Tag Archives: des moines adventures

7 ways to warm up in Des Moines this winter

Feeling the chill? I’ve pulled together a couple of ideas for taking the icy edge off of winter here in Des Moines. I haven’t posted any “Des Moines Date” ideas in awhile, so consider this a shortlist for the season!

1) Indoor mini golf. I just discovered Longview Golf Centre TODAY (thanks CatchDesMoines!), so I’m not going to lie, I made this entire post because I was so excited about the idea of 18-holes of indoor mini golf not at a mall. It doesn’t look like there are any water traps, so I might actually be able to handle this course.

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And if you’re out in Grimes, you can make a whole day out of being ridiculous and bounce around at SkyZone until you realize that being 12 versus being 20something are very different and you can’t walk the next day. Or sit.

2) Dinner by a fireplace. There are a bunch of restaurants and bars in Des Moines with great fireplaces. I’m particularly enamoured with Skip’s on Fleur, but if you live in the ‘burbs, the Urban Grill has some fireplaces, too, and both are great for reasonably priced date nights. I recommend the crab rangoon dip at Urban Grill. Fire Creek out in West Des Moines is all sorts of cozy, too.

3) Snowshoe up a sweat. I tried to snowshoe once around Waterworks Park for a Juice story, but it was in a blizzard with our photographer making fun of me the entire time, so less enjoyable than I imagine it would be on a sunshiny trail, or out at Clanton Creek. Joe let me know that Rassmussen Bike Shop just started to rent out snowshoes and I believe Active Endeavors still does.

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OK, so maybe snow sports aren’t really the warm and cozy direction you’re looking for?

4) Botanical Blues. Going to the Des Moines Botanical Center in the middle of winter and gazing into its koi ponds and strolling amongst palm trees just puts me in a happy place. You could definitely go on a random afternoon and have lunch in the cafe and play a board game (anyone else into Settlers of Catan?), but it feels extra neat to go for the Sunday afternoon “Botanical Blues” concert series that runs through February.

5) Hot stone massage. My friend Cassie owns East Village Spa, and once upon a time I had one of their “Heavenly Hot Stones” massages in which “smooth jade stones are heated and used to provide a massage with benefits that penetrate deep into the tissue for greater circulation of blood and lymph, deeper relaxation, and pain relief.” Totally indulgent and awesome. You will not want to leave the table, let along go back out into the cold. See #5 for a good post-massage ritual.

6) Tea at Gong Fu. I’m working on a story about Gong Fu Tea right now, and it’s reminding me what a gem of a place we have in Des Moines. Sip a steaming pot of tea from their vast selection while reading a good book, or mapping out your goals for the year. Total moment of zen. I love my sweet teal teapot from there for brewing my own tea at home.

7) Fondu at The Cheese Shop. I imagine it would be melty marvalousness to share a pot of gourmet fondue. My friend Chelsea and I are talking about going together sometime. This winter, for sure.

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How do you warm up during a long, cold Iowa winter?

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(Sky Zone) Make ya wanna jump, jump!

Iowa is in the midst of a major drought, with temps this summer that felt hot enough to boil the mercury in a thermometer. So of course on the one weekend a big group plans to get together to go tubing (in an admittedly low river), it rains. My garden and the bajillion acres of crops in this great state need it, so I can’t really begrudge the bad weather, but I haven’t donned my polka dot swimsuit since Punta Cana so I was a little bummed.

Our group convened at Smokey Row to come up with a Sunday Funday Plan B, and after nixing the National Hobo Convention (most of the fun stuff happened earlier in the week), lazer tag (you only get like 12 minutes of actual tag) and rock climbing (someone said you all have to learn how to belay), we chose Sky Zone. Mostly because it was Rob’s 30th birthday and he wanted to go.

Sky Zone is an indoor trampoline park. For someone as uncoordinated as I am who has managed to live for 27 years without breaking a bone (knock on wood), this sounded like a potentially disastrous yet delightful idea. We gave ourselves 20 minutes to go home and change into workout gear, which I of course interpreted as “put together a costume.” What can I say, I want to get my money’s worth out of my New Orleans leopard pants.

Photo courtesy of Liz’s iPhone!

We opted for one hour of jumping ($12 per person), which gave us access to the open trampoline area, foam pit, two basketball dunk hoops and dodgeball zone. You have to wear gross blue suede high top shoes  — although they did kind of work with my costume — but I have to say we had a great time. Especially since we’d just spent two weeks cheering on Olympic athletes from the couch. I almost felt like Gabby Douglas’ pinkie for a second while doing a series of trampoline assisted toe-touches. Magical! 3-D dodgeball for adults is also pretty rad. We teamed up and against some kids, too, which was fun kind of ridiculous.

Everyone was pretty sweaty when our hour was up! And SORE! The Jillian Michaels Yoga workout we’ve been doing at our house has nothing on an hour of jumping. Muscles I didn’t know existed in my back were sore the next morning.

After Sky Zone our group caravaned to the Flat Tire Lounge in Madrid, just off the High Trestle Trail for lunch, beverages and bar games. They have shuffle board and a giant jenga set made out of 2x4s, so what’s not to love?

Bottom line: Even when epic plans get rained out, Des Moines can bring the fun. I recommend SkyZone with a big group, and if you’re nervous about it filling up, you can reserve jump times in advance online.

And yes, that headline is a reference to Kris Kross!

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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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Gatsby glamour

“Two knocks and the password is Gatsby!”

We squeezed through the basement entry and were whisked through a labyrinth of narrow, dark passageways in the old Weeks mansion ‘south of Grand’ before stumbling upstairs and into the roaring ’20s, prohibition-themed gala. The annual event took a new twist this year, with a clever temperance society/Templeton Rye theme.

It was a chilly night for a party , but I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to play dress-up for an event that benefits an organization close to my heart. When I first moved to Des Moines, I happened upon the Salisbury House on a bike ride and used to spend quiet afternoons hanging out in the yard and even did some volunteering at different events (which meant I was able to entertain the men in line for the restroom with nerdy factual information about the house.) Plus, our next-door neighbor is the museum curator and a fellow Mizzou alumna co-chaired the event, so we just had to get tickets and go! (Four years ago, I attended as a Gatsby Girl, selling cigars and whatnot, so it felt great to come full circle at a truly enjoyable evening.)

Photo of a group of guys getting some of “The Good Stuff” via a Metromix gallery of the event. I had a little cocktail, too! My first taste of Templeton.

As for the style: I pre-wore my bridesmaid dress that I got at Banana Republic last fall for Christa’s November wedding, which felt kind of weird, but ended up being a fun, flapper-modern choice. Earlier in the day I got a totally ’20s bob, with bangs! It was quite a big change, and post-gala I feel like I look more Dora the Explorer than glamour girl, but I’ll just have to become BFF with my flatiron and actually style it like a grownup would. (I have to say that I love all of the stylists at salon W and am a total ‘chair-hopper.’ Mollie transformed me this time.)

We asked some guy I enthralled bored with information about the house snap a photo of us, but we really need to remember to take decent pictures when we get all dolled up. Joe totally surprised me with his last-minute purchase of a linen pinstripe suit, navy vest and bow tie and hat, scored at a Dillard’s closing sale for 80 percent off. Dapper, if I do say so!

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Pitch black on the High Trestle Trail

My, my, this blog is becoming a little bike trip log, now isn’t it?!

Aside from getting to eat more of my buffalo chicken strata than expected, another plus of missing the tailgate on Saturday was the fact that we were able to conserve energy for a night ride across the High Trestle Trail. Joe and Andy rode from Des Moines (they got a bit lost, but the one-way was about 40 miles) and Ellen, Miss Caroline and I drove up to Madrid, where there’s a good checkpoint. (And a bar called the Flat Tire Lounge, which I did not experience this time around.)

One thing I’ve noticed about my more frequent rides is that they tickle my sense of smell in a way that makes the seasons more vivid. You forget in a windows-rolled-up kind of world what autumn smells like. The darkness also sharpens the other senses, with only your bike lights and the moon to guide you. It was pretty crowded on the trail on Saturday and although the point of the full moon ride is obviously to experience the moon, next time I’ll definitely go before dusk so I can see the valley underneath the bridge.

Aren’t these lights trippy? It’s like riding into a time warp. I half expected to launch into hyperspeed and end up in the year 2087 or something.

There are so many cool shots of the bridge on Flickr: here and here and here (what a cute bike bump!).

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