5 Santa-Approved Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Altoona

the buzz holidays in altoona

We made a list (and checked it twice).

Although you could technically celebrate the holidays anywhere in the Des Moines area, Altoona has that perfect blend of nostalgic, family-friendly activities and whiskey-in-my-cocoa fun for grown-ups.

This year, our community is carrying on our favorite holiday traditions – can you believe Jolly Holiday Lights is in its 25th year? – while introducing some new ones. Whether you’re the type to wear a battery-powered Christmas tree sweater or you take a Grinchy-er view toward the holidays, there’s something fun for everyone this season in Altoona!

Here are five of our favorites…

1: Drive through an electric winter wonderland!

What: Now in its 25th year, Jolly Holiday Lights is a magical holiday tradition, an unforgettable experience, and a unique opportunity to give back.

As you drive through the 2.5-mile exhibit, you will encounter more than 100 unique light displays, from a giant, bicycle-riding penguin to a familiar character who couldn’t resist coming down from Mount Crumpit.

In addition to being a fun and festive experience, Jolly Holiday Lights is the largest fundraiser for Make-A-Wish® Iowa, drawing tens of thousands of vehicles each year. Proceeds from ticket sales help fulfill the dreams of children with critical illnesses.

When: Nov. 26th – Jan. 2nd, every night from 5:30-10PM (closed Christmas eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve)

Where: Adventureland Park, Altoona

Click to get more info and purchase tickets!

2: Experience an “Olde” Altoona holiday tradition!

What: Christmas in Olde Town is a quintessential Altoona tradition. Set among the 19th-century Americana buildings of our historic downtown, this family-friendly event features live music, walking tours, the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, a light show, and even a special appearance from the real Santa Claus. Nostalgic, festive and fun, there really is no better way to kick off the holiday season.

When: Nov. 27th, starting at 2PM

Where: Historic Downtown Altoona

Click to see the full schedule and get all the details!

3: Raise a glass of Christmas cheer!

What: After the Christmas in Olde Town Tree Lighting Ceremony – when the kids have gone home to dream of sugar plum fairies – the real fun begins. From 6 to 8PM, we’re breaking out the spiced wine and winter brew for Olde Town Cheer: a 21+ holiday celebration. Festivities include food trucks, live music, s’more roasting and a hot chocolate bar. Join us as we toast the holiday season!

When: Nov. 27th, 6-8PM

Where: Historic Downtown Altoona

Click to learn more about Olde Town Cheer!

4: Shop for everyone on your list, regardless of naughty/nice status!

What: Whether it’s your freakishly athletic nephew (try Under Armour), your cosmopolitan aunt (Kate Spade New York?) or that uncle who always wears camo (Beef Jerky Experience, for sure), you’ll find something for everyone on your list at Outlets of Des Moines. The mall features more than 50 premium retailers – offering the kind of deals you can only find at outlet stores – in a festive, indoor-outdoor setting.

If you’re planning a trip to the mall, we recommend visiting during the Midwest Local Vendor Market, a regular gathering of independent, pop-up artisans offering hundreds of handmade and hard-to-find goods—from specialty cinnamon rolls and children’s toys to jewelry, essential oils, makeup and more. The Market is scheduled for Nov. 26-27th, as well as Dec. 4-5th, 11-12th, and 18-19th.

When: All season long

Where: Outlets of Des Moines, 801 Bass Pro Drive, Altoona

Click to learn more about Outlets of Des Moines!

5: Eat, drink and be merry at Prairie Meadows!

What: The centerpiece of Altoona’s bustling entertainment district, Prairie Meadows is a place to play, dine and enjoy concerts and shows in every season. But Prairie Meadows really shines during the holidays, when the casino/racetrack/hotel/event center offers special dinners – you can now reserve your spot at their Thanksgiving feast – festive twists on their most popular games, and live music that will have everyone rockin’ around the Christmas Tree.

When: All season long

Where: Prairie Meadows, 1 Prairie Meadows Dr., Altoona

Keep an eye on the Prairie Meadows schedule for upcoming events!