Every year winter makes its return to the Midwest and every year we complain about the cold and the snow. (Eventually we’ll remember we live in Iowa, and it happens every year.) Our New Year’s resolution is to shake off the winter blues and learn to embrace the outdoors during these cold months. So, get the coat, gloves, hats, scarves, boots, and maybe even snow pants and some hand warmers ready because we’re heading outside!

Ice Skating  

Trade your boots in for some ice skates at the iconic Brenton Skating Plaza. It’s the perfect spot to take the family for an afternoon or evening as you take in the views of the Des Moines River and skyline. Admission is $8 for adults and $ for kids/seniors, and you can bring your own skates or rent a pair ($4.50) while you are there. Or rent out the whole thing for a unique birthday bash!  

The Iowa Wild has partnered with Wells Fargo to bring outdoor ice rinks to area parks. You can find them in Altoona, Ankeny, Johnston, Indianola, Urbandale, West Des Moines, and Waukee. Find the exact locations here.  

The Valley Ice Plaza outside the Valley Community Center in West Des Moines is another great rink to bring your skates and check out a family skate or broomball. They even have free coffee and wifi! 

Johnston is putting a new spin on ice skating, with a synthetic ice rink in their newly opened town center. Skate for free if you have your own skates or rent a pair for $5 (Friday – Sunday).


Bring out the inner kid in you and find some of the local sledding spots around Greater Des Moines. Even better – we’ll tell you where you can go! Just don’t wax your sled like Clark Griswold did.  

• West side of the Supreme Court Building 

• Waveland Golf 

• The old Catholic Church Hill in Indianola 

• Behind Metro Ice Complex 

• Jordan Creek Elementary 

• Beaver Creek Golf Course 

Really all you need is a sled and a fun attitude!  

Ski, Snowboard, and Snow Tube 

Love sledding, but hate walking up that daunting hill over and over? Head to Seven Oaks Recreation in Boone for some snow tubing, skiing, or snowboarding, where they take you to the top in style! Don’t worry if it hasn’t snowed that much because they make their own snow. You can rent skis or a snowboard or bring your own. If you get tired of working those muscles skiing or snowboarding, rent a tube and do some snowtubing. We’ve heard it’s totally tubular! Reserve a time slot online, because they fill up fast on nice days.

Blank Park Zoo 

Plan a visit to the Blank Park Zoo and see how some of the animals live in their habitat during the winter months. Some exhibits are closed as some of the animals aren’t used to the cold winter months. The zoo is also still doing events throughout the winter months that would make for a perfect learning opportunity for the kiddos.  

Snowshoe/Cross-Country Ski  

Enjoy the fresh fallen snow with snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. You can rent both through Polk County Conservation at the Jester Park Nature Center. Both Jester Park and Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt have trails specifically for cross-country skiing. If you prefer walking in the snow, throw on some snowshoes! The technique is the same, just walk a wider stance. You can snowshoe just about anywhere as long as there’s enough snow. Polk County has some recommended trails, they just ask that you avoid the cross-country ski trails.

Winter hikes 

Maybe you don’t have to go the extra mile and snowshoe or cross-country ski, just keep it simple and step outside for a hike. Most of the trails that are open during the warmer months are open during the winter too. Taking a winter hike shows you a different side scene of the trails, one that we personally enjoy when there’s fresh snowfall.  


If you’re one of those cool people that own a snowmobile (jealous!), Polk County has the perfect spot for you. The Lakeshore Trail at Jester Park has five miles to snowmobile when there’s at least four inches of snow on the ground.  

Polk County Conservation 

Polk County Conservation is a great resource to find winter things to do, events, and rentals. Their events are both indoors and outdoors. Their outdoor events will have you exploring the outdoors and learning about how animals live through the winter months and take you on hikes through their parks. If you really want to immerse yourself in the outdoors, you can rent a cabin at one of their cabins located at Thomas Mitchell Park and Jester Park. Just think, you wake up, have a cup of coffee, and then head outside to enjoy a hike or some snowshoeing. Sounds like a pretty good weekend to us.  

Embrace Winter with Friends of Des Moines Parks events 

Friends of Des Moines Parks is looking to get more people to enjoy the winter months, so they’ve created some events that might spark some joy when it comes to being outdoors.  

Saturday, January 15: Embrace Winter at Gray’s Lake. Walk the loop with fun stops along the way, bird watching, games, and trivia. The stop at Confluence Brewing to warm up.
More information here: https://www.facebook.com/events/452482139820349 

 Saturday, January 22: Embrace Winter at Waveland Park. Kids can try some “Winter Olympics” before everyone heads out on a hike or snowshoe to the Observatory for a star presentation and hot cocoa.
More information here: https://www.facebook.com/events/495441508517662