Holiday Events in Des Moines

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Holiday Events in Des Moines 2023

Below is a list of some of my favorite holiday events that happen in Des Moines every holiday season. From promenades and Santa arrivals to seeing lights and more. Take a look at this list and plan your holiday season in Des Moines, Iowa. We continually update this post throughout the season. Have a holiday event or activity you would like to include? Contact us here.

** Please note: We are actively updating this guide. Make sure you have it bookmarked and check back regularly for updates!

Bookmark these other fun holiday guides to plan this season:

Jolly Holiday Lights | 2023 Sponsor

Outlets of Des Moines

November 17 – January 17 (Closed November 23 and December 25)

The magic of the season is upon us. For Iowans seeking a festive holiday experience, Jolly Holiday Lights at the Outlets of Des Moines is just the ticket. This year’s event, opening Nov. 17 and running through Jan. 7, 2024, is a new kind of immersive experience. The Outlets of Des Moines offer the perfect setting for getting in the holiday spirit with free light displays, ample places to shop, and an opportunity to support one of our state’s favorite nonprofit organizations, Make-A-Wish® Iowa. 

Visit to purchase special event tickets and learn more about the new venue. Be sure to mark your calendars for these fun happenings:

  • The Jolly Holiday Lights 2023 Kickoff Ceremony on Nov. 17, 2023, 6–8 p.m. 
  • Breakfast with Santa at the Outlets on Dec. 2, 2023, 8–10 a.m. 
  • Train Ride at the Outlets on Dec. 8 and Dec. 9, 2023, 4–8 p.m.
  • Santa Paws: Pet Photos with Santa on Dec. 6, 2023, 5–8 p.m.
  • Sip & Shop Night at the Outlets on Dec. 15, 2023, 5–8 p.m. 
  • Coca-Cola Holiday Caravan at the Outlets on Dec. 16, 2023, 4–8 p.m. 


Jingle in the Junction

Historic Valley Junction 

November 16 & 30; December 7 & 14

5 to 8 p.m. 

The holiday season is in Valley Junction as many businesses extend their hours on Thursday nights to give you more time to find the perfect holiday gift, enjoy dinner, and enjoy three blocks of free entertainment on 5th Street under the glow of over 100,000-holiday lights.

Brenton Skating Plaza Opening Night + Tree Lighting

Brenton Skating Plaza in Downtown Des Moines

November 17 from 5 to 9 p.m.

Opening night of Brenton Skating Plaza. The night will consist of a visit from Santa, a tree-lighting ceremony, and an ice carver.

Holiday Promenade

East Village

November 17 – December 15 from 5 to 9 p.m.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Historic East Village Neighborhood Association will spread holiday cheer throughout Downtown Des Moines (DSM) during the Holiday Promenade which will return to the Historic East Village for five Fridays in 2023. The 22nd annual Holiday Promenade will begin on Friday, Nov. 17, and continue each Friday through Dec. 15. 

The Holiday Promenade is an exciting, free celebration full of holiday-themed activities, entertainment, shopping, and family-friendly fun. A number of activities will be scheduled throughout the five Fridays, including the inaugural tree lighting. During the Holiday Promenade dates, Historic East Village retailers, restaurants, and attractions are encouraged to remain open until 9 p.m. 

Jolly Holiday Lights 2023 Kickoff Ceremony

Outlets of Des Moines, Altoona

November 17 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Kick off the holiday season with a tree and display-lighting event on November 17th at the Outlets of Des Moines! Be there when we light the 2023 lights for the first time with a lights-to-music show and join us for an exclusive opportunity to be a part of a wish child’s wish experience. You will also have a chance to meet Santa’s Reindeer and enjoy cookies and hot chocolate. $25 per ticket. Learn more and purchase tickets here.

Fall Makers Market

Jester Park Nature Center

November 19; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Join Polk County Conservation on Sunday, November 19, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Jester Park Nature Center in Granger to shop for gifts or goods just in time for the holiday season! While there, explore the nature center’s exhibits, relax on the back patio in an Adirondack chair by the fireplace, and make sure to head over to the outdoor recreation center where more vendors will be located!

They have ensured a diverse representation of local makers, artisans, and/or handcrafters to bring you a variety of goods. Vendors will be added as they are confirmed. The Fall Makers Market is a FREE admission, family-friendly event. 

Mayor’s Lighting Celebration

Charles Gabus Memorial Tree Park & Garden

November 21 at 5:30 p.m.

Join the Mayor and City Council as we flip the switch and light up the Charles Gabus Memorial Tree Park for the holiday season! We’ll have hot cocoa and cookies for you to enjoy as you walk around the beautifully decorated park. This event is free.

Holiday Hullabaloo

10320 Hickman Road in Clive

November 24 to December 31

Are you ready to jingle all the way to a holiday adventure of epic proportions? Well, enjoy a day of sheer yuletide fun at Holiday Hullabaloo 2023! Holiday Hullabaloo is an indoor, immersive, family-friendly holiday experience that will surprise and delight guests of all ages. Featuring a wide range of activities and entertainment including photos with Santa! Your entire family will be mesmerized. Purchase tickets and learn more.

Christmas in Olde Town

Altoona, Iowa

November 25 from 2 to 5 p.m.

Christmas in Olde Town is one of the most anticipated events of the year. It’s a time when the entire community comes together to celebrate the holiday season. This year, they have an extra special guest joining them – Santa Claus himself!

Let’s not overlook the other exciting activities we have in store, such as our hot chocolate bar, smores station, coloring contest, crafts, entertainment, and so much more!

Santa Express

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad

Waiting for details to be released!

Winter’s Eve

Jamie Hurd Amphitheater

November 27 at 5:30 p.m.

Join the City of West Des Moines at the Jamie Hurd Amphitheater to kick off the winter season with refreshments, festive songs, and the lighting of the Mayor’s holiday tree. FREE!


Clive Annual Mayor’s Tree Lighting

Clive Public Library

December 1 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Mark your calendars, Clive Parks & Recreation has set a date for its annual Mayor’s Holiday Tree Lighting that will be held in front of Clive Public Library. Enjoy kid-friendly activities. Special guest appearance from the North Pole!

Holidays at the Town Center

Johnston Town Center

December 2 from 4 to 6 p.m.

The annual event will feature free ice skating, a visit with Santa and his reindeer, samples from local businesses, tree lighting, and a new holiday light show! Take a look at the full schedule and details here.

Windsor Wonderland

Colby Park

December 2 from 4 to 9 p.m.

Colby Park comes alive with the spirit of the holidays during Windsor Wonderland with FREE family fun! Bring the family out for crafts, hot chocolate, ice sculpting, a carriage ride, and MORE including a visit from Santa! 

Don’t miss The Grinch at 7:45 p.m. Refreshments will be served 30 minutes before we push play. The movie will be played in the Community Center!

Teddy Bear Tea

Willow on Grand

December 2 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Kick off the holiday season with the Teddy Bear Tea Holiday Charity Event, a heartwarming gathering for children and families. Purchase your ticket here.

Highlights Included with Ticket Price

  • Enjoy tea towers of sandwiches, delightful treats, and holiday beverages.
  • Meet Santa in person and capture the moment with a keepsake photograph.
  • Delight in holiday crafts in person or take-home
  • Cookie decorating kit.
  • Hot Chocolate Bar for Kids
  • Hosted Bar included for Mom and Dad

Support a Good Cause:

All ticket proceeds and donations benefit vital neighborhood causes: Assisting the Volunteer Physician Network in offering free specialty healthcare for Iowans at risk and in need. Please bring a toy to donate to Toys for Tots! Join us in spreading holiday joy and giving back to the community at the Teddy Bear Tea Holiday Charity E

Waukee WinterFest

Waukee Downtown Triangle

December 1; 6 to 8 p.m. 

Bring on the holiday cheer with your friends, family, and neighbors at Waukee’s free, annual WinterFest celebration held in the Downtown Triangle! Santa makes his big appearance at 6 p.m. at the tree lighting. After the tree lighting, visit with the jolly man in person at the Community Center over hot chocolate and cookies and participate in open houses and activities with the Waukee Downtown Businesses. 


Principal Park

Thursday, November 30: 5 pm – 9 pm

Friday, December 1: 11 am – 9 pm

Saturday, December 2: 11 am – 9 pm

Sunday, December 3: 11 am – 5 pm

Enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, and flavors of the holidays as you participate in a 700-year-old traditional German-inspired Christmas market.

Shop regional vendors selling old-world, hand-crafted products from wooden vendor stalls; enjoy lively performances of polka music, traditional dance, and choirs in Yuletide Hall; participate in children’s activities; sip Glühwein (warm, mulled wine) and savor European-style Iowa craft beer.

Winter Wonderscape Holiday Light Show

Reiman Gardens

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings in December.

5 to 8 p.m.

Winter Wonderscape Holiday Light Show is back for its third year and better than ever with our outdoor walk-through holiday light show featuring a variety of immersive light displays throughout the entire 17-acre site. Don’t miss our new and improved features and elements including motion and music. Walkthrough brightly lit tunnels, meander through fantasy lights falling like stars, view massive disco balls twirling to laser lights, and enjoy a twenty-foot-wide fountain of lights and a wide array of other sparkling wonders. The kids will enjoy lighted sculptural forms including Peter Rabbit, the metamorphosis of the luna moth, penguins cavorting on skis, sleds, and ice skates, and a giant lighted snowflake.

On your way out through the main building, don’t miss the RG Express Holiday Train display in the Hughes Conservatory! Visitors young and old will be enchanted by this custom-built garden-scale train, which was created by Applied Imagination, an internationally recognized company whose train displays meld botanical design and architecture.

Tickets are on sale starting November 1. Buy your tickets early, as popular time slots sell out quickly.

Ticket pricing:    

  • $15 Adult General Public
  • $13 Adult Members & ISU Students
  • $7 Youth (ages 2-12)                                                              
  •  Free for Youth under 2

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Des Moines Playhouse

December 2 – 17. Various times. Purchase tickets here.

The classic animated television special A Charlie Brown Christmas comes to life in this faithful stage adaptation in which Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the gang discover the true meaning of Christmas.

Holly & Ivy

Salisbury House 

December 2 & 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Holly & Ivy is Salisbury House’s signature holiday fundraising event! Each room of the grand 1920s estate will be adorned in creative, festive holiday décor by some of the most talented local interior designers, florists, home stagers, and individuals in the Des Moines area. Enjoy live holiday music on the Steinway piano and more.

Fall Nature Market

Middleswart Lodge

December 9; 5 to 8 p.m.

Warren County Conservation Board is hosting its second local nature and craft-related vendor fair. They want to support local merchants in their beautiful park setting. Vendors will have all sorts of items to get you ready for the upcoming holiday season. *Vendor Fees will support a nature playscape at the Annett Nature Center. Free To Enter!


Erin Huiatt

Erin is a reliable resource and stepping stone for women and families to find support and make connections within our community. She wants families to feel confident to reach out and ask for help and advice to get pointed in the right direction. She enjoys traveling and exploring with her two children in tow!

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