With the festive season in full swing, it’s time to delve into the holiday events in Downtown Davenport and uncover its magic. You won’t want to miss the gorgeous tree displays, friendly business holiday decor competition, or pickle hunt throughout the downtown.
This post details four of the best holiday events that take place in Downtown Davenport during the season. Whether you prefer viewing beautiful decor or attending local celebrations, Downtown Davenport has the perfect events in store for you. Whether you’re a lifelong local or a first-time visitor, let’s deck the halls and jingle all the way through the best holiday activities in Downtown Davenport.
I visited Downtown Davenport in partnership with Madison Hummingbirds and Downtown Davenport Partnership, but all reviews and opinions are my own and I was not compensated to write this post.
When you make purchases through the links in my post, I may earn commissions at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As always, I only provide links to products and services I recommend. Read my full disclosure here.
Where is Davenport?
Davenport is an Eastern Iowa city located on the Mississippi River. It’s part of the Quad Cities area which is made up of Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline in Illinois on the other side of the Mississippi. Originally, East Moline was not part of the Quad Cities, hence the Quad.
Located halfway between Des Moines and Chicago (170 miles from each), Davenport is a great spot to stop on a Midwest roadtrip. It’s also just a two-and-a-half hour drive from Madison – use this Madison Destination Guide to extend your roadtrip.
Where to Stay in Downtown Davenport:
Downtown Davenport is home to several beautiful hotels, including The Blackhawk, The Current Iowa, and DoubleTree by Hilton. I stayed at The Current Iowa during my stay (An Autograph Property by Marriott Bonvoy) and loved it. The hotel was filled with beautiful artwork, included holiday decorations , and featured a fun rooftop bar: Up Skybar and Lounge.
I recommend staying downtown during your visit to Davenport because so much is within walking distance, eliminating the need to drive anywhere. However, there are also several hotels located a few miles from downtown Davenport that tend to have a lower nightly rate due to their distance from downtown and the riverfront.
Deck the Downtowns – Holiday Events in Downtown Davenport:
Quad City Arts’ Festival of Trees
136 E 3rd St, Davenport, IA 52801
From mid-November through Thanksgiving weekend, step into the RiverCenter during the Quad City Arts’ Festival of Trees to be transported into a holiday fantasy. With holiday tunes playing in the background, you’ll walk around and view over 150 designer displays including themed Christmas Trees, Mantle Displays, Gingerbread Houses, and a Holiday-Themed Model Railroad.
Some of my favorite displays included a pink Barbie-themed tree complete with Barbie and Ken dolls under the tree and a red and black Mickey Mouse mantle display with Cinderella’s castle framed above the fire.
There was also a section of the event just for gorgeous gingerbread creations. These weren’t your typical house-style gingerbread houses. One award-winner featured a full-fledged lighthouse with a tower and observation deck, while another was less of a ‘house’ and more of a landscape. The landscape was a tribute to Yellowstone National Park, showcasing bison and bears alongside colorful renditions of Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic.
In addition to the displays, the Festival of Lights includes VIP baskets where local businesses create a basket full of goodies like gift cards, mugs, and shirts, and event attendees can enter a raffle ticket to win the basket. Raffle tickets cost $1 each.
I loved the community focus of the Festival of Lights and how many people came out to see the displays. Tickets cost $10 per adult and $5 per child ages 2 to 10. While this event has concluded for the 2023 season, I highly recommend adding it to your calendar for 2024.
Hunt for the Holiday Pickle
A highlight of the holidays in Davenport is the Hunt for the Holiday Pickle. Over 40 participating businesses hide a pickle ornament in their establishment for pickle-hunters to find. Once you find the ornament, get your ‘passport’ stamped (available where pickles are hidden). After you find 10 ornaments, you can turn in your passport for your own pickle ornament and to be entered into a drawing.
This holiday activity is fun for all ages as you’ll find pickles hidden in local restaurants, bars, shops, hotel lobbies, and the library. It’s a great way to explore the area and engage with local businesses.
Sam and I completed the challenge during our overnight stay in Davenport. Our favorite hidden pickle was at Analog Arcade Bar and the hardest one we found was at Allied Barber Supply.
Pickle-hunting can get competitive. One bar had their pickle stolen, forcing them to create a new ‘pickle.’ Regardless of how seriously you take the search, looking for the elusive pickle is a great icebreaker and a guaranteed conversation-starter each time you walk into a new bar and explain why you’re peering into light displays and scanning the ceilings.
Especially if you aren’t from the area, I recommend making a fun event out of it and finding the pickles in one or two days. For example, Sam and I had a list of restaurants and bars we wanted to try while in town, so we made a fun little bar crawl out it. However, we did skip drinks at several of the bars and just went in to find the pickle. Staff were absolutely okay with that and had fun watching us search for their hidden ornament.
Once you’ve found 9 pickles, head to the German American Heritage Center or the Davenport Public Library to find your last pickle and then turn in your completed stamp sheet for your very own pickle ornament. We visited the library, which had an impressive selection of books, along with their own pickle tucked away in one of the sections.
Holiday Display Challenge
I loved visiting the local businesses participating in the Holiday Display Challenge. It made the whole downtown area feel so much more festive and each business had their own theme and decorating style.
Some businesses took the challenge more serious than others, but all of the participating businesses had great holiday spirit and were very welcoming. Also, if a store or restaurant has holiday decorations up, you’ll want to be on the lookout for a hidden pickle.
My favorite holiday decorations were at Tiphanie’s. I loved the pink and silver theme along with all of the decorated trees throughout the establishment. I also thought Me & Billy had wonderful decorations. The lobbies of both The Current and The Blackhawk hotels had excellent holiday decor and are well worth a visit.
Kaiserslautern Tree Lighting
Kaiserslautern Square – 119 E. 3rd St, Davenport, IA 52801
Kaiserslautern Square opened in downtown Davenport in 2021 and has since become home to city’s annual Christmas Tree. Downtown Davenport’s holiday festivities kicked off in Kaiserslautern Square with a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and a Holiday Parade. The parade is the largest helium balloon parade in the Midwest and it’s been added to my bucket list! The Christmas Tree remains lit each night through the holidays.
Outside of the holiday season, Kaiserslautern Square is an outdoor recreation space complete with greenery, benches, and a stage for events. The square is named after Davenport’s sister city, Kaiserslautern, Germany.
Visit Downtown Davenport
If you haven’t had the chance to experience Davenport or the Quad Cities, the holidays are the perfect time to go. The city goes all out with festive decorations, holiday cheer, and good company.