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Top 10 Indoor Winter Activities in Downtown Des Moines

Downtown DSM Indoor Activities for Kids

December 21, 2022

Even when it’s snowing and blowing, Downtown Des Moines (DSM) is bustling with indoor activities and things to do throughout the winter months perfect for families and kids of all ages — from toddlers to preschoolers, elementary- and middle school-aged kids … even teenagers, too!    

Family-Friendly Indoor Activities 


Explore this list of 10 indoor wintertime things to do Downtown: 

  1. Wander the four-plus miles of indoor connected skywalks in Downtown DSM. 
    Utilize a map of Downtown DSM as your guide to explore as far north as the Iowa Events Center or head south to the businesses in the Historic Court District. Make your own scavenger hunt of Downtown art, sculpture and murals viewable from the skywalk such as the LED-lit “Swirl” sculpture in Cowles Commons and colorful “Pearl Clutcher/Snatcher” mural visible from the skywalk near Capital Square. For additional things to see and visit around Downtown DSM and the region, stop by Catch Des Moines during open office hours for visitor information, located nearby at 400 Locust St., Ste. 265. 
  2. Check out a family-friendly Downtown DSM restaurant. 
    Check out Mullets, Gateway Market & Café or Zombie Burger + Drink Lab for American fare, suitable for lunch or dinner. For pizza or Italian food, stop in to Truman’s, Spaghetti Works, Franka Pizzeria or Gusto Pizza Bar. Scenic Route Bakery and The Breakfast Club make for great breakfast or brunch joints. Find additional kid-friendly places to eat in Downtown DSM on the restaurants page
  3. Go indoor rock climbing in Downtown DSM. 
    Climb Iowa in the Historic East Village offers up to 3,000 square feet of bouldering with more than 80 problems to test your climbing skills. (Betcha didn’t expect to see rock climbing on this list!) 
  4. Check out arts, culture and history downtown. 
    Give the hands-on exhibits a try at the State Historical Museum of Iowa or the Science Center of Iowa. Explore art created by talented locals at the Polk County Heritage Gallery or the displayed historical works and mansion at Hoyt Sherman Place. Make a stop at West End Salvage and navigate four floors of historic and architectural finds that will have you hunting for a treasure — maybe even one to take home!   
  5. Create something artistic alongside your student. 
    Downtown DSM’s guided paint studio, Bottle & Bottega, offers instructional classes for children ages 13+ centered around a selected artwork for each class. Additionally, Mainframe Studios has classes available for kids starting at age five and up with the curriculum based on age, ability and medium. 
  6. Get your adrenaline flowing at a unique Downtown DSM attraction. 
    On Sundays, kids 12+ with adult supervision can try axe throwing at Lumber Axe in Downtown DSM; additional times allow kids 16+ to participate with a parent/guardian-signed waiver. Alternatively, consider a group outing ideal for older children and their friends at Escape Chambers; the CIA Agent Recruit room theme would be a great fit for teens. 
  7. See a live show indoors at one of Downtown DSM’s performance venues. 
    View the upcoming line-up of shows and events at Des Moines Performing Arts and the Iowa Events Center — to name a few.   
  8. Treat yourself to hot chocolate and something sweet!  
    Cure your sugar cravings with a visit to Molly’s Cupcakes, ChuChu Donuts or Cinnaholic. Snag a tasty snack at Almost Famous Popcorn Company or Dough Crazy. Sip on a hot cocoa or steamer from Smokey Row. And find even more ideas for sweet treats and warm drinks in Downtown DSM.   
  9. Cultivate your green thumb … even when it’s cold outside! 
    A visit to the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden conservatory will provide a burst of warm, tropical heat to warm you up (even on the coldest day of the year!). Explore a list of upcoming events and classes at the Botanical Garden to fully embrace your love for plants. Also, look at the available hands-on, plant-centric classes at Art Terrarium — a great option for teens and their parents — for additional indoor wintertime fun.   
  10. Cozy up with a good book in Downtown DSM. 
    Swing by Central Library to peruse the sprawling expanse of books to either browse on-site or checkout and read at home. Or stop into one of the Downtown DSM bookstores including Storyhouse Bookpub and Plain Talk Books & Coffee if turning the page corner to mark your place in a story is your thing.   

Make it one epic winter 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.

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.