You’ll have plenty of options of events to help you and your family celebrate the holiday season in and around Des Moines. The following are the best family friendly events to make a point of attending this year.
- Jolly Holiday Lights-November 22-January 01- Jolly Holiday lights was forced to move to Adventureland due to flooding last year but that shouldn’t keep this year’s event from being any less spectacular. You’ll go 2.5 miles enjoying the over 100 light displays with the option of listening to a radio station that they’ll provide when you start the tour that’ll have Christmas music to really get you in the Christmas spirit. All proceeds go to Make A Wish and so far they have been able to grant over 640 kids wishes because of this event.
- Festival of Trees-November 23-27- This is the perfect spot to get inspiration on how to decorate your Christmas tree this year. This is Blank Hospital’s main fundraising event to be able to provide a variety of programs for the children who are battling heartbreaking diseases. Dance groups will perform, food is available for purchase and there’s even a Festival train for the children to take a ride on. $5 per person and children under 2 are free.
- Jingle in the Junction-November 17, December 1, 8, & 15- Valley Junction continues their tradition of making each holiday season special and this is no exception. The Jingle in the Junction is held from 5-9pm and features free horse and trolley rides and even an appearance by Santa himself. Most of the stores are open and offer special sales and some even include free food samples/free wine tastings. If you’re wanting more to eat than samples, there’s food stands selling things like hot chocolate and kettlecorn as well.
- Holiday Promenade–November 18-The East Village helps kick off the holiday season downtown with their annual holiday promenade from 5-9pm. Catch a ride on a horse drawn carriage, listen to carolers strolling through the village and do a little shopping in one of the shops who will be having open houses to encourage both new and regular customers to see their holiday goods for sale. Parking is kind of tricky in the East Village and with construction going on down there it’s that much harder to find a spot so go early or be prepared to do a bit of extra walking if you get stuck having to park a few blocks away.
- Santa Express-November 25-December 18 ( rides are held on Friday-Sundays) The Boone Scenic Valley Railroad was feature in my top Halloween events for their Pumpkin Express ride so if you enjoy that you’ll definitely want to make sure you go to the Santa Express ride. You’ll start the ride listening to a story written just for the Santa Express, then you’ll head to the “North Pole” where Santa will board the train. While Santa is visiting with each of the children, an elf will hand out cookies and hot chocolate. Once you have to head back to the station, you’ll be entertained by the elves with songs and a pajama fashion show for the children who dressed up in their pajamas. Coach tickets are $18 per person and First Class tickets are $45 each.
- Spirit of the Season Kickoff–November 28- The Science Center of Iowa has fun events planned for every weekend starting Thanksgiving and ending on New Year’s. The kickoff will include free admission from 5-8pm, free cookies and cocoa, crafts for the children, discounted admission to the Polar Express and a visit from Santa. Outdoor fireworks will complete the night. After the kickoff, you can participate in the Jingle Bell Rock N’ Run 5K, Breakfast with Santa and Noon Years Eve.
- Family Christmas at Living History Farms– December 5- Living History Farms begins their Family Christmas with a ride in a horse drawn carriage to the Flynn mansion to see how families would decorate their homes in the past. From there you can go to holiday social where kids can choose from activities like making Christmas cards, decorating cookies, and many other craft options. Adults can do some shopping at the Marketplace if they need a break from all of the kid activities. Events are held from noon to 8pm.
- Butterfly Blizzard– December 3 or December 17- Reiman Gardens in Ames holds an annual Butterfly blizzard to experience a much more enjoyable blizzard than the traditional type Iowans have to deal with during the holiday season. Participants do need to pre-register with payment by December 4. You can purchase butterflies to release into the indoor garden with one butterfly costing $5, $8 for two butterflies and $12 for 3 butterflies. You do have to pay for admission separately from the cost of the butterflies which costs $8 for adults and $4 for kids ages 4-17.
- Holiday Tea at Terrace Hill-December 12- Join First Lady Christine Branstad for a Christmas themed tea at Terrace Hill. This costs $40 per person so it’s on the pricier side but it would be a wonderful experience to create a lasting memory for your child. You’ll get to see Terrace Hill all decked out for the holidays and get a more personal experience with the wife of our governor. This is good for those who want a low key event held in the comfort of a historical building.
- Santa at the Zoo-December 5- Santa will make a special appearance at the Blank Park Zoo from 10am to 2pm to meet with children and let them see his reindeer in person. After they spend time with Santa, everyone can grab a hot chocolate and watch the winter animals enjoy the cold weather. Adult tickets cost $13 and children ages 3-12 tickets are $8.
For the best places to get coffee to help you stay warm during the outdoor events on this list, click here.