Things to do in West Des Moines

West Des Moines is a fantastic family friendly community that is thriving.

There is constant growth and development occurring throughout this town which brings so many opportunities and things to do in West Des Moines for its citizens and visitors alike. 

Whether you are visiting or living in the area, this list of things to do in West Des Moines will keep you entertained and provide you with some great experiences.

Spare Time

Spare Time, located off of Jordan Creek Parkway, is a terrific place to spend an afternoon or evening with family and friends. There is so much for everyone to do!

The bowling alley here is super impressive! They have huge flat screen televisions surrounding it. 

Besides bowling, there is also a huge arcade area. They have a wide variety of arcade games that people of all ages and interests will love.

Even more, Spare Time also has a really cool laser tag experience and some escape rooms.

They even have a restaurant area with a wide variety of food and drinks. 

Spare Time is a fantastic place for some fun entertainment. Everything is so new, bright, and clean. I definitely recommend this venue.

Best Ages: I would recommend Spare Time for ages 5 and up as I think that age group will really be able to enjoy all its activities the most. That said, I do take my three year old to Spare Time, and he always has fun, too! They also do have bowling ramps for younger kids to use. 

Time Needed to Spend Here: 1-2 hours

Smash Park

Another phenomenal place to spend time with a large or small group or just the family is Smash Park.

We LOVE going to Smash Park.

One, it has a unique yummy menu.

Additionally, there is so much to do to keep everyone entertained. 

Smash Park has games and activities both inside and outside.

It has pickleball courts, bocce ball, cornhole, shuffleboard, ping pong, Jenga, giant Connect 4, and foosball just to name a few. 

It also has a good sized arcade.

Smash Park is the perfect restaurant, arcade, and entertainment venue all in one! Your family or group is sure to have a blast here.

Best Ages: I would also recommend kids to be ages 5 and up for Smash Park. Again, that doesn’t mean you cannot bring the younger kids. It is just easier to manage a little bit older kids when you are here!

Time Needed to Spend Here: 1-2 hours 

Jordan Creek Mall

The Jordan Creek Mall is another super family friendly and entertaining place to visit in West Des Moines.

It is THE shopping destination in Iowa. 

Families can enjoy checking out a variety of stores in the mall including Von Maur, Scheels, and Barnes and Noble. 

There is also an indoor play area for the younger kids.

The Jordan Creek Mall also has a really great food court that includes a Des Moines’ area favorite–Zombie Burger. 

If you want a full service restaurant experience, visitors can enjoy the Cheesecake Factory or a number of restaurants walkable from the mall. 

The mall also has the Century 20 Jordan Creek and XD movie theater.

On a gorgeous day or evening, visitors to Jordan Creek Mall can also enjoy a walk around the beautiful lake and see the fountain. 

Families and friends can make it a special day or fun outing by spending time at the Jordan Creek Mall. 

Best Ages: The Jordan Creek Mall is perfect for ALL ages!

Time Needed to Spend Here: If you are doing some shopping plus eating at a restaurant, and then maybe taking a walk around the lake, you could spend anywhere from 2 hours to a half of a day here. 

Des Moines Children’s Museum

Visiting the Des Moines Children’s Museum is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. 

Located in the Valley West Mall, the Des Moines Children’s Museum is perfect for kids ages 10 and under. 

It is very affordable and has so many opportunities for imaginative and pretend play. 

They also frequently have special activities and events going on. 

The Valley West Mall is also a great place to grab lunch before or after your visit to the Children’s Museum.

The mall has Blaze Pizza, Jimmy John’s, Chipotle, and more. 

This is a great opportunity to enjoy spending time at the Children’s Museum paired with a yummy meal. 

Best Ages: The Des Moines Children’s Museum is best for kids under 10 years of age.

Time Needed to Spend Here: Most people spend about 2 hours here.

DSM Children's Museum sign and windows looking into the museum

Jordan House

The Jordan House is a historical museum for people to visit that played a major role in the Abolitionist movement and Underground Railroad. 

This house has a unique and interesting history and so many intriguing artifacts. 

Visitors can take a tour of the Jordan House on Fridays and Sundays at two different times. 

Tickets for the tour are required to be purchased in advance on the West Des Moines Historical Society’s website

This is a great activity for friends and family to get a little history lesson.

The Jordan House is located near Valley Junction in West Des Moines.

Visitors could pair a visit to the Jordan House with lunch and a little shopping at Valley Junction. 

Best Ages: The Jordan House is best for older children. The tour is about an hour and 15 minutes and has many historic artifacts. Any children on the tour would need to be able to stand and listen for this amount of time while not touching any of the artifacts. 

Time Needed to Spend Here: The tour is about 1 hour and 15 minutes long.

Valley Junction

Historic Valley Junction also has an intriguing history. Much of its history traces back to James Jordan, the same man who was one of this community’s earliest settlers and who built the home which is now the Jordan House Museum. 

Valley Junction was West Des Moines’ original downtown and still serves as a historic downtown for this community. 

There are so many unique shops in Valley Junction. You can find everything from candy shops and art galleries to antique shops, and gifts and collectibles. 

Valley Junction also has numerous fantastic restaurants for lunch or dinner. 

The Hall is a unique dining experience as it is currently Iowa’s only food and beverage hall.

Valley Junction also has many great events throughout the year including its Thursday evening Farmers Market that runs all summer through the end of September. 

Best Ages: People of all ages can enjoy Valley Junction.

Time Needed to Spend Here: You could spend 1-2 hours at Valley Junction.

Valley View Aquatic Center

In the summertime, Valley View Aquatic Center is an exciting place to spend some time!

It has four water huge slides plus a lazy river. 

On top of that, it has a zero depth pool with an interactive play area. 

There is also an additional pool with diving boards.

Valley View Aquatic Center has something for everyone and is great for all ages.

From 5:30-6:30 pm on most nights, there is lazy river walking for adults as well as lap swimming in one of the pools. 

Even more, on Sunday and Wednesday evenings the aquatic center has family night from 6:30-8:30 where the total cost to swim is $15 per family. 

Best Ages: This aquatic center is perfect for all ages!

Time Needed to Spend Here: 2 hours up to most of the day

Kids Empire

One of West Des Moines’ newest attractions, Kids Empire, will for sure bring joy and excitement to anyone who visits.

This attraction is the ultimate play place for kids of all ages!

There are so many fun obstacles, humongous slides, balance beams, bridges, and more!

Kids Empire has two main play areas. One is designated for toddlers and babies in diapers while the other is for the older kids. 

When the kids need a break from playing, there is a snack shop inside of Kids Empire.

Another important tip is that you can leave and re-enter the facility. Just save your receipt and let a team member know before you leave. 

Kids Empire is a little bit pricey so it would be worth it to spend a few hours at the venue, then maybe leave for lunch or a little shopping, and then return for some more fun later in the day!

For more details on Kids Empire, check out this post.

Best Ages: Given the price to play at Kids Empire, I would recommend ages 3-10 as being the “sweet spot” for play here. 

Time Needed to Spend Here: With its almost $20 entrance fee for each child, I would make sure to spend at least 2 hours here. If you leave and take a break and come back, you can probably spend up to 4 hours. 

Brown’s Woods

One of my favorite places to hike or take a walk during all times of the year is Brown’s Woods. 

It is Iowa’s largest urban forest. 

Brown’s Woods is gorgeous at all times of the year and is a great place to take the kids for a short hike.

The total distance of hiking trails in Brown’s Woods is 4.4 miles. 

We usually just do a short hike and depending on the time of year enjoy picking up sticks, walking over logs, listening to the birds, and simply seeing what we can find in nature. 

On a busy day, the parking lot can fill up quickly so be aware of that. 

Additionally, there is a restroom in the parking lot. 

Note: The trails can be a little confusing so make sure you take a look at the map beforehand or print it out and bring it with you.

If you want to bring a picnic lunch there is a small picnic area near the parking lot too!

Best Ages: Hiking or walking in Brown’s Woods is perfect for any age!

Time Needed to Spend Here: 1-2 hours 

Raccoon River Park

Raccoon River Park has a ton of adventure and excitement for visitors of all ages and interests. 

My favorite part of Raccoon River Park is Blue Heron Lake. 

This lake has a beach for swimming, sunbathing, and building sand castles. 

We love spending a few beach days here in the summer. 

Additionally, there is the Boathouse where visitors can rent kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddle boards.

Blue Heron Lake also has a designated fishing pier for not only fishing but also taking in the breathtaking views.

Even more, Raccoon River Park has a crushed gravel trail that goes around parts of Blue Heron Lake and between the Raccoon River. A small portion of the trail is paved.

This trail is perfect for running, walking, or bike riding. It is 3.2 miles long.

Currently the playground for Raccoon Valley Park is under construction but once it is done, I will update this post with all the details and pictures. 

This playground is going to be new and improved and bring so much joy to kids of all ages. 

Also, at Raccoon River Park is a nature lodge, dog park, soccer fields, and softball complex. 

Raccoon River Park is the perfect place to spend a morning, afternoon, or even evening. Pack a picnic lunch or dinner and enjoy some time on the beach along with a walk on the trail or rent a kayak.

There really is so much fun to be had in the great outdoors at Raccoon River Park.

Best Ages: All ages can enjoy Raccoon River Park.

Time Needed to Spend Here: You could spend anywhere from 1 hour to a half of a day here. Most people probably spend 1-2 hours at Raccoon River Park.

Quail Cove Park

One of our favorite activities when the weather is nice is to visit all of the playgrounds in West Des Moines.

Quail Cove Park is one of our favorite parks in West Des Moines.

We love it because it is nestled within a hilly landscape and although the edge of the park is close to the Interstate, the trees and hills really keep it protected and make you feel like you are in a secluded place.

I absolutely love the views of the sky and trees from this park. 

Quail Cove Park is one of my favorite places to bring a picnic lunch. 

They have some really nice picnic tables that are covered. It is so enjoyable to have lunch and enjoy the scenic views.

Quail Cove Park has two different playgrounds. One is for younger kids while the other has more involved climbing structures and even a humongous rock to climb which is perfect for older children.

Additionally, Quail Cove Park has a basketball court plus a 1⁄2 mile loop trail. I recommend taking a little hike around the park. It is really quite picturesque. 

Best Ages: All ages can enjoy Quail Cove Park. The playground equipment is a little advanced for kids under 3 but there is a baby swing and it is definitely worth still coming for a picnic and a scenic hike.

Time Needed to Spend Here: 1-2 hours

Knoll’s Park

Another one of our favorite playgrounds in West Des Moines is Knolls Park. 

The kids love Knolls Park because of its extra tall play structure. 

This playground has humongous slides that the kids LOVE going down.

There is also a smaller playground for the younger kids.

Additionally, there is a little sand pit area if you want to bring some sand toys. 

Knolls Park also has both baby and regular swings.

Parking for Knolls Park is along the street.

The park only has a port-o-potty for a restroom so keep that in mind.

There is also a paved bike trail near the park if you want to go on a walk or bike ride while you are there.

We love spending summer mornings at Knolls Park. Sometimes we will pick up donuts beforehand and then bring them to this park. 

Best Ages: All ages can enjoy Knolls Park

Time Needed to Spend Here: 1-2 hours 

West Des Moines Parks and Playgrounds

You really can’t go wrong with any of the playgrounds in West Des Moines. 

They are all very unique and fun for kids of all ages. Most of them are newer too!

Currently, the city is working to revamp some of its older playgrounds.

Recently, both Willow Springs Park and Peony Park got brand new playgrounds and now have a rubberized surface for playing. 

Additionally, Raccoon River Park is also getting a brand new playground which is super exciting. 

So many things to do in West Des Moines and beyond

West Des Moines really does have so many things to do for families!

For more to do in the West Des Moines area check out The Best Things to do in Des Moines with Kids plus Free Things to do in Des Moines.

SAVE and PIN this post to refer to it for your West Des Moines adventures. SHARE it with a friend or family member too!

May you love your adventure in West Des Moines. KW

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