Wondering what to do in Des Moines this December? Des Moines is brimming with Christmas cheer this month! Central Iowa has plenty of magical events to offer families this time of the year, so check out (and share!) this event guide and get ready to make memories this holiday season. (And don’t forget about the family-friendly New Year’s celebrations, too!)
December 2017 events and activities
Dec 1 | WinterFest, Downtown Triangle District, Waukee
4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Bring on the holiday cheer! Downtown Waukee businesses will host open houses at 4:30 p.m., with special festivities kicking off at 6 p.m., when Santa and Waukee Mayor Bill Peard light the tree. Other family-friendly features include: Visits with Santa, ice sculptures, hot cocoa and cookies, carolers, old-fashioned trolley rides, and holiday light tour.
Dec 1 | Mayor’s Tree Lighting, Ankeny Market & Pavillion, 715 W. First St., Ankeny
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
This free event will feature kids’ activities, an ice carving demonstration, music, Iowa Wild slap shot hockey, and more. At 6:50 p.m., Santa will arrive to help the Mayor with the official tree lighting and the event will close with a holiday fireworks finale. After, Santa will travel to Porch Light Coffeehouse for a meet and greet until 8 p.m.
Dec 1 | IPTV KIDS Family Pajama Party, Iowa Public Television Maytag Auditorium, 6450 Corporate Dr., Johnston
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Visit the IPTV studios to watch special PBS KIDS Family Night programming on the new channel, plus visit the IPTV KIDS Clubhouse to take photos with Clifford the Big Red Dog. Milk and cookies provided at this free event, but registration is required.
Dec 1-3 | Holly & Ivy Holiday Home Tour, Salisbury House and Gardens, Des Moines
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Experience the grand 1920s estate, along with two privately-owned historic homes, as they show off their holiday decor. Each room of Salisbury House will be decorated by local interior designers, florists, and home furnishing stores. Live holiday music will be featured and Santa will be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Cost is $20 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12.
Departure times vary
Enjoy a ride to the “North Pole” while singing carols, having hot chocolate and cookies, and meeting Santa. Tickets vary in price, but lap-riding children age two and under are free.
5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Bundle up the family and enjoy a 2.5-mile drive through more than 100 magical light displays. Don’t forget to stop at the Wish Shop to visit Santa, enjoy some cookies, cocoa, and holiday shopping. Cost is $20 per vehicle and all admission fees go to Make-A-Wish Iowa.
10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Bring your kiddos ages 2 to 5 for an interactive story time that explores nature themes. December’s themes are “Owls,” “Under the Snow,” “Ginger and Winter Spices,” and “Rainforest.” Children 1-17 are $3; regular admission for adults. Members are free.
2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Enjoy family-friendly crafts, cookie decorating, a gingerbread house contest, and entertainment. Santa will make a special appearance on a Johnston fire truck! No registration is necessary for this free event.
10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Celebrate the spirit of the season as the doors of Terrace Hill, Iowa Governor’s Residence and National Historic Landmark, open to the public, free of charge. Live music and complimentary refreshments provided.
Dec 3 | Light Up Urbandale, Olmsted Urban House, 4010 70th St., Urbandale
2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Enjoy a special visit from one of Santa’s reindeer as well as a tree lighting ceremony.
Dec 3 | Indoor Live Nativity, Meredith Drive Reformed Church, 5128 Meredith Dr, Des Moines
1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Choose from one of the three sessions: 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m. No registration is needed for this free event, where your children can feed and pet real animals, visit the shops in Bethlehem, and watch a mini-drama of the nativity story at each session.
Dec 5 | Ladies Night Out, Spavia Day Spa, Ankeny
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Every mom needs a break sometimes! Grab some friends and enjoy wine tasting and mini spa treatments. Cost is $40 per person.
Dec 5 | 2017 Light the Plaza, Aasheim Plaza, 8575 University Blvd., Clive
6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Ring in the holiday season with the lighting of Aasheim Plaza. The event will begin at 6 p.m. with the Valley High School Vocal Music performing holiday carols with a lighting ceremony to follow. After, at the Bruegger’s across the street will feature a free visit from Santa, hot cocoa, cookies, and kids activities.
Dec 6,13, 20, 27 | Sounds of the Season, Noce, 1326 Walnut St., Des Moines
Ready for an unexpected holiday date night? Celebrate the season with the Des Moines Big Band.
Dec 8 | Celebrate Iowa Gala, State Historical Museum of Iowa, 600 E. Locust St., Des Moines
7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Experience an evening filled with arts, music, history, cuisine, cocktails, and desserts from around Iowa. This fundraising event celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Iowa Arts Council and the 160th anniversary of the State Historical Society of Iowa. Tickets are $100.
Dec 9 | Mainframe OPEN Studios, Mainframe Studios, 900 Keosauqua Way, Des Moines
2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Shop local as Mainframe Studios businesses open their doors for a special December open house, featuring live music and family-friendly food options.
Adapted from Charles M. Schulz’s classic story of the spirit of Christmas, “A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage” features the classic music of Vince Guaraldi, as well as a concert of carols performed by the Peanuts characters. Tickets range from $25 to $42.
10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Children ages 7-13 will make holiday-themed treats, give ideas for stocking stuffers, and play Christmas games! Class is $10 per child.
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Kids are invited to drop off their stuffed animals Friday evening, where the toys will enjoy a “fun sleepover” with Cow. Saturday morning, they’ll pick up their furry friends and find out their antics from the night. Santa Cow will be available for pictures Saturday morning! (Reservations are required by e-mailing [email protected].)
Stock up for holiday meals and find special Christmas gifts with more than 130 vendors featuring local food, handmade items, fresh wreaths, and more.
1 p.m.; 5 p.m.; 8 p.m.
The 1st annual gingerbread house competition. Register online.
4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Enjoy a kid-friendly countdown to the New Year with a Times Square-like confetti drop at 8 p.m. in Hy-Vee Hall. This free family event features inflatables, carnival games with prizes, character meet-and-greets, toddler zone, tween zone, and more. The evening will wrap up with a fireworks show at 8:15 p.m. All children must be accompanied by an adult.
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 2018. Noon Year’s Eve activities are included with general admission.
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.