Jolly Holiday Lights (outside) video

After over two decades of being a lengthy, drive-through Christmas light event, Jolly Holiday Lights is now a free-to-see light display at the Outlets of Des Moines in Altoona. There are displays surrounding the shopping plaza, and some large ones on top of the building. This means you could just drive around the Outlets and see some displays, but with all the parking lot lights on, it’s not quite as magical as driving through Water Works Park in the dark to view them.

The real cool displays are inside the courtyards of the Outlets. There are several large Christmas trees that perform synchronized light shows to music throughout the evening. Down some of the hallways are colorful light strung high across the walkways that also animate with cool rainbow colors.

Since all of this is outdoors, wrap up warmly if you plan to view the shows. When we visited, it was cold and snowing. It was beautiful, but we did not stay too long due to the temperatures.

If you are expecting the Jolly Holiday Lights you are familiar with, you may be disappointed. So, instead, think of this as some beautiful outdoor lights at a shopping plaza. It’s a super display when you judge it by what it is — rather than what it used to be. My only wish is that Make a Wish would have given this new edition a different name, such as the “Make a Wish Light Display” or similar, since we have already been hearing from friends who did not understand what the display was this year, and were disappointed after driving out there.

Since this is a free event, be sure to drop by the Wish Store where you can make a purchase and contribute towards Make a Wish. There are also a few special-ticket events (such as a meal with Santa) you can attend. See their website for details.

Here is a short video montage of the outside lights you can see from the parking lot. If you plan to shop this Christmas, consider a trip to Altoona to visit the Outlets of Des Moines — and the lights will be a nice bonus to your shopping trip.

Jolly Holiday Lights – November 25, 2023

New Renaissance festival coming to Ames

11/23/2023 Update: There is also the St. Andrews Renaissance Faire in Ames. 2023 was its third year.

The new Ames Renaissance Faire has been announced for April 13-14, 2024. Very few details have been released so far, but their website currently says:

Opening Ceremony at 11am!

Join us and step back in time for the first Ames Renaissance Faire located at 1400 S 4th St Ames, IA. 

Watch sword fights, circus acts, fire-eating, sword-swallowing and enter on a quest to find the town bandit!

The 4th Street location is the property used by the Ames Haunted Forest in October.

The Ames Renaissance Faire makes the third new Renaissance festival added to Iowa since the Des Moines Renaissance Faire (2004-2015, 2019-2021) ceased operations. There was a time when Iowa had as many as seven Renaissance festival events in a year, and we are now back (or beyond) that number. Huzzah!

Here are the currently operating Renaissance festivals, from oldest to newest:

  1. Iowa Renaissance Festival (1992-current) – Amana Colonies
  2. Kingdom of Riverssance (2004?-current) – Sioux City
  3. Sleepy Hollow Renaissance Faire (2016-current) – Des Moines
  4. Midlands Renaissance Revel (2018-current) – Council Buffs
  5. St. Andrews Renaissance Faire (2021-current) – Ames
  6. Travelers Renaissance Village (2023-current) – Greenfield
  7. Fairfield Renaissance Faire (2023-current) – Fairfield
  8. Ames Renaissance Faire (2024 announced) – Ames

More to come…

Smoking GOAT Pub

Earlier this year, Smoking GOAT Pub opened on Merle Hay Rd. It is in a strip mall just south of Merle Hay Mall. By name, I wondered if it might be a place specializing in BBQ smoked goat, but I learned it was a sports themed “Greatest Of All Time” place.

Smoking Goat Pub on Merle Hay

It is a restaurant/bar so all ages are welcome. It even has a children’s menu. The normal menu features things like burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and a unique “Boudin” brat. (Boudin is a rice/meat thing popular around Louisiana, and this brat allows a similar taste served on a bun.)

Boudin Brat at Smoking Goat Pub

The drink menu features cocktails and craft beers (a selection on tap or in cans/bottles) as well as seltzers and even Climbing Kites “cannabis infused” canned drinks.

On weekends, they serve a breakfast featuring a plate (eggs, meat, thick hash brows and toast), build-your-own bowl/burrito, and some of the best biscuits and gravy we have had anywhere.

Breakfast Plate at Smoking Goat Pub.

The interior is much classier than the surrounding strip mall might suggest, with fancy light fixtures, a nice bar and modern seating. The prices are closer to that of a dive bar, so it’s an interesting mix of “looks fancy” and “is affordable.”

The classy bar at Smoking Goat Pub.

In addition to weekend breakfast, they also have been doing nightly specials. We’ve visited several times on Monday night for good southern fried catfish, chicken and rib tips — with classic southern sides such as fried okra, collard greens and black eyed peas. On these nights, Shelby’s Southern Smokehouse takes over the kitchen. We used to love eating at Fat Tuesday when it was open across town, and are happy to find another place to get great catfish.

Money night catfish at Smoking Goat Pub.

With a name like Smoking goat, in a city where smoking is not allowed indoors, they do at least have a new offering that is smoking — smoked drinks. You can get “BBQ whiskey” smoked up for an interesting taste, or something like a smoky Old Fashioned. They only started offering these in recent weeks, and they have already become popular.

Smoking drink at Smoking Goat Pub

The staff has also been super friendly. There are four owners to the place, so you may encounter one of them during a visit. During our breakfast this morning, their chef, Rudolf Cabezas, came out to introduce himself and chat with us. He showed us photos of some spectacularly artistic fruit trays he makes for special events (like, carved sculptures made out of fruit – very impressive). He let us know that Thursday will soon feature items like street tacos, nachos, quesadillas and other Mexican dishes.

Rudy Sandoval, chef at Smoking Goat Pub, also does food presentations for special events.

As you can tell, this is not a typical “sports bar” with beer and wings. Though they do have wings. And beer. And TV screens. And a pool room. And speaking of the pool room, it features a mural painted by a local artist, as well as a photo wall featuring famous athletes from Iowa.

Mural at Smoking Goat Pub (sorry for the low quality photo; this was exported from a 360 video I took).

These days, I am not much of a sports fan, but we have been to Smoking Goat Pub many times during the day. While the TVs will always be on, they play an interesting mix of music (and a digital jukebox is on the wall). I expect the vibe is quite different on a game night.

It’s worth checking out. Find them at 3015 Merle Hay Rd, Des Moines, IA 50310 and tell ’em Doing Des Moines sent ya 😉

Magee’s Irish Pub & Eatery

Today I visited Magee’s Irish Pub & Eatery in Ankeny. They are a local, family-owed restaurant that has a fantastic menu of Irish foods such as Shepherd’s Pie, Bangers and Mash, and even Scotch Eggs. (These sounds more exotic than it really is – bangers are just sausages, and mash is mashed potatoes, for example.)

For lunch, I had the Tipperary Irish Stew. Even the presentation of the mashed potatoes was fancy 😉

Tipperary Irish Stew at Magee’s Irish Pub & Eatery

They also have an incredible bar featuring great import beers, whiskeys and more. It’s quite the experience. And, once a month, there is an Irish Jam where a bunch of musicians gather and play Irish tunes. (We went for that this past Tuesday night.) Fun place!

Magee’s Irish Pub & Eatery

They are located at 1610 Southwest Main St. in Ankeny, IA in that complex that has all the restaurants, shops, and bars. If you’ve ever visited B&B Theatres you have been practically next door.

A video interview with them will be posted shortly.

The Haunt keyholder challenge, day 2

Did folks who left a comment get a special clue? According to the Facebook post from yesterday, which has now been edited, they were told to check their inboxes.



Slaughterhouse Facebook post update.

Did the rest of us just miss out?

Or did some commenters say the right thing, figuring out something in that original post?