2019: Top Things to Do This Holiday and Christmas Season with Des Moines Kids

2019: Top Things to Do This Holiday and Christmas Season with Des Moines Kids

The holiday season is upon us, and that means it’s time to start making plans for festive, family-friendly outings. Of course, there’s a list as long as Santa’s of things to do this holiday and Christmas season with Des Moines kids, so we’ve rounded up the very best for your family to enjoy.

From Thanksgiving events to holiday markets to Santa sightings we’ve got what you need to get your family into the spirit of the season. For more ways to make memories during the holidays, check out our Holiday Fun Guide and our Event Calendar.

Note: We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of this information. However, you should always verify dates, times, location and other information, especially with the possibility of weather impacts. Please submit corrections and additions to this guide to nicole@dsm4kids.com.

Christmas and Holiday Events in Des Moines:

Champagne & Mistletoe

Uptown Ankeny • Ankeny, IA 50021 • (515) 963-1897

Kick off the Holiday Season in Uptown Ankeny! Come and enjoy holiday open houses, roasted nuts, kettle corn, carolers, carriage rides, bonfire with s’mores and more.

When: Friday, November 8, 2019 at 5:00 pm

Cost: FREE

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

Civic Center • 221 Walnut Street • Des Moines, IA 50309 • (515) 246-2300

Head on over to The Des Moines Civic Center to see Irving Berlin’s White Christmas which tells the story of a song-and-dance team putting on a show in a magical Vermont inn and falling for a stunning sister act in the process. Full of dancing, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written! Give everyone the gift they’re dreaming of with this merry and bright holiday musical.

When: November 19 – 24, 2019

Cost: Tickets start at $40.00

Jingle in the Junction

Valley Junction 5th Street • West Des Moines, IA 5026

Join the Valley Junction community for their annual “Jingle in the Junction” holiday events. The businesses in Historic Valley Junction and the streets will be lined with over 150,000 twinkling lights. In addition, enjoy FREE horse and trolley rides, live reindeer, Santa, carolers and more.

When: Thursday, November 21, December 5, December 12 and December 19 from 5:00 to 9:00 pm

Cost: FREE

Holiday Promenade

Historic East Village • E. 6th Street • Des Moines, IA • (515) 244-4211

One of the most popular events in the Historic East Village, the Holiday Promenade is the kickoff to the holiday season in Downtown Des Moines! Shop and peruse the festive windows, enjoy a trolley ride, grab a bite to eat, listen to carolers, go ice skating and visit Santa.

When: November 22-23, 2019.  Friday 5:00 to 9:00 pm; Saturday starting at 10:00 am

Cost: FREE

Irish Christmas in America

Civic Center • 221 Walnut Street • Des Moines, IA 50309 • (515) 246-2300

This family-friendly performance features evocatively-sung Irish ballads, lively instrumental tunes and thrilling Irish dancing, while photographic images provide a backdrop to some of the rich historical traditions. Take a memorable glimpse into the enchanting spirit of Christmas, as the finest traditional artists from Ireland bring you on a fun-filled start to the holiday season of 2019.

When: November 26, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Cost: Tickets start at $20.

Disney on Ice

Wells Fargo Arena • 833 5th Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50309 • 515-564-8000

Rev up for non-stop fun with four of your favorite Disney stories when Disney On Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment comes to your hometown!  From wheels to waves, royal realms to infinity and beyond, see some of your family’s favorite Disney moments come to life.

When: November 27-December 1, 2019; Multiple times offered.

Cost: Tickets start at $23

Festival of Trees and Lights

Veteran’s Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center • 833 5th Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50309

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.

When: November 27 – December 1, 2019; Starts at 11:00 am daily and at 1:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day.

Cost: $5

Santa Express

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad • 225 10th Street • Boone, IA 50036 • 1-800-626-0319

Bring the family and enjoy a ride from the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad’s depot to the “North Pole” (and return). En route, you will hear the story of Santa’s Scenic Valley Ride, sing holiday songs, and take part in other fun, family activities.  Experience what has become a holiday tradition for families from across Iowa, and beyond.

When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday November 29 to December 22, 2019. Multiple times offered.

Cost: Tickets start at $18 (ages 2 and up)

Jolly Holiday Lights

Adventureland • 3300 Adventureland Drive • Altoona, IA 50009 • (515) 334-2636 

Light Up a Child’s Life at Jolly Holiday Lights, a great holiday tradition! Drive-through this holiday light spectacular and see more than 100 magical light displays. 100% of admission fees go directly to Make-A-Wish Iowa!

When: November 29 – December 30, 2019; 5:30 – 10:00 pm. (Closed December 24 & 25)

Cost: $20 per car

Home for the Holidays Kick-Off

The Indianola Town Square • Indianola, IA 50125 • (515) 961-6269

This event is Indianola’s kick-off to the holiday season and features photos with Santa in the Santa House, Holiday Children’s Store and more.

When: Saturday, November 30, 2019 at 9:00 am to 12:00 noon

Cost: FREE

Home Alone in Concert

Civic Center • 221 Walnut Street • Des Moines, IA 50309 • (515) 246-2300

A true holiday favorite, this beloved comedy classic features renowned composer John Williams’ charming and delightful score performed live to picture by the Des Moines Symphony. Macaulay Culkin stars as Kevin McCallister, an 8-year-old boy who’s accidentally left behind when his family leaves for Christmas vacation, and who must defend his home against two bungling thieves.  Hilarious and heart-warming, Home Alone is holiday fun for the entire family!

When: November 30 at 7:30 pm and December 1, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Cost: TBD

Lindsey Stirling – Warmer in the Winter Christmas Tour

Civic Center • 221 Walnut Street • Des Moines, IA 50309 • (515) 246-2300

Des Moines Performing Arts presents the iconic violinist Lindsey Stirling. In 2017, Lindsey released her first ever holiday album titled Warmer in the Winter.  Featuring classic and original songs, the album went on to become the #1 new Christmas album of 2017, ahead of pop music heavyweights such as Gwen Stefani and Sia.  It was also the best-selling new holiday album and the best performing holiday album on Pandora with over 40 million spins.

When: December 3 at 7:30 pm

Cost: Tickets start at $39.50

Lorie Line The 30th Year Anniversary Celebrating Christmas

Hoyt Sherman Place • 1501 Woodland Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50314 • (515) 244-0507 

Pianist Lorie Line once again will bring the true meaning of Christmas to town with her 2019 Holiday Extravaganza. She’s celebrating 30 years of touring and will be performing both new music and the “best of the best” from years past. The show will be all about fashion, beautiful music, laughter and fun, sentimental stories, and of course celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior.

When: Thursday, December 5, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Cost: $60

Mayor’s Tree Lighting

Ankeny Market & Pavilion (AMP) • 715 W. First Street • Ankeny, IA 50021 • (515) 963-3570

Join Ankeny Mayor Gary Lorenz for the third annual Mayor’s Tree Lighting. Kick off the holidays at this event that is fun for the whole family. Kids can visit Santa, make a holiday craft and meet holiday costumed characters. Hot chocolate will be provided. 

When: Friday, December 6 at 6:00 to 7:00 pm

Cost: FREE

Waukee Winterfest

Waukee Triangle • Waukee, IA 50263 • (515) 978-0007

Bring on the holiday cheer with Waukee’s annual WinterFest! Kids can visit Santa, watch an artist create holiday ice sculptures, enjoy cookies, and warm up with hot cocoa and delicious soup. Experience Waukee’s historic Downtown Triangle and its unique businesses, and meet members of the Waukee Area Arts Council as they host crafting, stories and more.

When: Friday, December 6, 2019 at 6:00 pm 

Cost: FREE

Light up the Square

The Indianola Town Square • Indianola, IA 50125 • (515) 961-6269

Help Light Up the Square this holiday season. This new event is a fun, festive and unique way to kick off the holidays!  Everyone loves the Indianola Lighted Parade, and you aren’t going to want to miss this festive, fun event “Light Up the Square” with beautifully lit displays! Families, neighbors and friends will stroll around the square and enjoy each of the Stationary Lighted Parade displays. 

When: Friday, December 6, 2019 at 6:00 pm 

Cost: FREE

A Christmas Story, The Musical

Des Moines Playhouse • 831 42nd Street • Des Moines, IA 50312 • (515) 277-6261

Set in the 1940s in the fictional town of Hohman, IN, the musical follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker and his quest for the Holy Grail of Christmas gifts: an Official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Rebuffed at every turn with a similar echoing response, Ralphie plots numerous schemes to achieve his desperate desire for the coveted BB gun. All the iconic scenes from the movie are here: Ralphie’s friend, Flick, getting his tongue stuck to the flagpole; his brother, Randy, getting dressed in his snowsuit; the bullies, Farkus and Dill; the leg lamp award; the bunny suit; the Chinese restaurant; Christmas dinner; and many others.

When: December 6-23, 2019; 7:00 pm Thursdays and Fridays; 1:00 and 5:00 pm Saturdays & Sundays; 1:00 and 5:00 pm Monday, December 23

Cost: Tickets start at $29

Holly & Ivy Holiday Home Tour

Salisbury House & Gardens • 4025 Tonawanda Drive • Des Moines, IA 50312 • (515) 274-1777

Salisbury House welcomes you to join them for the holidays during their annual Holly & Ivy home tour. Experience this grand 1920s estate along with two privately-owned unique and historic homes within the surrounding neighborhood at their holiday best. Each room of Salisbury House will be decorated by the finest local interior designers, florists, and home furnishing stores. Enjoy live holiday music in the Common Room at Salisbury House throughout the event. This is a self-guided home tour that is sure to inspire holiday cheer!

When: Friday December 6 – Saturday, December 7, 2019.  Multiple tour times offered.

Cost: $20; Student $5

2019: Top Things to Do This Holiday and Christmas Season with DSM Kids  – dsm4kids.com

A Christmas Story

Ankeny Community Theatre • 1932 SW 3rd Street • Ankeny, IA 50023 • (515) 964-5007

​Humorist Jean Shepherd’s memoir of growing up in the Midwest in the 1940s follows 9-year-old Ralphie Parker in his quest to get a genuine Red Ryder BB gun under the tree for Christmas. Ralphie pleads his case before his mother, his teacher and even Santa Claus himself, at Higbee’s Department Store. The consistent response: “You’ll shoot your eye out!” All the elements from the beloved motion picture are here, including the family’s temperamental exploding furnace; Scut Farkas, the school bully; the boys’ experiment with a wet tongue on a cold lamppost; the Little Orphan Annie decoder pin; Ralphie’s father winning a lamp shaped like a woman’s leg in a net stocking; Ralphie’s fantasy scenarios and more. A Christmas Story is destined to become a theatrical holiday perennial.

When: December 6-15, 2019; 7:30 pm Fridays & Saturdays & 2:00 pm on Sundays

Cost: Adult $18, Senior (60+) $15, Student $12

Windsor Wonderland

Windsor Heights Hy-Vee • 7101 University Avenue • Windsor Heights, IA • (515) 279-3662 

Enjoy Windsor Wonderland at the Windsor Heights Hy-Vee. There will be live reindeer and a sleigh. Get in the holiday spirit with the following activities: pictures with Santa, cookie decorating, hot chocolate and letters to Santa. 

When: Saturday, December 7, 2019 at 9:00 am to 12:00 noon. 

Cost: FREE

Christmas in Uptown

Uptown Ankeny • Ankeny, IA 50021 • (515) 963-1897

This year Santa has another special mission for all the good boys and girls! Stop into any Uptown business to get started. After the mission is completed you can go and turn it into Santa and his helpers at the Ankeny Historical Society for an extra special gift. There will be treats, specials, shopping, gift wrapping and horse drawn wagon rides!

When: Saturday, December 7 at 11:00 to 2:00 pm

Cost: FREE

Living History Farms Family Christmas 

Living History Farms • 11121 Hickman Road • Urbandale, IA 50322 • (515) 278-5286

Bundle up for a horse-drawn wagon ride to visit the festive Flynn Mansion. Enjoy an old-fashioned holiday social with dance music in the Church of the Land. Kids will enjoy printing their own holiday greeting cards, decorating cookies, making crafts, and visiting Santa Claus! Adults can shop for unique gifts in the MarketPlace Museum Store.

When: Saturday, December 7 at 12:00 to 4:00 pm

Cost: Advanced Tickets – $6.50/Adult; $5.25 LHF member; $6.00/Child; $4.75 member

Candy Cane Hike

Annett Nature Center • 15565 118th Avenue • Indianola, IA 50125 • (515) 961-6169

Bring the whole family out to hike the trails of Annett Nature Center in search of hidden candy canes.  Submit your guess for how many candy canes are on the trail and get entered to win a wintery surprise. There will be refreshments, hot cocoa, and exhibits to explore inside.  This is a self-guided hike. Check in at the front desk for instructions and a trail map. Please register by December 6.

When: Saturday, December 7 at 1:00 to 3:00 pm

Cost: FREE

Dazzling in the District

The District • Prairie Trail • Ankeny, IA 50023

Dazzling in The District is a day full of holiday cheer and wonder for children of all ages. Stroll along for photos with Santa, stop for story time with the snow princesses and find the dazzling reindeer in each store to be entered to win prizes! Be sure to stay for the dazzling grand finale lighting ceremony to turn on the lights in the magical Town Square park!

When: Saturday, December 7 at 2:00 to 7:00 pm

Cost: FREE

Beaverdale Holiday Happenings

Beaverdale Business District 

Beaverdale’s annual holiday tradition, featuring Santa Claus, a Bar Crawl, Shop Hop, and the Holiday Lights Bike Ride. Snap a photo and have a laugh with Santa at Grounds for Celebration from 5:00 to 6:00 pm. At 6:00, Santa will head to Beaverdale Books where he’ll read stories to children until about 6:45pm.  In addition, many of Beaverdale’s shops and businesses will be staying open late, hosting events or offering specials. 

When: Saturday, December 7 at 5:00 to 9:00 pm

Cost: FREE

Jim McDonough and His Orchestra & Singers: “Holiday Grande 2019”

Hoyt Sherman Place • 1501 Woodland Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50314 • (515) 244-0507 

Celebrate the holiday season in style by attending “Holiday Grande 2019.” This dazzling, stage production features International Steinway Artist, Jim McDonough, joined by his 14-piece professional orchestra and a cast of sensational singers and dancers performing your favorite Christmas music and other all-time favorites. Proceeds benefit Camp Courageous of Iowa, a year-round recreational and respite care facility for individuals with disabilities.

When: Sunday, December 7 at 2:30 pm

Cost: Tickets start at $29.

Holidays in Johnston

Johnston Public Library • 6700 Merle Hay Road • Johnston, IA 50131 • (515) 278-5233

Join the City of Johnston for a town celebration at the Johnston Public Library.  Holidays in Johnston will feature crafts, cookie decorating, a gingerbread house contest, an appearance by Santa, entertainment, food and fun.

When: Saturday, December 7 from 2:30-4:30 pm

Cost: FREE

The Nutcracker presented by Iowa Dance Theatre

Des Moines Civic Center • 221 Walnut Street • Des Moines, IA 50309 • (515) 246-2300

Experience the adventures of a girl named Clara as she journeys to a distant land where a prince battles mischievous mice, flowers waltz and a Sugar Plum Fairy delights children of every age.  Iowa Dance Theatre presents their 23rd performance of The Nutcracker ballet. The ballet is choreographed and directed by a team of dance professionals from Des Moines and the surrounding area.  This year, there are over 240 dancers from approximately 36 dance studios from throughout central Iowa participating in the ballet.

When: December 7, 2019 at 2:00 and 7:00 pm; December 8, 2019 at 2:00 pm

Cost: Tickets start at $20

UCAN’s Light Up Urbandale

Lion’s Park • 72nd Street and Aurora Avenue • Urbandale, Iowa 50322 • (515) 278-3936

Kick off your holiday season at UCAN’s Light Up Urbandale. You will enjoy holiday festivities of all kinds, including an opportunity to visit Santa, see Santa’s real live reindeer, crafts and activities, holiday goodies and entertainment!

When: Sunday, December 8, 2019 at 3:00 to 5:30 pm

Cost: FREE

Grimes Holiday Celebration

Grimes Community Complex • 410 SE Main Street • Grimes, IA 50111 • (515) 986-5770

Bring the whole family to Grimes Chamber’s Holiday Celebration Event. Bring the kiddos to see Santa and Mrs. Claus and enjoy activities including face painting, balloon artistry, crafts, cookies and hot chocolate.  This annual event is fun for the whole family.

When: Sunday, December 8 at 4:00 to 6:00 pm

Cost: FREE

Winter Song Concert

Sheslow Auditorium • 2507 University Avenue • Des Moines, Iowa 50311 • (515) 221-3922

Winter Songs is the annual holiday concert for Heartland Youth Choir. All five of their performance ensembles will sing, with all choir members on stage for the finale. The concert is open to the public; tickets will be available for purchase at the door. All seats are general admission. 

When:  Sunday, December 8 at 4:30 to 6:00 pm

Cost: $15 adults; $7 for children, students and seniors 65+

Christmas with Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant

Wells Fargo Arena • 833 5th Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50309 • 515-564-8000

Multi-platinum, GRAMMY® winners Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith are reuniting to co-bill their popular Christmas tour this upcoming holiday season, where they will be joined by special guest Marc Martel. Incorporating a full symphony orchestra at each performance. The highly anticipated show will feature selections spanning the artists’ expansive Christmas repertoires and combine the vast collection of critically acclaimed holiday albums between them.

When: December 8, 2019 at 7:00 pm

Cost: Tickets start at $27

Terrace Hill Holiday Tea

Terrace Hill • 2300 Grand Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50312 • (515) 281-7205

Step back in time and experience Holiday Tea at Terrace Hill, Iowa Governor’s Residence and National Historic Landmark. Guests will enjoy tea, scones, tea sandwiches, and cakes in the historic rooms of Terrace Hill adorned for the holidays. Proceeds benefit Terrace Hill with the mission to provide for, protect, and preserve the property and programs of Terrace Hill. Reservations required.

When: Monday, December 9, 2019 – 10:30 am and 2:00 pm

Cost: $40

Holiday Crafts and Cocoa

Lakeside Center • 400 NW Lakeshore Drive • Ankeny, IA 50023 • (515) 963-3570  

Join Ankeny Parks and Recreation for a night jam packed with crafts, cocoa and fun! Kids will be able to complete a variety of holiday-themed crafts at their own pace to celebrate the holiday. Pre-registration is required. Space is limited.

When: Tuesday, December 10 at 5:30 to 6:30 for K-2nd graders and 7:00 to 8:00 pm for 3rd-5th graders

Cost: Resident – $15 Non-Resident – $18

A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage

Des Moines Civic Center • 221 Walnut Street • Des Moines, IA 50309 • (515) 246-2300

Everyone’s favorite holiday classic comes to life in the all-new touring production. Join Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, and the whole Peanuts gang as they produce their own Christmas play and ultimately learn the true meaning of the season. A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage is a present the whole family can enjoy!

When: December 12, 2019 at 6:30 pm

Cost: Tickets start at $25

Ballet Des Moines presents The Nutcracker

Hoyt Sherman Place • 1501 Woodland Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50314 • (515) 244-0507

The beloved holiday tradition, The Nutcracker, returns to the stage with the whimsy and magic that we have all grown to love!  This favorite holiday story perfectly captures the magic and anticipation of the night before Christmas.  Join Clara, her magical prince and toys that come to life as a mysterious gift sparks a wondrous adventure. Ballet Des Moines’ Nutcracker pairs their professional and pre-professional dancers with young ballet students from dance studios throughout central Iowa.

When: Friday, December 13, 2019 7:00 pm; Saturday, December 14, 2019 1:00 and 7:00 pm; Sunday, December 15, 2019 1:00 and 5:00 pm

Cost: Tickets start at $28

A Christmas Carol

Stoner Theater • 221 Walnut Street • Des Moines, IA 50309 • (515) 246-2300

A Christmas Carol has been a holiday tradition for Iowa Stage, and to celebrate their move to the Stoner they are creating a new version, with all new sets, to delight holiday audiences with the timeless tale of Scrooge’s ghostly visitations and Yuletide change of heart.

When:  December 13-22, 2019; Friday and Saturday at 7: 30 pm; Sunday at 2:00 pm

Cost:  $39 for Adults, $35 for seniors, and $25 for Students

Christmas at Terrace Hill

Terrace Hill • 2300 Grand Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50312 • (515) 281-7205

Governor Kim and Kevin Reynolds invite you to attend Christmas at Terrace Hill! Celebrate the 150th anniversary of Terrace Hill at this family-friendly event. Guests will enjoy: photos with Santa Claus and reindeer, activities for children, Christmas cookies, silent auction and spectacular Christmas decorations in every room! 

When:  Sunday, December 15th from 2:00 to 5:00 pm

Cost:   $25 per individual or $50 per family 

Kenny G: The Miracles Holiday & Hits Tour 2019

Hoyt Sherman Place • 1501 Woodland Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50314 • (515) 244-0507 

Come and celebrate the holidays with Kenny G! A phenomenally successful instrumentalist whose recordings routinely made the pop, R&B, and jazz charts during the 1980s and ’90s, Kenny G‘s sound became a staple on adult contemporary and smooth jazz radio stations.

When: Wednesday, December 18 at 8:00 pm

Cost: Tickets start at $49

Tonic Sol-fa The Nights Before Christmas Tour

Hoyt Sherman Place • 1501 Woodland Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50314 • (515) 244-0507 

Tonic Sol-fa is a ground-breaking a cappella ensemble from Minnesota, in constant development since their formation two decades ago. This Christmas, the Emmy-award winning a cappella quartet brings a brand-new stage show to you.  Enjoy the humor and soulful vocals that make this a holiday tradition for so many!

When: Friday, December 20 at 7:30 pm and Saturday December 21 at 7:30 pm

Cost: Adult tickets start at $37.50; Children (12 and under) tickets start at $24.00

DM Symphony – NYE Pops: Cirque at the Symphony

Civic Center • 221 Walnut Street • Des Moines, IA 50309 • (515) 246-2300

Celebrate New Year’s Eve with the Des Moines Symphony! With jaw-dropping feats of athletic prowess and gravity-defying acrobatics, Troupe Vertigo’s acrobats, aerialists, jugglers and more will take you on a spellbinding journey choreographed to thrilling live music, and performed with the full orchestral power of your Des Moines Symphony. Ring in the New Year with an electrifying evening of entertainment as these incredible aerial artists swing from the rafters of the Civic Center!

When: Monday, December 31, 2019 at 8:00 pm

Cost: TBD



What are your favorite things to do with your kids during the holiday season in Des Moines?  We want to know!

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