Exploring the Des Moines Art Center with Kids

Exploring the Des Moines Art Center with Kids

Updated July 2020. 

If you’re lucky enough to have a world-class art museum right in your hometown…why shouldn’t your whole family take advantage, and explore it together? The Des Moines Art Center was started in 1916 and opened at its current location in 1948. It has been a place for people to learn about and appreciate art ever since. And, with Greenwood/Ashworth Park and the Clare and Miles Mills Rose Garden right outside its doors, the Art Center is always worth the trip.

If you’re looking for more attractions similar to the Des Moines Art Center, be sure to visit our Event Calendar and Summer Fun Guide.


The Art Center continues to offer free admission for all; however, tickets for entry are required so that proper social distancing within the galleries can be maintained. To ensure visitors are able to enter the museum at their desired time, it is recommended that tickets are reserved online in advance. Reservations can be made by clicking HERE or the button below.

For the foreseeable future, there is a designated path through the museum, designed to ensure visitors are able to access galleries while maintaining social distancing guidelines. Art Center staff is required to wear a mask at all times when outside individual offices. Visitors will be required to wear masks while in the Art Center.

Exploring the Des Moines Art Center with Kids – dsm4kids.com

You’re never too young or old to enjoy the world of art, so read on to find out how to explore the Des Moines Art Center with kids!

Know Before You Go

When To Go

The Des Moines Art Center is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Thursday 11:00 am to 7:00 pm; Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. It’s CLOSED on Mondays and select holidays.


The Des Moines Art Center is located at 4700 Grand Avenue in Des Moines.  Visit the Art Center’s website or call (515) 277-4405 for directions or additional information.

Exploring the Des Moines Art Center with Kids – dsm4kids.com


This is the best part, it’s FREE!  The Des Moines Art center does NOT charge admission.  They do charge for some special events, workshops and art classes.  They also have year-long memberships available, which will get you a gift-shop discount, FREE admission to select special events, discounts on classes, invitations to exhibition openings, and more. Your membership also helps the Art Center continue its free admission policy and outreach efforts.


There is plenty of FREE parking available near the Des Moines Art Center.  

Exploring the Des Moines Art Center with Kids – dsm4kids.com

Food Policy

Outside food and beverages are not permitted in the Art Center.  However, they do have an on-site restaurant, Tangerine at the Art Center, where families can grab a bite to eat. The restaurant doesn’t offer a Kid’s Menu, but they’re quite accommodating offering butter noodles, hamburger or cheeseburgers and grilled cheese at a reduced price. (My daughter ordered a cheeseburger the last time we were there and said it’s the best one she’s ever had; I also think the food is quite good.) The restaurant is open for lunch 11:00 am to 2:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday.  It is CLOSED on Sundays and Mondays.


Accessible restrooms are located near the Information Desk and by the Education Entrance and in the Richard Meier building.

Exploring the Des Moines Art Center with Kids – dsm4kids.com

The Art Center collections are comprised of 19th, 20th, and 21st century works of Modern and contemporary art. In addition, the collection contains singular examples from other styles and cultures including the Renaissance, Impressionism, and Post-Impressionism.

While You’re There

Be Respectful of the Art

For many parents, art museums often aren’t the first places that come to mind as kid-friendly destinations. After all, there’s no touching, no running, and no snacking allowed (even I get upset about that last one;). However, these rules are in place for a reason.  Many works of art are fragile and irreplaceable. To minimize the possibility of an accident, have a conversation with your kids before visiting.  Talk to them about not touching the art, standing back from the art at least one foot and if they get hungry and need a snack, they can take a break outside.

Let Your Child Be Your Guide

Even though there are a lot of rules, the Des Moines Art Center is still worth a visit with kids! There are limitless opportunities to let your imagination run wild, and incredible worlds of color and shape to explore. Take your time and look closely at just a few things during your visit. Don’t feel like you need to see the whole museum in one day. Ask your child what they would like to see and let them lead your adventure.

Exploring the Des Moines Art Center with Kids – dsm4kids.com

Take Advantage of the Art Center’s Family-Friendly Programming

Check out the Art Center’s calendar for family-friendly programs. They host regular, recurring events including Baby + Me Drop in Tours, Family Nights, Entirely Kids Day, Art Spectrums, Books + Blankets story times, Make & Mingle Family Workshops and more.

Check Out the Current Exhibits

The Des Moines Art Center hosts a selection of temporary special exhibitions annually. These feature works from other museums, institutions, and private collections, or represent an aspect of the Des Moines Art Center’s own permanent collection. Find a list of current exhibits here.

Exploring the Des Moines Art Center with Kids – dsm4kids.com

Make Your Visit More Interactive

Use your cell phone or check out an iPod from the Information Desk and take an Audio Tour to learn more about the artwork in the museum.  Play Entirely Kids Bingo.  You can pick up the “Bingo Card”, a clipboard and pencil at the Information Desk.  This simple game will help encourage kids to find unique items in the art and have fun.  Also, as you’re browsing be on the lookout for the Entirely Kids plaques.  They provide some tips on how kids  can interact and engage in different ways with the art.  Lastly, try out some of the fun museum games that we’ve listed here.

Art Education

The Des Moines Art Center school provides art classes to preschoolers, youth, and adults that are offered year-round. Both of my kids have attended summer camp at the Art Center and I highly recommend them.  Classes are taught by accomplished artists and art educators who are eager to share their artistic insights and technical skills to beginning and advanced artists alike. Subjects and themes change with each season; winter-spring, summer, and fall. Areas of focus include art fundamentals as well as unique art-making experiences. Full-day camps, multiple week classes and one-time workshops allow students to personalize their art-making experience.  Scholarships for classes are available.


Des Moines Art Center

Address: 4700 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50312
Phone: (515) 277-4405
Website: https://www.desmoinesartcenter.org



Have you explored the Des Moines Art Center with your kids? What are your tips for visiting?

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