Nature Indoors Around Des Moines, Iowa

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Nature Indoors Around Des Moines, Iowa

While we aim to get outside for a chunk of the day no matter how cold it is, I completely understand that it isn’t an option for everyone and that there are plenty of hours in the day to fill! I try to keep a few places in the rotation that allow us to experience nature without wearing a million layers. I’ve rounded up a list of places where you can experience some elements of nature while still staying inside. Take a look at this list of places to enjoy nature indoors around Des Moines, Iowa.

Bookmark these other fun resources to play around Des Moines:

“Hiking” in the skywalks downtown

The downtown Des Moines skywalk system is quite impressive and incredibly beneficial in the frigid Iowa winters. The skywalk system is 4.2 miles in length and connects 55 buildings and 12 parking ramps. Not only do the climate-controlled skywalks enable you to get to different restaurants, hotels, and attractions in downtown Des Moines, but many use the system as a form of physical activity. You will find many walkers and families with your kids burning off energy on a cold Iowa day. Grab some scooters and see what you can find! View the interactive map.

Visiting the Iowa State Historical Museum

Such a great, free spot with some cool leaf crayon rubbings, geodes, and nature-y books in the specific hands-on exhibit. There are also lots of taxidermied animals and botany displays throughout the rest of the museum (and a mastodon!). Free! Take a look at all the details before you go.

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Prairie Learning Center at Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge

Such an awesome place, with heaps of displays and interactive elements to learn about the prairie. You can drive through the buffalo enclosure afterward, too! Free!

Greater Des Moines Botanical Center

The warmest option, this is a great place to visit when it is bitter cold. They have kid’s programming and usually at least one hands-on exhibit on top of exploring the plants and seeing the fish pond. There is a small charge, but they offer memberships which have many benefits!

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Annett Nature Center

A hidden gem, this little nature center has live animals, educational displays, and hands-on nature toys. Free! Make sure to call before you go; they have regular hours but also only one staff person at a time and may close for programming.

Forest Museum/Arboretum

The indoor portions of this museum are small and require outdoor walking in between them, but each of them has hands-on elements mixed in with the things to look at and learn. Free!

Science Center of Iowa

There is a cool new nature corner up by the live animals, with collections, a microscope, and lots of nature books. We love the “star room” as well! Admission and parking costs. Plan your trip to the Science Center of Iowa with this fun guide.

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Bass Pro Shops

The Bass Pro Shops in Altoona, Iowa offer tons of nature fun to explore! Located directly at the back of the store as you walk in, visitors can’t help but notice the enormous 30,000-gallon freshwater aquarium. Stocked with several dozen types of fish native to Midwestern waters, kids will enjoy watching nature in action. As you walk through the store, be on the lookout for the footprints of different animals crossing your path. Take a look at all the details before you go.

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Reiman Gardens

The Reiman Gardens indoor portion is smaller than the Des Moines Botanical Center, but they do also have a butterfly room which is highly enjoyed by my kids. It is a small charge to get in.

Blank Park Zoo

I think many forget about the Blank Park Zoo for indoor nature fun. A fun swinging rope bridge, lots of smaller animals to see, and warmer temperatures make this a fun spot to pop in during chilly months. Admission costs.

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Jester Park Nature Center

The Jester Park Nature Center is one of our favorite places to play and take in all the nature indoors. Best yet, it is free! They also offer tons of programming including workshops, storytimes, and more.

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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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