Holiday Events in Des Moines

Holiday Events in Des Moines

Holiday Events in Des Moines 2019

Note: This list reflects all dates and times for the 2019 holiday season.

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 Des Moines Playhouse. Learn more about all of the fun events coming up below!

Des Moines Playhouse | 2019 Sponsor

Family Holiday Classic: A Christmas Story, The Musical

December 6 – December 23

Set in the 1940s in the fictional town of Hohman, IN, the musical follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker and his quest for the Holy Grail of Christmas gifts: an Official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Rebuffed at every turn with a similar echoing response, Ralphie plots numerous schemes to achieve his desperate desire for the coveted BB gun. All the iconic scenes from the movie are here: Ralphie’s friend, Flick, getting his tongue stuck to the flagpole; his brother, Randy, getting dressed in his snowsuit; the bullies, Farkus and Dill; the leg lamp award; the bunny suit; the Chinese restaurant; Christmas dinner; and many others

Friday Funday | The Little Engine That Could

December 13

9:30 or 10:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Who will take the presents to the children on the other side of the mountain?  When everyone else refuses, the smallest of all the engines volunteers to help. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…I thought I could! 


Holiday Promenade

Historic East Village 

November 22 & 23 

5 to 9 p.m .& 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

The 18th Annual Holiday Promenade in the Historic East Village is the holiday kick-off event with something for everyone! This year’s event will be on Friday, Nov. 22, 5 – 9 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Aside from the hundreds of twinkling lights, The Promenade will feature free horse-drawn trolley rides, visits with Santa Claus, carolers strolling around the neighborhood, holiday entertainers, ice skating, live ice sculpting, a traditional tree lighting ceremony at Brenton Skating Plaza and FIREWORKS!

Local businesses in the neighborhood will have extended hours and treats on Friday and Saturday making it the perfect time to start your holiday shopping!

Tour de Lights


November 23

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.

Jester Park Nature Fall Makers Market

Jester Park Nature Center

November 24

Noon to 5 p.m.

Join Polk County Conservation on Sunday, November 24, from Noon – 5 p.m. at the Jester Park Nature Center to shop for nature-inspired gifts, handmade jewelry, decor, furniture, candles, and more; just in time for the holiday season! While there, explore the nature center’s exhibits and if the weather allows, relax on the back patio in an Adirondack chair by the fireplace.

The Fall Makers Market is FREE admission, family-friendly event. Bring the kids, as the exhibit hall will be open!

**The first 50 visitors will receive a Polk County Conservation reusable tote!

Bouldering Wall Grand Opening

Jester Park

November 24

1 to 3 p.m.

Bouldering Wall Grand Opening at Jester Park on November 24, from 1-3 p.m. join us to celebrate the grand opening of Jester Park’s newest recreation feature, the Petra Alward Bouldering Room! Petra herself will be in attendance at the opening ceremony which begins at 1 p.m.

Take part in FREE climbing, archery, demos/presentations, and refreshments!

Festival of Trees and Lights 

Veteran’s Memorial Community Choice Credit Union

November 27 – December 1

Wednesday, Friday & Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Thursday; 1 to 7 p.m. 

Sunday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Blank Children’s Hospital is excited to host its annual Festival of Trees & Lights, a fun family event that benefits our Child Life, Creative Arts Therapy and the Advocacy and Outreach programs. This year we are celebrating 75 years of caring for kids at Blank Children’s Hospital.

Tickets are $5. Children 2 and younger are free. You can purchase tickets at the door or in advance at metro Hy Vee locations or the UnityPoint Health hospital gift shops.

Each year, hundreds of volunteers give of their time and talents to make Festival come to life. Volunteers 14 & 15 years of age can volunteer with a parent or guardian. Volunteers 16 and older are welcome to volunteer on their own. Sign-up to volunteer!

Jolly Holiday Lights


November 29 – 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.

Santa Express

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad 

Several dates & times starting November 29 – December 22

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.

Children’s Book Reading + Mini Plant Potting

Art Terrarium

November 30

11 a.m. to Noon

Would you like to get some plant and gift shopping done while we watch your little ones? We’ve got you covered!

Join us on Small Business Saturday for a children’s book reading by local author Michelle Schlicher, followed by a terra cotta painting and pixie plant potting workshop!

A Gnome Story is Michelle’s first children’s book. While she has never seen a garden gnome come to life nor does she know any fairies; that hasn’t stopped her from imagining a world where sneaky gnomes and beautiful fairies might exist. She hopes this book inspires you to create characters and tales of your own! The book reading is free and open to all and Michelle will have signed copies of the book for sale!


Jingle in the Junction

Historic Valley Junction 

December 5, 12 & 19

5 to 9 p.m. 

Join Valley Junction for Jingle in the Junction on Thursday, December 5, 12 and 19. The businesses of Historic Valley Junction and the streets will be lined with over 150,000 twinkling lights. There will be free horse-drawn carriage rides, Santa and caroling. Jingle in the Junction will be held from 5-9 p.m. each evening. Event sponsor and partner, Veridian Credit Union for making these great events happen!


Principal Park

December 6 – 8

Friday & Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

Sunday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Experience a German-inspired Christmas Market. Vendors will sell old-world, handmade products from wooden vendor stalls. There will be polka music, traditional and choirs, and lots of fun for children at the KinderKorner.

Holly & Ivy

Salisbury House 

December 6 & 7

11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

This celebration features Salisbury House and other distinctive historic neighborhood locations at their holiday best. Each room throughout Salisbury House is decorated by local interior designers, florists, and home furnishing stores and includes live music in the Common Room. This is a self-guided tour. $20 admission.

Living History Farms Family Christmas

December 7

Noon to 4 p.m.

Another Central Iowa classic, Living History Farms Family Christmas. Bundle up for a horse-drawn wagon ride to visit the festive Flynn Mansion. Enjoy an old-fashioned holiday social with dance music in the Church of the Land. Kids will enjoy printing their own holiday greeting cards, decorating cookies, making crafts, and visiting Santa Claus. Ticket prices.

The Nutcracker

Des Moines Civic Center

December 7; 2 and 7 p.m. 

December 8; 2 p.m. 

Iowa Dance Theatre’s Annual Nutcracker will be performed on Saturday & Sunday, December 7 & 8, 2019 at the Des Moines Civic Center. Over 240 performers from 36 Dance Schools in the Central Iowa area have been offered roles in this delightful performance!

Butterfly Blizzard

Reiman Gardens

December 7 or 21

8 to 9:30 a.m. 

Come in from the cold to experience a different kind of blizzard – a butterfly blizzard in Reiman Gardens’ Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing! Take advantage of this rare opportunity to release your very own butterfly, just-emerged from its chrysalis, and waiting in a container for its first flight in the Butterfly Wing. An amazing nature moment for young and old alike! While here, partake in fun, themed crafts and sip hot cocoa.

Participants must preregister.

A Charlie Brown Christmas: Live on Stage

Des Moines Performing Arts

December 12

6:30 p.m.

Everyone’s favorite holiday classic comes to life in the all-new touring production A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS LIVE ON STAGE! Join Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, and the whole Peanuts gang as they produce their own Christmas play and ultimately learn the true meaning of the season. A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS LIVE ON STAGE is a present the whole family can enjoy! Adapted from Charles M. Schulz’s timeless story of the spirit of Christmas, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS LIVE ON STAGE features the unforgettable music of Vince Guaraldi, as well as a concert of beloved holiday carols performed by the Peanuts characters. There’s no better way to discover the magic of the season!

Santa at the Zoo

Blank Park Zoo

December 14 & 15 

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Bring the entire family for holiday fun at the Blank Park Zoo. After taking a photo with Santa and writing a letter to the North Pole, enjoy a warm cup of cocoa, explore the wonders of the Zoo, both inside and out. Make sure to bring your hat and gloves, so you can visit with all the animals indoors AND outdoors.  Santa at the Zoo is free with regular zoo admission and free for zoo members. Check here for the full schedule of events and more.

Breakfast with Santa

Reiman Gardens

December 14

8 a.m. or 10 a.m.

Kids, bring your parents to Reiman Gardens to enjoy a hearty and delicious breakfast buffet. Visit with Santa, create your own holiday-themed crafts, write a letter to Santa, and see the train exhibit in the Hughes Conservatory. Then head to the Reiman Gardens’ Gift Shop for stocking stuffers and unique gift ideas. There is something in the Gift Shop for everyone on your list.

Preregistration and prepayment required by Sunday, December 8.

Breakfast with Santa

Science Center of Iowa 

December 14; 8  to 10 a.m. 

December 15; 10 a.m. to Noon 

Food, fun, science, and Santa! Gather the family and reserve a table to eat breakfast with Santa. You will enjoy a delicious buffet-style meal, picture with Santa, a lively holiday story and a sing-along, “Science of Winter” demonstrations, a holiday craft station and more! Must reserve your spot.

Christmas at Terrace Hill

December 15

2 to 5 p.m.

Celebrating 150 years of Terrace Hill! Governor Kim and Kevin Reynolds invite you to enjoy Christmas at Terrace Hill! Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Terrace Hill at this family-friendly event on Sunday, December 15th from 2:00 – 5:00 pm.

Guests will enjoy:

  • Photos with Santa Claus and Reindeer
  • Activities for Children
  • Christmas Cookies
  • Silent Auction
  • Spectacular Christmas Decorations in Every Room!

Proceeds from this event will benefit the Terrace Hill Partnership, the non-profit organization that supports necessary conservation and restoration projects at Terrace Hill.

Tonic Sol-fa

Hoyt Sherman Place 

December 20

7:30 pm

This Christmas, the Emmy-award winning a cappella quartet brings a brand new stage show to you.  Enjoy the humor and soulful vocals that make this a holiday tradition for so many!

Love You Des Moines

Valley Community Center

December 20

8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Special events all day including a pancake breakfast, pajama movie party, storytime, bounce house party and more.

Love You Des Moines

Valley Community Center

December 23

Watch the Polar Express in your pajamas at 10 a.m. and participate in the Hot Dog Dash at 2 p.m. More events to be added!

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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