The kids are away at college and you now have something called free time. Giddy Up! Or maybe not… Now that the golf courses are starting to close for the winter season, what do you do with all of this free time?

It may sound cliché, but a new hobby can go a long way. Finding a pastime that both stimulates and challenges you can be invigorating. It also can leave you with a feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment. Plus, hobbies are a great avenue for building personal relationships with others.

To help you avoid the Netflix binge spiral, here are some recommendations from two experienced empty nesters for a sustainable and intriguing new hobby.


This sport is all the rage right now! Empty nesters, millennials, retirees, and college kids all have taken up this exhilarating game. Pickleball is enjoyed equally by men and women, with about 53% of players being men and 47% women, according to the Annapolis Pickleball Club.

Much like tennis, pickleball is a great workout and social activity. Pickleball is played on a smaller court with a more forgiving ball, making it easier to play and arguably more fun. If you’re looking to work up a bit of a sweat, a challenge, and a lot of fun, try picking up a pickleball paddle!

Pickleball Opportunities in the Des Moines Area:

Smash Park –

Des Moines Metro Pickleball Club –

Central Iowa Pickleball –\


A tale as old as time. Reading is a great hobby because it stimulates your brain and gives your mind a chance to wander. Cozying up on the couch with a brand-new read is a perfect activity for a cold Iowa day.

Taking a trip to your local library allows you to browse new topics and expand your horizons. Speak with your local librarian about genres of interest or get some suggestions about popular reads. Enhance your reading experience by joining a book club! It allows you to connect with others and spark engaging conversations.

Book Recommendations:

For Him –

For Her –

For All –

Matt personally recommends 1776 by David Mccullough and Empty Nest Full Pockets (kidding!).


Make mealtime special! Cooking at home offers a great opportunity to get creative and try new things. Bring out some of your family’s passed down recipes and recreate some of your favorite meals from your childhood.

Without the structure of cooking meals for your kids, it can be easy to fall into some unhealthy eating habits. Prepping your meals at home allows you to ensure you’re incorporating fruits, vegetables, and protein into your diet. Who says healthy food can’t taste good too?!

Cooking Classes in the Des Moines Area:

Cooking with Alessandra –

DSM Culinary –

Kitchen Collage –


This new free time gives you the chance to give back to your community. Use all of the amazing skills and knowledge you’ve gained throughout your experiences to help the youth, those experiencing homelessness, or whatever audience you see fit. Volunteering can allow you to make your schedule more structured and filled with meaning. There’s never been a better time to make a difference.

Volunteering Opportunities in the Des Moines Area:

United Way –

Catch Des Moines –

Des Moines Partnership –