'Tis the Season

Come enjoy downtown Iowa City this winter season and experience that nostalgic, warm feeling of what the holidays should be! Downtown Iowa City knows how to celebrate the festivities and no matter what level of merriment you seek, we’ve got you covered. Downtown will celebrate the holidays all month long, designed to showcase downtown Iowa City attractions, retailers, entertainment venues, and traditional holiday activities.

This month-long celebration provides something for everyone—from the Holiday Pop-Up Market in Black Hawk Mini Park to FREE tractor wagon rides from Bass Farms sponsored by Hills Bank & Trust Company, and photo-ops with Santa!

Kid’s Market sponsored by GreenState Credit Union

November 7 – November 23

The Downtown Holiday Kid’s Market returns for its second year from November 7 until November 23rd, 11:00 am- 7:00 pm. The Kid’s Market is a chance for kids to shop for everyone on their holiday lists with the assistance of Santa’s helpers. Parents or guardians will help submit a list of all gifts that need to be purchased, the budgets for each person, and then wait while the kids have the opportunity to shop in secret. Once their shopping is complete, children will have the opportunity to have the gifts wrapped and bundled before returning to their parents with their holiday shopping complete!

Each child will have around 30 – 45 minutes to shop for everyone on their list. Santa’s helper will help kids stick to their budget, make sure they get something for everyone on the list, and shop efficiently.

Drop-in shopping appointments will be available, but to ensure your shopping time, customers can reserve their shopping time here.

Santa Saturdays

Saturdays November 26 and December 3, 10, & 17
Santa is making four special trips to Downtown Iowa City to meet the area’s good girls and boys. Kids and families are invited to visit Santa as he visits downtown Iowa City at FilmScene in the Chauncey and drop off their letters and wishlists. Santa will be visiting FilmScene at the Chauncey from 11:30 am – 2:30 pm (404 E College St, Iowa City, IA). Visitors and families are welcome to visit Santa and capture their own photos.

Holiday Pop-Up Market Sponsored by GreenState Credit Union

November 26 – December 23

The Downtown Holiday Pop-Up Market sponsored by GreenState Credit Union returns this holiday shopping season to provide a festive and unique shopping experience for a number of pop-up shops. The three pop-up shops will officially open with stores on Small Business Saturday, November 26th featuring three businesses. The market will then see a rotating list of businesses popping in and out of them throughout December.

Come shop the Holiday Pop-Up Market to find a new small business to love or visit one of your favorites.

November 25-27, Friday-Sunday
-223 Baby Co.
-Pink Umbrella Bakery
-Beno’s Flowers

November 28- 30, Monday-Wednesday
-Downtown Market Shop
-Beno’s Flowers

December 1-4, Thursday-Sunday
-Tura Lura Co
-Volition Skate Co.

December 5-7, Monday-Wednesday
-Tura Lura Co
-Field & Finch (11am-4pm)
-Volition Skate Co.

December 8-11, Thursday-Sunday
-Tura Lura Co
-Field & Finch (11am-4pm)
-Volition Skate Co.

December 12-14, Monday-Wednesday
-ContempoLA & Dirty BIrdies Vintage
-Field & Finch
-Rhi Boutique

December 15-18, Thursday-Sunday
-Coco and Honey
-Field & Finch
-Made Community

December 19-21, Monday-Wednesday
-Coco and Honey
-Be Magicial
-Valerie’s French Cooking

December 22-24, Thursday-Sunday
-Be Magical

Teddy Bear Room at the Hilton Garden Inn

November 26 – January 1

Teddy Bears Galore!  The Downtown Teddy Bear Room is exactly how it sounds, for 5 weeks, there will be an entire room at the Hilton Garden Inn, filled with hundreds of teddy bears, big and small.

Opening November 26th until January 1st; families, children, everyone is invited to come hug a bear, take photos, and spread the holiday cheer.

Nolte Madrigal Dinner

December 9 – 11, 6:30 – 9:30 pm

Heigh-ho! Join us at The James for an evening of feasting, m’rriment and music in celebration of the Yuletide at the Nolte Madrigal Dinner.

It is the Yuletide of 1570 and Lord and Lady Carey invite you to feast at Hunsdon House! Enjoy a 4-course, locally sourced meal curated by Chef Dan Knowles and entertainment from Nolte’s adult Madrigal Singers, dancers from the Nolte Academy, members of Iowa City Youth Choir, live music from Prairie Piffari and more! This immersive, 3-hour dinner theatre experience includes wassail and soft drinks while beer and wine will be available for purchase. Come hungry and plan to leave full of delicious food and cheer! Grab seats to this must-be-at event with three seatings at The James Theater December 9, 10, & 11!

Festival of Carols

December 14, 6:30 pm

Celebrate the holidays with the return of our annual Festival of Carols on Wednesday, December 14! This family-friendly evening is the perfect activity for everyone — FREE and open to the public.

Get into the holiday spirit with this festive cornucopia of carols, cocoa, and stories, including special performances and a visit by Santa himself! Stay tuned for more details on this year’s performers and special guests. Free cookies and cocoa are provided by Gay & Ciha after the show!


  • Mayor Bruce Teague
  • Megan Gogerty
  • Princess Doma & Sapphire (drag performance)
  • Old Capitol Chorus

Small Business Saturday

Saturday, November 26

Small Business Saturday is an event that began in 2010 as a way to encourage people to shop at small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Small Business Saturday has become a national holiday campaign, and Downtown Iowa City as a regional center of locally owned businesses once again will celebrate in the importance behind shopping local. The City of Iowa City will be offering FREE PARKING in all downtown ramps for Small Business Saturday.

Tractor Wagon Rides sponsored by Hills Bank & Trust

Saturday November 26 and December 3, 10, & 17

There is no better way to take in the sights and sounds of the holiday season than a Tractor Wagon Ride around downtown. Enjoy a FREE whimsical ride in a decorated wagon pulled by an antique tractor provided by Bass Farms. Rides start at 10:00 am and go until 4:00 pm. 

Available times will be on a first-come-first-serve basis and are 100% free.  Rides will be every 15 minutes until 4:00 pm. Come to Hills Bank & Trust at the corner of Washington St & Clinton St. to check-in, wait in line, enjoy activities and get on the rides. 

Downtown Hunt for the Elves

November 26 – January 1

Over 50 Elves are hiding throughout Downtown Iowa City shops and restaurants! Join the Downtown Hunt for the Elves, a FREE kid-friendly scavenger hunt in downtown Iowa City, starting Saturday, November 26th. 

Once you have found the elves in each participating store, find their name, use the stamp provided at each business or write in the name of the elf on the card to show proof you found it. Turn in your completed cards after finding 10 or more elves to Iowa Book or the Iowa City Public Library in the Kid’s Department to receive a small prize and to be entered to win a grand prize gift basket.

See the full list of participating businesses here and print your elf card to bring with you to the stores to get stamped!

Holiday Retail Open House

December 3, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm 

Join our downtown shops for the annual Holiday Retail Open House!

Each participating retailer will be hosting a holiday party at their store that includes snacks, drinks, or a small gift for you at each stop.

Stay tuned for the list of participating shops.

The Nutcracker

December 2 – 4

The Englert Theatre and Nolte Academy are proud to present The Nutcracker! Five performances will be presented starting Friday, December 2 through Sunday, December 4.

This holiday classic comes to life with performances by dancers from Nolte Academy and features a live orchestra conducted by Carey Bostian. The ballet showcases exquisite costuming, enchanting sets, and captivating choreography under the direction of Nolte Ballet Director and Nutcracker Artistic Director, Loren Williams

DIY Free Gift Wrapping

November 12 – December 31

Need to wrap some holiday gifts in secret? Someplace where prying eyes can’t see? The Iowa City Public Library is offering a FREE Drop-in DIY Gift Wrapping from November 12 to December 31 in the Digital Media Lab on the 2nd floor. The gift-wrapping station will be open any time the library is open unless there is a class happening in the lab.

After a full day of shopping, bring your gifts to the Iowa City Public Library for an assortment of holiday gift wraps, gift bags, ribbons, and bows, or you can bring your own. They will have lots of scissors, tape, and plenty of space for you to wrap your gifts in secret.