Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden is where the Meredith Corporation experiments and photographs for its magazine. It’s only open to the public a small window each day, throughout the year, but is the perfect spot to explore downtown.
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is a wonderful place to experience nature indoors (and outdoors), with a variety of plants and gardens in their dome-shaped building. There are gardens outside as well, with short dirt paths to explore. Each time we have visited there has been at least one display with hands on materials for kids, and they love looking at the koi fish and all the different plants! It is a great place to play “I Spy” as well.
Great Western Trail runs along an old railroad line, connecting several small towns in a paved stretch. Primarily used by bikers, it passes over bridges with intermittent shade and scenery. We visited as a part of the Polk County Geocaching Challenge, exploring off of the Des Moines trail head.
Sycamore Trail winds around the river, providing ample birding and wildlife spotting opportunities. It has several different paths, on both sides of the river, with beautiful trees and lots of critters.