Holiday Events in Des Moines

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Holiday Events in Des Moines 2022

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!


Festive Fridays

Uptown Ankeny

November 4 & 18 from 5 to 9 p.m.

An evening shopping experience surrounded by Uptown Ankeny’s holiday charm.

Mayor’s Lighting Celebration

Charles Gabus Memorial Tree Park & Garden

November 15 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.

Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides

Downtown Pella

Various dates beginning November 12 through December 17

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. No advanced reservations, tickets may be purchased at the loading zone during ride hours (Corner of Main & Franklin Streets in Central Park).

$5 for adults
$3 for children 12 and under
FREE under 2 years old

Fall Nature Market

Middleswart Lodge

November 17; 5 to 8 p.m.

Warren County Conservation Board is hosting our second local nature and craft-related vendor fair. We want to support local merchants in our 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!

Jingle in the Junction

Historic Valley Junction 

November 17; December 1, 8 & 15

5 to 9 p.m. 

The holiday season starts 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 125,000-holiday lights.

Brenton Skating Plaza Opening Night + Tree Lighting

Brenton Skating Plaza in Downtown Des Moines

November 18 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, free skate passes for youth, and an ice carver.

Holiday Promenade

East Village

November 18 – December 16 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 of holiday cheer in 2022. The 21st annual Holiday Promenade will begin on Friday, Nov. 18, and continue each Friday through Dec. 16.

The Holiday Promenade will be 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.

Annual Lighting of Outlets of Des Moines Tree

Outlets of Des Moines, Altoona

November 19 from 4 to 6 p.m.

Get into the holiday spirit at Outlets of Des Moines on Saturday, November 19th from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and meet Santa’s Reindeer! Enjoy holiday music, cookies, and hot chocolate (while supplies last). Our Christmas Tree lights up at 5:00 p.m. to celebrate the season! Complimentary and open to the public. For more information, visit OutletsofDesMoines.com.

Fall Makers Market

Jester Park Nature Center

November 20; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Jester Park Nature Center’s Locally Grown, Raised, & Created Fall Makers Market is a handcrafted marketplace where you can support local merchants in a beautiful park setting. Free to enter!

Holiday Hullabaloo

Horizon Events Center

November 25 – December 31; Friday- Sunday only; Various other days open due to Winter Break. Take a look at the complete schedule here.

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. General Admission; 7-11 p.m. Adults Only

The 2022 Holiday Hullabaloo is an immersive, family-friendly holiday experience that will surprise and delight guests this holiday season. Enjoy a variety of activities, entertainment, and festivities that will allow you to create some fun holiday hullabaloo and memories. Purchase tickets here. An event benefitting Dorothy’s House.

Jolly Holiday Lights


November 25 – January 1;  Closed December 24, 25 and 31

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.

Santa Express

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad 

Several dates & times starting November 25 – December 18. Purchase tickets here.

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, do 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.

Christmas in Olde Town

Historic Olde Town Altoona

November 26; 2 to 5 p.m.

Olde Town Altoona transforms into a bustling winter wonderland for Christmas in Olde Town—a celebration of community and the holiday season. On Saturday, November 26th, load up your sleigh with family and friends and come join Historic Olde Town Altoona for live music, walking tours, the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, a light show, and a special appearance from the Big Guy himself! All of the family-friendly activities start at 2 p.m. when Santa arrives on a fire truck.

Winter’s Eve

Jamie Hurd Amphitheater

November 28 at 5:30 p.m.

Join us in the city of West Des Moines at the Jamie Hurd Amphitheater to kick off the winter season with refreshments and the lighting of the Mayor’s holiday tree.



Principal Park

December 1; 5 to 9 p.m.

December 2 & 3; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

December 4; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Experience a German-inspired Christmas Market at Principal Park’s Main Lot December 1-4, 2022. Enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, and flavors of the holidays as you participate in a 700-year-old tradition. Shop regional vendors selling old-world, hand-crafted products from wooden vendor stalls; enjoy lively performances of polka music, traditional dance, and choirs in the entertainment tent; participate in children’s activities; sip Glühwein (warm, mulled wine) and savor European-style Iowa craft beer.

Dazzling in the District

The District – Prairie Trail

December 3

2 to 6:45 p.m.

They are kicking off the holiday season with Dazzling in The District on Saturday, Dec. 3 from 2-6 p.m. Then, cap the night off with the Mayor’s tree lighting and fireworks at 6:30 pm in Town Square Park. There will be fun, festive activities for the whole family, and of course, all the great things The District has to offer with dining, shopping, and entertainment. 

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

Ticket pricing:    

  • $13 Adult General Public
  • $11 Adult Members & ISU Students
  • $7 Youth (ages 2-12)                                                              
  •  Free for Youth under 2

Winter Wonderland at Center Grove Orchard

Center Grove Orchard

Various dates and times between December 2 – December 18

A favorite fall activity, the Corn Pool, is being transformed into a walking wonderland of snow, trees, lights, Rudolph, and scenes of the season.

Holiday mornings Winter Wonderland includes Horse Drawn Carriage Rides, Wagon Rides, Holiday Games, and the Winter Wonderland walkthrough. Holiday evenings enjoy gourmet hot chocolate from the hot chocolate stand, Holiday Games, and the Winter. Purchase tickets ahead of time!

Winter Wonderland at the Door in the Morning is $13.95

Winter Wonderland at the Door in the Evening is $8.95

Windsor Wonderland

Windsor Heights Community Event Center

December 2 from 6 to 9 p.m. & December 2 from 4 to 7 p.m.

Join us for Windsor Wonderland! A celebration of holiday fun including:

  • Movies in the Park: Elf
  • Holiday Lights Contest
  • Ugly Sweater Dash
  • Carolers
  • Horse Drawn Carriage Rides
  • Santa Visit
  • Ice Sculptor
  • and MORE!

Movie in the Park – Elf

Windsor Heights Community Event Center

December 2 at 6 p.m.

Join Windsor Height on Friday, December 2nd for the next Movies in the Park where they will be showing Elf! Also, come to the Community Events Center early for FREE Pizza, Cookies, Popcorn, and drinks before the movie!

Festive Fridays

Uptown Ankeny

December 2 & 16 from 5 to 9 p.m.

An evening shopping experience surrounded by Uptown Ankeny’s holiday charm.

Rodger’s + Hammerstein’s Cinderella

Des Moines Playhouse

December 2 – 18 at various times. Purchase tickets here.

Cinderella dreams of a better life, away from her horrible stepmother and stepsisters. With the help of her Fairy Godmother, she attends the ball at the Royal Palace and meets the Prince. Updated for contemporary audiences, this Cinderella not only falls in love but also inspires the Prince to care for every corner of the kingdom. Cinderella is a hilarious take on the classic romantic fairy tale with Rodgers + Hammerstein’s favorites including “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It’s Possible,” and “Ten Minutes Ago.” You’ll have a ball!

Waukee WinterFest

Waukee Downtown Triangle

December 2; 4 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.

Gingerbread Workshop

Grimes Public Library

December 3 & December 10 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

The Gingerbread Workshop is back this year, both in person and as a Grab and Go Kit! Registration is required. Check out all the details.

Holidays at the Johnston Town Center

Johnston Town Center

December 3 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Join the community on Saturday, December 3, from 6-8 p.m. at the Johnston Town Center to celebrate the holiday season. There will be an appearance by Santa and his reindeer, ornament making, the Johnston tree lighting, and more!

Candy Cane Hike

Annett Nature Center

December 3 from 9 a.m. to Noon

‘Tis the season to bust out your favorite ugly sweater and candy cane strips! Warren County Conservation Board is hosting its annual Candy Cane Hike on Saturday, December 3, 2022, from 9 am to Noon. Come hike the trails at the Annett Nature Center to find the candy canes hidden along the trail. Do you have the eyes to find them all? If so, enter your guess in the candy cane box for your chance to win a candy cane-themed goodie bag. The winner will be drawn at noon, and you do not have to be present to win. Staff will have hot chocolate, hot cider, and cookies for you to enjoy after your hike, while supplies last. Feel free to come and go as you please.

Holly & Ivy

Salisbury House 

December 2 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

December 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.

Waukee Winter Wonderland

People’s Bank Waukee

December 10 from 9 to 11 a.m.

The event will feature the return of Santa and his REAL Reindeer, along with an open house at the bank where visitors can come inside, warm up, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. Children (age 11 and under) can also submit a colored entry for a chance to win a $50 Gift Card! There are two choices of colored entries (a Santa-themed picture and a Snowman-themed picture) that will be available to color at the bank or can be downloaded below and printed at home. Submissions must be returned by Saturday, December 10th to Peoples Bank in Waukee to be entered into our drawing. Winners will be notified by 12/14/2022.

World Food Prize Hall of Laureates Holiday Open House

World Food Prize Hall of Laureates

December 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Enjoy a holly jolly day of festive celebrations at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates Holiday Open House! Each year, they open the doors to the historic Hall of Laureates to welcome the community and kick off the winter holiday season with this free event. 

Stop by on December 17 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. to enjoy caroling by the Grace Church Ensemble, indulge in some holiday treats, and check if you’re on the naughty or nice list with Santa!

While sipping your hot cocoa, tour the Hall of Laureates and experience the beautiful art and architecture. Their docents will share the stories and impact of the World Food Prize Foundation and Iowans in food and agriculture throughout the Open House.

The holiday season is also an important season of giving and joining together in the spirit of alleviating hunger. To help support our Des Moines community, guests are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food donationLearn more about the most needed items here.


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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