If you’re looking for an adventure to shake off the winter doldrums, multiple destinations just a couple of hours drive from Des Moines, offer both beautiful scenery and unique attractions. Having this list of spring-inspired day trips at your fingertips gives you something to look forward to, especially with spring break on the horizon.
Here’s a few ideas for a scenic spring day trip from Des Moines:
The second largest city in the state of Iowa, Cedar Rapids offers a number of fun activities for a quick spring getaway. A short two-hour drive, check out family friendly attractions like the NEWBO City Market, Old McDonald’s Farm and the Iowa Children’s Museum. And, be sure to keep your eye on the calendar because the community hosts a number of fun events throughout spring, like the Maple Syrup Festival in March, Kernels baseball games and Houby Days in May at Czech Village, to name a few.
87 miles south of Des Moines is the charming town of Centerville. The town’s quaint downtown is home to a bustling historic district lined with specialty shops, apparel retailers and restaurants. If spring is luring you to get back to nature, Lelah Bradley Park and Sharon Bluffs Park offer a number of outdoor activities and Rathbun Lake is located just eight miles from Centerville. If you’d like to stay overnight, The Tea Room Bed and Breakfast, is an elegant three-story Italianate house that was built in 1867.
You’ll find the college town of Grinnell just north of I-80 about an hour’s drive from Des Moines. Known as the “Jewel of the Prairie,” and voted “Coolest Small Town in the Midwest” by Budget Travel, Grinnell boasts some of Iowa’s hottest independent restaurants, a host of unique retailers and a fabled downtown. Your first stop should be the Louis Sullivan-designed Merchants National Bank, which is not only an attraction in and of itself but also serves as the community’s Visitor’s Center.
“Things are always popping in Sac County.” From the World’s Largest Popcorn Ball to the popular Black Hawk Lake, there are attractions to match every interest and season of the year. The community’s of Lake View, Odebolt, Sac City and Wall Lake offer a number of family friendly attractions like the Andy Williams Birthplace (Wall Lake), the Prairie Pedlar (Odebolt) and the Rustic River Winery and Vineyard (Lake View).
The closest destination on this list, you can make it to Story City in 45 minutes by taking I-35 north from Des Moines. Best known for their 1913 Herschell-Spillman antique carousel complete with hand-carved wooden animals and tunes from a 1936 Wurlitzer band organ. The Carousel opens for the season on May 22nd. The community hosts its signature event, Scandinavian Days, in early June to celebrate its roots with traditional foods, folklore and a rich pride of its heritage.
Head southeast, a little over two hours from Des Moines and you’ll find the Villages of Van Buren, home to some of the most quaint communities in the state. Spring is a great time to visit the Villages of Van Buren, which consists of 12 historical villages located along the Des Moines River. Shop and eat local as there are no chains found here. Visit Dutchman’s store in Cantril to see what shopping at an old fashioned mercantile may have been like. Cheese lovers will want to stop by Milton’s Creamery also in Cantril and history buffs will want to check out Bentonsport’s downtown which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
If you’re making the 141-mile trip from Des Moines to West Bend, you gotta go to the Grotto of the Redemption, one of Iowa’s most unique attractions. It’s one of those places you must see IRL to get the full effect. Take a tour to find out how and why this elaborate grotto (actually nine separate grottoes that show scenes from Christ’s life) was constructed with stones and gems from around the world.
What’s your family’s favorite spring getaway? We’d love to hear!