Encounter hundreds of miles of pristine trails and inviting parks in Central Iowa. Start at the top - at the magnificent High Trestle Trail, which overlooks the Des Moines River Valley. One of the largest trail bridges on the planet, it features an incredible 130-foot-tall span lined with a LED-lighted art installation. The High Trestle Trail runs from Ankeny to Woodward, and it’s just part of the 670-mile Central Iowa Trail System.
Rent a sailboat and mingle with locals at Gray’s Lake Park in Downtown Des Moines. Go swimming at Big Creek State Park and Hickory Grove Park. Follow nature trails at Ledges State Park. For the ultimate summer fun destination, Seven Oaks Recreation in Boone offers kayaking, canoeing, and tube float trips - plus paintball and mud runs. In the winter, you can go skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing.
Catch a big one at fishing hotspots like Quarry Springs Park and Dakins State Park. Love to golf? Top courses include The Legacy Golf Club, The Harvester, and West Grand Golf. For a little of everything, Sleepy Hollow Sports Park in Des Moines features mini golf, go-karts, a driving range, batting cages, and winter sports.
Des Moines, Iowa
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Discover intriguing museums in Central Iowa, which is anchored by the cultural hub of Des Moines and the energetic college town of Ames. View inspiring masterpieces at the Des Moines Art Center and the Brunnier Art Museum. Step into the past at the State Historical Museum, and enjoy hands-on experiments at the Science Center of Iowa. Stop by the John Wayne Birthplace Museum at Winterset in Madison County after you visit the covered bridges.
From farm friends to exotic creatures, you’ll find noteworthy animal attractions in this agricultural area. See more than 800 animals at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, the only accredited zoo in the state. Nearby in Urbandale, you can mingle with affable livestock including pigs, horses, sheep, and goats at Living History Farms. Every August, the famous Iowa State Fair celebrates animal husbandry with live shows, awards, and a petting zoo for the kids.
Iowa’s fertile climate and soil create ideal conditions for exceptional gardens. Stroll through 18 acres of blooms at Reiman Gardens in Ames, which features twelve distinct gardens and a butterfly conservatory. In Des Moines, stop and smell the flowers at the State Center Rose Garden and at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Kids will have fun playing on the interactive musical instruments at the Thomas Jefferson Gardens in Newton.
Learning comes to life at the Science Center of Iowa, conveniently located in Downtown Des Moines. There’s so much to do here for kids of all ages, including a six-story IMAX dome theater and 50’ planetarium. Discover thrilling interactive exhibits in the museum’s many galleries and learning labs. Build paper rockets, construct a keystone arch, and play with a giant pendulum.
Cruise through gently rolling hills and farmland on a road trip in Central Iowa. One popular trip is the Dragoon Trail, a 200-mile route which travels along the Des Moines River between Lake Red Rock, Knoxville, and Fort Dodge. This scenic roadway follows the historic path of the 1st U.S. Dragoons in 1835, a cavalry unit that first scouted the region after the Black Hawk Purchase put it under American control.
Stretch your legs at inviting outdoor retreats like Ledges State Park, Quarry Springs Park, and Fort Des Moines Park. You’ll also find wonderful golf courses throughout the region. Up for a stroll? Overlooking the Des Moines River Valley from 13 stories above the ground, the High Trestle Trail is an epic choice for walking or biking. This former rail trail is part of the Central Iowa Trail System, which features over 670 miles of pathways.