It’s the most beautiful time of the year and there’s snow place like home for the holidays, especially with all of the merry events in Iowa that will make this season more than magical.
Nov. 26: Pioneer Village Christmas Wonderland
Enjoy a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride, marshmallow roasting and hot chocolate around a bonfire in the snow at Pioneer Village Christmas Wonderland on Saturday, Nov. 26. This one-of-a-kind Iowa holiday event is brimming with outdoor fun for the whole family. Treetops will surely be glistening at the annual tree-lighting ceremony. Additionally, a live concert, Christmas movie showings on the big screen and the chance to meet real reindeer are sure to get you into the holiday spirit. The kids will love the Christmas Carnival, which offers face painting, balloon art, glitter tattoos and a bubble station. You also can’t miss out on pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Habitué Coffeehouse & Bakery. Or better yet, get breakfast with Rudolph to take some pictures, enjoy a hot breakfast buffet and decorate their waffles with fun toppings. For more information, visit christmasinlemars.com.
Dec. 1 to Dec. 4: Christkindlmarket
When the weather turns colder, the desire to go holiday shopping and listen to Christmas music grows like snow on the ground. Thankfully, Christkindlmarket will let you do both, and so much more. Visit Des Moines the first weekend of December to experience all of the fun. This outdoor festival is a must-experience shopping and cultural event that draws inspiration from a beloved German custom. In addition, family-friendly festivities include live entertainment, German and European food vendors, Christmas-inspired drinks, children’s activities, and a unique shopping experience for presents and holiday décor. This festival follows tradition and is held outside, with the addition of a heated entertainment tent and numerous covered areas for dining and shopping. For more information, visit christkindlmarketdsm.com.
Dec. 2 to Dec. 4: The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is being presented with festive pride by the Nolte Academy and the Englert Theatre in honor of the holiday season. From Friday, Dec. 2 through Sunday, Dec. 4, five performances will be held, so be sure to see a show while you have the chance! Music and dancing will surely put a pep in your step as dancers from Nolte Academy perform in this Christmas classic, which also includes a live orchestra conducted by Carey Bostian. Under the leadership of Nolte Ballet director and Nutcracker artistic director, Loren Williams, the ballet features gorgeous costuming, fascinating scenery and compelling choreography. This Iowa holiday event only comes around once a year and fills up fast. Tickets are available for $42 for adults and $20 for children under 12. For more information, visit englert.org/events.
Dec. 2, Dec. 9 and Dec. 16: Holiday Promenade
Ring in the holidays and celebrate the snow at the 21st-annual Holiday Promenade. This outdoor festival will be a fun, free event packed with family-friendly entertainment, holiday-themed activities and plenty of shopping opportunities. Each Friday through Dec. 16, there will be various activities in store each week, including an inaugural tree lighting and horse-drawn carriage rides through the downtown. Additionally, the many retailers, restaurants and attractions in the Historic East Village will be extending their hours during the Holiday Promenade. This is the perfect opportunity to get some shopping done and then treat yourself to a delicious dinner on the town. Plus, there’s no better way to take in the magic of snowfall than by getting together with friends and family in the Historic East Village. For more information, visit dsmpartnership.com.
Dec. 3: Christmas in Kalona
For a traditional Christmas experience that includes Santa and his reindeer, carriage rides and carolers, head to Downtown Kalona on Saturday, Dec. 3, for all this and more merry fun. First, start your day at the YMCA from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to do some Christmas shopping at the Kalona Christmas Market. Meanwhile, the kids can enjoy face painting, cookie decorating and ornament making before Santa’s arrival for festive photos. Afterwards, guests can make their way to the downtown for live music, campfires set up on every street corner and complimentary hot cider and cocoa. Then, from 4 to 7 p.m., guests can stroll through Kalona Historical Village. This winter wonderland is full of caroling, marshmallows by the campfire and lovely trees that local small businesses have decorated in dazzling lights. For more information, visit kalonachamber.com.
Dec. 3: Christmas by the Lake
Kick off the first weekend of December with Christmas by the Lake, an Iowa holiday event filled with festive cheer for the entire family. Visit Downtown Clear Lake on Saturday, Dec. 3, for this all-day celebration. Guests can begin their day with breakfast with Santa from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. to make the most important meal of the day a merry one. And if you’re still hungry after your pancakes and sausage, be sure to indulge in pizza while you get even more photos with the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who. Throughout the day there will also be a petting zoo, Christmas karaoke, live entertainment and trolley rides. The kids can also look forward to inflatables, cookie decorating and lots of holiday activities. But your day won’t be complete without witnessing the lighted parade and spectacular firework finale over the lake. For more information, visit clearlakeiowa.com.
Dec. 3: Norwegian Christmas Celebration
Start off the holiday season with Vesterheim’s Norwegian Christmas Celebration on Saturday, Dec. 3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Not only does this festive event provide fun for the entire family, but it is also an opportunity to learn about Norwegian culture. First, you’ll be able to participate in the juletrefest, a Norwegian Christmas tree party with singing around a decorated tree. There will also be live music by local musicians, holiday crafts, hot chocolate and Scandinavian s’mores over a fire. These are just a few of the customary activities included in this annual holiday celebration. There will also be plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy under the snowy skies, so be sure to bundle up. Guests will also be greeted by Julenisse, who is the Norwegian version of the Santa Claus that we know and love in the United States. For more information, visit vesterheim.org.
Dec. 3 and Dec. 6: Canadian Pacific Holiday Train
Davenport, Muscatine, Clinton, Bellevue and Dubuque
If you’ve been wondering what it would feel like to witness the Polar Express in real life, then be sure to check out the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train as it makes various vibrant stops throughout Iowa. With multiple opportunities to see the glowing train, it’s impossible to not fit this Iowa holiday event into your schedule. After all, who can pass up the chance to see the holiday train will chug across Iowa while decked out in shimmering Christmas lights? It will surely be an unforgettable and entertaining show, but attending this free event also helps the community. Canadian Pacific asks guests to bring a non-perishable food donation if they are able. Local food banks will set up collection stations at each event to help people in need this holiday season. For more information, visit www.cpr.ca/holidaytrain.
Dec. 9 to Dec. 11 and Dec. 16 to Dec. 18: Elf The Musical
Based on the beloved Christmas movie, Elf The Musical is certain to make you giggle and smile this Christmas season. Bring the entire family to Coralville Center for the Performing Arts to enjoy a showing of the merry musical. Buddy the Elf will help guests get into the Christmas spirit with the help of acting and song. This one-of-a-kind production will be the perfect rendition of one of the most popular Christmas movies of all time. And of course, Buddy the Elf will be accompanied by plenty of cheery elves and Santa Claus himself. So if you’re looking to see singing elves this holiday season, definitely mark your calendars for the multiple showings to find the one that works best for you. Tickets are $25 and $17 for children under 10. For more information, visit coralvillearts.org.
Dec. 11: Deck The Stalls
It may be cold outside, but you’ll surely have to bundle up and round up your family and friends and head out to the Iowa Equestrian Center Sunday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for its Deck The Stalls event. Not only is this your chance to meet live reindeer, but the horses will also be getting into the holiday spirit. This Iowa holiday event will feature pony rides, door prizes and even a shopping village if you need to get in some last-minute shopping. Not to mention, there will be a cozy cocoa bar to keep you warm while the snow falls. Be sure to visit this Iowa holiday event to get into the jolly spirit. Admission is $5 per person; cash only at the door. For more information, visit iowaequestrian.com.