Thanksgiving Fun in Des Moines

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Thanksgiving Fun in Des Moines 2023

All of the fun Halloween festivities have ended, don’t worry though, there are some fun Thanksgiving traditions and events that are happening in Des Moines, Iowa this year. Check out these fun events and activities before or after Thanksgiving Day. We will be adding more events and activities to this guide as they are released. Have something to add? Please email us. Happy Thanksgiving friends!

Looking to do some fun activities at home? Here are some fun ideas!

Family Turkey Time Bowling

November 19 from Noon to 1:30 p.m.

Warrior Lanes

It’s almost time for our annual Turkey Time Family Glow Bowling Party with MOM-approved music and totally alcohol-free! Glow-In-The-Dark Bowling, Concert Lights, and Black Lights. Lanes must be reserved and paid for by 6 p.m. on Friday, November 17.

Sensory Day at Festival Trees of Lights

November 22 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Community Choice Convention Center

 Sensory Day is a special day designed for sensory-sensitive individuals of all ages. The event is open to the public for individuals and their immediate families who would benefit from this specially modified Festival day. Festival of Trees & Lights is a fundraiser for Blank Children’s Hospital, supporting programs and services for patients and families. Purchase tickets here.

Modifications made specifically for Sensory Day include:

  • Festival Express Train will operate, however, the train bell will be disabled to reduce noise.
  • No entertainment will be performed on the large stage in the Ballroom to help reduce noise.
  • Lights will be dimmed and flashing lights (on trees) will be minimized as much as possible.
  • Attendance will be greatly reduced.
  • A calming room will be available if needed by attendees.
  • The Sock Skating Rink will be limited to very small groups, or individually if needed, to meet the unique needs of attendees.
  • Santa will be available for children and families in a secluded area – out of sight for attendees.
  • The music Therapist will provide a special area for musical activities based on attendees’ interests.

Disney on Ice presents Magic in the Stars

November 23-26

Check here for showtimes and to purchase tickets.

Chart a course through the night sky to Disney On Ice presents Magic in the Stars where every story begins with a wish! This all-new production brings the brightest Disney stars to life through cutting-edge figure skating, high-flying acrobatics, unexpected stunts, innovative lighting, thrilling special effects, eye-catching costumes, and stunning set designs. Experience the dynamic moments that take place on the ice and in the air when Disney On Ice presents Magic in the Stars.

All guests aged 2 & older are required to have a ticket. 

Des Moines Turkey Trot

November 23 at 9 a.m.

Downtown Des Moines

Named as one of the best Turkey Trot’s in the country, and ‘Top Trot’ in Iowa by Runner’s World Magazine 5 years in a row, The Des Moines Turkey Trot is Iowa’s largest Thanksgiving Day tradition. Join in this holiday in downtown Des Moines, or ‘virtually anywhere,’ for our 5K, 5 Mile, and Tot Trot runs.

FAM Turkey Trot 5k

November 23 at 9 a.m.

Raccoon River Park

THE FAM TURKEY TROT is a family-friendly way to kick off your Thanksgiving. Whether you’re a competitive runner or you just want to walk with friends and family, the FAM Turkey Trot encourages participants of all abilities. The race takes place at Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines, IA. Your attendance supports families that have lost children due to a fatal diagnosis during pregnancy or complications during pregnancy or birth.

Festival of Trees and Lights

November 24-26

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

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

Blank Children’s Hospital is proud to announce the 40th Annual Festival of Trees & Lights will be at the Iowa Events Center – Veterans Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center. The annual event is the largest fundraiser for Blank Children’s Hospital and is a central Iowa tradition to kick off the holiday season. The 40th Annual Festival of Trees & Lights will feature beautifully decorated trees, special performances from local music and dance groups, visits with Santa, a scavenger hunt, fun crafts and activities, and the chance to be inspired by impactful stories of children cared for at Blank Children’s. In addition, visitors can shop at the Holiday Gift Shop for gifts and more. Purchase tickets here.

If this is your first time to the Festival, here’s what you can expect:

  • 75 beautifully decorated 7 ft. trees displayed across the Ballroom.
  • Children’s area with crafts and activities. Punch cards are available for purchase to participate in the activities.
  • Festival Express Train for children 70 pounds and less.
  • Sock Skating Rink for children to “skate” in their socks.
  • Food area that offers snacks, chips, drinks (water and soda), popcorn, and freshly baked cookies.
  • People’s Choice voting for your favorite tree.
  • Scavenger Hunt among the trees and participants earn a prize.
  • Festival Gift Shop with a wide variety of holiday gifts, toys, and décor.

Jolly Holiday Lights

November 17 – January 7

** Please note that Jolly Holiday Lights Wish Shop will be closed on November 23 and December 25.

Outlets of Des Moines

Viewing the lights at the Outlets of Des Moines is free to guests. Make-A-Wish is excited to share new Jolly Holiday Lights ticketed events throughout the holiday season. Detailed descriptions of the events can be found here. Any weather-related announcements will be shared on the Jolly Holiday Lights Facebook page. Tickets are only valid for the special event purchased.


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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