Play with your preschooler
The Family Museum is all about sparking your preschooler’s interests. The staff encourages hands-on exploring, and everything is set up in a way that allows you to interact with your child the whole time you’re there. Different educational programs are offered every day for no additional charge.
Location: 2900 Learning Campus Drive, Bettendorf, Iowa, 52722
Rates: $4 to $7
Blank Park Zoo
Lions and tigers and bears… and more! Spend the day watching the amazement on your preschooler’s face as she encounters animal after animal at the Blank Park Zoo. They don’t allow outside food, and the concessions can be pretty pricey, so plan on eating before you go if you’re on a budget.
Location: 7401 SW Ninth St., Des Moines, Iowa, 50315
Rates: $6 to $11, memberships available
The Iowa Children’s Museum
The Iowa Children’s Museum is inside a mall, but it’s not a small space. The two-story museum takes up 28,000 square feet, and is full of interactive exhibits that will encourage your child’s curiosity. Both permanent and changing exhibits are ready to be explored, so you’ll find something new every time you go.
Location: Coral Ridge Mall, 1451 Coral Ridge Ave., Coralville, Iowa, 52241
Rates: $6 to $7, packages and memberships available
Cedar Valley Arboretum
The Cedar Valley Arboretum is open from dawn to dusk, April through October. Take your preschooler for a stroll through the gardens and have fun discovering something new about nature. Participate in a Terrific Tadpoles class, designed for preschoolers, where your little one will sing, hear stories, make crafts and much more. Check the website for dates and times, and be prepared for a small fee for these classes.
Location: 1927 E. Orange Road, Waterloo, Iowa 50704
Sunrise Petting Zoo
What preschooler doesn’t want to go to a petting zoo? This is a small, volunteer-run petting zoo. Its size means the zoo doesn't have a huge amount of animals, but it also means you won’t be fighting big crowds. The animals are of the farm variety, and are mostly goats, pigs and cows. They are open through the summer, June through September.
Location: National Cattle Congress Grounds, 257 Ansborough Ave. Waterloo, Iowa 50701
Living History Farms
Preschoolers love everything farm, so why not take them to one? The Living History Farm focuses on demonstrating the history and importance of farms, most of which will probably be over your youngster’s head. Thankfully, they have a program meant just for your tot. The Barnyard Readers is a summer program for kids aged 3 to 5. Each week they read books focusing on a farm animal, then take a tractor ride to go visit that same animal. Your preschooler will have a ball!
Location: 11121 Hickman Road, Urbandale, Iowa 50322
Rates: $7 to $13, additional cost for some programs