Top 10 Best Parks around Des Moines, Iowa

A list of the top 10 parks that are worth a 30-45 minute drive, around the Des Moines, Iowa metro. Unique playground elements, cool structures nearby, and themed parks.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while and finally made a list, it’s my personal top ten parks around the Des Moines metro! These are the parks that I think are worth a 30-45 minute drive from wherever you are because they are so fun, appeal to multiple ages, and have something(s) that can’t be found anywhere else! I’ve included a little blurb about why we love each park and you can click on the link to see more pictures and nitty gritty details about each spot. There is a map at the bottom to see where they all are, let me know if you think I left any place out that deserves to be here!

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Glow Wild 2017 at Jester Park!

glow wild at jester park 2017 event

We had so much fun at the inaugural Glow Wild event last year and have been looking forward to this year’s event all summer! This is a fundraiser for the Jester Park Nature Center (yay!!) and sponsored by Charles Gabus Ford & Firetrucker Brewery. If you went last year, you know the attendance way exceeded their expectations but they have planned a bigger and better event to accommodate even more crowds.

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1 Mile Trail Route at Margo Frankel State Park

1 mile hike at margo frankel state park

Time to share another trail route! Margo Frankel Woods State Park is a little mysterious, with very little internet presence. Conveniently located close to I-35, the trail can be hard to find from the parking lot but you quickly feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere once you’re on it! There is a main gravel trail and then lots of dirt “deer trails”; we have explored both but now I’m sharing a simple 1 mile trail route. It isn’t a loop, but I’ll give you the landmark to look for and turn around.

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14+ Creek Splashing Spots around Des Moines

A list of good creeks to play in around central Iowa - the Des Moines metro area. See pictures and find out where to park and play.

Water level

My kids love playing in water, whether it is at a sprayground (here is a list of all the free wading pools and spraygrounds!), lake, or creek. I have the most fun when we take “creek walks” or go “creek splashing” because it is rarely deep enough to be worrisome and we are almost always the only ones there. Throwing rocks, hunting for crayfish, and digging in the sand keeps them busy for as long as I can stand it! Check out all the good creek splashing spots we have found around Des Moines, Iowa; there is a map at the bottom! Let me know if I missed any of your favorites, I will keep it updated. Also check out the artificial “creek” at McHenry Park.

Please keep in mind before you head out that water levels can change depending on the temperature and rainfall. I’ve had people ask me in the past about water quality/safety concerns, and I know the Iowa DNR tracks bacteria levels in the lakes, but I personally don’t worry about it.

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