I love shopping small businesses, and Des Moines has a great selection for nature lovers! I know from personal experience how exciting it can be to get an order in when you are a shop of 1, and also how valuable it is to have experienced staff in local shops to help people get the right gear. I wrote this list based on my own experiences as well as recommendations from readers and friends. A few businesses paid to include photos and their social media profiles, but no one paid to be on the list! If you know of a shop that belongs here, please say so in the comments and I’ll be happy to add them if I think they are a good fit.
The gift guide is separated into several categories, so keep scrolling and start taking notes! If you start shopping, please let them know that Des Moines Outdoor Fun sent you.
Intangible Gift Ideas for Nature Lovers in Des Moines, Iowa
Know someone who has all the ‘stuff’ that they need? Give them something that won’t need to be wrapped!
- A trip with Pingora Outdoors
- A trip or class with CanoeSport Outfitters
- Tinkergarten classes (there are local leaders in Urbandale, West Des Moines, & Des Moines)
- A class at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Center
- A Hike It Baby membership
Memberships or donations to:
- Brenton Arboretum
- Iowa Arboretum
- The Greater Des Moines Botanical Center
- Central Iowa Trails Association
- Raccoon Valley Trail Association
- Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge
- Des Moines Audubon Society
Donations in their name to:
- Polk County Conservation
- Dallas County Conservation
- Warren County Conservation
- Madison County Conservation
- Urban Ambassadors
- Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
- Great Outdoors Foundation
- Trees Forever
- Water Rocks!
Tangible Gift Ideas for Nature Lovers in Des Moines, Iowa
Shopping for books? We love nature picture books and there are lots of great adult books about exploring nature: Beaverdale Books, Plot Twist Bookstore, Half Price Books, the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge’s Prairie Point Nature Storeor Barnes and Nobles. Also could do a subscription to Iowa Outdoors Magazine.
There are quite a few local stores and makers you can shop with as well! These are separated into three groups, sorted alphabetically.
Friends of Des Moines Outdoor Fun:
Shop: Active Endeavors
Where you can find them: 4520 University Ave, Ste 130 West Des Moines, Iowa 50266 – their website is here, also follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Sign up to hear about sales, with their newsletter!
What they sell/what they had to say: Clothing and gear for men, women, kids along with accessories for hiking and camping.
My favorite thing:
They have really fun screenprinted tees designed by local shop, The Side Garage, and they would be a great gift for anyone who loves the outdoors (seen in the first photo). They also carry lots of my favorite brand Patagonia!
Shop: Art Terrarium
What they sell/what they had to say: Hardy houseplants, succulents, terrariums, air plants, handmade planters and local art! Art Terrarium is the perfect stop for the plant lovers in your life. Don’t want to wrap up a plant? Purchase a planter and a gift card and your special someone can visit later and pick out their perfect plant! Their local art includes a a national park print designed by local artist Emily Steele.
My favorite thing: Anyone who loves being outside craves some greenery in winter, so I think an easy-care succulent would be a fun gift.
Shop: Broken Tree Art
Where you can find them: On Etsy – also follow them on Facebook and on Instagram. They will also be at an upcoming craft fair on 11/4, check it out! Be sure to subscribe to their newsletter and stay in the loop for new product releases.
What they sell/what they had to say: Air plant holders, outdoorsy wall decor, and recycled climbing rope accessories.
My favorite thing: This beautiful air plant holder! Plants are such a lovely way to bring the outdoors in, and this is a super low maintenance plant perfect for any black thumb friends.
Shop: Sugar Grove Goods
What they sell/what they had to say: “Hi! I’m Meg from Sugar Grove Goods. I make handmade, palm-free, goat milk soap. Our soaps are great for sensitive skin and make cleaning up after a long day of play extra fun. The Dandelion soap is particularly near and dear to my heart because my three year old daughter helped make it. We picked those plentiful yellow flowers and infused the soap oils with them. Then we used the leaves to make a tea which we also put in the soap. The result is a wonderfully creamy yellow bar with dried dandelion flowers on top.”
My favorite thing: The dinosaur soaps! We go through a lot of soap after being outside, you can see it in use here. These are the perfect gift; they are fun to play with but have a practical usage too.
Shop: Twin Forks Trading Co.
What they sell/what they had to say: Graphic t-shirts with outdoorsy themes, with two collections donating some of the proceeds to Polk County Conservation and Des Moines Parks & Rec.
My favorite thing: The Jester Park bison tee is so good!
Local nonprofits with shops:
Shop: Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge’s Prairie Point Nature Store (see their DSMOF page for visit information, here)
They have a fun event coming up on 11/11 at the shop, check it out!
What they sell/what they had to say: Books, stuffed animals, t-shirts, toys, bookmarks. “The Prairie Point Nature Store is operated and staffed by volunteers for the Friends of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. You will find a wide variety of books for adults and children, unique toys, apparel and gift items. We also carry a variety of items from local artists. Prairie Point Nature Store is a great place to shop for gifts for all occasions and all ages. All proceeds directly support the programs and events at the Refuge, so please visit the refuge often to experience the beautiful tallgrass prairie and see what the Nature Store has to offer.”
My favorite thing: We bought all our folding field nature guides there! I love their field guides and selection of cute stuffed animals.
Shop: Science Center of Iowa’s A-Ha! Store
Where you can find them: 401 W Martin Luther King Jr Pkwy Des Moines, Iowa 50309 and online here
What they sell/what they had to say: “From gizmos and gadgets to kits and contraptions, SCI’s A-ha! Gift Store offers fun, educational merchandise and unique gifts for explorers of all ages!”
My favorite thing: This “My First Bird Book” is so cute!
Shop: Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden’s gift shop
Where you can find them: 909 Robert D Ray Dr Des Moines, Iowa 50309
What they sell/what they had to say: Gardening supplies, art prints, children’s books and toys, decor, cards, and giftables.
My favorite thing: My kids love their selection of rocks and minerals!
Shop: Iowa Arboretum’s gift shop
Where you can find them: 1875 Peach Ave Madrid, Iowa 50156
What they sell/what they had to say: Gardening tools, books and toys for kids, decor, local nature books and field guides.
My favorite thing: They have beautiful standing yard decorations from local art shop Sticks, that are so pretty.
Local Des Moines makers and stores:
Shop: Acanthus Apparel
Where you can find them: https://www.acanthusapparelshop.com/
What they sell/what they had to say: Clothes for the whole family, patches, and pins. “Hello! I’m Alyssa from Acanthus Apparel. My hobby making t-shirts for myself and my husband has evolved into a family business. My husband, Joshua, and I work together on coming up with original artwork to adorn the trendiest and softest apparel. Our 4 year old daughter also contributes by modeling her favorite kids items. For the past year we have turned to adventure to inspire most of our designs. Hiking, gardening, or just playing outside is where you will usually find us and our apparel fits right into that lifestyle.”
My favorite thing: This women’s ‘Adventure’ shirt would look excellent on the trail!
Shop: Backcountry Outfitters
Where you can find them: 2702 Beaver Ave Des Moines, Iowa 50310
What they sell/what they had to say: Gear for hiking, backpacking, and camping. Clothes and shoes for men and women, and accessories like socks and hats. “Back Country is an adventure travel outfitter and outdoor lifestyle boutique, locally owned and operated since 1974. We carry a full selection of outdoor gear and apparel from the industry’s most reputable and innovative brands. We also offer one of Iowa’s most unique boutique collections, with exclusive women’s and men’s clothing oriented toward the sustainable, ethically produced, and travel-friendly. Open seven days a week in the heart of Beaverdale, Des Moines.”
My favorite thing: I bought a Smartwool hat here last year, they have a great selection of hats for gifting!
Shop: b.e. happe designs
Where you can find them: https://behappedesigns.com/
What they sell/what they had to say: Baby, kid, and adult hats/scarves. “My name is Brooke Happe from b.e.happe Designs. I am a mom of three that creates handmade knit and crochet wear during naptime or after my kiddos go to bed! I taught myself to knit and crochet to keep my hands strong as I stepped away from my career as a Doctor of Physical Therapy in order to be a stay-at-home mom. It is very important to me as a business owner, mother and medical profession to have my children know that there are people in need and that giving, no matter what form, provides emotional uplift to people. With that goal, I decided to donate a handmade hat to Blank Children’s Hospital with each item purchased from b.e.happe Designs. When we visit the hospital with our hat donations there are many times we see children walking around with hats on and my kids shout out in excitement that they are wearing ‘our b.e.happe hats’. I love providing people with a unique handmade items but donating hats and having my children develop a sense of empathy and philanthropy is what this business is all about.”
My favorite thing: Definitely this adorable pom-pom knit hat for kids, it would be so cute in winter!
Shop: Bozz Prints
Where you can find them: https://www.bozzprints.com/?category=IOWA
What they sell/what they had to say: Prints, kid/adult shirts, mugs, stickers, postcards with Iowa landscape and biking designs.
My favorite thing: This farm print is so cheery, I love it.
Where you can find them: http://ilovedomestica.com/
What they sell/what they had to say: Cards, jewelry, gifts, mugs, prints, giftables.
My favorite thing: These little “campfire field notes” books are adorable and I’d love to them to jot down things when we hike or camp.
Shop: Iowa Parklands
Where you can find them: http://www.iowaparklands.com/ and at local craft shows
What they sell/what they had to say: Trail map bandannas, state park bandannas, and trail notebooks. “Matt launched iowaparklands.com in November of 2012 as an outlet for his interests in design, fitness and the outdoors. The site has detailed firsthand descriptions of Iowa’s most popular parks as well as free printable trail maps. His favorite part of the Iowa Parklands project has been hiking hundreds of miles of trails with a GPS in hand to create accurate trail maps. He also sells products on the site including trail map bandanas of many popular trail systems. The multifunctional bandanas have been popular with hikers, bikers, birders and equestrian riders. Several bandanas have been sold to Iowans living outside the state as a piece of nostalgia for their favorite Iowa Park.”
My favorite thing: I think the state park bandanna would make for a great family project, trying to visit them all!
Shop: Moms On A Mission
Where you can find them: https://www.facebook.com/IZENmom/
What they sell/what they had to say: Crochet hats, cowls, and accessories.
My favorite thing: This cute purple owl hat!
Shop: Pingora Outdoors
Where you can find them: https://www.pingoraoutdoors.com/ and in person 604 SW 3rd Street, Ankeny, IA 50023
What they sell/what they had to say: Men and women’s clothing, camping/climbing/hiking gear, and also local trips.
My favorite thing: A hammock! I’m always so jealous when I see other campers chilling in these, tied among the trees, and think they would be a lot of fun.
Where you can find them: 5901 Mills Civic Pkwy Ste 4100, West Des Moines, IA 50266
What they sell/what they had to say: “We outfit for camping, climbing, cycling, hiking, paddling, running, skiing, and travel. We have a wide variety of clothing and accessories for men, women, and children to accommodate all those outdoor activities and more. At Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), we love to get outside and play, and we know first-hand the importance of quality outdoor gear. We stand behind all our products with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and we design our own line of award-winning REI brand gear and clothing. Whether you’re new to outdoor adventure or a seasoned pro, we gladly share our enthusiasm for our products—and the trails, slopes and waterways where we play.
Each year, REI donates millions of dollars to support conservation efforts nationwide and sends dedicated teams of volunteers—members, customers and REI employees—to build trails, clean up beaches, restore local habitats and more…. Through responsible business practices across the company, we strive to reduce our environmental footprint.
What began as a group of 23 mountain climbing buddies is now the nation’s largest consumer cooperative. But no matter how large we grow, our roots remain firmly planted in the outdoors. Our passion for outdoor adventure is clear, whether you visit any of our stores across the country, phone us, or interact with us online. We all work to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”
My favorite thing: Wool socks! They have a great selection of wool socks, I’ve had good experiences with Smartwool.
Shop: The Red Door Press
Where you can find them: http://www.thereddoorpress.com/
What they sell/what they had to say: Prints, cards, and maps.
My favorite thing: The “You Can’t Take The Sky From Me” print is dreamy, this would make a lovely gift for anyone who loves to camp or star gaze.
Shop: Trails and Tales Photography
Where you can find them: https://trails-and-tales-photography.smugmug.com/
What they sell/what they had to say: Nature scene all art, puzzles, mugs, prints, canvases, prints. Heather said “”I take photos of the beauty I see while hiking in Des Moines. Then, I integrate those photos into thoughtful gifts.”
My favorite thing: This print would make a lovely gift!
Shop: Wildlife Prints by Bryan Conley
Where you can find them: www.wildlifeofbryan.com
What they sell/what they had to say: Wildlife and nature/landscape prints.
My favorite thing: This pretty ‘Painted Lady’ butterfly print! We enjoy seeing these butterflies all over the trails and this would be lovely on someone’s wall.
Shop: Young Living – local rep Kerri Hays
Where you can find them: Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get hooked up.