by Diana Lambdin Meyer
Every family vacation at some time must include a visit to a theme park, and in the Midwest Adventureland Amusement Park in Des Moines has been entertaining families since the 1970s. With many of the expected features in an amusement park — Ferris wheel, rollercoasters, carousels and log flumes — Adventureland meets the basic criteria for a good time. But throw in the Human Washing Machine, two 70-foot speed slides and a 200-foot shot directly into space, then you have a day of adventure for the daredevils of all ages in your family. Of course, there’s plenty for little ones, with more than a dozen rides for those under 54 inches tall and a zero-entry water play area in Adventure Bay.
Bernie the St. Bernard is the official mascot of Adventureland who strolls along Main Street and the other four theme areas several times throughout the day, posing for pictures and making sure all is well within his little kingdom. Blue Bunny Ice Cream, made in LeMars, Iowa, is the official ice cream of Adventureland. The entire park is non-smoking.
The people who designed Adventureland must have had kids of all ages, because instead of clustering all of the kiddie rides in one section and the wilder rides in another, they are all intermingled. Therefore, parents can do a better job of keeping track of where everyone in the family is at the same time.
Our Editor Loves
- One- and two-bedroom Family Suites
- Three pools with jungle-themed slides and two arcades
- Walking distance to Adventureland Theme and Water Parks
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Within walking distance of the entrance, but with a complimentary trolley providing transportation to the park all day long, the Adventureland Inn is the closest hotel to all of the rides and attractions. The 186 rooms are built around two large courtyards where the pools are located. You may choose from 12 different styles from rooms that literally step out to the pool from your own private patio to rooms with a private patio within steps of your automobile. Family Suites feature one or two bedrooms and sitting areas with sleeper sofas. The hotel is two stories, so second level rooms have spacious balconies that either overlook the pool or access the outdoors. Those on the west side of the hotel have a great view of the rides at the park. Adjoining rooms are available. The entire hotel is non-smoking.
Previously my favorite hotel!!! Not anymore the paint on the bottom of the pool was coming off on the kids feet!! The water was cloudy and full of hair the bubbles in the pool didn’t work! In the pool that they put new slides in the flooring was ruff where there was rocks missing! We stayed three nights the hot tubs where both down at different time during our stay! Not impressed with the swim up bar can no longer charge to your room so you have to have cash in the water and with five kids this was a pain!!!
They have updated some poolside rooms which is where we always stay. They put tile floors in which was very slippery and didn’t go so well when littles fell out of bed in the middle of the night!!!
The only part we enjoyed was the restaurant It was awesome!!! We had a left item in the room called within a half hour of check out and they said it wasn’t there!!! We used to stay her at least three times a year and we will probably never go back!!!!
by Sharon M
We were very happy with our room and the service provided by Adventureland Inn. The kiddie pool was perfect for our three year old grandson. The only drawback was that our daughter and family were very unhappy with their "pool side" room. It was by the pool side but their deck was an entrance to the pool area so they constantly had people walking through their deck. It was room 164 and we noticed that room 174 had a similar arrangement so I would strongly recommend that you request a different room. They did receive a substantial discount but they were not sure the discount was worth the hassle.
Theme Park Rides
Fans of wooden roller coasters love The Tornado, easily the most popular ride in the park. The first hill is 100 feet high and in 90 seconds, it's all over. Many go back and do it again and again. Another wooden coaster is The Outlaw, a focal point of the 12-acres of Outlaw Gulch, a western-themed area. It drops just 60 feet but has some mighty wicked turns. The Dragon is the only steel rollercoaster and perhaps the scariest of the three. It's Iowa's only upside down, double-looping roller coaster.
Rides for the whole family include the train around the park, bumper cars and the log flume. And look up. The sky ride is a classic -- direct to Adventureland following the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle. The Ferris wheel has about 6000 lights on it, making for beautiful pictures at night. It's also a fabulous place from which to watch 4th of July fireworks. There are 10 gentle rides designed just for kids less than 54 inches tall, and include everything from motorboats and airplanes to chuck wagons and bright red ladybugs.
Circus performances, magic shows, comedy routines and animal acts are among the many shows that are offered indoors in the air-conditioning. A bingo parlor, adjacent to a video arcade, attracts a number of adults.
Adventure Bay Water Park
With 13 waterslides, the longest lazy river in Iowa (one-third mile), a water playground for big kids and little kids, this is why water parks are such popular family attractions. Two of the slides are seven stories high. Heron Harbor is the splash pad for toddlers and includes a zero-depth entry pool. Kokomo Kove is for the bigger kids who can really make a commotion in the water with more than 100 water features. There's a real sand beach, a swim up bar and private cabanas available for your family. Like most water parks, you can't bring in your own inner tubes, but plenty are available for rent once inside the park.
Visitors to Adventureland will not go hungry with opportunities for refreshments around every bend in the park. Most of the selections however, are fried foods, candies and snacks that do not fall in the category of a healthy diet.
Onsite dining includes the Parkview Restaurant, which serves up fluffy eggs and other great breakfast foods each morning. The Central Park Restaurant & Lounge is great for dinner, which dishes like pizza and pasta perfect for hungry kids. And the swim-up bar has snacks and drinks for everyone (open seasonally).
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
For nursing mothers, Adventureland offers lactation stations inside the air-conditioned guest services office adjacent to the First Aid Station near the Merry-Go-Round, as well as at Adventure Bay Water Park.
The Art of Smart Timing
Adventureland is open on weekends from late April through late September and seven days a week from Memorial Day until Labor Day. The Adventure Bay Waterpark is open Memorial Day to Labor Day. Holiday weekends are always most crowded.
The Iowa State Fair -- the subject of that Rodgers and Hammerstein classic "State Fair" -- is held for two weeks in mid-August each year. It is a phenomenal event in itself, but this is certainly the busiest time in Des Moines when all hotels fill and Adventureland itself is equally crowded with people in the region partaking in the fair activities.
Adventureland is located on the east side of the Des Moines metro in Altoona, at exit 142 off of I-80, a major east-west corridor in the Midwest. Eight major airlines service Des Moines International Airport, which is located about 15 miles from Adventureland.
Exploring the Des Moines area requires a private automobile for the most part. The city is laid out on an easy-to-navigate grid and traffic is rarely a problem. Parking is plentiful and often at no charge. Once you get downtown, additional options include the D-Line shuttle that runs in the area around the capitol, and a bike-sharing program called B-cycle that rents bicycles for $5 per 24 hours.
Parking is $5 at the Adventureland lot, but if you stay at the Adventureland Inn or Campground, "Molly the Trolley" provides free transportation to and from the park on 15-minute intervals throughout the day.
Downtown Des Moines is a very walkable city with wide stroller-friendly sidewalks and plenty of parking on the streets.