2018: Fun Things for Families to do Thanksgiving Weekend in Des Moines

2018: Fun Things for Families to do Thanksgiving Weekend in Des Moines

The annual holiday season fast approaches and everyone is getting busy making preparations for Thanksgiving.  Your family may be eating with relatives or dining alone, no matter which one, once the food has all been eaten, you may be looking for something to do. Have fun at one of these great events/places on Thanksgiving weekend!

17 Ideas for Enjoying Thanksgiving Weekend in Des Moines:

Arts & Culture

Disney on Ice

Wednesday, November 21 – Sunday, November 25, 2018

The legacy of Disney is displayed through 14 classic and modern stories in this epic production that features an international team of award-winning figure skaters, high-energy choreography and a breathtaking set.  With over 30 melodious masterpieces such as “Let It Go!,” “You’ve Got A Friend in Me” and “Hakuna Matata,” Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years of Magic is the ultimate Disney fan experience.

Triple Espresso

Wednesday, November 21 – Sunday, November 25, 2018 (No show on Thanksgiving)

This highly caffeinated comedy tells the story of the three guys whose bid for showbiz fame and fortune ended in 4-minutes of magnificent failure on national television. Hugh Butternut, Buzz Maxwell and Bobby Bean tell their rags-to-rags story earnestly, with hysterical results. The laughter is infectious, and the comedy appeals to everyone from first graders to college students to baby-boomers to grandparents.

Market Day Black Friday 

Friday, November 23, 2018

If fighting Black Friday crowds aren’t your thing, try the Market Day Black Friday Sale in the Capital Square Atrium. Not only will you find one-of-a-kind handmade goods, but you’ll find some awesome gifts for moms and tots made locally.

Black Friday Family Tour

Friday, November 23, 2018

Looking for something fun and educational for your family to do the day after Thanksgiving? Follow trained docents as they show you caterpillars, chrysalides and cocoons, and hundreds of native and tropical butterflies. Do all of this while learning about plant and insect interactions and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Reiman Railroad in the tropical Conservatory. If it’s nice, you may even go outside! Pre-registration with payment is required by Wednesday, November 21. Appropriate for ages 6+ with adults.

Sports & Recreation

Turkey Trot

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Runners will start their Thanksgiving Turkey Trot with the Des Moines Courthouse as their backdrop in Downtown Des Moines. Choose a 5K or 5-mile run or the kids can participate in a Tot Trot. Also, be sure to wear a Thanksgiving inspired costume. Prices vary.

Ice Skating at Brenton Skating Plaza

Thursday, November 22 – Sunday, November 25, 2018

Burn off a few of your extra turkey calories by ice skating at Brenton Skating Plaza Families can ice skate starting at 4:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day.  The ice rink is open 12:00 noon to 11:00 pm on Friday and Saturday and 6:00 pm on Sunday.

Des Moines Buccaneers

Friday, November 23 – Saturday, November 24, 2018

Check your enthusiasm and cheer on the Des Moines Buccaneers as they take on the Lincoln Stars on Friday and Sioux City Musketeers on Saturday.

#OptOutside Hike

Friday, November 23, 2018

Choose to #OptOutside on Black Friday with your friends and family. Polk County Conservation will reconnect you with nature on a hike through Jester Park. FREE. No registration required.

Hungry Turkey Run

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Features a 5K run and a half marathon that winds through the streets of Des Moines near Principal Park. Each participant gets a hoodie with registration and delicious cinnamon rolls are waiting for you at the finish line.

Holiday Events

Blank Children’s Festival of Trees & Light

Wednesday, November 21 – Sunday, November 25, 2018

Festival of Trees & Lights is a five-day public event that is the main fundraiser for Blank Children’s Hospital. The event features beautifully decorated trees, entertainment, children’s activities, food, shopping and more!

Jolly Holiday Lights

Friday, November 23 – Sunday, November 25, 2018

Cruise through the 2.5 mile stretch of twinkling lights and animated displays during Jolly Holiday Lights. $20 per car starting at 5:30 pm. Tickets will be available beginning in November at Hy-Vee, Casey’s and the Make-A-Wish Iowa office. Electronic tickets may be purchased at any time online.

Santa Express

Friday, November 23 – Sunday, November 25, 2018

Depart the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad’s depot in Boone and arrive at the North Pole (and return).  In route, you’ll hear the story of Santa’s Scenic Valley Ride, sing holiday songs, and take part in other fun, family activities.  You’ll also be served hot chocolate and a cookie, and children will get to meet (and receive a special memento from) Santa!

It’s a Wonderful Life – Radio Play

Friday, November 23 – Sunday, November 25, 2018

Presented by the Iowa Stage Co. at the Kum & Go Theater, this beloved American holiday classic comes to captivating life as a live 1940s radio broadcast. An ensemble of five actors, with the help of live sound effects, brings a few dozen characters to life on stage, sharing the story of idealistic George Bailey as he considers ending his life one fateful Christmas Eve.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Friday, November 23 – Sunday, November 25, 2018

From the best-selling children’s book, the Des Moines Playhouse embarks on its 20th year of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Perfect for young audiences, you won’t believe the mayhem – and the fun – when the Herdmans collide with the Christmas story head on! Playhouse children’s theatre productions are intended for ages 5 and up.


Blank Park Zoo

Friday, November 23 – Sunday, November 25, 2018

The zoo will be open during their normal business hours throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. (They are CLOSED on Thanksgiving Day.)

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Friday, November 23 – Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Botanical Center will be open their normal hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but will be CLOSED on Thanksgiving.  They will host their usual Drop-In program on Saturday, where visitors can see a short demonstration, botanical craft or informational display.

Science Center of Iowa

Friday, November 23 – Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Science Center of Iowa will be open during their normal hours during the Thanksgiving weekend. (They are CLOSED on Thanksgiving.)


Remember, you can find additional listings in our Holiday Fun Guide,  Event Calendar and sign-up for our free Weekend Fun Guide to find out our top picks for even more Thanksgiving weekend family fun in Des Moines!  Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers!



How does your family enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend in Des Moines? Let us know in the comments!

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