After the winter months, it’s time to get outside and make the most of the warmer temperatures! Whether you live in Des Moines or are visiting this spring, there’s a ton to see and do. Read on for our list of the best things to do this spring in Des Moines!
Spring in Des Moines: Best things to do
Visit area parks – especially these two.
All Des Moines area parks are beautiful in the spring! But there are two parks, in particular, you’ll want to visit this spring: Ewing Park and Des Moines Water Works Park.
The Ewing Park Lilac Arboretum is a spring favorite in Des Moines! You’ve never seen (or smelled) so many beautiful lilacs! Over 1000 lilac bushes bloom from late April through the first of May. The park trail – Harry Piper Parkway – is open to one-way traffic for a few weeks each spring. So, if you’re visiting during the lilac blooming, enter the park from Indianola Avenue.
The Aerie den Boer Crabapple Arboretum at Des Moines Water Works Park is another popular spring destination, and for a good reason. Hundreds of crabapple trees bloom each spring from the last of April to the beginning of May! It’s a gorgeous spot for a spring picnic.
Want to explore more parks in the Des Moines area this spring? Here’s a list of all area parks (with a map).
Hit the trails this spring in Des Moines
Whether you cycle or hike, there are tons of trails around Des Moines to explore this spring!
Several excellent hiking trails are right in the heart of the city. And when we say hiking trails, we mean dirt, gravel, grass, and mulch trails! So, head to the woods to find spring wildflowers and enjoy the warmer weather. Find a complete list of area hiking trails here.
If you want to bike or walk paved trails, you’ve got (so many) options! Access hundreds of miles of paved trails throughout Central Iowa from here in Des Moines. Find a list of area paved trails here.
Go to the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market
The Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market is the place to be on Saturday mornings starting the first weekend in May! There’s something for everyone, from spring flowers and veggies to art, music, and excellent homemade goods. The atmosphere of fun, food, and festivity at the Downtown Farmers’ Market is one of the best ways to welcome the warmer weather!
Attend the Drake Relays
The Drake Relays is a must-see, even if you’ve never been to a track and field event. It’s a ton of fun for all ages!
Called America’s Athletic Classic, the Drake Relays is one of the country’s top track and field events. High school, college, and professional athletes compete in pole vaulting, shot put, long jump, relays, sprints, and distance running.
But that’s not all! The Drake Relays has other fun activities like road races, a “Beautiful Bulldog Contest,” food vendors, kids’ activities, and more! The multi-day event takes place each year at the end of April.
Visit the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
The Des Moines Botanical Garden is spring-like year-round. But visiting during spring is a great time to explore the outdoor gardens. You can see over 30,000 spring bulbs blooming near the entrance. Also, the Spring Garden Festival is a great place to inspire you to buy plants for your own garden!
Afterward, walk along Principal Riverwalk to Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens to cross the Bridge for Prosperity and enter a 37-foot-tall Chinese pavilion!
Spend a day at the lake.
Des Moines lakes are great places to paddle, fish, rent a boat, or relax lakeside! There are many lakes to explore – from Gray’s Lake, a beautiful lake near downtown with lots to do, to Saylorville Lake, a 6000-acre lake popular for boating, swimming, and fishing! Here’s a complete list of area lakes and their amenities.
Experience Living History Farms
Spring is an excellent time to visit Living History Farms! Celebrate special events, like Easter in Walnut Hill, an 1876 town, or Decoration Day (the original Memorial Day). And the farms open for touring the first weekend in May!
Explore local gardens and arboretums
Besides the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, consider visiting other area gardens this spring! Below are a few suggestions.
- Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden, Des Moines
- Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines
- Enabling Garden, Altoona
- Brenton Arboretum, Adel
Have a picnic in the Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Pappajohn Sculpture Park is ideal for a spring picnic! It has plenty of green space, accessible sidewalks, and benches. Plus, the area has a couple of nearby restaurants and coffee shops. So, bring a picnic or grab a coffee, relax, and enjoy a fantastic display of modern and contemporary art!
Attend outdoor programming
Spring means plenty of fun new classes and programming locally. From rain barrels to wildlife and spring sports, there’s a little something for all ages. Polk County Conservation and city parks and rec departments have many outdoor activities each spring.
Below is a list of websites to check for spring programming & events:
- Polk Co. Conservation
- Des Moines Parks & Rec
- West Des Moines Parks & Rec
- Waukee Parks & Rec
- Urbandale Parks & Rec
- Clive Parks & Rec
- Johnston Parks & Rec
- Ankeny Parks & Rec
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