Active Adventures in Des Moines
Head for the High Trestle Trail
The 25-mile High Trestle Trail starting in Ankeny, 12 miles north of Des Moines, stars a ½-mile-long, 13-story bridge over the Des Moines River Valley. To evoke the sense of traveling through one of Iowa's historical coal mines, 43 steel frames spiral along the bridge. Blue LED lights on these "cribs" glow at night.
Get a Grip with Climb Iowa
Challenge your climbing skills with 10,000 square feet of climbing walls in Grimes, 17 miles northwest of Des Moines. Learn the meaning of teamwork in belay classes (when one climber holds the rope taut to catch their partner if they fall). Or go it alone with auto belays, which use hydraulics and compressed air to remove slack from the rope.
Do the Zoo
Families walk around the 22-acre Blank Park Zoo to see fluorescent-pink flamingos, giraffes, Japanese macaques, zebras and ring-tailed lemurs. Young professionals flock to Zoo Brew on summer Wednesday evenings for live music, local craft brews and up-close encounters with exotic animals.
Related: Top Things to Do in Des Moines
Bike or Walk the Des Moines River Trail
Take a two-wheeled spin (or a walk) along the Des Moines River Trail, where structures like the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge and the Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens complement natural beauty along the Des Moines River. Don't have a bicycle? Rent one using BCycle, Des Moines' bike-sharing system with 10 stations located throughout downtown.
Explore Gray's Lake Park
A bridge illuminated by a rainbow of lights provides the perfect vantage point for photographing the skyline at night. During the day at Gray's Lake Park, rent a kayak, stand-up paddleboard or pedal boat to explore the 100-acre lake located within a 10-minute bike ride of downtown.
Horse Around at Jester Park Equestrian Center
Saddle up for a guided tour on the 5-mile Lakeshore Trail through forests and along Saylorville Lake. Previous horseback riding experience isn't necessary, but close-toed shoes are required. In Granger, 20 miles northwest of Des Moines.
Play a Round at Waveland Municipal Golf Course
The name hints at the undulating hills of this historic golf course (opened in 1901!) known for giving cross-country runners their most challenging workouts. After conquering all 18 holes, treat yourself to pizza in the redbrick clubhouse.
Polish Your Skateboarding Skills
The new Lauridsen Skatepark is the country's biggest public skate park—stroll by and watch the stunts from the Principal Riverwalk. If you're lucky, you might catch a top-flight competition like the Dew Tour.
Jump at SkyZone Trampoline Park
Wall-to-wall trampolines have visitors literally bouncing off the walls. Try a fitness class or flip into a pit of 10,000 foam cubes. Feeling competitive? Get in on a game of dodge ball or dunk a basketball like a pro in the Sky Slam arena.