Dallas County Museums, Arts & Parks

Dallas County’s history can be seen throughout the area in the historic public buildings, cemeteries, private museums, galleries, century-old ballrooms and theaters. Arts and entertainment are plentiful with something for the young and old in everyone.

Adel Historical Museum    
1129 Main St., Adel, 515.993.1032
The property at 1129 Main St. was built in 1857 and served as the first two-story brick schoolhouse in Adel. The museum houses a collection of artifacts and documents representing a significant record of Adel history. The collection includes the desk and chair of George Clarke, an Adel native who served as governor of Iowa from 1913-1917. Clarke was the grandfather of 1939 Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick, who played for the University of Iowa. The Museum also has Kinnick information on display.
Museum hours (April 15 - Dec. 15): Tuesday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Closed holidays. Open by appointment Dec. 16 - April 14.

The Brenton Arboretum    
25141 260th St., Dallas Center
An arboretum is a place where trees and shrubs are grown for research, demonstration and educational purposes. This unique 141-acre living museum in central Iowa combines the horticultural study of trees with a commitment to natural landscape management and conservation. Iowa arboretum visitors study the 2,500 trees, all suitable for planting in central Iowa, surrounded by a beautiful natural setting of native prairie, wetlands, a lake, pond and streams.

Carnegie Library Museum    
1123 Willis Ave., Perry, 515.465.7713
The 1910 restored Carnegie Library Museum tells the story of small towns and the immigrants who settled them with exhibits, writings of local and famous authors and live interpretation.

Dexfield Park
3 miles North of Dexter
Imagine one of the largest amusement parks in Iowa (circa 1916) with a huge swimming pool, dancing, skating, music, carnival rides including a Ferris wheel, ball games and camping. As many as 4,000 attended opening day each year in June.

Dexter Community House
(a.k.a. Dexter Roundhouse)
707 Dallas St., Dexter
Built in 1916, this building celebrated its 100th birthday in 2016. The unique elliptical shaped building is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. The architect was Matthew Leander King, grandfather of actor Nick Nolte. The building features the original stage, box office and orchestra pit with accommodations for seating large groups for performances or for sit-down dining and dances. A new display of historical pictures is now in place for all to enjoy. The Roundhouse is available for reunions, receptions, meetings or other events small or large.

Bonnie & Clyde Shoot-out
3 miles North of Dexter
Visualize the Barrow gang camping at the site of the old Dexfield Amusement Park — resting and recuperating from a prior gun battle in Missouri — and then engaging in a shoot-out with approximately 50 area men and law enforcement officers leading to the mortal wounding of Buck Barrow and the capture of his wife Blanche.

National Plowing Match
1.5 miles North of Dexter
In September 1948, President Harry S. Truman addressed 100,000 people attending the plowing match at this site.

Dexter Museum

719 Marshall St., Dexter
Open Sunday 1-3 p.m., June 16, July 21
Aug. 18, and Sept. 22
Or by appointment: rstanley@netins.net641.757.9173
The Dexter Museum welcomes visitors to Dexter, located along I-80 in southwestern Dallas County. Exhibits document President Harry S. Truman’s visit to the National Plowing Match held at Dexter in 1948 and the former Dexfield Amusement Park that was the site of Dallas County’s Barrow gang shoot-out in 1933. Three historical markers located north of town on Dexfield Road represent a significant record of these events. The museum has an abundance of historic information, plowing match scoreboards, pictures, artifacts and scrapbooks on display. This year Rod Stanley will be accepting pre-registration for history narrations of the White Pole Road, Bonnie and Clyde’s visit to Dexter, Dexfield Park history, President Harry S. Truman’s Whistle Stop Campaign at the National Plowing Match. The narration will include tours to the historic sites, June 24, July 25, Aug. 20 and Sept. 24. Book your appointment by calling Rod at 641.757.9173
or by email rstanley@netins.net. Groups touring the White Pole Road Scenic Byway or Historic Highway 6 are encouraged to learn the history of Dexter, one of the oldest towns in Dallas County.

Dexter Centennial Park
Dexter’s city park is located on the north side of White Pole Road just east of the fire station. Kids will enjoy the climbing tower, slides and merry-go-round while adults can utilize the paved walking trail around the perimeter with 10 low-impact wellness exercise stations. Kids and adults can take advantage of the interactive 10-hole disc golf course. A shelter house with picnic tables and new restrooms await summer visitors. Be sure to check out the rustic bridge built in 1916 to span a creek near the cemetery. The bridge was moved to the city park where it has resided for many years.

Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)
Post and Military Museum
1213 Thomas St., Redfield
Built in the 1880s, The Grand Army of the Republic Post is the only building remaining on its original location. The G.A.R. was created to assist widows and children of men who died during the Civil War. Veterans met here to discuss community events and honor their lost comrades. Today this completely restored structure houses a military museum on the ground floor and the refurbished Post Meeting Room on the second floor. Open by appointment.

Iowa Veterans Cemetery   
34024 Veterans Memorial Drive, Van Meter
The Iowa Veterans Cemetery (IVC) is the only state-owned and operated veterans cemetery in the State of Iowa. The construction was federally funded. It opened in 2008 and has more than 100 acres of property and the capacity for more than 81,000 veterans and family members. The cemetery serves Iowa’s veteran population, as well as veterans from other states. There is no state residency requirement to be interred in the cemetery. It is available to families and visitors from 7:30 a.m. to sunset daily, dependent on weather conditions.

Iowa Jewish Heritage Society,
Caspe Heritage Gallery    

33158 Ute Ave., Waukee515.987.0899
The history of the Jews of Iowa is beautifully displayed in the Caspe Heritage Gallery. Located in the Bucksbaum Arts Wing, the gallery is a museum, augmented by office and archival space. Its display cases include items from the Society’s permanent collection and will periodically showcase touring exhibits.

Lake Robbins Ballroom
26726 150th St., Woodward515.438.2305
Established in 1931, the Ballroom has been inducted into the Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Music Association’s Hall of Fame for the finest dance floor in Iowa. It has hosted well-known big bands since its inception. Lake Robbins has also set a world record when its ticket-taker, “Kip” Shannon, worked at the same job for 82 years. So step back in time and experience the magic of the original Ballroom made for dancing. Live music every Friday through Sunday, as well as dance lessons for all ages. Large and small events for every occasion. View the event calendar or dance lessons online.

Dog Park in Perry

Bring your favorite canines and let them run freely in a safe environment. The five-acre park is fenced and divided into two sections, one for smaller dogs and one for larger dogs with double gates that enable you to move in and out of the park without risk of losing your canine friend. Regulations and daily passes available at the McCreary Center on Ninth and Pattee Streets. Call 515.465.5621.

Washington Township School
Located at the junction of F31 and P58 in Dallas County (five miles west of Minburn and seven miles south of Perry) and built in the 1920s, the Washington Township Community Building is being renovated by volunteers from the community and is a wonderful place to hold your next reunion, wedding reception, birthday party or big meeting. Take a trip back in time and visit the history room on the first floor and the museum on the second.

Perry Welcome Depot

First and Willis Ave., Perry515.465.4601
The former railroad depot was renovated by the Perry Area Chamber of Commerce as a Welcome Center and displays railroad memorabilia from its history of the M&SL rail lines that passed through Perry. It provides area residents and visitors with information about Perry and area attractions. Inside you will find a touch screen kiosk providing electronic information on attractions, events, recreation, dining, shopping, lodging and trail information. The Welcome Depot is adjacent to the Raccoon River Valley Trail located on the corner of First and Willis Avenue.

The Redfield Historical Museum
814 First St.515.833.2929
Opened in 2014, the Redfield Historical Museum displays items from long ago up to not so long ago. It has a large collection of school composite photos from 1920s to 1990s and many other photos. Open Saturday 9-11 a.m. and by appointment.

Soumas Court
1112 Willis Ave., Perry515.465.2481 or 515.465.9941
Soumas Court is cradled between the Hotel Pattee and the Town/Craft Center. The court is named after George Soumas, son of Greek immigrants, WWII hero, a leading citizen and former mayor. A life-sized bronze sculptor of Soumas was created by Iowa artist Chris Bennett and serves as a focal point for this serene central parkway. Visitors entering Soumas Court pass through the gateways of New York’s grand metal sculptures created by Albert Paley, the Reconfiguration Arches. The arches are an interpretation of Perry’s history made of farm equipment, mining tools, railroad items and metal pieces that recall the stories of men and women whose labors built Perry and kept it thriving.

Wiese Park and Disc Golf Course
1800 Pattee St., Perry515.465.5621
Wiese Park is adjacent to the McCreary Community Building. It features a shelter house, gazebo, playground equipment, sand volleyball court, soccer fields and a lighted 2-mile recreation trail. You can also play a round of disc golf on a 9-hole course. The course is open seven days a week at no charge. Maps, scorecards and golf discs are available inside the McCreary Community Center.

Granger Homesteads
Highway 141, Granger515.999.2210
In 1935, the Granger Homesteads became one of the first government housing projects in U.S. history. The project was intended for those who lived in company-owned coal mining camp slums in the area so that families could move away from the decrepit mining camps and nearer to wholesome churches and schools. This building project of 50 homes on 224 acres was completed in conjunction with the Roosevelt Administration, the National Recovery Act, Eleanor Roosevelt and local priest Monsignor Ligutti. Many of the original homestead homes still exist. There is a National Historic Marker at the end of Estates Way located off Highway 141.
Jester Park
11407 N.W. Jester Park Drive, Granger
515.323.5366 • Equestrian Center • 515.999.2818
515.999.2903 Golf Course Clubhouse
Since 1958, Jester Park, with 1,834 acres, has been one of central Iowa’s favorite outdoor playgrounds. No other location in central Iowa offers such a variety in outdoor recreation opportunities such as camping, hiking, snowmobiling, horseback riding, picnicking and golfing. More than 250 campsites are available along the lakeshore and among wooded hills. There are five picnic shelters within the park, a boat ramp, eight miles of hiking trails, five miles of snowmobile trails and playgrounds and natural playscapes. At the end of a three-mile-long park drive, you’ll be rewarded with a vision of the wildlife that was abundant in Iowa more than 200 years ago. The bison and elk herds that live in the wildlife enclosures are always a popular attraction.

High Trestle Trail
The High Trestle Trail is built on a former railroad bed, previously owned by Union Pacific Railroad. The 25-mile-long trail connects the communities of Ankeny, Sheldahl, Slater, Madrid and Woodward. Its 13-story, half-mile-long bridge over the Des Moines River is one of the largest recreation trail bridges in the world. The original 1912 railroad trestle bridge was rebuilt in 1973 with the concrete piers that still stand. Art elements at the new bridge remind visitors of the area’s coal-mining history while enjoying biking, hiking or running.

Woodward Hardware, Antiques
and Toy Museum

123 S. Main St., Woodward515.371.9364
The storefront was created as a general grocery store in the early 1900s and turned into a hardware store in the late 1940s. Today it continues to serve as a hardware store for the locals. As you walk in, you’ll see the history of the antique hand tools, machines, benches and parts from the early 19th century. There is also a hidden treasure in the attic of antique toys, games and rides that will take you back to your childhood and the fun you had playing as a child. Call for appointments.

Redfield Depot
Just as today’s four-lane highways provide Dallas County residents with easy access to Des Moines, the railroads of the early part of the 19th century served the same purpose. The Redfield depot stands as a reminder of Dallas County’s remarkable railroad history. The Raccoon River Valley Trail was built on the abandoned Chicago Northwestern Railroad line. Now a resting spot for trail users, the depot still provides travelers entry and exit to the town of Redfield. Facilities include restrooms, an indoor resting area and a railroad display area. The Redfield Development Commission operates a concession stand on weekends from June 1 – Oct. 30.

Dawson Depot
The old Milwaukee Railroad Depot in Dawson, which was built in 1889, is one of the few surviving Milwaukee Depots, possessing almost all of its original integrity. An historic restoration project on the old rail line and directly connected to the Raccoon River Valley Trail and Highway 141, the Dawson Depot is an attraction of statewide significance. It serves as a welcoming oasis for weary bicyclists/walkers/joggers while also serving as one of the last reminders of the proud past. The old waiting room area has been developed into a restroom and resting area. New interpretive displays are now fully installed in the old baggage room./p>

Veterans Reception Center
910 Main St., Van Meter515.996.9166
This beautiful new building was built with a focus on providing a free venue for families of veterans after internment services at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. This facility is also available for use by the general public.

Minburn Minneapolis and St. Louis
Railroad Depot

Minburn’s brick Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad Depot, rebuilt in 1914 after the original frame building burned down, will be opening this spring. The Depot has been relocated about a half a block but is still alongside the Raccoon River Valley Trail at the crossing with Highway 169. It is being restored to its former grandeur as almost all of the original structure, inside and out, was intact. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the old cargo area has restroom facilities and the waiting room and office area houses a café. Stop and have a bite to eat or drink and sit outside on the patio or stay inside to enjoy the revolving displays of Minburn area history. There is also a working phone booth if you would like to show the younger generation how we kept in touch while traveling without cell phones.

Raccoon River Valley Trail
The Raccoon River Valley Trail is built on a former railroad right-of-way and is 89 miles of paved trail passing through Dallas, Greene and Guthrie counties. The trail passes through 14 communities — Jefferson, Cooper, Herndon, Yale, Panora, Linden, Redfield, Adel, Waukee, Dallas Center, Minburn, Perry, Dawson and Jamaica. A user permit is required for all trail users 18 and older who are using the trail for walking, skiing, skateboarding, jogging, biking, snowmobiling, etc. Permit envelopes are available at the trailheads on the trail or you may purchase one through the mail by downloading the annual permit order form. The permits are $2 per day or $10 annually.

Dallas County Conservation Board
14581 K Ave., Perry515.465.3577
The purpose of the Dallas County Conservation Board is to develop and conserve the natural, historical and cultural resources of Dallas County. Through a wide range of public programs and recreational venues, the board encourages an awareness and appreciation of the environment cultural heritage.

Forest Park Museum and Arboretum
14581 K Ave., Perry515.465.3577
This 17-acre complex features one of the finest museums in the state, exhibiting natural, cultural and historical events and artifacts of central Iowa. Displays include early transportation, farm machinery, small hand tools, railroading, a blacksmith shop and much more. Tour the exhibit halls, a log cabin, one-room school house and 1880s scale house. Stroll the mowed trails through re-established prairie and wildflowers and enjoy more than 100 labeled species of native trees and shrubs.

Voas Nature Area and Museum
19286 Lexington Road, Minburn515.465.3577
The 705-acre Voas Nature Area is a diverse habitat featuring a 90-acre oak/hickory forest, a 125-acre restored prairie and wetland complex, a 272-acre wildlife refuge and 100-acre youth hunting area. This diverse environment serves as an excellent stage for learning about the natural world. The museum is home to an exceptional collection of rare native elements, dynamic quartz specimens, rocks, fossils and minerals from across the United States and around the world. Interpretive programs offered at the Voas Nature Area include tours of the museum, bird-watching hikes, prairie programs, geology presentations and many other environmental education programs. An observation deck and restroom facilities are available at the museum.

Kuehn Conservation Area
32828 Houston Trail, Earlham515.465.3577
This 780-acre park includes native and re-established prairie, riparian and upland forests, unique geological formations, archaeological sites, interpretive trails and the Bear Creek Nature Center. Kuehn is a popular site for primitive camping, hiking and fishing, with hunting permitted in designated areas.

Sportsman Park
13821 130th St., Dawson • 515.465.3577
This 40-acre park overlooks the North Raccoon River. A modern campground with electrical and primitive camping is available as well as a modern shower house with restrooms. The park also has a handicap accessible playground. Two all-season cabins are available for rent. Heat and air conditioning provide visitors who wish for a “camping out” experience but may not have the necessary equipment for typical camping. The cabins contain an ADA shower and restroom, microwave and refrigerator. All you need to bring is your pillows, towels, linens, camping supplies and the spirit of adventure. A climate-controlled lodge is available for rent year-round and accommodates 120 guests with tables and chairs provided and includes a built-in serving counter.

Hanging Rock Park
916 Redfield St., Redfield515.465.3577
Hanging Rock is comprised of 465 acres along the Raccoon River. Featuring a massive outcrop of sandstone, Hanging Rock is a well-known landmark. Downstream is a ford used by wagon trains heading west during the mid-1800s. Those with canoes will find a leisurely and scenic “get away from it all” atmosphere. Fishing is a favorite activity along the lower stretch. An open shelter at Hanging Rock may be reserved for groups.

Trindle Park
3555 Richland Circle, Van Meter515.465.3577
Trindle Park is a 24.5-acre jewel with beautiful, sweeping views overlooking the city of Van Meter and the surrounding countryside. Two open shelters are available for group activities, with playground and restrooms nearby.

Big Bend Wildlife Area
Two miles northwest of Redfield • 515.465.3577
This 640-acre wildlife area is open to hunting, fishing, bird watching, canoeing and hiking on undeveloped trails. Adjacent to the Middle Raccoon River, this area teems with native game and many rare, protected species, including river otter, bobcat and osprey. Explore the re-established prairie and an oak-hickory forest to discover more than 322 unique and diverse plant species.