Iowa boasts miles of vast corn fields interspersed by charming small towns. While Des Moines is the largest city in the state, it’s still considered relatively quaint compared to other metropolitan areas. If you’re looking for a cozy wintry getaway, then book a stay at one of many incredible Iowa vacation rentals. Look forward to spending time connecting with your family, exploring the outdoors, and visiting museums and other prominent cultural centers. Here are the most beautiful places in Iowa to see Christmas lights.
1. Le Mars
Located each year at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds, the Pioneer Village Christmas Wonderland in Le Mars is a great place to spend an afternoon and early evening. The lights and village go up the week of Thanksgiving and continue throughout December. This village uses more than 80,000 lights on displays of all shapes and sizes. Your family can enjoy the sounds of their favorite holiday tunes as you wander through the village and gaze at the lights. In one of the buildings, Christmas trees are put on display with various themes, and another building serves as Santa’s home base to pose for photos with the kids. There’s a concession stand in the village where you can grab a hot chocolate or cup of coffee to stay warm and a gift shop with Christmas decorations, ornaments, and small items that you can use as stocking stuffers or last-minute Christmas gifts. On some nights, there is live music and dance performances.
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Wyoming is known as Christmas City in Iowa. Each year, the town creates a canopy of Christmas lights across the streets of the downtown area. This display runs for four blocks, and the lights crisscross the buildings and sides of the street. You can drive to see them or walk the four blocks and visit some of the local shops. In the first week of December, the town celebrates the holiday and lights the town’s Christmas tree. This yearly event includes the official lighting of the tree followed by a low-key meal at Memorial Hall that the entire town and visitors can attend. On that day, Calkin’s Barn hosts a crafts bazaar with vendors from around the area offering handmade items that you can use as a gift or keep for yourself. Upstairs, there’s usually a bake sale to benefit one of the local churches or special-interest groups.
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3. Windsor Heights
Each year, residents around Windsor Heights vie to win the holiday lighting contest and flood their yard with lights and other holiday decorations. More than 120 families take part in this contest each year, and they use lights, Christmas trees, blow-up Santa dolls and other critters, and a host of other decorative items to try and impress the judges. Plan to drive slowly through the neighborhoods so you don’t miss any of the homes involved. Walking isn’t an option since the contestants are spread out all over town.
During the day, the town of Windsor Heights has some cool stores to pick up last-minute Christmas gifts, such as Celtic Traditions and JT’s Slapshot Hockey Shop. Stop by European Flavors, and pick up some gourmet treats from around the world to make an amazing dinner back at your vacation rental. Baru 66 is a great place for an evening meal with its seasonal French dishes.
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Starting at the end of November and running through the end of the year, the Annual Symphony of Lights in Eagle Point Park in Clinton provides a fun evening and captures the imagination of children with its Christmas lights. Each year, more than half a million lights spread out over more than 40 displays that create traditional Christmas scenes. The only way to see this display is to drive through it in the warmth of your car, and there is a small fee for each vehicle.
In the daytime, you can enjoy a tour of a Dutch windmill, and then take a gander at the Sawmill Museum to learn more about the country’s logging industry. One evening, take older family members to the Wild Rose Casino and Resort to try their luck at a couple of games of chance. For meals, check out the Old Town Family Restaurant, and start out each morning with a hearty breakfast at Jenny’s Diner.
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5. Amana Colonies
From the week of Thanksgiving to the end of December on the weekends only, the Tannenbaum Forest in Amana Colonies is a hot spot for seeing holiday lights. Find a vacation rental close to the annual event that features more than 40 Christmas trees decked out in a rainbow of lights. The trees are housed inside, so you don’t need to bundle up. Another annual holiday event is the Amana International Christmas Market that’s patterned after the ones in Germany. Expect to find vendors selling everything from Christmas decorations and ornaments to antiques and handmade jewelry. Some vendors at the market offer hot beverages to keep you warm while you browse.
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