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.