Top 5 low-cost summer activities in Des Moines

You don’t have to break the bank when looking for summer activities in the Des Moines area. You can choose from many great low-cost options. It doesn’t matter if you’re visiting the capital city for the first time or a local resident. You can have a lot of fun in the sun and still go easy on your wallet. You can start by looking into these five options in the Des Moines area.

Des Moines Art Center

A core tenet of the Des Moines Art Center is to ensure access to art for everyone. This is your opportunity to view world-class modern and contemporary art collections. The art center has free admission because of the support of Principal Financial Group and art center members.

The Des Moines Art Center is a great place to spend an afternoon, whether you’re an art lover or looking for a dose of inspiration,” said Megan Bannister, former Des Moines Art Center social media manager. “Not only does this modern and contemporary museum have an incredible collection, but it also features temporary exhibitions that change every few months. Plus, it’s always free.”

You can find more information here.

Gray’s Lake Park

If you want to see some of the best views of downtown Des Moines, you should visit Gray’s Lake Park. The 166.6 acre park has a walking/bike path, boat ramp, playground, off-street parking and more.

While it does cost to rent the watercraft, there are many ways you can enjoy the park for free. You can walk, run or exercise your dog on the walking trail around the lake. Once night falls, the park’s bridge glows with different colors and illuminates a section of the lake.

If you don’t mind a small rental fee for watercraft, you can spend an afternoon floating on the lake. In previous summers, Gray’s Lake hosted a moon float for people to watch the sun go down and full moon take over the night sky.

You can find more recreational times and details about Gray’s Lake Park here.

Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market

There’s a reason the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market received the “No. 2 Best Farmers’ Market in America” honor by the “Daily Meal.” It’s one of the largest and most entertaining farmers’ markets in the country.

People sell their goods on Saturday mornings from the first Saturday of May to the last Saturday of October. Market-goers have 300 vendors to choose from when they arrive downtown.

You can view the live music and entertainment for free. But, you might also enjoy buying the vendors’ flowers, meats, produce and more.

You never know what you might see at the farmers’ market, including a Des Moines corgi meet-up. Attendees and their pups will find the market is a friendly environment.

You can find out more about market hours, directions and parking here.

John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Since you’ve already made your way downtown for the farmers’ market, you should check out the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Twenty-two of the world’s most celebrated artists have their work featured at the park.

The 4.4-acre sculpture park is available through Des Moines Art Center. Anyone is welcome to walk through the park and view the unique sculptures. It is open during the city park hours of sunrise to midnight. Most of the artwork is lit during the nighttime.

One of the more famous sculptures is “Nomade” by the artist Jaume Piensa. The piece looks like a giant person made out of letters of the alphabet. You don’t want to miss this unique area of downtown Des Moines.

You can view the sculptures and find out here.

Yankee Doodle Pops

In early July, Des Moines hosts the third largest patriotic concert celebration in the country, behind the cities of Washington, D.C., and Boston. Yankee Doodle Pops has been a central Iowa summer tradition for more than 25 years.

The free event takes place near the steps of the statehouse capitol and features music from the Des Moines Symphony. Simon Estes, an Iowa native and world-renowned bass-baritone singer, has performed here for crowds of thousands.

The musical event even made professional Broadway performers choke up with emotion. In 2018, Nik Walker, who played Aaron Burr in the touring cast of “Hamilton,” stumbled upon Yankee Doodle Pops completely by accident.

He wrote a lengthy, heartfelt Instagram post about the event and generosity of the people.

Summer in the city

There are many ways for you to get out of the house and explore Des Moines this summer. Low cost doesn’t mean low fun with these activities. Comment below and share ideas on how you can make this summer a memorable one!