2023 Holiday Events Guide

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

What: Holiday Lights at the Lake*
Where: West Overlook Campground, Iowa City
When: 5:30-8:30PM Thanksgiving through New Years Day; Fridays and Saturdays 5-9PM
Details: Drive-through large and animated lights displays. *Wednesdays are pedestrians only. $10/car, or $5 per person on Wednesdays.

What: Downtown Hunt for the Elves*
Where: Downtown Iowa City (multiple locations)
When: 11/25-12/31
Details:  Kid-friendly elf scavenger hunt! Find 10 elves and return elf card to Library or Iowa Book for a prize!

What: Teddy Bear Room*
Where: Hilton Garden Inn, downtown Iowa City
When: 11/25-12/31
Details: Teddy Bears Galore! The Downtown Teddy Bear Room is exactly how it sounds, for 5 weeks, there will be an entire room at the Hilton Garden Inn, filled with hundreds of teddy bears, big and small. Opening November 25th until December 31st; families, children, and everyone is invited to come hug a bear, take photos, and spread the holiday cheer.

What: Tannenbaum Forest*
Where: Festhalle Barn
When: Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays through Dec. 17
Details:  See 60 trees decorated by various groups and organizations. Dec 8-10 Santa and reindeer will be there.

What: Tractor Wagon Rides*
Where: Downtown Iowa City; Hills Bank
When: 11/25-12/31
Details: Enjoy a FREE whimsical ride in a decorated wagon pulled by an antique tractor provided by Bass Farms. Rides start at 10:00 a.m. and go until 4:00 p.m. Available times will be on a first-come-first-serve basis and are 100% free. Rides will be every 15 minutes until 4:00 p.m. Come to Hills Bank in downtown at the corner of Washington St. & Clinton St. to check in, wait in line, enjoy activities, and hop on the rides. Riders will get a candy cane and option of grabbing a cozy blanket to bundle up in for the ride around the city.

What: Downtown Hunt for the Elves*
Where: Downtown Iowa City
When: Sat. Nov. 27 – Sat. Jan. 1
Details: Find the elves in each participating store, get a stamp on your card or write in the name of the elf on the card to show proof you found it. Turn in your completed cards after finding 10 of the elves to Iowa Book or the Iowa City Public Library to receive a small prize and to be entered to win a grand prize gift basket.

What: Drop-In DIY Gift Wrapping*
Where: Iowa City Public Library
When: 11/11-12/31, during library hours
Details: Use a Drop-in DIY Gift Wrapping station! Wrapping and supplies will be available or you can bring your own.


Friday, December 1

What: Prelude to Christmas*
Where: Amana Colonies
When: Dec. 1-3
Details: A magical weekend with special events and food/beverage sampling in the shops, carolers on the street, and the town decked out in Christmas finery that’s Prelude to Christmas in the Amana Colonies.  The streets of Amana come alive with old world charm at no time more than Prelude to Christmas. The fences and store fronts sport pine boughs, there’s red ribbons fluttering in the breeze, and an occasional melody from beloved Christmas Carols in the air!

What: The Nutcracker Ballet*
Where: Englert Theater (co-presented by Nolte Academy)
When: 12/1 7:30PM, 12/2 1PM and 7:30PM, 12/3 1PM and 6:30PM
Details: Come and see the beloved story of the Nutcracker unfold on the stage! There’s no better way to get in the Christmas spirit!

What: Corridor Market*
Where: Hyatt Regency, Coralville
When: 12/1 2PM-8PM, 12/2 9AM-4PM
Details: Come shop local vendors and businesses with various goods and gifts. There will also be live music and a food truck! $8 admission; kids 12 and under FREE

What: It’s A Wonderful Life: Live Radio Play*
Where: Amana Performing Arts Center
When: 12/1-12/3, 12/8-12/10, Fridays and Saturdays 7:30, Sun 3:00
Details: The holiday classic comes to life as a 1940’s radio broadcast! Tickets $25

What: East Side Artists’ Annual Show and Sale
Where: Masonic Building (312 E. College St.)
When: 12/1 10am-8pm, 12/2-12/3 10am-5pm
Details: Come and support local artists! Stop by to see work from over 20 local makers and artists.

What: Christmas Past*
Where: Main Street West Branch
When: 12/1 and 12/2, Various Times
Details: Christmas Past is especially enjoyable for families with children who want to attend a wholesome holiday activity. It’s full of fun photo opportunities, holiday characters, festive treats, and more! Nearly all of the festivities are FREE which allows you to also visit and support the small shops and restaurants while you’re there. The full event schedule is online. Or visit the Facebook event here
Related: Where to See Santa in the Iowa City Area

Saturday, December 2

What: Arts and Crafts Bazaar and Book Sale
Where: Iowa City Public Library
When: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Details: Don’t miss the return of the Annual ICPL Arts & Crafts Bazaar! There will be a wide selection of unique, one-of-a-kind gifts, from quilts and hand-knitted items to jewelry, holiday ornaments, and more, all donated by local artists and crafters. All proceeds from this year’s sale will benefit the ICPL Friends Foundation to support the collections and services of the Iowa City Public Library.

What: Downtown Iowa City Holiday Retail Open House
Where: multiple locations, downtown Iowa City
When: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Details: Participating shops will be hosting a holiday party in their store. Each location will have a small gift, snacks, or drinks for customers to enjoy. Come spread some holiday cheer and treat yourself.

What: Holiday Vendor Fair
Where: North Liberty Rec Center
When: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Details: Join us to support local vendors and makers for holiday shopping!

What: Christmas in Kalona
Where: multiple locations, Kalona
When: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Details: Live music, cookie walk, Christmas market, kids activities, Santa, Christmas tree walk, wagon rides, and golf cart parade at 5 p.m.!

What: Gift Wrapping Room*

Where: North Liberty library
When: 12/2-12/5, 12/14-12/18 (during library hours)
Details: Wrap gifts without prying eyes!

Sunday, December 3

What: Groovy and Bright Winter Family Event
Where: Liberty High School, North Liberty
When: 12/3, 12-4PM
Details: Products from various local vendors and students, kids’ activities, tree auction and more!

Tuesday, December 5

What: Popsicle Snowflakes
Where: North Liberty Library
When: 4 p.m.
Details: Winter is here and it’s time to start decorating. Kids in K-3 grades can join us in jazzing up popsicle sticks with paint, markers, stickers, and glitter to make decorative snowflakes.

Thursday, December 7

What: Holiday Book Lover’s Trivia Night
Where: Sidekick Coffee and Books
When: 7 p.m.
Details: Get into the holiday spirit with our Holiday edition of Book Lovers Trivia! Join us on December 7 at 7pm. Register in advance to secure your spot!

Saturday, December 9

What: Holiday Thieves Market*
Where: Hyatt Regency in Coralville (formerly the Marriott)
When: 12/9 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and 12/10 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Details: Shop 100+ unique fine artisan vendors for a variety of handmade holiday gifts!

What: Very Merry Christmas in Swisher
Where: Hyatt Regency in Coralville (formerly the Marriott)
When: 4-7 p.m.
Details: Kids crafts, horse-drawn wagons, tree walk, cookie walk, cookie decorating, Christmas parade @ 6:30

What: Santa at Sidekick Coffee and Books
Where: Sidekick
When: 1-3 p.m.
Details: Santa Claus will be at Sidekick on December 9 from 1-3! Swing by for Santa photos, coffee and pastries, and last minute Christmas shopping!

Sunday, December 10

What: Aisle of Lights
Where: Coralville; check website for details
When: 5-9 p.m.
Details: Walk or drive through miles of luminaries in Coralville!

Tuesday, December 12

What: Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Creole Christmas
Where: Englert Theater
When: 7:30 p.m.
Details: Band performs New Orleans classics and holiday songs with a twist!

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!

About Our Sponsor

A photo of the Urban Acres Bails TeamHiring The Bails Team at Urban Acres Real Estate means you’ll have access to the real estate expertise you need anytime, anywhere. This real estate team includes Mike Bails, Phil O’Brien, Marcy Willier, Chelsey Riggan, Matt VandeBerg, and Briley McAtee. Together, they have over 50 years of combined experience and a deep understanding of the entire residential and commercial real estate picture in the Iowa City area – it’s what they like to call a panoramic view of real estate. If you are ready to buy or sell, give them a call today and tell them Iowa City Moms sent you!

Don’t forget to check out our other 2023 Holiday Guides!

Graphic: Where to Find Christmas Trees in the Iowa City area

Christmas Tree Farm Guide

Iowa City Moms Blog
At Iowa City Moms Blog we’re a group of local moms who are passionate about connecting other moms to one another and to our community! Whether you’re an experienced mom, a newbie, expecting, or aspiring to be a mom someday, this blog is for you! Join us as we navigate this journey that is motherhood in the Iowa City area!


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