Tag Archives: Des Moines Parks

Our #tourdmparks 2017

Those of you who follow my Instagram may have noticed it was inundated with #tourdmparks photos this month. Some of my friends thought that I’d imagined up this hashtag and the challenge of visiting 31 parks in July, but the Tour was actually put forth by the Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department, and there were prizes involved.

I am getting serious about trading my car for an electric cargo bike (the kids will both be at the same preschool a few blocks from our house in a few months), but sadly my 20-year-old Subaru is worth less than the Yuba I have my eye on.

I don’t know yet if we’ll win the $1,000 cash prize for checking off all of the parks, but I did realize in the process that I am totally becoming my mother! When I was growing up, she was always enrolling us in Junior Ranger programs, and we spent an entire summer staking out the Lisle police station at shift change so we could collect all of the “cop cards” in a local challenge. It was insane, but memorable.

Getting outside is the norm for us, but we tend to visit the same places, and I am less apt to squeeze in a park trip after dinner when I’m not on a mission. One epic Saturday, we hit 10 of the 31 parks! Emmett has definitely gotten into the challenge. I see a glimmer of the spark my mom passed to me when we would make a plan to tackle more of our list. (He came with me to all of them, but Joe and Eileen missed a few.)

I think my favorite thing about the Tour DM Parks challenge was that it encouraged me to get out of my neighborhood bubble. I loved the view from the Laurel Hill Cemetery, which is somewhere I never would have ventured.

Right after this was taken, we got some drive-through ice cream, and then had to eat it hanging out in our trunk at the next park because there was a brief but strong storm that blew through!

When I spend time on the south side or the east side, I realize how different other people’s experiences of Des Moines are. Emmett had no trouble making buddies from all backgrounds at the parks and we also had fun meeting up with friends at a few of the spots.

A few highlights: 

This rope tower inspired a morning of Emmett pretending he was Spider Man. It was just the two of  us, so I got in on the fun and engaged a lot more in play with him than I typically do. The energy he had on our first day out really set the tone for us to tackle this together.

Stopping by Captain Roy’s on Birdland Marina at the midpoint of an amazing bike ride during sunset was lovely. I kept thinking how, without the challenge, we probably wouldn’t have taken the kids out for a 15-mile evening ride, but it was exactly what I needed.

We made staying up late a trend that weekend and got in a canoe as a family (!!!) for the Gray’s Lake moon float. The full moon was hiding when we were out, but the sunset was hot pink and the kids were adorable.

Nahas Aquatic Center was perfect for two non-swimmers. It’s almost entirely zero-depth, there are big umbrellas in the water and two water slides that had hardly any line.

It will be fun to do this again as the kids get older. I know I’m at my best as a mom when I can find ways to connect my kids to being out and experiencing all our city has to offer. Thanks for the challenge, Parks and Rec!

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Family fun for $1.50

The early morning storm that whipped through central Iowa rained out our plan to head down to Indianola and watch the balloon launch for the third year running, but a few hours later it was shaping up to be a beautiful morning and we were eager to get outside.

Ashby Park in Beaverdale is our go-to splash pad spot, but friends in our babysitting co-op have been recommending McHenry Park (1012 Oak Park Ave. in north-central Des Moines, near Highland Park*), and today felt like a good morning to scope it out.

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McHenry Park is easy to get to from the downtown trail system (we drove this time) and features several shelters shaded by old Oak trees with views of both the 801 building, river and prairie flowers.

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The splash park is great fun for little kids, and an awesome alternative to putting the sprinkler out in your front yard.

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A big frog, gigantic turtle and fake old tree are the splash area’s main features. Just touch the sensor on the green pole to get them started and fountains all around burst to life.

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Emmett ran squealing around, and I liked that there’s less of a need for parents to be in a swimsuit to participate. I got my feet wet perched on the tortoise shell.

wpid-20150725_105310.jpgThe water runs into a natural drainage area that was closed off for our visit, but it looks like it’s a kind of faux creek-walking experience when accessible.

The park has standard equipment, but the thing that sets it apart is a nature-inspired play area that looks more like a beaver’s Adventureland.

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Huge hollowed trees, stumps and a faux rock formation are perfect for bigger kids to pretend they’re wildlife.

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After we dried off, we headed to Union Park for a few spins around the Heritage Carousel. Union Park also has a splash pool, if you aren’t water-ed out. It’s home to a huge rocket slide, too, and Birdland Park just down the hill (2100 Saylor Rd.) features Ding Darling shelter and a playground more appropriate for tots.)

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Today was apparently National Carousel Day (who knew?!). Emmett got three rides for $1.50, and the day proved to be a cheap, toddler-friendly blast.

Heads-up: The Heritage Carousel is hosting Clowns at the Carousel next Sunday, Aug. 2 2015 from 4-7 p.m. It looks like they’re still seeking volunteers, too.

*Bring a few more dollars in cash and you should definitely stop by the Highland Bakery for doughnuts. They’re open until Noon on Saturdays, but closed Sunday/Monday.

Do you have any favorite parks in central Iowa? I wrote a story once for The Register about a couple of families who set a goal to visit 100 Parks in one summer, which seems like a great boredom-buster.

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