Des Moines, IA

What to Do in Des Moines With Kids

Kimberly Ritter

Wondering what to do in Des Moines with kids? Whether you’re heading into town for the Iowa State Fair or another occasion, here are our must-see items for families when you are visiting Des Moines, Iowa!

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Did you know there is TONS to do when you’re in Des Moines? I’m a Des Moines native and when we moved away to another part of the state, we still returned nearly every weekend for fun shopping and entertainment in the Des Moines metro. We finally realized we were missing so much, we moved back to Des Moines permanently!

Greater Des Moines has everything of a big urban center without the negative things that can come with a big city like traffic. You’ll find ample shopping, amazing art and an accessible and authentic city that has artistic, fun and family-oriented opportunities everywhere. From food to museums to amusement parks and family fun, here are some of our top picks for when you’re visiting Des Moines Iowa for a few days or a weekend.

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Iowa State Fair
If you’re coming into Des Moines in early August, don’t miss a stop at the Iowa State Fair. While it was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic, we're hoping to see the fair back and better than ever this year.

The internationally acclaimed Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa, annually attracting more than a million people from all over the world. The Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is Iowa’s great celebration, a salute to the state’s best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. With so much to do, you can go every day and see something different! Whether you’re a lifelong Fairgoer or a travel tourist, there’s adventure and excitement every time you head there –  from thrill Parks to classic Fair favorites like the Giant Slide and Ye Old Mill to concerts, shows and more. Don’t miss the giant slide, the Skyride or check out the famous butter cow.

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Adventureland
Looking for an adventure for everyone in your family? This family-owned theme park in Altoona just outside Des Moines features over 100 rides and 24 water rides–ensuring a variety of ways to have fun for all ages. With an array of themed food and beverage options, shows throughout the park also feature a variety of family entertainment. Admission includes all rides, shows, and attractions at Adventureland Park, including Iowa’s newest water park–Adventure Bay. Bring your swimsuit and towel to enjoy waterslide fun at Adventure Bay and stay after dark for extra fun when the rides light up. Adventureland is located at 3200 Adventureland Dr, Altoona, IA 50009.

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Zombie Burger
Get your love of all things zombie in a unique eatery with a creative menu located in the heart of downtown Des Moines. Zombie Burger + Drink Lab is the creative eatery’s standalone restaurant located in downtown Des Moines’ East Village. Zombie Burger features its own custom three-cut beef burger blend, specially-crafted artisan buns, hand-mixed shakes, and even spiked shakes and cocktails. With both full-service and quick-service dining options, the Drink Lab features an expanded menu of culinary creations, a full bar, and a popular revolving weekly special. If you’re in a rush, pick the quick-service dining option and either way, don’t miss the delicious milkshakes. Our personal favorite is the s’mores!  The Three Little Piggies Nachos are also a must-try and are packed with Iowa Pork! Get your Zombie Burger and other delicious zombified menu items at 300 E Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309.

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Fong’s Pizza
Looking for the coolest and tastiest pizza this side of the Mississippi? Fong’s Pizza combines flavors and inspiration from the Far East & the West to create a unique but delicious menu. Home to the original Crab Rangoon Pizza, it specializes in pizzas, as well as handmade appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and gluten-friendly, vegetarian, & vegan selections. Choose one of their unique pizza combinations or make your own from their wide menu. Bring the whole family and feel free to indulge in a tasty tiki drink in a souvenir mug or a unique craft beer. Don’t miss the cheese sticks or pizza rolls that are made with egg roll wrappers. They’re fantastic!

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Photo courtesy of Two Kids and a Coupon.

Sculpture Park
If you want to get outside and enjoy Des Moines, why not enjoy a walk in the park? Des Moines has an amazing 4.4 acre Sculpture Park that creates a pedestrian-friendly entrance to their downtown area. Unique sculptures in an accessible setting combined with landscape design and caliber art from 24 of the world’s most celebrated artists make this park unlike any other in the United States. Use the Sculpture Park Exploration Guide to participate in activities and interact with 11 works of art, schedule a guided or self-guided tour or use this eclectic park as a backdrop for a family photo! New to the park is the LOVE sculpture which is great for selfies and photos! Find the Pappajohn Sculpture Park at 1330 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50309. The sculpture park is open during city park hours, which are sunrise to midnight.

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Blank Park Zoo
Opened in 1966 and continuously remodeled and grown since Blank Park Zoo is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and a must-visit for any families who live in or who are visiting the central Iowa area. With a wide variety of exhibits, photo opportunities, and animals, Blank Park Zoo offers a fun and interactive experience for families and kids of all ages and is a great way to spend a couple of hours or a half-day as a family. You’ll find a fun variety of wildlife including an indoor discovery center with an aquarium and aviary, an African boardwalk, an Australian adventure complete with wallabies running free and a giant kid’s kingdom play area and a petting zoo. Some of our personal favorites include the African Cats, the sea lions, the train and feeding the giraffes. The Blank Park Zoo is located at 7401 SW 9th St in Des Moines, Iowa and it is easily accessible from the interstate.

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Science Center of Des Moines
Did you know Des Moines has a world-class science museum right in the downtown metro area? Centrally located in Downtown Des Moines, the Science Center of Iowa (also known as SCI) features hands-on exhibits, special format theaters and unique programming to encourage learning and fun for all ages. They have many different programs for Youth and Family & All Ages and special events for members too. Check the Science Center of Des Moines website for updates on daily schedules of classes and activities and visit them at 401 W Martin Luther King Jr Pkwy, Des Moines, IA 50309.

Molly’s Cupcakes
An adorable bakery located in downtown Des Moines, this little eatery features delicious cupcakes with classic flavors, as well as exciting and seasonal center fillings, vegan and gluten-free options and other treats. Molly’s Cupcakes also offers Kid’s Cupcake Decorating Classes for children 6 to 14-years-old. Each class includes a beverage, a chef’s hat to decorate, and a tutorial on filling, frostings and decorating four cupcakes. Bring your sweet tooth to 215 E 3rd St, Des Moines, IA 50309.

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State Historical Museum of Iowa
Help your family discover Iowa’s rich heritage through a variety of exhibitions, tours, collections and unique programs and events throughout the year. The State Historical Museum of Iowa has more 80,000 objects and about 1,500 objects are on exhibit at any given time. They have great exhibits including the of life in Iowa before the settlers arrived, the role Iowans played in the Civil War and the story of the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI®).  Our personal favorite is the Hollywood in the Heartland exhibit that features the history of Iowa films. The State Historical Museum of Iowa is located at 600 East Locust, Des Moines, IA 50319.

There’s so much to do in Des Moines, we’re positive you’ll have a great time while you’re here. Are you attending the Iowa State Fair this year? Need additional recommendations on what to do in Des Moines with kids? Leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to help you out! 

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Two Kids and a Coupon is a frugal family website that shares news, ideas, entertainment, activities, recipes, and tips for today’s busy parents and family on a budget.

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