Des Moines, Iowa, is one of those cities that I take for granted that it’s so near. We’ve visited the city just a handful of times since I started this blog, and each time, we discover something new and exciting. It’s probably time I compile some of the greatest hits of our DSM adventures for you!
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Sample weekend itinerary for Des Moines
We’ve “done” Des Moines in two different ways: As an extended pitstop on a longer road trip through Iowa, and as a dedicated weekend ‘o fun. Based on both experiences, and on my experience of always stopping at a particular restaurant in Des Moines every.single.chance. I get, here is my suggested itinerary.
Day 1 – Downtown Des Moines
Spend the day in downtown Des Moines. If it’s a Saturday and it’s summer, stroll through the farmer’s market. Sample a few foods as you make your way down the street to your first destination: The Science Center of Iowa.
After a few hours there, you’ll be hungry. Lucky for you, Fong’s Pizza is on the same block. Get the crab rangoon pizza. Just trust me. If your kids are, somehow, still full of energy, have them run it out at the Pappajohn Sculpture Garden. If you’d rather be indoors, head to the state capitol building for a tour.
Day 2 – Outdoor fun
Hope you’re rested. Today you can choose between thrills at Adventureland or history and cows at the Living History Farms. Either way, you’ll be walking a lot and probably really hot by the end of the day. If you’re at Adventureland, just plan on eating in the park for lunch.
At the Living History Farms, you’re not farm from the Machine Shed. The servings are huge, so I hope you’re hungry. For dinner, pick something off Megan’s list of the best restaurants in Des Moines. And, um, take a shower before you go.
You earned ice cream, if you didn’t already get dessert at dinner, so choose from one of these great Des Moines ice cream shops.
Discounts in Des Moines
One of the easiest ways to save money is to go in the off-season, but that’s not practical if, for instance, you want to go to Adventureland. So, here are my tips for saving money:
Love it or hate it, you can score some great deals on restaurants and activity centers on Groupon. Browse the Des Moines restaurant section and the Des Moines things to do section before your trip. Or even while you’re there! When I last checked, there were discount tickets to a AAA Cubs baseball game, go carts and a trampoline park available.
The most frequent question I get how to get discounted tickets to places…like Adventureland. Here’s where to look:
- Des Moines Area Association of Realtors: You can say $10 off regular day passes or season passes for adults, or $5 off for children through their corporate partner program. Orders come with a coupon for up to $30 off a stay at Adventureland Inn.
- Iowa State Bank Des Moines: You can say $10 off regular day passes or season passes for adults, or $5 off for children through their corporate partner program.
Hy-Vee Grocery stores used to have discount tickets but from what I can tell, they aren’t doing it this year.
Science Center discount
If you have a family membership to Omaha Children’s Museum, you benefit from the ASTC reciprocal membership discount program…meaning you get admission for up to four people into the museum! It’s a great deal, so learn more about it in this post explaining the reciprocal program.
Where to stay in Des Moines
To be honest, I don’t have a favorite hotel in Des Moines, but I can recommend a few that are near some attractions, and maybe that will be enough of a deciding factor. If you are planning to spend a day or two at Adventureland, I wrote about the hotel that’s super close to the amusement park.
If your plans take you to West Des Moines (or further), we stayed at the Wildwood Lodge in Clive. This one had a pretty cool lodge theme to it and the kids loved the pool.