8 Holiday Events in the Iowa City Area You Don’t Want to Miss

1. Gingerbread House Competition

The Gingerbread House Competition — hosted by the Iowa City Downtown District — is sure to be a sweet time. Participants face off head-to-head constructing a gingerbread house of their own design. After 1 hour and 30 minutes of decorating, there will be 30 minutes for judging the houses and presenting the awards. During the competition, participants are welcome to fuel up with holiday drinks and hors d’oeuvres which can be purchased at the cash bar.
When: Sunday, December 10th
Where: hotelVetro in Downtown Iowa City

  • Cost is $40/team, with up to four people on each team
  • There are 3 different categories to choose from: professional, 12 and under, and all ages.
  • There are two shifts: the first shift will take place from 1–3pm and the second will happen from 6–8pm.
  • Teams get 1 hour and 30 minutes to decorate their gingerbread house.
  • Molly’s Cupcakes will supply the gingerbread and royal frosting, and candy will be provided. Participants are also welcome to bring their own candy for decorations.

2. DIY Chocolates

On Thursday, December 14th from 6–8pm Laurie Moritz—creator of Mystic-Chocolate and Sweet Raw Joy—will be demonstrating how to prepare three simple raw, vegan chocolates. Participants will learn how to prepare Peppermint Crunch, Dark Chocolate, and Dark Chocolate Ganache. This event costs $15 to participate and will be taking place at the Coralville New Pioneer location. If you can’t make it to the event in Coralville, New Pioneer will also be offering the same class on December 7th at their Cedar Rapids location.

3. Downtown Hunt for the Elves

The downtown Iowa City Hunt for the Elves is an event you won’t want to miss. This kid-friendly scavenger hunt takes places at various stores in downtown Iowa City. From Saturday, November 26th until January 1st there will be elves hiding at certain downtown Iowa City business. If found, you will receive a “I have found ____ at ____” card and turn it into Englert Theatre, Iowa Book, or Children’s Room at the Iowa City Public Library to receive a prize and to be entered to win a grand prize gift basket. This event is free and welcome to the public! See the Iowa City Downtown District’s Tis the Season web page for a list of participating stores.

4. The Nutcracker

Nolte Academy and the Englert Theater have once again teamed up to bring this unique Holiday performance to the Iowa City area. Performances will take place on Friday, December 1st, Saturday, December 2nd, and Sunday, December 3rd, giving you five chances to experience local dancers and musicians bringing this Christmas Classic to life. Tickets range in price from $20–32, and can be purchased online on the Englert’s website.

5. A Christmas Carol

Don’t miss out on this holiday classic presented by the Old Creamery Theatre. The theater group—based out of Amana, Iowa—does a spectacular job of retelling the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his ghostly visitors. Performances begin on November 16th and take place every Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday through December 17th.

6. Horse Drawn Carriage Rides

Horse drawn carriage rides aren’t just for the movies. In fact, you can take in the sights and sounds of the holiday season on a horse drawn carriage ride for FREE in downtown Iowa City. This annual activity—organized by the Iowa City Downtown District and sponsored by Hills Bank and Trust—is a family favorite, and takes place November 25th, December 2nd, December 9th, and December 16th from 11:30am–2:30pm. Make sure to get there early — this event is first come first serve and fills up quickly!

  • November 25th, December 2nd, 9th, and 16th from 11:30am–2:30pm
  • Organized by the ICDD, sponsored by Hills Bank and Trust
  • There is no better way to take in the sights and sounds of the holiday season than a Horse Drawn Carriage Ride around downtown. Enjoy a FREE whimsical ride while singing carols to the tune of antique sleigh bells, nestled in the enclosed comfort provided by Country Gentleman’s Horse and Carriage.

7. Tannenbaum Forest

Every year, Amana decorates over 40 decorated real Christmas trees at the Tannenbaum Forest. In addition to viewing the Christmas trees, visitors can visit santa, stop by St. Nick’s Cafe, and see a 17 foot German-style Christmas pyramid. A goodwill donation is asked for admission and all proceeds benefiting the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. The Tannenbaum Forest is open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from November 24th–December 17th. Learn more about the Tannenbaum Forest on the Amana Colonies website and visit the magical scene for yourself at 622 46th Ave, Amana IA 52203.

8. Aisle of Lights

The City of Coralville will be hosting a fun-filled holiday celebration—Aisle of Lights—on Sunday, December 10th. This event brings together the entire city with a whole day of events for the family. From 2:00–5:00pm stores located at the Iowa River Landing will be celebrating the  season with family fun and activities. Following this, the city will light up the winter night sky with over 30,000 luminaries. Residents and visitors are welcome to see this beautiful sight by foot or car. The city has arranged a free bus tour that is open to the public. Visit the City of Coralville website for more details about this festive event

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