Passionate About Des Moines
and the Moms Who Live Here

Where to See Santa in Des Moines + Tips for a Tear-Free Visit

Where to See Santa in Des MoinesYes, it’s already that time of year when you can see Santa stationed around town ready to hear from your little ones. This may feel like an added stress to the holiday season, but I talked to some veteran moms who have tips on how to make the trip enjoyable – no matter what your child is feeling that day. 

When should we go see Santa?

Personally, I take an afternoon off or find a way to go during a weekday. The lines are shorter, and you can make it a special experience for your child. You know when your child’s “happy hour” is, so schedule around that time. 

Check out the list below; Santa already has hours at many places across the metro, so plan a visit now before lines get too long!

see Santa toddler cryingHelp! My child is scared of Santa!

It seems every child goes through a fear-of-Santa phase. My child’s started at 18 months and resulted in this epic picture that’s hands-down in my top 5 favorite photos of all time. It just has everything from the little pointy piggy-tails to the oblivious, smiling Santa. To me, the crying photos are my favorite. If you don’t capture that perfect moment you were hoping for, just know that you may get one in the future when your child is older. My girl’s very first visit to Santa was perfect, so I braced myself for years of hilarious tears.

To help with the visit to the guy with the beard, other moms suggest bringing snacks, a favorite blanket or toy, or if your child is mesmerized by videos on your phone, set the phone in Santa’s lap or in a book he can hold.

Last year, Santa shook my hand to show our girl it’s OK to interact with Santa. Genius! We ended up sitting down together with him for the photo, which was really special to me.

Either way, have your own camera ready to snap that picture fast from the sidelines because it all happens very quickly, even if Santa does take his time.

The most frequent advice I heard was: Relax. Go with the flow, make it exciting for your child and roll with it if there’s a nuclear tantrum.

Where should we go?

There are dozens of opportunities to see Santa in the Des Moines metro area starting now through Christmas Eve. Most moms I talked to have found the Santa they prefer and stick with him. Many moms found that if you go to a special event with Santa, you’ll have the added bonus of other activities for your kiddo to do.

Just remember, for your child the experience is mostly the same no matter which Santa they see, so don’t stress about finding the right Santa for your family. Check out our list below of places we heard Santa will be making an appearance in Des Moines. 

I don’t want to make a trip to see Santa, but still want that magic.

Another option for your family is to write a letter to Santa. The United States Postal Service responds to letters postmarked before December 15. You can also check with your local community to see if the city office will respond to letters to Santa (I know Johnston does, for example).

Where to See Santa in Des Moines

Bass Pro Shops

Santa’s Wonderland 1000 Bass Pro Drive NW Altoona
Get a photo with Santa and enjoy free kid’s crafts and activities.
Santa’s hours until December 24, 2017
Monday–Friday: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Jordan Creek Town Center

LL Younkers Court, 101 Jordan Creek Parkway West Des Moines
Santa’s hours until December 24, 2017
Monday – Saturday: Noon to 8 p.m.
Sunday: Noon to 6 p.m.
Special Hours:
December 10 extended hours: 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
December 15-23 extended hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Pet Nights: Monday evenings, November 20 to December 11 5 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Ugly Sweater Night: December 1, 5 p.m. to 8:00 pm
PJ Night: December 8, 5:00 to 8:00 pm

Merle Hay Mall

Target Wing 3800 Merle Hay Road Des Moines
“Teddy Bear Band” will perform from 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. in the Local Eats Food Hall (in front of Kohl’s). Santa comes out at the end of the performance and leads kids to the Santa photo set in the Target wing.
Santa’s Hours until December 24, 2017:
Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday: Noon to 5:30 p.m.

Outlets of Des Moines

801 Bass Pro Drive NW Space 625 Altoona
Visits Santa and get two free 4″x6″ photos and a digital download of single image. Additional photos available for purchase. 
Santa’s Hours until December 25, 2017:
Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* Santa takes a break to play reindeer games from 1 p.m. – 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Valley West Mall

Lower Level of Valley West Mall
1551 Valley W Drive #400 West Des Moines
See Santa’s Winter Wonderland, ride the train, and get photos with Santa.
Santa’s Hours until December 23, 2017:
Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Christmas Eve: 10 a.m. to Noon

Santa Sitings

December 2 | Girl Scouts Des Moines Leadership Center 10715 Hickman Road, Des Moines
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Take your photo with Santa, decorate cookies and ornaments and more.
Suggested donation: $5

December 2 | Santa in the City Windsor Heights
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Local firefighters and Santa will make stops through Windsor Heights. Check the Windsor Heights Fire Department’s and the City’s Facebook page for updates.

December 2 | Christmas in Uptown Historical Society Barn in Ankeny
12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Take pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus, go on a treasure hunt, enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides, and more.  

December 2 | Coffee with a Cop & Cookies with Santa Hy-Vee Market Grille, 5750 Merle Hay Road
8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

December 2 | Holidays in Johnston Johnston Public Library 6700 Merle Hay Road
2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
See Santa, decorate cookies, enter a gingerbread house contest, and more.

December 2 & 9 | Santa Fest Valley West Mall Younkers
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Get free photos with Santa, decorate reindeer antlers, and more.

December 3 | Grimes Holiday Celebration Grimes Community Complex 410 SE Main Street Grimes
4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Visit Santa and Mrs. Claus, enjoy crafts, cookies, and cocoa, and more.

December 9 | Waukee Wonderland People’s Trust & Savings Bank 1185 University Ave, Waukee
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Visit Santa and his real reindeer, enjoy cocoa and cookies, and more. The event is free and open to the pubic.

December 9 & 16 | Santa at the Zoo Blank Park Zoo 7401 SW 9th St Des Moines
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Take a photo with Santa, write a letter to the North Pole, drink cocoa, and more.

December 14 | Stories with Santa Waukee Public Library 950 Warrior Lane Waukee
6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.
Come for songs, stories, and a craft with Santa. Registration required.

December 16 | Father Christmas Children’s Event Canyoner Garden Center 3355 SE Gateway Dr Grimes
2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Sit on Santa’s lap and enjoy the magic of the season.

December 16 & 17 | Pony Express to Santa Jester Park Equestrian Center
Take a pony ride, visit Santa, and enjoy cookies and hot chocolate.

Breakfast with Santa

November 26, December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, and 17 | Brunch with Santa and Rudolph at Center Grove Orchard 32835 610th Ave Cambridge, IA
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Enjoy breakfast with Santa as well as cookie decorating, train rides, photos, and more.

December 2 | Dinner on the Farm with Santa at Center Grove Orchard 32835 610th Ave Cambridge, IA
5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Come for a festive holiday dinner as well as a hayride, photos with Santa, and more.

December 2, 9 | Breakfast with Santa BRAVO! Cucina
8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
All proceeds will go to Children & Families of Iowa on December 2nd and Mercy Children’s Center on December 9th. Reservations required.

December 9 | Pajamas & Stories with Santa at Center Grove Orchard 32835 610th Ave Cambridge, IA
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Have dinner with Santa, make a craft, and take photos.

December 9 | Breakfast with Santa Hy-Vee Altoona 108 8th St SW Altoona
Get your photo taken with Santa and have breakfast.

 December 10 | Breakfast with Santa at the Tea Room 713 Walnut St Suite 600 Des Moines
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Enjoy breakfast, decorate cookies, sing carols, listen to The Night Before Christmas, and take photos with Santa.

December 9 | Breakfast with Santa Reiman Gardens 1407 University Blvd Ames
8 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Have breakfast, do a craft, and visit Santa! Preregistration by December 1 required.

December 16, 17 | Breakfast with Santa Science Center of Iowa 401 W Martin Luther King Pkwy Des Moines
Have brunch, take a picture with Santa, watch The Polar Express, and more!

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.

Where’s your favorite place to see Santa?

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