Des Moines Spotlight

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Greater Des Moines Winter & Fall Activities



Ice skating at Brenton Skating Plaza: A must during the winter, this big-city outdoor skate rink sits on the river with a view of the skyline. Drop in for affordable lessons, or to watch a friendly league game between broomball teams most Sundays.

Sleigh rides in Historic Valley Junction at the Holiday Open House: Step back in time and let a horse-drawn sleigh take you through six blocks of specialty shops among 150,000 twinkling lights.

Sleepy Hollow Sports Park events...Renaissance Fair and Haunted Scream Park: Get the yell scared out of you in October, or choose the medieval event for thee lady, held the first three weekends of September.

Jolly Holiday Lights at Des Moines Water Works Park: This is a can't-miss experience. See 3.5 miles of displays each night starting in late November through January 1.

Tonic Sol-fa and Silent Night with the Nadas at Hoyt Sherman Place: These very special performances are at their best in this historical landmark theater just north of downtown.

Annual Night Eyes at Blank Park Zoo: This merry, not scary, event transforms the zoo into a world of storybook characters for costume-clad kids.

Riding the D-line during blustery days: Hop on to hop out of the elements. Check the free shuttle route and times at

Pumpkin patches, corn mazes and apple orchards throughout Greater Des Moines: Fall is a colorful, tasteful time in Iowa, and the season's farmers' markets and annual locations won't disappoint.

Festival of Trees & Lights: An annual favorite fundraiser held at The Plex downtown benefits Blank Children's Hospital.

Drake Basketball games: "Get your blue on" and cheer the Bulldogs of Drake University in the Knapp Center.

Gatsby Gala at the Salisbury House and Gardens: This much-loved event is an ode to the Roaring 20s and the Jazz Age held in a 42-room mansion modeled after the King's House in England.

High School State Wrestling and Basketball Tournaments: Join the throngs of proud parents in February and March for these quintessential sporting competitions for Iowa high schools.

Check out the downtown nightlife at Court District bars and clubs: If you're looking for an easy street to visit for a good time, this historic district of bars and restaurants offers great variety and tons of energy.

Flying Mango: Truly a unique experience in barbecue, foodies will appreciate the Cajun-Caribbean influence and homemade side dishes.

Botanical Blues at the Des Moines Botanical and Environmental Center: See spectacular seasonal displays of plants and flowers while listening to great music.

Beaverdale Fall Festival: Celebrate among the brick homes and charming merchants in one of Des Moines' favorite neighborhoods.

Iowa Events Center shows: Home to shows such as the Iowa Premier Food and Wine Expo (November); Home and Garden Show (February); and the American Quilters Society Quilt Expo (October).

Give the gift of Greater Des Moines! The Greater Des Moines Gift Card makes the perfect holiday gift: It is accepted at hundreds of hotels,
restaurants and attractions around the Metro. Stop by the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau offices in Capital Square downtown or visit Greater Des Moines Gift Card makes the perfect holiday gift: It is accepted at hundreds of hotels,  to make someone's holiday the best they've ever had!

Lunch at the Cub Club overlooking Principal Park complete with a "fire" burning on the field's big screens: Feel like a big shot dining in a restaurant "skybox" behind left field.

Snow-shoeing or cross country skiing on the 100 miles of recreational trails: Connected and quiet, Central Iowa's trails are more extensive than ever, and used year-round. Polk County Conservation is a good place to start for details.

Go for a walk at Iowa Arboretum: Billing itself as a "Library of Living Plants," you'll stroll through hundreds of species of trees, shrubs and flowers in a tranquil 40-acre scenic fall setting.

Eating in the indoor garden at Riverwalk Café: Located inside the Des Moines Botanical and Environmental Center, this elegant café serves creative cuisine overlooking tropical gardens.

Savor the sweets at Chocolaterie Stam: Truffles, bonbons, licorice and more await!

Basilica of St. John historic site: One of only two basilicas in the state, you'll marvel at the beauty of the imported marble columns and majestic pipe organs in this century old landmark near Drake University.

Lace up your bowling shoes for a round at Bass Pro Shop's bowling alley: A first for Bass Pro Shops, the Altoona store features a 12-lane nautical-themed bowling alley.

Movies and popcorn at one of the area movie theaters: Indie flick or big-screen blockbuster? Glass of wine at Fleur Cinema or a giant soda? Settle in for an affordable movie in one of the metro's 10+ cinemas.

Grab a bite to eat at South Union Bread Café's expanded and updated space: You may smell it before you see it; South Union's bread is legendary in this town. Serving lunch from 11 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. on weekdays, the popular spot recently doubled its seating.

Holly and Ivy Tour at Terrace Hill and Salisbury House and Gardens: Enjoy guided tours of magnificent mansions decked out in their holiday finest.

Check out the new, colorful sculpture at the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park: Any season is the perfect season to explore the sculpture park, and the playful dancing figures by world-class artist Keith Haring will lift your spirits.

Civic Center of Greater Des Moines: Broadway comes to town...get your tickets for the Willis Broadway Series 2012/2013.

Horse-drawn sleigh rides at Jester Park: When the snow is flying, you can be riding in style, with 45-minute horse-drawn sleigh rides for groups at $10 per person with a $50 minimum fee per reservation.

Skiing, snowboarding and tubing at Seven Oaks Recreation: Get totally tubular with the new snowboard options at this winter sports facility.

Pumpkin Express and Santa Express on the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad: Catch the fall foliage on a train trip to the Pumpkin Patch or to the North Pole on the Santa Express.

Grape stomping at local wineries: You heard it through the grapevine...most of Iowa's 50+ wineries feature a Grape Stomp through the fall.

Historic East Village Holiday Promenade: The streets, shops, restaurants and night clubs of this eclectic historic district will be alive with holiday festivities.

Greater Des Moines festivals: Amid the myriad community festivals offered in the fall, our World Food Festival, held in the Historic East Village, is an amazing experience of Iowa's diverse culinary traditions.

Tour the State Capitol: It's absolutely free to see the gorgeous gold dome from the inside of our cool Capitol, built between 1871-1886.

Des Moines Playhouse: High-energy local talent brings high quality shows.

Living History Farms Off-Road Race (Saturday before Thanksgiving): It's muddy, sloppy and crowded but many Iowans refuse to miss this 7-mile race, dubbed the biggest cross country race in North America by Runner's World.

Make your own smores with Beaverdale Confections: 11 - count them - 11 flavors of fluffy gourmet marshmallows to work with. Oh, yes, and 45 varieties of candies.

Des Moines Art Center: A world-class collection of 19th and 20th century artists, contemporary art, sculptures, five-star restaurant and more housed in architecturally-renowned structures. And it's free.

IMAX movies at Science Center of Iowa and Blank IMAX Dome Theater: Get swept away with a nature film or a feature film shown in IMAX.

State Historical Museum of Iowa: Located at the foot of our capitol, is home to many permanent exhibits chronicling Iowa history.

Eating sushi at Samurai Sushi and Hibachi and the Hoshi Sushi Lounge: Partake in authentic Japanese cuisine without ever leaving Des Moines.

Delicious BBQ at Jethro's BBQ: No need to head south to KC for tongue-tickling taste, Des Moines offers plenty of options, including the award-winning Jethro's BBQ in the Drake Neighborhood, Jethro's BBQ 'n Jake's Smokehouse Steaks and Jethro's BBQ 'n Jambalaya.

New Year's Eve festivities: GuideOne's ImaginEve for the family; The Des Moines Symphony's Cirque de la Symphonie, which combines classical music and the artistry of professional cirque performers, for the grown-ups.

Downtown Farmers' Market - Winter Season: Featuring 120 vendors, Iowans come indoors to enjoy an abundance of local products, homemade food products and gift items, the third weekend of November and December 2011 prior to Thanksgiving and Christmas, just in time for giving.

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure: Join nearly 20,000 pink-clad runners this October for an emotional race through downtown, in support of loved ones.

Indoor golfing inside the 40,000 square foot dome of Longview Golf Centre: Clubs are available, lessons are taught by PGA and LPGA professionals, and, or a fun family activity during the cold winter months, check out Longview's new 18-hole indoor miniature golf course.

Fort Des Moines Museum and Education Center: Honors the U.S. Army's first officer candidate class for African American men in 1917, and the establishment of the first Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in 1942. Tours are available Mondays through Saturdays.

Try your luck at Prairie Meadows: Loose slots, table games and a smoke-free poker room make this a favorite place to play.

Discover Iowa's military past at the new Iowa Gold Star Military Museum: The premiere veterans museum has been housed at the Iowa National Guard headquarters at Camp Dodge in Johnston since 1985. Admission is free. The exhibits are priceless.

Bike through the colors of the fall on over 100 miles of trails: Iowans like to bike, thus the large network of wonderful trails throughout Central Iowa.

Historic group dinners at Living History Farms: Go back in time with a hearty group dinner by lantern-light and play parlor games in the 1875 Tangen House or the 1900 Farm House.

Explore the climate-controlled four-mile skywalk system: Browse some of the shops in the Kaleidoscope at the Hub, or grab lunch at one of the many restaurants located throughout the downtown system.

Go Karts at America's Incredible Pizza Company: Challenge your friends in a 10-lap race, then kick back with pizza, drinks and arcade games.

Enjoy a Perry community tradition at the Lighted Christmas Parade this November: There's lighted floats, carolers, horse and buggy rides and everyone can join Santa for hot chocolate and cookies at the Hotel Pattee.

Kids are sure to love the Laser Maze and arcade games at All Play of Des Moines: They can take in the tickets and redeem for fun prizes.

Take a ride down the slides at the indoor water park at Ramada Tropics Resort and Conference Center: Enjoy a reprieve from the winter chill with a day spent poolside at this indoor tropical retreat.

See the fantastic entertainment options coming to Wells Fargo Arena at Iowa Events Center including Disney on Ice - Treasure Trove.

Walk across the new Center Street Pedestrian Bridge and see the icy, Des Moines River below: The newest addition to the Principal Riverwalk is an idyllic spot to admire the beauty of the downtown skyline.

Sample a wine flight at Sbrocco Wine Bar & Wine Shop: With more than 200 wines by the bottle from around the world, the owners promise you'll find something new on the wine list with every visit.

The Parent Organization of the Des Moines Area Sports Commission
400 Locust Street, Suite 265, Des Moines, IA 50309-2350 (800) 451-2625
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