Discover Ames

Merry & Bright Holiday Weekend


Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight

GET AN EARLY START ON THIS FESTIVE WEEKEND. Be sure to wear comfy shoes, because you have a lot to do tonight!

Start with WinterFest on the Iowa State campus. Park at the Memorial Union and head inside for the Holiday Art Mart (one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted gifts in the MU Gallery, open noon to 8 p.m.)

Then take the kids to make holiday crafts at The Workspace (4-8 p.m.) and take photos with Santa in the main lounge (4-7 p.m.) Don’t be disappointed if there’s a long line – you’ll have another opportunity to meet Santa later tonight (downtown) and tomorrow (at the Farm House Museum and Homewood Golf Course)…not to mention all season long at North Grand Mall.

If you still have time, the kids can enjoy cookie decorating & hot cocoa at 5 p.m. in the MU food court.


OTHER ACTIVITIES ARE HAPPENING ON CAMPUS TONIGHT, but you’ll want to be Downtown Ames in time for the 6 o’clock Snow Magic lighting ceremony. This annual holiday lighting ceremony is at Tom Evans Plaza. Bundle up and enjoy!

Stay downtown and take advantage of horse-drawn carriage rides, make ice sculptures at Duff Plaza, drop by Sweet Caroline’s for free hot cocoa, stroll the Main Street lights, and meet Santa. Great Harvest Bakery Café will have free cookie decorating, and many shops and restaurants will have holiday sales and promotions.


SNOW MAGIC ACTIVITIES end at 8 p.m. If you missed the opportunity to take a carriage ride, you’re still in luck: Carriage rides are available until 9:30 p.m. at Iowa State, and you’ll also get a chance to see the lighted tree on central campus.

After that, who knows? You can grab some late-night pizza at Great Plains Sauce & Dough on Main or Pizza Pit Express on Welch Ave. Both are open until 11 p.m.

Finally, if you’re up for it, you can work off those cookie and pizza calories with ice skating at the Ames/ISU Ice Arena (1507 Gateway Hills Park Dr.). Admission is free to the first 600 people, and the arena is open from 9 p.m. to midnight.



START YOUR SATURDAY with Dad’s Belgian Waffles at the Iowa Arboretum near Madrid. Ten bucks will get you all-you-can-eat hot malted waffles with butter, whipped cream, and syrup, plus a side of sausage. Serving hours are 9-11:30 a.m., and kids aged 5 and younger eat free.

Then head back to Ames for some holiday shopping. Stores in Downtown Ames, North Grand Mall, and throughout the city are decked out with seasonal décor and post-Black-Friday deals.

For a less commercial activity, enjoy Yuletide at the Farm House Museum on the ISU campus any time between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. for crafts, treats, holiday history, and photos with Santa.

Later this afternoon, you won’t want to miss TUBACHRISTMAS at Stephens Auditorium. More than 120 festively decorated tubas, euphoniums, baritones, and sousaphones will create a rich choir of holiday favorites. The fun begins at 3 p.m.

Buy tickets in advance for your timed entry to Reiman Gardens’ Winter Wonderscape Holiday Light Show tonight. It just might be the highlight of your entire weekend. Bundle up, and be prepared to be dazzled! Tickets are available from 5-8 p.m. for this walk-through holiday light extravaganza, but if you’re unable to get tickets (they do sell out!), the event takes place every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening in December.

After strolling through the lights, grab a Wally dip or some street tacos at Wallaby’s Bar & Grille in north Ames. Kids are crazy for the mac & cheese and mini corn dogs. Or warm up with whiskey drinks at Noir. The distinctive, Prohibition-era bar is open until midnight.



Start your morning with brunch at The Café or Provisions Lot F. Just be sure to hop on the waitlist to shorten your wait time. Whichever restaurant you choose, you can’t go wrong with the fancy French toast.

Today’s big event is a train ride. Grab the kids and head west to Boone for a ride on the Santa Express. Buy tickets in advance for the 10:30 a.m. ride. (Other excursion times are available this weekend, although train rides do tend to sell out, so don’t delay.)

Don’t have kids? Skip the train to the North Pole and just drive to the north side of Ames and stroll through the Beautiful Land Holiday Market at Prairie Moon Winery, open from noon to 5 p.m. (It’s also open Friday night and Saturday, if that works better in your schedule.) Beautiful Land offers a curated selection of unique gifts from local makers and collectors, so you’re likely to find something special for everyone on your list.

Round out your holiday weekend with a Holiday Festival of Music concert at Stephens Auditorium at 3 p.m.

And that’s it! What a weekend! And we didn’t even include everything…so check out and create your own itinerary!


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