'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 FREE horse drawn trolley rides from Country Gentleman’s Horse Drawn Carriage sponsored by Hills Bank & Trust, to holiday productions in Downtown theaters and FREE photos with Santa.

*New* Holiday Pop-Up Market

Nov. 25 –  Dec. 23
Thursday – Saturday
11AM – 7PM

There is no other place like Downtown for the holidays! Come experience the holiday season with our first ever, Holiday Pop-Up Shops for 5 weeks, sponsored by UICCU! A brand new concept for Downtown Iowa City, this will not be your usual one-day market, locally designed by AKAR ARchiTecture, the three shops will transform Black Hawk Mini Park into a festive holiday destination. For 5 weeks, the three full heated, beautifully designed Pop-Up shops will feature new shops!

Schedule for Shops: 

  • November 25-26 : Small Business Saturday/ Downtown Experts, BLU Collar, Whitties Knitties & Two Ten Designs
  • November 30-December 2: Glassando, RAYGUN, Molly’s Cupcakes
  • December 7-9: AKAR, Full Kit, West Music
  • December 14-16: AKAR, Textiles, Revival
  • December 21-23: Ten Thousand Villages, Whoa Nelli, Catherine’s

Santa Saturday

Nov. 25, Dec. 2, 9,16
11:30am – 2:30pm

Santa will leave his busy workshop for four special trips Downtown to meet the area’s good girls and boys. Families can enjoy FREE photos with the jolly ol’ fella at FilmScene (118 E. College St.).

Holiday Gingerbread House Competition

December 10th
1pm – 8pm

For all gingerbread lovers and connoisseurs! Join us for a gingerbread house competition from 1 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the beautiful hotelVetro, in the events and meeting halls. There will be two 2 hour shifts of the competition with 1 hour and 30 minutes for creating and 30 minutes for judging and awards. Winners will be announced and receive a prize at the end of each shift. The first competition will be from 1pm – 3pm and the second competition will be from 6pm – 8pm. Each competition will have a 12 and Under Category and an All Ages Category. There will be a Professionals Category during the        6 pm-8 pm competition. Tickets are $40/gingerbread house and each house can have up to 4 decorators. Candy will be provided, and participants can also bring extra supplies. A cash bar will also be available serving up holiday drinks and hors d’oeuvres.  Get Tickets NOW! and RSVP on our Facebook Page.

Mystery Giving SHop

Dec. 11 – Dec 13, Dec. 18 – Dec. 20
11AM – 7PM

Giving back this holiday season just got A LOT easier! Come down and shop at our Mystery Giving Shop, get yourself something, buy a present or two and 100% of the proceeds will go to United Way! All gifts are from your favorite downtown Iowa City shops!
Guess what is even better?! Our sponsor, UICCU will match the proceeds! Double your donation and all you have to do is shop!

Horse Drawn Carriage Rides Sponsored by Hills Bank and Trust

Nov. 25, Dec. 2, 9, 16
11:30am – 2:30pm

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. (“TICKETS” WILL BE HANDED OUT AT HILLS BANK AND TRUST IN DOWNTOWN IOWA CITY, STARTING AT 11AM, EACH SATURDAY)

Small Business 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 in the importance behind shopping local.

Holiday Retail Open House

December 2
10am – 5pm

Join our downtown retailers for a holiday open house! Each participating retailer will be hosting a holiday party in their store that includes snacks, drinks, or a gift for you at each stop. Participating retailers include: Akar, Bread Garden, Catherine’s, Dulcinea, Glassando, Home Ec, Iowa Artisans Gallery, Moss, Over the Moon, Prairie Lights, Revival, Tailgate, Velvet Coat, Ten Thousand Villages, Discerning Eye, Domby, Hands, MC Ginsberg, RSVP, and Textiles. Enjoy a free trolley ride to and from the Thieves Market at the Iowa Memorial Union (IMU). The trolley will be running from 10am – 6pm and making stops outside the IMU, Washington St., and Market St.

Downtown Hunt for the Elves

November 25 – January 1

Join us for a FREE kid-friendly scavenger hunt in downtown Iowa City! Starting Saturday, November 25th, there will be elves hiding in different downtown businesses waiting to be found! Once you have found the elves in each participating store, fill out the “I have found _____” cards and turn them in to 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. See the entire list of participating businesses here!

Downtown teddy bear room

Nov. 27 – Nov. 29, Dec. 3 – Dec. 6
11AM – 7PM

Come see Teddy Bears galore! Yes, the Teddy Bear Room is exactly how it sounds, for 7 dates, one of the Holiday Market Pop-Up shops will be filled with over 100 teddy bears, big and small! On November 27-29, December 3-6; families, children and anyone is invited to come by hug a bear, and take photos with the bears. The Teddy Bear Room is made possible by the The Eastern Iowa Airport – CID! Who doesn’t need to hug a bunch of Teddy Bears every once in awhile?!
The best part… Following the closure of the Teddy Bear Room for the season,the teddy bears will be donated to United Way of Johnson & Washington Counties to be distributed to children in the community!