September 26, 2018

Omaha Annual Holiday Traditions

Omaha’s annual holiday season lasts longer than a month, with a ton of family-friendly celebrations and Christmas traditions you can count on each year. The events usually kick off on Thanksgiving night and run through the first week of January each year. Here are some of my favorite Omaha annual holiday traditions:

Looking for annual Christmas shows, holiday displays and kid-friendly activities in Omaha? Here's a round up of celebrations you can count on each year during the holiday season.

Omaha Holiday Lights Festival

On everyone’s to-do list is to stroll through the Old Market and Gene Leahy Mall where millions of lights are strung up for 40 blocks as part of Omaha’s Holiday Lights Festival. You can count on this festival to kick the holidays off in Omaha – starting with tree lighting and a concert on Thanksgiving Night. The weeks-long festival includes carolers on the weekends, an outdoor ice skating rink, the free Wells Fargo Family Festival, and fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Holiday Lights Festival Omaha Ice Rink
The ice rink during the Holiday Lights Festival. Since this picture was taken, the rink has relocated a few blocks to the north.

2019 News: The lights strung around Gene Leahy Mall are one of my favorite parts of the festival. However, starting in 2019, there will be construction that will make it impossible to have the lights up at the mall for a few years. See them this year, before they’re temporarily relocated.

Omaha Attractions With Christmas Celebrations

Omaha’s zoo – Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium has a couple of events to note. On some weekends, Holiday Happenings is a fun one to catch. Head to the aquarium at designated times to watch Santa and elves scuba dive in the shark tank. The event is included with admission. For an extra fee, there are holiday events with a meal like Pancakes & Penguins.

Durham Museum Christmas tree
The Durham Museum is home to the largest indoor Christmas tree each year. “Christmas at Union Station” usually begins the day after Thanksgiving and runs through early January.

The Durham Museum – One of my favorite ways to kick off the season is the tree lighting ceremony at The Durham Museum. It’s held the day after Thanksgiving each year, and while it’s always super crowded, it’s worth fighting the crowds to be a part of it. It also kicks off Christmas at Union Station, which runs throughout the holidays and includes the Holiday Cultural Tree Exhibit, pictures with Santa, concerts, and the Holiday Cultural Festival.

Santa's Magic annual show Omaha Children's Museum
“Santa’s Magic” runs Nov. 24 through Dec. 23 each year at at Omaha Children’s Museum. In addition to the Snow Queen who makes it snow indoors, children can get one-on-one time with Santa. Photo courtesy Omaha Children’s Museum

Omaha Children’s Museum – If your kids are younger, there’s nothing more magical than “Santa’s Magic,” which runs from Black Friday through Dec.. 23 typically, at Omaha Children’s Museum. It’s an interactive show with an Elsa-like character who makes it “snow” indoors, elves, and Santa arriving by chimney. Kids get a turn talking to Santa at the end.

Holiday Poinsettia Show at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha
Laurtizen Garden’s Holiday Poinsettia Show is an annual flower show indoors, usually running the weekend after Thanksgiving through early January. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Lauritzen Gardens – Omaha’s botanical gardens have the annual Holiday Poinsettia Show. Kids will like that the model trains run around the displays. While I’m there, I enjoy stopping by the conservatory. It’s a tropical oasis in the winter. For the past two years, the Poinsettia Show has been lit at night for visitors in the evening.

Christmas Concerts In Omaha

There are a few things you can be sure of, and one is that there will be an abundance of Christmas concerts to choose from each year in Omaha.

Omaha Symphony – “Christmas Celebration” has been an annual tradition for years. While the show changes with music and featured performers, you can be sure that Santa will be there (and many “Santas” who will be dancing at one point).

Santa and Omaha Symphony
Santa arrives at the Omaha Symphony’s “Christmas Celebration” one year. Photo courtesy Omaha Symphony

Handel’s Messiah – I have yet to catch this annual performance by Voices of Omaha, but this concert features a long concert choir singing. It’s usually held in mid-November.

Holidays Under Glass – This is a free lunch-time concert series at the Joslyn Art Museum. If you go, you may want to arrive early to make sure you get a seat in the atrium.

Making Spirits Bright Concert & Sounds of the Season – A big part of the Holiday Lights Festival is music. There’s a free concert every year on Thanksgiving night called Making Spirits Bright at the Holland Performing Arts Center. You’ll also find carolers on the weekends in the Old Market and in Gene Leahy Mall for free mini concerts (AKA, Sounds of the Season).

Christmas on Stage In Omaha

Omaha is home to a thriving performing arts scene, and there are quite a few traditional holiday shows performed each year. Plus, many theaters like The Rose will have a holiday show this time of year.

Omaha Community Playhouse – OCP has been performing “A Christmas Carol” for decades and its perfected the musical.  It’s great to introduce to elementary age kids or older (it’s kinda long). The sets, costumes, music and choreography is top notch every year.

A Christmas Carol in Omaha
Jerry Longe is in his 13th year of portraying Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” in 2018. Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse

American Midwest Ballet – Nebraska Ballet is now American Midwest Ballet, the regions only professional ballet company. They’ve been performing “The Nutcracker” for years, and you can usually catch it at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha or Iowa Western Community College’s Art Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Holiday at Hogwarts show in Omaha
The toast before the first sip of butter beer during the annual show “Holiday at Hogwarts” at Apollon Art Space in Omaha.

Apollon Art Space – A little untraditional, but still it feels like a holiday show, “Holiday At Hogwarts” is an annual dinner theater show at Apollon Art Space. During this interactive show held in December, you’ll talk with familiar characters from Harry Potter’s world in a dining room decorated for Christmas. It’s pretty kid-friendly, so you’re fine going with or without kids. Read more about the show here.

Gingerbread Displays In Omaha

Gingerbread Festival – Each year, dozens and dozens of gingerbread creations are on display at the Mormon Trail Center in North Omaha. The free Gingerbread Festival has a different theme each year and they’re made by children, families and, what I have to guess, are semi-professional gingerbread engineers.

Gingerbread train at Magnolia Hotel in Omaha
Each year, the chef and his team at Magnolia Hotel in downtown Omaha create an elaborate gingerbread scene. It’s free to visit, and located just off the hotel’s lobby. 

Magnolia Hotel – Stop by the downtown hotel’s lobby during the holidays to see the chef’s creations. One year, it was a gingerbread train and town.

Holiday Shopping In Omaha

For holiday shopping in Omaha, there are a couple events that I particularly look forward to.

Hot Shops Winter Open House – Hot Shops is a collection of studios and galleries of local artists working in different media. Twice a year, the open house invites the public in to see their work, watch live demonstrations (check out the glass blowing) and, of course, shop. The open house is typically the first weekend in December.

Hot Shops glassblowing demonstration during open house
Shop for one-of-a-kind gifts and watch artist demonstrations during the Hot Shops open house, typically held the first weekend in December.

Holiday Market – The Holiday Market is Omaha’s answer to Christmas markets in Europe, though definitely not as big. Shop booths of local and regional artists and food vendors in tents at Aksarben Village. Santa is usually found somewhere in the market, too. The Holiday Market is typically the first weekend in December.

Round up of annual holiday events, shows, and festivals in Omaha. These are events you can plan on if you're visiting for the first time or you want to start a holiday tradition.  #Christmas #Santa #holidays

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November 20, 2017

Bringing Kids To ‘A Christmas Carol’

Updated: Oct. 25, 2018

I think I’m becoming a Christmas softie. I was always more of a “Scrooged” kind of Christmas story girl, not “A Christmas Carol.” The Dickens classic was a little too sweet. But here I am, joyful after seeing Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of “A Christmas Carol” this past weekend. I get it, now, why families make it a tradition to see every year. I feel like it’s the quintessential show to kick off the holiday season.

Disclosure: I received two complimentary tickets to review the show, so I took my oldest son (he’s almost 8) to see it for his first time.

Thinking of bringing your kids to see this holiday classic? Here’s what to expect:

What to expect

Jerry Longe is in his 12th year of portraying Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse

– This is a huge production. The cast is quite large, the sets look remarkable, and the costumes are to die for. When the curtain goes up for that first number, you’ll be wowed by this show. It’s community theater at a different level.

– Jerry Longe has played Ebenezer Scrooge for 12 years, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Granted, I’ve seen Dick Boyd in the role many years back and thought the same. But, Longe really has made this role his own. He adds some fun touches that made my son laugh.

– There’s a surprise at the end of the production. Don’t sneak out when you think it’s over. Just wait.

Timing a potty break

Having a drink in the show? Better know when best to time the restroom break.

The first act is 70 minutes long, so if you or your kid has a small bladder, go before the show begins. The intermission is long enough for a restroom break, though, if you can hold it.

The whole show is about 2 hours and 20 minutes with the intermission. If you partake in any of the Christmas cheer in the lobby (AKA, drinks), you might not last until the end.

What ages would like this best?

Cookies are good rewards for sitting nicely through a 70-minute first act.

This is suitable for most ages, though kids under 3 are not permitted. Early grade school ages would be great ages to introduce this show. The length of the show, though, makes me think that it may be a test of attention spans on really young ones.

Also, I will say this: There are a couple parts that may scare young ones. When the ghost of Jacob Marley arrives, he’s accompanied minions. Those little goblin kids are the stuff of nightmares. (I think they bothered me more than my son)

The Ghost of Christmas Future might also scare kids. I remember the big things being a lot scarier, but it wasn’t so bad this time around. Maybe I’ve grown up.

My son’s a second grader and thought the music was one of the best parts of the show, so there you have it.

If your kid catch the acting bug while seeing this show (there are a TON of kids in the ensemble), then I recommend signing them up for the Henry Fonda Theatre Academy at the Playhouse. Here’s my post about the acting class for ages 4-6 and for acting class for ages 7-10.

What’s it about again?

Jerry Longe plays Ebenezer Scrooge during his journey with the Ghost of Christmas Past. “A Christmas Carol” is at Omaha Community Playhouse through Dec. 23, 2017. Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse

“A Christmas Carol” is one of Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition. Grumpy and greedy Ebenezer Scrooge goes on a life-changing journey led by three ghosts.

If you go to “A Christmas Carol”

“A Christmas Carol”

Where: Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St.

When: Nov. 16 through Dec. 23, 2018; performances are Wednesdays, 7 p.m., Thursdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., and Sundays, 2 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. (No performances on Weds., Nov. 22 and Thurs., Nov. 23.)

Cost: $40. On sale now at the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at www.OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com.

November 13, 2017

Omaha Gift Guide

Know someone who loves all thing Omaha? This Omaha gift guide is for that person. I’ve gathered a few of my favorite things this year that I think will make excellent presents, and the best part, they’re either made right here in Omaha or made by created by someone here.

Keep reading because I’m going to share details on giveaways for a few of these Omaha gifts!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Oh My! Omaha is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Omaha gifts from the top left going clockwise:

OffBeat Game of Rhythm (ages 5+), $19.95 – This looks like fun for the whole family. I got a game sent to me from Fat Brain Toys and I can’t wait for my kids to open it up this Christmas so we can try it out. Why is it on the Omaha list, though? Fat Brain Toys is based out of Elkhorn.

LULUBEE Artisanal Chocolates 12-piece assortment, $22 – LULUBEE was one of many Omaha/regional chocolatiers at the Omaha Public Library Culinary Conference I recently attended. All sweets I tried there were great, but LULUBEE had the most divine looking candy, almost too pretty to eat (but I did, and it was good).

“’Twas the Mouse Who Saved Christmas” MarbleSpark personalized book, $40 – I just learned about MarbleSpark, a local company that makes personalized books for kid. This one is particularly perfect for a Christmas present, right?

Win a FREE personalized book from MarbleSpark! Head over to my Facebook page today! I’m giving away one. (Giveaway starts at at 7 a.m. and ends Nov. 16)

Beard Balm, Oliver Ridge Co., $20 – This is a gift for the dapper, bearded man on your list. I wrote about this Omaha-based company earlier this year. Check that story out here.

ONElapse 2018 Desk Calendar, $20 – I follow ONElapse on social media and the photos of Omaha are always spectacular. No doubt the desk calendar will have some of those gorgeous photos (there’s also a wall calendar, I believe).

Artifact Campus Tote, $98 – I first ogled the locally-made, handmade bags by Artifact at an event at the CenturyLink Center, perhaps it was the horse show, I dunno. All I remember was a deep longing to have one of my own. It’s a good gift for the favorite blogger person in your life.

“Lost Restaurants of Omaha,” The History Press, $21.99 – My first ever book was just released by The History Press and it’s perfect for anyone who’s ever dined in Omaha. It contains stories and photos of beloved restaurants that have closed and some “forgotten” gems as well. Read more about the book on the blog here (you’ll find out where upcoming book signings are planned).

I’ll be giving away an autographed copy of the book! Giveaway starts November 27, so check back here for details.

* * * * *

Looking for more kids gift idea? Last week, I shared a popular post on STEM Gift Ideas for Kids. Check it out!

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November 1, 2017

Ultimate Omaha Holiday Events List {Updated For 2019}

Omaha is the best place for a family to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve in 2019. You can find free activities, every kind of live performance from ballet to orchestra to rock, and a ton of chances to meet Santa around town.

Note: This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated to include 2019 holiday events. More events will be added as dates are known. If you have an event or see an error in the schedule, please leave a comment or email me!

Got a kid-free night ahead of you? Good, I also included some activities that are perfect for a holiday date night.

The ultimate holiday events list for Omaha {updated for 2019!} - Includes concerts, festivals, Santa visits, special dinners, performances, Christmas-themed fun runs, and more. This is a great list if you're looking for something to do in Omaha this November or December. #holidays

Pin this post because I will add to this list often!

Omaha Holiday Events in 2019

“A Christmas Carol”

When: Nov. 15 though Dec. 23; performances are Wednesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 and 6:30 p.m.

Where: Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St.

What: This is an annual tradition on stage in Omaha. Read What To Expect If You Bring Kids “A Christmas Carol.”

Cost: Tickets go on sale Nov. 1

“Drumline Live: Holiday Spectacular”

When: Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.

What: The show takes you on an unforgettable journey through the most beloved holiday classics. The show combines the sounds of gospel, jazz, soul, Motown rhythms with the driving force of a marching band.

Cost: Tickets go on sale Sept. 1

Holiday Lights Festival -Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony

When: Nov. 28 through Jan. 5, 2020, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. nightly (Thanksgiving Lighting Festival event is Nov. 28, 6 to 7 p.m.)

Where: Gene Leahy Mall, 14th and Farnam streets

What: Trees around the Old Market and mall are lit up for Christmas.

Cost: FREE

Holiday Poinsettia Show

When: Nov. 23 through Jan. 5, 2020 (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day); the Holiday Poinsettia Aglow is 5 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 23, 24, 27, 30, and Dec. 1, 7 & 8, 14-23, 26-30 and Jan. 2-5.

Where: Lauritzen Gardens, First and Bancroft streets

What: This indoor flower show is perfect for the holidays, plus the indoor model train is always a hit with kids.

Cost: Included with admission, which is $10 adults, $5 children 6-12). Members are admitted FREE.

“Elf: The Musical”

When: Nov. 29 through Dec. 22; performances are Fridays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays & Sundays at 2 p.m.

Where: The Rose, 2001 Farnam St.

What: This fun-filled musical adaptation of the favorite holiday film that became an instant classic is a stuffed stocking full of song and dance that your family will most definitely want on your Christmas Wish List!

Cost: Main floor tickets are $20 for members and $27 for non-members; balcony tickets are $15 for members and $22 for non-members. Tickets go on sale Aug. 1.

“Santa’s Magic”

When: Nov. 29 through Dec. 23, multiple shows daily

Where: Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St.

What: An interactive exhibit featuring Santa, the Snow Queen, elves and indoor snow. Be sure to come with your wish list.

Cost: Included with regular Museum admission, which is $14 for ages 2+, $13 for seniors, and FREE for children younger than 24 months and members

Canadian Brass Christmas Show

When: Dec. 4, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.

What: Deck the halls with Canadian Brass! The world’s most famous brass group brings festive Christmas carols and Yuletide tunes to the Holland Center in an energetic, entertaining performance that will put the whole family in the holiday spirit.

Cost: Tickets on sale Aug. 19

“Joyful Noise: A Gospel Christmas featuring Salem Baptist Church”

When: Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m.and Dec. 8 at 4 p.m.

Where: Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.

Cost: Ticket on sale date TBD

Omaha Symphony’s “Physicians Mutual Christmas Celebration”

When: Dec. 19-22; performances are Thursday & Friday at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday & Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p..

Where: Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.

What: It’s the merriest way to celebrate the season! Ernest Richardson, the Omaha Symphony, and a stellar cast of Broadway singers and dancers send your spirits soaring with festive favorites and Christmas classics.

Cost: Tickets on sale Aug. 19

Home Free “Dive Bar Christmas Tour”

When: Dec. 19, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.

What: Experience the rich Southern harmonies of Home Free this holiday season. It’s an evening of upbeat Nashville-dipped pop hits, country standards and quick-witted humor.

Cost: Tickets on sale Aug. 2

Mariachi Herencia de México “The Posada: A Christmas Tradition”

When: Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.

What: In a special holiday show, the ensemble brings the Latin American tradition of the posada to life. The celebration includes Mexican and American holiday favorites! Enjoy the songs of the season such as “Feliz Navidad,” “Los Peces en el Rio,” “Ave Maria” and “Jingle Bells.”

Cost: Ticket on sale date TBD

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas

When: Dec. 21 and 22; performances are Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m.

Where: Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.

What: The group’s Christmas concert is full of multimedia special effects and has become an annual holiday tradition at the Orpheum Theater.

Cost: $38.25-$78.25

Holiday Lights Festival – New Year’s Eve Fireworks Spectacular

When: Dec. 31, 7 p.m.

Where: Gene Leahy Mall, 14th and Farnam streets

What: The show will feature a mesmerizing display of fireworks designed by J&M Displays and choreographed to a special Iconic 60s musical accompaniment broadcasted on STAR 104.5; viewers are encouraged to tune in. The official viewing site is the Gene Leahy Mall.

Cost: FREE

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December 22, 2016

3 Things To Do On Christmas Weekend In Omaha

If you’ve pinned and revisited my lists of December events and the HUGE list of holiday events, you’ll notice that there aren’t a whole lot of things open on Christmas Weekend in Omaha. Maybe that’s an obvious statement?

christmas-weekend

So what can you do, if say, you celebrated Christmas early, or you don’t celebrate Christmas, or you just got to get away from your in-laws for a little bit? Here’s what you can do this weekend:

1. Dine out. Here’s the Omaha World-Herald’s big list of restaurants open on Christmas Eve and Christmas. We’ve ate at Jaipur on Christmas last year to celebrate my dad’s birthday. It’s a local Indian restaurant with delicious and their own beer (get the jalapeno beer). Where do I recommend going with kids? I’m a sucker for Salt 88 and the after-dinner cotton candy. My kids are recent fans of the desserts at Delice European Bakery.

2. Movie time. Go local and see “Moana,” “Rogue One” or “Sing” at Aksarben Cinema or “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “The Eagle Huntress” at Film Streams (both theaters open all weekend).

3. Get outdoors. There are a couple great state parks nearby for families to explore over the weekend. Layer up and head outside! Two I recommend: Mahoney State Park (read my guide to winters there) and Platte River State Park (find the waterfall!). Not all of the facilities will be open, likely, but the fresh air and scenery will be a nice change of pace.

Please, share your ideas in the comments!

Want a couple more ideas? Head over to Family Fun in Omaha for some more fun things to do in Omaha.

December 19, 2016

What To Expect At The Holiday Lights Spectacular

There are holiday lights and then there’s the Holiday Lights Spectacular.

In its third year, this is beginning to be a holiday tradition in Omaha and would you believe it, this is the first year I caught a full show? Midtown Crossing invited my family down to see it (and grab a treat) and I’m glad we went!

A still photo of the Holiday Lights Festival only hints at the whole production. There is music and a light show.

A still photo of the Holiday Lights Spectacular only hints at the whole production. There is music and a light show.

You can’t help but get into the holiday spirit with the pretty show. There’s Christmas music accompanying the light display projected on the buildings.

If it’s a cold night – and, boy, was it when we went – you can watch from the comfort of your car (you just can’t hear the music well).

The festively decorated interior of Delice, a European bakery in the heart of MIdtown Crossing.

The festively decorated interior of Delice, a European bakery in the heart of Midtown Crossing.

We topped off our night with some baked treats from Delice, one of my favorite bakeries in Omaha. It’s located right in the heart of Midtown Crossing. Try the French macarons! Hot cocoa is served there, too, which can be topped with homemade marshmallows.

We sampled cookies, a mint brownie and the macarons during our feast. My favorite, as well as Mooch's, was the macarons.

We sampled cookies, a mint brownie and the macarons during our feast. My favorite, as well as Mooch’s, was the macarons.

Every year, Midtown Crossing holds different events that add to the festivities of the light show. Here’s a list of this year’s events. They had a featured nonprofit each week, where a representative flipped the switch for each show and retailers collected donations for them. You’ll have to pay attention to next year’s dates – they always have a FREE family fun day.

 

If you go

Holiday Lights Spectacular

Where: Midtown Crossing, 31st between Dodge and Farnam streets

When: Through Jan. 1; shows are Thursday through Sunday, 7 p.m. (lasting 20 minutes)

Cost: FREE

Website 

 

Disclosure: I was provided a gift card for the hot cocoa for sharing details about the Holiday Lights Spectacular. I was not compensated for this post in any other manner. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.