Explore Des Moines: Planning a Family Weekend in the City

Welcome to Des Moines, Iowa! While this state capital is best known for hosting the Iowa State Fair every August, there is still plenty to do at any time of year. Des Moines is a family-friendly city with many activities and attractions that kids of all ages can enjoy. Read on to see our itinerary for the ultimate three-day family weekend while staying in our centrally-located Des Moines rental suites.

Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Courtesy of Pappajohn Sculpture Park Facebook Page


Friday morning is the ideal time to travel to the city and check into your short-term Des Moines rental. Once your family has settled in, grab lunch at Fong’s, which serves up incredible Asian-inspired pizzas. Then, spend the afternoon strolling around Pappajohn Sculpture Park and admiring the larger-than-life sculptures. The newly-installed “LOVE” sculpture is a great spot to snap a selfie! Finish your first day in the city at the Science Center of Iowa. The second Friday of every month is $5 Family Night, where you can explore the museum after 5 pm for just $5 a ticket. Don’t forget to grab dinner at the Food Chain Cafe while you’re at the SCI.

Day 2

There’s no better way to kick off a Saturday morning in Des Moines than with a little breakfast and shopping at the Downtown Farmer’s Market. Kids will enjoy exploring the booths of different vendors selling interesting food, fresh produce, flowers, handmade crafts, and more. The farmer’s market is open from May through October. If you’re in town during the offseason, we recommend stopping for breakfast pastries at La Mie instead.
Grab lunch at the infamous Zombie Burger before heading to Adventureland Park for the rest of the day. Adventureland is located just outside the city in Altoona and has over 100 rides, shows, and attractions, including a waterpark. After a long day of fun, head down the road to enjoy a late dinner at Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl and Grill. This underwater-themed restaurant offers plenty of family-friendly menu items (plus a few adults will love, too).

Adventureland Park
Courtesy of Adventureland Park Facebook Page
Blank Park Zoo
Courtesy of Blank Park Zoo Facebook Page

Day 3

Get an early start on Sunday to make the most of your last day in Des Moines. Head downtown for a hearty breakfast at Mullets Restaurant. Mullets serves up favorites, like omelets, breakfast burritos, and meatloaf hashbrowns. After enjoying breakfast, spend the rest of the day at the Blank Park Zoo. The zoo is home to more than 100 different animal species, so your child is sure to see their favorite animal! On your way home, stop for dinner at La Cabana Mexican Bar & Grill for some traditional Mexican food or at Big Al’s BBQ and Catering to enjoy some American comfort food.


If you are looking for even more fun you can have with your family, here are a few more recommendations:

  • Living History Farms – a 500-acre open-air museum that educates about Midwestern rural life from the past 309 years (open May-October)
  • Gray’s Lake Park – a 167-acre park with a playground, swimming beach, and boat rentals
  • Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens – home to thousands of plants and flowers, with a greenhouse dome, plus seven acres of outdoor gardens
  • RAYGUNa t-shirt symposium known for its shirts with quirky, witty sayings on them
Living History Farms
Courtesy of Living History Farms Facebook Page

And there you have it! Three days worth of Des Moines family fun, all packed into a weekend itinerary. Des Moines is a great city to visit with kids of all ages and you’ll need to find a nice place to stay during your trip that is family-friendly as well. That’s where we come in. Frontdesk offers two-bedroom suites that are the perfect size for families. Our suites are centrally located, securely-managed, and offer many amenities like smart TVs and fully-stocked kitchens. Search Frontdesk’s Des Moines rentals now!

Visiting DES MOINES?

You’ll need Frontdesk’s Des Moines Guidebook. It’s curated by local experts and filled with only the best bars, restaurants, and places to visit.