For more than 10 years, The Heart of Darkness has elicited scares from nearly 10,000 visitors every Halloween season with one of the largest haunts in Iowa. People from across the country and ghosts studying abroad brave nine separately themed areas on the terror-infested grounds, from a haunted playground to a maniacal-clown asylum. Each section crawls with grotesque creatures. A living scarecrow swipes at guests with a rusted sickle, causing them to flee right into the padded cell of Crispy, a demented arsonist whose victims gave him a taste of his own medicine by scorching his skin.
So committed to their duty to terrify, owners Kevin and Dolly Schults are affectionately known as The Halloween Family, as detailed on a 2009 episode of ABC's Wife Swap. Outside their spooky corridors, the Schults reward survivors with concession stands, a live DJ, and a photo booth that snapped the pictures Crispy uses for his online-dating profile.
Diamond Dreams Sports Academy's day camps drum up the athletic abilities of children aged 7–12 and encourage them to develop skills and camaraderie. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, aspiring all-stars run, pass, and swing their way through team sports, coached by top-level camp leaders whose encouragement extends beyond the screech of a pet goose’s neck whistle. Young athletes take to the diamond for baseball and softball, while feet meet rubber during kickball and pigskin passers summon sweat and confidence during football. Camp-goers learn the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship, gaining a healthy and positive attitude toward teammates, opponents, and directors of their impending shoe endorsements. Ping-pong games and arts and crafts round out the curriculum of activities, and DD Sports Olympics provide a celebratory culmination of the lessons and skills amassed during the eventful week.
An award-winning organization, the Iowa Children’s Museum engages and expands the imaginations of youngsters with interactive exhibits and hands-on programs. The Move It! Dig It! Do It! event invites pintsized minds to stretch themselves around the enormous equipment wielded by construction professionals, farmers, and bus drivers, and then witness how each vehicle fits into the next to defend the galaxy as Voltron. More than 40 activities and machines ensure all-day entertainment. Tots can scramble into the driver’s seat of a fire truck for a hero’s-eye view of the engine’s three-alarm chili dispenser or enjoy a haystack ride. Create your own cement garden stone before retiring to the Volunteer Guild’s Dig It! Café for purchasable snacks and water divvied up out from under a big tent.
The Science Station illuminates the minds of children and adults on the workings of science, math, and technology with hands-on exhibits, puzzles, and games. Aspiring athletes can explore the science behind modern sports in Sportsology, a limited-time exhibit with hands-on challenges and special weekend events. Learn how the human body reacts to physical competition with a series of interactive trials, including “Action Reaction,” a soccer goalie trial that tests reaction times through blinking lights, and "Fast Ball,” in which aspiring sphere-lobbers can clock the speeds of their throws. The family pack admits everyone in a single immediate family to walk the museum's knowledge-packed paths. The Science Station is open Tuesday–Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
Aspen Athletic Club amasses top-of-the-line equipment, seasoned trainers, and luxurious amenities within five gym spaces across Des Moines. A fleet of cardio and strength-training machinery from brands such as LifeFitness and Star Trac heavily populate the floors, allowing guests ample access to the equipment. In addition to a cardio theater, the Hickman gym boasts 12 onsite tennis courts and specialized studios for martial arts and women-only workouts. Visitors to the 14th Street location can sign up for aquatic classes or swim laps solo across the pool. Other amenities such as tanning, massage therapy, and gold-plated kettlebells vary from club to club.
Certified personal trainers plan out custom routines for clients, and highly qualified instructors lead Zumba steps, spinning seminars, and, at certain locations, fast-paced Les Mills classes. The professional staff also offer nutritional counseling at all locales.
At Downward Dog Yoga & Fitness, ancient poses fuel challenging workouts and traditional calisthenics summon inner peace. That's because both types of exercise have a common goal: bolstering health by building community. During the studio's signature Vinyasa class, yogis of all levels stretch and bend together, learning from each other as they follow the cues of a friendly, experienced teacher. The mesmerizing vocals of Sting and U2 join the pre-modern chants of Krishna Das to inspire students during deep-breathing exercises, which focus the mind as they dissolve stress. The temperature rises to 90 degrees for hot yoga and hot Pilates, helping loosen tight muscles and drain toxins from the body. Hot yoga builds strength and flexibility with sitting, standing, and inverted poses, whereas hot Pilates targets similar goals with core-sculpting isometrics and a focus on bodily alignment. Trainer-led boot camps explore the other end of the fitness spectrum with jumping jacks and burpees, which melt more calories than a fondue party at Richard Simmons's house. To unwind after class, students can book a massage-therapy appointment with Hannah Zahs, who infuses Swedish and shiatsu strokes with soothing essential oils.