Best time to go to Des Moines, IA

Des Moines Christmas Lights 2020

Experience the magic of Christmas in the capital of Iowa


Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen
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Disclaimer: Due to COVID-19 concerns, many events might be canceled, postponed, or changed into limited versions, sometimes at very short notice. Please check with event organizers directly for the latest updates (view the "External Resources" section below).

Downtown Des Moines looks especially beautiful during Christmas season. The best way to enjoy the festive atmosphere and decorations in the city is to take a horse-drawn carriage ride that is available from early November through late December. Carriages pick up passengers at the corner of Franklin and Main Streets. So get some hot cocoa and enjoy your journey through the lights extravaganza! One of the most amazing displays in Des Moines can be viewed near the First Church of the Open Bible at 2200 Beaver Ave. It is synchronized to music, which you can tune into on your radio. The lights remain on throughout the whole month of December. Another beautiful area is the Historic Valley Junction on Fifth Street and Railroad Avenue in West Des Moines. This busy shopping and restaurant area features over 100,000 lights and displays. There is also a lot to see in the larger Des Moines–West Des Moines area and Polk County towns.

Santa's Rock N Lights (November 27, 2020–January 3, 2021)

Santa’s Rock N Lights is a dazzling drive-thru light show, located at Living History Farms, near West Des Moines. It features a one-mile trail with about 1,000 programmable elements and over 100,000 animated lights synchronized to Christmas music. Some of the highlights include themed light displays, like the dinosaur world. There are also over 700 feet of light tunnels, Online registration is a must to see the display.

Jolly Holiday Lights (November 27–December 30, 2020)

Jolly Holiday Lights is the largest light display in Iowa, located at Adventureland Park in Altoona. Through its 25-year history, the light display has become a holiday tradition for many families in the area. The magical 2.5-mi route features over 100 magical light displays. The admission cost is $20 per car. Every year, Jolly Holiday Lights funds about 80 wishes to children with a critical illness. The display is open from 5:30 pm to 10 pm. It is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Hometown Holiday Aglow (November 20–January 1, 2021)

Uptown Ankeny is the suburb of Des Moines and is one of the best Christmas destinations in the area. The Hometown Holidays Aglow event features 25 animated LED light displays, lining SW 3rd Street and stretching to the Ankeny Market Pavilion. Thousands of lights decorate tree trunks, rooftops, and windows. You can start your tour on SW 3rd from S. Ankeny Boulevard and continue through the AMP, exiting onto W. First Street.