Ho Ho Ho… Happy Holidays! ‘Tis the season for twinkly lights and lots of holiday family fun. We also found some free storytime events and winter break boredom busters. Enjoy this December with lots of family-friendly events.
Psst… If you’re looking for Santa Claus, we have the inside scoop on when and where to find the big man in red in our Where to See Santa Guide. We also have a round-up of holiday gift markets and the best places to see Christmas lights in the Des Moines area.
December 2019 Events and Activities
December 1 | Entirely Kids Day, Des Moines Art Center
12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Create art, dance to live music, enjoy snacks, and of course— explore the museum! Everyone is welcome to drop in for this free family day celebrating art for kids and families.
December 3 | Elf Interactive Movie Event: Teen Edition, Johnston Library
5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Don’t be a cotton-headed ninnymuggins! Have an interactive experience with the movie Elf! Attendees receive prop bags full of items and instructions to participate with the movie. Plus, enjoy snacks from the four main elf-approved food groups. Registration is required, for students in 6th grade and up.
December 5, 6, 7, 14, 20, 21 | Holiday Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides, Pella
Price: $5 for adults, $2 for children, under 2 years old free
There are few things more festive than horse-drawn carriage rides! Trot around the picturesque town of Pella.
December 6, 13, 20 | Pregnancy & Postpartum Depression Support Group, Broadlawns Medical Center
Take care of you! This free support group is for moms who want to share and connect with other women for support. The group offers education, support, and tools to help you feel like yourself again. Topics include postpartum depression and anxiety, self-care, postpartum relationship issues, coping skills, sibling jealousy, and more. Babies in arms are welcome.
December 6-7 | Holly & Ivy Tour, Salisbury House
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A holiday tradition, the Holly & Ivy home tour allows you to experience the Salisbury House along with historic private homes in the surrounding neighborhoods at their holiday best. Each room of Salisbury House will be decorated by the finest local interior designers, florists, and home decor stores. Admission is $20 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12.
December 7 & 21 | Gingerbread House Decorating Day, Crème Cupcake
Four sessions each day: 10 a.m.; 11:30 a.m.;1 p.m.; 2:30 p.m.
During this family-friendly Gingerbread House Decorating Day, Creme will provide assembled gingerbread houses, icing and decorations. You provide the fun! One ticket for $20 gets you one assembled gingerbread house, icing, decorations, and either hot chocolate, milk, or drip coffee for your group. Limit 4 people per house.
December 7 | Dazzling in the District Holiday Stroll, The District at Prairie Trail, Ankeny
2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Stroll through The District with Santa as he stops along the way for photos, cookie decorating, letter writing, storytime, arts and crafts, brain games, and more. Stay for the tree-lighting ceremony and start a new family tradition.
December 7 | Family Christmas, Living History Farms
12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The whole family will enjoy a day of holiday traditions including a horse-drawn wagon ride, tree decorating, live music, and more.
December 8 | Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith Christmas, Wells Fargo Arena
Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith are reuniting for their popular Christmas tour. With a full symphony, it will be a holiday show you don’t want to miss!
December 13-14 | Downtown Winter Farmers Market, Hy-Vee Hall
8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Enjoy the fun of the Downtown Farmers Market inside! Shop for gift items and visit local vendors for holiday meal prep. There will be an abundance of fresh handmade products, including locally produced honey, jams, salsa, wine, cheese, noodles, breads, pies and cinnamon rolls!
December 13-15 | Drive-Thru Living Nativity, Capitol City Church
6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
See live actors and real animals recreate the Nativity scene in this festive drive-through experience. Characters, such as Buddy the Elf and the Grinch, will also stop by to wish you a Merry Christmas.
December 13-15 | The Nutcracker, Hoyt Sherman Place
Price: Tickets start at $22
The beloved holiday tradition, The Nutcracker, returns to the stage with the whimsy and magic we have all grown to love! Join Clara, her magical prince, and toys that come to life as a mysterious gift sparks a wondrous adventure.
December 14 & 15 | Santa at the Zoo, Blank Park Zoo
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Price: $14 adults, $8 child, Free for members
This is a holiday tradition you do not want to miss! Enjoy a winter trip to the zoo while you snap a photo with Santa and write a letter to the North Pole.
December 20 | Sensory Playtime, Waukee Public Library
Explore different interactive sensory stations with your preschooler (ages 3-6) at your own pace. This is a free drop-in event.
December 20 | Family Winter Solstice Pajama Party, Reiman Gardens
10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Celebrate the return of the light with family-focused activities, stories, and crafts. Everyone in the family can wear their pajamas, enjoy some cocoa, and get cozy by the fire as we learn about cycles in nature and the history of the shortest day. Perfect for youth ages 2-10 with an adult. Preregistration is required by Wednesday, December 18. Cost is $7 for kids, accompanying adults are free with regular admission.
December 20, 21 | Tonic Sol-Fa, Hoyt Sherman Place
Kick off your Christmas celebrations with Tonic Sol-Fa’s The Nights Before Christmas Tour, featuring the Emmy-winning a cappella quartet’s brand new holiday show. Tickets are available online www.hoytsherman.org.
December 23 | Christmas Storytime, West Des Moines Public Library
Get your little ones into the holiday spirit with a special Christmas storytime that includes puppets, books, rhymes, and songs. This free drop-in event is for children 6 and under.
December 27 | Friday Morning Fever Dance Party, Central Library
This special event for toddlers and preschoolers gives them a chance to shake their wiggles out. Dance under the lights of a disco ball, play with beach balls, and do a special craft. After the dance party, explore the library’s Winter Scavenger Hunt and poster coloring challenge.
December 28 | Winter Break Nerf War, Skateland Des Moines
10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Get the big kids out of the house and let them have some F-U-N! With your $10 admission, each player gets shooters, nerfs, fanny packs, vests, and eyewear. This event usually sells out, so grab your tickets today!
December 30 | Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Kart & Kahoot Trivia Tournament, Johnston Library
4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Play Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Kart, and Kahoot Trivia. Compete in one tournament or all three! There will be prizes for the winners and tasty snacks for everyone. No outside controllers allowed for Smash Bros. For Kahoot, use your own smartphone/tablet with the Kahoot app downloaded or borrow one of the library’s tablets to play. For students in 6th grade and up. Registration is required.
December 31 | Noon Year’s Eve, Science Center of Iowa, Des Moines
9 a.m. to noon
Bring the whole family to SCI to celebrate the New Year 12 hours early! Morning activities include face painting, balloon animals, a magician, and a balloon drop as attendees count down to 2020. Noon Year’s Eve activities are included with general admission.
December 31 | Hop-A-Lot NYE Party, Merle Hay Mall
4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Let the kids celebrate (and burn some energy) with inflatable fun, games and prizes. There will be two balloon drops at 7:30 p.m. One for children 6 and under. And another for kids ages 7 and older. Admission is $5.
December 31 | New Year’s Eve 2020 featuring The Nadas, Hotel Renovo
7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Ring in the new year with a date night at Hotel Renovo, with live music from The Nadas and David Watson Live. Enjoy a hosted cocktail hour, champagne toast at midnight, and a midnight dessert bar. Stay for the breakfast buffet the next morning with an acoustic set from The Nadas.
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, you should always call ahead to confirm dates, times, location, and other information before heading to an event or activity, since it may change.