25 Fun Fall Activities in Des Moines (Plus Free Printable!)

fall activities

Fall might just be our favorite time of the year. It’s the season for changing leaves, cozy sweaters, carving pumpkins, hot apple cider and pumpkin spice everything. There’s so much to love about this time of year, and the Des Moines area is packed with fun fall activities. We’ve compiled a guide of the best things to do in and around Des Moines in the fall. Download our free bucket list printable and see how many you can check off this autumn!

Des Moines Fall Activities Guide

Bask in fall color

Get outside and enjoy Mother Nature’s finest hour before temperatures drop and your winter hibernation begins (no judgment here!). Here are some ideas for activities out-and-about in Des Moines:

  • Take a walk around Gray’s Lake and breathe in the crisp autumn air.
  • Explore nature trails and camp along the lakeshore at Jester Park. Visit the equestrian center for horseback riding or a horse-drawn wagon ride through the picturesque surroundings.
  • Hike up the steep slopes at Ledges State Park for scenic overlooks saturated with autumn hues. Trees across central Iowa are expected to showcase their most vibrant colors around mid-October, so hurry out there and enjoy it while it lasts!

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  • Take a bike ride along the High Trestle Trail for a can’t-miss view of the fall foliage. Don’t forget to snap a photo of that iconic bridge over the Des Moines River valley!
  • Up for a challenge? Lace up your running shoes for the IMT Des Moines Marathon on October 21. If you’re not a runner, you can cheer on participants near the finish line in the Court Avenue District.

  • See what’s in bloom at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens. Stroll through outdoor gardens and the domed conservatory for a gorgeous array of plants and flowers.
  • Spread out your blanket for one last outdoor picnic at the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Wander around the 29 unique sculptures and snap photos of your favorites!

Sip and savor the season

Enjoy the tastes of the season with beverages and bites around the Des Moines area—or gather ingredients to make your own tasty eats at home.

  • Head to the Downtown Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings through the end of October to stock up on seasonal produce. Fill your bag with fall vegetables like squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, eggplants and—of course—pumpkins!

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  • Spend an afternoon sipping an autumn-inspired drink at a local coffee shop. We love stopping by Smokey Row for their Pumpkin Pie Latte or a Caramel Apple Cider Steamer!

  • Warm your home on a chilly afternoon by baking a yummy fall treat from scratch. From decadent pumpkin cheesecake to classic apple pie, the options are endless for satisfying your sweet tooth. (Bonus points if you use fresh pumpkin or hand-picked apples!)
  • Gather friends and raise a glass to the season at Jasper Winery. Sample wines made from Iowa-grown grapes at the tasting room bar, then head out to the patio to relax and enjoy the autumn evening.
  • Invite neighbors over for a backyard gathering and toast s’mores around the firepit.
  • Taste the seasonal brews on tap at one of Des Moines’ many local breweries. From hard ciders to pumpkin beer, you’re sure to find something good to sip on. Cheers!

Beat the autumn chill

Fall weather in Iowa can be a bit unpredictable. On rainy afternoons or chilly days, these indoor activities won’t disappoint:

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  • Venture downtown and get lost among the shelves at the Des Moines Central Library. Grab a few books to take home for cozy evenings by the fireplace.
  • Catch a hockey game at Wells Fargo arena as the Iowa Wild kick off their season.
  • Redecorate your home with festive fall decor. (Psst—have you seen our new Fall Marketplace?)

Delight in fall favorites

Start a new annual tradition or revisit a family favorite at one of the pumpkin patches and orchards around central Iowa.

  • Pick a peck of crisp, juicy apples at Appleberry Farm. Then grab a delicious caramel apple or apple cider slushie for the road!
  • Visit Center Grove Orchard for a whole day filled with fall family fun. From hayrack rides and farm animals to jumping pillows and a giant corn pool, it’s the ultimate destination for classic fall activities and unique harvest-themed attractions.

Spooks and sweets

Finish off a fun-filled October with spooky scares and Halloween candy hauls:

Download our fun fall activities printable!

Ready to tackle some of the fun fall activities we mentioned? We put them together in a handy list that you can stick to the fridge and check off as you go!

fall activities
What are you doing this fall?

Did we miss anything? Share your favorite fall things to do in Des Moines with us on Twitter or leave a comment below.

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