By the time it’s spring, my family has reached its limits of winter-induced stir-craziness, especially after this winter. Despite all that our fair city has to offer, we feel the need to get away from Des Moines, even if it’s just for a day. Having this list of 9 spring-inspired day trips at our fingertips gives us something to look forward to, especially with spring break on the horizon. From biking to visiting museums to smelling the blooms to strolling college campuses, there is something on this list for everyone.
Note: To me a day trip should be within a couple of hours driving distance, so below you’ll find destinations that are within that range from Des Moines. Find even more day trip ideas here.
Our Spring Fun Guide is loaded with even more family fun, including 40 Fabulous Things to Do this Spring in Des Moines.
Here’s 9 spring day trip ideas for Des Moines families:
- Explore the seven villages of the Amana Colonies, which offer museums, quaint shops, artisan stores and family style restaurants. Welcome and celebrate the arrival of the warmer weather of spring by attending Maifest the first weekend in May.
- Head north on I-35 to Ames. ISU’s Campus wakens from its winter slumber in spring and is a great place for a family to explore. While on campus stop by the Library and check out Grant Wood’s murals and stroll by the Campanile and Lake Laverne. Art lovers will love a trip to the Octagon Center for the Arts and kids and” kids at heart” will enjoy Perfect Games for some arcade and laser tag fun.
- Anamosa is the heart of Grant Wood country. Snap some photos of the “The American Gothic” inspired statue “God Bless America” on Main Street, visit the local shops, and restaurants, then take a drive through Stone City, where Grant Wood painted some of his most popular pieces. And if you’re not into art, but more of a motorhead visit the National Motorcycle Museum.
- Soak up some small-town charm in Greenfield. This destination offers up unexpected delights. You’ll find vintage aircraft and aviation artifacts at the Iowa Aviation Museum, private car collections you can tour by appointment, a historic town center and The Wallace Centers of Iowa – Country Life Center.
- Visit Iowa City, another college town, that is also family friendly. Pick up a book at Prairie Lights, visit the Old Capitol Museum or the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History or let the kids loose at the Iowa Children’s Museum. You could also just hang out at the Ped Mall where you can find great eats, coffee, and sweets.
- See the unique models and sculptures at the Matchstick Museum in Gladbrook, when it opens for the season in April. Iowa artist Patrick Acton has created dozens of wooden models and sculptures made exclusively of ordinary wooden matchsticks. He has used millions of matchsticks and gallons of glue to create models that are highly detailed and painstakingly scaled and it’s definitely worth the drive from Des Moines.
- Head to Pella for a bit of springtime fun. Tour more than 20 historical buildings and a windmill at Pella Historical Village and Vermeer Windmill. You’ll also want to grab a Dutch letter from a local bakery and there’s no brighter place than Pella in May, when the town hosts its annual Tulip Time celebration.
- Perry is a sure bet for spring fun when you can hit the local trails on foot or bike. Take a tour of Hotel Pattee or knock down a few pins in its bowling alley. Have a bite to eat at the hotel restaurant Harvey’s. Enjoy mother nature at Forest Park Arboretum or Voas Nature Center.
- Waterloo is a great destination for history buffs. They’ll love visiting the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum, Bluedorn Science Imaginarium, Rensselaer Russell House Museum and the John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum.
What are your favorite springtime day trips? Share the love in the comments below!