Holiday Events Around Iowa
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Produced in partnership with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
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Reserve your seats for Thanksgiving dinner at Hotel Millwright in Amana. It’s $32 a person and includes all the favorites—roast turkey, sage stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes and much more.

3 Reasons to Book It to Amana Thanksgiving Weekend

With Thanksgiving and the subsequent holiday shopping season coming up, it’s a perfect time to spend a day or weekend in Amana. Here are three tempting events.

Thanksgiving at Hotel Millwright: Leave the cooking and the cleanup to the Indigo Room at Hotel Millwright. For $32 per person (and $16 for a kid's plate), you can enjoy a traditional feast with all the fixings—including pie and signature cocktails. Four seating times are available. See the complete menu and learn how to reserve here.

Macarons and Wine Pairing Flights: For $12 Nov. 25-27, you can sample sweets from French Pastry by Sandrine of Cedar Rapids with fruity varietals by Ackerman Winery at their location in main Amana. The winery also hosts a nutcracker scavenger hunt on Nov. 25. Visit their website for more information.

Tannenbaum Forest: Be inspired by more than 70 decorated Christmas trees illuminating a century-old barn before checking out the shops and restaurants in main Amana. Stop by the Amana General Store to experience the International Christmas Market.
Paper lanterns will illuminate the sky above Malvern on Nov. 26 during the town's Wish Lantern Launch. Photo: Malvern Area Betterment Association.

Launch a Paper Lantern in Malvern

If the weather cooperates, dozens of paper lanterns will rise into the sky above Malvern during its annual Wish Lantern Launch on Nov. 26. You can claim one for yourself, inscribe it with a wish or memorial tribute, and send it into the wild black yonder.

Cheryl Jones with the Malvern Area Betterment Association floated the idea a decade ago and it took off. It’s now an annual tradition on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the designated Iowa Great Place in southwestern Iowa. Folks gather for hot chocolate, holiday carols and a tree-lighting ceremony before the main event.

Jones will be wishing for clear skies that are chilly enough to contrast with the candle-heated lanterns. A not-too-strong breeze helps, too, since volunteers will retrieve the lanterns the next day. “It’s always fun to see how far they go,” she says, “and how many you can find.”
Stop by the Danish Windmill in Elk Horn to browse the gift shop for Scandinavian goods. Photo: Flint & Co.

Celebrate the Season in Elk Horn and Kimballton

Experience the warmth and joy of Danish hospitality in the Danish villages of Elk Horn and Kimballton during Julefest, Nov. 25-26. Julefest is a traditional celebration that welcomes the arrival of the Christmas season.

Throughout the western Iowa towns, find holiday Danish treats and browse the various shops for crafts, jewelry and antiques. Cultural landmarks and museums the Danish Windmill, Museum of Danish America and Bedstemor’s Hus will also all be decorated for the holidays and open for tours. Plus, there's a 5K run and a Christmas concert on Nov. 26.

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Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride in Manning Nov. 25. Photo: Main Street Manning.

Say 'Hallo' to the Holidays in Manning

A century ago, half of all Iowa farmers were of German descent, and most celebrated the holidays in Old World style. To see the tradition today, head to Weihnachtsfest on Nov. 25 in Manning, an Iowa Great Place in Carroll County.

The event starts with the community band and a lighted parade, followed by a flurry of festivities up and down Main Street. Visit Santa and his live reindeer, ride a horse-drawn carriage or hay rack, place a bid in the quilt auction, decorate cookies and—at least for a moment—imagine yourself in small-town Bavaria or Bremen. Frohliche Weihnachten!
Running now through Nov. 25 at the University of Dubuque’s Bisignano Art Gallery, the Driftless Art exhibit features works by three Iowa artists. This work, “Bellevue Sunrise,” is by painter Jenna Lueck.

Experience Art from the Driftless Area in Dubuque

The Driftless Area in northeast Iowa is revered for its natural beauty, with wooded bluffs and winding rivers, including the Mighty Mississippi. Get a new perspective on the area through the lens of three area artists at the Bisignano Art Gallery at the University of Dubuque’s Heritage Center in Dubuque.

As part of the exhibit, Gail Chavenelle of Dubuque features her three-dimensional metal sculptures. Jenna Lueck of Balltown showcases her paintings of the region, and Henry Matthiessen III of Dubuque shows scenic photography.

The gallery is open Monday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m., and entrance is free. It features 10 original, in-house curated exhibitions a year, some of which feature student works.

The Winter Farmers Market in downtown Des Moines runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Stay all morning, or just stop by for a few essentials. There will be plenty of vendors serving to-go food for guests in need of a lunch break. Photo: Greater Des Moines Partnership.

Stock Up for the Winter in Des Moines

Although the regular season is over, farmers market fans can still get their fresh fix once this month and once in December during the Des Moines Winter Farmers Market. Head to Court Avenue in Des Moines for the first one this Saturday. There will be 100 vendors selling seasonal produce, meats, cheeses, locally made goods and other products. Stock up on winter essentials, or even find a few handmade gifts. Below are some winter vendors to watch out for, and find a full list of vendors here.

Agri-Cultured Foods & Renegade Kombucha: Shop for fermented favorites like kombucha, kimchi, krauts, and of course, pickles.

Dutch Girl Creamery: Find farm-fresh goat and cow cheeses to add to all your holiday party charcuterie boards.

Great River Maple: Add their organic maple syrup to old-fashioned cocktails, hot toddies or Grandma’s French toast. Their sample sets make great stocking stuffers, too.

Hey Darling Collective: Handcrafted clay earrings and necklaces of all colors and patterns make this booth a can’t-miss for your friend’s Secret Santa gift.
Organizing can be a good way to give back, like getting a group together to sort food donations for those in need.

Give Back During the Holiday Season

Writer: Karla Walsh

If you don’t have a lot of time to share but do have the financial means, “find an organization doing work that speaks to you and give,” Aubrey Alvarez, the executive director of the nonprofit Eat Greater Des Moines, suggests.

From Hunger-Free Polk County to Meals From the Heartland, there are dozens of charities you can support financially—and possibly ask your employer to match. For a list of organizations, visit

Or if you have extra nonperishable items leftover from your Thanksgiving cooking sessions, give them to your local food bank, emergency shelters, community pantries or even schools. Certain districts will accept groceries (be sure to check with the community service coordinator at each school first).

You can even donate land. While you’d still own the parcel, gardeners could put it to good use growing crops, which would then be donated to those in need.

“Patches smaller than one acre can be turned into community gardens so that members of the refugee and immigrant community can grow their own food, and unused land larger than an acre can be used by a farmer to expand their business and grow more food for themselves and the community,” says Daniel Bowser, food hub and markets supervisor for Lutheran Services in Iowa, which runs Global Greens, a farm incubator program for refugees. Go to for more details.

Iowa Stops Hunger is a Business Publications Corp. initiative to raise awareness of hunger in Iowa and inspire action to combat it.
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