Holiday Events in Des Moines

Holiday Events in Des Moines 2021

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.

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 | 2021 Sponsor

Fall Maker’s Market

Jester Park Nature Center

November 21; 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.

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, or grab a cup of hot chocolate at the outdoor recreation center where more vendors will be located!

They have ensured a diverse representation of 42 local makers, artisans, and/or handcrafters to bring you a variety of goods. More vendors will be added as they are confirmed. The Fall Makers Market is FREE admission, family-friendly event. 


June B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells

Des Moines Playhouse

November 5 – 14 at various times

It’s holiday time and Room 1 is doing a lot of things to celebrate, like making elf costumes and singing carols. Tattletale May keeps ruining Junie B.’s holiday glee. When Junie B. picks a name for Secret Santa, she gets stuck with you-know-who. Although momentarily swayed by seasonal greed and nasty feelings for May, you know that Junie B. will figure it all out and do the right thing—in this case, avoiding being what she calls a “shellfish” person.

Santa Arrives at Bass Pro Shops Altoona!

November 6; 5 to 7 p.m.

Bring your family to help welcome Santa back to Bass Pro Shops Altoona! Santa will arrive at 5 PM in his decked-out TRACKER boat escorted by our awesome Altoona Police Department. The Salvation Army of Des Moines will be on hand, starting at 4 PM, with hot chocolate, holiday music from the Salvation Army Band, and their mascot Shield!

Please note: The Santa’s Wonderland photos begin Nov. 7. Reservations are required, so book online starting November 1 at basspro.com/santa or cabelas.com/santa

Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides

Downtown Pella

Various dates beginning November 6 through December 18

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

Make & Take Family Day

Annett Nature Center

November 13 at 1 p.m.

Bring the family out for a self-guided fall scavenger hunt, make & take essential oil gifts, hot chocolate & smores, door prizes, and nature center exploration. Your family can participate in all the activities, enjoy snacks, and make the following gifts: hanging ornament, lotion, bath salt, hand purifier, Thieves cleaning spray, and a roller bottle. The cost is $25 per family and includes one of each item. Additional gifts can be made for a small charge. Busy that day, register and request pre-made items to pick up the week of the event.Registration required at www.warrenccb.org

Fall Nature Market

Annett Nature Center

November 18; 5 to 8 p.m.

Warren County Conservation Board is hosting its first local nature and craft-related vendor fair. They 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 educational exhibits a the Annett Nature Center. Free To Enter!

Jingle in the Junction

Historic Valley Junction 

November 18; December 2, 9 & 16

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. More exciting details coming soon.

Holiday Promenade

East Village

November 19 & 26; December 3, 10 & 17

5 to 9 p.m .

The annual Holiday Promenade will return to the Historic East Village for five Fridays bursting with holiday cheer from Nov. 19 – Dec. 17. Holiday Promenade will be an exciting celebration full of holiday-themed activities, entertainment, shopping, and family-friendly fun. Historic East Village retailers, restaurants, and attractions are encouraged to remain open until 9 p.m. each Friday.

Launch the Lights


November 20; 4 to 9 p.m.

New for 2021, Launch The Lights is the official kickoff to the Jolly Holiday Lights season and is the only opportunity for the public to walk, run or bike through the route of light displays. There will be a variety of activities for everyone to enjoy, from holiday crafts and visits with Santa at the Wish Wonderland Pre-Party to holiday food and drink sampling stations along the route.

Jolly Holiday Lights


November 26 – January 2;  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 26 – December 19

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 27; 2 to 5 p.m.

Celebrate the holiday season in historic Olde Town Altoona! Santa arrives on a fire truck at 2 p.m. and will greet families and pose for photos in his workshop next to the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce. “Santatizer” stations will be set up throughout the area providing free hand sanitizer.


Santa In The Neighborhood

Des Moines Metro

December 20 – 24

Bring the big man in red to your front porch!  With Santa in The Neighborhood, you can avoid the lines, and instead have a personalized visit from Mr. Claus take place right outside your home.  Your children will be amazed when Santa already knows what’s on their Christmas list (thanks to the Santa Survey you’ll fill out prior to the visit)!  Limited spots are available. Reserve your spot at www.santaintheneighborhood.com

Packages range from $65-$375


Principal Park

December 2; 5 to 9 p.m.

December 3 & 4; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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

Experience a German-inspired Christmas Market at Principal Park’s Main Lot December 2 – 5, 2021. 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.

Winter Wonderscape Holiday Light Show

Reiman Gardens

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings December 2, 3, 4; 9, 10, 11; 16, 17, 18; 23, 24; 30, 31, January 1

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, 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 12:00 p.m. November 2. Buy your tickets early, as popular time slots sell out quickly.

Tickets must be purchased online. All tickets are for a specific day and entry time window (ex. 5:00 – 6:00 p.m.). You must enter during your time window but may stay as long as you like. DAILY CAPACITY WILL BE LIMITED.

Ticket pricing:    

  • $10 Adult General Public
  • $8 Adult Members & ISU Students
  • $5 Youth (ages 2-12)                                                              
  •  Free for Youth under 2

The Sound of Music

Des Moines Playhouse

December 3 – 19 at various times

Let your heart sing once more when a free-spirited young woman is sent to take care of seven precocious children of a widowed naval captain. One of the best-loved musicals of all time and based on the true story of Maria and the von Trapp family, The Sound of Music features cherished songs like “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”

Waukee WinterFest

Waukee Downtown Triangle

December 3; 6 to 8 p.m.

Bring on the holiday cheer with Waukee’s free, annual WinterFest celebration held in the Downtown Triangle. See Santa, take in the WinterFest tree lighting, and enjoy free activities for the whole family!

Peoples Bank 14th Annual Waukee Wonderland: Meet Santa & REAL Reindeer

People’s Bank –  1185 University Ave, Waukee, IA

December 4; 9 to 11 a.m.

Peoples Bank Waukee is excited to announce the 14th Annual Waukee Wonderland holiday event.SANTA & REAL REINDEER will be making an appearance outside Peoples Bank Waukee. Take your own FREE photo with them! FAMILY-FRIENDLY OPEN HOUSE inside Peoples Bank Waukee where you can warm up and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies. Masks encouraged. Learn more!

Candy Cane Hike

Annett Nature Center

December 4 at 1 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 candy cane-themed basket of goodies. This is a self-guided hike, so you can come and go between 1 PM-4 PM. Check-in at the front desk for instructions and a trail map. Please dress for the weather. Registration is required by December 2, 2021.

Holly & Ivy

Salisbury House 

December 3-4; 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. And don’t forget to pay a visit to Santa!

In addition to the Salisbury House, the Holly & Ivy home tour will also feature two private homes decked out in their holiday best! Your ticket can be used to tour any of the locations once during the two days of the event. Holly & Ivy tour tickets will be available for pick up at Salisbury House Friday or Saturday during event hours. Directions to the private homes will be provided on the ticket. Purchase tickets 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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