Thursday, July 28, 2016

McHenry Park

McHenry Park is a wonderful park on the north side of Des Moines. I'd never been there before and didn't know what to expect. As it turns out, it has a splash pad, a playground, and a natural playscape. There are three different outdoor shelters, one of which has stunning views! Really, it's an all-around great park. 

We parked on Oak Street, which seemed to be a quiet road. We passed by one of the shelters and the bathroom to get to this really cool splash pad:

There was a frog and a turtle to climb. The turtle got a little slippery, but the ground was padded (like you find at mall playgrounds).

They used the turtle as a miniature water slide.

The water drains down a little man-made "creek."

Looking beyond the creek, I could see a swing set and another shelter in the distance. The distant shelter is the one that's not available for reservations currently. The other two are!

This is the overlook shelter. It has views of the river down below, and of the city. It's on the southern end of the park, away from the road, but also a bit far visually from the splash pad.

This is the playground. Small, but the kids liked it. It has tall monkey bars that gave them a good challenge!

And here's the natural playscape. Both the kids and I were impressed!

The animal splash pad and the natural playscape really made the park stand out as unique and fun!

On the map below, you'll also see a trail marked. It was actually a real nice looking trail, wide with lane lines painted for cyclists.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Stone Park

Stone Park is home to the Pioneer Columbus Community Center. They host a few events and activities there, but this was actually our first visit. We stopped by on our way home from the kids' swimming lessons, and I thought it was just a playground. Not so! They also have a wading pool. It's a good thing they had their suits!

As you'll see in a few of these pictures, there's a lot of construction being done at the park. I'll have to

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Gray's Lake Beach & Park

Gray's Lake is an immensely popular park, just south of downtown. People of all ages come here to play, jog, cycle, boat, and swim. Des Moines Parks & Rec frequently hosts Saturday morning yoga at this park (although it rotates some weeks).

The northern most entrance to the park leads to a parking lot by the old silos, which is a good spot to park for the playground and beach access.

From the playground, we strolled along the Kruidenier Trail, which makes roughly a 2 mile loop

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sargent Park

Have you ever seen such a stunning park? I was floored when we arrived at Sargent Park. We came here to play in the creek, and we found this beautiful playground, designed as a natural playscape.

Before the kids got too settled into the playground, we went down to the creek to explore. There is access to Fourmile Creek just a short trot down the path from the playground.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Good Park

We finally took the time to check out Good Park. I've been meaning to get there because it's located not too far from us in central Des Moines, and it's easy to get to (on the corner of University & Keo Way). 

The kids get so excited when we go to a splash park. This one had no other people playing when we arrived. When they were little, I loved quiet parks where I didn't have to worry about them getting knocked down. Now that they're bigger, I like busier parks so they can socialize and play. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Brody School Park

Today, we went to check out Brody School Park, which is located on the north side of Brody Middle School (south of Water Works Park). It has a large tennis court, a basketball court, a playground, and a long-distance view of downtown!

The playground is a fun one for bigger kids and has a climbing wall, but really doesn't have much shade to speak of.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Coloring Contest at the Iowa State Fair

It's time for submissions to the annual coloring contest at the Iowa State Fair! Entries are due August 1. You can print off the coloring pages and entry form from the website:

My kids are busy working hard on theirs!

Evergreen Park

Through all of our recent playground adventures, I learned a new term: pocket park. Apparently, a small and easily accessible park is called a pocket park, and that's how I'd describe Evergreen Park in Des Moines. It's in the middle of a residential area, but easy to see and get to from the main road (Evergreen Avenue).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ashby Park

A heat wave has hit Des Moines! I sound very excited, but I'm very not. It's currently in the 90s, but feels like 109 degrees with the heat index. There are heat advisories throughout the county, and Des Moines has put out signs for their "cooling centers" that welcome people to come to various community centers and other municipal buildings to cool down. I tried to be optimistic about the day and took the kids to a new-to-us splash park: Ashby Park, located in Beaverdale.

The spray features weren't working, so it was really a regular wading pool today. And it was busy! Apparently, lots of parents had the same idea.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Birdland Park

Birdland Park is directly west of Union Park, right on the Des Moines River. In fact, it even has a marina, where people can pay rent to park their boats (I guess "dock" is the term I was looking for, but you get what I mean!).

On the north end of the park, north of the marina, is 'Ding' Darling Shelter House, which is available for rent. It sits on a lake, and there's a playground there that isn't as busy as Union Park.

When we were there (mid-July), there were still plenty of spent fireworks around the parking lot, and the dumpsters were overflowing. So, I'm not sure how much regular care this park gets, but it seems like it would be a great place to spend the day if it was serviced a bit more. The park itself was pretty quiet--much more so than Union Park, which was full of kids--busy with families and day camps!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Union Park: Rocket Slide and Heritage Carousel

Union Park is also known as "rocket ship park." The rocket slide was first installed at the park in the late 60s or early 70s, and it's so cool to have an actual fun, fast slide these days! I remember when I was a kid, my mom would take us to a park that had a giant slide. I tried so many times to do it, but I'd always get scared halfway up the ladder and come back down.

Guess what? Jo was no different. When we arrived, she went straight to the top of the rocket ship! And there she remained. Oliver went up to try to get her to come down the ramp, but she refused to budge, terrified she'd end up going down the slide. Another boy tried to help her as well, to no avail. So guess who ended up climbing up there? That's right--yours truly.

There were a few tears when I refused to let her climb back up there. For what it's worth, there is a regular, smaller playground next to the rocket ship area. There's also a splash park/sprayground. But the highlight of the park really is this rocket slide!

Once Oliver was done playing, we crossed over the parking lot to the Heritage Carousel, The animals on the carousel are all hand-carved. Although the carousel is from 1998, it was designed to be a replica of a turn-of-the-century carousel. There are painted scenes of Des Moines on it. It's really beautiful! A ride costs 50 cents for children and $1 for adults.

Union Park is a big place. If you're wondering how to find these attractions, here is how we got there from 235:

We headed north on Pennsylvania (exit 8B on the highway). We went past the first few turn-ins for the park, and we turned right at Guthrie Avenue. It basically ends at the park, where you can turn left to keep driving, or turn right to park in the parking lot. From that lot, you can access the playground, the splash pad, the rocket slide, and the Heritage Carousel.

Here's a map, with the parking lot starred:

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Western Gateway Park and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park

You might be surprised at how kid-friendly a sculpture park can be. It doesn't hurt that the Pappajohn Sculpture Park is packed with Pokespots for the game PokemonGo. Here in Des Moines, it's quite the hot spot for PokemonGo players, and the park is always busy, busy!

But before I get into the fun of the sculpture park, let me talk about the park that's right across the street from there: Western Gateway Park. 

There's a man-made creek called a water runnel that runs through Western Gateway Park. It smells chlorinated, and it's meant for people to play in. Dogs play in there, too! 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Jaycee Park. Urbandale Parks Challenge = Completed!

We did it! We've completed Urbandale's park challenge: visit 32 parks in 90 days! I'm happy we participated because it got us out of the house when we were feeling lazy, and it pushed me to see new parks of the larger Des Moines area. 

Jaycee Park is nice for how easy it is to get to the playground. I parked directly in front of the playground, and this is how it looked from the car (no zoom):

What that means, to me, is that this is an ideal park for when I just want to pull over somewhere and

Urbandale Parks Challenge: Lakeview Park

We're nearly done with our Urbandale Parks Challenge. Lakeview Park is our 31st Park, and so we have just one left after this! Lakeview Park has a trail that goes in a loop around a small lake. It branches off connecting to the sidewalk along Aurora Ave, the neighborhood behind the lake, and to the local middle school (where we parked).

As we drove by, we saw a sculpture on the west side. We walked about halfway around the lake, along the east side, and we never found the playground. It must be on the west, but away from the main road.

The kids were happy to play on the oversized Adirondack chairs that make the rounds to different Urbandale Parks. They love it when we find them! And these ones came with beautiful views of the lake.

Along the lake is an open-air shelter with a unique, modern design. I snapped a picture because it looked like a great spot to have a picnic. The shelter is first-come, first-serve (no reservations taken).