Make New Holiday Memories with Magical Events across Nebraska

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By Angela White

Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha has wonderful poinsettias over the holidays. (Nebraska Tourism)The holiday season is such a spectacular time of the year in Nebraska. The opportunities to celebrate are nearly endless across the state! Everyone is invited to join our special holiday events, and they may inspire a new tradition that families can enjoy for years to come.

Omaha kicks off the holiday season with its annual Holiday Lights Festival with 40 blocks of twinkling lights in downtown Omaha on Thanksgiving night. The festival lasts through early January and includes a food drive, ice-skating rink, concerts and fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Of course Nebraska is rich with history, so many of our big holiday events connect to that history.

Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford hosts its annual Historical Christmas Dinner on Dec. 7. Enjoy a family-style meal prepared straight from the original menu of the year featured. Enjoy the past with a touch of the present. Caroling and “Light up the Fort” begin at 6 p.m. Tickets go on sale Nov. 4 at 8 a.m. A park entry permit is required.

Later in December, Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park in North Platte invites people to kick up their heels with Santa and Buffalo Bill Cody during Christmas at the Cody’s. In the spirit of Buffalo Bill’s warm Western hospitality, there are nightly events Dec. 20–23. The 1886 mansion, 1887 horse barn, log cabin and other outbuildings all have exterior lights. The mansion will have 18 lighted and decorated Christmas trees and decorations in the interior. There will be a large lighted and decorated Christmas tree in the barn, where visitors can make their own ornaments to hang on the tree. Santa Claus will be there for the children, Buffalo Bill will talk to visitors and music will once again flow from the old piano in the mansion. Outside there will be roasted chestnuts, hot apple cider and cookies. Draft horse-drawn hayrack rides will also be available, weather permitting. Admission is $5 per person at the door; children 12 and younger are free. Park entry permit is required.

Beginning Nov. 22, Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice will welcome visitors with sparkling displays of some of Nebraska’s first residents—the homesteaders who crossed oceans to settle in a new land under the Homestead Act of 1862. The Winter Festival of Prairie Cultures runs through Dec. 31.

Lied Lodge in Nebraska City has marvelous holiday lights. (Nebraska Tourism)

Most of Nebraska’s wonderful small towns offer holiday events that run the gamut from ethnic celebrations to living nativity scenes and Santa Claus visits.

For instance, Brownville’s Old Time Christmas features music, holiday food, shopping in the village boutiques and special entertainment. And Minden has earned a reputation as Nebraska’s Christmas City. The town’s spectacular Christmas Lights on the Kearney County Courthouse can be seen for miles, and local residents perform its “The Light of the World” Christmas pageant every year.

Naturally, many of the state’s attractions, such as Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island and Wessels Living History Farm in York, offer special holiday celebrations.

Dates and details for all these events and many more can be found on our website, www.visitnebraska.com.

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