2022 Guide to Holiday Events

Celebrate the holiday season with many wonderful family-friendly events happening in the Iowa City area. From visits with Santa to kids events and local shopping—grab your calendar and start planning to celebrate the spirit of the season.

Many holiday events in the Iowa City area are recurring throughout this special season. Be sure to look for an “*” next to the name of the event to indicate that it is recurring or has multiple dates. Special thanks to our friends at The Bails Team Urban Acres Real Estate for making this holiday events guide possible.


Graphic: Holiday Events in the Iowa City area


Guide to Holiday Events in the Iowa City Area

November 12th – December 31st

What: Drop-In DIY Gift Wrapping*
Where: Iowa City Public Library, Digital Media Lab
Details: We’ll have assorted holiday gift wraps, gift bags, ribbons and bows – or you can bring your own. We’ll have scissors, tape, and plenty of space for you to wrap your gifts in peace. Limit of 5 gifts per person please.

Friday, November 25th – Saturday, December 31st

What: Holiday Lights at the Lake

Where: Coralville Lake, West Overlook Campground

Details: Drive thru holiday light display around the lake. Tickets start at $5 and proceeds benefit The Bird House, Hospice Home of Johnson County.

Saturday, November 26th – Friday, December 23rd

What: Holiday Pop-Up Market*
Where: Iowa City downtown
Details: Three pop up shops will open up downtown starting on Small Business Saturday and from there customers will see a rotation of different businesses throughout the next month.

Saturday, November 26th – Sunday, January 1st

What: Hunt for the Elves*
Where: Iowa City downtown
Details: There are over 50 elves hiding in downtown businesses and restaurants. Once kids find 10 elves they can return their completed card to the Iowa City Public Library or Iowa Book to receive a small prize and get entered into a drawing.

What: Teddy Bear Room*
Where: Iowa City Hilton Garden Inn
Details: Come see a room filled with hundreds of teddy bears in all sorts of sizes. Guests can take pictures and hug the bears.

December 2-4

What: The Nutcracker*

Where: Englert Theater, Iowa City
When: various times
Details: Enjoy the holiday classic ballet presented by the Nolte Academy. Tickets $20-$42.

December 3 & 4

What: Holiday Thieves Market*
Where: Hyatt Regency in Coralville
When: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday
Details: Local artists showcase and sell their pieces. A range of different mediums including ceramics, jewelry, wood, photography, etc.

What: Tree Days at the Farm*
Where: Colony Pumpkin Patch
When: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. or until sold out
Details: Pre-cut Christmas trees in a variety of sizes and species!

December 3, 10 & 17

What: Santa Sightings*
Where: Iowa City FilmScene at the Chauncey

When: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Details: Santa will be available to the boys and girls to hear their wishlists. Families can capture their own photos.

What: Tractor Wagon Rides*

Where: Iowa City at Hills Bank & Trust on the corner of Washington and Clinton Streets
When: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Details: These free rides are on a first come first serve basis. Take a ride downtown on a festively decorated wagon pulled by an antique tractor. Rides leave every 15 minutes.

December 16, 17 and 20

What: The Nightmare Before Christmas*
Where: Iowa FilmScene

When: varying times, check website
Details: Jack Skellington, king of HalloweenTown, discovers Christmas Town, but his attempts to bring Christmas to his home causes confusion.

December 17, 19, 21 & 22

What: Home Alone*
Where: Iowa City FilmScene

When: varying times, check website
Details: An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation.

December 17, 18, 21 & 22

What: It’s A Wonderful Life*
Where: Iowa City FilmScene
When: varying times, check website
Details: In Frank Capra’s definitive holiday classic, an angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.

Friday, December 2nd

What: Tannenbaum Forest
Where: Amana Colonies
When: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Details: See over 60 trees decorated by local businesses, organizations, and families in the Festhalle Barn. This event is free but a goodwill donation is encouraged.

What: Prelude to Christmas
Where: Amana Colonies
When: business hours
Details: See the Amana Colonies decorated for the holiday season. Find the Prelude to Christmas brochure at the visitors center and enjoy some shopping and treats.

What: Christmas Past
Where: West Branch
When: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Details: Participate in a variety of activities in West Branch. There will be horse-drawn carriages, wagon rides, Santa, train display, arts and crafts, music, marshmallow roasting, a silent auction, a tree display and much more. Check out the website for a full list and schedule of activities.

What: Christmas Present Market
Where: Little Lights on the Lane, West Branch
When: 2 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Details: Shop from local vendors and get crafty in a wreath workshop. Entry $10 for entire weekend, $65 for wreath workshop.

What: Friday Flicks: Nightmare Before Christmas
Where: Iowa City Public Library, Storytime Room
When: 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Details: We will show a film every other Friday night at 5:30 pm in the Children’s Storytime room. Everyone is welcome to attend and snacks will be provided for those 18 and under.

Saturday, December 3rd

What: Holiday Open House
Where: Downtown Iowa City
When: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Details:  Participating retailers will be hosting their own holiday parties and offering customers refreshments or a small gift. Check out the website for participating locations.

What: Breakfast with Santa
Where: North Liberty Rec Center
When: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Details: Enjoy breakfast and a visit with Santa and get a complementary photo with him (available on the photographer’s website). This event is free, but registration is required. No walk-ins.

What: Holiday Cookie Walk and Vendor Fair
Where: North Liberty Rec Center
When: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Details: Head to the Rec Center to check out 40 local vendors, crafters, and sellers.

What: Murder at the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party
Where: Willow Creek Theater in Iowa City
When: 7:30 p.m.
Details: Enjoy an interactive holiday whodunit. Tickets include a character identity assignment, holiday hor d’oeuvres, treats and refreshments. Tickets $35.

What: Christmas in Kalona
Where: city of Kalona

When: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Details: Spend a day in Kalona for a variety of holiday activities. There will be a Christmas Market, cookie decorating, ornament making, music, a holiday tree walk and a visit from Santa. Check out their website for a schedule of events.

What: Santa at the Farm
Where: Bass Farms
When: 10:00 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Details: Join us for another year of Santa at the Farm! Come sit on Santa’s lap and give him your Christmas Wish List! Grab a picture with Santa while you are there! (Please bring your own camera, BYOC:)

What: Santa at Sidekick
Where: Sidekick Coffee & Books
When: 1-3p.m.
Details: Visit Santa at Sidekick! Please feel free to take your own photos!

Sunday, December 4

What: Stories with Santa
Where: Hotel Millwright at the Amana Colonies

When: 1-3p.m.
Details: Come to the lobby and grab a cookie while listening to Santa read Christmas Stories

What: Brunch with Santa
Where: Backpocket Brewing, Coralville
When: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Details: All you can eat buffet with a free photo op with Santa! Breakfast includes pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs, cheesy hashbrowns, fresh fruit, orange juice and hot cocoa.  Tickets are $16 for adults, $9 for children 12 and under. Space is limited for everyone 2 and older needs a ticket.

Friday, December 9

What: Frankenstein’s Christmas Carol

Where: Willow Creek Theater, Iowa City
When: 7:30 p.m.
Details: Watch a holiday mashup of Frankenstien and A Christmas Carol. Tickets available, $15+.

What: Nolte Madrigal Dinner
Where: The James Theatre, Iowa City
When: 6:30 p.m.
Details: Bring your appetite for a four course feast and enjoy performances from madrigal singers, dancers, a choir, and other live music. Tickets $95.

Saturday, December 10th

What: A Very Merry Christmas in Swisher
Where: Swisher
When: 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Details: A fun-filled evening with many activities including a lighted Christmas parade, horse-drawn wagon rides, cookie walk, cookie decorating, tree walk, kids crafts and a visit from Santa.

What: Santa at Big Grove
Where: Big Grove Brewery, Iowa City
When: 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Details: Enjoy a hot chocolate bar as well as a visit from Santa!

Sunday, December 11th

What: Aisle of Lights
Where: Coralville
When: 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Details: Businesses and individuals light luminaries for a magical winter scene. Pick up a luminary kit of your own to decorate and light at the Fireside Shelter at S.T. Morrison Park. Check out their website for additional details, activities, and a map to view the luminaries.

What: Skate With Santa
Where: Coralville Ice Skating Rink
When: 1-3PM and 4-6PM
Details: Come join us this Holiday season at The Rink at Coral Ridge for Skate with Santa! Enjoy Holiday music, activities, gift raffles, a Heartlanders Ticket Giveaway, and more! Everyone will have an opportunity for a photo with Santa!

Wednesday, December 14th

What: Festival of Carols
Where: The Englert Theater
When: 6:30 p.m.
Details: This free family friendly event is a night filled with carols, performances, readings, hot cocoa, cookies, and a visit from Santa. Tickets are not required.

Thursday, December 15th

What: Hanukkah Storytime with Rabbi Esther
Where: Iowa City Public Library, Storytime Room
When: 10:30-11 a.m.
Details: Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the dedicating of the second temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah began on Monday and lasts 8 days. This morning we will learn about and celebrate Hanukkah with Rabbi Esther from the Agudas Achim Synagogue! Hanukkah Sameach! Join us for stories, sing-alongs with Rabbi Esther on her guitar, and a craft!

Friday, December 16th

What: Friday Flicks: Abominable
Where: Iowa City Public Library, Storytime Room
When: 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Details: We will show a film every other Friday night at 5:30 pm in the Children’s Storytime room. Everyone is welcome to attend and snacks will be provided for those 18 and under.

Saturday, December 17th

What: Breakfast with Santa
Where: Hyatt Regency in Coralville
When: 8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Details: Enjoy breakfast complete with a waffle bar, made to order omelets, and special holiday drinks with Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with a photo opportunity with him. There will also be some holiday crafts and activities for families to enjoy. Reservations are required. $34 for adults, $19 kids 4-12, 3 and under free.

Sunday, December 18th

What: Santa Brunch
Where: Cedar Ridge Winery in Swisher
When: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Details: Join Santa for Cedar Ridge’s brunch buffet including brisket, scrambled eggs, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, etc. Reservations are required. $17.00 for adults, kids 6-12 $9, and kids under 5 are free.

Thursday, December 22nd

What: Gingerbread Fun Storytime
Where: Iowa City Public Library
When: 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Details: Join us from 10:30-11 for a special gingerbread-themed storytime, and then stay for gingerbread decorating, holiday crafts, and winter stories on the big screen. All ages are welcome! We will provide gingerbread men to decorate and craft supplies for a fun wintry morning.

Saturday, December 31st

What: Kids New Year’s Eve
Where: Big Grove, Iowa City
When: 11am-1pm or 4pm-6pm
Details: Free kids NYE party at Big Grove complete with a video of the ball drop at either 1pm or 6pm.


Did we miss any of your favorite events? Let us know in the comments. We hope you’ll enjoy many of these special holiday events in the Iowa City area!

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