This summer, my family’s taking a road trip through central Iowa, exploring a big city and many small towns. Our first stop is Des Moines, the capital of Iowa. My kids have never been there, and the last time I spent quality time there, “Friends” was a new TV show. Time to explore the city again, right?
The open road will be calling before I can check everything off the list, but here’s my Des Moines Bucket List, for future visits too. Start planning your Des Moines bucket list with help from Catch Des Moines!
Eat at the TV Reality Show Darlings
I’m a sucker for a good restaurant, so if some television personality tells me a place is worth a visit, I’m so there. I think we need to venture into Fong’s Pizza (seen on “Food Paradise” and “Sandra Lee’s Taverns, Lounges & Clubs”) for perhaps a crab rangoon pizza or try a massive burger at Zombie Burger + Drink Lab (featured on “Today Show” and “United States of Bacon”).
Keep Eating, This Time At Online Reviewers’ Faves
If I can’t find a show about it, I read what others loved while browsing online forums. Of the restaurants that stood out to me, the ones that might have a remote chance of appealing to my kids too, are barbecue hot spots like Woody’s Smoke Shack or Flying Mango, or the ultimate comfort food found at The Machine Shed.
Then there are all these great Des Moines restaurants I want to try recommended by fellow travel blogger Megan from Olio in Iowa!
This area in Iowa is full of unique activities that are throwbacks to different eras. I’m certain a favorite will be the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad, though technically, this isn’t a Des Moines attraction, I’m tacking it on since on our road trip route.
We also might check out the Heritage Carousel and rocket slide at Union Park. Living History Farms is another Des Moines staple that I cannot believe I’ve never been to.
Admire the art
Des Moines has one of the Midwest’s biggest summer arts festivals, and it even gets international attention (International Festivals & Events Association awarded the Des Moines Summer Arts Festival with a Gold Grand Pinnacle Award in 2014 and 2015 as one of the “best festivals in the world”).
A permanent fixture on the downtown Des Moines scene is the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. I’ve seen so many cute photos taken there, I need to take a few of my own while we’re there. Doesn’t hurt the vacation budget to visit either of these, too! They’re free.
Walk the High Trestle Trail Bridge
Another freebie adventure for the family is to walk the High Trestle Trail Bridge. We’re an active family, so something like this appeals to us. If you’re going to take a hike or bike ride, do it somewhere scenic, right? This 13-story high bridge is found on a much larger trail north of Des Moines.
Look for the bridge spanning the Des Moines River along the trail between Madrid and Woodward, Iowa (OK, you got me again, it’s not technically IN Des Moines, but at least it’s closer than Boone, right?).
Sneak some learning in while on vacation
Most trips, you’ll find the Oh My! Omaha family stopping at a museum of some sort. The Science Center of Iowa looks like it’d be a hit with the kids and the grownups on the trip (we’re just big kids, after all).
I can see us spending a lot of time in the Small Discoveries area catering to the 7 and younger crowd, but there are two stories to explore there, so no doubt we’d attempt to explore it all on our trip!
Have a day of thrills
My kids would love Adventureland. What kid wouldn’t love a huge theme park? I haven’t been there in ages, so pretty much everything there would be new to me.
What I’m thinking would be my favorite if we were to visit on a hot summer day? Adventure Bay. Looks fun, doesn’t it?
There’s so much more I could add here! The city has a baseball team for sports fans. Love theater? Des Moines Civic Center brings in Broadway touring shows to the city.
Please add in the comment section places you think should be on this list! What restaurants, attractions, and photo opps do you recommend?