Winter in Des Moines
While the Ss in Des Moines are silent, our winter activities are anything but. Come on over for the weekend and get ready to hear some oohing, aahing, laughing, jingling, caroling, and, if you’re up for snow tubing down a thousand-foot hill, a whole lot of shrieking.
Here’s a quick list of activities—noisy and quiet alike—for a fantastic weekend getaway in Greater Des Moines:
- Brenton Skating Plaza
- Holiday Events
- Science Center of Iowa
- Sleepy Hollow Sports Park
- Performing Arts
- Food and Drink
Whether you’re a figure-eighter or a figure-faller, you’ll have an icy, good time at Brenton Skating Plaza, where you can skate in the shadow of the breathtaking Des Moines skyline. This unique rink is open from November to March so you can enjoy great exercise in the winter weather. Want to make a day of it? The rink is just a snowball’s throw from Historic East Village shopping and restaurants.
What do you do when the urge to shop strikes? You hop in the car and set a course for Greater Des Moines. The enclosed Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines features more than 100 popular retailers—and dozens more around the perimeter. If you prefer vintage pieces, art galleries, and specialty stores, Historic Valley Junction has more than a few options for you across more than 120 businesses. And, with an extensive collection of local boutiques and handmade gifts, the Historic East Village is a must-stop for your next shopping excursion.
If you’re the kind of person who starts listening to Christmas music on the day after Halloween, you’ll love Greater Des Moines. Kick-off the season with local shopping and holiday entertainment at the East Village Promenade. Then, during the first weekend in December, Christkindlmarket Des Moines takes over Principal Park to create a shopping and cultural experience inspired by the 700-year-old European Christmas market tradition. All month long, Jolly Holiday Lights offers a 2.5-mile journey through more than a hundred twinkling light displays—and the admission fee supports Make-A-Wish Iowa. The Boone Valley Railroad’s Santa Express might not go all the way to the North Pole, but everyone will enjoy a little holiday magic.
Time travel might not be real (yet), but the Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines can sure make the time fly on a cold, winter day. SCI features many hands-on, permanent exhibits to explore subjects from aerospace to zoology, along with traveling exhibits, seasonal programs and events just for adults. Get your science on at this popular stop.
Bundle up and brave the weather at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, where you’ll find snow tubing and two different sledding experiences to fit your family or thrill level. Stopping by for date night? Enjoy the park after dark with their lit sledding and tubing courses, then grab a snack or drink at the lodge to warm up. And don’t worry if there’ll be enough snow—Sleepy Hollow makes its own (seven million gallons’ worth a year)!
If you’re the sort of person who says “Entertain me,” Des Moines is up for the challenge. Broadway shows at the Des Moines Civic Center. Major concert tours at Wells Fargo Arena or Wooly’s in the East Village. Improv and standup comedy. Local bands, up-and-coming acts, and tunes from every musical genre. And, if you’re looking for something seasonal, check out the annual production of The Nutcracker at Hoyt Sherman Place to see local dancers and professional ballerinas perform the classic holiday tale.
It’s incredible how one trip to Des Moines can turn anyone into foam-finger-wearing, referee-taunting, hot dog-munching sports fan. Amazing but not surprising when you consider the level of competition you’ll see. The Iowa Wolves play in the NBA’s development league and offer nonstop, hard-court action from November through March, while the American Hockey League’s Iowa Wild take the ice from November through April. There’s not a bad seat in the house, so come on out and root for the next stars of the NBA and NHL!
Winter is the perfect time to grab an unforgettable meal in the acclaimed food scene of Greater Des Moines. Find comfort food in a variety of styles, from French-inspired dining at Django, Chinese pizza at Fong's, Southern favorites from Bubba, a culinary tour of Ecuador at Mi Patria, or Cajun cuisine at Flying Mango. After dinner, warm up with a cold one. The Brew Moines app can connect you with more than 20 local breweries for surprising local craft flavors.
Bacon bacon bacon, bacon bacon bacon bacon. Now that we have your attention, start making plans to join thousands of your fellow meat lovers at the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival. Made for bacon fans over 21, the event brings together food, drinks, contests, and massive amounts of bacon. Watch for this uniquely Des Moines event in late February or early March.
There you have it. The S’s might be silent, but that sound you hear is a whole lot of people having fun. Are you one of them?
Hear from locals about where to eat, drink, and spend your time while visiting Des Moines this winter. Catch an insider look at events in Des Moines, suggested itineraries, places to shop in Des Moines, and a few of the many delicious restaurants. These are just a few of our recommendations! Read these suggested winter blogs and then check out an entire list of blogs here.