Dec 1, 2022 - Things to Do

Six best Christmas light displays in Des Moines

A photo of a child with holiday lights.

A scene at November's opening of Miracle on 86th Street — Urbandale's holiday lights display that runs through January 9. Photo courtesy of Derek Zarn/City of Urbandale

It's that time of year where Christmas lights are going up and people are getting out to see them. We compiled a list of some of the Des Moines metro's best holiday light displays.

  • The neighborhood sites are free but some seek donations for charities.

Neighborhood/free lights

Beaverdale is a popular spot for holiday displays but Ashby and Wallace avenues are best known for their extravagance.

Details: Dozens of homes compete in an annual lights contest. People's choice voting runs through Dec. 15.

  • ⏰ Lights up through Dec. 31, from 6pm-9pm.

Bonus: A Tree lighting ceremony is Dec. 3 at 5pm.

  • Santa and a Toys For Tots collection will be part of the event.
A photo showing holiday lights.
A home along Ashby avenue in Des Moines' Beaverdale neighborhood. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Gingerbread Lane: Along Southeast Richland Court in Ankeny

Details: Dozens of homes help tell an "original gingerbread story." Visitors are encouraged to bring canned goods or money along to donate. Donations will go to the Food Bank of Iowa.

Bonus: Frosty Circle, (aka SE Rio Circle), which connects with Gingerbread Lane.

  • ⏰ Dec. 2 through Dec. 31, 5:30pm-9:30pm.
A photo of holiday lights.
A display from last year's "Gingerbread Lane" display in Ankeny. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Miracle on 86th Street: At the Charles Gabus Memorial Tree Park and Garden

Details: A custom lights display that runs through Jan. 9 with scheduled special events, a custom-built train and ice skating.

  • Open during normal park hours.

Bonus: A few of the special events include a candy cane hunt (Dec. 3), a Santa and reindeer meet and greet (Dec. 10) and a holiday city band concert (Dec. 12).

A photo of holiday lights.
Miracle on 86th Street includes more than 50,000 lights. Photo courtesy of Derek Zarn/City of Urbandale

Pay-to-see displays

Jolly Holiday Lights: 3300 Adventureland Dr., Altoona.

Details: The annual Make-A-Wish fundraiser includes hundreds of displays along a 2.5-mile route, the biggest in Iowa.

  • Wishes of 80 kids with critical illnesses are, on average, granted via the event's revenue each year.
  • ⏰ 5:30pm-10pm through Jan. 1. (Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.)

Cost: $25 per car or $20 online.

A photo of holiday lights.
Photo courtesy of Make-A-Wish Iowa

Winter Wonderscape Holiday Light Show: Reiman Gardens, 1407 University Blvd, Ames.

Details: This is the third year for the 17-acre outdoor walk-through show featuring motion, music and massive disco balls twirling to laser lights.

  • ⏰ Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday through December, 5pm-8pm.

Cost: $7-$13. Free for kids under 2.

  • Tickets must be purchased online and in advance.
A photo of holiday lights.
One of this year's displays at Winter Wonderscape Holiday Light Show in Ames. Photo courtesy of Reiman Gardens

Santa's Rock N' Lights: A drive thru lights music show at Living History Farms in Urbandale.

Details: More than 700 feet of dancing light tunnels, giant dinosaurs and reindeer.

  • ⏰ Opens at 5pm most days through Jan. 1.

Cost: $26-$33 per vehicle. Online ticket purchase required.

Of note: It's not an official Living History Farms event.

Notable mentions


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