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Winter Bucket List: 25 Things to Do in Des Moines This Winter

Des Moines Winter Survival Guide Winter Bucket List Central Iowa for Families

Wondering how to beat cabin fever? The mom-approved winter ideas on our winter bucket list feature things to do around Des Moines, as well as free, boredom-busting ideas you can do without leaving your living room!

Whether you want to stay warm and cozy at home or head out to some of central Iowa’s best sledding hills, here’s the inside scoop on how to survive (and hey, we prefer thrive!) during winter in Des Moines!

How many items can you check off on this winter bucket list for kids and families?

  1. Explore the Des Moines Art Center. It’s free! The Drawing in Space exhibit is an incredible, interactive sculpture you can climb with your kids. It’s here in Des Moines until Jan. 21. Check out their calendar for fun, family-friendly events, too. 
  2. Too cold to go outside? Channel your inner ice skater with a stop at Metro Ice Sports Facility, which features two indoor NHL-sized rinks. There’s a lounge area with concessions, and beginners are welcome! Skate rental is $3, and kids 12 and under skate for $5. Admission for adults is $7.
  3. Set up an indoor obstacle course. Whether your home is big or small, a little rearranging can turn a living room into a test track! Bring in bikes, scooters, Power Wheels, Cozy Coupes, and play tents and tunnels.
  4. Bring winter fun inside. Scoop up some snow and place into big bowls or plastic containers. Add some food coloring and measuring cups, and you’ve got a good twenty minutes of solid entertainment for kids of all ages!
  5. Do the kids have some energy to burn? Go sledding! We hear Winter Park is a fun place to visit – it has a free outdoor ice arena, too. Some moms also rave about the hills at Waveland Golf Course. Be sure to enjoy some hot cocoa when you get home. Pass the marshmallows!
  6. There’s not a more wintery sport than hockey! Cheer on the Iowa Wild. Children under two are free, the rest will need tickets. (Mom tip: Warn your kiddos ahead of time that there might be some loud buzzer noises!)
  7. Everyone thinks of ice skating during the winter, but rollerskating is a fun way to burn some energy and beat cabin fever. Skate North Incrediroll in Des Moines has special “toddler time” and “tiny tot skate” — check out their schedule to find the right time and price for your family.
  8. Go Bulldogs! Don your blue and white and cheer on the men and women’s Drake Basketball teams! Here’s the schedule.
  9. Want to stay home? Grab some old magazines, a few kid-friendly scissors, construction paper, and glue to make winter-theme collages. It’s always fun to see what kids create!
  10. Try your hand at cosmic bowling at Warrior Lanes in Waukee. The bowling center features family bowling parties that include glow-in-the-dark bowling, mom-approved music, and yummy food. Check their schedule for upcoming 2018 events!
  11. Sometimes you just need to pretend it’s summer! When you’re aching for warmer days, visit the Urbandale’s indoor pool. Children 2 years of age and under are free with paid adult. Swimmers three and older are $5.
  12. A free and fun way to spend time with other parents and children? Storytime at local libraries, of course! Here’s a list of all the Des Moines Public Library locations and hours. 
  13. Add some winter whimsy to your weekend with a visit to Brenton Skating Plaza in downtown Des Moines. Skate under the stars, catch snowflakes on your tongue, and make memories! Children five and under are free, and ice scooters are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Kids older than five are $5 and adults are $8. Skate rental is $4.50. (Sizes start at toddler size 8!)
  14. For some free indoor fun, visit Barnes and Noble (there’s one in Jordan Creek Town Center and one on University in West Des Moines). Grab a magazine while the kids play at the train table, and maybe you can leave with a new book to read for some quality family time! (Check out the local Barnes and Noble event calendar, they offer some fun themed story hours!)
  15. Get ready for the 2018 Winter Olympics! While you might not be able to hop a plane to the Republic of Korea, you can get in the spirit here in Des Moines! The Olympic Museum provides educational experience kits you can download for free.
  16. Warm up at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens. Ditch the gloves and hats and enjoy the tropical and temperate oasis in the heart of downtown Des Moines.
  17. Enjoy some endorphins with a family dance party. Turn off the video games and turn up the music! Create a Spotify playlist with some family-friendly tunes (hey, Kidz Bop isn’t so bad….) and get your boogie on!
  18. Burn some energy in the skywalks of downtown Des Moines. Whether you’re pushing a stroller or exploring with bigger kiddos (some even bring little bikes or scooters), there’s lots of room to run and plenty of cars to watch on the streets below.
  19. Throw some water beads in the tub, turn on some water, and watch them grow! Let your kids wear their swimsuits as they enjoy the sensory fun of playing in a tub filled with squishy, bouncy, marble-sized beads. (A little goes a long way — one $13 bag will yield about 20 gallons of beads!)
  20. Want a mom-approved way for your kids to entertain themselves? Get a large roll of drawing paper (you can find them at local craft stores), provide some crayons or markers, and sit back and relax.
  21. Get physical! Bring a small basketball hoop inside, set up a small trampoline, or push all the family room furniture to the side for a rousing soccer game. Tour your garage and challenge yourself to put an indoor twist on the fun items you already have. A little imagination goes a long way, and kids beating cabin fever saves your sanity, too!
  22. Argh! Attend a Des Moines Buccaneers hockey game. Tickets are affordable, and they boast frequent deal nights. (On Jan. 20, hotdogs, soda, and popcorn are only $1 each!)
  23. Sometimes, you just need to get out of the house. But where do you go? Check out our guide to indoor play areas in Des Moines.
  24. Have older kids? Take a tour of the Iowa Capitol – it’s quite impressive! Tours are free. Click here for more information.
  25. Warm up in the kitchen! Have the kids help you make a pot of soup. Here are our favorite cold-weather soup recipes!

What are your tried-and-true tips for surviving winter? Let us know!

winter bucket list kids activities

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