Passionate About Des Moines
and the Moms Who Live Here

Des Moines Area Fall Bucket List

des moines fall bucket listMake family memories this fall with Des Moines Moms Blog’s ultimate fall bucket list.

We’ve compiled 50 things to do in Des Moines this fall. That’s right: We’ve done our homework to help you plan your best fall, ever! These budget-friendly, kid-friendly bucket list ideas include special central Iowa locations, must-try fall foods, experiences to remember, and more.

Jump in the leaves! Eat the caramel apple! Cheer under those Friday night lights!

How many can you check off the list?

Go ahead, take too many pictures. You know you want to.

Fall Bucket List: 50 Ways to Enjoy Fall in Des Moines

  1. Visit a pumpkin patch. (Our central Iowa guide will help you pick which one!)
  2. Trek the trails of Ledges State Park.
  3. Head downtown and grab an apple pie or pumpkin spice cupcake from Molly’s Cupcakes.
  4. Invite the neighbors over for a fall bonfire. (Load up on hot dogs and s’more supplies!)
  5. Try a handmade caramel from Beaverdale Confections.
  6. Check out fall-theme picture books from the library, grab some stuffed animals, and have a cozy, at-home story time with your preschooler.
  7. Attend a Drake Bulldogs football game.
  8. Get nostalgic and send a piece of your favorite childhood Halloween candy in your little one’s lunchbox.
  9. Buy a locally-made soy candle with your fave fall scent.
  10. Navigate the 10-acre corn maze at Geisler Farms.
  11. Warm up a pot of apple cider.
  12. Grab your costumes and visit the Blank Park Zoo for Night Eyes.
  13. Get a babysitter and attend Des Moines Oktoberfest.
  14. Paint pumpkins.
  15. Give your kids a camera and take a nature walk around your neighborhood, letting them snap pictures from their point of view. Then, print a small photo book to remember your adventure!
  16. Add canned pumpkin to a spice cake mix for super-easy pumpkin spice cupcakes!
  17. Head to the East Village to learn how to make three fall-themed risotto meals.
  18. Gear up for a family bike ride on the High Trestle Trail. (The views are amazing this time of year!)
  19. Rake the leaves…so you can jump in them. (Set your DSLR to a fast shutter-speed to ensure some top-notch photos!)
  20. Jump on the giant jumping pillow at North River Adventures.
  21. Go old school and make a scarecrow. (Not too scary, obvs!)
  22. Create a playlist and play it while you drive over the mile-long Saylorville Lake bridge. The bold fall foliage will inspire you!
  23. Attend the Pumpkin Walk (it’s free!) in the Historic Valley Junction.
  24. Grab your slow cooker and make a big ol’ batch of chili.
  25. Get crafty! Gather your family to make (and decorate!) a list of everything you’re thankful for.
  26. Head to Beaverdale Fall Festival. (The parade = candy for days!)
  27. Ride the Boone Scenic Railway (kids love it!) and soak in the gorgeous fall foliage.
  28. Take a family hike in Jester Park.
  29. Spend a Saturday picking apples and adventuring at Center Grove Orchard.
  30. Take advantage of cooler temperatures by giving back and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of Central Iowa.
  31. Carve pumpkins.
  32. Book a family photography session to capture the beautiful changing leaves. 
  33. Don your flannel and go on a camping adventure at Walnut Woods State Park. (Enjoy the country experience within city limits!)
  34. Create a family theme for Halloween costumes and get ready for Beggars’ Night! (Des Moines newbies: Beggars’ Night is a Iowa thing we do for trick-or-treating. Might as well bone up on your jokes, while you’re at it!)
  35. Enjoy the fresh air with a walk around Gray’s Lake.
  36. Missing summer? Revive a rainy fall day with a trip to Backyard Adventures.
  37. Explore Ledges State Park and bring a picnic to enjoy in the fresh autumn air when you’re finished.
  38. Hit up the Des Moines Public Library for a good novel to crack open by the fire.
  39. Plan a night out with friends at a local winery. Most offer the chance to unwind with free live music. (Wineries to consider: Jasper, Summerset, Prairie Moon, or Snus Hill!)
  40. Gather coats your little ones have outgrown and donate them.
  41. Nosh some pumpkin pancakes at Drake Diner.
  42. Make an apple pie with your kids and deliver it to a someone who could use a smile. (Store-bought crust is okay!)
  43. Crack open the windows and enjoy the fresh air. (Simple, but sometimes we need the reminder to slow down and breathe!)
  44. Order a pumpkin spice latte at Friedrich’s. (You know you want to.)
  45. Take a hayride.
  46. Don your crimson and gold and join a tailgate party at an Iowa State football game. It’s just a short drive to Ames!
  47. Book an Airbnb for a romantic fall weekend getaway. (Central Iowa has lots of gorgeous options!)
  48. Toast pumpkin seeds after you’re done carving pumpkins.
  49. Go thrifting for some vintage flair to add to your fall decor. (We love retro thermoses and plaid blankets!)
  50. Head up a fall adventure walk with your kids, collecting pine cones, acorns, leaves, and branches. Use them to decorate your fireplace mantel.

How many of these fall bucket list ideas can you accomplish this year here in Des Moines? Which ideas were new to you? And most importantly — what did we miss? Let us know!

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