Five miles west of downtown Des Moines, Clive is a suburban city that formed in the late 19th century around a depot on the St. Louis – Des Moines Northern Railway.
You can see this very building, dating back to 1882, at the Clive Historical Society’s campus, also preserving a caboose and general store.
Clive has an unusual, elongated footprint encompassing the banks of Walnut Creek, which flows west to east.
This watercourse is hugged for some 11 miles by the Clive Greenbelt Trail, a valued resource serving important area attractions like Living History and the vast retail corridors along 86th Street and University Avenue.
1. Living History Farms
On the other side of U.S. Route 6 in Urbandale is a captivating, 500-acre outdoor museum dedicated to Iowa’s agricultural heritage.
Living History Farms brings to life farming communities from 1700 (Ioway), 1850 and 1900, showing off the technology, skills and customs from each period.
Costumed reenactors add to the experience, demonstrating skills like tanning, pottery, food preparation, sowing, plowing, spinning, candle making and canning.
For a glimpse of a 19th-century pioneer town there’s Walnut Hill, frozen in time in 1875 and featuring everyday essentials like a bank, general store, law office and schoolhouse, as well as an opulent Victorian mansion.
2. Clive Greenbelt Trail
A paved trail, more than 11 miles in length runs straight through the center of Clive on the banks of Walnut Creek.
A treasured asset for the community, the Clive Greenbelt Trail is completely closed to motor vehicles, and is a safe and easy way to reach some of the area’s best attractions on foot or by bike.
Traveling through the hardwood forest along the riverside you’ll soon forget that you’re in a metro area.
May through October you can admire the annual Art Along the Trail exhibit, and you might also happen upon some friendly goats munching in the undergrowth.
3. Des Moines
The eastern portion of Clive is as close to downtown Des Moines as it is to Clive’s western neighborhoods. This means there are some outstanding attractions and sights to keep in mind.
Particularly close is the excellent Des Moines Art Center, which has a collection with works by Grant Wood, Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Warhol and Rodin. The center is also responsible for the extraordinary Pappajohn Sculpture Park at Western Gateway Park.
By the Des Moines River stands the capacious Wells Fargo Arena, both a venue for major events and home court for the Iowa Wolves of the NBA G League.
In a state famed for its produce, the Des Moines’ Downtown Farmers’ Market is one of the best in the country. And you have to make time for one of the nation’s iconic capitol buildings (1886), posted on a hilltop and hard to miss for that golden central dome.
4. Clive Historical Society
Set where the commercial thoroughfare, 86th Street, intersects with the Clive Greenbelt Tail is the adorable campus for the Clive Historical Society.
With picnic tables, free Wi-Fi and the shade of a fine old walnut tree, this can be a place to take a pause during your shopping trip.
Next to the railroad, the society preserves the Clive Depot, dating from 1882 and once a hub for passengers, mail, cattle, produce and freight. Close by is a caboose, serving as a reminder of Clive’s origins, and Swanson’s General Store, built in 1911.
These monuments are worth a look from the outside, but you can also contact the society for an in-depth tour.
5. Clive Aquatic Center
Opened close to the public library building in 2003, the Clive Aquatic Center is a compact water park that attracts families from across the western Des Moines metro area.
Among the attractions there’s a 25-meter pool with six lanes, a lazy river, a diving well, a basketball hoop, three water slides and a separate toddler pool with fountains and zero-depth entry.
Also popular with little ones is the spray deck, with water cannons and a giant tipping bucket. There are green spaces throughout the park and plenty of shade if you’re here to relax while your kids have fun.
6. Board & Brush Creative Studio
In a shopping center along University Avenue is a one-of-a-kind business where you can relax, have fun and most of all be creative.
Board & Brush Creative Studio is a signmaking business, welcoming groups for workshops and guiding you as you craft your own vintage-style sign, tailored to your personal taste.
As well as distressing the wood, sanding and assembling the boards, you’ll be able to choose from a wide menu of paint and stain choices, all with the help of an expert assistant or instructor.
7. Greenbelt Goats
Travel along the Greenbelt Trail in the warmer months and chances are you’ll be joined by a herd of goats.
The goats were recruited in 2019 as an environmentally friendly way of eliminating invasive plant species like garlic mustard and bush honeysuckle along the Greenbelt Park and trail system.
The goats often forage deep in the undergrowth away from the path, but they may be tempted to come to the fence with some feed, which can be purchased from machines at City Hall.
The Parks and Rec department also has a map to show you where the goats will be grazing on a given day.
8. 515 Brewing
Coming up for a decade in business, this popular craft brewery could not have a better location, sitting right on the Clive Greenbelt Trail, with an outdoor patio and cycle racks provided.
There’s a seven-barrel brew system here, and the brewmasters have more than 150 recipes to call on. So 515 Brewing will please traditionalists as much as beer fans who want to try something new.
The taproom has a constantly rotating choice of 20 beers on tap, and some of the highlights when we wrote this article were Castaway Porter, Greenbelt IPA, Mexican Spring (Wheat Beer), Tannenbier (Lager) and Sycamore Shed (IPA). There are also several taps reserved for guest beers and hard ciders.
9. Des Moines Buccaneers
Hockey Fans can see the next generation of stars in action for the Des Moines Buccaneers, based close by in Urbandale.
The Buccaneers are Tier I junior ice hockey team, competing in the United States Hockey League (USHL) and producing over ten NHL players in the last decade alone.
Since its inception in 1980 the team has claimed four regular season titles (Anderson Cups) and four playoff titles (Clark Cups), making the conference semifinals as recently as 2019.
At the time of writing, home ice was Buccaneer Arena (1961), predating the team, but in the next few years the team will relocate to a state-of-the-art 3,500-seat arena at Merle Hay Mall.
10. Campbell Recreation Area
This park borders the Clive Greenbelt Trail to the south, and stands out as the main spot to be active in the area.
On 34 acres, the Campbell Recreation Area underwent a big renovation about ten years ago, and among its numerous facilities are three adult softball fields, a basketball court, three tennis courts, two sand volleyball courts, modern playground equipment and an open space for soccer.
There’s a rentable shelter here, with a capacity for up to 50 people, equipped with electrical outlets and two grills.
11. Country Club Glen
This 15-acre neighborhood park is in the west of Clive, and has a trail that connects to the long-distance Raccoon River Valley Trail.
Country Club Glen is well-liked by families for its superb playground, with separate play equipment for older and younger kids.
There’s also a big sweep of greenery, often used for soccer, as well as a shelter (with electric outlets and grills), picnic tables, a full basketball court and a water fountain with a component below that can be used for dogs.
12. Historic Valley Junction
The old heart of West Des Moines demands a visit, and can be reached within ten minutes of Clive’s east side.
Valley Junction grew up in the late 19th century as a railroad settlement on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, eventually changing its name to West Des Moines in 1938.
Today it’s a trendy commercial district, charged with history, lined with handsome brick buildings and boasting more than 150 locally owned stores.
There’s a sensational farmers’ market, one of the best in the metro area, on Thursdays, and in June an arts fair takes over the main drag on 5th Street.
At 137 5th Street stands the old city hall and engine house, raised in 1905 and now housing the Historic Valley Junction Foundation.
13. Jordan Creek Town Center
The largest mall in Iowa, and one of the largest in the Midwest, is a matter of minutes from Clive.
The upscale Jordan Creek Town Center opened in 2004 and covers a vast, 200-acre campus, with a two-level enclosed mall, a power plaza home to big box stores and a unique outdoor plaza for dining.
As a dining destination, it’s hard to top the Lake District in summer, with a string of eateries like P.F. Chang’s, Joe’s Crab Shack and Bravo! Italian Kitchen, all with outdoor seating overlooking a lake.
Among the 130+ retailers at the mall are Apple, Barnes & Noble, Gap, H&M, Old Navy and Sephora, while there’s a 20-screen Cinemark multiplex if you want to make a day of it.
14. Wildwood Park
In that chain of parks along the Clive Greenbelt Trail is a delightful park tucked away in a tranquil residential neighborhood.
If it weren’t for the trail it would be easy to miss Wildwood Park, which is a real hotspot for outdoor recreation in the summer.
In a relatively small space you’ll find pickleball courts, a basketball court, a spacious play field and a shaded shelter.
The playground is worthy of mention, with separate areas for younger and older kids, and a large sandpit surrounding the swingset.
15. Valley West Mall
Slightly less fashionable than the other shopping options in the area, Valley West Mall is an enclosed mall that has been around since 1975.
With more than 110 stores and services, the mall is a hub for a lot of local businesses, along with nationwide chains like JCPenney, rue21, Victoria’s Secret, Kay Jewelers, Claire’s and Eddie Bauer.
The Des Moines Children’s Museum is located here, offering educational play for little ones, while food-wise you’ve got chains like Chipotle, Jimmy John’s and Blaze Pizza.