Des Moines WA Guide – Family Friendly Activities, Restaurants, Shops & more!

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Disclosure: We have partnered with Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority to share our adventures as we visited Des Moines & the greater Seattle Southside area to share places to visit to #DoSomethingNearby. This post is sponsored by Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority. 


Des Moines WA Staycation Guide

Des Moines WA Guide –

Family Friendly Activities, Restaurants, Shops & more!

This past 12 months has really taught me that my local area has so much to offer – we just needed the time to explore more & visit areas we had not had the opportunity to fully experience. We recently partnered with Seattle Southside Regional Tourism Authority to share some of our adventures of venturing around South King County, sharing family friendly activities & outdoor fun, as well as local restaurants & shops we found on our adventures. We took this opportunity to explore the town of Des Moines, which we were not familiar with, as well as some nearby areas.

If you have ever been to Saltwater State Park, a very popular beachfront park in the summertime, then you have been to Des Moines! Des Moines is a small town located right on the waterfront, halfway between Seattle & Tacoma. While we explored the area recently, we discovered that this area not only has a wealth of outdoor recreation in this area, but there are many businesses with long histories of serving the community & definitely some great businesses to check out when you are visiting the area.  The Des Moines marina  & pier, Saltwater State Park & down to Redondo Beach area all offer gorgeous views of the Sound and Olympic Mountains. No matter the season, it’s a peaceful spot to visit to escape for a bit & enjoy the sea life & get out for walks or relaxation.

We put together a guide for Des Moines & surrounding areas around the greater Seattle Southside area with our favorite family friendly activities. We also wanted to share some of our favorite restaurants for when you are visiting the area, as well as shops to visit to turn it into a full day of fun for the family. While you are out on adventures with your family, make a point to shop local & support small business – looking for opportunities to try new restaurants & visit new shops to support local businesses during this difficult time. And you just might find some new favorite spots to come back & visit, too (we definitely have found a number of places we want to visit again)! You can also think about spending a few days exploring & turn it into a staycation by staying in the Seattle Southside area & spending several days heading to the beach or local hiking trails or gardens & enjoying all of the adventures around south King county.

Make sure to check out our Seattle Southside guide for more ideas around SeaTac & Tukwila areas, too!

Where to Eat:

Quarterdeck Coffee Shop / Wine Bar

Des moines Quarterdeck Restaurant

I have to say – the Quarterdeck  is definitely going to be a new favorite restaurant of ours along the beach to relax & unwind – we only stopped in to grab a coffee briefly, but most definitely will be going back here & I think it would be a great place to go for date night. They have a great variety in seating options, too – on a nice day, they have an amazing deck with tables & yard. They have adirondack chairs set up on the lawn in front so you can have the best seat in the area for sunset views or watching the boats come & go in the marina.

quarterdeck at marina in des moines

They are a combination of coffee shop + wine bar + bar, but are also dog & kid friendly too. Coffee is from Thin Man Roasting in South Park, roasted in small batches. They offer local craft beer & ciders made right in the Puget Sound & wines are from both the PNW & around the world.  This is definitely a place to visit when you want to just enjoy a beautiful view of the water as you sip your drink & gather with friends when we can do that again, too. It’s right on the other side of the parking area from the Des Moines beach park, too, so it’s a very convenient location.

Des Moines Dog House

Des Moines Doghouse Hot Dog Restaurant

The Des Moines Dog House is right on Marine View Drive in town & it’s a combination of specialty hot dogs, sausages/bratwurst + a few Colombian food items. Some of the specialty hot dogs include the Waterland Dog, with salmon cream cheese, grilled onions, wrapped in bacon & deep fried or the Lake Washington Dog with salmon cream cheese & grilled onions. Colombian food options included empanadas & arepas. There are a few tables outside you can sit at but it also makes great takeout to head to the beach. I tried the empanadas & arepas (these are ground cornmeal patties & mine was filled with cheese) & they were very fun to try something new, while my family had fun with the different toppings for their hot dogs.

Salty’s at Redondo Beach 

One of my all-time favorite restaurants in the northwest is Salty’s – their weekend brunch is just honestly one of my favorite brunches – we go there almost every year for my birthday or my husband’s birthday! It is an all-you-can-eat buffet filled with fresh, local seafood (this is why my husband loves it – he can’t get enough of the crab legs), carved meats, so many other brunch favorites & amazing desserts. We have only been to the one on Alki, but now that I realize how much Des Moines has to do around the area, we will definitely be hitting up the Redondo Beach Salty’s for brunch as soon as we can!

The Salty’s at Redondo Beach also has a little seafood style bar, too, where you can grab fish & chips. We visited the MAST aquarium a few years ago & then ate Salty’s fish & chips in the sunshine next to the beach, which was so fun.

Salty’s at Redondo Beach is temporarily closed this winter 2021, but keep them in mind for when restrictions have eased & they open again. 

Anthony’s Homeport Restaurant

Another option for lunch or dinner by the water is Anthony’s Homeport restaurant, a popular Northwest restaurant.  They are located next to the Des Moines Yacht club & close to the marina & Des Moines Beach park, so it’s very convenient if you are exploring down around that area. You’ll have views of the Puget Sound, Olympics & Maury Island across the way. Definitely a fabulous restaurant for fresh seafood while you’re down by the water. They have great outdoor dining options, too, with those water views you’ll love.

Mini the Doughnut

eating mini donuts at Mini the Doughnut in Des Moines

If you are looking for a unique place to stop for a quick treat, this darling, tiny, Mini the Doughnut shop is a must visit when you are visiting Des Moines.  This doughnut shop makes their mini doughnuts fresh & non-greasy & what makes them stand out is they offer every topping imaginable for your mini doughnuts. I never even thought to put toppings on mini doughnuts, but these were delicious!

MIni the Doughnut donuts with toppings

Flavors included everything from Nutella, Lemon Bar (lemon glaze, bavarian creme & graham crackers), Oreo, Strawberries & whipped cream & so much more! Check out all the flavors they offer – there’s really something for everyone!  You can eat at their colorful picnic table or bench outside their shop or bring your doughnuts to go to the park or beach

Auntie Irene’s

Auntie Irene's Coffee Shop

Auntie Irene’s is a darling little coffee shop & cafe right in the heart of Des Moines. They have fair trade coffee, pastries, ice cream, sandwiches & more. It’s a very cozy atmosphere & they also have seating outside as well to enjoy your food. My girls always love to get an ice cream after a visit to the beach – it doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter, it just always sounds good after a beach trip for them. But, it’s also a great spot to stop before you head out to Saltwater State Park or the Des Moines beach & grab sandwiches to go & have a picnic lunch!

Teacup Cafe

Drinks at Teacup cafe in Des Moines

I love finding bubble tea shops as it’s still something that is fairly new to our family, so we have wanted to try it a bit more, so was excited when we discovered the Teacup Cafe, just a few short blocks from the Des Moines marina. I tried the Mango Milk tea with tapioca boba pearls & it was delicious, while my girls loved their smoothies (& you can add boba to your smoothies, too) . We also tried some spring rolls & flan cake (which is caramel pudding). They also offer a variety of Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwiches if you’d like lunch or dinner as well. Definitely a great spot for us to visit before heading to the beach park with our drinks! We will absolutely be heading back there to visit & try out more of their drinks & more of their Vietnamese specialty food items too (make sure to check out the menu here).

Spice Bridge 

Spice Bridge Tukwila

Spice Bridge is a brand-new global food hall that is located in Tukwila. This is about 20 minutes north of Des Moines and we headed here for dinner after a full day spent exploring around the Des Moines area. Spice Bridge was created by the Food Business Incubator Program, which is designed to help King County immigrants, refugees & women of color start & grow a thriving business with support. It’s located in Tukwila, just down the street from the light rail station. There are a total of 8 food vendors right now & 4 each night as they rotate each night that they are there, so make sure to check the schedule before you visit if you are looking for a specific vendor.

Spice Bridge Global Food Hall Food

We had so much fun trying all of the vendors & having our girls experience new foods from different cultures. The food we tried was from the Congo (Taste of Congo), Cambodia (Theary Cambodian food), Afghan-American (Jazze’s), East African foods (Moyo Kitchen). We just got a variety of entrees, side dishes & dessert (of course!), so we could all try the different foods buffet-style. They had picnic tables outside the food hall, so we ate outside & then still had so much leftovers to bring home. Such a wonderful experience to try out all these yummy foods & experience a little bit of new cultures while staying local.

Where to Shop:

B & E Meat & Seafood Shop

B & E Meats & Seafood

The B & E Meat & Seafood shop in Des Moines is a local meat & seafood shop that has been in Des Moines for over 60 years. They have quite a wide variety of steaks, seafood, beef jerky & more. Plus, in the summer, they offer Copper River salmon, which can be rare to find. Keep an eye on their social media (Facebook or Instagram) for the specials they offer as well  to stock up on items.

Zenith Holland Gardens & Nursery

Zenith Holland Gardens Des Moines

We stopped in to visit the Zenith Holland Gardens right before closing & felt this was a great nursery with a wide variety of options. It has been around since 1907 & is Des Moines’ oldest continually operating business. They have a nice selection of both hardy & tropical plants & they grow a lot of their own annuals & some perennials as well. We happened to visit during a 50% off bulb sale and we didn’t realize you could still plant bulbs in January, so my husband stocked up as we have been wanting bulbs & always time it too late (or so we thought). They also will have a plentiful supply of vegetable starts & seeds for summer gardens.  Military & seniors can save an extra 10% during your visit, too.

Des Moines Pharmacy & Gifts

Des moines pharmacy

The Des Moines pharmacy is another long-standing shop in the community & not only are they a pharmacy & offer various health & beauty items, but they also offer a variety of gift items. You can find everything from seasonal decor & gifts to Seahawks memorabilia, clothes & gift items, toys & games & much more. It’s located just a block or two up from the marina, so within walking distance if you need anything while visiting the beachfront.

Carriage Country Quilts

The Carriage Country Quilt shop is located in a darling yellow house right in the heart of Des Moines, with a view of the water. They have a variety of wool that is hand-dyed, as well as reprodution fabrics, 30’s prints, & many kits & patterns. Everything you need to get started quilting your next project!

Things to Do:


Saltwater State Park

Saltwater State Park Beach Boardwalk

One of the more popular places to visit in South King County during the summer is Saltwater State Park. It has prime real estate right on the Puget Sound & has a great stretch of beach for you to check out, as well as a campground. But Saltwater State Park can be a great place to getaway right in town any time of year. You can walk along the beach or in the forest, check out the tide pools & build driftwood forts. Also, the perfect place to see the sunset on the water!

The best aspect about this beach park  is the proximity to Des Moines – it’s literally right in the heart of the town of Des Moines, nestled among neighborhoods. It takes just minutes to get there, so you can grab lunch takeout at one of the local restaurants & bring it to the park to eat with a view of the water.

Saltwater State Park Beach Boardwalk

There is a large parking lot at the bottom of the hill & from here you can walk along a short boardwalk. This will give you multiple places to sit & relax by the water on a bench or bring your takeout meal or a picnic to eat at one of the picnic tables. There is also a playground for kids to play while the parents can sit & enjoy the water views.

You can also stretch your legs with 2 miles of trails that go back behind the parking lot in a valley created by a creek & under Marine View Drive if you want to get into the forest & then end up back at the beach. During the fall, this creek has salmon spawning as well. This also is the only state park with an underwater artificial reef for diving off-shore for scuba enthusiasts, so keep watch for scuba divers when you visit to show your kids.

Des Moines Beach Park & Des Moines Creek Trail

Des Moines Beach Park Bench

We found such a fun beach area when we headed to the heart of Des Moines and the downtown marina area. The Des Moines Beach Park is right next to the marina & pier, with close access to several restaurants. The Olympic mountain views from this park are stunning & there is an event center & large grassy park area to enjoy a picnic. The pier was busy with fishermen fishing for squid, which was interesting to watch. And it’s always fun to people-watch as you walk the boardwalk. We had fun doing some exploring at low tide looking for crabs & shells.

The Des Moines Creek Trail also starts at the beach park & the trail is a total of 4 miles round trip as you hike back along a ravine away from the beach, so it’s a great way to get a hike in while in the middle of a suburban area without having to travel to hike.

Dash Point State Park

Dash Point Beach & Driftwood

Dash Point State Park is just 20 minutes to the south of Des Moines along Marine View Dr and this park is definitely quite a gem for outdoor lovers. It’s a very easily accessible camping location in a more urban location, perfect for those who may be more new to camping to try it out.  The main draw of the park is the sandy beach that also boasts some interesting sea life during low tide. This is one of the best Puget Sound beaches around the area!

Dash Point New Bridge on Hiking Trail

But we also discovered that there are quite a few interesting trails back behind the beach for both hikers & mountain bikers. There are actually 11 miles of trails for hiking & 8 miles of mountain biking trails. They just recently finished quite a bit of work on some of the trails, building a new bridge & more, which make for unique aspects to these trails & they are in better shape than many trails you’ll find in the area.

West Hybelos Wetlands Trail

West Hylebos Boardwalk Trail

The West Hylebos Wetlands trail is right in the heart of Federal Way but it is a nice, short walk (just a little over a mile) thru the wetlands on a gravel path or wooden boardwalk. This is definitely a stroller friendly trail & perfect for little ones to get out & explore. Just watch the boardwalk on cold winter or rainy mornings as it could be a bit slick. But it’s a nice peaceful retreat in the heart of suburbia and a chance to birdwatch too. Since this is wetland & you can find various wildlife here, no dogs are allowed, though.


Highline SeaTac Botanical Gardens

{Photo from an early September visit}

Highline SeaTac Botanical Gardens are unexpected little gardens right in the heart of the city of SeaTac close to the airport. Even though it’s just a few miles north of SeaTac airport, it feels like a little hidden oasis of calm to escape to when you need some time in nature. These gardens sit on just 11 acres, but are totally free to visit & they have a variety of different features to enjoy. There are gazebos, ponds, water cascading over rocks & little creeks to follow. In the summer, you can check out the beautiful rose garden, as well as the many other blooming flowers during both spring & summer.

Rhododendron Garden

rhododendron gardens in federal way

{Photo from a May visit}

The Rhododendron Species Botanical Gardens are located in Federal Way, right next to the I5 freeway, for easy on/off access. They are  open year-round for visits and it is a very peaceful garden to visit & walk the grounds. The gardens are 22 acres & boast the largest collection of Rhododendron species in the world. You’ll also be able to enjoy other native plants & trees such as western red cedar, Douglas fir, hemlock & more. They also have a year-round nursery that is on site if you want to purchase any of the plants you find in the gardens.  There is an $8 fee for admission but children under 12 and military are free & seniors are $5/ea.

On the same grounds as the Rhododendron Gardens is the Pacific Bonsai Museum. We visited this museum when we headed to the Rhododendron Gardens on Mother’s Day weekend a few years ago & found it fascinating to see the unique bonsai tree creations. They have the same hours as the Rhododendron Garden, so make sure to check before you visit.

Powellswood Gardens

Powellswood Gardens Pond

{Photo from a May visit}

Powellswood Gardens is located in Federal Way near Dash Point State Park. It is the perfect peaceful oasis to head to when you want a beautiful location to walk the trails & enjoy all the varieties of trees, plants & flowers (when blooming). This is a 40 acre nature preserve which combines the gorgeous gardens amidst the native plants & forest.

Powellswood Gardens by the Creek

{Photo from several years ago}

Even though spring & summer are when it’s at its peak with flower blooms, a visit during any season will provide relaxation & quiet. We visited here on Mother’s Day weekend a few years ago & it was the perfect place to enjoy the many varieties of Northwest flowers along with peaceful trails to wander around as we visited. Make sure to check their website for current admission prices & hours.

More Activities:

MAST Aquarium  – Redondo Beach

Highline MAST Center Touch Tank

{Photo from several years ago}

The MAST aquarium is located right next to Salty’s on Redondo Beach & is open to the public on Saturdays for a few hours & Thursday evenings. Otherwise, it is a Marine Biology teaching facility during the week for Highline College. It is totally free to visit & even though it is small, they do have some interesting touch tanks filled with fascinating sea life & a few aquarium tanks. We visited several years ago & my girls loved touching all of the different sea life including sea anemones, starfish & more.

(This is currently closed in Winter 2021; watch their website to see when they will reopen)

Seattle Chocolate Tours

View of Walking Tour Platform for Seattle Chocolate Tour

While you’re south of Seattle, Seattle Chocolate tours make for a fun family outing together. They offer guided factory tours 6 days a week with Monday – Thursdays as days you can see the factory in operation & chocolates being made (Fri & Sat still offer tours, but there will not be chocolate made on those days). The walkway is nearly 10 ft high above the factory where the tour takes place giving you a birds’ eye view of the process. Plus, kids might find the chocolate tasting as the best part! We loved learning more about where chocolate comes from (what countries, how it’s grown, etc) and then sampling the different kinds of chocolates! Make sure to check out our full review of the Seattle Chocolate tour.

Update for 2021: Tours are limited to 5 people from the same family at this time; make sure to check their website to see what the current tours guidelines are.

Where to Stay:

Cedarbrook Lodge

Cedarbrook Lodge is located just minutes from SeaTac airport & just 10 minutes north of Des Moines downtown, but it is such a unique place to stay for a staycation or vacation. It is a beautiful, lush 18 acre hotel that feels like you have stepped away from the hubbub of the city to escape in this hotel that has a very distinct Northwest feel.

We stayed many years ago & it’s still one of my husband’s favorite hotels, thanks to the cozy feel, peaceful grounds & the free 24/7 snacks you can enjoy in the lounges near your rooms. It will feel like the grounds of some of these beautiful nearby gardens, too, which is nice to have especially during this time of distancing.

Hotel Interurban

Hotel Interurban in Tukwila

The Hotel Interurban is another option of a place to stay for a staycation to visit Des Moines & the Seattle Southside area. This hotel is a few years old (opened in 2018) & it is the tallest building in Tukwila at 19 stories high. It is a very central location near the Southcenter Mall  (& Seattle Chocolates) in Tukwila & it’s just a 15 minute drive over to Des Moines. This is a chic, modern hotel & the restaurant serves delicious food. Sia even found out on a visit that they offer a complimentary breakfast buffet if you sign up for their Stash rewards program.

Kids will love this hotel as they have a saline pool and a hotel robot called Hazel who makes deliveries to rooms in the hotel, which is very fun for the kids to order something & meet Hazel. It’s also dog-friendly, so you can bring your dog on your adventures around Des Moines & to the beach & then have a central location to come back to for your staycation. Read our full review of the Hotel Interurban in our Seattle Southside Guide. And make sure to check out their special offers, too.

Update for 2021: You will need to make a reservation for the pool & be from the same household, no more than 5 people at a time. Keep an eye on their website to see the most current guidelines. 

Let us know if you have any favorite places to visit around the Des Moines area!

More Resources for Visiting South King County:

Seattle Southside Guide

Seattle Southside Guide

Seattle Southside - What to see & do, places to eat, stay & more!

More Ideas for Visiting Seattle Southside Area

Seattle Chocolate Tour - Family Friendly Experience Chocolate Tour

Seattle Chocolate Tour (located in Tukwila – Seattle Southside area)

I Fly Seattle

iFly Seattle Review 


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