Intriguing Things to Do in Des Moines, Iowa

Places to visit in Des Moines, IA.

If you’re considering visiting Iowa, there are plenty of things to do in Des Moines. Whether looking for a day of fun in the sun or a more relaxing experience, you’ll find something to enjoy.

Among the many attractions in the city, you can visit the Iowa State Capitol, Pappajohn Sculpture Park, and the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.

What to do in Des Moines, Iowa

Blank Park Zoo

A popular destination in Des Moines, Iowa, Blank Park Zoo is a wildlife park that offers an array of animals for visitors to see. It is the only accredited zoo in the state.

The zoo’s Animal Health Center provides veterinary services to the animals in its care. This facility includes an operating room and a clinical diagnostic area. The Animal Health Center also features living quarters for students.

Best places to visit in Des Moines Blank Park Zoo
Best places to visit in Des Moines Blank Park Zoo

Other animals at the zoo include two harbor seals, a sea lion, a bald eagle, and a pair of red pandas. The zoo also hosts special events. For example, the zoo opened its David Kruidenier Australia Adventure in 2011.

During the summer, the zoo offers a special dinosaur exhibit. In addition, the zoo hosts holiday-themed enrichment for the animals.

Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a great place to visit if you love art. It’s a 4.4-acre park located in downtown Des Moines. It’s easy to find and is filled with significant works of art by some of the best-known contemporary artists. The park is open from sunrise to midnight.

The Panoramic Awareness Pavilion, designed by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, is a modern take on the lighthouse. The pavilion is shaped like a lighthouse, and you can see the waves from the inside.

Places to go in Des Moines Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Places to go in Des Moines Pappajohn Sculpture Park

The other notable thing about the park is the fact that it’s free. Guided tours are available on certain days and times, but you’ll need to call ahead.

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a rainy day, Pappajohn Sculpture Park has something for you. This includes a 4.4-acre sculpture garden that’s open from sunrise to midnight.

Iowa State Capitol

The Iowa State Capitol is the seat of the Iowa General Assembly. It is a beautiful and impressive building. It is located in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. It is a great place to visit with kids.

The Iowa State Capitol was built in the early 20th century and featured a central dome gilded 23-karat gold. The dome rises 275 feet above the main floor. It also features four smaller domes that punctuate the structure.

Best tourist attractions in Des Moines Iowa State Capitol Main Entrance
Best tourist attractions in Des Moines, Iowa State Capitol Main Entrance

The Iowa State Capitol houses the Iowa Senate and House of Representatives. In addition, it is a cultural center. Visitors can tour the grounds, take free cell phone audio tours, and enjoy guided tours. The Capitol is open Monday through Saturday.

The law library in the Capitol Building contains 105,000 volumes. Its grand hall is Victorian-styled with ornately painted ceilings. It also has intricately decorated tile floors. In addition, there are stained glass inserts in the windows and two spiral staircases.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

A beautiful gathering place on the east bank of the Des Moines River, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden offers several ways to enjoy nature. It features more than 1,200 plants and is open daily to the public from 10 am to 5 pm. Guests can also take guided tours of the garden or attend special events.

The conservatory at the Botanical Garden is a tropical paradise. This remodeled building contains an impressive waterfall and other fantastic outdoor spaces. Its geodesic dome and interior displays highlight seasonal blooms and educational programming.

Things to do in Des Moines Botanical Garden
Things to do in Des Moines Botanical Garden

In addition to its horticultural collections, the Botanical Garden offers programs and workshops that are perfect for the whole family. It also hosts special events throughout the year.

Gray’s Lake Park

Gray’s Lake Park is one of the most popular parks in the Des Moines metro area. It is a 167-acre recreation area located just south of downtown. It offers a great view of the city skyline and is a popular fishing spot.

There is a playground, a small beach, and a loop trail. The park has boat rentals, canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards during the summer. In addition, there are many free activities in the park.

Downtown Des Moines from Gray's Lake Park
Downtown Des Moines from Gray’s Lake Park

Visitors can enjoy the views of the Raccoon River from a 1,400-foot-long pedestrian bridge. The bridge is illuminated at night. It is a work of art.

The park’s boat ramp is near the northwest parking lot. There is also a beach, which is free to use.

Where to go in Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines Water Works Park

Water Works Park is a beautiful place to visit. It’s situated in the heart of Des Moines and provides various opportunities for visitors. It features an amphitheater, a natural play area, and a lake. It is also a popular spot for concerts. The park is located on Fleur Drive and is bounded by George Flagg Parkway and the Raccoon River on the south and north.

The park’s mission is to provide clean drinking water and recreational opportunities for Central Iowa residents. The park is home to a 200-acre lake, a playscape, a natural play area, and a trail system. Its design seeks to inspire community involvement and generate discussion about watershed issues.

Water Works Park - Places to visit in Des Moines
Water Works Park – Places to visit in Des Moines

Des Moines Water Works purchased 1,500 acres of the park when it built the Fleur Drive Treatment Plant. As a result, the park is designed to accommodate the needs of today’s users.

Raccoon River Park

Raccoon River Park is one of Des Moines, Iowa’s most popular parks. It is located on 632 acres of land and is a great place for the whole family to enjoy the outdoors. It is an excellent place for hiking, swimming, biking, and fishing. It is also home to a softball complex, soccer fields, and a lake.

Raccoon River Park Des Moines, Iowa
Raccoon River Park Des Moines, Iowa

In addition to these great activities, the park is also home to an archery facility. It has twelve lanes and a 40-yard shooting distance. It is located east of the softball complex. It requires a pass.

Raccoon River Park is also home to an ice rink, a dog park, and several open-air picnic shelters.

Living History Farms

If you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path, the 500-acre Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa, is a great place to start. You can visit a full-scale replica of the town of Walnut Hill and three working farm sites, each representing a different era in Iowa’s agricultural past.

The 1700 Ioway Farm, for example, is an interactive experience. It includes tools used during the time, teepees, a new orientation shelter, and even a worker cooking corn on fire.

Living History Farms
Living History Farms

The 1850 Pioneer Farm is another good bet, though you’ll have to slog through a lot of grass to get there. It features a small house and many animals, including cows and pigs.

It’s not hard to imagine life for the people who made a living at the farms that dot the landscape around the Farmstead. The site is also home to the Museum of Iowa Agriculture, a quaint and charming museum that’s been around for more than a century.

Science Center of Iowa

A great place to bring the family, the Science Center of Iowa (SCI) in Des Moines, Iowa, is an exciting place to visit and offers a range of learning opportunities. From hands-on exhibits to live demonstrations, there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes.

Although the Science Center of Iowa has been around for more than 35 years, it was not until May 2005 that it finally moved to a modern facility in the heart of Des Moines. The museum features a variety of hands-on exhibits and interactive demonstrations, as well as a few special-format theaters, such as the six-story IMAX dome theatre.

Science Center of Iowa
Science Center of Iowa

The Science Center of Iowa engages visitors in various activities and provides catering and facility rentals. This facility is located in downtown Des Moines and is easily accessible by car or public transportation.

Terrace Hill Historic Site

Terrace Hill is a historic site in Des Moines, Iowa. It was built as a private residence in 1869. It is now the official residence of the Iowa governor. It is open to the public for free tours. The tour lasts an hour.

Terrace Hill is a magnificent Victorian Second Empire-style mansion. It features marble fireplaces, heavy wood trim, and stenciled walls. It is one of the finest examples of such architecture in the United States. It also has a steeply pitched, 90-foot tower.

Terrace Hill Historic Site
Terrace Hill Historic Site

Terrace Hill was a private residence until 1957. The Hubbell family owned the property until its heirs donated it to the state. However, the property remained vacant for about 15 years. It was only after the death of the last trustee that the property could be sold.

Best Things to Do in Des Moines, Iowa

Places to visit in Des Moines, IA:

  1. Blank Park Zoo
  2. Pappajohn Sculpture Park
  3. Iowa State Capitol
  4. Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
  5. Gray’s Lake Park
  6. Des Moines Water Works Park
  7. Raccoon River Park
  8. Living History Farms
  9. Science Center of Iowa
  10. Terrace Hill Historic Site
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