High Trestle Trail#3 in Best Things To Do in Des Moines
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Stretching 25 miles and winding its way through five cities, the High Trestle Trail is a decommissioned railroad line that has been converted into a multiuse trail. Due to the trail's origins, it's relatively smooth and flat, making it ideal terrain for joggers and bicyclists. For many visitors, the trail's main highlight is the High Trestle Trail Bridge, which is located between the cities of Woodward and Madrid. The 1/2-mile, 13-story bridge crosses the Des Moines River valley and features six overlooks with interactive panels explaining the area's cultural and natural history. After dark, a section of the bridge's steel cribbings illuminate with a blue light. From April through October, the bridge is lit from sunset until midnight. From November through March, the lights shut off at 9 p.m.
Past visitors raved about the trail, especially the photo-ops at the bridge. Several recommended arriving at night when the bridge is illuminated.
The trail is open 24/7 and is free to access. To reach the western trailhead in Woodward from Des Moines, head northwest on Iowa Highway 141 and take Exit 138. Then, turn right onto state Route 210; the trailhead can be found after Railroad Street. For more information, visit the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation website.
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#1 Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
Despite chilly Midwestern winters, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden remains a year-round top attraction thanks to the site's domed conservatory, which is kept consistently balmy to nurture the tropical plants housed within. Along with palm trees and a waterfall, the conservatory houses a variety of bright flowers, cactuses and succulents, among other plants. Outside the conservatory, there are numerous themed gardens interspersed with sculptures, including a rose garden and a water garden. In total, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden spans 7 acres.
According to recent visitors, the garden is a worthwhile stop year-round. Many who visited during winter referred to the conservatory as an oasis. Reviewers frequently used words like "beautiful" and "relaxing" to describe the garden.
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