Iowa City Area Santa Sightings – 2023

Christmas time is right around the corner, and one of my favorite memories to make each year is a great picture of my kids with the big man in the red suit. We at Iowa City Moms are good friends with Santa, Mrs Claus, and his elves and we just so happen to have some insider information on where he will be making appearances this year!

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 him during this holiday season!

Note: Santa has important work to do, and can’t afford to be sick during this busy season. You can help him and all the elves stay healthy by staying home if you are sick or if any members of your family are feeling unwell. 

Where to See Santa in the Iowa City Area


Ongoing Santa Events in the Iowa City Area

Coral Ridge Mall

Where: Center court of the mall (Map)

When: November 30 – December 24. Hours vary each day. See the schedule on the mall website. Reservations are strongly encouraged, and can be made at the online.

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 to avoid standing in line. Sunday December 3 from 10:30-11:30 AM is being designated as a “Santa Cares” event for children with any type of special need. Reservations are strongly encouraged.  Monday December 4th and Tuesday December 5th, pets are invited to come have their picture taken with Mr. Clause (reservations encouraged)

Holiday Lights at the Lake

Where: West Overlook Campground: W. Overlook Rd NE, Iowa City, IA 52240

When: Wednesdays & Sundays through Christmas

Photo opportunities: If you catch him on a Wednesday night, he’s usually available for photo opportunities and may even have Mrs. Claus with him!

Good things to know: Santa Claus is a close personal friend of the Holiday Lights at the Lake Committee and stops by our event every Wednesday, and Sunday. Bring your letters to Santa and drop them in the mailbox at the ticket house at the start of the event route. We will make sure he gets them in time for Christmas!

Tannenbaum Forest (Amana)

Where: Main Amana (Map)

When: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays November 24th – December 17th. See website for specific daily schedules. Times are different on different days so check the agenda carefully.

picture of girl with Santa
Photo credit to Ashley Keenan Shimmin

Photo opportunities: Personal photos are allowed and encouraged.

Good things to know: Children’s Weekend is December 8-10. The “Prelude to Christmas” festival will be December 1-3.





Photo of boy with Santa
Photo credit to Jen Hoeger

Santa Saturdays Downtown

Where: FilmScene at the Chauncey, 404 E College St., Iowa City (Map)

When: November 24, and December 2, 9, 16 from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Photo opportunities: Personal photos allowed.

Good things to know: Photo-taking is free. Other holiday activities going on each weekend in Downtown Iowa City, including a downtown tractor rides, a downtown elf hunt, and a holiday pop-up market!

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

Single Day Santa Events in the Iowa City Area

Santa Brunch at Cedar Ridge

Where: Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery, 1441 Marak Rd, NW Swisher (Map)

When: Sundays November 26 and December 17th from 9:00 am – 1:00 PM (reservations are required, call 319-857-4300 for reservations). Space is filling fast!!

Photo opportunities: Santa will join you for brunch!  Bring your own camera to catch a photo.

Good things to know: Reservations are required and will fill fast. Brunch is $17.99 for adults, $9.00 for children 6-12 and 5 and under eat for free! The buffet includes, carved beef brisket, scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, hot off the griddle pancakes, and MORE. Tax, alcoholic beverages, and gratuity are additional.

Santa Visits Colony Acres Farm

Where: Colony Pumpkin Patch, 2780 Front Street, North Liberty (Map)

When: Friday and Saturday 11/24 and 11/25 from 11am-2pm

Photo opportunities:Personal photos allowed and encouraged!

Good things to know: This will be opening day for fresh cut Christmas tree and holiday decor sales!

Santa at Sidekick

Where: Sidekick Coffee & Books, 1310 1/2 Melrose Ave., Iowa City

When: Saturday, December 9th 1PM-3PM

Photo opportunities: Bring your own camera for picture taking!

Good things to know: This is a FREE event. Santa will be at the shop from 1:00-3:00.

Christmas in Kalona 

Where: Downtown Kalona (Map)

When: Saturday December 2nd, Santa will be at the Kalona YMCA from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Photo opportunities: The full daily schedule is available here.  Santa will be available for photos at the Kalona YMCA.

Good things to know: Many activities are going on that day, including a Christmas Tree Walk and a Kids Christmas Market.

A Christmas Past (West Branch)

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

When: Santa and Mrs Claus will be visiting on Friday, December 1st and Saturday, December 2nd from 5 p.m.-7:30 p.m. at the Town Hall. Other activities are going on all throughout the weekend! Full daily schedule is available on the website.

Photo opportunities: Personal photos with Santa encouraged, elves are available for assistance.  Free will donations are appreciated.

Good things to know:  Both evenings there’s lots of other festive activities to enjoy with the family like horse-drawn carriage rides, train set, festival of trees, free hot cocoa while you shop local!

Photo of boy and girl with Santa
Photo credit to West Branch Community Development Group

Breakfast with Santa at the North Liberty Rec Center 

**Please note as of 11/12 this event was noted as SOLD OUT. The Eventbrite site does note it is accepting entries for a wait list. **

Where: North Liberty Rec Center (Map)

When: Saturday, December 2, from 8-12 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: This free event is part of the City Slate. The yearlong schedule of events is made possible by Centro, Inc, The Family Dental Center, The Eastern Iowa Airport – CID, Hills Bank, MidWestOne Bank, Shive-Hattery, South Slope Cooperative, University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, Urban Acres Real Estate and Veridian Credit Union. Explore the schedule at **Please note as of 11/12 this event was noted as SOLD OUT .

Photo of two boys with Santa
Photo credit to Sandi Spurrell Photography

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.

Bass Farms, Santa at the Farm!

Where: Bass Farms, Mount Vernon (map)

When: December 2, 10am – 4pm.

Good things to know:This is a free event, bring your own camera! Shop the country store filled with local honey, jams, jellies, meat sauces, salad dressings, Edgewood Locker Meats, fabulous wine, local hand soap and more!

Backpocket Brewing Brunch With Santa

Where: Backpocket Brewing, Iowa River Landing

When: December 9, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Good things to know: Santa will be at Backpocket Brewing for brunch on Sunday, December 9th! Breakfast will include Pancakes, Sausage, Scrambled Eggs, Cheesy Hashbrowns, Fresh Fruit, Orange Juice and Hot Cocoa. Tickets are $18 for Adults & $9 for Children (12 and under.) *Space is limited! So all children (2+ years old), and adults need a ticket to enter.* Purchase tickets online.

Backpocket will also have a holiday drink menu for guests 21+.

Anderson ATA Ultimate Santa Experience

Where: Anderson ATA in North Liberty (map)

When: December 17th, 9 AM-5PM (one hour slots, reserve your time ahead)

Photo opportunities: Santa, Elsa, and the Grinch will be available for photo taking with your personal camera.

Good things to know: Family tickets will be available prior to the event through a link on the Anderson ATA website ($10 per family) for a one hour slot to visit as you desire with Santa, Elsa, and the Grinch.  Other fun activities include a bounce house and music! Slots are limited in number of families per slot, and this event is likely to sell out prior to the date.

Photo of two girls with Santa
Photo credit to Becky Rothfuss

Breakfast with Santa, Hyatt Regency Hotel

Where:Hyatt Regency in Coralville (map)

When: December 16, 8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (two seating times available)

Good things to know: Tickets are required. Adults: $34, Kids 9-12: $19, Kids 4-8: $12, Kids 3 and under: $5. Ticket includes a full holiday breakfast buffet including a chef pancake station, made to order omelets, and spiral glazed ham.  Cash bar is available for parents.  Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the Hyatt Regency Coralville team at 319-887-5004.  Kids will enjoy a photo opportunity with Santa, holiday crafts, and take home a special treat.

Did we miss any of your favorite Santa sighting locations?

Do you know of another community event where the big man or his crew will make an appearance? Share your suggestions in the comments! We hope this guide will help you know where to see Santa in the Iowa City area!

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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