10 Ways to Spend Labor Day Outdoors in Des Moines

Labor Day Des Moines

Happy (almost) Labor Day! Labor Day pays homage to the American Workers and their dedication to life in the United States. For many, the holiday often represents the end of summer and people tend to celebrate it in the great outdoors enjoying the beautiful land that we all call home.

In Des Moines, we have plenty of ways to celebrate Labor Day outdoors. There are hiking trails, biking trails, waterways, parks, urban walks, wild animals and much more! So, don’t spend your Labor Day trapped indoors. Pick your favorite from our list below and spend your Labor Day soaking up the sunshine.

Outdoor Activities in Des Moines

1. Hike at Ledges State Park in Boone

Designated as one of Iowa’s state parks in 1924, Ledges State Park is a great place to spend some time outdoors on Labor Day. Ledges offers areas to picnic, bird watch, camp, hike, boat and fish. The beautiful hiking trails and scenery make it one of Iowa’s most popular state parks. The views feature sandstone cliffs, native plants and a deep wooded river valley.

2. Rent a paddleboat at Gray’s Lake

Gray’s Lake is a great place to spend Labor Day outdoors, especially if you live in the downtown area. The 167-acre park features a 1.9-mile lighted walking path that stretches around the lake. While you’re at the lake, you can enjoy concessions and paddle boat rental. It’s a fun and inexpensive way to get out on the water with your family and friends on Labor Day! Be sure to check their Facebook page for any updates on last-minute rental and concession closures.

3. Grill out at Racoon River Park

There’s nothing more iconic than spending Labor Day grilling out on a charcoal grill with your friends and family. And whether you’re short a grill or you’re looking for a change of scenery, flipping patties is much more fun at Racoon River Park. While at the park you can also enjoy Blue Heron Lake, a swimming beach, fishing pier, picnic shelters, a playground, dog park and more! You can reserve a picnic shelter on the City of West Des Moines’ website to ensure you have a grill for Labor Day!

4. Bike the High Trestle Bridge in Madrid (at night!!)

The High Trestle Trail is a paved recreational trail that runs from Ankeny to Woodward. The trail’s gem is the trestle bridge. The bridge is 40 meters high and runs almost a half-mile long, and it is located near old mining shafts where Italian immigrants and other settlers worked. The bridge features structuring that symbolizes what it’s like to look through a mine shaft and it lights up in colorful lighting in the evenings. Whether you’re biking or walking, this bridge is truly a great place to spend your Labor Day.

5. Take a street mural walk downtown

It’s hard not to enjoy all of the beautiful murals and graffiti in downtown Des Moines. Artists have collaborated with the city to bring life to our buildings, turning a brick wall into a piece of urban art. Spend your Labor Day walking the city and enjoying all of these different murals! You’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop for great drinks and food along the way.

6. Walk the Pappajohn Sculpture Park

The Pappajohn Sculpture garden has been bringing life to Des Moines for 10 years. The 4.4-acre park features over 30 different sculptures, including works from artists like Louise Bourgeois, Jaume Plensa and Deborah Butterfield. This Labor Day pack a picnic and enjoy lunch surrounded by great works of art! The park is open from sunrise to sunset.

7. See bison and butterflies at Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge maintains and restores the ecosystems of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna and sedge meadow, which were the original environments before Euro-American settlement. At this unique refuge, you’ll have the opportunity to view a wide variety of different prairie wildlife, including bison, monarch butterflies and grassland birds. Plus, there are multiple opportunities for you to learn about the prairie and its wildlife.

8. Take the kids to Ashby Park

Spend Labor Day in Des Moines at Ashby Park! The 11-acre park has a splash pad, playground, tennis courts, trails and grills. There’s plenty do to with your family at this local Des Moines park! Plus, the splash pad is a great way to entertain your kids while you enjoy the day off. Just don’t forget the sunscreen.

9. See the nature exhibits at Jester Park

Jester Park is one of the more popular parks in the Des Moines area. Located along Saylorville Lake, the park includes campgrounds, wooded trails, an equestrian center, three ponds and an elk and bison wildlife exhibit. Jester Park is a great option for spending time outdoors on Labor Day!

10. See the animals at the Blank Park Zoo

Another great outdoor Labor Day activity is a visit to the zoo! You’re not the only one who will be enjoying the perfect weather, the animals will be too. Get your steps in walking around to the different exhibits and see African Lions, Giraffes, Magellan Penguins and Rhinos!

Feeling inspired?

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