Category Archives: Des Moines Dates

Des Moines-date-in-a-box: Historic Dinners at Living History Farms

For our first Christmas as a couple, Joe got me tickets to one of the Historic Dinners at Living History Farms. (He got to double dip a bit by scheduling the dinner near Valentine’s Day, too.)

It will not surprise many of you to know I read all of the “Little House” books in second grade and have never abandoned my love of the pioneer life. I think anyone who likes a delicious home-cooked meal and has an appreciation for the past could enjoy this experiential dinner.

I had to dig way back (Feb. 2008, baby!) in the Facebook archive to find this red-wine-stained-smile photo from the dinner:

The meals are served family style, with up to 12 people at a table and the first person to make a reservation for a certain date picks the from-scratch menu. The group setting was actually kind of fun, I thought. We BYO-wined, which is do-able with a $10 corkage fee.

I also found this photo in the album captioned  “This is what we looked like after the dinner:”

We got to tour the barn and those were some of the hogs.

Joe and I missed out registering for the Living History Farms race for the first time since we started dating, so we might have to revisit the Historic Dinner experience instead!

I’d pair this date with an old black-and-white movie back home on the couch, with popcorn made on the stove top and sprinkled with sea salt, pepper and paprika. It’s not exactly a romantic comedy, but one of my favorites is “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

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Des Moines Dates: Mixology Night at SCI

Want to find out if you and your date have real chemistry? Nothing encourages couples to get physicsal (get it?) like a date to the Science Center of Iowa.

Photo via Metromix

Joe and I stopped into SCI last Friday for the first “Mixology Night” of the year and I was impressed by the concept. Drinks are pretty cheap and they have pizza and whatnot so you won’t get too crazy before letting loose after hours in the museum. Normally I feel like napping on Fridays after a busy week, but this was a low-key option that made me feel like we went out without having a late night. We even got Juiced!

With our friends James and Katie. Photo via Metromix

There’s a live band and you can explore the exhibits without having to feel like a big jerk for cutting in front of kids. Since the first week was free (general admission to Mixology Night is $5), we splurged to see the Facing Mars Exhibit. My favorite part was trying to put together tools wearing “space gloves” that mimic the conditions your hands would experience while on the Red Planet. I also enjoyed doing the simulated Mars walk:

You don’t have to don this ridiculous white space suit, especially if you’re wearing pants, but I was in a dress and wanted to look extra nerdy and embarrass Joe, so there you go. We had to leave before the indoor fireworks demonstration to go to Sophia’s birthday dinner at Raccoon River*, but we did hear the first set from the Snacks. This is the band lineup for the rest of the season:

*Did you see Raccoon River redid their menu a bit? I almost had a tantrum about it when Joe and I went over 80/35 weekend because they took off the Raccoon River Burger, which used to be one of my favorites. It’s more British pub now or something, although they did keep a few of the favorites.

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Des Moines date-in-a-box: Equestrian edition

What woman doesn’t love horses? Their smell and velvety noses and the way they chomp sugar cubes from an outstretched palm. And who doesn’t secretly or not-so-secretly love a cowboy/girl? (If you’re not already familiar with The Pioneer Woman blog, Ree will teach you to love cowboys.)

It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden, though. And even though Joe buys lots of his shirts at G&L Clothing, I’ve yet to see him on a horse.

I’m no equestrian, but I really have an itch to get back in the saddle – at least for a day. I think that calls for scheduling a fall trail ride date at Jester Park, where you can do one-hour guided trail rides for $30 per person. It’s not going to be as romantic as riding on the beach, but in Central Iowa, ya gotta work with what you’ve got. I bet with the leaves turning, it could be really beautiful out there.

In the winter, Jester Park also does wagon and sleigh rides! This would be a great double date or something to do with a group of friends. lists some more spots for equestrian activities in Iowa. If you’re in the mood, you can even go camping before or after and make a weekend of it. Perhaps prepare some “campurritos” in advance?

Oh! And the Des Moines Dates series has inspired the auction items for the upcoming Brews&Brownies, a benefit event for The Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation, where I work. We’re going to do a blind auction of different dates-in-a-box at the Sept. 25 event at Creme Cupcake. Buy tickets for you and a date and have fun and do good in the process!

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Des Moines date-in-a-box: Summer symphony sweetness

I’m back with another from my occasional “Des Moines Date-in-a-box” series with a special anniversary edition! This one is a treat for your tongue and ears. Tell your date you have plans Tuesday night!

Dessert before dinner: Pack a picnic for later, but first head to Chocolaterie Stam on Ingersoll to enjoy gelato or their wine and chocolate sampler out on the patio. Their magical alcove has a lovely fountain and a relaxed, private feel to it. Stam chocolate is rich and creamy and makes you sit and savor it, so maybe get a few pieces to break out again after the picnic. Stam closes at 7 p.m. on weeknights, so scoot downtown right after to settle in for the concert.

The activity: The Yankee Doodle Pops on the lawn of the Capitol. This free, patriotic concert is a highlight of summer. If you can somehow factor sweet corn into your picnic, you’re doing everything right. Wear red, white and blue, bring a big blanket, your picnic dinner and set up looking out over the East Village. Early birds can enjoy a prelude concert by the Turner Center Jazz Orchestra at 6:30 p.m. before the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra takes the stage at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 3. The concert caps off with a fabulous fireworks display.

It’s been two years since I’ve seen the Yankee Doodle Pops, so I’m extra excited. Joe and I were married on July 3, 2010 and last year my best friend and her husband tied the knot on the same weekend. I’m thrilled to spend our second anniversary this year out on the lawn together, listening to the Des Moines Symphony! I’ll have to zip down and join Joe after my class lets out, but I hope he can get there early and save us a spot with a big blanket. We’re also celebrating early with a dinner at Baru 66 tonight because Joe has never been and it is amazing.

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Taking the trail: Waterpark fun

Last summer, Sophia introduced me to the suburban guilty pleasure that is the Cascade Falls Aquatic Center in Ankeny. It’s one of those places you might not think about going until you have kids/a nanny job, but without any minor to watch over, it’s exponentially more fun.

There are water slides, diving boards, a lazy river — even a foam version of that lumberjack log roll! The best part: At adult swim, kids have to get out and the adults can cut in line for the slides and have the lazy river to ourselves. You can also pay extra to try a surf simulator. It’s hilarious to just watch people wipe out..

Since Joe got me a sweet  Terry biking outfit for my birthday (he sure knows how to mine my Pinterest boards for awesome present ideas!), I wanted to break it in.

I’m not the kind of person who can just go on a 20 mile ride without a destination, so I suggested we try to bike to the Aquatic Center. Lo and behold: It’s super simple to get to the Cascade Falls Aquatic Center from central Des Moines using the trail system!

We caught the inter-urban trail up in Beaverdale, but it’s also easy to hop on from downtown. You cross the river on this great bridge; the Inter-Urban intersection is a hub for cyclists on a beautiful day.

The trail is pretty well-shaded for most of the route, and it runs past the river. On a hot day like yesterday, you can see lots of people partying on the banks.

(Not pictured: If you’re lucky like us, you can also see a 70-year old guy in only a Speedo bolt up the riverbank on a bike, right in front of you. Yowza!)

We took the ‘Ding Darling’ to the Neal Smith Trail for a bit before turning onto the Oralabor Gateway Trail, through a little corn field and up past some neat neighborhoods. Sign me up for a creepy wooden man statue and paddle boat docked in my backyard.

There’s a nice wide trail that runs along the highway in Ankeny, right past Kyle’s Bike Shop.

We stopped in and bought some extra tubes for my bike, to be on the safe side. In the strip mall next door to Kyle’s is 34’s Sports Bar & Grill.

Joe and I treated ourselves to lunch (the BLT was pretty delish, and they have those crispy twice-fried french fries that are killa). If you’re not in the mood to dine in, the restaurant is pretty much across the street from the Aquatic Center, which I’m pretty sure allows you to bring your own food in.

This slide swirls you around and flushes you out like a toilet bowl. Intense!

Admission to Cascade Falls is $7 per adult, and you currently have to pay by cash or check. Bring a picnic and this is a cheap little athletic Ankeny adventure! It’s about 14 miles one way, but I am out of shape and barely broke a sweat in the summer heat. Don’t let the double-digit mileage deter you. Happy trails!


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Des Moines date-in-a-box: Retro roadtrip

Time to don some Wayfarers and your favorite Hill Vintage dress, hop in the DeLorean (or, a hatchback will do) and head East! This date night brings the fun of the fifties to your backseat. Whether you’re dating a Sandy or a Rizzo (hey-o!), who can resist a drive-in double feature?

© Time Inc.via Life Magazine photo archive

Your destination: The Valle Drive-In in Newton. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to the Valle Drive-In, but I do have a fuzzy recollection from when Joe and I first started dating of how fun it was to pack lawn chairs and sleeping bags and go on a little mini road-trip together. It’s about 45 minutes to Newton, and the movies start at dusk, so you probably aren’t going to get home at a decent hour, if you see both shows. Bonus points if you put together a fun mix for the ride. The last song should probably be “Wake Up Little Suzy,” by The Everly Brothers. Feel free to leave other driving-to-the-drive-in song suggestions in the comments!

To eat: I’m pretty sure you can bring your own food to the Drive-In, but if you want to eat in Newton and keep with the classic kind of theme, there’s a Maid-Rite on 1st. Ave., just about 4 miles from the movie. (Confession: You guys might revoke my Iowa card right here and now, but I’ve never been to a Maid-Rite, nor have I had one of their famous loose-meat sandwiches. Can you believe it?)

I think we’ll be packing up our Passat for a night at the Valle Drive-In this summer. I might just experience my first Maid-Rite, too. Then I’ll be a true Iowan. A belated Des Moines-iversary trip to Newton in June sounds like the perfect way to celebrate FIVE YEARS of living in this great state.

This is part of a series of Des Moines-area date suggestions for lazy lovers (of friends!) who need a plan!

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Des Moines date-in-a-box: Eastside Art

This is the first installment in a new series of Des Moines dates*. Each will include something to do/somewhere to eat and another fun element to make your evening with someone even more delightful. *Although I will reference romance, clearly these could also work as friend dates!

This Eastside Art Date is easy on your pocketbook and will probably take you out of your typical Saturday night element, which is great for getting to know someone.

Dinner: Thai Flavors, 1254 E. 14th St. (Picnic it!)
Yes, it’s tucked in a strip mall, but this unassuming spot has inspired a pretty loyal fan following. (For some reason, I feel like this is owned by the same people who do Cool Basil on the west side, too.) I like the Hawaiian Fried Rice and crab rangoons, myself.

The dining room here is decent, but if the weather is perfect and you’re feeling extra romantic, I recommend ordering ahead and getting the dish to go. Pack a big blanket and some drinks and head a couple blocks west to Union Park. It looks like the Heritage Carousel will be open until 8 p.m., which will make for a super fun backdrop to dinner. Bring $2 cash so you can both ride it!

Photo via Jenny with a Camera. Check out her Flickr set to decide which animal you want to ride!

Then, ready yourself for some art!

The activity: Sensory Overload ( 7 p.m.-Midnight, Saturday, May 12)
Experience a mind-bending art ambush in an abandoned school. Installation art, a costume contest, performances — it’s an evening that’s going to give you and your date a LOT to talk about. I highly recommend clicking through the fab Art Beacon Des Moines to get a sense of the vibe. Suggested donation is $5 per person, but pony up a $20 for the two of you to show you’re generous. Karma will reward you.

The sensory overload site.

Designed to stimulate all of your senses, I have a feeling this event is going to be one that people talk about for awhile. I mean, rumor has it there’s going to be a fake meth lab and I think I saw something about bubble wrap? Regardless, if your date is going well, you should try to fashion hats or something out of recycled/found materials together and wear them to this.

Thanks to my new friend Brian for suggesting I start up this series. It’s fun to meet people who still remember my writing in Juice and want me to help them be all romantical 🙂


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