You can explore plenty of exciting places to visit in and around Des Moines, Iowa. The following five family-friendly activities are within a 60-minute driving distance of Des Moines and worth checking out.
Dutch Heritage Excursion, Pella
Pella is most known for its Dutch heritage, and it’s one of Iowa’s most popular cities. Pella has historic architecture such as the Klokkenspel — the animated musical clock — and an 1850s working mill. Other attractions include wineries, hiking trails, and Dutch-style bakeries.
If you’re visiting in May, make sure to witness the famous Tulip Time celebration. The festivities include daily parades, Dutch dance performances, and a beautiful display of live tulips. Pella is a 50-minute drive from Des Moines.
Living History Farms, Urbandale
Located 20 minutes away in Urbandale, this 500-acre outdoor museum is a great place to learn about Iowa’s agricultural history. Visitors can walk through the 1875 town of Walnut Hill, which includes the Matthias Blacksmith Shop, One-Room Schoolhouse, and other historic buildings.
You’ll find three different working farm sites, and each one recreates the farming methods of a particular time period: the 1700s, 1850s, and 1900s. People of all ages can enjoy the live animals on display, such as hogs, chickens, horses, and sheep. An on-site cafe serves drinks and food such as pizza and sandwiches.
Ledges State Park, Madrid
Outdoor enthusiasts will love visiting Ledges State Park. Located in Madrid, it’s only a 30-minute drive from Des Moines. You’ll find activities to do year-round, whether it’s cross-country skiing, biking, kayaking, hiking, or sitting down for a picnic.
The sandstone cliffs, which extend 100 feet above stream level, are a distinctive geological feature here. If you want to extend your day trip into a weekend trip, you can stay at one of the 95 campsites at the park.
Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary, Des Moines
Don’t want to stray too far from home? You might want to stay in Des Moines and explore the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary. This research organization once appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” because of its work with the bonobo, an endangered great ape. A family of bonobos live in the sanctuary’s 230-acre nature reserve.
This primate, the bonobo, shares 99 percent of its DNA with humans, and it’s intelligent enough to communicate with humans using 400 different lexigram symbols. The sanctuary is open to the public for tours and presentations, but make sure to reserve your tour time.
If you’re a fan of theme parks, then you should check out Adventureland, which is 20 minutes away from Des Moines in Altoona. Thrillseekers can line up for roller coaster rides such as The Monster, Dragon, or Himalaya. Visitors can also enjoy the Tilt-A-Whirl, Carousel, or Frantic Freeway bumper cars.
Adventureland is also home to Iowa’s largest wave pool and longest lazy river. Race down the water slides and raft water slides, or head over to the swim-up bar for adult refreshments, frozen smoothies, or special drinks for kids.
You don’t need to drive far from Des Moines to find something fun to do. The above list of destinations makes a great place to start.