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Downtown DSM on a Budget: 11 Best Ways to Spend $50 Downtown

Spending Money in Downtown DSM

Your weekend plans don’t have to break the bank. Here are 11 best ways to experience Downtown Des Moines (DSM) on a budget. We’ve curated this list of epic Downtown DSM summertime things to do with a price tag of $50 or less.

$50 or Less

  1. Do you have a Des Moines Public Library card? Chances are you can take advantage of an Adventure Pass to visit the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden or Science Center of Iowa for free! Within your $50 budget, eat lunch at Trellis Café (meals average $14 each, with a kids’ menu priced right at $8) or grab a treat nearby from Dough Crazy or Almost Famous Popcorn Company.
  2. Rent a Bcycle to bike around Downtown DSM with friends or the fam and enjoy a zero-cost scavenger hunt! Take advantage of the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park Exploration Guide for an interactive outing, or use these fun scavenger hunts created by Catch Des Moines and DSM4Kids
  3. Stage a cooking challenge with friends. Stop by the Downtown Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning, have everyone buy $50 worth of ingredients (you’ll find produce, meat, spices, and more at The Market) and then head to your kitchen to see who can cook up the most inventive dish.
  4. Snag lunch and have a picnic in the Better Homes & Gardens test garden, free and open to the public on Fridays from Noon to 2 p.m. over the summer at Dotdash Meredith. A few lunch spots nearby include A Dong, Allora Café and The Walnut
  5. For art, history, politics and skyline views, enjoy a free, self-guided tour of the Iowa State Capitol and State Law Library. (Tip: make use of the audio and video tour resources!). Then grab drinks and an appetizer at a Historic East Village eatery such as Coa Cantina, Ceviche Bar or Iowa Taproom.
  6. Bring your besties and get on the water at Gray’s Lake. Take your pick from their available watercraft rentals including canoes, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, pedal boats and row boats priced at $8 for 30 minutes or $15 for one hour. With your remaining budget, hit up a brewery nearby (Confluence or Exile are close!) or grab ice cream cones at Smokey Row.
  7. Spend your Friday Night with the Iowa Cubs — where every Friday night game ends in fireworks. General admission tickets are $9 for adults, $5 for kids 13 and under, and free for kids ages three and under. For families with young kids, Make it a “double header” and not only catch a game, but get in some water play, too. Bring your suits and cool off in the zero-depth entry fountain located just south of the scoreboard. For a date night for two, allocate the rest of your budget to drinks after the game at Mullet’s, High Life Lounge or El Bait Shop to cool down with a couple of beers after the game.
  8. Pack your scooters or skateboards and bring your family to Lauridsen Skatepark. Even if you’re not quite ready to take on the bowl, you’ll enjoy sitting on the sidelines watching others drop in. After getting your fill of the action, head over to Raygun to put $30 towards some Downtown DSM swag, and also grab milkshakes from Zombie Burger + Drink Lab or smoothies from NOSH for the ride home.
  9. Bring a friend or a special someone to watch the sunrise from the John & Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, then sit down for breakfast and coffee from St. Kilda, HobNob or Scenic Route Bakery.
  10. Impress your date with a sunset from the EMC Overlook at MacRae park (or any of these great places for views in Downtown DSM!), then treat yourselves to cocktails from the Continental Lounge or the Republic on Grand.
  11. Enjoy a solo day dedicated to architecture and antiques. The Des Moines Architectural Foundation offers monthly walking tours over the summer and fall at $20 per person. Then, stroll through a few Downtown antique shops such as West End Architectural Salvage, Porch Light, Funky Finds Vintage & Retro and Reclaimed DSM. You’ll even have a few dollars to spend on a small historic or vintage item to take home (and still stay within budget)!

We’d love to see a photo of your epic Downtown Des Moines visit-on-a-budget. Feel free to tag us (@downtownDSMUSA) when you post a photo on Instagram or Twitter, and use #downtownDSM.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

DSM USA is the regional identifier for Greater Des Moines (DSM). DSM USA is a bold statement to the world: This is a welcoming, diverse and vibrant community with affordable and accessible amenities for residents and businesses. This regional identifier is the result of significant quantitative and qualitative research. The Partnership will champion the DSM USA message, and encourages its Investors, its more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and DSM USA Ambassadors to help share the region's story with One Voice.