The Most Beautiful Parks in Des Moines, Iowa

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Benjamin M. Smith

Famous for its rolling landscapes and endless cornfields, Iowa’s capital, Des Moines, possesses a varied and popular park system. Enjoy the temperate Midwestern climate in the spring and summer months, but be sure to hike a trail in autumn to watch the colors change with the seasons. And if Iowan blood truly runs in your veins, don’t be afraid of the the winter, as there are plenty of pristine, ice-clad vistas to be had in this beautiful American state.

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The Des Moines River and downtown pedestrian bridge in Des Moines, Iowa, USA

Gray’s Lake Park

Located in the heart of Des Moines, Gray’s Lake Park offers city-dwellers urban refreshment, or even seclusion in the center of this capitol city. Attractions at this popular meeting place are numerous, ranging from paddle boating to fishing on the park’s many piers, while the banks of Gray’s Lake itself offer convenient spots for gym, yoga and health classes. Look to walk the lighted Kruidenier Trail at night for some spectacular views of Des Moines in the dark.

Buxton Park

For a quiet afternoon amongst budding flower gardens, head to Buxton Park south of Des Moines central. Featuring a gazebo and blooms of vibrant springtime displays, this one is popular amongst Iowan wedding planners and fits the bill for ceremonies of all kinds. It’s also perfect for visitors stopping by looking to revitalize the senses after experiencing the rush of Iowa’s capital. Make sure you take some time to stop and smell the roses – literally!

Principal Park

With over 11,500 seats, Principal Park takes the traditional meaning of a park a tad out of context. Home to the city’s minor league baseball team, the Iowa Cubs, this one is one of the most-widely visited “parks” in the state. As a feeder team to the Chicago Cubs, look for up-and-coming young stars to light up the diamond before they are shipped off to the Windy City to play the big time!

Union Park

Established in 1892, Union Park has seen many seasons of visitors over its long years. To this day it is extremely popular with locals, and for good reason too! From its famous rocket slide to its refurbished heritage carousel, it’s hardly a wonder why Union Park continues to draw in visitors from near and far. Enjoy a day strolling through the floral gardens, or get up close and personal with the Des Moines River- its up to you.

Big Creek State Park

On the outskirts of Des Moines lies Big Creek State Park, an area initially formed as part of a flood control project for the nearby city of Polk, IA. However, a well-visited park touting a multitude of recreational activities centered on a 866-acre lake, this site is ideal for the ambitious cyclist and walker, as the park connects a paved, multi-use path all the way back to Des Moines itself. If it is outdoorsy leisure you are looking for, why not wander along the banks of the lake and be surprised by Iowa’s picturesque landscapes?

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