Category Archives: Des Moines Dates

Des Moines ‘do something’ date ideas

It’s been awhile since I’ve put together a Des Moines Dates series post and I’ve seen a few cute options lately, especially after hours at some of my favorite cultural attractions. Even if our own date outings are rare (childcare logistics tend to take the wind out of making plans), someone should have fun with these!

GET DIRTY IN THE STUDIO: SIP & SPOON‘ at the Des Moines Art Center
7/21/17 – Details


I like the innuendo, Art Center. This is a pottery class designed for couples, and you make a set of serving spoons. I’m pretty sure my line to get Joe out of the friendzone had to do with spooning, so I’m very much on board with this concept. He’s going to be on RAGBRAI during this, but I hear they host the workshops monthly.

And, speaking of spoons, I saw a post on The Grateful Chef’s page about Wooden Spoon Workshops, which hosts small group cooking classes a few times a month. Maybe your date thinks the whole point of going out to dinner is for someone to make the food for you, but then I think you should ditch them and find yourself a lifelong learner who enjoys a challenge. This is a home kitchen setting, just FYI.

If you’re interested in cooking classes, you can also check out the Des Moines Social Club Culinary Loft, or Cooking with Alessandra. Joe and I have done a small group class with her and you leave wanting to go to Italy for a culinary tour. (Speaking of Italian food and love, who watched season two of Master of None? I love Dev!)

Maybe you’re more of a Big Bang Theory couple? Joe and I did reserve a babysitter so we could nerd out at the Science Center of Iowa’s lecture on the solar eclipse!

SCI hosts lots of geeky date night options, including their regular mixology night which has a more 21+ vibe with music, drinks and some manner of themed science-y entertainment.

Another great museum-after-hours activity that would make a fun date is the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden’s “Social Irrigation” series. It’s a Thursday night after-work event with live music. (I checked and this is kid-friendly, so we might actually do this!) If you haven’t been to Trellis or seen the Gardens in a few years, the outdoor space is gorgeous and the food is delicious. There’s so much going on in the East Village these days/nights, but the Botanical Garden has easy parking.

Have you been on any fun dates lately? This doesn’t really count, because it was a whole-family excursion, but we went on an epic sunset bike ride and made a stop at Captain Roy’s, the new “dive” at the Birdland Marina. Good for you if you can check it out without two kids in tow.

We got curly fries and tallboys and watched the sky reflected on the river as boaters floated by. It’s just a short jaunt up the trail past the Botanical Garden, if you’re in the neighborhood.

Been on any good dates or fun family outings recently?

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Des Moines Dates: Noce Night

Joe and I found ourselves with three hours of kid-free, Saturday prime date-night time this weekend and I wanted to invest it somewhere a baby and toddler would not be welcome. I’ve been dying to check out Noce, the new jazz club on Walnut Street since I wrote about it for DSM Magazine; this was the perfect red lipstick, polka dot dress occasion.

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Well, almost. We turned into pumpkins/had to pick up our kids at 9 p.m. so missed the second half of Amber Duimstra’s set. Sad trombone. Duimstra was funny and warm and her local talent filled the room with friends – some of whom happened to also be friends of mine. Because, Des Moines.

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I loved sitting with Joe, sipping a French 75 in such a lovely venue. I’m not a huge follower of jazz (can I admit here that I only knew “Killing Me Softly” as a Fugees song?) but the set included a great mix of standards and some new-to-me songs, like “Dat Dere,” which appropriately enough is about raising an inquisitive toddler.

If you want to try out Noce, Tuesday evenings from 7-10 p.m. features live jazz with no cover charge. Become a fan on Facebook to stay up on show announcements: nocedsm

Parent PSA: Emmett’s preschool Grace on Cottage Grove is doing a “Parent’s Night Out” series that’s open to kids potty trained and older. It’s $5 hr (3-hr. min.) from 6-10 p.m. with movies, crafts and activities. The next one is Saturday, Oct. 15. Emmett enjoyed himself while we enjoyed Noce! It’s open to kids who don’t go to Grace, so let me know if you want the details.

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An evening on the town

Date nights are few and far between. It felt so, so good to enjoy a night out together.

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Joe got us tickets to see one of my favorite bands, The David Wax Museum, play the Temple Theater as a Christmas gift, and I’ve been excitedly counting down.

We started the evening with tapas, churros and a bottle of red wine at Lurra Cocina, with a view of the Sculpture Park.

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{ENSALADA REMOLACHA – roasted beets, farro, fresh goat cheese, shallots, sunflower seeds, and a sherry-sunflower oil vinaigrette}

The Temple is honestly not my favorite venue, because I like to be up and dancing, but Des Moines Performing Arts obviously treated the band well, which is important. I love the sincerity in The David Wax Museum’s music and (maybe it was the wine and hormones), but I teared up once or twice.

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Total DSM Moment – we were seated right next to Jay Byers, the CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. We geeked out over the fabulous POLITICO article “How America’s Dullest City Got Cool” that just came out.

I got Suze’s new lullaby album (they take their 2-year-old daughter on tour with them!) at the merch table and was a total fangirl and asked for a photo.

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We left our kids with his sister and brother-in-law, and they were so worn out from playing with cousins that they mercifully slept in. Tonight we’re swapping and watching the cousins overnight. There will be five under the age of six. Wish us luck!

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Des Moines Dates: Strudl Haus

Ever since I’d heard about the Austrian restaurant Strudl Haus opening, I’ve wanted to try it. My tastebuds were craving the flavors we experienced on our Austrian honeymoon in 2010, and I’d heard it was a delightful spot.

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This morning, Joe and I decided to take advantage of Emmett’s playdate and make a day-date for brunch, with baby carrier in tow. What a difference five and a half years can make in a marriage! While we aren’t currently in a position to book a flight to Salzburg, it’s a mini-escape to hop on Indianola Avenue for a taste of Europe on Des Moines’ near south side.

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The small, sunshine-colored cafe opens into a compact dining room of unexpected elegance. A case of pastries catches the eye as you walk in – convenient if you’re just swinging by for a simple breakfast or dessert treat.

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We navigated the narrow room and took a seat in the burgundy-upholstered back booth, where we were quickly greeted. The crowd was an mix of couples and families with well-behaved small children who seemed excited about an after-Church treat.

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For starters, we split Nutella crepes, and for brunch I opted for the omelette with sausage and Joe went for the Strudl Haus eggs (served over easy and smothered in hollendaise sauce). The food was delicious, but the little details – like the coffee service on silver trays and petite chandeliers on the ceiling – made the meal feel special. We reminisced about all of the food we enjoyed on our honeymoon, and were in-and-out in about an hour.

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The spot impresses me as super-versatile — as perfect for a weekday morning coffee and croissant as I imagine it would be for one of their more expensive themed wine dinners. Since Strudl Haus specials change frequently, it would be smart to check their Facebook page or call to see what the weekly offering may be. Prost!

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An afternoon at Big Creek State Park

Joe and I celebrated our fifth (!!!) wedding anniversary this weekend, without any big plans. The weather was wonderful so while we sat sipping coffee on the porch we brainstormed a few ideas to spend the day outdoors.

Big Creek Park and Shelter

Joe had the idea to head to Big Creek State Park, which is in Polk City adjacent to Saylorville Lake – about 30 minutes northwest of Des Moines. I had never been, but he bikes through with his brothers-in-law each April on a guys trip, and it turned out to be the perfect place to celebrate with our little family!

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Swimming: I can’t really call what we did swimming, but I can attest that a toddler will be able to amuse himself for quite some time repeatedly dumping buckets of water and sand at the shoreline. And, at least compared to some other Iowa watering holes I’ve dipped my toes in, Big Creek (which was created by the Saylorville Dam) felt relatively clean. I’m not sure it’s because we went so soon after flooding, but the beach looked like it had been freshly plowed (?) and was somewhat difficult to walk on, but tidy.

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Picnicking: I was impressed by the array of shelters available. There are several huge family reunion style shelters up close to the beach/main parking area (and several other older shelters at different spots along the lake), and a bunch of small group or single-family mini shelters scattered throughout, too. There are a few little bathrooms in that area, too.

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We just grabbed one of the numerous picnic tables in the shade, though. We packed lots of snacks, but wound up ordering hot lunch from the concession area, where the grill was going. They also have ice cream treats and snow cones available.

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Mega park: I seriously wanted to be about 8-years old again when we saw this park. I love huge, castle-like wooden parks and this one had lots of towers and turrets and tires.

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Emmett is currently obsessed with Baby Einstein, and there’s an episode where a knight gets locked in a castle that we had to reenact about 30 times. I can’t wait to go back with all of his cousins, because it’s got tons of cool features without being high-tech at all.

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Biking/boating: I didn’t realize you can rent not only canoes but pontoons (from the announcements they were making, it sounded like they had them as big as 12-passenger!). Boating didn’t happen for us because by the time we’d hit the beach, eaten lunch and played at the park, Emmett was starting to melt down. Joe had packed our bikes, though, so we did a handful of miles along prairie paths while Emmett conked out in his Burley trailer.

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The super cool thing is that it’s possible to take the Neal Smith Trail from downtown all the way up to Big Creek (about 28 miles). Don’t forget to download Iowa By Trail before you go!

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We capped off our anniversary celebration with a kid-free dinner date to Skip’s and to see “Inside Out” because we never get to the movies these days! 

P.S. I still stand by this post I wrote awhile back on “magic words for a happy marriage.”

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Des Moines Dates: Temple Theater Day Date

I love a good Sunday afternoon date. Joe won tickets to see “Whirled New Tonight” at the Temple Theater through the Des Moines Performing Arts e-newsletter, and we were able to send Emmett to a babysitting co-op house, so it was a fun and nearly free afternoon of entertainment. We grabbed pizza and salad at Centro next door afterward.

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I’m kind of a snob about comedy (my taste is toward more witty than slapstick humor) and I genuinely laughed at this. When you walk in, the audience is asked to clip newspaper stories from the day’s papers and pin them to a bulletin board. The first half is improv, based on the headlines.

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The second half, they ask the audience to raise their hands and ask questions. The questions themselves were painfully awkward (“Should we have a second child?” “What should you do if your parents clearly have a favorite? – asked by a 17 year old who was sitting between her sister and parents; “What if you feel like the third wheel when you hang out with your boyfriend and his best friend?”) but the improv was even funnier than the news-related stuff.

Sunday was the last day of the Whirled News residency in Des Moines (at least for now), but the performance is based out of the iO Chicago Theater, so my Windy City readers can catch it anytime.

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Magic words of a happy marriage

I love a good roundup of cute Valentine gifts for your significant other (find some here, here, here and here), but this love-hyped week I’ve been reflecting on the 3.5 years of marriage Joe and I have enjoyed and what’s made it work so far. Some studies have shown a four-year and seven-year itch is common, especially for couples with kids.

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A few months ago, I noticed something super simple we do that I think is critical for a happy house. We say some magic words on a regular basis. Nope, not “I love you,” although there’s plenty of that, too. We thank each other. Maybe kind of a lot. Maybe not more than any other happy couple, married or not, or any other unattached housemates who enjoy each other’s company. A few times a day, I would guess.

I’m not sure if we’ve done this since moving in together (which we did back in 2008), or if it’s a more recent development. Regardless, I think thanking each other became more powerful after we became parents. We thank each other for executing simple household chores: “Thanks for taking care of the laundry.” “Thanks for taking the dog on the final nighttime walk in the blistering cold.” “Thank you for making dinner.” You get the picture.

It’s so easy to get stuck in the your chores/my chores routine/rut where general appreciation for what the other does is something that’s taken for granted and rarely expressed. I think that can create a feeling like your partner doesn’t even think about how the counters got clean or the floor swept, and lead to a poisonous resentment.

We have a pretty even division of labor in our house, but the scales probably tip toward Joe when factoring in fixing things and cooking — tasks he typically takes on. Having a kid definitely adds to the piles of responsibility, of laundry and dirty dishes and diaper duty and nighttime wakeups and daily dropoffs and pickups. We’ve figured out a relay of sorts that works for us, and I think that’s when we really came to appreciate those daily things we do that make the other person’s life easier. And in that realization, we’ve been saying thanks.

So, not really a juicy marriage secret or anything earth-shattering. Just something super simple and free that fosters a feeling of being valued, of efforts seen. It’s not really a marriage tip at all, but an observation about how we can be better people to live with — or work with, for that matter.

P.S. Don’t want to get your Valentine stuff? Surprise her (or him!) with tickets to the Des Moines Metro Opera Wine & Food Showcase. It’s happening Feb. 21. Joe and I went with a group a couple of years ago and it was lots of fun.  

Readers, I’d love to hear your tips for a happy marriage, too. 

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