6 Ways to Have Fun in Des Moines this Summer

summer in des moines

[Updated for 2018]

There is no shortage of fun things to do in Des Moines this summer. Say goodbye to boredom and make the most of what central Iowa has to offer with these Des Moines events!

Des Moines events summer

1. Des Moines Art

The 20th annual Des Moines Arts Festival is this weekend and it is not to be missed. An estimated 200,000 people will attend the three-day event. You’ll find more than 25 interactive arts activities, live music and performance art, two dozen food booths and food trucks, a student art exhibit, a film festival, artist demonstrations and much more — see the full schedule here. Even better, admission is free!

Best of all, the festival takes place in Western Gateway Park, surrounding the crown jewel of public art in central Iowa: the Pappajohn Sculpture Park! This iconic, 4-acre park features 28 works and is a must-visit any time this summer, whether you attend the Des Moines Arts Festival or not!

summer in des moines

Another great attraction is the Des Moines Arts Center, only 2.5 miles up Grand Avenue from the sculpture park. With free admission, a revolving exhibition schedule and, you know, air conditioning, it’s a great place to spend a hot summer day.

2. Central Iowa Bike Trails

Biking in Iowa is synonymous with RAGBRAI, but you don’t have to risk the saddle sores and week of PTO to get in a solid ride. Central Iowa boasts more than 670 miles of multi-use trails that are perfect for an afternoon of pedaling.

Des Moines events summer

BIKEIOWA has a continuously updated list and maps of bike trails in Iowa. 

Des Moines events summer

3. Iowa Cubs

One of the most beloved summer events in Des Moines is a trip to Principal Park to watch the Iowa Cubs play. The stadium stands at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers along the southern edge of downtown.

Found the pot of gold at Principal Park ⚾️

A post shared by Iowa Cubs (@iowacubs) on

The I-Cubs are a hot ticket: they drew more than 500,000 fans last season and are regularly among the top in attendance for the Pacific Coast League. With affordable tickets, fireworks on Friday nights and a chance to see the stars of tomorrow, a trip to the ballpark has never been more fun. See the schedule and buy tickets here.

4. Farmers’ Markets 

Do you want to learn more about the food you and your family eat? Buy it from the people who grew it by attending one of the many Des Moines-area farmers’ markets.

The big kahuna, of course, is the downtown farmers’ market every Saturday morning, which boasts nearly 300 vendors and 20,000 visitors every weekend. However, many other central Iowa communities also host farmers’ markets as well. This makes it easy to get the freshest produce and support your local economy at the same time.

5. Des Moines Music Festivals

Des Moines is fast becoming a great destination for live music. The 11th annual 80/35 Music Festival takes place at Western Gateway Park July 6-7, featuring more than 40 national and local acts across multiple stages.

summer in des moines

The Hinterland Music Festival returns for its third year the following month. This two-day festival will take place Aug. 3-4 in St. Charles, about 30 miles south of Des Moines and just off of Interstate 35.

Other fun live-music options include the Nitefall on the River concert series, which takes place at the Brenton Skating Plaza on the banks of the Des Moines River downtown, and Yankee Doodle Pops, a free night of patriotic music and fireworks with the Des Moines Symphony at the Iowa State Capitol.

6. Homemakers’ Kid Carnival

Looking for a free family-friendly event to go to this summer? Homemakers’ has an annual kid carnival every August! Past events have featured games, prizes, food and drink and inflatables. Check out our events page to stay up-t0-date on the details!

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