9 Places to Take an Autumn Stroll in Downtown DSM
Check out these nine places to take a walk this autumn in Downtown Des Moines (DSM) during the workday and you’ll discover colorful fall trees, unexpected art, beautiful flowering plants, vibrant city sights, interesting architecture and lots more — all while gaining creativity for your next big project or a mental health break as you take a break from your cubicle.
Sherman Hill Neighborhood
Take a stroll through Downtown DSM’s first historic neighborhood, complete with unique architecture and heritage as evidenced by the area’s homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Come for the historic sights and mature trees as they change colors in the fall, stay for coffee at Smokey Row, lunch at Gateway Market or an ice-cold Oktoberfest-style beer from Lua Brewing after the workday.
Iowa State Capitol Complex
The Iowa State Capitol grounds features a robust outdoor collection of monuments, memorials, art, sculpture, architecture and more. Take a self-guided audio tour using your smart phone as you explore the grounds with the autumn leaves and Downtown DSM skyline as your backdrop.
Enjoy the sights of Downtown DSM this fall along the Principal Riverwalk all around the Des Moines River: Lauridsen Skatepark and the Rotary Riverwalk Park, Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater, the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates and surrounding outdoor gardens, Riverwalk Hub, artful sculptures and murals and much more. The approximately 1.2-mile loop is great for the lunch hour or a quick jaunt after the workday.
Robert D. Ray Asian Gardens
These lovely gardens provide fall foliage shots along with interesting landmarks and architecture in close range, including the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge, Lauridsen Skatepark and Iowa Events Center, along with the beautiful backdrop of the Downtown DSM skyline.
This historic park sits on the southernmost edge of Downtown DSM, right outside of Gray’s Lake. With $2.75 million invested in recent upgrades, you’ll want to be among the first to check out some of its newest features as of fall 2022! The full upgrades include a new trail, pedestrian bridge and boardwalk, nature playscape, fishing pier and the EMC Overlook with picture-perfect birds’ eye views of Downtown DSM including the tree canopy with gorgeous colorations as the weather turns to fall.
This sweet little lake and surrounding park area is a great getaway from your workday. A 1.9-mile paved path is the perfect distance for a quick walk surrounded by fall foliage, native plants, prairie grasses and glimpses of the Raccoon River. The Krudenier Trail pedestrian bridge at Gray’s Lake and the nearby Chris and Marcie Coleman Bridge both make for a picturesque place for your workday breaks!
Des Moines Water Works Park
Did you know the Arie Den Boer Arboretum is located within Water Works Park? Although it is best known in the springtime for its 800 flowering crabapple trees, fall is another beautiful time to stroll the park and enjoy autumn’s lush colors. In addition to the Arboretum, the Park features hundreds of mature trees throughout the 1,500 acres wrapped around the Raccoon River.
The winding paved path is perfect for walking, running, biking, boarding or blading — and check out the new natural play area, as well!
John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Leisurely stroll through the 4.4-acre Sculpture Park to explore arts and culture. The Park features 24 sculptures by renowned national and international artists, nestled beneath the Downtown DSM skyline.
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden is open year-round, yet fall is a wonderful time to explore the outdoor gardens with views along the Des Moines River. One of the many outdoor garden spaces is the Ruan Reflection Garden, featuring 34 katsura trees — known for their heart-shaped leaves, reddish yellow fall color and sweet cotton candy scent emitted in autumn — as well as outdoor seating, a reflection pool and fountain.
Make it one epic autumn in Downtown Des Moines (DSM) by exploring, experiencing and enjoying what Downtown DSM has to offer. Plan your visit to Downtown DSM with these tips for parking and navigation and discover restaurants and nightlife, things to do and events!