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13 Fun Things To Do In Des Moines In the Winter

One of the best parts about living in or visiting the Midwest is being able to experience all four seasons. Even as the weather turns chilly, there are still tons of things to do across the great plains that take advantage of winter weather. 

Whether you’re looking to embrace the cold or could use ideas for places to stay warm, there’s something for everyone when it comes to things to do in Des Moines during the winter. 

Lace Up Your Skates

Ice skating at downtown Des Moines’ Brenton Skating Plaza is an annual tradition for many around the metro. This open-air rink is located just off the Des Moines Riverwalk with beautiful views of the city’s skyline. Plus it’s a short walk into the East Village to warm up with dinner or a drink after you’re done skating.

A mother and daughter ice skate at Des Moines' Breton Skating Plaza
Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

If you don’t have skates of your own, Brenton Skating Plaza offers rentals as well as occasional learn to skate classes. 

Brenton Skating Plaza, 520 Robert D. Ray Drive, Des Moines

Get in the Holiday Spirit at the Christkindlmarket

Experience a traditional German Christmas market right in the heart of downtown Des Moines at the Christkindlmarket. With dozens of vendors, mouth-watering food and even traditional warm, mulled wine, this weekend-long event is typically held the first weekend in December.

The annual holiday market is put on by the Iowa European Cultural Connection, a local nonprofit that connects Iowans of European heritage with language learning and cultural experiences. 

Christkindlmarket Des Moines, Principal Park, 1 Line Drive, Des Moines

Play, Ski & Sled Outdoors

With colder weather comes winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snow tubing and more. Luckily Des Moines has two outdoor sports parks perfect for winter sport enthusiasts within easy driving distance of the metro. 

A girl with a snow tube at Seven Oaks Recreation

Located on the east side of Des Moines, Sleepy Hollow Sports Park offers snow tubing and multiple types of sledding on a number of different runs from easy to difficult terrain. North of Des Moines in Boone, Seven Oaks Recreation Center offers snow tubing, skiing and snowboarding with 11 different runs available on its slopes. 

Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, 4051 Dean Ave., Des Moines

Seven Oaks Recreation Center, 1086 222nd Drive, Boone

Cheer on the Iowa Wild

With colder weather comes hockey season and Des Moines is lucky to have a local team to root on. Spending an evening with the Iowa Wild is a great way to experience a different piece of the city while staying relatively warm from your seat inside. 

Iowa Wild, Wells Fargo Arena, 730 Third St., Des Moines

Stay Cozy in a Museum

Winter is the perfect time to delve deep into museums and Des Moines is lucky to have plenty of options. If you’re a fan of modern and contemporary art, the Des Moines Art Center is the perfect place to wander for an afternoon and enjoy the snowy views of Greenwood Park from indoors. Or, if you prefer local history, the Iowa State Historical Museum and the Iowa State Capitol Law Library are both excellent options to keep it cozy while learning something new.

Kids playing at the Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines

The Science Center of Iowa is also an excellent, family-friendly place to spend the day with a variety of permanent and traveling exhibits. 

Des Moines Art Center, 4700 Grand Ave., Des Moines

Science Center of Iowa, 401 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, Des Moines

Iowa State Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust St., Des Moines

Iowa State Capitol Law Library, 1007 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines

Support Small Businesses (and Shop, Shop, Shop)

The East Village’s Holiday Promenade is a favorite local tradition that kicks off the start of the holiday season with support for the city’s small businesses. The promenade includes fun holiday activities like carolers, horse drawn carriage rides and more.

Small businesses in the East Village also have extended hours as well as holiday promotions and other fun surprises to make shopping small this season even easier. 

Related post: Did you work up an appetite or need a happy hour drink? Here are some of the most fun restaurants and bars in Des Moines.

Find Unique Ways to Thaw Out

It can be downright frosty in Des Moines during the winter so it’s important to have places you can go to thaw. An excellent option to boost your mood and warm up is the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, which is home to hundreds of beautiful exotic plants and a delightfully steamy greenhouse dome.

The greenhouse dome at Greater Des Moines Botanical garden
Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

If you aren’t in the mood for a wander amongst the plants, a stop at Gong Fu Tea in the East Village is a great way to bring a little warmth to your day or your home with a cup of tea to stay or loose leaf tea to go. 

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, 909 Robert D. Ray Drive, Des Moines

Gong Fu Tea, 414 E. Sixth St., Des Moines

Explore the City in a New Way

One of the best parts of a new season is seeing how it can transform a city. Embrace the snowy weather and wander around a neighborhood in Des Moines you may already be familiar with, but with new eyes.

If you need a little help getting started, there are lots of great classes and organizations to help. For instance, Des Moines Parks and Recreation offers seasonal snowshoe walks through the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Or the Des Moines Street Collectives hosts occasional fat tire bike rides along local trails. 

About the Guest Blogger

Megan Bannister is a freelance writer and blogger at Olio in Iowa based in Des Moines, Iowa. When she’s not sampling and writing about food, Megan enjoys visiting unique destinations, roadside attractions, and “world’s largest” things across the Midwest and beyond. Her book, Iowa Supper Clubs, highlights classic eateries past and present from around the state.

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