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.
Jackaline Baldwin Dunlap Park and Arboretum is a delightful hidden urban garden, donated to the city by a couple who lived nearby. There is a short loop of paved path, with a modern shelter. Lots of benches and picnic tables are spread throughout the shady park. There are several garden sculptures and planted gardens, with a connection to the nearby paved trail.
This is a great spot to take toddlers and preschoolers to bike; the path is long enough to let them go for awhile before turning or stopping, but not far enough to have any adult bikers.
Urbandale Demonstration Garden has a mature fruit orchard and several different gardens.