11 Best Small Town Christmas Celebrations in the Midwest

Dana Pitchford
From live nativities to evening Christmas parades, Midwest Christmases can't be beat!

Throughout the Midwest, dozens of small towns allow you to experience the Spirit of Christmas with their holiday festivities. Take in the beautiful light displays, holiday celebrations, and meetings with the big jolly man himself as you celebrate the season in a fun, festive small town!

Sparkling lights, festive parades, and tons of holiday-themed fun await at these Christmas celebrations. Head to these uique small towns where you can get in the spirit, enjoy the fun, and create new traditions with your family. 


City of Christmas[1]

Keokuk, IA

During your stay in Keokuk, head over to the City of Christmas at Rand Park for the almost 100 original beautiful light displays that are created by local citizens. First established in 1989, City of Christmas helps you get in the spirit of the holiday season. The displays include Santa’s Workshop, a Nativity scene, a Toyland with wind-up dolls and a moving train, Santa’s barn with reindeer and elves, the Heavenly Christmas with white-robed angels, multiple views of Christmas around the world, and many more exciting creations with approximately one million lights.


Huron Christmas Lanes[2]

Huron, S

Visit Huron during the holidays, where you can indulge in the beautiful decorations created from the local residents’ imagination. In 1962, each home along Campbell Drive put up a giant candy cane built of stove pipe, painted white, and decorated with red oilcloth. Today, the tradition of the Huron Christmas Lanes continues and there are now over 40 lanes that participate in the tradition, although the number grows annually. The Huron Chamber & Visitors Bureau also holds a Parade of Lights[3] which runs through the heart of downtown on the Friday after Thanksgiving.


Dickens Village Festival[4]

Garrison, ND
November 25-27, December 2-3, 9-10, 2016

The Dickens Village Festival transforms the city into the Christmas Capitol of North Dakota for the three weekends following Thanksgiving. This Victorian family festival features a craft vendor show, lighted parade, street food vendors, daily entertainment, house tours, and a performance of “A Christmas Carol” in celebration of Charles Dickens. During the festival, visitors can enjoy the annual Fruit Cake Toss, which offers participants a number of prizes in several categories.


Wonderland in Lights[5]

Effingham, IL
November 25 – January 2, 2017

Every year, the city of Effingham and the Effingham Convention and Visitors Bureau turn the local Community Park into a beautiful winter wonderland. Head to the Wonderland in Lights, a delightful drive-thru light display that features a variety of lighted holiday scenes including flying reindeer, Santa coming down the chimney, and a Nativity scene. Every Saturday, Santa visits the Wonderland in Lights to bring special presents to the children during this free activity. While in Effington, be sure to also stop by the World’s Largest Cross, which is 198 feet tall and 113 feet wide.


Christmas City Lights[6]

Minden, NE
November 25 – December 31, 2016

Visit Nebraska’s Christmas City for the spectacular Christmas lights that adorn the Kearney County Courthouse. These beautiful lights that can be seen for miles have been up since 1915 and only during the blackout years of World War II has the Kearney County Courthouse been dark during the holiday season. Additionally, every year local residents put together “The Light of the World” Christmas pageant, which brings to life the Biblical story of Christmas and has been performed on the sides of the courthouse square since 1946, now under the light of more than 15,000 bulbs. The beautiful light display remains lit until midnight every night from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. While in town, you can experience a number of other holiday events, including an ice rink, photos with Santa, crowing of Miss Christmas City, a parade, musical concerts, Art on the Square with live music, and more. 


WaKeeny Christmas Bazaar and Tree Lighting Ceremony[7]

WaKeeney, KS
November 26, 2016

Since 1950, WaKeeney has held the official tree lighting ceremony for the Christmas City of the High Plains on the Saturday evening following Thanksgiving when Santa Claus arrives to flip the switch and light up the WaKeeney holiday wonderland. Earlier that day, visitors can attend the annual Christmas Bazaar at the Trego County Fairgrounds for food vendors, handmade items, musical entertainment, and door prizes.


Christmas Card Town Parade and Tree Lighting[8]

Elkhorn, WI
December 2 – 3, 2016

Head to Elkhorn, Wisconsin for small town comfort and joy for the holiday season during the annual Town Christmas Tree Lighting with Santa Claus and a special helper. Then, head to the Matheson Memorial Library for the Santa and Mrs. Claus Reception, where visitors can enjoy hot chocolate, cookies, music, and crafts while the children line up to sit on Santa’s lap. The following day, grab a seat downtown to watch the annual Christmas Card Town Parade for views of the decorated floats, novelty acts, music, animals, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus.


Santa Claus Christmas Celebration[9]

Santa Claus, IN
December 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 2016

Head to America’s Christmas hometown during the first three weekends of December for the Santa Claus Christmas Celebration. While visiting the town, you can watch the annual Santa Claus Christmas Parade, enjoy an old-fashioned campfire at Santa’s Candy Castle, or browse through homemade crafts and goodies at the Santa Claus Arts & Crafts Show. Drive through the 1.2-mile Land of Lights at Lake Rudolph to hear the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and buy the specialty stamps, which are designed by a local high school student each year, at the Santa Claus Post Office. Also enjoy a number of festive stores and gift shops or the Brew Ho Ho beer fest, which features of a number of local breweries. 


Annual Holiday Christmas Festival[10]

Ste. Genevieve, MO
December 3 – 4, 2016

Experience a wonderland of Christmas festivities in Ste. Genevieve during the Annual Holiday Christmas Festival on the first weekend in December. Celebrate 500 years of holiday-themed music, performed by the region’s renowned musicians in historic churches and downtown venues. The festival includes caroling, colonial decorations, photos with Santa for the kids, a memorable Christmas parade, and fun events like the Ste. Genevieve Art Show & Sale. Head to the Welcome Center Saturday night for an old-fashioned Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Throughout the entire holiday season, you can visit the Linden House Historic District at dusk for the Vieux Noel in Lights. Nearby St. Louis also offers up some unique Christmas events such as their famous Christmas festival. 


McCurtain County Christmas Parade & Tree Lighting Ceremony[11]

Broken Bow, OK
December 5, 2016

Home of the beautiful Broken Bow Lake, this small Oklahoma town offers holiday visitors a wide array of fun activities. In addition to the beautiful lights and Christmas decorations, Broken Bow is home to the McCurtain County Christmas Parade in early December. Be sure to stay for the annual tree lighting ceremony and Downtown Dazzles at Christmas celebrations on Main Street.


31st Annual Candy Cane Lane[12]

Pocahontas, AR
December 22 – 24, 2016

Throughout the holiday season, Pocahontas offers a wide range of exciting holiday events. At the beginning of the month, the annual Christmas parade winds through the city streets and the Randolph County Heritage Museum on the town square serves dinner and baked goods to parade viewers. During the Christmas season, the 1872 Old Courthouse and other historic buildings in downtown Pocahontas are alight with holiday decorations. Be sure to head over to Candy Cane Lane on Maple Street, a road lined with candy canes and lights where Santa and his elves will hand out treats to children on Christmas Eve. 

From parades to light displays, plays, and pageants, the Midwest has many wonderful things to offer visitors. Have you visited any of these exciting holiday celebrations? Please share your stories in the comments, and don’t forget to Like and Share!


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