Christmas 2017 – Omaha kicks off the season in style

Laurtizen Gardens and Conservatory are lit at night during the holiday season.

Bells are ringing. Carolers are caroling. It’s the holiday season y’all. And Omaha celebrates it well. We kicked off our holiday celebration with a trip to the Christmas tree lighting at the Durham Museum and included a walk around Gene Leahy Mall to view the lights.

This year marked the first time we’d watched the tree lighting ceremony at Durham Museum, which occurs the Friday after Thanksgiving. Following a performance by a chorus, the lights were turned down and then the tree’s lights illuminated the main hall. The lights are beautiful to see in the dark. This is the only time you’ll see the lights shine brightly. The celebration runs through Jan. 7.

Omaha holidays
“Snow” falls inside Durham Museum as the Christmas tree is lit to kick off “Christmas at Union Station.”

We returned Saturday morning to check out the decorations when there weren’t a few more hundred people crowding the tree. Among the large bulbs and ornaments, the star celebrates Nebraska’s 150th birthday, which is nearing its yearlong observance.

Omaha holidays
Ornaments representing Nebraska’s state flower and flag colors highlight the decorations on the tree.

Santa Claus had a few children lined up, eager to tell him they’d been good (even if it was only for the last few minutes) and give him their list of Christmas wishes – peace on earth and love among people. Who am I kidding? They ran off a list of video games, large motorized vehicles, Marvel action figures, books, movies, dolls, computers, and so much more.

Omaha holidays
Santa Claus listens intently as a youngster tells him his wish list.

Durham hosts the ethnic tree festival, featuring about a dozen trees representing different groups. From a tree decorated with sombreros for Mexico to straw-created ornaments for Lithuania, the display highlights Christmas around the world.

Omaha holidays
Straw ornaments dominate the Lithuanian tree at the ethnic tree festival.

Lauritzen Gardens

Lauritzen Gardens hosts its annual holiday poinsettia show. The 20-foot tall tree made from red poinsettias was moved to near the lobby entrance to the exhibit area. It made way for a smaller fir tree decorated with Nebraska symbols, such as goldenrod and meadowlark ornaments to help celebrate the state’s sesquicentennial. More than 5,000 plants featuring 25 varieties of poinsettias will be on display through Jan. 4.

Omaha holidays
Nebraska’s sesquicentennial tree stands in the center of Lauritzen’s exhibit hall with the annual poinsettia tree in the background.

The exhibit hall is beautiful. Trains and tracks have been moved inside from the outdoor train garden to operate around the poinsettia displays. A bridge that stands over seven feet high is positioned near the center of the hall. We love the additions.

Omaha holidays
The train display is always a great attraction at Lauritzen Gardens.

The gardens’ indoor exhibits will be illuminated on certain evenings as part of the “AGLOW” show. The botanical garden will be open until 8 p.m. Dec. 2-3, 9-10, 15-23, 26-30 and Jan. 2-3.

Omaha holidays
The poinsettia tree shines brightly during the gardens’ night illumination.

Holiday lights at Gene Leahy Mall

We concluded our holiday kickoff weekend with an evening stroll through Gene Leahy Mall. With warmer than normal weather, kids of all ages took turns riding the giant slides at the park. Meanwhile, we walked along the mall, which featured a display on the island in the middle of the waterway. Home to geese and ducks, “Holiday Island” features large decorations that reflect beautifully in water.

Omaha holidays
“Holiday Island” is an impressive display at Gene Leahy Mall.

The white lights that adorn the trees of the Mall, as well as a 12-block area downtown, look impressive against the backdrop of the city’s skyline. The city does a great job of enticing people to visit the area, just north of the Old Market. The Holiday Lights Festival lasts through Jan. 1.

Omaha holidays
Omaha’s skyline is enhanced with the holiday lights.

With even more holiday exhibits and attractions around Omaha to visit, we look forward to checking out our hometown over the next few weeks. Enjoy the holiday activities in your city and we hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

For more information on the Omaha attractions we visited, please check out, and