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Omaha for the Holidays

In Omaha, the whole world comes home for Christmas.

Unique celebrations, distinctive decorations, beloved recipes and carols make the holidays memorable in this Nebraska city. Your group can experience a whirlwind journey through beloved Christmas traditions from around the globe right in the heart of America’s Midwest thanks to Omaha’s culturally diverse Christmas Around the World holiday tours.

Events throughout the city allow visitors to experience the holidays as they’re celebrated in Germany, Greece, Ukraine, Ireland, Mexico and more thanks to Omaha’s rich cultural diversity. It’s even possible to step back in time to holidays of old with popular Victorian- and Renaissance-themed events.

Options for holiday experiences in the city range from large-scale stage performances of classics like “A Christmas Carol” to intimate behind-the-scenes tours of local businesses. Groups typically work with Visit Omaha’s group tour manager, Jessica Weishahn, to customize their two- to six-day itineraries.

“We have a Lithuanian bakery that’s a very popular stop, for example,” said Weishahn. “The owner makes traditional, Old World-style holiday tortes and offers a deep explanation of how her family immigrated to Omaha. She always books up that first week of December.”

“We average about 20 bus groups coming in [for the holiday tours] every year,” said Mark Rath, Visit Omaha’s director of sales. “There are a lot of different cultural experiences here. There are just so many different facets of Omaha. It’s a pretty unique city in that way.”

If your group is able to visit the city during the holidays, expect to stay busy.

“We roll out the red carpet for guests at Christmastime,” Weishahn said. “We do our best to help groups pack in as much as possible without running attendees ragged. People are often surprised at how much we have to offer.”

For those not able to travel to Omaha during the holidays, there are opportunities to enjoy the city’s rich cultural diversity year-round. “We have other itineraries that aren’t holiday themed, including Twelve Countries Without a Passport — focusing on all the different cultures in Omaha — which is one of our most popular sellers,” Weishahn said.

Here are some memorable events your group can experience when you visit Omaha during the holidays.

Christmas in Germany

Omaha’s German American society hosts Christmas in Germany, which celebrates traditional German holiday songs and dancing, as well as favorite German holiday fare. Guests can also shop for the perfect German-made gift at the on-site holiday market.

germanamericansociety.org

Madrigal Christmasse Feaste

Hosted by the Ibsen Costume Gallery, the Madrigal Christmasse Feaste, an annual Renaissance holiday event, is celebrating its 28th year and has welcomed more than 10,000 visitors for an evening of mirth and merriment. Attendees are treated to a multicourse meal befitting an old English castle — highlights include a spiced holiday wassail toast and Yorkshire pudding — along with performances of traditional holiday songs by the costumed Madrigal Syngers. The show is typically presented during the first week of December only. This year’s performance dates are December 4-7. “It’s a very interactive experience,” said Weishahn. Guests get to be part of the performance.”

ibsencostumes.com/madrigal-feaste

Christmas in Greece

Sponsored by Omaha’s historic St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, the annual Christmas in Greece tradition features Greek dancing and live music, as well as a Greek marketplace and boutique. Visitors can sample favorite Greek holiday foods and pastries and can even enjoy a visit from St. Nicholas.

stjohnsgreekorthodox.org

Christmas at Union Station

Omaha’s Durham Museum hosts the annual Christmas at Union Station celebration, which runs throughout the holiday season. The event is home to the Midwest’s largest holiday Christmas tree as well as displays of holiday trees from around the world. Visitors can also enjoy frequent holiday concerts by local entertainers, school groups and choirs.

durhammuseum.org

19th-Century Holidays

Omaha’s General Crook House Museum, a historic Italianate-style residence built in 1879, hosts an authentic Victorian Christmas complete with period-appropriate holiday decorations, fresh cookies and hot cider. Special activities include an afternoon tea with Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig — a nod to the festive party hosts from “A Christmas Carol” — that features costumed professional actors who lead a rousing sing-along of favorite carols.

douglascohistory.org

Irish Christmas at Boys Town

At the restored 1920s home of Father Edward Flanagan, founder of Boys Town, guests can enjoy the feeling of an authentic Irish-style Christmas thanks to traditional decorations in keeping with Flanagan’s Irish heritage.

Gingerbread on Parade

This long-standing Omaha tradition will be moving to the Ramada Plaza Omaha Hotel and Convention Center this year, but the celebration of all things gingerbread remains the focus of this beloved holiday event, which annually draws more than 20,000 visitors. Guests can revel in hundreds of whimsical gingerbread creations made by members of the region’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Holiday Poinsettia Show

More than 5,000 poinsettias fill the grounds of Omaha’s Lauritzen Gardens botanical center during the Holiday Poinsettia Show, which runs this year from November 23 through January 5. The marquee attraction is a 20-foot-tall Christmas tree made entirely from poinsettias. Guests will also want to stroll among the gardens’ model train displays and other festive decorations. On select evenings, visitors can enjoy a holiday light celebration as well.

lauritzengardens.org

A Christmas Carol Musical

Each holiday season, the Omaha Community Playhouse, the nation’s largest community theater, presents the time-honored classic “A Christmas Carol” in a musical adaptation that takes viewers along with Scrooge as he journeys through Christmas past, present and future to find the true meaning of the season. This year’s performances run November 15 through December 23.

omahaplayhouse.com

Holland Performing Arts Center

Every year Omaha’s Holland Performing Arts Center plays host to an array of seasonal concerts and special events sure to inspire holiday cheer. This year’s lineup includes Canadian Brass performing holiday classics, December 4; “A Gospel Christmas,” December 7-8; and the Omaha Symphony Physicians Mutual Christmas Celebration, which features a Broadway-style song and dance review that blends Christmas classics and yuletide fun, December 19-22.

omahaperformingarts.org

Omaha Holiday Lights Festival

For those who love the magic of holiday lights, the annual Omaha Holiday Lights Festival, set this year for November 18 through January 5, features light displays throughout the city’s Old Market arts and entertainment district and surrounding streets. In addition to thousands of white lights, visitors can enjoy holiday garlands, LED snowflakes, illuminated reindeer and festive window decor at businesses throughout the area.

holidaylightsfestival.org

Eliza Myers

Eliza Myers has worked for The Group Travel Leader since 2007. She is the online editor and associate editor for Select Traveler.

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