Take in the sights and scents of spring on a budget in Des Moines! To help you plan some wallet-friendly spring fun, we’ve put together this list of 50 FREE and cheap events and activities that will help keep your kids entertained all season long.
Here’s 50+ FREE or Cheap Things to Do in Des Moines:
1. March 10-31: FREE Have a photo taken with the Easter Bunny at local attractions.
2. March 13: FREE Young thespians can practice their acting skills at an Ankeny Community Theatre Workshop hosted by the Ankeny Public Library.
3. March 13: FREE Watch the movie “Suicide Squad” with kids all over the state! Kids 12+ can bring their phone for this interactive Teen Texting Movie at Urbandale Public Library.
4. March 13 and April 10: FREE Kids can experience real cooking during a Kids’ Cooking Class at the Machine Shed in Urbandale.
5. March 17: FREE Get your green on and Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at a special event or activity in Des Moines.
6. March 18, April 15 & May 20: FREE Discuss a work of art at the Des Moines Art Center for inspiration and then make your own artwork in the studio during Art Spectrums, an art program for children and teens on the autism spectrum.
8. March 16: $3 Dress in your “Sunday Best” and move to the music at Indianola Park and Recreation’s Special Needs Spring Formal.
9. March 16-May 4: FREE View the spring night sky and hear some interesting lectures about “Star Stuff and Temporal Discoveries” during Drake Municipal Observatory’s Public Night.
10. March 24 & 31: FREE Put a spring in your step at a local Easter Egg Hunt, many of which are FREE to participate in.
11. March 24: $5 See a family friendly show, “Shh! We Have a Plan” which is part of the Wellmark Family Series and will be at the Civic Center for an 11:00 am performance (which is sensory friendly) and at 1:00 pm.
12. March-May: FREE April showers bring May flowers but they also bring muddy puddles which might mean you need an indoor playground. Play places are available at local malls and provide a little climate controlled entertainment at no cost.
13. March 24, April 21 & May 12: FREE Join SCI staff and members of the Des Moines Astronomical Society (DMAS) to take a look through high-powered telescopes and get a quick lesson on the basics of telescope operation during their Star Parties.
14. March 24, April 21 & May 19: $5 Kids in grades 6-12 can play fast-paced improvisation games during MadCAP Improv at CAP Theatre in Altoona.
15. March 29: FREE Preschoolers can learn and practice their language and literacy skills to become better readers at Family Literacy Night at the Pleasant Hill Public Library.
16. March 31: FREE Get excited for the I-Cubs upcoming baseball season by attending their Spring Open House.
17. March 31: FREE Explore the wonder and beauty of Thomas Mitchell Park on a Full Moon Hike led by Polk County Conservation.
18. March-May: Roll your way to some inexpensive family fun on Wednesday nights, when local roller rinks host dollar nights.
19. April 3: FREE Enjoy a special story time and a meet and greet with a shelter pet during ARL’s Tales with Tails, a story time series for children ages 2-6.
21. April 8 & May 6: FREE Sample some unique ice cream flavors, visit with cows and calves and participate in fun activities during Sample Sunday at Picket Fence Creamery.
22. April 14: FREE Kids can get their griddle on and make some edible pancake art during Teen Test Kitchen: Pancake Art at the Altoona Public Library.
23. April 14: $5 Kids ages 12 and younger can get healthy with others across the state by participating in Live Healthy Iowa’s 1K Kid’s Fun Run at Centennial Park in Waukee.
24. March-May: Enjoy $1.00 Games, $1.00 Shoe Rentals and $1.00 Soft Drinks on Thursdays, Merle Hay Lanes Dollar Day.
25. April 21: FREE Have some Earth Day Family Fun in West Des Moines. Go kayaking, canoeing, fishing or relax in an outdoor lounge and enjoy a cup of coffee or cocoa!
26. April 26: $5 Introduce your kids (Grades 7-12) to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” at Stephens Auditorium in Ames.
27. April 28: FREE Kids ages 5+ can build a strong paper bridge, a boat that floats or a spinning wind turbine during Grimes Public Library’s Engineer Academy.
28. April 28: FREE Get a group of friends together and help seniors and the disabled clean their yards-up and get ready for a great spring and summer during UCAN’s Spring Clean-Up Day.
29. April 28: FREE Do some spring shopping at Market Day, which is an indoor market with artists, hand-crafted artisans, boutiques and local businesses offering repurposed, vintage and unique products.
30. March-May FREE: Sign up for Goldie’s Kids Club with the State Historical Society of Iowa and get exclusive access to select Museum programs and events including Story Time, History Makers and History Mystery.
31. May 1-22: FREE Join the West Des Moines Parks & Recreation staff for Story Hour at the Park. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy as their Naturalist shares nature books, stories and games.
32. May 3: FREE Take a day trip to historic Pella for Tulip Time. Enjoy a parade, family activities, presentations, vendors and more.
33. May 5: FREE The Downtown Farmers’ Market returns. Shop with local vendors, enjoy local artists, live music and entertainment, ready-to-eat foods and more.
34. May 5: FREE Dallas County Toddler Fest is a celebration to encourage kids to be readers. Each child that attends will receive a free book and can participate in many educational crafts and activities.
35. May 5: FREE Enjoy Mexican foods, artwork, live music, dancing and family activities at Valley Junction’s Cinco de Mayo Festival.
36. March-May FREE: Check out the new “Pumpkin Large” sculpture by Yayoi Kusama in the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park.
37. May 11: FREE Celebrate National Public Gardens Day with Reiman Gardens. Enjoy FREE admission and FREE seeds giveaway.
39. May 11-25: FREE Unwind after a long week at Food Truck Fridays in Clive’s Campbell Park. The event features a variety of food trucks, live music and activities for the kids.
40. May 12: FREE Wish your mother a Happy Mother’s Day during Altoona Public Library’s Mommy and Me Tea.
41. May 13: FREE Take Mom to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden on Mother’s Day when she receives FREE admission. They’ll also be hosting their annual Plant Sale.
42. March-May: $5 Try a new type of ice cream in town at Sweet Swirls Rolled Ice Cream in Ankeny. Instead of scoops, Sweet Swirls serves Thai-style rolled ice cream and their mix-in options are amazing.
43. May 18: FREE Watch “Coco” under the stars at Clive’s Friday Night Flicks. Bring along your blankets and chairs for grass seating in Wildwood Park.
44. May 20: FREE Join artists, crafters, photographers, food vendors, businesses, and more for a day jam-packed with family-friendly activities at the Valley Junction Arts Festival.
45. May 20: FREE Discover the history behind Decoration Day by joining the West Des Moines Historical Society and Parks and Recreation Department at the Historic Jordan House and Jordan Cemetery. Outdoor activities are free, tours of the Jordan House are $5 for Adults and $3 for Students in grades K-12.
46. May 25: FREE Enjoy a glass of red or white on the porch and listen to some great music while keeping a watchful eye on the kids during a Summer Concert at Penoach Winery.
47. May 25: $.50 for Kids. $1 for Adults Take a spin on the Heritage Carousel in Union Park when the historic amusement ride opens for the season.
48. March-May: FREE Kids can try out all those sick moves they’ve been dreaming about all winter at a local skate park this spring.
49. March-May: Eat out at a local restaurant using our Kids Eat Free Guide.
50. March-May: And remember to search FREE events on our Calendar, where there are free and cheap things to enjoy every day.
Looking for more? Check out our Spring Fun Guide, with new events added throughout the season.
What are your favorite FREE or cheap go-to spots in Des Moines? Help us all out and let us know in the Comments below!