Free Things to do in Greater Des Moines

There is no shortage of free things to do in Des Moines! If arts and culture is your thing, explore the Des Moines Art Center, Moberg Gallery, or the John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines. Learn about the history of Iowa at the State Historical Museum or check out the long list of Iowa athletes that have made a lasting impact at the Iowa Hall of Pride. ­­Meander shopping districts such as Historic Valley JunctionHistoric East Village and West Glen Town Center where exploring is free! Enjoy the Des Moines Public Library who hosts an array of unique events every week. Enjoy a long list of free attractions in Des Moines year-round. Save on your budget and do more for less in Greater Des Moines.


Des Moines Art Center

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The widely respected Des Moines Art Center houses an impressive collection in a building that has grown with additions by world-class architects. Browse the art or try to create it! Sign up to participate in an art class for an additional charge. 

Ankeny Art Center

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The Ankeny Art Center, just minutes from downtown, features gallery space for local artists work. With new exhibitions every 6-8 weeks, it’s easy to catch something new each time you are there. They also offer art classes for an additional charge.

John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park

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The John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in the heart of downtown Des Moines. This 28-piece art park features the work of world renowned artists. It’s a great place to snap a photo!

Another hidden art gem in Greater Des Moines is the Hoyt Sherman Art Gallery and Museum. Founded in 1885, the Des Moines Women's Club knew that an art collection was needed in the city. This is now recognized as one of the earliest and most distinctive in Iowa, and you can get a look at the Hoyt Sherman Art Gallery and Museum. Open weekdays from 9 a.m. — 5 p.m. and guided tours are available!

Historical Museums & Exhibits

State Historical Museum of Iowa

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The State Historical Museum of Iowa features large interactive exhibits that engage children and adults. Discover Iowa’s history and culture with permanent and rotating exhibits.

World Food Prize Hall of Laureates

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Experience the stunning World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. The century-old library building honors Norman E. Borlaug and his global achievements in science, agriculture and humanitarian efforts.

Iowa State Capitol

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With a 23-karat gold dome top, it’s hard to miss the beautiful Iowa State Capitol on the edge of downtown. This building houses the governor’s office, legislature and the old Supreme Court room . Guided tours are available.

Iowa Hall of Pride

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From Olympic Gold Medalist Shawn Johnson to NBA All Star Fred Hoiberg, the Iowa Hall of Pride showcases some of Iowa’s greatest natives. All ages can enjoy interactive exhibits. This is free to all Iowa students. 

Carnegie Library Museum

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Celebrate! Innovation Exhibition

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The Celebrate! Innovation Exhibition is designed to highlight the importance of creative thinking and innovation. Browse exhibits and artifacts, photos and more on America’s innovative spirit.

Historic Swanson House and Clive Depot

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Explore the historic center of Clive, which was platted in 1882 by touring the Historic Swanson House and Clive Depot. Guided tours are available to learn more about the history of the people and businesses of the city of Clive

Iowa Gold Star Military Museum

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The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum displays artifacts and tells the story of Iowa veterans from the Mexican War of 1846 to present day. The museum also houses a reference library on military subjects and Iowa veterans.

No matter what season, you can also enjoy one of the many beautiful parks and nature areas in Greater Des Moines! Find a full list of parkstrails, lakes and more here.