When you drive through the heart of Des Moines on Interstate 235, the busiest section of road in our state, you can look to the south to enjoy the skyline and arguably the nation's most beautiful state capital building. If you look to the north, there's a very good chance you will spot the big glass domed building that lies along the eastern banks of the Des Moines River.
Celebrating it's 40th year this year, that unforgettable building anchors the multi-acre grounds that encompass the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. It is not only a beautiful spot to explore and relax, it's a place that offers extensive programming and events that are fun and educational for all ages.
On a recent Thursday evening, I stopped by the Botanical Center to take in one of their many classes that are offered. I also took a few minutes just want to wander the indoor and outdoor gardens and to take in the under appreciated collection of artwork.
They have spent considerable time and effort in recent years really upgrading the grounds and gardens and I have to say, they offer patrons a real "Wow" factor.
I don't know if the water features have always been apart of the grounds, but now you can enjoy a walk way over a beautiful pond and enjoy a waterfall that is not only eye-catching but quite peaceful.
You can also enjoy some terrific views of the Des Moines skyline.
The outdoor gardens include a wide array of plants, flowers, trees, and other botanicals. Everything is nicely landscaped.
There are little garden signs all over that help you learn about what you are looking at.
Inside the conservatory dome, you can explore even more plant life. They keep it pretty warm in there year-a-round.
Many of these plants inside are more tropical in nature.
There are nice paths to wander about.
Like what is outside, there are little signs inside that provide for great learning opportunities.
On this particular evening, I signed up to enjoy one of their many learning events. It found that it was an opportunity to learn more about plants, nature, and botanicals while also having a little bit of fun. This was not going to make up for all of the time I didn't pay attention in High School Biology, but I thought I would give it a little try. The class was called "Beer & Botanicals" and was taught by J. Wilson, the Minister of Beer for the Iowa Brewer's Guild.
Our class of about 15 spent an hour and a half learning about how various botanicals are used in the brewing of beer and the science behind all of it. Yes, it's a lot of science to get good quality beer. It was very interesting and thought provoking. He featured beer from several Iowa breweries and of course, we got to taste the various offerings.
Between each featured botanical, we were brought a sample to imbibe.
There are a number of different classrooms or private event spaces that can be utilized or rented and the hallway that connects them all is full of great artwork.
They have regular hours and admission is quite reasonable.
They also offer memberships and you can also purchase additional experiences. If you choose to enjoy one of their classes, programs, or events, that may cost you a little more beyond the base membership but it is probably worth it! They have a terrific calendar of events happening all of the time. You can also just stop in to enjoy their cafe or possibly hold your own event there. Those outdoor gardens might be a spectacular place for a wedding! I'd invite you to check out their website as it's a wealth of information and good ideas and also visit their Facebook page, which is a good follow.
I had a great time wandering around the gardens and taking my class. Even though the facility and grounds are quite visible from the Interstate, sometimes we don't immediately think about hitting them up as a place that could be both a destination for family friendly day trips out or a place to enjoy a date or friend-group outing.