July 27, 2018

Wineries Near Council Bluffs

Fall is one of my favorite times to explore Council Bluffs and the nearby Loess Hills. When I’m with my kids, we head outdoors for hikes or apple picking. But, if we have a kid-free afternoon, wineries are a fun destination. Here’s a list of wineries near Council Bluffs to get you started planning a day out.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Unleash CB. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

List of wine trails & wineries near Council Bluffs, Iowa #winery #wine #unleashCB #thisisiowa

Wineries Near Council Bluffs

Ditmars Orchard & Vineyard

Where: 19475 225th St., Council Bluffs, Iowa

Events: The winery has concerts in the summer, with the next one coming up this Saturday. Big events at the orchard include Apple Days Music Festival on Sept. 2, Fields of Flight Hot Air Balloon Festival Sept. 7-9, Midwest Winds Kite Flyers Sept. 15 & 16, and the third annual Wine Walk on Oct. 6.

Worth mentioning: This is a pretty family-friendly place to visit, and so are the events, so I’d say it’s more orchard than vineyard. Purchase an activity band to enjoy the corn maze, playground and the tractor rides; time things right to pick your own apples or pumpkins.

Website

Loess Hills Winery is one of the closest wineries to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Bottles of Loess Hills Winery’s award winning wine. Photo courtesy Unleash CB

Loess Hills Vineyard & Winery

Where: 1120 Old Lincoln Highway, Crescent, Iowa

Events: There’s a live concert at the winery this Saturday.

Worth mentioning: This makes a great stop after hiking at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa.

Website

Prairie Crossing is in Treynor, Iowa. Photo courtesy Unleash CB

Prairie Crossing Vineyard & Winery

Where: 31506 Pioneer Trail, Treynor, Iowa

Events: The winery hosts live music on select days in a series called Vineyard Vibes. Concerts are planned for this Sunday, as well as Aug. 12, Aug. 26, Sept. 9, Sept. 23, and Oct. 7 (customer appreciation day). The Aug. 26 Vineyard Vibes coincides with the Annual Harvest Party, which includes grape stomping from noon to 2 p.m. The event is all-ages, and teams can register now. The Sip & Shop Craft Fair is Oct. 21.

Website

 

Breezy Hills Vineyard

Where: 31735 Tamarak Road, Minden, Iowa

Events: Wings & Wine-a-Ritas has live music Fridays, July 27, Aug. 3, and Aug. 10; Labor Day music featuring Ledd Peppers is on Sept. 2; live music also on Sundays, Sept. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30.

Website

 

Sugar Clay Winery & Vineyard

Where: 1446 240th Ave., Thurman, Iowa

Events: The winery hosts Sangria Sundays featuring live music. The remaining 2018 dates are Sundays, July 29 through Sept. 30. The winery’s annual Winestock is held at the end of May each year.

Worth mentioning: You’ll love the deck at this winery. Sugar Clay has a restaurant that serves lunch Thursdays through Sunday and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.

Website

Vine Street Cellars is in Glenwood, about 20 miles south of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Photo courtesy Vine Street Cellars

Vine Street Cellars

Where: 17 N. Vine St., Glenwood, Iowa

Events: The winery will host food trucks during the Glenwood Iowa Farmer’s Market from 4 to 7 p.m., including Anthony Piccolo’s Mobile Food Venue on Aug. 1, 15 and 29, and Phy-Ros Food Truck (philly cheese steaks & gyros) on Aug. 8 and 22. The winery is participating in the Lawn Mower Poker Run sponsored by the Mills County Trails on Aug. 18, and has something planned for the Glenwood Homecoming on Sept. 21.

Website

Bodega Victoriana Winery & Wedding Barn is located in Glenwood, Iowa. Photo courtesy Bodega Victoriana Winery & Wedding Barn

Bodega Victoriana Winery & Wedding Barn

Where: 60397 Kidd Road, Glenwood, Iowa

Events: The winery holds a live music series called Bodega BARN BEATS on the first Sunday of the month. The remaining 2018 dates are Sept. 2, Oct. 7, Nov. 3, and Dec. 2.

Website

 

Soaring Wings Vineyard

Where: 17111 S. 138th St., Springfield, Neb.

Events: The winery has live music most Saturdays and Sundays, with Saturday concerts outside in the amphitheater and Sunday concerts indoors and acoustic. The annual pig roast, Swine on the Vine, is Aug. 18. The Harvest Festival is Sept. 29 and includes grape stomping.

Website

 

Whiskey Run Creek Vineyard & Winery

Where: 702 Main, Brownville, Neb.

Events: None listed.

Website

List of wineries to visit in southwest Iowa #wine #thisisiowa #unleashCB

Wine Trails To Know

Most of the wineries listed above are part of a wine trail. The ones in southwest Iowa belong to the Western Iowa Wine Trail. Members of the trail host Western Iowa Wine Trail events that encourage road tripping (with a DD) through scenic western Iowa. On Nov. 3, there will be a poker run along the wine trail from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If you want to venture into Nebraska, there’s the Southeast Nebraska Winery Trail. The two that are closest to Council Bluffs are Soaring Wings Vineyard in Springfield, Neb., and Whiskey Run Creek Vineyard & Winery in Brownville, Neb.

 

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July 9, 2018

Tips For Visiting Blank Park Zoo In Des Moines

Blank Park Zoo is a hidden gem that’s a bit off the beaten path in Des Moines, Iowa. My family is most familiar with the downtown area and, of course, Adventureland; however, we decided this summer, it was time to pay this zoo a visit. I’m glad we did! I just wish we had allowed more time to explore – we visited on the last day of a great weekend in Des Moines.

Tips for visiting Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa

Disclosure: Our trip was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

You can explore the zoo in an afternoon – there are 22 acres of exhibits and facilities to see.

The zoo in Des Moines has an indoor rainforest with a low-hanging rope bridge.

Here are some of the things we discovered at the Des Moines zoo:

Not-to-miss animal encounters

Blank Park Zoo loads their summer days with animal encounters, keeper chats, feedings and more. You can see a schedule here. They are, of course, subject to change. We caught one of the Look & Learn educational programs near the penguins. It’s held daily at 11 a.m. If you arrive to the area at 10:45, you can watch the penguins being fed and then you’re just a few steps away from the animal program.

There are other encounters for an additional fee. My kids begged and begged to ride the camel, so we forked over the $6 each for them to ride.

Des Moines Zoo Camel Ride

For an additional fee, kids can ride a camel at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa.

A few of the other activities that are an additional fee include feeding parakeets ($2 for a feed stick, $1 for admission only), the train ride ($2.25 per person or $2 for members), and the carousel ($2.25 per person or $2 for members). They also had a face painting stand, which seemed like a sweaty mess waiting to happen.

One of my favorite add-ons was the giraffe feeding, which I thought was reasonably priced. My daughter and I also fed giraffes for $2 a treat (which was actually like several lettuce leaves). I thought it was more fun getting up close to giraffes than camels, but my daughter may have a different opinion about it.

Feeding giraffes at Blank Park Zoo was an additional fee but definitely a memorable experience.

Behind the Scenes Tours

I can’t vouch for how a one-on-one tour with a zoo keeper and animal goes, but Blank Park Zoo has several different Behind The Scenes Tours that sound awesome. Sign me up for the sea lion and penguin experience, pronto.

Note that each tour has a different age restriction, so younger kiddos might not be able to take some of the tours. Prices for non-members are $50 for kids younger than 11 and $100 for kids 12 and older.

If your family loves incredible animal encounters and small-group tours, check out Tanganyika Park in Kansas!

Most unique ways to see animals

I appreciate it when a zoo finds an interesting way to get you (safely) close to animals to observe them. Two of my favorites were at Blank Park Zoo.

There’s an underwater viewing area for the sea lion exhibit that was one of our favorites. The animals would swim past the windows frequently.

Des Moines Zoo Seal Viewing Window

The seal exhibit had above water and below water viewing areas. We especially enjoyed watching the animals swim underwater.

My kids liked crawling through the prairie dog tunnels and popping their heads into the bubble in the exhibit. Only attempt crawling through them yourselves if you don’t mind looking super awkward.

There’s also an area called the Australia Adventure. In theory, this exhibit sounds awesome – the animals, like a wallaby, roam freely as you walk the trail. However, the trail was closed the day we visited, so I’m not sure how many animals one would actually get to see in the exhibit. If you’ve visited and got to walk the trail, let me know how it was!

Best kids play area

Des Moines Zoo Kids Area

Inside the Kids Kingdom at the zoo in Des Moines, you’ll find a petting zoo and wooden playground.

Having visited many Midwest zoos, there always seems to be a playground of some sort planted somewhere within. Blank Park Zoo has a fantastic space that’s tied in with its petting zoo. Don’t skip Kids Kingdom, with plenty of room to climb and play.

The playground at the Blank Park Zoo could be a destination in itself. It keeps kids busy for a long time.

And so you don’t have disappointed kids, you’ll need a $1 per food cup so your kids can feed the goats and llamas.

How to get a discount to Blank Park Zoo

If you have a membership to a zoo that belongs to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, you may get 50 percent off or event FREE admission to the zoo. For example, Omaha zoo members receive 50% off admission, while members of the Lincoln Children’s Zoo get FREE admission. Visit this AZA Reciprocal Admission Program page for more details and to check to see if your zoo participates. It’s also a good idea to call ahead to be sure.

I’ve written about the benefits of reciprocal programs for zoos, museums and botanical gardens, so check it out!

Want to explore more of Des Moines?

My son liked the interactive exhibits at Living History Farms in West Des Moines.

This is the second time we’ve visited Des Moines with the kids. If you’re interested in seeing what there is to do in West Des Moines (like the Living History Farms), check out this post. To learn more about downtown Des Moines attractions, read this post.

To plan your own Des Moines family getaway, start with the Des Moines Bucket List.

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June 21, 2018

Family-Friendly Outdoor Activities Near Council Bluffs

There is a wealth of outdoor activities near Council Bluffs for you and your family to explore. From historical exploration and culture to sports and recreation, Iowa has something for everyone. Here are a few of our favorites.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Unleash CB. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Hitchcock Nature Center

Honey Creek, Iowa is home to Hitchcock Nature Center in Loess Hills, a formation of hills that provides refuge for animals. Hitchcock is situated on 1,268 acres in Loess Hills, and the activities that you can experience with your family will exceed your expectations. One of our favorite things to do at Hitchcock is climb the 45-foot observation deck. Looking into the horizon, you’ll see a 360-degree view of the natural beauty of the Missouri River Valley, the rolling Loess Hills, and the Omaha skyline. Keep walking and take a hike in the gorgeous park while you watch for the variety of birds that live in the area.

The tower at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa.

Hitchcock offers events all year round for children, adults, and families. Hiking clubs, Yoga in the Park, tours of Loess Hills, and even an Insect Club are some of the upcoming events. (There are additional costs for some events.) Park hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and admission is only $3 per car.

Related post:

Botna Bend Park

Another Pottawatamie County treasure is Botna Bend Park, an incredible 119-acre park in Hancock, Iowa. Canoeing, tubing, or kayaking on the Nishnabotna River will have you booking this excursion every year. It’s so easy to get in the water with Rubber Duck Outfitters. They’ll bring everything you need to float or boat from Hancock to Oakland.

What really puts Botna Bend on the list is the elk and bison you’ll see in the park. Bring your camera and snap some shots of these magnificent animals. Like the Hitchcock Nature Center, admission is just $3 per vehicle.

Western Historic Trails

Take a bike ride or walk along the historic trails to trace the paths of the early explorers, including those who traveled the Lewis & Clark, Oregon, California and Mormon Trails.

The Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The center has displays about four trails that have passed through the area: Lewis & Clark, Oregon, California and Mormon Trails

Start at the indoor Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa to plan your outdoor excursions and routes. These sites expand outside of Council Bluffs.

Wabash Trace Nature Trail

On the south end of Council Bluffs, you’ll find the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, a 63-mile crushed limestone trail. The trail has a $1 daily fee to use the trail. It’s ideal for biking and walking, and also home to the weekly Thursday night Taco Ride. If you join in the ride, know that it gets dark on the Taco Ride, so bring a light.

Lake Manawa State Park

Lake Manawa State Park is located within Council Bluffs and feature a large lake for boating and fishing, mountain bike trails, and a sandy beach. The large, wooden playground, Dreamland, is under construction.

Related post: 10 Things To Do This Fall In Council Bluffs

Zipline at Mount Crescent

Take your family to the fastest zipline in Nebraska and Iowa at Mount Crescent Ski in Crescent, Iowa. The ride starts with a ski lift ride followed by a 1600 ft (the length of 5 football fields) high flying zip. Starting at $45 per rider, each person will receive two zip line rides with their reservation. Before you zip, look around the observation deck and the scenic views of the area. View the wildflowers, hills, and wildlife as you soar through the air on your fantastic ride.

Ziplining at Mount Crescent in Crescent, Iowa.

In the winter, Mount Crescent is home to the only downhill skiing hills near the Omaha metro area.

Ditmars Orchard

In the fall, Ditmars Orchard is the place to be for apple picking, pumpkin patch browsing, and navigating the corn maze. There are annual special events at the orchard, as well, including hot air balloon glows, kite flying, and live music festivals.

A balloon glow at Ditmars Orchard in Council Bluffs.

It’s one of the closest apple orchards to the Omaha metro area, and one of my family’s favorites!

With all the outdoor activities in Western Iowa, one summer will not be enough to experience them all. Luckily, Iowa’s parks and recreation centers are open year round for your enjoyment. Come see all that Western Iowa has to offer!

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June 20, 2018

Where To Stay Near Adventureland

Our long weekend in Des Moines, Iowa this summer included a day at Adventureland. Since the theme park was the main reason we were making this trip, it made sense to stay at a place nearby like Fairfield Inn & Suites. If you’re looking for a hotel near Adventureland, here’s what our stay was like.

Disclosure: Our weekend in Des Moines was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Near Adventureland

This Fairfield Inn & Suites is technically in Altoona, Iowa, but simplicity’s sake, we’ll say it’s in Des Moines, since most of us out-of-towners think Adventureland is in Des Moines. The important thing is that it’s super close to Adventureland, right?

If you’ve stayed at a Fairfield Inn & Suites before, you are familiar with this Marriott brand hotel. It’s comfy and family-friendly and affordable. The bonus with this particular location is that it’s new, so everything is pristine and fresh.

The lobby of the Fairfield Inn and Suite near Adventureland.

The amenities I expect from a Fairfield are consistent the Marriott brand line of hotels: Complimentary hot breakfast, comfortable beds, small pool, and a hip, modern-looking lobby. This location also had a hot tub and a lake view. There’s an outdoor patio by the lake that will be nice eventually, but since this is such a new hotel, there still is some landscaping to do. There’s a door to the patio from the pool area.

This hotel had a nice touch for those who’ve spent a day outdoors in the summer: Cucumber-infused ice water in the lobby. If you’ve sweated your way through Adventureland in June, this is a refreshing and pleasant surprise to arrive to.

What I liked about the hotel

As a parent, I liked the convenience of walking down to the lobby for a hot breakfast, as well as having a variety of food to choose from. Fresh fruit is always a welcomed option at these breakfasts.

The view from the dining area in the Fairfield Inn & Suites.

I also liked the proximity to Adventureland. It wasn’t as near our other destinations that weekend, like Blank Park Zoo or downtown Des Moines, though. We’ve stayed at a hotel in West Des Moines on our last visit, and if you know the area, that’s even further from Adventureland. Anyway, after a long day at Adventureland, it was great to drive just about a mile to get back to our room.

The rooms themselves are great for families, spacious enough for a family of four. We had two queen beds, plus a pull-out couch. The “suite” area of the room consisted of that couch, plus a desk and TV.

This is what happens when your 6-year-old art directs the photo of a hotel room. You can see the suite area with the pull-out bed couch in the background.

There’s a small toiletry and snack store located in the lobby, in case you forgot necessities. I opted to head to the nearby Target, though, for things I had forgotten.

What the kids liked

As usual, the pool was the biggest hit with the kids. It’s not very deep, so it was good for my little ones. The hot tub was their second favorite area.

What’s near the hotel

The Fairfield Inn & Suites is in a new commercial development in Altoona. It includes the Outlets of Des Moines and the Bass Pro Shop, plus a few restaurants. You could feasibly walk to all of them, but we did not. It looked like there could be a walking path constructed down the road, connecting the hotel to the nearest restaurant, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse.

If you’re wondering about nearby restaurants, I was more satisfied with the variety and unique dining experiences in downtown Des Moines. The restaurants closest to this hotel are all chains, which may or may not be what you’re looking for. We tried to go to Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse one night since they had provided some coupons to hotel guests, but the wait was too long for our kids to stand patiently.

Here are some distances to note:

Outlets of Des Moines – Walkable

Adventureland – Less than 2 miles

Target – Less than 2 miles

Nearest movie theater (Cinemark) – 2 miles

Downtown Des Moines (includes Science Center of Iowa, Fongs Pizza, Des Moines Farmers Market, Pappajohn Sculpture Park, Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, state capitol building and more attractions) – About 10 miles

Blank Park Zoo – About 16 miles

Living History Farms – 18 miles

 

If you go

Fairfield Inn & Suites Altoona

 

Where: 460 Bass Pro Drive NW, Altoona, Iowa

Website

 

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June 14, 2018

How To Stay Cool At Adventureland

Adventureland in Iowa is a quintessential summer destination for families. We planned a whole day at the park during a recent weekend in Des Moines. Before we left, I asked Oh My! Omaha readers on Facebook for their cool-off tips (see the post here). Those tips helped when we visited on a 95-degree day!

Disclosure: Our visit to Des Moines was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Ways to stay cool at Adventureland

Start early – Get there when the park opens, since mornings are going to be the coolest part of the day. You get the added bonus of short lines for the popular rides. Many recommend arriving about half-hour before the park opens to get a good parking spot and get to the front of the line of your favorite ride.

See a magic show – This was, by far, the most useful tip from a reader. The theater is in Sheriff Sam’s Saloon, and the A/C is a hit of relief in the middle of the day. It doesn’t hurt that the kids find this show highly entertaining. Shows were held on the hour starting at noon, and they rotated shows.

The A/C is cranked on high at the magic show venue in Adventureland. It doesn’t hurt that the show itself is very entertaining for kids. The magic show is held in Sheriff Sam’s Saloon.

Coolest bathroom – I’m using cool literally here. Head to the penny arcade for bathrooms with the A/C cranked on.

Browse the stores – Several stores had signs on the door to “Come in and cool off.” Take that as your cue to go in and browse for as long as it takes to lowery our body temperature. My kids were particularly fine with browsing the toy store.

The look says it all – TOYS. The toy store at Adventureland is a great place to cool off, but if you have kids in tow, good luck leaving without a new stuffed animal friend.

Don’t sweat the old time photos – Two readers recommended doing the souvenir old time photo first thing in the morning. Can you imagine how hot it would be putting on one of those Victorian gowns at 3 p.m. on a July afternoon?

Swim up bar – Shanon K. pointed out that there’s a swim up bar for adults in the waterpark area. It’s called the Sand Bar. That sounds like one of the best ways to cool off in the summer. And by the way, they’ve thought of the kids, too – there’s the Pint Sized Pub with a kid-size stools to sit on in the water. They serve icees, smoothies, non-alcoholic cocktails and a variety of food.

Consider a cabana – Reader Sara U. had some great tips regarding cabanas at the Adventureland water park. First off, if you rent one, it comes with a safe to store supplies. The island cabana not only keeps you covered in the sun, but it also comes with towels, a waitress and a $25 food and beverage credit. “Well worth it as the food was very good and delivered right to you,” she said.

A giant bucket of water to cool you off at Adventure Bay at Adventureland. Photo courtesy Catch Des Moines

Ride the water rides – I’ll have to take everyone’s word for this one. We visited on a week day in early summer, so the water park was closed, and unfortunately, so were the few water rides inside Adventureland. I was really looking forward to being splashed on the Raging River, but it was undergoing some maintenance all day during our visit.

Know when to ride the water rides – Timing is everything with water rides, since everyone wants to ride them during the hottest part of the day. Raging River’s line can be longer than an hour. And tip for the family who gets soaked on the Raging River, there are family drivers for $5 at the end.

Bring water bottles – Most outside food and drink are not allowed, but we could bring in water bottles and refill them throughout the day. Look for water bottle stations in the park. We were able to add ice cubes to our bottles at the Oktoberfest tent (might help that the adults in our group also bought beer).

Find the shade – The park has a lot of trees making it very easy to find a shaded spot to sit. Lisa C. recommended heading toward The Dragon rollercoaster or The Outlaw for shady spots.

Find this shade tent near The Monster at Adventureland.

Park & waterpark in one day tip – Since you get two parks for the price of admission, many fit in both in one day. One reader, Sharice S., shared her family’s itinerary: “We usually enter the park and do the rides all along the left side (ferris wheel, swinging pirate ship, Raging River, Dragon, Saw Mill, etc.) of the park and usually reach the waterpark by mid-afternoon. Then we spend a couple hours swimming and cooling off, and then make our way back to the front on the other side of the park (Monster, Tornado, Storm Chaser). We usually eat at River City Food for lunch and smoothies from the pint size pub in the back of the water park in the late afternoon.”

If you go to Adventureland

Where: 3200 Adventureland Drive, Altoona, Iowa

Calendar of hours

Tip: Do some online investigating before you go and you can score tickets at a discount in advance. If you do show up without pre-purchased tickets, you may get a AAA or military discount if you qualify. I’ve also spotted discount coupons at Hy-Vee.

Related post: Get more Des Moines travel ideas on the post My Des Moines Bucket List.

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June 7, 2018

Best Family Getaway To Des Moines

A weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, was the perfect way to start summer for my family this year. Over the course of three days, our getaway to Des Moines included thrill rides, feeding giraffes, and visiting a few downtown attractions. Here’s how you can have an affordable and fun weekend in Des Moines.

Disclosure: Our trip was hosted by Catch Des Moines. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Things to do in Des Moines with kids

Adventureland – We arrived first thing in the morning to Adventureland and enjoyed super short waits for the roller coasters and other rides. It turns out, having near 100-degree weather was a benefit, and meant we had close to no waits all day.

We arrived at Adventureland right when it opened to enjoy no waits for rides like The Dragon. Adventureland is in Altoona, Iowa, and near Des Moines.

We didn’t go to the waterpark attached to Adentureland—it wasn’t open. But, what’s good for you to know is that it’s included with admission and looks like the oasis you need on a crazy hot summer day.

Top rides for the kids were the Galleon and the Dragon. Top show was the magic show. I rather liked the magic show, too, but more because the A/C was full blast.

Blank Park Zoo – This charming zoo isn’t near any of the others on this list, but will be a highlight for your family, especially if you have little ones. It’s easy to fit in a visit under three hours. There is a lot of shade there, and plenty of opportunities to get up close to animals. They also had frequent animal feedings and keeper talks. There are some extras that you can add to make the visit extra special. We fed giraffes and rode a camel.

Feeding giraffes at Blank Park Zoo was an additional fee but definitely a memorable experience.

Science Center of Iowa – In the heart of downtown Des Moines, the Science Center of Iowa is a wonderful, indoor place to explore. It was a rainy morning, making it a perfect spot for us to retreat to. My kids are at the ideal age to really begin to dive into activities at the science center.

The science center is located in downtown Des Moines. Families can easily spend several hours there.

Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market – We timed our visit to the science center to coincide with the Saturday morning farmers market (it’s pretty much right in front of the science center). This is a giant farmers market, and we didn’t see it all. We sampled some food (and wine), as well as tried fresh watermelon.

The Des Moines Farmers Market in downtown Des Moines was the largest I’d ever been to. There were vendors selling produce, clothing, wine and more.

Pappajohn Sculpture Garden – We first visited this sculpture garden during the Des Moines Summer Arts Festival a few years ago. It was nice to return without the crowd. My kids enjoyed the wide open space to run, and I liked seeing some impressive works of art. It’s fairly close to the Science Center of Iowa. We walked it, but it wasn’t without a fair amount of complaining, so I’d recommend driving.

Not far from the sculpture garden are some water features that kids enjoy dipping their feet in. It’s good to know about if you’re there on a hot summer day.

Playing in the water feature in downtown Des Moines is not a bad idea when it’s nearing 100 degrees.

Additional ideas: We visited Des Moines two years ago, and enjoyed visiting Living History Farms. It wasn’t near our hotel this time around. If you’re looking for a FREE option with the kids, the Iowa capitol building is a good one. The law library is impressive, with spiral staircases you’ll want to get a picture of.

An interactive exhibit at Living History Farms in Des Moines.

Kid-friendly restaurants in Des Moines

Fong’s Pizza – This was, by far, the star restaurant for our family. Try their legendary crab rangoon pizza. The kids ordered from the kid’s menu and stuck to the familiar. Parents, there are some tasty mixed drinks served in kitchy glasses.

Fongs Pizza’s most well-known pie is the crab rangoon pizza. It’s delicious and lives up to the hype.

Zombie Burger – This is one we went to on our last visit. The food is also delicious the menu is funny, and you can pretty much expect a wait. The only drawback is that the zombies may not appeal to some younger kids.

I tried the Dead Moines Burger from Zombie Burger in Des Moines, Iowa.

Iowa Tap Room – I wanted to like this place more than I did, but I’m chalking it up to bad timing on a busy Friday night. It is kid-friendly, though, and there was one bartender who was phenomenal with our kids while we waited to be seated.

Drake Diner – On this trip, we enjoyed the hot, complimentary breakfast at our hotel. But on our last visit, the Drake Diner was a great breakfast spot.

Where to stay in Des Moines

Fairfield Inn & Suites – We stayed at a new Fairfield Inn & Suites in Altoona, very near Adventureland and the Des Moines Outlets. It also put us within about 10 minutes of downtown Des Moines.

The view from the dining area in the Fairfield Inn & Suites. The hotel is near Adventureland and Des Moines Outlets, as well as the interstate.

As mentioned earlier, it had a hot, complimentary breakfast each morning, so it’s a good option for families. There’s a pool, workout center, and it’s facing a nice pond. The area is still be developed, and I imagine the pond is going to eventually have a walking path around it.

Des Moines family vacation

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Driving to Des Moines? Plan stops along the way! Here’s my Pinterest board with things to do in Des Moines with kids:

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