Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden – Real Reviews For Real Families

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

909 Robert D. Ray Drive
Des Moines, IA  50309


  • MembersFree
  • Adults$8.00
  • Senior Citizens (65+)$7.00
  • Military Personnel$7.00
  • Students (ages 4-17)$6.00
  • Children 3 and under Free

April 18, 2015

The Barkeep and I took the boys to the Botanical Garden on a rainy Saturday afternoon in April. The gift shop being right inside the door with no walls around it is a bit nerve-racking for me. My kids want to touch everything and it all looks so delicate and breakable. I try to hurry through the admissions process by having everything I need out and ready when I go in. We must have just missed a wedding as they were still there taking photographs, but it was not crowded at all. We went straight to the hallway where kids’ activities are usually kept and did some coloring and a rubbing activity. In the past we have done some cool art projects there and they often have sensory activities. For awhile there was dirt for digging in, with plastic bugs and other fun stuff hidden in it. After coloring we checked out the back room, a garden show house. This is usually my kids’ favorite area. It changes frequently and has small, interesting details to notice.

Before checking out the rest of the garden The Barkeep took Little S to the bathroom. They went to a family restroom so he did not check for a changing table in the men’s room. He said the bathrooms were clean. Little S was able to reach everything easily but there was no stool available. (This is an important detail to me, as LS likes to do everything himself.)

The gardens get very wet when it rains. Running is always prohibited in the gardens but be very careful to talk to the kids about using their walking feet when it is wet. The stones get slippery. We did not spend much time in the main indoor area but we did check out the waterfall and the stone stairs in the very back. My kids enjoy watching the fish swim under the bridges but I did not notice any on this trip.

There is a cafe, but other than popping in to buy a Fresca, I have never eaten there. The website says menu is locally sourced and plant inspired, so I think it would be cool to check out. We have always brought a snack lunch, which I discovered today on the website is not allowed. Oops. I’ve been bringing in food for over a decade and eating on the indoor balcony without ever being questioned. Sorry staff!

Outside is where the real fun begins. The entire outdoor area was dug up and remodeled last year. I went to the grand opening and was unimpressed at the time, but hopeful that spring would bring more changes. Wow, did it ever! I did not take many pictures to share because I want you to visit and see it for yourself. I’ll tell you this, it’s much bigger now and there is a waterfall you can go under without getting wet. There isn’t much shade out there right now so don’t forget a hat. The whole area is enclosed now, but it is huge, so it is possible to lose sight of a fast runner.

Brother Love

Brotherly Love

Other things to note: There were umbrellas available right outside the door to the outdoor gardens. Nice touch! The website says their on some strollers available on a first come, first serve basis. Other than the open floor plan of the gift shop there are no other “snack traps” or areas selling junk toys. We love the toys available in the gift shop but many are a bit out of my price range. You can get small books of stickers or stencils and a low price if you want a souvenir. Parking is free and plentiful and the staff is polite, happy to see the kids and helpful when needed.

We are members of Reiman Gardens in Ames so our trip to the Botanical Garden was free. As the boys ran around the paths outside I tried to assess how I would feel about the trip if we had paid the $22 to get in. I would not be disappointed, but I would probably not return again for quite awhile. As members we decided to return at least once a month to see the changes in the gardens as they grow. (This is our plan at Reiman Gardens, as well.) I highly recommend a membership if you like to take family outings. I bought the “supporter” membership for $55 and get myself, The Barkeep and all minor children in to both gardens FREE. There is also a list of other gardens across the country where you can get free or reduced admission. We have not taken advantage of this yet. If a membership is out of your price range be sure to drop hints to family members around Christmas and birthday time!

We had a great day and I hope you do, too!


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