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Get Outside: Exploring Greater Des Moines Safely + Responsibly

Outdoors in DSM

August 25, 2020

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. We are living in strange times. (Hey, at least I didn’t say “unprecedented”). At Catch Des Moines, the convention and visitors bureau for Greater Des Moines (DSM), our job is to bring visitors to the region, whether it’s through conventions and events or leisure travel. These visitors stay in hotels and support our economy, jobs and small businesses, which in turn enhances the quality of life for those who live and work here.

But what do you do when there are no events to bring people here? How do you market the region safely and responsibly when there are varying levels of comfort with the mere idea of travel?

The answer starts with taking a deep breath … of fresh air.

If there is any silver lining, it’s that summer and fall in DSM have provided us with an opportunity to encourage both visitors and locals to get outside and explore the great outdoors. Your social media feeds are likely populated with friends and family taking “outdoor vacations.” Lakes, parks, mountains and trails are about as COVID-chic as new puppies and bread making. That’s because getting outdoors is not only the responsible thing to do … it’s the fun thing to do!

DSM may not be the Great Lakes, but we are an underrated outdoor destination with more to explore than you probably realize. Here are just a few ways you can safely unwind, explore and disconnect (right after you post that amazing pic to Instagram and use #catchdsm, of course).

Make a Splash

The best way to beat the heat is to get out on the water. From exploring our over 150 miles of water trails on a kayak to cranking the classic rock on a pontoon or just floating idling down the river on a tube (one for you, one for your cooler), there are plenty of ways to dive into the fun.

Are you a nautical novice? No worries! Places like Seven Oaks (canoes, kayaks, tubes), Saylorville Lake Marina (boats, pontoons) and Quarry Springs Outfitters (kayaks) will help take out the guesswork with rentals that let you dip your toes into the boating game, quite literally. If you’re more a landlubber, there are beautiful beaches like Big Creek Beach, Easter Lake and Lake Ahquabi. Check out more ideas here.


Take a Hike (or a Bike)

With over 800 miles of connected trails and an abundance of parks, there are plenty of ways to get out and burn off the Quarantine 15 (and plenty of stops for a bite and brew along the way if you want to keep it). You’ve got the obvious choices like High Trestle Trail, named one of the “Eight Amazing Footbridges” by the BBC, where a bridge photo is practically required by law.

Then there’s Jester Park Nature Center, where not only can you hike, but also ride a horse, play a round of golf and gaze upon bison herds. Where else can you do that? (OK, I’m sure there may be some other places in the U.S., but none that close to Des Moines!). Not to mention Gray’s Lake, a tranquil urban oasis that still leaves time to explore beautiful Downtown DSM. Check out more ideas here.


Feast Al Fresco

Finally, if your idea of an outdoor adventure consists more of sipping a margarita on an outdoor patio, no judgment here, we assume you’ve earned it. With social distancing the order of the day, area restaurants and bars have made outdoor seating a priority, meaning it’s easier than ever to dine (or drink) out responsibly and safely. Check out a few of our favorites here.

So what are you waiting for? Take advantage of the warm weather (official “shorts weather” ranges from 40 – 100 degrees) and start planning your DSM outdoor adventure today, whether it involves paddles or cocktail straws. And invite some out-of-town family to join you … just make sure they stay in a hotel.

Whether it’s a morning on the lake or an evening spent exploring Greater Des Moines’ (DSM’s) 800 miles of connected recreational trails, the region has many outdoor options.

Named the #5 Best Place to Live in the U.S. and a Top 10 Best Place for Business and Careers, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a city where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.

Ben Handfelt

Ben Handfelt is the director of creative and communications at Catch Des Moines. He leads the creative vision and communications for the Greater Des Moines Convention & Visitors Bureau, marketing the region to increase visitors through both leisure travel and conventions and events.