Seven family-friendly activities in Des Moines

Spring is finally here and the weather is warming up – don’t spend your weekend at home.  Check out these great activities in Des Moines for your whole family.

Blank Park Zoo

The Blank Park Zoo offers activities and sights to last your family a few hours or an entire day.  Don’t forget to visit the Kids Kingdom to give your kids some playtime.  You’ll pay a reasonable admission price based upon your kid’s ages – and kids age 2 and under are free!  For an additional fee, schedule a behind-the-scenes tour and check out animals like the giraffes, sea lions or wallabies.

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Des Moines’ Best Movie Theaters

The now-closed Varsity Theatre. The business opened its doors on Christmas Day in 1938, and it showed its last film on December 30th, 2018.

The recent closing of the Varsity Theatre, located across the street from the campus of Drake University, is a major loss to cinema lovers across Iowa. However, there’s still plenty of alternatives for movie-goers searching for their new favorite place to watch the latest and greatest films. Whether you’re looking for Hollywood blockbusters or more indie films, there’s a theater to suit your interests.

Century 20 Jordan Creek

Located inside the Jordan Creek Town Center, the Century 20 theater showcases big-budget Hollywood films. Given its location, it can serve as either a great break during a day of shopping across the rest of the town center, or it works fine as a standalone trip, givens location right next to Jordan Creek’s entrance. The concessions available here are typical movie theater fare, with buckets of buttered popcorn, candy, and Icees available for purchase. The auditoriums are loaded with luxury recliners, RealD 3-D screens, and signature Cinemark XD surround-sound. For blockbuster showcases, it’s tough to beat. “I went to Century 20 to see Infinity War with some friends of mine,” Drake student Nate Wright said. “It’s a good environment for a huge movie like that, and even though we were at a late-night show, the customer service was still great.”

AMC Classic Southridge 12

With AMC being the largest national theater chain on this list, you likely already have some expectations of what the experience will be like, and it’s probably not far off. Southridge 12 hosts big-budget movies in huge auditoriums at its standalone location. Much like the Century 20 described above, the snacks on offer are about as traditional as movie theaters offer. It’s a very straightforward experience that doesn’t break the bank. The only major complaint to file here is that AMC theaters, in this writer’s experience, tend to have the longest advertisements before the main event actually starts. It’s a small gripe, but still one worth noting.

The Fleur Cinema and Cafe

If blockbusters aren’t your usual cup of tea, then you might be more at home at the Fleur Cinema and Cafe. The independent theater combines old and new aesthetics to create an entirely new experience. Before watching the show, audience members are able to pick up refreshments ranging from coffee to wine. Auditoriums are designed with audience comfort in mind and are equipped with 3-D projectors for newer films. However, the Fleur’s speciality lies in its chosen films, which are often indie projects or even produced by local filmmakers. On rare occasions, the theatre even hosts revival screenings of older movies based on audience votes. Considering all this, it’s no surprise that The Des Moines Register awarded the Fleur the title of Iowa’s Best Overall Theater.

Flix Brewhouse

Des Moines is fortunate enough to have one of the 10 Flix Brewhouse locations in the United States. Combining the biggest films out in the moment with restaurant service and craft beers, Flix creates a completely fresh and unique setting to take in films. Food orders are delivered to patrons in the theater, allowing viewers to eat while they watch their films with minimal intrusion. It’s a great environment that you can’t get elsewhere in the area, but it’s also slightly more expensive because you’re also paying for a meal (although it should be said that the food is all amazing). If your budget is okay with a larger hit, Flix can’t be recommended enough.

Top Five Scent Alternatives

Do you ever hate it when your room smells strange but you can not seem to find a candle anywhere? Or if you need to cover up a smell you do not want your parents to smell? Then you will love to read about the top five ways that you can make your room smell delicious without having to grab a lighter.

First things first, you should either jump on your computer or into your car so that you can get the materials needed to live a better smelling life.

Amazon is a great place to visit because of the plethora of scent alternatives that the website provides and delivers straight to your door. If you do not own a computer or smart phone, then your local grocery store or mall will have scent alternatives available to purchase.

“I would rather use scent alternatives than candles in my house because I have birds to fly around and children that could easily start a fire with a real candle,” said Michelle Jergens.

Wax Warmers

Wax Warmers provide the illusion that there is a candle in the room but is a safer choice than a real candle. You can benefit from wax warmers because you only turn on a switch to make the light heat up the wax and you do not have to worry about the smell of smoke from blowing out the candle. Wax warmers are available on any online store (Yankee Candle, Amazon, eBay, Bath and Body Works) or in any store for $20.00 or less.


Wallflowers help the room smell fresh and are easy to plug in and remove whenever desired. The Wallflower plugs into the wall while providing a dim light, however, this part of the device gives off zero scent until you add the base. You can find the wallflowers at Yankee Candle, Bath and Body Works, Amazon, etc. for less than $15.00.

These diffusers are easy to use because of only three steps it takes for these to make the room smell delicious. First, you have to fill the water up to the line. Second, you need to grab your favorite essential oil scent and only put four or five drops of it into the water. Finally, you plug in your diffuser and watch the vapor come out of the top. You can find essential oil diffusers at any grocery story, Bath and Body Works, Amazon, etc.

Essential Oil Diffusers

These diffusers are easy to use because of only three steps it takes for these to make the room smell delicious. First, you have to fill the water up to the line. Second, you need to grab your favorite essential oil scent and only put four or five drops of it into the water. Finally, you plug in your diffuser and watch the vapor come out of the top. You can find essential oil diffusers at any grocery story, Bath and Body Works, Amazon, etc.

Concentrated Room Spray

One or two sprays of this concentrated scent will make your room smelling great for more than 3 hours is a better choice than a candle. The only thing that you need to do is go to the store and purchase one…or five and remove the cap and spray in the room desired. This spray will cost you less than $10.00 for each of the spray bottles. Concentrated Room Sprays are available at basically any store you walk into, and it is even available at some gas stations.

Reed Diffusers

This is the perfect solution if a candle is not close by or if you are afraid that your cat will knock over your candle and burn down your house. A thick piece of glass wraps around tiny wood like sticks that soak up the scented oil that is in the glass which creates the room to smell delicious without a flame or a plug in needed. Yankee Candle, Target, or your local grocery store will have these on stock so that you can purchase it for less than $30.00 a set.

Interested in purchasing candle alternatives?

Yankee Candle provides an easy and friendly website to help you purchase your candle alternatives today! Bath and Body Works also provides an easy to use website to help your purchase your alternatives!

Do You Wanna Go Ghost Hunting on Saturday?

We’ve all been there, binge watching the next TV series into the late hours of the night but, for some of us that takes a paranormal twist. Whether you’re watching Zach, Erin & Nick on Ghost Adventures or following along with Ryan and Shane on Buzzfeed’s Unsolved Network you’ve probably had the same thought my roommate Kaley did, “So, what’s haunted in Iowa?” And boy have you stumbled upon the right article for you…

**All places listed have available tours so no illegal trespassing has to occur!

Villisca Axe Murders

As one of Iowa’s most notable unsolved crimes this Villisca House is no stranger to attention. On a quiet night in June of 1912 a family of eight went to bed after a fun-filled day mingling at a social event just down the block. Each member of the family was brutally murdered with an axe by an unknown assailant, to which the popular belief is that they had been hiding in the attic until midnight. Bizarre factoids about these murders is the killer covered each mirror in the house with clothing, made a plate of food but never ate it and left a slab of bacon next to the murder weapon. After ten years of investigations and spectating of the who the killer could be there was ultimately no one punished for the gruesome murders of the Moore family.

Independence State Hospital

A classic ghost hunting trip always needs an insane asylum, especially the second one built in the state of Iowa. While it is still in use today for alcohol and drug rehabs with a training school for nurses – they also offer field trip type tours of the facility! Many of the guests have reported hearing voices and feeling cold drafts in parts of the hospital that are rumored to at one point house the lobotomies and electric shock therapies. Even hospital workers don’t dare go in these parts for fear of hearing the screaming from disembodied voices.

Mason House Inn

While this Inn is still in operation, they do host ghost stories twice a year and may be the ideal location for weddings and honeymoons. But, if you’re looking for something more short term you can stay the night for $70-$100. This house has been reported to have many spirits inhabiting it is including an apparition of a boy who continuously plays tricks on guests, a lady in white and an old man who love to stare at guests and then quickly vanish into thin air. In addition to sightings of these ghosts, rooms in the inn get messed up when no one stays in them. The now owners also report that there are at least five spirits who have made the inn their permanent home.

So? What are you waiting for? Hop in that truck and get going on these adventures and remember, don’t… just don’t beg for a demon to use your body as a vessel, it’s never gonna end well.

5 Hidden Gems in the Historic East Village

The East Village neighborhood in Des Moines is a great place if you’re looking for a bite to eat, wanting to get work done in a peaceful setting, or try something new.

“I’ve always liked the diversity of things to do and see in East Village,” said Drake Student Courtney McCuddin. “There’s something for everyone to do and enjoy, both in the summer and winter.”

There are a few well-known places in this particular neighborhood, but there are also things to do and places to visit that some Des Moines natives and Drake students don’t know about. Here’s a list of five hidden gems you can discover in this vibrant and historic neighborhood:

Cooking with Alessandra—If you’re a foodie and enjoy cooking Italian dishes, these classes are perfect for you!

Alessandra offers both public and private classes. Public classes cost $45 per person, and private group classes (10-18 people) are $50 per person.

Participants can cook anything from Gnocchi and Chicken Spiedini to various pasta sauces. Plus, you’ll learn from Alessandra, an Italian cooking expert who grew up creating these dishes. Classes are held in Alessandra’s home.

Address: 333 East Grand Ave., Loft 103
Des Moines, IA 50309

Brenton Skating Plaza—You may have been ice skating at this magical outdoor plaza, but did you know there are also concerts and various events held here in the summer?

There’s everything from country and rock concerts to group yoga classes! Grab your friends and family, and enjoy this beautiful venue overlooking the river year ‘round.

Address: 520 Robert D. Ray Dr.
Des Moines, IA 50309


Plain Talk Books and Coffee—A quaint, old-school coffee shop and neighborhood bookstore, this gem is ideal for studying, catching up with a friend, and those who love reading. They offer a full menu for breakfast and lunch and occasionally have live music!

Address: 602 East Grand Ave.
Des Moines, IA 50309

Railroad Bill’s Dining Car—If you’re a brunch lover, this is the diner for you! Located in the Northwest corner of East Village, Railroad Bill’s is fast, filling, delicious and budget-friendly. They include vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu, so there’s something for everyone to savor.

Address: 621 East Des Moines St
Des Moines, IA 50309

Aimee—East Village is home to many unique and stylish clothing stores! Ideal for a day of shopping in the neighborhood, Aimee boutique offers feminine, chic, and European-style clothing. This fashion-forward store is truly a hidden gem in the East Village Neighborhood.

Address: 426 East Locust St
Des Moines, IA 50309
Instagram: aimeedesmoines

Whether you’re a college student or retired, East Village has something for everyone to enjoy. Although these are just some of the best spots in the neighborhood, there are many more to be discovered. To learn about more events, restaurants, and shops in East Village, visit