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Omaha for
the Holidays
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Omaha for the Holidays
A mother and her daughters experience the best of Omaha’s holiday offerings
By Anne Townley
I invited my daughters—Rebecca, 27, and Caitlin, 31—to Omaha to revel in the city’s holiday festivities, do a little Christmas shopping, and enjoy a lot of girl talk. It’s not often that the three of us spend quality time together—Caitlin usually visits me and her dad with our two adorable granddaughters. But this weekend was just for us, just like it used to be.
Historic holidays
Holiday music in the Durham Museum

Holiday music in the Durham Museum.

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We kicked off the weekend with the Joslyn Castle Holiday Historic Home Tour and Boutique. We took a shuttle from Joslyn Castle to two historic Omaha houses and St. Barnabas Church (which dates back to 1915), to tour the residences and admire extravagant Christmas decorations.

At our second stop, the Kuhlman home, an original Tiffany chandelier and the family’s guestbook, which every guest who has visited the home for the past forty years has signed, greeted us. The historic home has long operated as a guesthouse for traveling ballerinas, actors, performers, and speakers featured in Opera Omaha Productions.

Holiday music in the Durham Museum

We finished our tour with hot apple cider and Christmas cookies while cozying up to Joslyn Castle’s wood-burning fireplace. We browsed the castle’s holiday boutique for some unique Christmas gifts and discussed the tour highlights.

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We were already feeling the Christmas spirit and getting some great ideas on how to decorate our own homes for the holidays. “I loved the tree in the dining room with the blue and white motif and real pinecones,” said Caitlin.

“Yes! With the peacock feathers as a tree topper,” Rebecca added. “Just stunning!”

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Decked out for Christmas
Smiles for Santa are a holiday tradition

Decked out for the holidays.

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Smiles for Santa are a holiday tradition

Smiles for Santa are a holiday tradition.

“What do you say we go to The Durham to see the famous tree and listen to some Christmas carols?” I asked, full of Christmas cheer. Caitlin and Rebecca couldn’t resist an old tradition, so we headed downtown to the Durham Museum at Union Station to see the area’s largest Christmas tree.

The Durham’s tree was truly spectacular: draped in sparkling tinsel, dotted with jewel-toned ornaments, and lit with a bright glow. The enormous tree is the focal point in the center of the Art Deco style museum, which was once a lavish train station. We listened to the joyful holiday music while surrounded by red bows, twinkling ornaments, and smiling children.

Decked out for the holidays

“Oh, look at this—they have a cookie decorating station for kids,” Caitlin said. “My girls would love this!”

“Let’s get a photo with Santa; just the three of us! It’ll be fun,” Rebecca suggested, with a grin.

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We stood in line amongst buzzing children urgently relaying Christmas lists to their parents. I looked at my two grownup girls—here in Omaha, revisiting our old holiday traditions—and I couldn’t help smiling. Christmas has a way of dusting off old memories and bringing them back to life.

Smiles for Santa are a holiday tradition

In a nod to another family tradition of dressing up in our holiday best, I surprised my daughters with tickets to The Nutcracker at an Omaha classic, The Orpheum Theater. As we were transported to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweet, I sat there remembering the time when, as young girls, Rebecca and Caitlin performed in The Nutcracker dressed in white tutus. Now, I had granddaughters old enough to plié across the stage. Where did the time go?

We gawked at the lavish costumes and fell into the familiar stories of the enchanted forest and the Sugar Plum Fairy. As Clara awakened from her dream at the end, we also returned to reality, blinking as the lights came on. The three of us jumped to our feet with applause as the dancers came out for their final bow. I felt so lucky to be spending this time with my two girls.

Poinsettias and presents
The Nutcracker is a must-see for the holidays

The Nutcracker is a must-see for the holidays.

The whole family will love The Nutcracker

The whole family will love The Nutcracker.

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On Sunday morning, we recharged our batteries around the breakfast table with coffee and my famous gingerbread scones.

“Girls, I have one more holiday item on the agenda and then we can dive into some Christmas shopping,” I said. “The Poinsettia Show at the Lauritzen Gardens is just spectacular.”  

“Mom, you know that we don’t have your green thumb, but I’d love to admire someone else’s work,” Caitlin said. 

The Nutcracker is a must-see for the holidays

“And after the Poinsettia Show, Rebecca, I have some Omaha boutiques just for you,” I said.

At the Lauritzen Gardens, we walked among thousands of poinsettias of at least twenty varieties: deep red, bright red, off-white, pure white, speckled, and with a variety of leaf shapes and plant heights. Amidst the beautifully arranged flora was the 20-foot red poinsettia tree doused in a holiday dress of white lights and sparkling ornaments. A model train chugged around the tree through toy models of the Woodman Tower, the Rose Theatre, the Old Market, and other Omaha landmarks.

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 “Wow, what incredible attention to detail,” Caitlin said, as we walked to the car.

“Stunning,” Rebecca agreed. “Mom, what do you say we browse those boutiques you were telling us about?”

We headed out to The Shops of Legacy and browsed The Garment District, On a Whim, and Posh Princess. Rebecca got her fill of cozy sweaters and statement necklaces, Caitlin found adorable Christmas outfits for the girls, and I bought some witty tea towels for my book club.

“Okay, girls,” I said. “I’m running out of steam. What do you say we go relax with a glass of wine?”

The whole family will love The Nutcracker

“Sure,” Rebecca said. “We can toast to family and getting into the Christmas spirit. Thanks, Mom, for a great trip down memory lane. And here’s to our new holiday memories.”