A Family Friendly Guide to College Football in Des Moines - dsm4kids.com

A Family Friendly Guide to College Football in Des Moines

I don’t know about you, but the cooler weather has me ready for some football. College football, that is.  College football is as much a part of fall in Iowa as raking leaves and picking out the perfect pumpkin. Des Moines area fans are fortunate to have six teams- within a (long) Hail Mary pass of the city limits. Here’s a look at the colleges and universities Des Moines families will be cheering for this football season.

Drake University

City: Des Moines
Mascot: Bulldogs
Home Field: Drake Stadium
Conference: Missouri Valley Conference
Tickets: Find Single Game Day tickets at www.draketix.com or call (515) 271-DOGS (3647).

Whether you’re a Drake alum or a Des Moines resident, you can show your kids some great college football without traveling very far at all. This year, the Bulldogs will face conference foes South Dakota, Valparaiso, Davidson and more at home at Drake Stadium. At the game, there are tons of Drake traditions kids will love, whether it’s welcoming the team as they make their way into the stadium, tailgating or having a meet and greet with Griff.

You’ll want to be sure to mark your calendars for a few events hosted especially for families.  The football team hosts an annual Youth Day at Drake Stadium to kick off the season. This event is FREE for all youth in the eighth grade and under, who are encouraged to join the Bulldogs for football related fun and games.  They also typically host a Kid Day, when all kids (18 and under) can purchase a ticket for just $1.00 each.

Grandview University

City: Des Moines
Mascot: Vikings
Home Field: Williams Stadium
Conference: Heart of America Athletic Conference
Tickets: Single-Game Tickets can be purchased at the box office at game time.

Another hometown team, where it’s easy and inexpensive to catch some gridiron action. Small school football may not get a lot of national media attention, but since rebooting their football program about 10 years ago, Grandview has quickly become a football powerhouse.  They are typically ranked and have claimed multiple division championships.

Prior to their home opener, the Vikings host a community-wide Football Kick-off Tailgate at the Maple Street Baptist Church Parking Lot at 1552 Maple Street.  Another fun game to attend would be their Homecoming game when they host another tailgate party with games and activities.

Iowa State University

City: Ames
Mascot: Cyclones
Home Field: Jack Trice Stadium
Conference: Big 12 Conference
Tickets: Single-Game Ticket prices vary by game.  Purchase on-line or call (888) 478-2925.

With coach Matt Campbell t the helm, there is plenty of optimism in Ames for another great football season. But, if your kids aren’t that into the game, they’ll still think this is a fun outing only 45 minutes from Des Moines.  A few hours before kickoff, check out the Cyclone Experience. It’s home to fun pregame festivities, including face painting for little fans, as well as bounce houses and opportunities to meet ISU athletes from other sports.

The annual Cyclone Fan Fest is held in late August. This FREE event gives you the opportunity to interact with Iowa State coaches and student-athletes. There are always plenty of activities for children to enjoy, including inflatables, interactive stations and face painters. Bring your cameras and get a picture with Cy. If you do attend a game in Ames this fall, be sure to check out Your Kid-Friendly Guide to Jack Trice Stadium for even more information.

Simpson College

City: Indianola
Mascot: Storm
Home Field: Buxton Stadium
Conference: Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
Tickets: Single Game Tickets can be purchased the day of the game at the gate.

Division III college football may not get all the love, but those student athletes, put their heart and soul into the game each Saturday, just the same as the big schools’ student athletes do. Close to Des Moines, the Simpson Storm play in Indianola, which is just a quick drive south of the metro.

If you’re in the mood to tailgate, you can do so in a designated lot at Hillman Hall (just east of the stadium).  Some fun football games to attend are when Simpson takes on their biggest rivals Central College and Homecoming is always, a fun family friendly event with inflatables, games, activities and face painting.

University of Iowa

City: Iowa City
Mascot: Hawkeyes
Home Field: Kinnick Stadium
Conference: Big 10
Tickets: Single-Game Ticket prices vary by game.  Purchase on-line or call 1-800 IA-HAWKS (424-2957).

Iowa City is a little under two hours from Des Moines, and is a mecca for Hawkeye football fans. It’s definitely an experience, but it is not cheap; tickets are expensive, and every human must have one, regardless of age. A trip to Kinnick, however, doesn’t have to break the bank if you’re willing to forego the game. It may sound blasphemous, but ask yourself if your kids are able to sit on bleachers through a three-and-a-half hour game.  If they are, check out Your Kid Friendly Guide to Kinnick Stadium.

If not, you don’t have to miss all the fun. It’s not unusual for Des Moines families to drive over just to experience the pregame pomp and circumstance, including seeing the marching band, watching the team walk into the stadium, and visiting the Hawkeye Kids Zone and Hawkeye Tailgate. Some families stay and watch the game televised at different locations on campus. Others listen to it on the radio on the road home (less traffic!) and are able catch the second half from their couch.

University of Northern Iowa

City: Cedar Falls
Mascot: Panthers
Home Field: UNI Dome
Conference: Missouri Valley Conference
Tickets: Single-Game Ticket prices vary by game.  Purchase on-line or call 1-319-273-4TIX (4849)

Many Panther fans make the two-hour drive to Cedar Falls from Des Moines for game day. One of the best things about attending a UNI football game is that the temperature is great no matter the weather, a real bonus when you have littles in tow.

The Hy-Vee Fan Zone has become one of the school’s most popular game day traditions. Spend $50 at any Cedar Falls, Waterloo or Waverly Hy-Vee stores all season long and receive one ticket into the Hy-Vee Fan Zone Tailgate at each home game. They will have lots of food, of course, and live music all season long. Homecoming and Parents Weekend are both fun games to attend.


Will your family be attending a college football game this fall?  If so, let us know where!

Featured image courtesy of the Imoehl family.

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