Traditional Holiday Events in Central Iowa 2016

Central Iowa has some traditional holiday events, that have been around for awhile. These events are something some families do every year! Am I missing a classic Central Iowa event? E-mail me! All of these events are on our event calendar!




Octagon Center of the Arts

November 11th – 27th 

Monday – Friday: 10 am – 5 pm

Saturday & Sunday: 1 pm – 5 pm 

Festival of Trees Kick Off: Friday, November 11th; 5 pm – 8 pm 
Join the Octagon Center of the Arts to celebrate the opening of the Festival with refreshments, holiday music and holiday craft activities for the kids! Visit Santa from 6 pm – 8 pm on opening night!


Historic Valley Junction 

November 17th 

5 pm – 9 pm 

Join Historic Valley Junction for “Jingle Bell Drop” on Thursday, November 17.  This is a NEW event to help kick off “Jingle in the Junction” series (held December 1, December 8 and December 15th from 5-9 pm).

Santa will be arriving in Valley Junction to drop 500 Jingle Bells on Maple Street at 6:00 pm. Each Jingle Bell will include one free prize. Prize value ranges from $5.00 to $1,000.  This is a FREE event with FREE prizes.  There are 500 prizes with a total value of $10,000!

The businesses in Historic Valley Junction and the streets will be lined with over 150,000 twinkling lights. Business will be open for 5:00-9:00pm for Holiday Shopping.


Historic East Village 

November 18th 

5 pm – 9 pm 

This is the holiday kickoff in Downtown Des Moines. Enjoy beautiful lights, shopping, food and more!



Saturday. November 19th 

3:30 pm – 8 pm 

A tradition! Get a chance to go through Jolly Holiday Lights before it officially opens to the public. Family Night on Saturday night, allows you to go through at your own pace. Sunday, November 20th is Fitness night and will include a 12 mile bike route option.



November 22nd – January 1st 

5:30 pm – 10:00 pm 

Jolly Holiday Lights is back and at a new location! Come out and celebrate the holiday lights at Adventureland! Bundle up the family and enjoy a 2.5 mile ride through more than 100 magical light displays. 100% of 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 at Adventureland. $10 per car. You can also get your picture taken with Santa for $10 and enjoy a cookie and cocoa at Santa’s Wish Shop!


Veteran’s Memorial Community Choice Credit Union

November 23rd – 27th

Check hours here

Festival of Trees & Lights is a five-day public event that is the main fundraiser for Blank Children’s Hospital. This event features beautifully decorated trees, entertainment, children’s activities, food, shopping and more!


Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad 

Several dates & times starting November 25th – December 18th

This is a yearly tradition at  the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad’s depot. Then 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.  Where your pajamas! Purchase at, or by calling 1-800-626-0319.



Historic Valley Junction 

December 1st, 8th & 15th 

5 pm – 9 pm

Jingle in the Junction will take place the first three Thursday’s in December!  The businesses in Historic Valley Junction and the streets will be lined with over 150,000 twinkling lights.  Enjoy free horse and trolley rides, Santa, caroling and much more! Watch Bill Gordish carve beautiful ice sculptures, & Professor Von Air will create balloon magic!!  Check here for new activities!


Cowles Commons

December 2nd – 4th 

Check times here!

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.


Salisbury House 

December 2nd – 3rd 

10 am – 5 pm

The Holly & Ivy holiday home tour celebrates its 20th Anniversary! 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 and visits with Santa Claus.


December 3rd 

2 pm – 6 pm 

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! Prices: $6.50/person; $5.00 LHF member. Advance: $6.00/person, $4.50 LHF member.


Reiman Gardens

December 3rd or December 17th  

8 am – 9:30 am 

Experience a different kind of blizzard, a Butterfly Blizzard in Reiman Gardens’ Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing! You won’t want to miss this opportunity to release your very own butterfly in this tropical, indoor garden.

Participants must preregister with payment by December 4. Cost is $5 for one butterfly, $8 for two butterflies, $12 for three butterflies, and $3 for each additional butterfly. Price DOES NOT include admission to the Gardens.  CLICK HERE to register online.


Warrior Lanes

December 4th 

12 pm – 2 pm 

Grab the entire family and close friends and enjoy a holiday glow bowling party! $55 per lane for up to 5 bowlers. Includes 2 hours of glow bowling, shoe rental, 1 pizza, and a pitcher of pop. This is a alcohol free event!


West Des Moines Historical Society 

December 4th & December 11th 

2 pm – 5 pm

Bring the entire family to celebrate the holidays at the historic Jordan House and Bennett School. The Jordan House will be beautifully decorated and will have refreshments and live music. The Bennett School will offer family-friendly crafts and activities. There is an admission. Check here for details.


Blank Park Zoo

December 10th & 17th 

10 am – 2 pm 

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 full schedule of events and more!


December 17th 

9 am – 1 pm 

Everyone is invited to a holiday open house! Come and hear holiday music and experience the spectacular acoustics in this historic building, and explore our world through photos. There will be a live performance of seasonal Christmas music by the Grace Church Ensemble, including lots more!

There is no admission charge and it is a wonderful opportunity to experience our beautiful building during this special time of year.


Des Moines Civic Center

December 17th & 18th 

Various times!

Iowa Dance Theatre presents The Nutcracker Ballet. Experience the adventures of a girl named Clara as she journeys to a distant land where a prince battles mischievous mice, flowers waltz and a Sugar Plum Fairy delights children of every age.

Iowa Dance Theatre has produced the ballet at the Des Moines Civic Center since 1997. The Nutcracker is choreographed and directed by a team of dance professionals from Central Iowa. Set to the timeless music of Tchiavosky, Iowa Dance Theatre’s Nutcracker Ballet is a great holiday experience for the whole family.

Sugar Plum Fairy Tea Parties are available at 12:30 p.m. on December 17 and 18. Tickets to the Tea are $15 and can be purchased at the Des Moines Civic Center Ticket Office.


Hoyt Sherman Place 

December 16th & 17th 

7:30 pm

Celebrate the holiday season at this popular show. Greg, Jared, and Shaun have arranged a fantastic a cappella show, fun for any age!

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