Santa Sightings: Santa’s 2018 Iowa City Area Schedule

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 are good friends with the big man in the red suit, and we just so happen to have some insider information on Santa’s whereabouts! 

We’ve compiled this handy guide to help you and your family track him and Mrs. Claus down for photos, conversations, and holiday fun. 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 some of the reindeer during 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 9 – 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 12, 19, 26 and December 3, 10, and 17 from 5-8 (all pets must be on a leash or confined in a cage while in line), “Holiday PJ” days on November 30 and December 6 (all day), “Ugly Sweater” days on November 16 and December 13 (all day), and “Grandparents’ Day” on November 29 (all day) . 

Von Maur

Where: Von Maur at Iowa River Landing (Map)

When: Saturdays and Sundays
November 24-25, December 1-2, 8-9, and 15-16, all from 12-5 p.m. **Note that the line will close to new visitors at 4:0o pm to allow all visitors ample time to meet with Santa. **

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

Good things to know: Photo-taking is free. Visitors also receive a complimentary 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 23 – December 16th.  See website for specific daily schedules.  Times are different on different days so check the agenda carefully.

Photo opportunities: Personal photos are allowed and encouraged.

Good things to know: Children’s Weekend is December 7-9 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 24th, and December 1st, 8th, 15th, and 22nd from 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, including Horse Drawn Trolley rides.

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

Single Date Events:

Christmas in Kalona 

Where: Downtown Kalona (Map)

When: Saturday December 1st

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. 

ICMB Pancakes and Pajamas (+Gingerbread House Contest!)

Where: South Slope Community Center (Map)

When: December 1, 8:30-10 a.m.

Photo opportunities: Mrs. Claus will be visiting us once again 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 Sunday November 25th.

NEW THIS YEAR! After the pancakes are devoured, big kids (ages 5-15) are invited to join us for a Gingerbread House Contest!  Tickets are $40 for teams of 4 kids.  All supplies are provided.  Tickets are NOT available at the door and must be purchased by Sunday, November 25th.  Tickets can be purchased here.

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. 

Coralville – North Corridor Rotary Club Breakfast with Santa

Where: Coralville Marriot Hotel and Conference Center (Map)  

When: Saturday December 1st, from 7:30-11 a.m. (Rotary Facebook Page)

Photo opportunities: Personal photos with Santa encouraged

Good things to know: Cost is $6/person for ages 4 and up.  Ages 3 and under are free! Free parking.  Fresh Christmas wreaths will be available for $20.  Proceeds support Rotary activities and area organizations.

A Christmas Past (West Branch)

Where: Historic Main Street District & Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, West Branch (Map)

When: Friday December 7th and Saturday December 9th.  Check the Main Street West Branch website for updated details.

Photo opportunities: Personal photos with Santa encouraged

Good things to know: This Main Street West Branch event includes a soup supper (Friday), a grand arrival of Mr. and Mrs Claus, caroling, and many other wonderful holiday activities.   Downtown businesses will also be open extended hours for shopping.

Breakfast with Santa at the North Liberty Rec Center 

Where: North Liberty Rec Center (Map)

When: Saturday December 8th, from 8-11 a.m. (event calendar)

Photo opportunities:  Personal photos are allowed.  Professional photos will be taken free of charge by Sandi Spurrell Photography 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 5th.  This event may sell out prior to December 5th 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. 

In addition to visiting Santa, holiday crafts will be provided by Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.  You can also enjoy a Christmas village and train display and shop at the Holiday Vendor’s Market taking place at the same time. 

Photo credit to Sandi Spurrell Photography

Scheels – Meet Santa and His Reindeer

Where: Scheels at Coralridge Mall (Map)

When: Sunday December 9th 10-1 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

South Slope Community Center

Where: South Slope Community Center (Map)

When: Tuesday December 11 from 4:30-7

Photo opportunities: Personal photos allowed

Good things to know: Free admission, and personal photos allowed and encouraged!  Enjoy holiday crafts and take home a goody bag as well!

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 or his crew will make an appearance? Share your suggestions in the comments below!


Sarah Bengtson
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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