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Free family activities in Des Moines this April

Have you spotted the Rue Anemone?
Have you spotted the Rue Anemone?
Julia McGuire, Des Moines Frugal Family Examiner

Families can benefit from getting out into the Des Moines community. Trying new things can be frugal and free and give parents and kids something different to talk about as well as inspire new ideas. During April 2014, three free activities could offer such an experience.

Ride the bus! Families can celebrate Earth Day, start a new habit to save money, or ride for fun as a different activity, or see other forms of transportation with Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority, or DART. DART is giving individuals an unlimited number of free rides April 1-30, 2014 on both DART Local Route 51 – Merle Hay Crosstown and Express Route 91 – Merle Hay.

A DART representative stated that prospective bus riders do not need any special preparation to ride.

Just be at one of the purple & orange DART signs along Route #51 and/or Route #91 and enjoy the ride.

The #91 is an Express Route, so only runs from Johnston to downtown Des Moines 4 times in the morning (three trips TO Johnston); and from downtown Des Moines back out to Johnston 4 times in the afternoon (with all four returning to downtown Des Moines – the last three leave Johnston and go to the garage, but will drop off downtown along 9th Street).

The #51 starts at Merle Hay making several stops along Merle Hay Road, then takes the freeway into downtown, with stops in the downtown area along High, 7th & 6th. It runs about once an hour.”

For assistance, call 283-8100 (option 2) or send email to the DART office or send email to

Cut it up! If you have kids ages 11 and up, volunteering for Polk County’s Invasive Species Removal could make a good stewardship activity for Earth Day. Younger children would be able to identify but perhaps not remove the offending plants for adults and older kids. Scheduled for Tuesday, April 22, 2014, from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. at Easter Lake Park, Shelter #3. Easter Lake is at 2830 Easter Lake Drive in Des Moines, IA. For questions, call the Polk County Conservation Board at 323-5339.

Take a hike! For families who are new to hiking and nature walks, a guided hike might hit the spot and cure that spring fever that ails Iowans this time of year. Hike on Easter Lake's new recreational trail on Sat, April 26, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Meeting at shelter #4, drivers can turn left after the main entrance to the park -- Shelter #4 is the last parking lot to the west on that side of the lake and the trail can be reached from that shelter. Bring water and dress for the weather conditions. Contact Donna at 285-7787 to RSVP and for questions. The hike is easy with little to no challenging terrain or features. Sponsored by Central Iowa Sierra Group.

Hunt for flowers! Every spring, Iowa gets ephemerals, which are flowers that come out for a very short period of time. There are two April wildflower events.

  • The first Spring Wildflower Hike will be held on Saturday, April 26, 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. at Thomas Mitchell Park, in Mitchellville. For more information, call 967-4889.
  • The second Wildflower Hike will be held Tuesday, April 29, 6:30 - 8:00 p.m., also at Thomas Mitchell Park. This is sponsored and led by Jackie with the Central Iowa Sierra Club. She plans to meet at the McDonald's parking lot in Pleasant Hill and can be reached at 577-0375 for more information. This will be a moderately difficult hike with hilly terrain.

Look ahead! May is Wildflower month. More opportunity occurs in May. Visit the Iowa Native Plants website for a listing of wildflower events for the entire state of Iowa.

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