Try DSM: Make It a Family Adventure in Des Moines

Get a feel for family life with a weekend visit to Greater Des Moines (DSM). Bring the kiddos and give DSM a try before you make your big move here. 

Weekend Guide to a Family-Friendly DSM

Hotel Pick: SpringHill Suites – West Des Moines

Families need space, and the suite and two-room options at the SpringHill Suites in West Des Moines gives you extra breathing room while you’re traveling together. (Plus, wink, there’s a P-O-O-L.) Parents also love that the hearty breakfast buffet is included with your stay, so you know everyone will be well-fed before heading out for a day of adventures. It’s located close to I-80, so you can pop around the region with ease. 

 Friday Nights for the Fam in Des Moines

  • Kick off the evening by exploring West Des Moines. Near your hotel, you’ll find Jordan Creek Town Center (shopping, a movie theater and more), Smash Park and Spare Time (bursting with oodles of entertainment options including bowling, arcade games, pickleball courts, bags games and more).  
  • Or take a short 12-minute drive just north to the suburb of Grimes and burn off some energy at Skyzone trampoline park or Climb Iowa
  • You’ll find no shortage of family-friendly food options in this area, too. From national chains to local favorites like Scratch Cupcakes, Zombie Burger (at the Jordan Creek Mall food court), Hurts Donut, and El Fogon, just search up restaurant + Jordan Creek or restaurant + Mills Civic Parkway (the two major thoroughfares in this area) and let your tastebuds guide you.  
  • Head back to the hotel and rest up because Saturday is coming. (Or check out that P-O-O-L!) 

Spend a Kid-Friendly Saturday Around DSM

  • Enjoy the free breakfast at the hotel. But don’t fill up too much, because you’re headed to the Downtown Farmers’ Market, where people stand in a well-worth-it line for an epic breakfast burrito. (For those who want a quicker, but equally delicious bite, options from cinnamon rolls to pupusas to arepas to breakfast sandwiches exist around every corner. Oh, and coffee. Good, hot, local coffee!) The line-up changes from week to week, but happenings for kids at The Market include balloon animals, train rides, music and more. (Plus, pet owners love to bring their dogs, so if your kids light up at the sight of a dog, they will LOVE The Market.) 
  • Head over to the Science Center of Iowa, which is right next to The Market, where there are hands-on exhibits for curious kids of all ages. 
  • Grab lunch from Gateway Market and have an impromptu picnic at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. The art will capture the imaginations of your whole family. You can walk along and admire exhibits that are larger than life (perfect for that Instagram selfie!) or follow along on a free audio tour
  • If you’re looking for a place to sit down inside for lunch, try Americana (across from the park) or Exile Brewing (two blocks from the park). At Exile Brewing, you could take a great family photo next to their giant “Cheers from Des Moines” mural or kick off a mural scavenger hunt with the kids. Other family-friendly options within a two mile drive include Gusto Pizza, Lucky Lotus, Drake Diner and Smokey Row Coffee.  
  • To round out the afternoon, visit the Des Moines Art Center. Admission is free, but it’s only open until 4 p.m. on Saturdays. We highly recommend taking a walking tour of the rose gardens behind the Art Center as well. In the spring, the space is awash with beautiful color. You can follow the path to Greenwood-Ashworth Park, which features a small pond that begs children to explore and marvel at nature.  
  • Another great park you may want to visit, if you have time, is Riverview Park, which has a lively carnival theme and play structures for children of all abilities. 
  • In the evening, introduce your kids to the theater. The Des Moines Playhouse often has children's theatre performances or you could take them to a touring Broadway show, such as the Lion King, at the Des Moines Civic Center.

Sunday is Family Day in DSM

  • Enjoy a slow morning with breakfast at the hotel, and let the kids jump in the pool one more time before you check out.  
  • Visit the Blank Park Zoo before leaving town. From baby rhinos to red pandas, there is so much to see and enjoy at the zoo. Plan to spend a couple of hours there. The zoo also includes two playgrounds and a naturescape play area.  

Other Options for Your Des Moines Family Visit

Choose your own adventure and mix and match with these options to plan an itinerary tailored to your family:  

  • Let the kids burn off some energy at Kids Empire, an indoor playland with areas for babies, toddlers and big kids to climb and play.  
  • Head toward Waukee, a family-friendly suburb packed with options. For phenomenal burgers and shakes, visit Central Standard for dinner complete with all the kid’s menu favorites, chicken tenders and macaroni and cheese, yet parents will enjoy the upscale spin on comfort food classics and craft beer menu. And everyone at the table will love sampling the signature milkshakes. See a movie on of the biggest IMAX screens in the midwest at The Palms Theatres and IMAX. Plus, there are an extensive number of parks, splash pads and green spaces for kiddos to run and play.  
  • Speaking of parks … parks! Playgrounds, trails, nature spaces, take your pick: You’ll find one in just about every corner of DSM. 
  • If you’re visiting in the summer, consider spending the day at Adventureland with rides, shows and attractions for all ages. 
  • The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and Jester Park Nature Center are other options for nature lovers. 
  • History buffs, don’t miss Living History Farms and the State Historical Museum.  
  • For the eight-and-under age group, the Des Moines Children’s Museum offers a place for exploratory play and learning. 

And don’t stop there. If you’re looking for additional amenities and activities to suit your family’s unique interests, we’ve got you covered with even more kid-friendly things to do around Des Moines and ways to get connected with other families of little kids or teens living here. 

Find Your Community. Do Something Greater.  

Greater Des Moines (DSM) is full of ways to connect with like-minded parents to do all the family-friendly things you and your kiddos love to do. Find your community here and get connected!  

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