There's no place like Iowa this holiday season, as events around the state offer timeless escapes and memorable activities for kids from one to 92. And an Iowa getaway doesn't mean visitors need to trim their gift-giving budget. Money-saving coupons at www.traveliowa.com tempt travelers with great deals at hotels, bed and breakfasts and tourism destinations around the state.
Here's a sampling of what's exciting in Iowa this holiday season. Visit traveliowa.com to take advantage of many more savings opportunities.
* Weihnachtsfest, Manning
November 26 - December 12
800-292-0252 or 712-655-3131
Despite the nippy weather, residents of Manning extend a cozy "willkommen" during the community's annual celebration of its rich German heritage. A stunning fireworks show opens this ethnic Christmas festival that also features a lighted holiday parade, music, living windows displays, food and a visit from Santa. A Christmas Cantata caps off the festivities on December 12.
* Santa's Castle, Storm Lake
November 25 - December 30
712-732-3780 or 888-752-4692
Old Saint Nick himself wouldn't miss this yearly collection of 100 antique animated holiday figures on display in Storm Lake's historic Carnegie Library. Valued at more than $300,000, these old-time mechanical figurines continue to enchant guests, many years after they graced the storefronts of major department stores. A four-decade tradition, Santa's Castles hosts more than 8,000 visitors each year who come here to chat with Santa, marvel at the displays and enjoy the new Castle Railroad model train layout.
* Pella Historical Village Christmas Walk
November 20 - Dec. 31 (excluding Sundays)
Evergreens, birds, berries, angels, wreaths and candles combine to create a festive holiday atmosphere at the 24th annual Pella Historical Village Christmas Walk. Self-guided tours take visitors through the lavishly decorated Interpretive Center, the childhood home of Wyatt Earp, the heavenly smelling Dutch Bakery, the pottery shop and more. Throughout 22 buildings, more than 30 spectacular Christmas trees illuminate the season.
* Winterfest, Dubuque
December 3- 5
Christmas gets cultural in Dubuque during Winterfest: A Cultural Celebration. Special events and open houses invite visitors to boutique stores, art galleries and the Dubuque Museum of Art. Live entertainment includes a symphony, madrigal, and theater performances. Visitors may don their finest attire to attend a Holiday Ball, take a trolley tour through historic Dubuque or tour Victorian homes at the Victorian Progressive Dinner. Events for children including breakfast with Santa, gift and ornament-making workshops, story time and a tree lighting ceremony.
* Ecumenical Concert, Waukon
563-568-3435 or 563-568-2624
For nearly three decades, hundreds of music lovers from Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin have gathered in Waukon where a small community puts together a big show. At the heralded Ecumenical Concert, more than 125 local performers present the sights and sounds of the season, including a brass choir, bell choir, and men's, women's and children's choirs.
* Tannenbaum Forest, Amana Colonies
November 26 - 28, December 3-5, 11- 12
800-579-2294 or 319-622-7622
In the midst of the Amana Colonies' 150th birthday celebration, the renovated century-old Festhalle Barn welcomes visitors this December to marvel at 50 live, decorated, locally cut Christmas trees. Area merchants decorate the trees, create a 16-foot Christmas Pyramid, nativity scene and music box characters. In honor of the Colonies' sesquicentennial, three vignettes will illustrate Amana homes - from 1855, 1904 and 1954 - decorated for the season. On December 4 and 5, costumed interpreters will explain Christmas traditions of Amana.
* Christmas by the Lake
December 3 - 5, 2004
800-285-5338 or 641-357-2159
What began as a day-long celebration has grown into a three-day extravaganza in Clear Lake, where thousands of visitors flock for holiday fun. So many events make up Christmas by the Lake that each of Santa's elves can stay busy enjoying the Festival of Trees, tour of homes, trolley and horse-drawn carriage rides, strolling Victorian characters, evening lighted parade and much more. The annual event concludes with fireworks over frozen Clear Lake.