You don’t have to go broke to have fun with kids in and around Des Moines this summer. There are lots of FREE things to do, whether you want to enjoy the sunshine outside or cool off indoors. Read on for a summer of FREE water fun, festivals, crafts, music, games, movies, and more.
Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive. There are literally hundreds of FREE fun events happening across the metro this summer. You can find more cool seasonal activities and destinations in our Summer Fun Guide and Events Calendar.
We’ve put together 33 FREE ideas to keep your kids busy in Des Moines between Memorial Day and Labor Day, so you hopefully won’t have to hear “I’m bored” too many times!
1. Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and see stars at a local astronomy event held throughout the summer.
2. Pack a picnic lunch and take it to a local park.
3. Participate in a different “make and take” craft activity each week at a local Michael’s store.
4. Attend Pride Fest June 6-9, 2019 where they’ll have family-friendly activities on the west lawn of the Iowa Capitol.
5. Take a family bike ride on a kid-friendly biking trail.
6. Play games and enjoy some swing time playing pickle ball on a local court.
7. Visit the library for summer library program events: musical performances, puppet shows, book clubs, movies, workshops, etc.
8. Try your luck fishing at events June 6, 7 & and 8 during Iowa’s Free Fishing Weekend.
9. Stroll through a local farmers market and enjoy live music, food and a festive atmosphere.
10. Express yourself at a local festival, most feature live music, performance art, crafts, dance and food.
11. Sign up for FREE kids bowling at local bowling alleys while it lasts!
12. Explore the fascinating world of insects on an Insect Hunt with Polk County Conservation on June 8, July 27 and August 3.
13. Wake up super early and watch the sunrise at the Indianola National Balloon Classic during Dawn Patrol.
14. Get your literary fix and outdoor time during story time at a local park.
15. Score FREE indoor movie theater tickets during Fridley’s FREE Summer Merchant Movie Series at the Paramount 7 Theatre in Indianola.
16. Enjoy story time for FREE at the Altoona Aquatic Center. Wednesdays at 11:00 am, June 12 – August 7, 2019.
17. While away the day splashing at a local wading pool, splash pad or fountain.
18. Go exploring at the Brenton Arboretum, where admission is FREE.
19. Visit one of your favorite attractions in Des Moines. With a local library card, you can check out the Adventure Pass which gets you FREE admission to the Science Center of Iowa, Blank Park Zoo and the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.
20. Head to Walker Johnston Park in Urbandale for a Party in the Park. They’ll be celebrating the beginning and end of summer on Friday, June 14 and Friday, August 16.
21. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a FREE family movie at one of the area’s outdoor summer movie series.
22. Be entertained every week at a free summer concert.
23. Look at and appreciate world class art at the Des Moines Art Center, where admission is always FREE.
24. Celebrate community heroes, veterans and first responders at Indianola Parks and Recreation’s FREE Be a Hero Pool Party on Friday, June 14, 2019 at 7:30 to 9:00 pm.
25. Take a trip back in time when the Iowa History Museum goes offsite with their Goldie’s Kids Club: Goldie Takes Flight at the Bennett School in West Des Moines and the State Capitol.
26. Play a few rounds of mini golf at Stonegate Park in Clive. You can bring your own clubs or check them out at the Clive Public Library.
27. Watch Camel, Zebra, & Ostrich Races at Prairie Meadows Race Track and Casino.
28. Get your groove on in Cowles Commons at Fam Jam. July 28, August 25 and September 29, 2019.
29. Stand on the foundation built by our state’s forefathers during a tour of the Iowa State Capitol.
30. Attend a free outdoor concert by the Des Moines Symphony at the Lauridsen Amphitheater at Water Works Park July 14 and July 28, 2019.
31. Start your weekends off zen with Yoga in the Park hosted by Des Moines Parks and Recreation at the Clare and Miles Mills Rose Garden.
32. Register your child for a free technology camp at the Apple Store in West Des Moines.
33. Learn how to paddleboard with Warren County Conservation. The class will be offered at various parks on June 14 and 29, July 7 and 28 and August 4, 2019.
We’d love to hear what your favorite FREE thing to do during the summer in Des Moines is!?!