Travels in the Heartland: Christmas Towns

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — As a child living in rural Nebraska, my family members would expend a December night driving by other tiny towns checking out their holiday break lights and public decorations. We would generally deal with more than 100 miles and generate as a result of 7 or 8 communities prior to finishing with a generate close to our town of Oakland, Nebraska. Today, neighborhoods could obstacle Clark Griswold in a contest to generate their own “Xmas Family vacation” shows. But, you will find still something about acquiring out of city and examining out what is heading on in other communities.

Right here are a few recommendations to enable unfold holiday getaway cheer.


Proclaimed Nebraska’s “Xmas City” by then-Gov. Ben Nelson in 1996, Minden rivals Clark Griswold’s decorating plan. The town, about two-and-a-half hours west of Omaha, turns the Kearney County Courthouse red and environmentally friendly, stringing lights from the major of its dome and covering windows with environmentally friendly and purple shutters. The scene is festive and beautiful as the evening grows darker. The lights shine nightly by Jan. 1.

Current Tales from

The tradition started out in 1915 when the town’s light-weight commissioner ran a string of lights from the train depot to the town sq. to impress people attending a Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War Union Military) conference. Freezing rain prevented the lights from functioning.

Undaunted, he hand-dipped lights in purple and environmentally friendly paint and decorated the courthouse square at Christmas. The tradition has been going potent for more than a century.

With a Christmas pageant hosted on Thanksgiving weekend and the 1st two Sundays of December (including this weekend), the out of doors event begins at 7 p.m. and lasts about 30 minutes. Then, the courthouse lights are illuminated.

Commit some time at nearby attractions and suppliers right before the lights arrive on. The historical opera residence across the road from the courthouse is decorated for the time and surely well worth traveling to. Earp’s Pioneer Village features a exceptional glance into background from the mid-1850s as a result of the 1960s.

The Walking Vacationers

Youngsters go to Santa in Missouri Valley

Missouri Valley

It really is Santa Claus vs. the Grinch in downtown Missouri Valley Saturday during the city’s annual Merry Key Road function on Saturday. The two Christmas people emphasize routines alongside the western Iowa city’s downtown.

The Grinch will roam Major Road throughout the working day, astonishing consumers at several firms these kinds of as Fisher’s Petals and Posies and Zaiser Embroidery, collaborating in a shop nearby marketing campaign. It is really a fantastic prospect to assist compact corporations while locating exceptional holiday break items.

Holiday tunes will enjoy on the road and Missouri Valley Significant School’s refrain will be singing carols.

Kids can go purchasing for their dad and mom at the Rand Heart from 9 a.m. to Noon. They can buy donated items for $1 and volunteers will wrap the presents for them. The 35-calendar year function raised $200 for a local food items pantry in 2020.

Santa Claus will meet up with with small children from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the center. People can get pleasure from cookies and milk when little ones review their lists with Santa. At the similar time, the Grinch will pose for photographs with little ones at Active Bee’s Playground.

The Rialto Theater will host a no cost showing of “Clifford the Significant Red Doggy” at 4 p.m. for 90 kids.

Just after the day’s activities, grab evening meal in city and take a self-guided tour about Missouri Valley checking out neighborhood mild shows.

The Strolling Travelers

Eating place prepared for Christmas at Arbor Lodge

Nebraska Metropolis

Arbor Lodge Mansion Condition Historical Park hosts a throwback getaway observance for the duration of Christmas at the Mansion, Friday to Sunday by means of Dec. 19. The J. Sterling Morton mansion, which resembles the White Residence in Washington, DC, is decorated to replicate holiday getaway celebrations throughout the time the relatives lived there. Wreathes wrap all around the darkish wooden staircases, alongside with a selection of nutcrackers. Christmas trees adorned in 1800s model are situated throughout the dwelling. Enjoy self-guided tours of the home, which includes the a single-lane bowling alley in the basement, with admission.

Holiday break Trolley Tour of Lights consists of an hour-extensive trolley ride all-around town as you take pleasure in community Xmas light-weight displays. The tour involves a reading through of a common vacation e book. The trolley departs from Lied Lodge at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.


The southwest Iowa hometown of the Everly Brothers lights up all through the holiday break season with a 1,000-mild Xmas tree downtown together with lit reindeer on the main street’s corners. As you wander along the historical road, check out out the state’s Walk of Fame, residence to historic figures these types of as President Herbert Hoover, George Stout (Earth War II’s Monuments Adult males}, Milo Hamilton and Earl May perhaps. Each and every Saturday as a result of Christmas, Santa Claus will satisfy small children from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Everly Brothers childhood property with cookies and treats for the young children. Shenandoah’s kindergarten to 8th-quality college hosts a “cookies and cocoa” occasion at 10 a.m. on Dec. 18, in which youngsters can develop their personal getaway cookies.

The Going for walks Travelers

Dinosaurs at Papillion’s Santa Rock N Lights

Generate-through lights

Travel-through getaway light reveals have become common in the latest many years and they’ve begun to explode in japanese Nebraska. Points of interest in Papillion, Lincoln and Seward make it possible for guests to soak in the holiday getaway spirit whilst having fun with the consolation of their vehicles. Each individual demonstrate delivers something different for visitors though sticking with Christmas songs favorites, this kind of as “You’re a Mean A single, Mr. Grinch,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

Magical Lights of Seward, in its second year, attributes a 30-foot prolonged piano synchronized to portray playing Christmas tunes. It also incorporates a exhibit that honors armed forces veterans and very first responders.

In Lincoln, Haymarket Park transforms into a winter wonderland throughout the Nebraska Xmas Lights Demonstrate nightly as a result of Jan. 1. Thousands of colorful lights twinkle as guests travel by way of the screen showcasing lit trees, penguins, Santa and much more. Tickets can be acquired online for the car or truck – even busses up to 20 toes extensive are allowed – and utilized any night time.

At Papillion’s Werner Park, autos journey by means of tunnels with twinkling lights overhead, Santas on motorcycles and even dinosaurs rejoice the holiday. Santa’s Rock N Lights exhibit covers extra than a mile in the Sarpy County baseball stadium’s parking great deal. With the light-weight display screen exhibiting nightly by Jan. 2, it’s 20 minutes of pure holiday getaway pleasure.

The Walking Tourists

Adorned farm irrigation technique in Fremont, Nebraska

Outdated-fashioned compact town excursions

You can make your own holiday mild tour by visiting location towns and taking in their general public getaway displays. We recreated my childhood memory a number of yrs ago when we drove by means of the cities my household toured, which includes Blair, Fremont, Hooper, Scribner, Tekamah and West Position. Rural cities know how to enhance for the time and provide an chance to get of town for a few hrs and check out new displays and attractions.

On the other hand you determine to rejoice the getaway time, it’s entertaining to acquire some time and verify out the neighboring communities’ points of interest. Grab some very hot chocolate or cider and some cookies to add to your holiday travels. Talking of cookies…Happy holidays and Merry Xmas!

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