The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden has undergone some major renovations in recent years. If you haven’t visited recently, it’s a great time to venture back. The grounds around the “dome” are one of the most beautiful places in Des Moines, perfect for a stroll and photography. Something is always blooming, and the water garden makes a beautiful centerpiece to the landmark. Read on for tips for a family fun day at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.
Know Before You Go
- Hours of Operation: Open Daily 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
- Cost of General Admission: April 4 through October 31 – Adults $8; Seniors $7; Military $7; Students (4-17) $6; Children 3 and Under FREE. November through March – Adults $6; Seniors $5; Military $5; Students (4-17) $4; Children 3 and Under FREE.
- Parking: There is plenty of FREE parking available at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.
- Food: With the exception of bottled water and baby bottles, outside food and beverages are not allowed. Food and drink can be purchased at Trellis, the Botanical Garden’s cafe, or in the Garden Shop.
- Restrooms: Clean indoor restrooms are located just inside the front door not too far from the Garden Shop.
- Prior to your visit check out Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden’s website where you’ll find everything you need to know.
While You’re There
The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is comprised of both indoor and outdoor gardens. Tropical Plantings and a Dessert Garden are located in the iconic geodesic-domed conservatory. Popular points of interest in the outside gardens include the Water Garden, Conifer and Gravel Garden and a Hillside Garden which features a cantilevered waterfall. The Botanical Garden is open year-round, and the tropical area in the dome is a particularly nice respite from long Iowa winters.
You pay for admission at the Garden Shop cashier. They will also provide you with a brochure providing information about the Botanical Garden and what events are taking place. You can shop in the store and eat at the restaurant without paying admission.
The Botanical Garden is fairly compact, but if you have small kids you may want to bring along a stroller. If you’ll be touring the outdoor gardens you may want to wear sunscreen and bring along a hat for the kiddos. Lastly, don’t forget your camera. The Botanical Garden offers up some wonderful backdrops.
My kids have actually been to the Botanical Garden several times with their grandparents. So, on our last visit, I let them be my tour guide. They started their tour inside the Dome, showing me all of their favorite spots. My daughter likes the little river and waterfall that contains Koi. My son likes to climb to the top of the overlook area and showed me that there are kaleidoscopes hidden in some of the plantings up there.
As you meander through the Dome, keep your eyes peeled for sculpture; signs with plant information; Spotlights; fruit, such as bananas; and more. The day we toured the Botanical Garden it was pretty hot outside and I was worried it would be even warmer in the Dome. To my surprise, it was not. Not to say that it wasn’t warm and humid, but there are misters that seem to keep it cool and the kids loved to dance around in them.
After a turn around the Tropical Plantings the kids lead me back to the Gardener’s Show House. This area frequently changes out seasonal displays. When we were there, the exhibits demonstrated how common household items could be used in the garden, yard or patio. Story Sprouts was also going on as we walked through. This is a story time for preschoolers offered on Fridays throughout the year. Check out the Botanical Garden’s website for specific dates and for other programs that they offer.
Next we checked out the Dessert Garden and then headed outside. The first area you encounter outside is the fabulous Water Garden. This is my favorite spot! It’s so tranquil with lots to see and is a great spot to take in views of downtown Des Moines. We took our time meandering through the Water Garden and then walked through the Conifer & Gravel Garden and made our way over to the waterfall.
My daughter was infatuated with a frog in the pool under the waterfall and I didn’t think I was going to get her to move on. We eventually moved on and hiked up the Hillside Garden. We also took a stroll down the allée (pronounced allay), a shade tree-canopied promenade that runs parallel to the river.
We spent a better part of our morning at the Botanical Garden and also enjoyed lunch at Trellis for a fun family outing.
After Your Visit
After touring the gardens, we enjoyed lunch on the patio overlooking the Water Garden. It’s a spectacular spot for enjoying a meal. It’s also a great spot for antsy kids that need to move around. We’ve had lunch at Trellis, a few times now with the kids. Its open 11:00 am to 2:00 pm; Tuesday – Sunday and is closed on Mondays. Their menu changes with the seasons and features food sourced locally. They also have a decent Kid’s menu. My daughter loves ordering their “fancy” grilled cheese.
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
909 Robert D. Ray Drive
Des Moines, IA 50309
What are your tips for a family fun day at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden?