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Winter Things to Do in DSM in 2021

Winter Things to Do 2021

As the season of pumpkin spice is replaced with fresh pine and hot cocoa, we’re laying out the tremendous lineup of things to do this winter in Greater Des Moines (DSM). While this list doesn’t highlight everything there is to do, it will give you a sampling of the awesome holiday and winter events and attractions going on in 2021.

Holiday Events for the Kids

Family Christmas

From 1 – 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, Living History Farms will celebrate holiday traditions in the 1876 Town of Walnut Hill. LEARN MORE>

Home for the Holidays Story Time + Activity

At Jester Park Nature Center, register the kids to learn about winter habitats for animals in Iowa. The cost is free, and the event takes place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 28 with all ages. LEARN MORE>

Walk-In Ornaments

Bring the kids to AR Workshop from 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4 in the Prairie Trail District in Ankeny to decorate an ornament for the holidays. LEARN MORE>

Holiday Lights

Festival of Lights

On Friday, Nov. 26, see lighted displays, floats and more with a drive-through format in Winterset, Iowa. LEARN MORE>

Gingerbread Lane

In Ankeny, Iowa, drive through Gingerbread Lane, a long tradition of seeing the lights, reading the story of the Gingerbread Man and donating canned goods for the Food Bank of Iowa. LEARN MORE>

Jolly Holiday Lights

This one’s a favorite for those in and around DSM! Not only is it a fun holiday tradition, the event raises money for Make-A-Wish ® Iowa. Jolly Holiday Lights is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and takes place from 5:30 until 10 p.m. Nov. 26-Jan. 2 at Adventureland Resort. LEARN MORE>

Holiday Shows

Family Holiday Classic: The Sound of Music

See a classic that is loved around the holidays, The Sound of Music. The John Viars Theatre at the Des Moines Community Playhouse will welcome guests Dec. 3 – 19. LEARN MORE>

It’s a Wonderful Life: The Radio Play

Stoner Theater presents It’s A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play, a holiday classic come to life as a 1940s radio broadcast Dec. 16-23. LEARN MORE>


Ballet Des Moines will perform two weekends in DSM this year. On Dec. 10-12, catch the shows at Hoyt Sherman Place in Downtown DSM. See the show at the Staplin Center in West Des Moines on Dec. 17-18. LEARN MORE>

Other Holiday Celebrations

Des Moines Holiday Boutique

The fourth annual Des Moines Holiday Boutique presented by MercyOne will showcase local businesses today through Nov. 7 at Iowa Events Center. Find holiday décor, gifts and more from more than 200 exhibitors on site or visit the Virtual Storefront. LEARN MORE>

Holiday Promenade

The 20th annual Holiday Promenade returns to the Historic East Village this year on Nov. 19-20. LEARN MORE>

Holiday Teas

Terrace Hill will welcome visitors to the historic landmark on Monday, Dec. 6 for two Holiday Tea events. A morning tea will be held from 10:30 a.m. until Noon and an afternoon tea will take place from 2 until 3:30 p.m. Event proceeds go to Terrace Hill Partnership, which supports restoration projects at Terrace Hill. LEARN MORE>

Holiday Zoo Brew

Attend a Holiday Zoo Brew at Blank Park Zoo from 5:30 until 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3.  

Jingle in the Junction

On Thursdays, Nov. 18, Dec. 2, Dec. 9 and Dec. 16, head to Historic Valley Junction for Jingle in the Junction from 5 until 9 p.m. The first night will kick off with a Santa-led parade and all events will include Santa and Mrs. Claus appearances, ice carvings, carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides and more. LEARN MORE>

Wreaths Across America Day

Honor fallen veterans and servicemen and women at a wreath-laying ceremony from 10:30 a.m. until Noon on Saturday, Dec. 18 at Woodland Cemetery. LEARN MORE>

Winter Events

Champagne and Chocolate

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden’s annual holiday exhibition includes special performances by Ballet Des Moines, North High School Quartet, The Sheet and more. Tickets for the event include unlimited champagne and food. A special rate is available for young professionals. Attend the garden party from 6 – 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19. LEARN MORE>

Chriskindlmarket Des Moines

Attend the 25th anniversary of the Christkindlmarket DSM on Dec. 2-5 at Principal Park. Kids and pets are welcome, too! Learn about European culture, shop handcrafted vendors, see artistic entertainment and enjoy mulled wine at the event. LEARN MORE>

Hide and Seek Ornaments You Keep

Hidden ornaments for you to find will be left across Downtown DSM for the 2021 Hide and Seek Ornaments You Keep event on Dec. 3-12. Follow #downtownDSM for clues so you don’t miss out on the chance to find an ornament for your tree this year. LEARN MORE>

Hike and Hot Cocoa

Celebrate National Cocoa Day with a December hike at Jester Park Nature Center. The cost is free for the whole family! Set your calendar for 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 13.

Outdoor Winter Farmers’ Market

The Des Moines Downtown Outdoor Winter Farmers’ Market is returning for 2021 on Saturday, Nov. 20 and Saturday, Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Find delicious foods and holiday gifts this season from local vendors from across the state in Historic Court District. LEARN MORE>

Winter Attractions

Brenton Skating Plaza

At Brenton Skating Plaza, you can take in the downtown views, get some aerobic exercise and fit in some fun on the ice with friends and family. It’s the perfect way to spend a few hours in Downtown DSM during the winter season. LEARN MORE>

Sledding at Greenwood Park and Capitol Hill

When the snow hits the ground, Greenwood Park (100 45th St., Des Moines) and Capitol Hill (1111 E. Court Ave., Des Moines) are two spots to check out for winter sledding and snowboarding.

From warming up with a local brew to tasting flavors from DSM restaurants, there are also plenty of unique dining experiences to be had this winter around the region. Find more information here.

This is just a sampling of what DSM has to offer in 2021 this winter, so grab your mittens and hat, and don’t let the cold weather keep you at home. There’s so much to experience across the region!

Named the #1 Best Place to Live in the Midwest and #2 Safest Place to Live, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a city where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 23 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 400 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.