December Family-Friendly Events in Des Moines

This post is sponsored by Make-a-Wish Iowa.

Hooray for the holidays! We’re more than ready for a little Christmas cheer! From drive-through light displays to streaming live theater events, there is a multitude of family-friendly events happening in December.

We are thrilled to partner with Make-A-Wish® Iowa to bring you this monthly event guide.


Come out and celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jolly Holiday Lights.

November 27–December 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., bundle up the family and enjoy a 2.5-mile ride through more than 100 magical light displays at Adventureland Resort in Altoona.

100 percent of admission fees go directly to Make-A-Wish® Iowa. Since it began in 1995, the event has raised enough money to grant 1,000 life-changing wishes to Iowa kids!




December 1-12 | Virtual Makers Market, Jester Park Nature Center
You can still support local small businesses in the community this season. Shop the 2020 Virtual Makers Market online from the comfort of your own home.

December 1-30 | Jolly Holiday Lights, Adventureland
5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: $20 per car ($40 for limo or mini-bus)
Buy tickets ahead of time here
A central Iowa favorite for more than 20 years, Jolly Holiday Lights kicks off on Black Friday. Support the Make-a-Wish foundation and treat your family to a night of lights and holiday fun. Tickets will also be available at Des Moines area Hy-Vees, Casey’s, at the front gate, and the Make-A-Wish Iowa office. Electronic tickets may be purchased at any time online

December 1-January 3 | Santa’s Rock N Lights, Living History Farms
Santa’s Rock N Lights is an animated drive-thru light show. Experience themed worlds of light, including dinosaur world, with more than 700 feet of tunnels and a route over a mile-long. Reserve tickets online ahead of time for a half-hour timeslot. Cost is $25 per vehicle up to 6 people.

December 3-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24, 26, 31 | Winter Wonderscape Holiday Light Show, Reiman Gardens in Ames
Reiman Gardens is hosting its first outdoor walk-through holiday light show featuring a variety of immersive light displays. Walk through brightly lit tunnels, meander through fantasy lights falling like stars, view massive disco balls twirling to laser lights. The kids will enjoy lighted sculptural forms including Peter Rabbit in the Edible Garden. Pre-purchased tickets are encouraged to manage social distancing. Cost is $10 per adult ($8 for members), $5 for children 2-12. Masks required. 

December 2, 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23 | Holiday Promenade, Historic East Village
Festivities will be spread out on Wednesdays and Sundays in the East Village. Enjoy shopping specials, holiday light displays, and activities.

December 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 | Storytime Online, Waukee Public Library (Virtual)
Every Wednesday there is a new storytime video from the team at Waukee Public Library. Work this into your routine at home whenever it works for your family, and enjoy an engaging storytime experience.

December 3-6 | Disney on Ice Dream Big, Wells Fargo Arena at Iowa Events Center
Times and prices vary
Add a little magic to the holiday weekend as you watch 50 of the most beloved Disney characters perform on the ice. Tickets this year are being sold in pods to allow for social distancing. Tickets start at $20, with a limit of 8 tickets per pod.

December 3-31 | Science Center of Iowa  
One of your kids’ favorite places to play is now open Thursday, Saturdays, and Sundays. You can snag tickets online for either a morning session (9 a.m. to 12 p.m.) or an afternoon session (1 p.m. to 4 p.m.) Check out their website for more information on masks and social distancing.

December 4 | Waukee WinterFest on Wheels Waukee Public Works Building, 805 University Ave, Waukee
4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The typical WinterFest event is being switched up to “WinterFest on Wheels” this year. Santa Claus and his helpers will hand out treats and goodies as visitors drive through one of the building’s vehicle bays. Participants will stay in their vehicles. A virtual tree-lighting, ice sculptor demonstration, book donations, holiday light competition, and a toy/food drive will also be held with modifications. Anyone is welcome to drive through the event. Register in advance to get a free kids’ goodie bag.

December 4-20 | Miracle on 34th Street, Des Moines Playhouse
Enjoy a night at the theater with this live performance of Miracle on 34th St. Masks are required and parties will be seated 6-feet apart. In addition to in-person performances, you can purchase access to livestream the opening performance on December 4 or buy an on-demand copy of the opening night show to watch December 9-27.

December 5 | Holly & Ivy Virtual Holiday Tour, Salisbury House
Holly & Ivy has been a signature holiday event in Des Moines for many years. This year, guests will be able to view the event on our online platform, which will include tidbits on the Weeks family and house history as well virtual tours of both the Salisbury House and multiple private homes! Decorated by local designers and retailers, each room will be adorned in festive holiday décor, providing inspiration for your own home or holiday event.

December 5, 12, 19 | Grab & Go Gingerbread House Workshop, Grimes Public Library
Stop by the Grimes Library on Saturday to pick up a DIY gingerbread house. Available while supplies last.

December 5 | The Amazing Max (Streaming Live), Des Moines Performing Arts
If your kids love magic, they will be excited to watch the Amazing Max bring his fun for all ages act to the virtual stage. The live virtual performance will include tricks, jokes, and lessons using household items. Tickets start at $20 per viewing device and can be purchased via

December 5, 12, 18, 19 | Horse-drawn Carriage Rides, Pella
Experience the Christmas magic of a horse-drawn carriage ride through the charming streets of Pella. Tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for kids 12 and under. Face masks are required for those 2 and over.

December 5 | Drive-Thru Santa, McCoy True Value in Indianola
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Enjoy a socially distant visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus from your car. Selfies welcome!! You are encouraged to wear your favorite holiday PJs as you drive through Candy Cane Lane.

December 5 | Jingle Bell Stroll, Water Works Park
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Walk thru the snow and holiday-themed half-mile trail, grab a socially distanced snap with Santa and take home a pop bottle bird feeder kit. This free event is intended for kids 13 and under and their families. Pre-registration and masks are required.

December 5 | Dazzling in the District,* Ankeny’s Prairie Trail District Area
*The regularly scheduled event has been canceled due to COVID restrictions, but you can still drive through The District to see the lights and shop local boutiques. 

December 6 | Mayor’s Tree Lighting, Clive City Hall
5:30 p.m.
Listen to carols and music by Josh Sinclair. There will be grab-and-go bags at this outdoor event. Masks required.

December 10-20 | Manuel Cinema’s Christmas Carol (Streaming Live), Des Moines Performing Arts
Using hundreds of paper puppets, miniatures, silhouettes, and an original live score, Manual Cinema takes on Charles Dickens’s holiday classic with a visually and musically inventive adaptation. The beloved story is told from a new point of view, bringing a fresh perspective to this masterpiece. Tickets start at $20 per viewing device and can be purchased via

December 12, 13 | The Polar Express Pajama Party at the Palms Theatres & IMAX in Waukee

Dress up in Christmas pajamas, watch The Polar Express on the big screen, and take a socially-distanced photo with Santa. Make a free-will donation to Variety – the Children’s Charity. To ensure social distancing, theatre capacity is limited to 30 percent, reserved on a first-come-first-served basis. Tickets are available to purchase online or at the box office. Learn more here.

December 13 | Ice Skate & Chick Flick Date, Wells Fargo Arena
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
We can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday in December than watching a holiday chick flick with your friends! Head to Wells Fargo Area for a festive day out where you can skate on the ice and stay for a showing of “The Holiday” on the scoreboard. There will also be shopping, a boozy hot chocolate bar, and a holiday photo opportunity with All Good Things Photo Bus! Your ticket includes one hot chocolate and free skate rental (while quantities last). You may also bring your own ice skates. Masks will be required for this event except when eating or drinking.

December 13 | Jagged Live in NYC: A Broadway Reunion Concert (Streaming Live), Des Moines Performing Arts
Looking for a way to shake up a date-night at home? Stream this show at home! The cast of Broadway’s new musical, Jagged Little Pill, will reunite on the Shubert Studios stage for a one-night-only concert. The concert will feature performances from the new musical based on the iconic Alanis Morissette album. Tickets available at

December 18 | Kids Night Out, Blank Park Zoo
5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Kids ages 4 to 10 years old will enjoy meeting ambassador animals, playing games, and doing crafts at the zoo while mom and dad enjoy an evening out. A pizza dinner is included. Cost is $35 for first child, and $30 each for additional children. Members get a $5 discount per child.

Send us an email if we missed anything, and we’ll add your event to the list.

We work hard to ensure the accuracy of this information. However, as COVID guidelines are changing week to week, you should always call ahead to confirm dates, times, location, and other information before heading to an event or activity, since it may change.

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Content Coordinator Megan doesn’t really fall into any one mom category. With three kids from ages 5 to 12, she’s been a working mom and a stay-at-home mom. She’s breastfed and bottle-fed. She’s kept kids on strict sleeping schedules in their own beds and also embraced the benefits of co-sleeping. She’s a big believer in finding what works for you and your kiddo (and it’s often different for each kid). Megan is an Iowa native and lives in Ankeny with her husband Darren. They love to travel and are often planning their next road trip (even it’s a year away). They also enjoy entertaining and are famous among their friends for throwing big bashes to celebrate the Olympic Games. But her everyday life is mostly comprised of playdates, trips to the park, and trying to stay ahead of the never-ending laundry pile.    


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