Here are 18 holiday, Christmas things to do around Des Moines from Cirque du Soleil to concerts

·13 min read

The holiday season in Des Moines calls for renditions of “The Nutcracker,” a live production of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Cirque du Soleil’s vision of Christmas, candy cane hikes, even an experience with one night of scary Christmas cheer.

From annual area events to classical dance performances to touring shows, here's a look at 18 Christmas events in central Iowa for the holiday season.

Concerts coming to Des Moines

Touring musicians make stops in Des Moines for the holidays as well with productions celebrating the holiday season.

Lindsey Stirling "Warmer in the Winter"

Lindsey Stirling
Lindsey Stirling

The day after Thanksgiving, violinist and dancer Lindsey Stirling hit the road for her 2021 Christmas Tour, "Warmer in the Winter," which comes to central Iowa in a matter of days.

At 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 1, the "Dancing with the Stars" and "America's Got Talent" alum brings her "Warmer in the Winter" Christmas program back to central Iowa with a show at Stephens Auditorium, 1900 Center Drive, in Ames. Tickets range from $35 to $99 and can be found through ticketmaster.com.

The 35-year-old Stirling previously played central Iowa during a Des Moines Civic Center appearance for her 2019 "Warmer in the Winter Christmas Tour." Fans know that her shows replicate her 2017 Christmas tour, which accompanied the release of her album "Warmer in the Winter."

That album includes Stirling's take on pieces such as "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," "Carol of the Bells" and "Jingle Bell Rock," among others, and three of her original pieces.

More information about the show can be found through center.iastate.edu.

More: Violinist, dancer Lindsey Stirling's 'Warmer in the Winter' show returns to Iowa on Dec. 1

For King & Country's "A Drummer Boy Christmas"

For King & Country, a four-time Grammy-winning, Christian pop group from Australian brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone, heads out on its first arena tour in two years, and Des Moines Wells Fargo Arena, 233 Center St., made the list.

The duo is known for songs like "Amen," "Together" and a 2020 cover of the classic Christmas song "Little Drummer Boy." Doors for the performance open at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9, with tickets ranging from $27 to $152.

More information about the event can be found through iowaeventscenter.com.

Home Free's Warmest Winter Tour

The country a cappella group Home Free.
The country a cappella group Home Free.

Live Christmas music shows continue with the arrival of the country a cappella group Home Free. The tour will showcase arrangements of classic songs from the group's 2020 album, alongside original compositions. Outside its Christmas catalog, the group is known for songs such as "Crazy Life" and "Timeless."

Scheduled to play at the Des Moines Civic Center, 221 Walnut St., at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 15, Home Free comes to town with its "Warmest Winter Tour." Tickets for the event are priced between $19.50 and $54.50.

For more information about the concert visit desmoinesperformingarts.org.

Sara Evans' Blue Christmas Tour

Sara Evans
Sara Evans

Country music singer-songwriter Sara Evans brings her Blue Christmas Tour to Hoyt Sherman Place, 1501 Woodland Ave., on Sunday, Dec. 19.

Originally from Missouri, Evans is one of the most played female artists on country radio over the past two decades. Her chart-topping hits include “No Place That Far,” “Suds In The Bucket, “A Real Fine Place To Start,” “Born to Fly,” and “A Little Bit Stronger,” and the holiday show includes traditional Christmas music along with her greatest hits.

The artist arrives at Hoyt Sherman Place at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 19 as part of her "Blue Christmas Tour." Tickets for the evening range from $35 to $69.

More information on the event can be found at hoytsherman.org.

Ballet productions of 'The Nutcracker'

'The Nutcracker'

Ballet Des Moines last performed "The Nutcracker" at Hoyt Sherman Place in 2019.
Ballet Des Moines last performed "The Nutcracker" at Hoyt Sherman Place in 2019.

Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky adapted "The Nutcracker," from E. T. A. Hoffmann's 1816 short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King." Both versions of the story take place on Christmas Eve and follow a young girl gifted a nutcracker designed to look like a soldier and, later that night, witnesses a battle between her gift and a battalion of monarchical mice. George Balanchine helped revamp the production in the 1950s, when the performance gained its current prominence in the Christmas canon. In central Iowa, three versions of the classic show take the stage this holiday season.

Iowa Dance Theatre's 'The Nutcracker'

The first Des Moines-area iteration of "The Nutcracker" ballet to hit the stage comes courtesy of Iowa Dance Theatre, the locally based dance company that dabbles in multiple forms.

Iowa Dance Theatre will open its 2021 iteration of the show on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 2 and 7 p.m. followed by a finale on Sunday, Dec. 12, at 2 p.m. at the Des Moines Civic Center, 221 Walnut St.

Tickets for the two-hour show range from $20 to $55 and are available through desmoinesperformingarts.org.

Iowa Dance Theatre started performing the ballet at the Des Moines Civic Center in 1997, using central Iowa-based dancers and choreographers.

Ballet Des Moines' 'The Nutcracker'

Ballet Des Moines last performed "The Nutcracker" at Hoyt Sherman Place in 2019.
Ballet Des Moines last performed "The Nutcracker" at Hoyt Sherman Place in 2019.

New artistic director Tom Mattingly revamped "The Nutcracker" for Ballet Des Moines.

“I absolutely loved what (Ballet Des Moines) wanted to accomplish, which is a classic 'Nutcracker,' repackaged in a brand new way," Mattingly told the Des Moines Register shortly after starting his tenure with the ballet company in November. “The audiences will see a true reimagining of the story."

This year, the show will play two central Iowa locations: Hoyt Sherman Place, 1501 Woodland Ave., and the Staplin Performing Arts Center, 3650 Woodland Ave. in West Des Moines.

More: Ballet Des Moines and Des Moines Gay Men's Chorus announce new artistic directors

The first performance at Hoyt Sherman will start at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 10, with three subsequent shows throughout the weekend. Tickets range from $32 to $82, available at hoytsherman.org.

Then the show heads to the Staplin Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 17, and Saturday, Dec. 18, with tickets for $37 and $79.

Additionally, the ballet partners with CultureAll, a non-profit that encourages the education of cultural diversity in Iowa, to provide educational matinee performances geared toward audiences in third through sixth grades. The performances feature excerpts of "The Nutcracker" alongside other examples of storytelling and celebration across cultures.

Robert Thomas Dancenter's 'The Nutcracker'

The final iteration of Tchaikovsky's now-classic ballet heads to Ames' Stephens Auditorium, 1900 Center Drive, at 1 and 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 with a final performance on Dec. 12 at 1 p.m.

This performance comes from the Robert Thomas Dancenter, an Ames-based dance company that educates dancers across a variety of ages and forms.

“'The Nutcracker' is celebrating 40 years and is the longest running locally produced production in Iowa,” said Tammy Koolbeck, Stephens Auditorium’s executive director, in a press release announcing the show.

Koolbeack also noted that this year's production will pull in principal dancers from New York City with Tanya Lynn Trombley as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Fredrick Davis as Cavalier.

Tickets for the event range from $25 to $30 and can be found through center.iastate.edu.

More: Six Des Moines Christmas markets and festivals kick off the holiday season this weekend

Central Iowa theater shows

Though dance companies across the region are visiting the same Christmas classics, theaters in the area are pulling from a more varied array of productions.

Below are a few of the Christmas-themed area productions audiences can look forward to in December.

Gateway Dance Theatre's holiday show

Gateway Dance Theatre, a Des Moines-based dance company, performs its "Holiday Show with Friends" starting at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 at First Unitarian Church, 1800 Bell Ave. The show is free to attend but has a recommended donation of $10.

The show features the Genesis Afrobeat Dancers, singer Tina Haase Findlay and others. Next year, the dance company celebrates its 50th anniversary. More information about the event can be found online at gatewaydance.org.

'The Sound of Music' at the Des Moines Playhouse

As part of its 103rd season, the Des Moines Playhouse, 831 42nd St., presents a stage adaptation of the classic "The Sound of Music."

The musical follows a nun assigned to care for the von Trapp children, who live under the care of their father, a widowed naval captain in Austria during the 1930s.

The theater company performs in the Playhouse's John Viars Theatre for those who attend live, but — as with other shows over the past two years — can be streamed virtually.

The first show is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3, with subsequent performances running through Sunday, Dec. 19. Audiences at home tune into virtual performances at a specified time. Tickets for both in-person and virtual performances start at $29.

All attendees age 12 and older must wear a mask regardless of vaccination status. More information about live performances or how to virtually view the show can be found through dmplayhouse.com.

'Every Christmas Story Ever Told' at Tallgrass Theatre Co.

This year, Tallgrass Theatre Co. asks the question, "Why tell just one Christmas story when you could recount all of them?"

A performance of "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)," a comedy encapsulating myriad well-known classic Christmas tales and carols, will mark the theater's 50th show since its creation and the first show in the new space.

The show includes three actors who start out performing "A Christmas Carol." "When they start it one of the actors says, ‘I can’t do this. I’ve done this so many times. I hate this show.’ So instead they do every Christmas story ever told in 90 minutes. It’s crazy," said Thomas Perrine, the artistic director for the community theater, describing the storyline of the production.

The opening performance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3, with performances through Sunday, Dec. 19. Tickets for those interested start at $33 and are available through tallgrasstheatre.org.

Cast members of the Tallgrass Theatre Company's 2021 production of "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)."
Cast members of the Tallgrass Theatre Company's 2021 production of "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)."

"It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" by Iowa Stage Theatre Co.

In nearly 75 years since its cinematic premiere, "It's a Wonderful Life" grew from a tepidly received dud to become the beloved Christmas classic that spurs this radio play-styled adaptation.

Both the original film and this iteration tell the story of George Bailey, who, after wishing he'd never been born in front of an angel, is guided through a version of the world where he never existed.

The show will run from Dec. 16-23, with the first show at 7:30 p.m. at the Stoner Theater, 221 Walnut St., with individual tickets priced at $40 as part of the Iowa Stage Theatre Co.'s current season.

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The theater company also partners with PBS Iowa to broadcast the live production on Sunday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m. statewide on Iowa PBS followed by repeat broadcasts on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m., Dec. 20 at 2 p.m., and 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

More information about this show can be found through iowastage.org.

Other holiday events

Continue to make the holidays special with Christmas-themed events that span the season.

A Magical Cirque Christmas

Rachel Salzman performs in "Magical Cirque Christmas."
Rachel Salzman performs in "Magical Cirque Christmas."

Music, illusions and acrobatics from Canadian entertainment company Cirque du Soleil come to Des Moines with "A Magical Cirque Christmas." Magical host Lucy Darling guides attendees through each performance accompanied by holiday music.

The act comes to Stephens Auditorium, 1900 Center Dr., with its combination of "thrilling, festive, fun-for-the-whole-family" entertainment at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 20. The event promises to showcase death-defying circus acts with Christmas music accompaniment.

Tickets for the show range from $49 to $79 and can be found through center.iastate.edu.

Holly & Ivy tour at Salisbury House

On Friday and Saturday, Dec. 3-4, the historic Salisbury House & Gardens, 4025 Tonawanda Drive, holds its annual Holly & Ivy event, where the 1920s estate opens for the Christmas season. This marks 25 years of the Holly & Ivory tour, which showcases the opulent former home of Carl Weeks, a cosmetics manufacturer and art collector, and his family with festive seasonal decorations decking the halls. The event includes live holiday music performed on a custom Steinway piano, beverages for purchase and Santa on hand on Saturday. The venue also offers a holiday concert from 7 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 5.

Tour times from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 3 and 4 go for $25 per person with kids 6-12 charged $5 and children under 5 able to enter for free.

More information about the event can be found through salisburyhouse.org.

Krampus! Night of Terror & Delight at The Slaughterhouse

With an event that would make Tim Burton proud, Des Moines' The Slaughterhouse brings a little bit of Halloween to the Christmas season.

Running from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4, at 500 Locust St., The Slaughterhouse's new location, the horror attraction showcases a one-night horror show evoking Chris Kringle's more chaotic counterpart in a Krampus-themed night of terror that is appropriate for all ages.

Tickets for the night start at $30 and can be found via slaughterhousedm.com, which also notes a 21-plus Krampus Krawl starting at 9:30 p.m. the same night as the main event.

Second Annual Sing-A-Thon

The Des Moines Choral Society hosts its second-annual sing-a-thon, a live-streamed, virtual, fundraising performance presented via YouTube.

When it debuted last year, the event ran for more than 10 hours and featured solo performances, interviews with choral society members and ensemble pieces themed around the winter season.

This year's iteration starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4, with more information on organization's website dmchoral.org.

Candy Cane Hike at Annett Nature Center

For those who don't mind the chilling Iowa winds of the season, Indianola's Annett Nature Center, 15565 118th Ave., hosts a Candy Cane Hike.

Scheduled to run from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4, the self-guided hike at the Annett Nature Center includes trails decorated with hidden candy canes. Hikers can submit guesses for how many are scattered through the hike in order to potentially win a candy cane-themed goodie basket.

Register by Thursday, Dec. 2, through warrenccb.org.

Hike and Hot Cocoa at Jester Park Nature Center

Another instance of seasonal outdoor hiking for the season comes to Jester Park Nature Center, 12130 NW 128th St. in Granger, with the Hike and Hot Cocoa event.

Scheduled for 4 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 13, attendees walk around Discover Pond followed by a cup of hot cocoa around a fire.

Like the Candy Cane Hike, registration is required for this event. Register by Sunday, Dec. 12, through polkcountyiowa.gov.

People drive through Jolly Holiday Lights at Adventureland Park in 2020.
People drive through Jolly Holiday Lights at Adventureland Park in 2020.

Jolly Holiday Lights at Adventureland

Make-A-Wish Iowa lights up Adventureland, 3300 Adventureland Dr., Altoona, with Jolly Holiday Lights, now in its 26th year. Visitors drive through the 2.5-mile park with more than 100 displays. The event funded more than 1,000 wishes so far.

Tickets start at $25 per car at Adventureland, Hy-Vee, Casey's General Store and the Make-A-Wish Iowa office and go down to $20 online. Skip the line for $200. The display runs through Jan. 2, 2022, from 5:30 to 10 p.m. except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve.

Isaac Hamlet covers arts, entertainment and culture at the Des Moines Register. Reach him at ihamlet@gannett.com or (319) 600-2124, follow him on Twitter @IsaacHamlet.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: The best Des Moines area Christmas events, concerts, and activities

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