Summer Activities in Des Moines: Are There Things to Do in A Smaller City?

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When thinking of tourist attractions Des Moines is not the first place that comes to most travelers’ minds. But with gas prices on the rise many people are choosing to find fun things to do that are closer to home.

Only driving an hour or two from your home may leave you with plenty to do if you live near Chicago, Minneapolis, or Boston. But what about those who do not live close to a big city? Are there really things to do in every town?

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What are things to do in Des Moines? – image by

Des Moines is an excellent example of a small city with much to offer. In the summer the city explodes with a plethora of activities for families and young professionals. The summer activities kick off with two neighboring suburbs offering after work parties on Fridays.

These begin in May and continue through September with one party catering only to the 21 and over set (Clive After Five), and the other to families with activities for children (Urbandale Friday Fest).

Urbandale Friday Fest in Des Moines

Both after work parties’ feature live music, food and refreshments and are a wonderful place to start out the weekend.

The Des Moines Arts Festival is a three-day festival held June 29th to July 1st. It features 150 national artists selectively chosen from a pool of 1438 applicants. All throughout the weekend there will be free entertainment on several stages and street theatre groups will be performing throughout the crowd.

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The Des Moines Arts Festival – image by

The Joffrey Ballet will be giving a free public performance on the opening night. Admission is free, more information and directions can be found at

Living History Farms is an all day attraction perfect for families with children of any age. Living History Farms features four separate working areas that visitors can tour: the 1700 Ioway Indian farm, the 1850 Pioneer farm, the 1875 Town of Walnut Hill, and a 1900 horse-powered farm.

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Living History Farms is an all day attraction perfect for families – image by

Activities at Living History include all care of animals and crops, canning food, spinning wool, building lodges, chopping wood, baling straw and other activities as seasonally necessary. There are over 400 games, chores, and projects that kids and adults can participate in throughout the site. A family style restaurant is located just off-site for a mid afternoon break.

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For an end of the summer activity that will thrill kids and adults alike, look no further then the Des Moines Renaissance Faire. The Renaissance faire is held the first three weekends in September at a newly constructed, permanent Olde English Village.

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Des Moines Renaissance Faire – image by

The village consists of 50 merchant buildings filled with Iowa wines, wild game vendors, domestic and imported beers, bakery items, and other carnival foods as well as Renaissance memorabilia to commemorate your visit.

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Olde English Village – image by

There will be a royal court, jousting knights on horseback, and dozens of other stage shows, along with the opportunity to interact with roving pirates, faeries, swordsman and wenches that will be wandering the village. Visitors are invited to dress in medieval clothing to help heighten the experience.

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Visitors are invited to dress in medieval clothing to help heighten the experience – image by

It isn’t only large cities that offer fun things to do. Smaller cities can offer families and couples many options if you take the time to look. Summer often has an abundance of festivals and other activities for families to enjoy together, which is truly the point.


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