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Socially Distanced Des Moines 

At Catch Des Moines, if there is one thing we value, it’s fun. But we value the safety of our visitors and residents even more. Fortunately, these two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can have fun exploring Greater Des Moines safely and responsibly, even in a pandemic. Below are some ideas on how to do just that. As the situation is constantly evolving, make sure to check with venues, parks and attractions for their most current guidelines.  

FIND YOUR ADVENTURE AND DOWNLOAD THIS ITINERARY HERE.


Option 1: Explore the Great Outdoors  
 

Take a Dip - Rent a pontoon for the day at Saylorville Marina and grab a bite to eat on the patio at Latitude 41 Bar and Grill. Explore over 150 miles of water trails with 86 access points in Central Iowa. No boat? No problem! Places like Raccoon River Boathouse and Quarry Springs Outfitters in Johnston offer kayak and canoe rentals, as do popular spots like Gray’s Lake. Or let a place like Seven Oaks do all the planning and take a seven mile float down the Des Moines River valley via kayak, canoe, or tube, with transportation to and from the drop spots. Dig your toes into the sand at popular beaches like Lake Ahquabi State ParkBig Creek Lake, or Easter Lake Park.  

Take a Hike, Ride a Bike – Take a trek up to Ledges State Park, which offers four miles of hiking trails up and down steep slopes and scenic overlooks, including the (underrated) Lost Lake Trail. Pro tip: you’ll be dangerously close to Whatcha Smokin’ BBQ + Brew, which boasts the best BBQ in the metro and a big patio to boot. Jester Park offers just about any outdoor activity you could think of (including equestrian activities and a bison and elk enclosure), so with eight miles of natural trails to explore, you can make a whole day of it. And no talk of bike rides in Greater Des Moines is complete without mentioning the iconic 25-mile High Trestle Trail and its iconic 13-story illuminated trail bridge. There are few better ways to spend an afternoon than exploring HTT and refueling at the many bars and restaurant patios along the way.  

Hit the Links – Golf is the one sport that was practically invented so people could socially distance for a few hours. Luckily, Greater Des Moines boasts some of the best golf courses in all of Iowa. The Tournament Club of Iowa in Polk City is the only Arnold Palmer designed course in the state. (It’s also right by Saylorville Lake, so mom could work on her tan while dad works on his short game). Otter Creek Golf Course in Ankeny was named the 2016 18-Hole Course of the Year by the Iowa Golf Association and it has low-growing bluegrass fairways and smooth, fast greens. Waveland Golf Course is renowned for its slopes and is the oldest municipal course west of the Mississippi. It’s also just a chip shot away from Eatery A and its ample patio space and amazing happy hour specials.  

Hit the Ice (hyperlink to winter itin) – Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you need to hibernate. Seven Oaks in Boone offers snowboarding, skiing, and snow tubing for all ages and skill levels. With four tubing chutes, 11 ski runs, multiple chair lifts, and a surface lift for the snow tubes, you’ll be like, “Colorado, what?” (Probably not, but your wallet will at least thank you.) For a more old-school experience, sled down Capitol Hill, where sledding selfies have never looked so regal with the Iowa State Capitol as a backdrop. Speaking of ice with a view, Brenton Skating Plaza offers a killer perspective of the downtown skyline as you pirouette your way through winter. If you want to get in more steps than stumbles, consider renting snowshoes and exploring trails like Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge or Jester Park.  

For more outdoor ideas, check out our Outdoors itinerary here.  


Option 2: Eat and Drink Local  
 

If your idea of outdoor adventure skews more towards sitting on a patio or outdoor beer garden with a cold one, your happy place (and happy hour) awaits you in Greater Des Moines. And thanks to a recent Extend the Season grant program, more spots than ever now have patio heaters to keep al fresco dining going even as temperatures drop. Whether you’re enjoying a craft cocktail on Bartender’s Handshake’s AstroTurf covered patio, playing cornhole on the largest patio in Iowa at Smash Park, or enjoying a well-deserved date night on Django’s patio across from the Pappajohn Sculpture Park; there are plenty of ways to get a taste of Des Moines safely, no matter the weather.  

  • Check out our list of the Best Patios in Greater Des Moines here.  
  • Here is a list of businesses that received the Extend the Season patio heater grant.  
  • The Des Moines Register has a list of outdoor patios here.  
     

If you’re not comfortable dining out or the temps drop low enough to thwart even the considerable efforts of a patio heater, there are more takeout and delivery options available than ever before. Need ideas of where to start? Check out our new Des Best page, which collects all our “Best of” features into one spot. That way, you can use the Best TenderloinsBest Pizza and Best Comfort Food blogs as a guide or, better yet, a checklist. Try them all from the comfort of your own home and compile your own rankings, so you can make the most informed decision on where to take visitors to show them Des Best that Des Moines has to offer. Wash it down with a tasty libation from one of our award-winning breweries or bars, most of which offer to-go beer and cocktail options.  


Option 3: Attractive Attractions  
 

Many of our great attractions have safely reopened with new guidelines in place to ensure a comfortable experience. Here are a few of our favorites:  

  • The Blank Park Zoo - The S’s are silent, but our city roars. The zoo is operating at around 50 percent capacity, so you can safely enjoy exhibits like the Kid’s Kingdom and Discovery Center along with all the animal exhibits like giraffes, lions, sea lions and zebras.  
  • Des Moines Art Center – Wandering around an art museum is one of life’s simple pleasures, which you can still do at the Des Moines Art Center, provided you follow the socially distanced markers placed throughout the collections. What better way to bone up on your art history nuggets to regale your friends with at your next socially distanced driveway get together?   
  • Science Center of Iowa – If there’s one place you can trust has taken the proper safety precautions, it’s one whose reopening is rooted in science. Reserve tickets in advance for exhibits such as Brick by Brick (Legos), Why the Sky? (solar system), What on Earth? (Critters) and the Star Theater planetarium.  

For a complete list of major attractions that are open, click here. Of course, check in with each attraction individually, as the situation continues to evolve.  


Other socially distanced ideas:  
 

  • Shop and support local with our local gift guide.  
  • Find online retailers throughout Central Iowa to support with Shop Where I Live.  
  • Attend a virtual live show with livestreams from the likes of the Des Moines Symphony (they often pair performances with take and bake dinners from local restaurants), Des Moines Metro Opera, and Des Moines Performing Arts. Silver lining? The drinks are a lot cheaper at home!  
  • Experience the famous Downtown Farmer’s Market – Drive-Through style. Sample great local vendors without having to weave in and out of strollers.  
  • Take a virtual cooking class with Cooking with Alessandra or Kitchen Collage. Pairs well with a takeout bottle of wine from Jasper Winery or a crowler of beer from Lua Brewing.  
  • Rent out an entire movie auditorium for the family at Jordan Creek Century 20.  
  • Take a hike and get some fresh air at the beautiful Brenton Arboretum, with over 2,200 different trees and shrubs. A great place to stretch the legs and take the pets!   
  • Take a road trip to a nearby small town like Pella to stock up on Dutch letters and bologna or Winterset to see the acclaimed covered bridges.  


Need more travel inspiration? Check out the rest of The Catch List itineraries here. And add ideas to your Des Moines bucket list with our Des Best lists and S’s Are Silent videos!