A Mom’s Guide to Holiday Events in Des Moines and Ames


Holiday Events in DSM and AmesI love this time of year. Yep, I was jumping up and down last week when we had snow flurries, and you better believe the boys and I played outside (though we didn’t last long — it was VERY cold, but we warmed up quickly with some hot cocoa!). I can’t help but anticipate all of the holiday happenings around the metro that make this the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

If you think nothing ever happens in Des Moines, take a look at this list! There are so many wonderful local events that celebrate this season; so I hope you’ll join me in picking a few to attend this Christmas, and get out and experience this amazing city!

Tree Lightings:

Ankeny: December 3rd, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m., at Ankeny Fire Headquarters. Free with Santa, activities, and a festival of trees.

Ames: November 22nd, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Santa and other activities are planned downtown.

West Des Moines: November 22nd, 6 p.m. – 7 p.m, at Jordan Creek Mall. Tree lighting, fireworks and, of course, Santa’s arrival. Decoy kicks off the evening at 6 p.m.

Mall Events:

Merle Hay Mall: Santa arrives November 16th. Train rides offered.

Valley West Mall: Santa arrives November 16th. Train rides are $2 a ride or 3 for $5. This is a tradition we do every year with my grammy and poppy!

Jordan Creek: Get your Santa Photos November 22nd – December 24th. Special Santa photo events include Pet Photos With SantaPajama Party with Santa, and Baby’s First Christmas. A FREE family event, Reindeer Games, will be held December 7th for kiddos aged 2-10 with crafts, games, prizes, and more. You can also have Breakfast with Santa at BRAVO! on December 7th and 14th; tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Trees and Lights Displays:

Jolly Holiday Lights: November 26th – January 1st, 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. This is a favorite family tradition of ours. Proceeds benefit Make-A-Wish foundation. Water Works Park, just south of I-235 on Martin Luther King Jr. Pkwy.

Festival of Trees: November 27th – December 1st (see website for times). $5 and 2 & under Free. Benefits Blank Children’s Hospital. Located in the Veteran’s Convention Center. You can pre-buy tickets at Hy-vee and Dahl’s now through November 26th for $3.

Ames Festival of Trees: November 15th – December 1st, M-F 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and S&S 1-5 p.m. FREE. Located at the Octagan Center for the Arts, 427 Douglas Ave.

Shopping Districts:

Holiday Promenade: November 22nd, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m., in East Village. Shops will be open 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. with Free Horse Drawn Hay-Rack Rides from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the corner of East 5th and Walnut. Santa will be at the State Historical Building 5 p.m. – 6:15 p.m. and Brenton Plaza 6:15 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Jingle in the Junction: November 21st, December 5th and 12th, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m., in Valley Junction. Come see the 150,000 twinkling lights! Free horse-drawn carriage rides, Santa, caroling, and wonderful shops.

Holiday Entertainment:

Wells Fargo Arena…

Civic Center

Hoyt Sherman Place…

Stephens Auditorium…

Other Family-Friendly Venues:

Botanical Center: They have a lovely holiday botanical display. A wonderful place to warm up on those cold winter days!

Blank Park Zoo: Santa and Reindeer will be at the Zoo 12/7 and 12/14 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Regular admission rates apply. Free to members.

Science Center:

    • Jingle Bell Rock ‘n Run 5K, 12/8
    • Breakfast with Santa Buffet, 12/14 and 12/21
    • The Polar Express (IMAX), 11/30 – 12/1 and 12/6 – 12/8
    • Polar and PJs (Star Theater), 12/20, 12/23, and 12/28 at 10:30 a.m., $5
    • Noon Year’s Eve Party, 12/31

Reiman Gardens also has a beautiful Christmas display.

I hope you’ll get out and enjoy some of these wonderful local events this holiday season!

What are your favorite holiday events in Des Moines, Ames, and surrounding areas? Did I miss any? Please share in the comments!


  1. YES! I love this. Thanks for doing a bunch of research for everyone-such a great post. We love taking the boys on adventures, so I can’t wait to check some of these out!


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