Special Events

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Des Moines Parks and Recreation provides a variety of special events that allow community members to participate in safe and organized leisure activities in an outdoor setting, recreation center or other locations throughout Des Moines. Most of these events have a minimal cost or are free.


Take a peek at the events below and discover ways to get involved! 
Can't seem to find what you're looking for? Email events@dmgov.org.

Special Events

Bark Before Dark

City of Des Moines dog park permit holders are invited to the Bark Before Dark Halloween Pawty! Each registered dog will receive a goodie bag and the opportunity to run about the park with different Halloween activities. All registered dogs will be entered in to the costume contest to win a free 2022 Dog Park Permit.

Annual permit is required to be worn by dog handlers and visible at all times inside the facility. You will be asked to show your permit when you enter the dog park. All dog park rules apply for this event. When you purchase or renew your animal license, you do have the option to purchase a Dog Park Permit. To find out  more, visit Animal Licensing.

Time: 4:30 - 6 p.m.
Cost: $5 per dog
Who: City of Des Moines dog park permit holders
Date and Location (Click on the dog park below to register for that specific pawty):

October 26, 2021: Reno Memorial Dog Park - 3325 Hubbell Avenue

October 27, 2021: Ewing Dog Park - 4660 Indianola Avenue

October 28, 2021: Riverwalk Dog Park - 1111 Illinois Street

We ask that no more than two handlers per dog are present at the event for social distancing purposes. Children under the age of 10 are not allowed within the facility and those ages 10 to 15 must be accompanied by a person age 18 or older.

Costume contest categories include:

  • Best Large Dog Costume
  • Best Small Dog Costume
  • Best Owner/Dog Costume Combo

The dog park will be open to dog park permit holders, but the activities will be for those who register prior to event day. You may register for multiple pawties, but a dog is only eligible to win the costume contest once.

Letters to Santa
2021 Letters to Santa
Watch for updates!

Santa and his elves are always ready to write hundreds of letters! There are two ways to let Santa Claus know you've been good through Des Moines Parks and Recreation. As the holidays approach, check back here for updates.
Jingle Bell Stroll

2021 Jingle Bell Stroll

Come celebrate the season at the Jingle Bell Stroll! Grab a candy cane and walk along the holiday-themed half-mile trail where you will end by snapping a photo with Santa Claus. A holiday prop will be between you and Santa Claus to maintain a safe social distance. We invite you to bring a letter (with your address listed) and we’ll be sure he reads before he departs for the North Pole.

Santa Letter - Copy

This free family-friendly event is designed for children 13 and under.  Parking will be available in the southeast parking lot.

Location: Gray’s Lake Southeast Corner on Saturday, December 4, 2021

Time: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Cost: Free

Pre-registration is encouraged. Registration opens on November 1.

Toys for Tots
2021 Toys For Tots

Des Moines Parks and Recreation is partnering with the U.S. Marine Corps this holiday season. Ensure that your children have a holiday they'll never forget by signing up for Toys for Tots!

If you would like to register your child(ren) - 14 and under - call one of our Community Recreation Centers during their normal operating hours between November 1 - 30. Please note you can only sign up for one toy distribution site.

Fourmile Community Recreation Center
3711 Easton Blvd.

Pioneer Columbus Community Recreation Center
2100 SE 5th St.

Sign Up/Registration Dates and Times:
Monday, Nov. 1 - Tuesday, Nov. 30
Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Gift Pick Up:
Monday, Dec. 13 - Wednesday, Dec. 15
12 - 8 p.m.
At the location you signed up

For more information, check the Des Moines Toys for Tots Request Toy Page for a list of distribution locations next holiday season. Click here for the Des Moines Toys for Tots Frequently Asked Questions page. 

Virtual Trivia Nights
(Virtual) Trivia Nights

Join Des Moines Parks and Recreation for Trivia Night! Assemble a team of your friends and put your knowledge to the test with a mix of general knowledge questions. The event is hosted by The Rook Room and will take place on Zoom. Teams are limited to six or fewer participants, as a capacity for the event is limited to 100 people.

  • Thursday, January 13
  • Thursday, February 10
  • Thursday, March 10
Platform: Zoom*
Access instructions will be sent to registrants prior to the event.

How to Register/Participate: Team captains will register their team (each team member does not have to register). Please include the team name and number of participants. Team captains will receive a Zoom link to share with their team and a link to the documents they will need to submit answers. Full instructions will be emailed to the team captains the day prior to the event. Prior to attending Trivia Night, be sure to have your team name ready, as all team members will be asked to change their Zoom name to the team name.

Prizes: The overall winning team will be mailed Des Moines Parks and Recreation prizes. Be sure your mailing address listed when registering is accurate. Prizes may include season pool passes, 18-holes of gold at municipal courses, Park Bucks, etc. Prizes will vary each night.

May the most knowledgeable team win!
Father-Daughter Dance
Due to COVID-19, Father-Daughter Dance 2022 will not be taking place in its usual formation. Be on the lookout for more info coming soon!

Date and Location:
  • TBD
Time: TBD
Cost: TBD
Who: Parents, relatives, guardians and/or role models are welcome to attend with their children.
Mother Son Fun Night
Date and Location:
  • March 5, 2021: Pioneer Columbus Community Recreation Center  -  2100 SE 5th Street
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $10 per person
Who: Parents, relatives, guardians and/or role models are welcome to attend with their children.

Registration opens January 1, 2022

Enjoy live animals from the Blank Park Zoo, compete on our inflatable obstacle course, enjoy a live magician, make a special take home project for mom with the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, get your face painted, meet members of the Des Moines Police Department, say hi to the K-9 unit dog, tour a fire truck with the Des Moines Fire Department, test your sports skills and play laser tag. This event provides an evening of Mother and Son bonding experiences through interactive play. When you run out of fuel, grab a small snack and a drink to get ready for more action!