Des Moines frequently hosts marathons, so check for street closures, especially on holiday weekends.
It’s a very bikable city, so be aware of bike traffic, especially downtown.
I wouldn’t recommend visiting these locations in the winter time as Iowa winters can be frigid. The zoo is open in the winter, but only certain exhibits due to cold weather. Most of the places we went would be ideal in spring/summer/fall.
Buy your zoo tickets online to save a few dollars.
Cities in the Midwest often get a bad rap for being in the “flyover zones” and not very exciting. We were surprised to find that Des Moines, Iowa, is actually a neat place to visit. As a result, this itinerary is full of fun things to do in Des Moines with kids. There are many parks, bike paths and family-friendly places to explore. And, even though we saw a lot of the city, we certainly didn’t do or see it all. To begin your Des Moines family fun, head to Blank Park Zoo. This zoo is well-shaded and the exhibits aren’t too far from each other. Moving on, continue to Pappajohn Sculpture Park for a relaxing stroll to observe the installations, take some fun family photos or relax on the grass. After taking in the artwork, your kids will get a real kick out of Union Park, where there are a plethora of options for kids to entertain themselves. Lastly, the 1.2-mile (2 km) Principal Riverwalk, in the heart of downtown Des Moines, offers great views of the city architecture and more outdoor fun for the family. We purposefully went to a lot of cheap or free places and were surprised how enjoyable and well done those were. Although parking was sometimes difficult to find (it was a triathlon weekend), Des Moines is a fairly easy city to navigate.