Top 4 Des Moines Parks

(Image Credit: Macrae Park)

Those who are the outdoor expertise or just wants to marniate in the nature of the Des Moines area. Please look at these park suggestions on your next journey.

Gray’s Lake Park is in Des Moines, Iowa, near the downtown area. This park is located in the heart of the city, giving the public a nice place to unwind. Surrounding Grays Lake, the park has many amenities that are offered to the public. Some amenities include an accessible playground with 2 toddler bucket swings, beach, boat rental, bike rental, concessions, boat ramp, walking path/bike trail, restroom, parking lots, and open space. Some favorite activities at the park are picnics, walking around the lake, and boating. The park is relatively large at 166.6 acers, allowing Des Moines residents a place to explore the great outdoors while still in the city.  

Drake Park, named after nearby Drake University, is a public park located at 2300 Drake Park Avenue in Des Moines. The park features two tennis courts, a basketball court, a small playground, and a splash pad for local kids. 

Quaintly nestled in a historic residential area of Des Moines, Drake Park is a perfect fit for kids and families of all ages. There’s the splash pad, perfect for your wee tots. The park isn’t going to wow you with anything fancy, but the soul of Drake Park is evident within the many shaded trees of the rectangular plot of land, offering perfect relaxation on a summer day.

From 1915 to 1978, Riverview Amusement Park occupied the land south of Euclid Avenue and northwest of North High School in Des Moines. In 1978, the nearby Adventureland Park bought the Riverview but left it abandoned. A new initiative to restore the park began in 2014. The park opened once again in 2020 with an amusement park-themed playground. It was the first accessible playground in Des Moines. Nowadays, Des Moines residents and visitors get to enjoy concerts at Riverview Park’s Prairie Meadows Riviera State. The Rendezvous on Riverview series features local bands and artists, bringing in food trucks and activities for families to enjoy.

If you want a great skyline view of Downtown Des Moines, visit MacRae Park.

MacRae Park is one of the oldest parks in Des Moines, located in the Gray’s Lake Neighborhood. With 50.9 acres of land, the park offers many amenities for those who enjoy the casual outdoors. MacRae is also a park with natural native vegetation with oak-hickory forests.

MacRae Park has a playground, playgrounds, tennis courts, a pond with a pedestrian bridge, and a Sledding hill.

Do not fret if you want to rest and enjoy your time in MacRae Park. Visitors can also enjoy family time with cooking amenities such as charcoal grills, Picnic tables, drinking fountains, and more.

Top 5 Summer Activates in Des Moines

Des Moines Summer Farmers Market

Des Moines is a great place to spend the summer! Located in the heart of Iowa and the Midwest, Des Moines boasts all the benefits of a big city, with the charm of a small farming town. From entertainment to food to outdoor activities, Des Moines has everything for families, young adults, and everywhere in between in the summer. With typically tolerable weather, the summer sun provides the perfect backdrop for these exciting summer activities in Des Moines.

2024 Des Moines Summer Activities

1. Des Moines Farmer’s Market


Returning for the season May 4th, the Des Moines Farmer’s Market is a favorite of local families, college students, and everyone in between. From coffee stands to fresh produce to handmade jewelry, the Des Moines Farmer’s Market sells everything you could want. Check out the nation’s second biggest farmer’s market this summer!

2. Hike at Gray’s Lake Park


This open green space right near Downtown is a unique feature of Des Moines. The park boasts a two-mile trail around the lake, playground, and open picnic space. Enjoy stunning views of Downtown while getting some fresh air and enjoying the sun with this free Des Moines summer activity!

3. Hinterland


This end-of-the-summer music festival is an Iowa staple! Technically located in Saint Charles, Iowa, this music festival is a must-see if you’re in Des Moines for the summer. Headliners in 2024 include Hozier, Noah Kahan, Vampire Weekend, and Ethel Cain. Tickets can be pricey, but it is so worth it if you are a music fan! Just make sure to buy tickets ahead of time and book a hotel well in advance. The Des Moines area can get crazy during this time, so plan accordingly even if you aren’t going to the festival yourself! Get a dose of music with this Iowa summer activity.

4. Adventureland


Amusement parks are a summer staple. With fun for families, young adults, and teenagers, Adventureland is an adventure for everyone! Hop on a rollercoaster, win a prize at a carnival game, or enjoy a classic amusement park snack. Tickets for Adventureland are reasonably priced, so bring a group and have fun in the summer sun!

5. Iowa State Fair


Held in August, the Iowa State Fair is another great family-friendly option. With attractions relating to livestock, agriculture, entertainment, rides, food, and so much more, the Iowa State Fair is a must-see for an Iowan. Go for just a day or enjoy a whole weekend depending on time and budget. Enjoy this summer activity near Des Moines!

Student-Worthy Activities For All

Not aiming to have another boring weekend just sitting in your dorm room? Here are just a few student-worthy activities that you can try out. These activities will have you bursting with joy. You will be able to have fun with your friends every weekend and make long-lasting memories.

Botanical Gardens

The first student-worthy activity, we suggest is going to the Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Garden in Des Moines is located on Robert D. Ray Drive. The cost of admission is twelve dollars.

Students who have gone say it is a beautiful location. Many enjoy just looking at all the colorful flowers. It has a very calming atmosphere. You and your friends can talk, walk through these flowers, and take beautiful photos here.

Des Moines Theater Scene

Another student-worthy activity, we suggest is student rushing a show at the Des Moines Civic Center. The arts are alive in Des Moines and nowhere is that more apparent than at the Civic Center in downtown Des Moines. Broadway shows regularly come through the city and perform at the Civic Center.

Students have the opportunity to see these shows at an affordable price due to the student rush tickets. If the show isn’t sold out, then Drake students can buy the unsold tickets two hours before the show at half the cost. This is an affordable and fun option for Drake students who love theater. Drake students can also catch one of the numerous on-campus shows throughout the year.

Blank Park Zoo and More Student-Worthy Activities

Lastly, a student-worthy activity we suggest is going to the Blank Park Zoo. The Blank Park Zoo has a bunch of adorable animals for all to enjoy. A baby giraffe was even born last year. Students can go with their friends and enjoy an afternoon in the animal kingdom. Animal lovers will enjoy getting to see the lovely creatures. There are even some peacocks that run free, students can make friends with them.

            Never have a boring weekend again, enjoy these student-worthy activities and more. Des Moines is a vibrant city with lots of student-worthy activities for all to enjoy. Artsy, sporty, and nature lovers alike will find a student-worthy activity perfect for them and their friends.

Des Moines Outdoors

Des Moines Outdoors - a photo of a pond at Yellow Banks Park
Yellow Banks Park

Des Moines Outdoors: Heartland Hiking

Living in the city doesn’t mean you can’t get your shoes muddy every now and then. The Des Moines has an abundance of parks and trails to hit this spring. We’ve already mentioned some popular trails around town; let’s take a look at three often overlooked but worthwhile parks and conservation areas with hiking trails along the edges of Des Moines.

  • Fort Des Moines Park – 1.9 miles

Fort Des Moines Park lies on the southernmost part of Polk County, about three miles southeast of the Des Moines International Airport. The park’s loop trail guides visitors around a fishing pond and through native Iowa prairie, making this hidden gem a must-see in summer months. The 1.9 mile-long trail can be modified to be about 1 mile if desired–check posted trail maps at the park for details.

  • Brown’s Woods – 3.2 miles

Brown’s Woods is a quick drive west of the airport, and has shorter loops for those who might not have the time for a 3 mile hike. Sloping hillsides lead the way through some of the most heavily-forested areas managed by Polk County Conservation.

  • Yellow Banks Park – 3.1 miles

Yellow Banks Park is about a 15-minute drive from downtown Des Moines, but you would never guess by the amount of wildlife and quiet sounds. The park’s trail cuts around two ponds, grassy and forested hillsides, and has recreation areas for baseball, camping, and fishing.

Hiking Essentials

These paths might be close to Des Moines, but you should still prepare before embarking on a hike, especially on a new trail. Be sure to stay hydrated before heading out for your adventure, and bring plenty of water with you to drink during and after your hike. Putting sunscreen on before leaving the house is always a good idea, even on cloudy days, and wearing a hat to protect your face from the sun can also prevent surprise sunburns. It’s always helpful to review trail routes before you get to the park or hiking area just in case you lose cell service and need to exit on a whim.

Above all, remember to have fun and soak up the sights and sounds of nature as you head to the great Des Moines Outdoors!

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