Santa Sightings 2017: Where to See Santa in the Iowa City Area

It’s that time of year again, when Santa and his reindeer start making appearances all over the corridor.  We at the Iowa City Moms Blog just so happen to have some insider information on Santa’s whereabouts, and we’ve compiled this guide to help you and your family track him down! To get those precious photos of your kiddos meeting Santa, here are some of the local places where you can find the Big Man, Mrs. Claus, the elves, and even reindeer this holiday season!

where to see santa near iowa city christmas photos

Ongoing events:

Coral Ridge Mall 

Where: Center court of the mall (Map)

When: November 15 – December 24.  Hours vary based on the day, so refer to the schedule.

Photo opportunities: Photo packages are available for purchase.  No personal photos are allowed on the Santa Set.

Good things to know:  Reserve a time online here to avoid standing in line.  Discount days are available on some days of the week.  Special events include “Pet friendly” times on Monday, November 20, 27, December 4, and 11 from 5-6, “Holiday PJ” nights on November 17 and December 8 from 5-8, and “Ugly Sweater” night on December 1 from 5-8. 

Von Maur

Where: Von Maur at Iowa River Landing (Map)

When: Saturdays and Sundays
November 25-26, December 2-3, 9-10, and 16-17–all from 12-5 p.m.

Photo opportunities: Personal photos are allowed.  Professional photos are also available.

Good things to know: Photo-taking is free. Visitors also receive a free 5×7 photo.

Photo credit to Caroline Keller Jens
Photo credit to Caroline Keller Jens

Tannenbaum Forest (Amana) 

Where: Main Amana (Map)

When: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays November 24 – December 17th.  See website for specific daily schedule.

Photo opportunities: Personal photos allowed.

Good things to know: Children’s Weekend is December 8-10 and there will be live reindeer with Santa on Saturday that weekend! The brochure with the full schedule of events can be found on the “Prelude to Christmas” festival website. 

Photo credit to Brianne Tremmel
Photo credit to Brianne Tremmel

Santa Saturdays Downtown

Where: Iowa City Downtown District, photos held at Film Scene, 118 E College Street (Map)

When: November 25th, and December 2nd, 9th, and 16th 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Photo opportunities: Personal photos allowed, and free photos will also be provided.

Good things to know: Photo-taking is free.  Other holiday activities going on each weekend in Downtown Iowa City.

Photo credit to Mary Webb-Swanson
Photo credit to Mary Webb-Swanson

Quality Care Storage – Tiffin

Where: (Map)

When: Saturday December 9, 16, and 23 from 1-3

Photo opportunities: Personal photos allowed

Single Date Events:

Christmas in Kalona 

Where: Downtown Kalona (Map)

When: Saturday December 2

Photo opportunities: See website for details as they become available.  Santa will be available for photos at the Chamber of Commerce.

Good things to know:  Activities for the festival will include walking stockings, HACAP toy drive, a movie at the library, tour of churches, carriage rides, cocoa, and pictures with Santa (Free)!  There will also be a Christmas Village vendor fair located east of the Chamber on the KCTC lot. 

Iowa City Mom’s Blog Pancakes and Pajamas

Where: South Slope Community Center (Map)

When: December 9, 8:30-10 a.m.

Photo opportunities: Mrs. Claus will be visiting us this year! She will be available from 9-10 a.m. to read stories with the children. There will not be a formal photo opportunity (or line to wait in!), but there will be ample chances for adorable candid pictures. Take as many personal photos as you wish as your child listens to stories, participates in crafts and activities, and experiences the magic of the holiday season in their pajamas! 

Good things to know:  Come in your best holiday pajamas and enjoy a Christmas breakfast and exciting games and holiday crafts.  This is an “open-house” style event where you can come and go as you please. Tickets to the event are $5 for children and $7 for adults and can be purchased here.  Tickets will NOT be available at the door and must be purchased by December 1st.

Note: Mrs. Claus offers many types of private events and appearances throughout the holiday season. Arrange a personal family visit or invite Mrs. Claus to make your holiday event even more memorable. See “Merry Memories with Mrs. Claus” for more information. 

Winter Wonder-barn

Where: Miracles in Motion Therapeutic Equestrian Center (Map)

When: December 9 from 10-5

Photo opportunities: Personal photos allowed

Good things to know:  This event is hosted by SPARK for Autism, The University of Iowa, in cooperation with Miracles in Motion Equestrian Center.  The event is free, but you must register prior in order to attend and visit with Santa.  The link for registration can be found here.  The event will feature a “Sensitive Santa” who is sensitive to the needs of all children.  He will be situated in a cozy location, away from the crowds so that all can enjoy. 

Breakfast with Santa at the North Liberty Rec Center 

Where: North Liberty Rec Center (Map)

When: Saturday December 9, from 8-11 a.m. (event website)

Photo opportunities:  Personal photos are allowed.  Professional photos will be taken free of charge and posted within a few days to the photographer’s website for free download.

Good things to know: Tickets must be purchased in advance at the Rec Center.  Cost is $3/person (ages 3 and up) and must be purchased prior to December 1st.  This event may sell out prior to December 1st if optimum numbers are reached.  Tickets are not available at the door.  Everyone age 3 and older must have a ticket, regardless of intent to eat.  Meal is provided by the North Liberty Lions Club. 

Photo credit to Sandi Spurrell Photography

Scheels – Meet Santa and His Reindeer

Where: Scheels at Coralridge Mall (Map)

When: Sunday December 10th 1-4 p.m.

Photo opportunities: Personal photos allowed and encouraged

Good things to know: Photo-taking is free! Mr. and Mrs. Claus will bring one of their live reindeer down from the North Pole.  It can be chilly outside, so dress warmly!

Photo credit to Angelica Isabel
Photo credit to Angelica Isabel
Photo credit to Angelica Isabel
Photo credit to Angelica Isabel

Santa Sunday – Hosted by TIFFUN Creek Fest

Where: Bella Sala Events Center (Map)

When: Sunday December 10 1-4 p.m.

Photo opportunities: Personal photos allowed and encouraged

Good things to know: Enjoy arts and crafts and write letters to Santa.  Free-will donations accepted to help support the TIFFUN Creek Fest Fireworks in 2018.  

South Slope Community Center

Where: South Slope Community Center (Map)

When: Monday and Tuesday December 11-12 from 5:30-7

Photo opportunities: Personal photos allowed

Good things to know: Photo-taking is free.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Claus have appeared in the past.

Photo credit to Mandy Brumm

Did we miss any of your favorite Santa sighting locations?  Do you know of a great community event where the big man will make an appearance? Share your suggestions in the comments below!


Sarah is a proud Iowa native who currently lives in North Liberty with her husband and 2 sons. She grew up in rural Benton county and moved to the Iowa City area in 2005 to attend graduate school at the University of Iowa in Physical Therapy. Now she balances raising two growing boys with a work as a pediatric physical therapist. Outside of work and family, Sarah loves music, playing her cello, running, baking, crochet, church activities, and cheering for the Hawkeyes and the Minnesota Vikings.


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