MLK Day in Des Moines: Your Guide to Events & Activities -

MLK Day in Des Moines: Your Guide to Events & Activities

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Des Moines will host a few special events to honor the incredible civil rights activist on Monday, January 15, 2018. Below, you will find a list of celebrations hosted in his honor. Then, find a list of other special activities for families to do on the school holiday.

Another great way to spend time before, after or on MLK Day is volunteering. We have listed several incredible volunteer opportunities for families here.

MLK Jr Day Celebrations

Annual MLK Jr. Prayer Breakfast

Des Moines’ fifth annual King Prayer Breakfast will be from 7:30 to 9:00 am at the Drake University Knapp Center. Tickets are $30 per person and are available for purchase at area YMCA offices or on-line. The morning program promotes King’s message for peace and justice and will include the Bridges2Harmoney Gospel Choir from Roosevelt High Schools, Make A Difference legacy, adult and youth awards, and special presentations on the 150th anniversary of the YMCA of Greater Des Moines and “One Economy: The State of Black Polk County.”

29th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

The Iowa Department of Human Rights’ Office on the Status of African-Americans will host its 29th annual celebration honoring the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, January 15, 2018. Governor Kim Reynolds and Lt. Governor Gregg will provide welcoming remarks and read the proclamation designating January 15 as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the period of January 14–20 as Martin Luther King Jr. Week. The program will be at 10:45 am at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.  The event is FREE and open to the public.

Imagine Enough for Everyone

Imagine Enough for Everyone is an event benefitting the Urbandale Food Pantry and is held annually on the MLK Jr Day holiday.  On January 15th from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm bring in personal care items, warm scarves and hats, monetary gifts and food items to the Urbandale Public Library.  As an added benefit for Urbandale Library members you can also participate in Food for Fines, every personal item donated will reduce your library fine by $1 and every food items donated will reduce your library fine by $.50.

MLK Day of Service at CYC

Martin Luther King, Jr. left a legacy built on serving others.  Community Youth Concepts (CYC) invites you to honor him with a fun day of service projects on January 15, 2018 from 9:30 am to 11:30 am.  CYC Staff and their Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) students have several projects planned for the day and all are welcome. If you have any questions about the event, contact Malcolm at

ML King Day Packaging Event

Meals from the Heartland will be offering packaging opportunities for volunteers of all ages, all day on January 15, 2018. They still have a few open shifts, which last an hour and a half and can accommodate 60 volunteers to package meals for the hungry here in Iowa and around the world. You can register for the shift on their registration page.  There you will find a listing of the available shift times and the number of people still needed for each shift.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

The Forest Avenue Library hosts it’s an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration on Monday, January 15, 2018 at 4:00 PM.  The event will feature keynote speaker Dionna Langford and will recognize student writing and art contest winners. A reception following the presentation will be hosted by the Friends of the Forest Avenue Library. Please note all six DMPL locations will be CLOSED in recognition of the holiday. Forest Avenue Library will only be open during the program.

Special Events & Activities for the School Holiday

Van & Bonnie Martin Luther King, Jr. Day FREE SKATE at Brenton Skating Plaza

Join Van & Bonnie from WHO Radio as they team with Brenton Skating Plaza to collect socks, gloves, hats & warm clothing for area shelters.  Drop off your donations and get FREE admission & skate rental from 5:00 to 9:00 am on Monday, January 15, 2018.  Not a morning person?  The Ice Rink will be open from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm for public skate.

FREE Admission at the Science Center of Iowa

Thanks to support from The Principal, admission will be FREE at the Science Center of Iowa on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Visit anytime between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm.

Special Martin Luther King Day Drop-in Activity: Exploring Bromeliads at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

This drop-in focuses on the amazing micro ecosystems that form in the water that collects in the center of bromeliads. The Garden’s conservatory houses a number of species from this large family of unique tropical plants. During the demo guests will be able to see the microscopic creatures that call these plants home in real-time through our microscope camera.  Their hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and the event is included with admission.

Velveteen Rabbit presented by Ankeny Community Theatre

​This heartwarming adaptation of Margery Williams’ classic children’s story shows how the power of love brings about a remarkable transformation for an ordinary toy bunny. This children’s show will be performed on January 15, 2018 at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm.  Tickets can be purchased on-line.

Sky Zone Will be Open

Typically closed on Mondays, Sky Zone will be open Monday, January 15th, 2018 for MLK Jr. Day! Toddler Time will be from 10:00 to 11:00 am and Open Jump will follow from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Children’s Author Visit: Christine Hilbert

There’s no school today, so the West Des Moines Public Library is hosting a very special visit from children’s author Christine Hilbert! She will be sharing her book Echo of the Star and the library will provide a special craft project for all children who attend. All ages are invited to this FREE event.

Movies & Munchies at the Altoona Library

Nothing to do on your day off?  Hang out at the Altoona Public Library from 1:00 to 3:00 pm — they’ll have a movie, snacks and fresh popped popcorn! This event is FREE for kids in grades 7-12 (a permission slip is required for those under 13).

MLK Day Skate at Skate North Incrediroll

The roller rink will be open from 1:00 to 4:00 pm on January 15, 2018.  Admission is $6 and skate rentals are $3.


Don’t forget you can visit our calendar for even more options!


How will your family celebrate MLK, Jr. day this year? Tell us below!

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