Holiday Events in Des Moines

Holiday Events in Des Moines

Holiday Events in Des Moines 2020

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.

The Des Moines Parent Holiday Events Guide is sponsored by the Polk County Conservation. Learn more about all of the fun events coming up below!

Polk County Conservation | 2020 Sponsor

Virtual Maker’s Market

November 12 – December 12

The 2020 Virtual Makers Market will take place from November 12 – December 12. We will be hosting links and information on each local vendor that is involved on our website, where you will be able to shop from the comfort of your home or while you’re outside in your favorite spot!


Welcome Santa to Bass Pro Shops

November 7

5 p.m.

Come to welcome Santa back to Bass Pro Shops in this drive-by event! Santa will be in his special Tracker boat in front of the store to wave at families as they drive by! We encourage you and your family to make signs welcoming Santa and telling him what you want for Christmas. NO SANTA PHOTOS OR INDOOR ACTIVITIES WILL TAKE PLACE THIS EVENING. There will be a craft and cookie safely handed out to kids in the cars.

Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides

Downtown Pella

Various dates beginning November 7 through December 19

There are few things more festive than horse-drawn carriage rides! Join us for a trot around the town!

Carriages pick up and drop off in front of the Information Windmill at the corner of Franklin Street and Main Street, directly kitty-corner from Smokey Row.

$5 for adults
$2 for children 12 and under
FREE under 2 years old
Tickets available at the event. No reservations or presales.


Virtual Marketplace

November 9 – November 22

Curbside pickup at Principal Park December 3 – December 6

For 2020, the Des Moines European Heritage Association (DMEHA) has announced that it will change its annual in-person holiday experience to “CDM Curbside,” presented by Christkindlmarket Des Moines.

CDM Curbside will feature an online marketplace open Nov. 9 to 22, hosting several vendor stores featuring unique holiday wares and edibles. After purchasing, customers can choose various drive-thru pickup times at Principal Park’s Main Lot from Dec. 3 to 6.

CDM Curbside presented by Christkindlmarket Des Moines will allow customers to pick up their purchases from multiple vendors at one place and time from the comfort and safety of their vehicles. Prior to pick up, vendors will deliver the customers’ orders to one location allowing volunteers to then group the orders together by customer. Vendors will not be on site for curbside pickup.

Holiday Crafts with Ted Lare Gardens

Annett Nature Center

November 10

6 to 8 p.m.

Join the naturalists as we host Ted Lare Gardens for an evening of holiday crafts. Each craft would make a lovely addition to your holiday decorating and features live plant materials. Participants can choose from a grapevine & evergreen wreath for $25 and/or grinch tree for $35. Registration and prepayment is required. Please register at tedsgardens.com or by calling 515-981-1073. Space is limited. Participants are asked to wear a face mask indoors. Family groups will be seated together at tables spaced 6 feet apart.

Make & Take Family Day

Annett Nature Center

November 14

2 to 5 p.m.

Bring the family out for a self-guided fall hike, make & take essential oil gifts, and premade smores in a jar snack. This is a come and go as you please event and will be held outside so please dress for the weather. (If inclement weather we will move inside the nature center.)

For $25 your family can participate in the activities and make the following gifts: hanging ornament, soothing lotion, bath salt, hand purifier,Thieves Cleaning Spray, and a roller bottle. (one of each item) Additional gifts can be made for a small charge.

12 Days of Promenade

East Village

November 15 – December 23, Wednesday + Sunday

The 19th annual Holiday Promenade in the Historic East Village will be filled with more holiday cheer and merriment than ever before. Festivities will occur over six Sundays and six Wednesdays in November and December creating the 12 Days of Promenade.

Learn more at www.holidaypromenade.com

Tour de Lights


November 21

4:30 p.m. 

Don’t miss your chance to go through Jolly Holiday Lights before it opens to the public! Preview the lights as you run, walk, bike, or skate through the displays. Start and register at Doc & Leone’s Diner for the 1.5-mile route. Don’t forget to stop by the Wish Shop for cookies and cocoa.

Santa Rock ‘N Lights

Living History Farms

November 27 – January 3

5 to 10 p.m.

Experience over 700 feet of tunnels in this drive-thru animated light show! Enjoy our techno rainbow tunnel and themed worlds of light including dinosaur world. You can feel safe in this socially distanced, touch-free experience from the safety of your car. Online reservations are required.

Jolly Holiday Lights


November 27 – December 30

5:30 to 10 p.m. 

Jolly Holiday Lights is back at Adventureland. Bundle up the family and enjoy a 2.5-mile ride through more than 100 magical light displays. Admission fees go directly to Make-A-Wish® Iowa! Jolly Holiday Lights is a drive-through holiday light display that is set up annually by Make-A-Wish Iowa. $20 per car. The lights are closed on December 24 & 25. 

Santa Express

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad 

Several dates & times starting November 27 – December 20

This is a yearly tradition at the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad’s depot. The entire family can enjoy a trip to the “North Pole”. On your way to visit Santa at the North Pole, you will sing songs, fun activities, and more. You will also be served hot chocolate and a cookie, and you will get to meet, and receive a special gift from, Santa himself.  Wear your pajamas. Tickets are $18.

Christmas in Olde Town

Historic Olde Town Altoona

November 28

2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Celebrate the holiday season in historic Olde Town Altoona! Santa arrives on a fire truck at 2:30 p.m. and will greet families and pose for photos through the front windows of the Altoona Area Historical Museum. Masks will be required, and “Santatizer” stations will be set up throughout the area providing free hand sanitizer. We also ask that all groups maintain social distancing.

Brunch with Santa & Rudolph

Center Grove Orchard

Saturdays & Sundays between Thanksgiving & Christmas

Join Center Grove Orchard for an old-fashioned holiday brunch! It’s great fun for the whole family. Santa and Rudolph will be there so the children can share their holiday wishes. Brunch with Santa and Rudolph will be a date- and time-specific event. Please purchase a ticket online for the time you wish to arrive.


Jingle in the Junction

Historic Valley Junction 

November 19; December 3, 10 & 17

5 to 9 p.m. 

The holiday tradition you love is back and better than ever. 150+ local businesses will shine under the warm glow of 125,000 holiday lights, and you’ll enjoy a shopping and dining experience unlike any other in our metro. Exciting details coming soon, presented by Veridian Credit Union.

Valley Junction wears masks for safety this holiday season.

Winter Wonderscape

Reiman Gardens

Thursday- Saturday evenings; December 3 – January 2

5 to 8:30 p.m.

Reiman Gardens is pleased to announce its first outdoor walk-through holiday light show featuring a variety of immersive light displays throughout the entire 17-acre site. Walkthrough brightly lit tunnels, meander through fantasy lights falling like stars, view massive disco balls twirling to laser lights, enjoy a 20’ wide fountain, and a wide array of other sparkling wonders. The kids will enjoy lighted sculptural forms including Peter Rabbit in the Edible Garden, the metamorphosis of the luna moth, penguins cavorting around the lake on skis, sleds, and ice skates, and the Campaniling kissing polar bears. Exit through the Hughes Conservatory to see the RG Express holiday train! Visitors of all ages will be enchanted by this custom-built garden-scale train.

Playhouse on the Air: Miracle on 34th Street

Des Moines Playhouse

December 4 – 20 at Various Times

Enter a 1940s radio studio where a radio host, sound effects artists, and a star-studded acting company bring the holiday classic, Miracle on 34th Street, to life. Young Susan Walker has been raised by her well-meaning mother, Doris, not to believe in Santa Claus. Then she meets Kris Kringle, the man hired to play Santa at Macy’s department store. When a jealous Macy’s employee frames Kris for an assault, attorney Fred Gailey must prove to Doris, Susan, and a court of law that Kris IS the real Santa. Perfect for the whole family!

Waukee WinterFest on Wheels

Waukee Public Works Building

December 4

6 to 8 p.m.

The typical WinterFest event is being switched up to “WinterFest on Wheels” this year. It will be held Friday, Dec. 4 from 6-8 p.m. at the Waukee Public Works Building. Santa Claus and his helpers will hand out treats and goodies as visitors drive through one of the building’s vehicle bays. Participants will stay in their vehicles. 

A virtual tree-lighting, ice sculptor demonstration, book donations, holiday light competition, and a toy/food drive will also be held with modifications. Anyone is welcome to drive through the event. If you want the free kids’ goodie bags, please register in advance!

Open-Air Holiday Book Market + Storytimes

Storyhouse Bookpub; 6429 University Ave, Windsor Heights, IA 50324

December 5, 12 & 19

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Miss the cozy feeling of browsing a bookshop during the holidays? We do too. That’s why we’re decking the shelves for an open-air bookstore to safely peruse the season’s brand new titles and some gently-used favorites.

Other local shops will be popping up to keep our spirits warm with festive treats and hot drinks for sale. (Expect some Bay Laurel Baking Co. & Pie Bird goodness).

Bring the kids for short storytimes at 11 am in front of our twinkling vintage camper and make it a holiday celebration pit-stop for the family. Check bookish gifts off your list or discover one for yourself. Masks required. We’ll have plenty of sanitizer at the ready.

Candy Cane Hike

Annett Nature Center

December 5

1 to 3 p.m.

Bring the whole family out to hike the trails of Annett Nature Center in search of hidden candy canes. Submit your guess for how many candy canes are on the trail and get entered to win a wintery surprise. There will be refreshments, hot cocoa, and exhibits to explore inside.

This is a self-guided hike, so you can come and go between 1 PM-3 PM. Check-in at the front desk for instructions and a trail map. Please dress for the weather. Registration is required by December 3, 2020 at http://www.warrenccb.org/events

2020 Dallas Center Hometown Christmas

Dallas Center

December 5

4 to 8 p.m.

Join the Seasonal Fun Committee for a night of holiday joy for everyone! Enjoy caroling & lots of activities to get everyone in the holiday spirit for the season throughout Walnut Street!

Make sure to bring a Food Pantry donation & remember to check out the Dallas Center & Dallas County Giving Trees.

Holly & Ivy

Salisbury House 

December 5

8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

Holly & Ivy is Salisbury House’s signature holiday tour event – and this year it is going VIRTUAL! For years we have had the privilege of opening up the house, decorated by local designers/retailers in festive holiday decor, for visitors to tour. For the safety of all participates, this years tour will be virtual! Guests will be able to view the event on our online platform, which will include online tours of both the Salisbury House and private homes, live music, and more! Keep track of the details here.

Tea at the Castle – Virtual

Salisbury House – Virtual

December 12

1 to 3 p.m.

Salisbury House provides everything that would be at their regular Tea event, all wrapped up in a beautiful package for you to safely enjoy at home with your guest(s). Each package will include two different varieties of tea, two types of finger sandwiches, madeleines and tea cookies, mini scones, clotted cream, and jam to enjoy. We will email you our private website link to log on to experience a variety of short, fun and informational hosts sharing history of Salisbury House and collections, tours, music, tidbits about the tea that you’re drinking and more. On Saturday, December 12, 2020, the day of the Holiday Tea event, between 10 am and 12 pm, you will drive up the Salisbury House parking lot and we’ll deliver your tea package(s) to your vehicle. At 1:00 pm you can log into our private website link to view the programming while you enjoy your delicious afternoon tea with your guest(s) in the safety of your home.

“The Gift” a Holiday Ballet

Franklin Jr. High

December 18 at 7 p.m. & December 19 at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m.

Join Encounter Performing Arts Company by ushering in the holiday season with our annual production of “The Gift”. This inspiring, fun, and Christ-centered performance displays the power of God’s love. We invite you to join us as we set out to find the greatest gift of all time!

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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