Food With plenty of open grass area and sculptures to keep your eye busy, the sculpture park makes a great place to have an outdoor lunch on a nice day. Michael Watson / Special to Juice

With plenty of open grass area and sculptures to keep your eye busy, the sculpture park makes a great place to have an outdoor lunch on a nice day. Michael Watson / Special to Juice

4 places to take your lunch on a beautiful day

Published on August 5th, 2013 | by Joe Stych

With cooler temps, there’s not much standing in the way of enjoying your lunch outside. Plus, nothing says Midwestern summer like a good old fashioned picnic. So dig up grandma’s wicker basket or grab your brown bag lunch from the office, because here are four Des Moines spots for a home-assembled alfresco meal.

Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden

Better Homes and Gardens, the crown jewel of local magazine giant Meredith Corp’s publishing portfolio, prides itself on three things: stunning homes, delicious recipes, and breathtaking gardens. The Test Garden is their personal outdoor photo studio for that last piece. Starting in early spring, the BHG staff uses this space as a proving ground for their in-issue gardening guides. It’s not a top-secret process, though: Every Friday Meredith opens the Test Garden for public walkthroughs, so green-thumbed residents can check in on the progress of their favorite perennials. At the heart Iowa’s mini-Eden is a big fountain, surrounded by picnic tables, so it’s perfect for a quick lunchtime bite.

Hours: Open to the public Fridays from 12-2, May through September.

Find it: 1716 Locust Street, Des Moines

Pappajohn Sculpture Park

Although it’s on the west end of the city, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park feels like downtown’s cultural nucleus. You’re probably familiar: It’s home to the alphabet-loving Nomade that hulks over the Locust St. traffic, the less-friendly-looking Spider on the Grand Ave. end, and 21 of their bronze, steel and granite friends. By now you probably tune it out, like a polar bear ignores the snow, but remember that this is two blocks of beautiful, urban park and picnic space. Along with a bunch of benches there are lush, grassy hills that are perfect for a blanket and some people watching.

Hours: Sunrise to midnight daily.

Find it: From 15th Street to 13th Street between Locust Street and Grand Avenue

Gray’s Lake Park

With a 1.9 mile loop and a lakeview to boot, Gray’s Lake Park is a staple for walkers, bikers and runners in the Des Moines metro area. But if you’d rather sit back and soak in the Iowa beauty, it’s also a great place for a quick picnic. On weekdays you should have no problem finding a spot to set your basket down. But be warned: weekends, especially sunny ones, bring outdoorsy types in hoards. If you’re looking for other excuses to hang out lakeside, Gray’s also puts on regular yoga sessions and introductory sailing classes.

Hours: Sunrise to midnight daily.

Find it: 2101 Fleur Dr.

Easter Lake Park

It’s a little off the beaten path, but Easter Lake Park on the southern end of Des Moines holds its own against more mainstream picnic destinations. Rather than a more centralized outdoor dining spot, Easter Lake provides a 172-acre getaway that’s more hike-worthy than your downtown options. The park has five designated picnic shelters (which can be reserved on the cheap–corporate cookout anyone?), or you can bring your own blanket and enjoy your picnic down by the beach.

Hours: 6:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. daily throughout the summer, sunrise to sunset in the winter.

Find it: 2830 Easter Lake Dr.


About the Author

Joe is a contributor to Juice Magazine.



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