'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, and photo-ops with Santa!

‘Tis the Season Holiday Kickoff

Thursday, November 9

Come kick off your holiday shopping on Thursday, November 9th from 5:00pm – 8:00pm in the heart of Downtown Iowa City! Holiday cheer will be in the air and your favorite retailers will have all the festive goodies available for purchase. There will be an abundance of activities to look forward to…grab your family and friends and make an evening of this one-night-only event.

Our Pop-up Markets will be making a reappearance in Black Hawk Mini Park! Wilson’s Orchard and Farm will be occupying the market as well as Fontenelle Supply Co. The ICDD will be handing out complimentary cider.

An old-school trolley will be making the rounds around the downtown, taking shoppers to and from the downtown and Northside Neighborhoods. The Iowa Hawkapellas, UI Old Gold, and Iowa Conservatory studnets will be singing a cappella throughout the evening, and last but not least, our holiday lights will be turned on for the first time this season!

See the full schedule, map, 30+ participating shops, and special offers.

Holiday Kid’s Market sponsored by GreenState Credit Union

November 13 – November 22

The Downtown Holiday Kid’s Market returns for its third year from November 13 until November 22, 11:00 a.m.- 7:00 p.m. Kids can have the opportunity to shop for everyone on their holiday lists with the assistance of Santa’s helpers. Parents or guardians can help submit a list of all the gifts that need to be purchased, the budgets for each person, and then wait while the kids shop in secret. Once their shopping is complete, children can get help wrapping the gifts and getting them bundled before returning to their parents with their holiday shopping complete!

Each child will get 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 their lists, and shop efficiently.

Drop-in shopping appointments will be available, but to ensure your shopping time, customers can reserve their shopping times in advance. Check back here soon to schedule your time!

Santa Saturdays

Saturdays November 25 and December 2, 9, & 16
Santa is making four special trips to Downtown Iowa City to meet the area’s good girls and boys. Families are invited to visit Santa as he makes his stops at FilmScene in the Chauncey. Kids are encouraged to drop off their letters and wishlists. Santa will be visiting FilmScene at the Chauncey from 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (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 9 – December 22

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 market will see a rotating list of businesses popping in and out of them throughout November and December with three different shops at each time.

Come shop the Holiday Pop-Up Market to find a new small business to love or visit one of your favorites. Check back here soon for a list of updated vendors and pop-ups happening this holiday season. From baked goods, clothing, jewelry, art, and more, there’s something for everyone to shop!

Nov 9 – 12

Wilson’s Orchard, Fontenelle Supply Co., Tribue Kicks

Nov 13 – 22

Downtown Holiday Kid’s Market

Nov 24 – 26

223 Baby Co., Daydreams Comics, Mike Stenerson Art

Nov 27 – 29

Sock Shop, Shop Strawberry Lane, Vice Iowa City

Nov 30 – Dec 3

Amana Woolen Mill, Tura Lura Co., Made Community

Dec 4 – 6

Holiday Shop & Basket Boutique, West Music, Ulysses Modern

Dec 7 – 10

Scrap Lab, Molly’s Cupcakes, Ulysses Modern

Dec 11 – 13

Atlas, Field & Finch, Avery McCoy Collection

Dec 14 – 17

Om Gifts for Body & Soul, Wilson’s Orchard, Field & Finch

Dec 18 – 20

Om Gifts for Body & Soul, Wilson’s Orchard, Valerie’s French Cooking

Dec 21 – 24

Om Gifts for Body & Soul, Valerie’s French Cooking, i2i Designs/Irma2Ivonne Designs

Teddy Bear Room at the Hilton Garden Inn

November 25 – December 31

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 25th until December 31st; families, children, and everyone is invited to come hug a bear, take photos, and spread the holiday cheer.

Nolte Madrigal Dinner

December 8 – 10

Good ‘morrow Lord’s and Lady’s, Knights, and Gentlewomen!  Your presence is requested at the 2nd Annual Nolte Madrigal Dinner whereupon we will feast on a 5-course meal crafted by Chef Daniel Knowles, make merry with dancers from ICON and the Nolte Academy, and listen to the lilting voices of Nolte’s Madrigal Singers and members of the Iowa City Youth Choir.  This 3-hour tour-de-Yuletide will transport you to 16th century England, so assemble your court and prepare for revelry full!

Holiday Market at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center

November 11 and December 16
The City of Iowa City’s Parks and Recreation Department’s annual Holiday Markets provide a wonderful opportunity to purchase thoughtful handmade gifts for your friends and loved ones while supporting local farmers and artisans. Vendors will offer a wide variety of products including homemade, handcrafted, seasonal gifts, and food available for purchase on November 11th and December 16th.

Small Business Saturday

Saturday, November 25

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 the importance of shopping locally. 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

Saturdays November 25 and December 2, 9, & 16

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 a.m. and go until 4:00 p.m. 

Available times will be on a first-come-first-serve basis and are 100% free. Rides will be every 15 minutes until 4:00 p.m. Come to Hills Bank in downtown at the corner of Washington St. & Clinton St. to check in, wait in line, enjoy activities, and hop on the rides. Riders will get a candy cane and option of grabbing a cozy blanket to bundle up in for the ride around the city.

Downtown Hunt for the Elves

November 25 – December 31

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 25th. 

Once you have found the elves in each participating store, find their name, use the stamp provided at each business, or write 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 be entered to win a grand prize gift basket.

Holiday Retail Open House

December 2, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. 

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.

The Nutcracker

December 1 – 3

The Englert Theatre and Nolte Academy are proud to present Iowa City’s annual production of The Nutcracker! Five performances will be presented starting Friday, December 1 through Sunday, December 3. 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.

Get a sneak peek of some of the costumes and performers at The James Theatre’s Nutcracker Tea on November 25th at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Tickets include a seated tea service, live piano accompaniment, meet and greet photos with Clara, Sugar Plum Fairy, and more, and the chance to win tickets to The Nutcracker.

Arts & Crafts Bazaar at Iowa City Public Library

December 2

Don’t miss the return of the Annual ICPL Arts & Crafts Bazaar on Saturday, December 2nd. There will be a wide selection of unique, one-of-a-kind gifts, from quilts and hand-knitted items to jewelry, holiday ornaments, and more, all donated by local artists and crafters. All proceeds from this year’s sale will benefit the ICPL Friends Foundation to support the collections and services of the Iowa City Public Library.

DIY Gift Wrapping at Iowa City Public Library

November 9 – 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 9 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.

Eastside Artists Annual Show & Sale

December 1 – 3

The Eastside Artists Show and Sale returns December 1 – 3 to a live show at the Masonic Building located at 312 E College Street in Downtown Iowa City. Stop by to see work from over 20 local artists and makers.

Carolers & Holiday Performances Downtown

December 8th

December 9th

  • Intersection: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. around downtown and Hills Bank Tractor Wagon Rides
  • UI Old Gold: 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. around downtown and Hills Bank Tractor Wagon Rides

December 10th

December 15th

December 16th

  • School of Rock Cedar Rapids/Marion: 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. around downtown and at the Hills Bank Tractor Wagon Rides
  • Chamber Singers of Iowa City: 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. around downtown and Hills Bank Tractor Wagon Rides
  • Iconoclasts from The Iowa Conservatory: 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. around downtown and Hills Bank Tractor Wagon Rides