Riverview Park is a unique 44-acre “island” park with an amusing history – and recent renovations gave it a nostalgic new life. You’ll enjoy the outdoor concert venue with state-of-the-art lighting. And you won’t want to miss the amusement-park-themed playground!
A brief history of Riverview Park
Riverview Park was once a zoological garden on an island on the Des Moines River. And in 1915, it opened as an amusement park with the new Jack Rabbit Roller Coaster and other attractions. People came from all over for the rides, roller skating, entertainment, dancing, swimming, canoeing, and more!
In the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, Riverview Park endured the Great Depression, a devastating fire, and flooding.
Then, in the 1940s, the new Riviera Ballroom became a destination for people far and wide. Big bands, jazz orchestras, and dancing regularly drew crowds to the ballroom.
But, as larger theme parks, like Disneyland, came on the scene in the 1960s and 70s, Riverview Park struggled. Then, in 1978, a competing local amusement park – Adventureland Park – bought Riverview Park. Initially, Adventureland planned to continue operations at Riverview Park, but in 1979 they closed it for good.
Afterward, several rides moved to Adventureland, like the Haunted House and Himilaya. And, soon the City of Des Moines bought the property for $1) and many buildings got torn down. Sadly, in 1981, the historic Riviera ballroom was also destroyed by fire.
The good news is recent park renovations are bringing people back to this historic site for more fun and entertainment! You can now experience a unique pedestrian bridge, custom playground, and outdoor concert venue – all with an amusement park theme!
For historical photos and more information, check out this website.
Things to do at Riverview Park
See a concert at the Prairie Meadows Riviera Stage
Named after the historical 1940s ballroom, Riviera Stage is designed to look like the roller coasters that used to be on the island. And it has state-of-the-art historical lighting to complete the nostalgic feel.
Even though this incredible outdoor concert venue is new, it’s already hosted some great performers. And there’s more to come! Follow the Riverview Park Concerts & Events Facebook page for up-to-date information on upcoming concerts and events.
Experience the Variety Star Playground
The Riverview Park playground features custom, inclusive play equipment for all ages and abilities! And the amusement park theme only adds to the fun. Several stations offer different structures and musical instruments too. There’s also a ticket booth, “roller coaster,” a tiny house, a carousel, and so much more. Kids will use their imagination, play, climb, swing, and have an all-around fun time.
Access miles and miles of paved trails
The Riverview Park paved loop trail surrounds the playground and concert grounds. The great thing is it connects to other routes that will take you for miles and miles in any direction!
One trail leads up the hill to McHenry Park, an excellent park for kids and adults. The other is the 25-mile(!) Neal Smith Trail on the south side of the park.
Things to do nearby
McHenry Park is just up the hill via the McHenry Park Trail. There’s a natural playground, splash grounds, and a small stream for the kiddos. That’s not to mention the killer views of Riverview Park, the Des Moines River, and downtown!
Neal Smith Trail winds along the Des Moines River on the park’s south edge. It stretches nearly 20 miles north through Saylorville Lake to Big Creek State Park. Or take it south to get to downtown Des Moines! There you can connect to hundreds of miles of area trails.
Kayak the Des Moines River. Start at River Place on Euclid Avenue and get out at Birdland Marina and Captain Roy’s. It’s a short but fun kayaking trip! Kayak rentals are available through Quarry Springs Outfitters at Captain Roy’s.
If you’re hungry after a concert or day at the park, you’re in luck. A few nearby restaurants include Mr. Bibb’s Tenderloin, El Salvador Del Mundo, and Alegrias Seafood & Mexican Cuisine. Or go to Birdland Marina and experience Captain Roy’s!
Visit Riverview Park today!
Riverview Park is at 710 Corning Ave, Des Moines, IA 50313.