can fuel up. 
  • Head back to the Discovery Pond and look for a fun hiking trail to challenge you and explore more natural areas. 
  • When you are done hiking, head to the north part of the park and cool off at the Jester Park Natural Playscape.  
  • Before you head home for the day make a stop for some miniature golf on your way out.

Frequently Asked Questions

What other natural playscapes are located in Central Iowa?

We have you covered with a huge guide to natural playscapes in Central Iowa, but some of our favorites include The Brenton Arboretum, McHenry Park, and MacRae Park.

Where else can you paddle board in central Iowa?

Gray’s Lake just outside downtown Des Moines and Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines are great options. Take a look at the full list.

Who maintains Jester Park and the Jester Park Natural Playscape?

Polk County Conservation 

How can I explore the park with others?

Take a look at Wander Women trips put on regularly by Wander Women Iowa.

Can I stay overnight at Jester Park?

Yes! There are several Jester Park campsites available to book. You are not too far from the city of Des Moines. 


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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