Wednesday, July 1, 2015

10 free things to do in Des Moines

Since I'm a recent college grad and living on a college grad's budget, making weekend and evening plans typically revolves around the cost — because let's face it: fun can get expensive. Even just a simple night at the bars with friends can quickly add up to a $100 tab, and that's just drinking and talking! So when Adam and I think about our next date night or our weekend plans, we try to find things to do that won't break the bank. The great thing about Des Moines is that there are so many free activities to do here. Live music, museums, dancing, exercising — just to name a few. So even if you are on a tight budget, your social life doesn't have to suffer for it. For those of you living in the Des Moines area or even just visiting, here are 10 free things to do in Des Moines:

1. Bike on the many Iowa bike trails. The Des Moines area has approximately 1 billion (maybe a little less...) miles of bike trails, with plenty of restaurants and bars along the way. A great way to get exercise and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the state — you might even find more than cornfields (gasp!).

2. Explore the East Village shops and boutiques. This one could cost you some money — especially if you like vintage pieces and eclectic finds — but I really do love just the experience of walking through all the shops in the East Village. From antiques to modern home decor, there's a little bit of everything.

3. Tour the Iowa Capitol building. This is something I've never done, but I've heard from several people who have that it's a very cool experience. The capitol is beautiful from the outside, so I can only imagine how the inside looks. And hey, you might even learn a couple things while you're there.

4. Try yoga at Gray's Lake Park. Yoga in the Park is every Saturday morning from June to September, and tons of people turn out each weekend to participate. You don't have to be an expert to go, just willing to try a few poses and meet new people.

5. Experience the Des Moines Farmers Market. Also known as the Downtown Farmers Market, this is the king of all Iowa farmers markets, stretching several blocks every Saturday morning from May through October. This one can also cost a few bucks, but it can be done for free — if you have good will power. Find everything from fresh produce and lemonade to handmade jewelry and yard signs.

6. Visit the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. Free and open 24 hours a day, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park is an outdoor grassy area next to the Des Moines library that displays art by 22 artists from around the world. It's the perfect end to a dinner date night downtown, or the beginning of a Saturday spent with family.

7. Learn to salsa with free lessons at Lime Lounge. If you've ever wanted to learn how to salsa, you can do it for free at Lime Lounge on Thursdays. Salsa Des Moines provides free lessons at 8 p.m. and the floor opens at 9 p.m., so come alone or with a group and dance the night away.

8. Tour the Salisbury House. The Salisbury House is a historic 42-room mansion built in 1923 (completed in 1928). With ties to Salisbury, England, it now houses various events, including Shakespeare on the Lawn each summer.

9. View an exhibit at the Des Moines Art Center. The DMAC holds various art exhibits throughout the year, many of which are free to the public and open for several months. The hours can be a little difficult for those working 9-to-5 jobs, but they're always worth it.

10. Enjoy an outdoor concert at one of the wineries or outside of Jordan Creek Town Center. Live music is in abundance in Des Moines, especially during the summer. You can find outdoor concerts pretty much anywhere, and many of them are free. We like going to Penoach and taking our own snacks for dinner. They don't allow outside beverages because they want you to buy theirs, but you certainly won't be disappointed — it's my favorite wine in the area.

P.S. my summer bucket list, 10 patios to enjoy in DSM and 5 happy hour specials 

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