From cozy train rides with hot cocoa and Santa to a magical Peppermint Trail and a beloved family favorite Teddy Bear Tea, holiday events in Iowa will have you cheery all season long.
Nov. 17 to Dec. 15, Fridays: Historic East Village Holiday Promenade
For an enchanting holiday event in Iowa filled with merriment and wonder, look no further than the historic East Village in Des Moines. Held each Friday night, Nov. 17 through Dec 15, the historic East Village Holiday Promenade is an exciting, free celebration filled with seasonal activities, including a tree-lighting ceremony at Brenton Skating Plaza, gingerbread house displays and activities, and an Elf on a Shelf-themed scavenger hunt.
Cost: Free to attend.
For more information: eastvillagedesmoines.com.
Nov. 17 to Jan. 7: Jolly Holiday Lights at the Outlets of Des Moines
Jolly Holiday Lights at the Outlets of Des Moines in Altoona is your one-stop shop for seasonal events throughout the 2023 holiday season. Mark your calendars for breakfast with Santa on Dec. 2; Santa Paws on Dec. 6; a train ride on Dec. 8 and Dec. 9; a sip-and-shop night on Dec. 15 offering mulled hot red wine sangria and a local vendor market; and the Coca-Cola holiday caravan on Dec. 16 with photos with Santa and the Coca-Cola polar bear. The Jolly Holiday Lights is open daily through Jan. 7. Tickets benefit Make-A-Wish.
Cost: Varies per event.
For more information: www.jollyholidaylights.org.
Nov. 24 to Dec. 17, Weekends: Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad Santa Express
All aboard! The Santa Express has become a heartwarming tradition for families. The trip starts with welcoming remarks from Mr. Conductor, followed by hot chocolate and cookies. The train makes its way from Boone to the “North Pole” where Santa greets children and passes out special gifts. Trips last a little over an hour and are available on weekends starting Nov. 24 through Dec. 17.
Cost: Tickets are $25 for classic coach class or $50 for first-class coach.
For more information: bsvrr.com.
Nov. 24 to Dec. 17, Weekends: Tannenbaum Forest
Over 60-plus real decorated Christmas trees, a 17-ft. German Christmas pyramid and piping-hot seasonal beverages await you at Amana Colonies’ Tannenbaum Forest. Open Fridays through Sundays, starting Nov. 24, Tannenbaum Forest is a winter wonderland with a different theme each weekend. Prelude to Christmas from Dec. 1 to Dec. 3 is a magical weekend with carolers, the Amana Church Christmas Cookie Walk and a holiday bazaar. During children’s weekend, Dec. 8 to Dec. 10, guests can visit with Santa and his reindeer and enjoy a seasonal movie.
Cost: The event is free with donations benefiting the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital encouraged.
For more information: amanacolonies.com.
Nov. 24 to Dec. 30, Weekends: Holiday Hullabaloo
Get in the holiday spirit at Holiday Hullabaloo, an immersive family-friendly experience happening each Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30 at Horizon Events Center in Clive. Holiday Hullabaloo is filled with joyful festivities, including cookie decorating in Mrs. Claus’ kitchen, crafting in Santa Claus’ workshop, mini-golf, life-sized gingerbread houses, a sock ice-skating rink, an indoor area for snowball fights and more. Photo ops include Santa as well as Jack Frost and Susie Snowflake.
Cost: Tickets start at $15 and benefit Dorothy’s House, an organization that provides programs and resources to victims of human trafficking.
For more information: holidayhullabaloo.com.
Nov. 25 to Dec. 23: Center Grove Orchard
Jingle all the way to Center Grove Orchard in Cambridge for a season of holiday events you won’t want to miss. Brunch with Santa at Center Grove Orchard is a cherished family tradition on Saturday and Sunday mornings where children get to meet Santa while enjoying treats from a brunch buffet. The event’s Winter Wonderland is a magical experience of snow, twinkling trees, radiant lights and the iconic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Cost: Varies per event. Upgrade your ticket to the Yuletide Spectacular package starting at $35.95 to include the U-Build Bear experience.
For more information: centergroveorchard.com.
Dec. 2: Teddy Bear Tea
On Dec. 2, Willow on Grand in Des Moines hosts Teddy Bear Tea, a cozy and adorable holiday event in Iowa. Guests will enjoy tea towers of sandwiches, delightful treats and holiday beverages, including hot cocoa for the kids and a hosted bar for Mom and Dad. Meet Santa and capture the moment with a keepsake photograph, and delight in holiday cookie and craft decorating.
Cost: Kids can attend for free with the purchase of an adult ticket, priced at $45.
For more information: www.eventbrite.com.
Dec. 2: Coon Rapids Christmas in a Small Town
For a quaint Hallmark-esque fix, visit the 16th annual Coon’s Rapid’s Christmas in a Small Town on Dec. 2. The event will be filled with magical experiences, including live reindeer, horse-drawn carriage rides, a live reading of The Night Before Christmas and a make-your-own pine cone bird-feeder activity. The theme of this year’s lighted parade is Charlie Brown’s Christmas and is at 5:30 p.m. Enjoy live entertainment by The Pale Moons at the Raccoon River Social Club and Karaoke at Chuck’s Bar & Grill.
Cost: Varies per event.
For more information: www.coonrapidsiowa.com.
Dec. 2: Living History Farms Family Christmas
Bundle up for a horse-drawn wagon ride at Living History Farms Family Christmas on Dec. 2 in the Walnut Hill neighborhood of Urbandale. Along the ride, enjoy the merriment from ringing jingle bells. Family Christmas activities are time-honored traditions, including holiday decorating and cooking demonstrations, Victorian carolers at the Flynn Mansion, a carol sing-along at the church and visits with Santa Claus.
Cost: Tickets are $9 and children 1 and under are free.
For more information: www.lhf.org/event/christmas.
Dec. 7 to Dec. 10, Select Dates: Ballet Des Moines Presents The Nutcracker
Ring in the season with the quintessential holiday classic, The Nutcracker, presented by Ballet Des Moines at Hoyt Sherman Auditorium. This glittering professional production follows the magical story of Clara, her nutcracker and their extraordinary journey to a distant land where a prince battles mischievous mice and a sugar plum fairy delights children of all ages.
Cost: Tickets start at $37.
For more information: hoytsherman.org/events.