Nothing helps get you in the holiday spirit quite like a holiday event does. Seeing all the decor, smelling the scents of hot chocolate and peppermint, and gazing at the dazzling lights. There are a variety of events that will get you thinking all things holiday whether you just want to enjoy decorations while enjoying a treat or shopping under the glow of the lights.
The Peppermint Trail
More than 50 local shops, restaurants, and businesses will be featuring peppermint and holiday-themed specials. Enjoy Gingerbread house decorating, carolers, visits from Santa Claus, and so much more. Make a stop at Bauder’s for one of their famous Peppermint Ice Cream Bars, Crème for peppermint hot chocolate, and stop at The Station on Ingersoll for their Holiday pop-up, Miracle on Ingersoll.
Where: The Avenues of Ingersoll and Grand
When: December 9
Jingle in the Junction
Few places are better to get you in the holiday mood and knock out your holiday shopping than Historic Valley Junction, particularly during their annual Jingle in the Junction jubilee. On four Thursday evenings in November and December, take a step back in time with horse-drawn trolley rides, Christmas carolers, ice carvings, and of course, Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Shops stay open late with holiday sales and mini-events.
Where: Fifth Street in Valley Junction, West Des Moines
When: November 16 and 30, December 7 and 14, 5 – 8 p.m.
East Village Holiday Promenade
Santa's Village has nothing on the East Village when the Holiday Promenade takes over the East Village for five Fridays in November and December. Kicking off on November 19 with the tree lighting at Brenton Skating Plaza and (deep breath) Santa (!!), each week has a different theme and activities, so multiple trips may be in store. From horse-drawn trolleys and wreath displays to scavenger hunts and hide and seek ornaments, this is the most epic and Des Moines way to get into the holiday spirit and enjoy some retail therapy. It’s even got its own Spotify playlist!
Where: Historic East Village
When: Every Friday, November 17 – December 15, 5 – 9 p.m.
This real life Polar Express in Boone was named one of the 30 Best Holiday and Christmas Trains in the U.S., and for good reason. Wear your most festive Christmas pajamas and take an hour-long round trip to the quaint but charming “North Pole,” singing Christmas Carols and enjoying hot chocolate and cookies along the way.
Where: 225 10th Street, Boone
When: Santa Express trains operate on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through December 17. Tickets are $25 - $50 per person.
Returning for 2023, celebrate the Holiday season at Horizon Events Center. Benefitting Dorothy's House, explore Mrs. Claus's Kitchen, build a craft in Santa's Workshop, shop in the Marketplace, check out the Ice Bar, and so much more. Holiday Hullabaloo also has special events throughout the season such as Breakfast with Santa, Noon Years Eve, Photos with Santa, and more!
Where: 10320 Hickman Rd. Clive, Iowa 50325
When: November 24 – December 31, check here for hours
If you missed Center Grove Orchard this fall, hit up Winter Wonderland this holiday season. Experience twinkling lights, trees, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and more. Want to make your experience even more magical? Purchase the Yuletide Spectacular which includes not only Winter Wonderland, but U-Build Bears and Brunch with Santa. Prices start at $7.95 and
Where: 32835 610th Avenue Cambridge, IA 50046
When: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays November 25 – December 23
Christkindlmarket Des Moines
Immerse yourself in European culture with Christkindlmarket Des Moines. Head to Principal Park to shop from vendors set up in wooden stalls, nosh on German foods, listen to diverse entertainment, and sip on warm mulled wine. The event is free and the perfect way to kick off the holiday season!
Where: Principal Park
When: Thursday, November 30 – Sunday, December 3
Holly and Ivy
See Salisbury House decorated for the holidays on December 2 and 3. Explore the rooms as they are decorated for the season from local interior designers, florists, home stagers, and more. Explore Santa’s Sweet Shoppe for treats, hot chocolate, cocktails, and mocktails. Santa will be there for a visit, and so much more. Get tickets here.
Where: Salisbury House and Gardens
When: Saturday, December 2 and Sunday, December 3
Dome for the Holidays
It’s a winter wonderland inside the always-warm Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Dome for the Holidays transforms the gardens into a festive world for the holidays. Throughout the month of December during regular business hours, not only can you enjoy the exhibits, but you can also enjoy holiday-themed activities and events.
Where: Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden
When: December 1 – 31
Indianola Home for the Holidays
See the beauty of Indianola’s downtown lit up and decorated for Indianola Home for the Holidays. Go for a horse drawn carriage ride, ride a train, visit with Santa, enjoy treats, and join in a carol while you’re there. It’s also the perfect time to duck into the shops and get some shopping done. The evening will close out with a community sing along and Lighted Parade.
Where: Indianola Downtown
When: Saturday, December 9
Coca-Cola Holiday Caravan
The traveling Coca-Cola Holiday Caravan is bringing the magic of the holidays to life. The spirited caravan will give you a chance to not only see the special truck, but also see Santa, take a family photo, and enjoy some Coke Zero. Admission is free. You can see locations and times here.
Where: Various Greater Des Moines locations
When: Friday, December 15 – Sunday, December 17
Christmas at Terrace Hill
Join Governor Kim Reynolds and First Gentleman Kevin Reynolds for Christmas at Terrace Hill. This annual event invites you to explore the historic property and enjoy the holidays with the family while decorating ornaments, listening to carolers, enjoying Christmas cookies, taking a photo with Santa, and writing a letter to Iowa National Guard service members who are deployed. Tickets are $25 per individual or $25 per household.
Where: Terrace Hill
When: Sunday, December 17