Voas Nature Area & Museum is a diverse outdoor area with different foliage and wildlife. The museum focuses on rocks, fossils, and minerals from around the world. They have annual salamander sightings and classes in October!
The Forest Park Museum and Arboretum is on 17 acres, with the Raccoon River Valley Trail passing through the arboretum. There are several buildings including a visitor center with live animals, First Nations artifacts, and a rifle collection. Hastie Hall has Dallas County history from the 1800’s to the 20th century, including early transportation, occupations, and common farm/house items. Baldwin Hall showcases the lives and occupations of Dallas County’s early pioneers. Wagner Gallery has a library and collections for architect William Wagner. There is a log cabin, originally built in 1863, a scale house used to weigh grain, and a one room Alton School House, used from 1867-1961.
It is more of a museum complex, with the several buildings existing separate from one another but connected by trails. There are handy “touch here” signs in some of the display halls, but a toddler would get easily frustrated with all the things they aren’t supposed to touch! The spaces are small and densely packed with information and things to look at.
Ashton Wildwood Park is only about 30 minutes NE of Des Moines and houses the Des Moines Astronomical Society’s observatory. There are also wooded hiking trails and softball facilities.