Des Moines Water Lantern Festival – A Must-See Lighting Event


Scroll down to view pricing

Festival highlights

Dive into the breathtaking world of the Des Moines Water Lantern Festival – a luminous celebration of community, peace, love, and hope, all under the Iowa skies.

des moines water lantern main

About the Des Moines Water Lantern Festival

The Des Moines Water Lantern Festival stands out as an extraordinary and highly-anticipated celebration, blending the ethereal beauty of water lanterns with a profound sense of community, love, peace, and hope. It is a festival of lights where attendees are invited to reflect on their lives, honor memories of departed loved ones, and set free their deepest wishes and aspirations on the water’s surface. The serene glow of lanterns, each with its unique message, creates a spectacle of light that captivates the heart.

But the festival is more than just lanterns; it is an experience filled with live music that sets the mood, engaging games that bring laughter, and an array of food trucks offering delicious bites to fuel the evening’s festivities. Aside from that, attendees are also encouraged to tap into their creative spirits by designing and decorating their lanterns, adding a personal touch to the collective light show. This creative activity not only enhances the festival’s vibrancy but also allows individuals to express themselves in a communal tapestry of light.

In essence, the Des Moines Water Lantern Festival is a beacon for those seeking to celebrate life, love, and remembrance in a uniquely illuminating way. It offers a chance to pause, reflect, and connect with others under a canopy of twinkling lights that dance on the water. Whether you’re there to remember, to wish, or simply to enjoy an evening of beauty and entertainment, this festival promises an unforgettable experience where water lanterns and the spirit of togetherness shine brightest.

Festival Dates (2024)

The Des Moines Water Lantern Festival is set to illuminate the night on July 20, 2024. This unique festival of lights offers a memorable evening where community and individual aspirations come together in a radiant display. Attendees will have the opportunity to launch their lanterns as dusk falls, setting the scene for a breathtaking spectacle. Ensure you’re part of this enchanting experience, a celebration of light, love, and unity.

des moines water lantern 1
An image inspired by the captivating Des Moines Water Lantern Festival

Where It’s Located and How to Get There

The highly-anticipated water lantern festival finds its home in the scenic RiverView Park, located at 710 Corning Ave, Des Moines, Iowa, United States. Nestled along the banks of a picturesque water body, this location promises an enchanting backdrop for the festival’s myriad of twinkling lights and reflective lanterns. The park’s open spaces and serene environment offer the perfect canvas for this event, where the water becomes a mirror to the night sky, adorned with lanterns carrying hopes and dreams.

RiverView Park is conveniently situated just a short distance from Des Moines International Airport, the nearest airport, making it easily accessible for visitors traveling from afar. The airport provides several transportation options for attendees:

  • Taxi Service: Taxis are readily available at the airport, offering direct transportation to RiverView Park.
  • Ride-Sharing: Services like Uber and Lyft operate in the area, providing convenient and flexible travel options.
  • Public Transportation: While less direct, public buses serve routes that connect the airport to the vicinity of the park, requiring a transfer to a local route.

For those considering a journey by train, Des Moines acts as a nexus of connectivity despite not having a direct train service. Here’s how to reach the festival from nearby cities by train:

From Chicago, Illinois:

—Take an Amtrak train to Osceola, Iowa, then rent a car or use bus services for the remaining 50 miles to Des Moines.

From Minneapolis, Minnesota:

—Drive to Osceola, Iowa, to catch an Amtrak train, or opt for a bus service that directly connects Minneapolis to Des Moines.

From Omaha, Nebraska:

—Direct bus services are available to Des Moines, or you can drive to Osceola to connect via Amtrak.

If you liked this festival, you can also check out these other water lantern festivals:

Full Moon Lantern Festival

Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi

Festival Hours

For those who will attend, gates open at 6:00 PM, inviting attendees into a world bathed in the soft glow of anticipation for the evening ahead. The festival reaches its zenith at nightfall, when the launching of water lanterns transforms the river’s surface into a constellation of floating lights. 

Until 10:00 PM, the park becomes a realm where time slows, and the beauty of thousands of lanterns tells tales of hopes, dreams, and memories. This magical window, from dusk till the stars claim the sky, promises an unforgettable experience under the cloak of night.

des moines water lantern 2
An image inspired from the Des Moines Water Lantern Festival in Iowa

How Much Does It Cost to See the Des Moines Water Lantern Festival

Attending the Des Moines Water Lantern Festival is an experience priced to accommodate early birds and last-minute planners alike. Early ticket purchasers enjoy a reduced price of $28.33 until March 20, 2024, encouraging attendees to plan ahead for this mesmerizing night. Following this period, the regular admission fee of $35.99 applies until July 12, making it accessible for those who decide closer to the event. As the festival date nears, prices rise to $45.99 for late buyers until July 19, with a final opportunity to join on the day of the event at $55.99.

Special pricing is in place for younger participants, making the festival a family-friendly affair. Youth tickets for children aged 8 to 14 are available for just $13.70, allowing families to introduce their children to the beauty of the festival at a modest cost. Kids 7 and below can enter for free, although they won’t receive a lantern kit, ensuring the event is accessible to families of all sizes. This pricing strategy ensures that everyone, regardless of age, can partake in the festival’s magic and wonder.

Each adult ticket is packed with value, not only granting entry but also providing a host of items designed to enhance the festival experience. Included in the purchase is a wristband for festival area access, a floating lantern kit to partake in the highlight activity, and an LED candle for a safe, flameless glow. Attendees also receive a commemorative drawstring bag, conversation and playing cards for entertainment, a marker for personalizing lanterns, and the assurance of lantern retrieval and water clean-up post-event. This comprehensive package ensures a memorable and responsible celebration of light, love, and community at the Water Lantern Festival.

Weather and What to Wear

In Des Moines, Iowa, July heralds the peak of summer, bringing with it warm days and comfortably cool evenings. Average daytime temperatures hover around the mid-80s°F (about 29°C), while nights can cool down to the mid-60s°F (around 18°C). This month is characterized by its long, sunny days, punctuated occasionally by brief and refreshing rain showers. Given the open-air nature of the Water Lantern Festival, this weather creates a perfect backdrop for enjoying the ethereal beauty of lanterns floating on water as the sun sets and the air cools.

For those planning to attend the festival, here are some clothing recommendations to ensure comfort and enjoyment:

  • Lightweight and breathable clothing: Opt for materials like cotton or linen to stay cool during the warmer daytime hours.
  • A light jacket or sweater: Essential for the cooler evenings, especially as the festival runs into the night.
  • Comfortable footwear: Since the festival involves walking and standing, choose shoes that will be comfortable for several hours.
  • Rain gear: A light rain jacket or a compact umbrella can be a lifesaver in case of unexpected showers.
  • Accessories: Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen will provide protection during the daytime, while a small, portable fan can offer additional comfort.

Where to Sleep – Hotels Nearby

Finding the perfect place to rest after a day filled with the magical glow of lanterns is crucial for a complete festival experience. Here are some recommended hotels nearby, offering comfort and convenience to attendees of the Des Moines Water Lantern Festival:

Hilton Des Moines Downtown

  • Location: 435 Park St, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
  • Description: A 3-star eco-certified hotel that stands in the heart of Des Moines, offering easy access to local attractions and festival sites.
  • Amenities: Free wi-fi; indoor pool; fitness center

Hotel Fort Des Moines, Curio Collection by Hilton

  • Location: 1000 Walnut St, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
  • Description: This 4-star hotel blends historical elegance with modern luxury, located within walking distance to dining, shopping, and entertainment venues.
  • Amenities: Fitness center; air-conditioned rooms

Hampton Inn West Des Moines Lake Drive

  • Location: 7060 Lake Dr, West Des Moines, IA 50266, United States
  • Description: An eco-certified 3-star hotel situated in a serene area of West Des Moines, providing a peaceful retreat with easy access to the festival.
  • Amenities: Free wi-fi; free parking; indoor pool

Where to Eat – Restaurants Nearby

Exploring the culinary landscape is an essential part of any festival experience, and Des Moines offers a plethora of dining options to satisfy your appetite. Here are some standout restaurants nearby where you can enjoy a delicious meal:


  • Location: 1003 Locust St, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
  • Description: A contemporary Italian wining-and-dining destination set in a high-ceilinged former Masonic temple, complete with outdoor seating and a private dining room, known for its great cocktails.
  • Foods Served: Centro crab cake burger, vegan sausage pizza, and classic Caesar salad, among others


  • Location: 200 10th St, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
  • Description: Offers Southern favorites and a wide selection of whiskies in a relaxed, stylish setting, featuring a patio, private dining room, and vegetarian options, along with happy hour specials.
  • Foods Served: Creole omelet, fried chicken, and avocado toast, among others.

The Royal Mile

  • Location: 210 4th St, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
  • Description: A British-style pub offering beer, Scotch, and pub grub in a casual atmosphere with a fireplace and soccer on TV, including happy hour specials and great cocktails.
  • Foods Served: Curried cashew chicken, fish sandwich, and crispy chicken tenders, among others.

More Things to Do in the Area

Discovering Des Moines doesn’t end with the Water Lantern Festival; the city is brimming with attractions that offer more adventures, cultural experiences, and natural beauty. Here are a few must-visit spots in the area:

Powered by GetYourGuide

Blank Park Zoo

  • Location: 7401 SW 9th St, Des Moines, IA 50315, United States
  • Description: A 49-acre zoological park on the south side of Des Moines, near historic Fort Des Moines, Blank Park Zoo is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and stands as the only accredited zoo in Iowa.
  • Activities to Explore: Discover a wide variety of animals from around the world; Participate in educational programs; Enjoy seasonal events and exhibitions.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

  • Location: 909 Robert D. Ray Dr, Des Moines, IA 50309, United States
  • Description: This botanical haven showcases seasonal blooms both outdoors and under the unique geodesic dome, offering a tranquil escape with educational programs and art shows.
  • Activities to Explore: Stroll through beautifully landscaped gardens; Attend workshops and lectures on horticulture; Experience the changing art exhibitions.

Salisbury House & Gardens

  • Location: 4025 Tonawanda Dr, Des Moines, IA 50312, United States
  • Description: Salisbury House is a Tudor, Gothic, and Carolean style manor home built between 1923 and 1928 by cosmetics magnate Carl Weeks and his wife, Edith Van Slyke Weeks, offering a glimpse into a bygone era on a wooded hill with commanding views.
  • Activities to Explore: Tour the historic manor and its exquisite collections; Explore the lush gardens surrounding the estate; Attend special events and educational programs hosted on the grounds.

An Illuminating Conclusion: Wrapping Up Your Unforgettable Journey at the Des Moines Water Lantern Festival

The Des Moines Water Lantern Festival offers a unique blend of beauty, serenity, and community spirit under the open skies of Iowa. It’s an event where the simple act of releasing lanterns into water becomes a profound communal gesture of hope, remembrance, and connection. 

Whether you’re drawn by the allure of the light show, the joy of crafting your own lantern, or the promise of gourmet food and live music, there’s something at this festival for everyone. As lanterns float away into the night, they leave behind memories that linger long after the lights dim, embodying the festival’s spirit of unity and peace.


Is there parking available at the festival?

Yes, parking is available near RiverView Park. Attendees are encouraged to arrive early to secure a spot, as spaces fill up quickly due to the festival’s popularity.

Are pets allowed at the Water Lantern Festival?

Pets are not allowed at the festival, with the exception of service animals. This policy ensures the comfort and safety of all attendees.

Can I bring my own food and drinks to the festival?

Attendees are welcome to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages. However, a variety of food trucks will also be available, offering a range of delicious options.

Is the festival accessible for people with disabilities?

Yes, the festival site is accessible for people with disabilities. There are designated parking areas and accessible restrooms available.

Is smoking allowed at the festival?

The Des Moines Water Lantern Festival is a smoke-free event. This includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and any form of vaping, to ensure a clean and enjoyable environment for everyone.

What should I do if it rains on the day of the festival?

The festival will proceed rain or shine. In case of severe weather, check the festival’s official website or social media channels for updates or potential rescheduling information.

Can I get a refund for my ticket if I am unable to attend?

For details and information on refunds, please visit the festival’s official website.

Are there any activities for children at the festival?

Yes, the festival is family-friendly with activities suitable for children, including lantern decorating and various games. Remember, children 7 and below enter for free but do not receive a lantern kit.

des moines water lantern 3
An image inspired by the Des Moines Water Lantern Festival


Recently Added Lights Festivals

Lights Festival Las Vegas

Lights Festival Las Vegas

Las Vegas is considered to be the Entertainment Capital of the World. One of the entertaining things you can do in Las Vegas is to witness the Christmas light show.

Read More »
Skip to content