10 Awesome Playgrounds in Des Moines

We all know how important it is for children to get outside and play, and we also know the reality is that they quickly get bored of playing in their backyards or neighborhood playgrounds. You can make a trip to the park more exciting by exploring parks that are new to your kids. It’s also a great way for you to get to know Greater Des Moines (DSM) as well. Two themes lead the way at many favorite playgrounds in the Des Moines area. 

First is the theme of inclusivity. Parks, such as Ankeny’s Miracle Park and Waukee’s Triumph Park, are designed for kids of all abilities. Ramps and wide bridges allow kids who use wheelchairs and their caregivers to reach new heights and experience the thrill of the playground. There are sensory stations that offer visual and auditory stimulation. And, of course, there are all the typical slides and swings you’d expect to see at any playground.

The second theme is a connection to nature. Natural playscapes, like the ones at Sargent Park in Des Moines and Jester Park near Granger, allow today’s tech-savvy kids to immerse in nature by climbing on fallen tree trunks, scampering across rocks and splashing in shallow water. 

Whether you’re looking for the tallest slide in town or a way to connect with the great outdoors, here are 10 awesome playgrounds in DSM: 


  1. Miracle Park All-Inclusive Playground

    Location: 310 NW School St., Ankeny, IA 50023

    There’s truly something for everyone at this park (pictured above). Little ones have a play space that’s right-sized for the under-five crowd. Toddlers and big kids alike gravitate toward a sensory station where they can bang on drums, spin wheels and climb through tunnels. Big kids can play over, under and through the maze of walkways, slides and climbing features on the big playground. For kids who use a wheelchair, there are wide paths and ramps ideal for exploration of the playground. We especially like the monkey bars and other play features that are built under the playground so kids can reach play features without having to leave the ground. There are also swings and spinning features, as well as an accessible baseball field. The playground is surrounded by community softball fields and sand volleyball courts.

  2. Big Creek State Park

    Location: 8794 NW 125th Ave., Polk City, IA 5022

    Pack a picnic because your kids aren’t going to want to leave this huge wooden playground next to the beach at Big Creek. Big kids especially will love playing hide-n-seek or tag among the multiple levels, bridges and towers of the playground. If you have little ones, you might need to stick with them to help them navigate the many steps and obstacles. Because this playground is situated next to the water at Big Creek, you may want to pack some beach toys and plan for the kids to get a little sandy. In the summer, you can swim at the beach area or rent kayaks and paddle boards, but even in the off-season, it’s a fun area to explore. There are also nearby bike trails and fishing piers that are open to the public. 

  3. Ironwood Park (a.k.a. The Pirate Ship Park)

    Location: 2380 3rd Ave. SW, Altoona, IA 50009

    Imaginations run wild at this pirate ship-themed playground. The play area is divided into two sections of blue and beige playground turf, representing water and sand. In the watery blue area is a pirate ship playground with slides, wheels to steer and lots of nooks and crannies to explore. On the sandy-colored area is an island fort playground with lookout towers, climbing features, slides and faux palm trees. And everyone’s favorite feature to climb on is a bright orange sea monster! For an added adventure, you can do a scavenger hunt as there are symbols hidden throughout the playland.

  4. Jester Park Natural Playscape

    Location: 12130 NW 128th St., Granger, IA 50109

    Even your youngest kids will enjoy connecting with nature at the Jester Park Natural Playscape. There are gravel paths through native plantings to explore. Kids can climb on rocks and splash in a shallow wading pond. In the summer, you’ll definitely want to pack suits, water shoes and towels for the kids. While the wading area is designed for kids under five, this area is entertaining for the whole family as there are bison and elk in an enclosure near the playscape. The playscape also connects to hiking trails that lead you through Jester Park. To make the trip even more educational you could drive through the park to visit the Jester Park Nature Center, which has free admission. 

  5. Ashley Okland Playground at Ewing Park 

    Location: 1895 E McKinley Ave., Des Moines, IA 50311 

    If your kiddos like to climb on everything, they will love this playground tucked into Des Moines’ larger Ewing Park. They can climb on faux rocks, a rope tower, hexagonal tunnels and more. It’s perfect for preschoolers and young elementary kids. If you have big kids, you might want to add a short hike to your visit. Near the playground, there is a little trail that will take you through the woods, over a couple of bridges and back to the playground.

  6. Riverview Park
  7. Riverview Park

    Location: 710 Corning Ave., Des Moines, IA 50313 

    Cue the nostalgia because this playground has some serious boardwalk carnival vibes. The bold red and white color scheme feels like you’re visiting an old-fashioned amusement park, and there is even a ticket booth for imaginative play. Some of the climbing features look like rollercoasters and a Ferris wheel. This all-inclusive playground offers innovative play features you don’t often see at other parks, including a small zipline-style swing. Your kids will be lining up to do it over and over again! 

  8. Sargent Park

    Location: 3500 E Douglas Ave., Des Moines, IA 50317

    You don’t have to leave the city to get in touch with the great outdoors. Here you’ll find tree stumps, hollow log tunnels and plank bridges that encourage kids to climb, crawl and test their balance. There are also large stones to climb and bridges and tunnels to run around. Bring the buckets and shovels to dig into the sand pit. In the summer, you’ll want to bring a towel and a change of clothes for the kids, as there is also a splash pad where kids can cool off.

  9. Terra Park

    Location: 6400 Pioneer Pkwy, Johnston, IA 50131

    You don’t have to pick between a cool playground or a natural playscape when you visit Terra Park. Here, you get both! The playground has a native grass and woodland theme on the climbing and slide structures. One bonus to this playground is that there are several sun shades built into the playground and nearby picnic tables, making it more comfortable to visit the playground in the heat of summer. The park also features a small pond with a fishing pier and walking trails. Kids get a kick out of jumping from rock to rock to get across the water feature (don’t worry, it’s easy to step from rock to rock).

  10. Triumph Park

    Location: 700 Douglas Pkwy, Waukee, IA 50263 

    Near the new Northwest High School in Waukee is a big sports complex with 12 ball fields and a 15,000-square-foot all-inclusive playground. This park feels larger than life and your kids will have a BLAST! Getting them to head home will be the hard part. Big kids will love climbing up to the tallest tunnel slides and zooming back down. Little ones will love tottling around on the soft turf, visiting the sensory stations and playing on the smaller slides. There are ramps and play features that make it accessible to kids who use wheelchairs, but there are also a lot of slopes that may not be accessible to all users. If you don’t live out west, this is definitely worth the drive. On your way, you may want to also hit up Waukee’s Alice Nizzi Park (also known as the Spaghetti Park). It’s not a big park, but your kids will get a kick out of climbing into a big bowl of spaghetti and you’ll get a super cute photo opp.

  11. Walker Johnston Park
    Walker Johnston Park
    Location: 9000 Douglas Ave., Urbandale, IA 50322

    Here’s another park where you can explore multiple playgrounds. There is a big playland on top of a hill and a set of swings at the bottom of the hill. The fun part is taking the extra long, ground-level slide down the hill to the lower level. Kids are guaranteed to wear themselves out by climbing up the hill just to race back down the big slide. If your kids are preschool-age or older, you might want to add on another adventure while you’re at Walker Johnston Park. Follow the walking path back to a wooded playground that has rope bridges and climbing nets. During the summer, the Urbandale Public Library hosts a story walk, where you can read a story page-by-page as you walk by display boards installed along the path that loops the pond.  

Greater Des Moines (DSM) is where locals find family-friendly discoveries and adventurous yet affordable lifestyles. Learn how you can live greater here, too. 

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