Free things to do before fall truly hits


Emily Blobaum/Iowa State Daily

The clock tower at Reiman Gardens stands between two trees in bloom on April 23. 

Jill O'Brien

While Labor Day marks the calendar’s end of summer, the 85 degree heat that marks the first few weeks of September is anything but fall-like. 

Luckily, there are plenty of free things to do in Ames, Des Moines and the surrounding areas before cooler temperatures take over and force people inside. Here are a few of those free museums, galleries and events to visit while it still feels like summer. 


Reiman Gardens 

1407 University Boulevard

Ames, Iowa, 50011

Located just on Iowa State’s campus and free with a University ID, Reiman Gardens play host to flowers, sculptures and the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing, holding over 800 different kinds of butterflies. Their current exhibition, Washed Ashore, which features 10 sea-creature sculptures made of trash from beaches, will be on display until Oct. 31. 

Iowa State University Museums 

Various locations on campus 

Choose from any of the five museums located on campus for a day taking in art and history without having to go far, from the accredited Brunnier Art Museum to the Christian Petersen Museum in Morrill Hall, to the Farm House Museum tucked away near Ross Hall. The university museums are free to the public, but there is a suggested donation of $3 per visitor, according to

Maximum Ames Music Festival

September 22-24, 2017 

The seventh annual Maximum Ames Music Festival will feature a variety of artists in all ages and spaces in downtown Ames. While some shows have a cover charge of anywhere between $5 and $7, a few shows are free and held in venues like the Ames Public Library, KHOI Community Radio and the Octagon Center for the Arts. 


Ankeny Art Center

1520 SW Ordnance Road 

Ankeny, Iowa, 50023

The Ankeny Art Center is a visual arts gallery that hosts art classes and promotes Iowa artists in their numerous gallery spaces. All of the Art Center’s exhibits are free to the public, with art classes being their only additional charge. Their current exhibitions feature all different art mediums, from photography to mixed media to acrylic painting. 

Des Moines

Des Moines Art Center 

4700 Grand Ave

Des Moines, Iowa, 50312

With free daily admission and a exhibitions, tours and workshops, the Des Moines Art Center has something that’s bound to pique a variety of interests. The museum houses a permanent collection of 19th, 20th and 21st century masterpieces by artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Edward Hopper, as well as exhibitions that change every few months or so. The Art Center also offers guided tours of the museum and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. 

Pappajohn Sculpture Park 

1330 Grand Avenue

Des Moines, Iowa, 50309

Opened in 2009, this 4.4 acre sculpture park is free to the public as well, and features the work of 22 artists and 28 contemporary sculptures donated by John and Mary Pappajohn. The park is open from sunrise to midnight and guided tours are given through Oct. 31. Guided tours not your thing? Don’t worry- the park is open for anyone to roam and enjoy the sculptures during park hours. 

State Historical Museum of Iowa 

600 E Locust Street 

Des Moines, Iowa, 50319

Located in Des Moines’ East Village neighborhood, the State Historical Museum of Iowa features three floors of history from all 99 counties in the state. The museum houses artifacts from different eras of Iowa’s history, from settlers arriving in the territory that would later become the state of Iowa, to Iowa’s role in the Civil War to Iowa’s legacy in film. The museum also includes an exhibition on the history of cycling in Iowa and includes the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa story. 

World Food Prize Hall of Laureates

100 Locust Street 

Des Moines, Iowa, 50309

The Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates houses the World Food Prize, known as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.” The 19th-century building has been restored to hold art and exhibitions dedicated to the World Food Prize, as well as achievements in science and agriculture. Guided tours are offered at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, and self-guided tours are also offered from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. 

Iowa Gold Star Military Museum 

7105 NW 70th Avenue 

Johnston, Iowa, 50131

Located just outside Des Moines in Johnston, the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum holds artifacts dating back to the Mexican War in 1846 all the way up to the present. Admission is free and also features a large library on the military and Iowa veterans.