Thanksgiving break is a great time to spend with family and friends—and get outdoors! Many of us have a four-day weekend, so it’s the perfect time to find some fun outdoor activities. And, if you’re in Central Iowa, you’re in luck. We have hundreds of miles of trails and some excellent parks, for sure. But there are tons of other family-friendly activities. Need some ideas? In this article, find 10+ fun things to do outdoors on Thanksgiving!
Fun Family-Friendly Things To Do Outdoors on Thanksgiving in Central Iowa
Take a hike
Thanksgiving break is the perfect time to get out for a hike in and around Des Moines. Experience the change of the seasons – enjoy the crisp fall air and leaves underfoot. You can take a leisurely stroll with the entire family. Or go for a challenging hike to work off that turkey dinner. There are excellent hiking trails to choose from around Central Iowa!
Visit a park
Here in the Des Moines area, we have parks galore. Whether you’re staying near home or going for a drive, you’ll find great parks all around. Some popular parks near downtown Des Moines are Gray’s Lake Park and Des Moines Water Works Park. In West Des Moines, Raccoon River Park is the place to go. Or you can drive north to Saylorville Lake, Jester Park, or Ledges State Park – all of which have a ton of great trails and other things to do.
Run the Turkey Trot
Did you know the Des Moines Turkey Trot is “The Greatest Turkey Trot in the Universe”?! Head to scenic Downtown Des Moines on Thanksgiving morning for a trot like no other. The route takes runners and walkers past excellent sites, like the East Village, the state capitol, and Botanical Center! Plus, there’s a 200-meter Tot Trot for the littles!
Play outdoor games
Have some fun, quality time with your friends and family with outdoor games! For example, you could play flag football, set up a relay race, or create an obstacle course! Or set up a game of Cornhole, Bocce Ball, or make up your own fall-themed yard game.
Fun with pumpkins
Cook ‘em, smash ‘em, decorate them. Bowl with them?! You probably don’t need the pumpkins now. So, find a fun way to use them. Kids will love smashing them for composting! Here are some ideas for what to do with your pumpkins.
Gather ‘round the fire
There’s nothing better than a campfire on a cool, crisp fall day. So, gather your friends and family, bring out the cider and s’mores, and relax around the fire.
Visit a light display.
If you’re ready to get in the holiday spirit, check out the Des Moines area Christmas light displays. Don’t miss Jolly Holiday Lights, Festival of Trees and Lights, and well-known neighborhood light displays.
Host a scavenger hunt
Here are some helpful links:
• Fall Kids & Adult Scavenger Hunt Printables
• Downtown Des Moines Self-Guided Architectural Tour
• Pappajohn Sculpture Park
• Polk Co. Conservation At Home Learning Resources
• Des Moines Botanical Garden Scavenger Hunt
Be a tourist
You might be in your hometown, but we bet there are places you have yet to discover! So play tourist, and check out all the fantastic things to see and do around Central Iowa.
Learn the history and features of local landmarks, or arrange a tour. There are excellent museums to explore, like the State Historical Building and Art Center (free!). Or head to a park, like Fort Des Moines or MacRae, to learn about their history.
Collect food donations for the local food bank. Let your friends and family know ahead of time, have them leave their offerings on their front porch. Then, take a wagon through the neighborhood, or drive to pick up the donations. And deliver it to the Food Bank of Iowa.
Yes, we know. Eating outdoors isn’t always a comfortable option on a late November day in Iowa. But sometimes, we have unseasonably warm weather. And if that’s the case this year, take advantage and eat that turkey dinner (or leftovers) outdoors! There’s something about eating outdoors that’s more relaxing and fun.
For more outdoor food fun, consider a backyard “tailgate”! Start the fire pit, set up a TV, grab the snacks and watch the big game!
There you have it, our list of 10 fun things to do outdoors in Central Iowa during Thanksgiving break! And this is the tip of the iceberg. So get out there and explore!