Bridging the Gap from Summer to School: 7 Fun & Educational Late-Summer Outings in Des Moines

Bridging the Gap from Summer to School: 7 Fun & Educational Late-Summer Outings in Des Moines

The weeks of warm, lazy days are dwindling and before we know it, school will start, and September will be here. Rather than fret about the impending return of homework and schedules, I decided to come up with a list of both fun AND educational outings perfect for these last few weeks of August. They’re all a great way to make some memories, get our brains back into learning mode and soak up what’s left of summer.

For more end of summer fun, don’t forget to check out our Summer Fun Guide and Calendar.

Check out these 7 Fun & Educational Late-Summer Outings in Des Moines:

(1) Science Center of Iowa

We’re lucky to have SCI right in our backyard. Go early to beat the field trip crowds, start on the 2nd floor and work your way down. You could definitely spend a day exploring, but if you’ve only got a morning or afternoon, it’s still worth a trip.   During the month of August SCI will feature “Drop-in Studio Time”. Visit Monday through Friday from 1:00-3:00 pm to participate in extended making activities..

(2) Lake Ahquabi State Park

A Warren County gem, Ahquabi State Park is packed with fun, adventure and history too. Burn off some energy at the playground, go swimming or hike or bike along the trail that meanders past the lake and through the woods.  After, spread out a blanket or grab a lawn table for a picnic. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a kayak or paddleboard at the beach concessions shop and spend the day out on the water. You may also want to check out the Annett Nature Center – it has a packed schedule of great summer classes for kids and is only about a mile from Lake Ahquabi. For more information, please call (515) 961-7101

(3) Pappajohn Sculpture Park

If you want to expose the kiddos to some culture without being cooped up inside, look no further than the beautiful Pappjohn Sculpture Park. Stroll around the 4.4-acre property (or do a guided tour) as you take in the manicured lawn dotted with over 29 sculptures from different artists. Picnicking is allowed in the park, grab a quick lunch from one of the surrounding restaurants or pack your own and enjoy your meal amongst some fabulous works of art. For more information about the guided tours, please call (515) 657-8264.

(4) Living History Farms

While fall is touted as the most popular time to visit local farms for pumpkins and apples, Living History Farms offers some really neat educational outings throughout summertime. LHF is a true working farm, using tools, materials and techniques from the mid-1800s to early 1900s to operate their farms each and every day. Staffers dressed in period clothing act out the lives and roles of the citizens of the town of Walnut, making the whole experience both fun and eye-opening for modern day families. For more information, please call (515) 278-5286.

(5) Jester Park Nature Center

We’re lucky to have not only an abundance of great parks in Central Iowa, but also some great nature centers that foster environmental learning. The Jester Park Nature Center recently celebrated their Grand Opening and will host a number of events, classes and programs throughout all four seasons. The Nature Center will feature displays representing three major habitats at Jester Park: wetlands, prairie, and woodlands on the lower level, along with a Naturalist Nook that has a puppet theater for free play and space for reading books and playing with games. And if you’re just in the mood to wander without structure, lace up your sneakers and hike one of the scenic trails (open 365 days a year) or take the easy stroll to the natural playscape. For more information, please call  (515) 323-5300.

(6) State Historical Museum of Iowa

Even though summer is all about being outdoors, sometimes you just need a break from the heat and humidity. Kids under 10 will love the “Hands-On History” exhibit where they can play with Duplo blocks, do crayon rubbings of Iowa symbols and sit on a historic tractor.  And, sign kids up for the Museum’s Goldie’s Kids Club.  They host fun events like “History Mystery”, “Innovative Iowans” and “Storytime”. For more information, please call (515) 281-5111.

(7)Blank Park Zoo

Nothing says summer like a trip to the zoo on a hot day. If you’ve got grade schoolers to entertain during these last few weeks of August, head on over to Blank Park Zoo. The zoo is manageable in a morning or afternoon due to its small size. But it doesn’t disappoint – a wide array of animals calls the grounds home such as rhinos, giraffes, lions and tigers plus a farmyard with goats, cows and our favorite one-eyed llama. End your outing with either a ride on the zoo train or a spin on the park’s carousel – guaranteed everyone will go home tired and happy. For more information, please call (515) 212-3954.

For more summertime inspiration, check out 100 Things To Do this Summer around Des Moines.



We know that there are surely more than 7 fun and educational late-summer outings in Des Moines, so tell us, what is your family doing to soak up the last few weeks of summer?

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