With its rolling farm fields and beautiful rivers, Nebraska offers a variety of scenic Thanksgiving vacation destinations in America’s heartland. Whether you’re hoping for a busy, activity-packed holiday in Omaha or a peaceful retreat in quiet Grand Island, this friendly state has you covered. As you research Nebraska vacation rentals, check out these fun-filled Nebraskan towns that take Thanksgiving to the next level.
The holidays begin early in Omaha, Nebraska’s biggest city. The outdoor NRG Energy Ice Rink opens a few days before Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving morning, local runners head for the Annual Joslyn Castle Turkey Trot 5K Walk/Run at Turner Park. Later that evening, the city comes out for the Thanksgiving lighting ceremony that opens the citywide Holiday Lights Festival; listen to local musical ensembles and participate in a high-energy countdown. Then, check out the Nebraska Wind Symphony’s Making Spirits Bright holiday concert. On Friday, head to Christmas at Union Station to meet Santa, see the Ethnic Holiday Trees exhibit, and watch the Holiday Concert Series. Saturday brings Sounds of the Season, which showcases local choirs at the Old Market.
For Lincoln, the home of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Cornhuskers, Thanksgiving revolves around football. Each year on the holiday weekend, the beloved team hosts another Big 10 team in a highly anticipated matchup that draws locals and visitors. In preparation for the big game, spend Thanksgiving at the YMCA Turkey Trot or the Lincoln Hungry Turkey 5K, followed by a turkey dinner at the Venue Restaurant and Lounge’s lavish buffet. The weekend also features the Very Vintage Christmas Market, the Starry Nights Christmas Tree Festival, and the opening of the popular Santa Station at the SouthPointe shopping center.
Holiday celebrations in Norfolk start the weekend before Thanksgiving with the opening of the popular Yuletide Market. Shop more than 50 artisans and businesses, enter to win raffles, and enjoy homemade holiday snacks. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, head downtown for Black Tuesday shopping deals and the Annual River Point Christmas Festival, which features hay rides, carriage rides, and campfire s’more stations. In the evening, attend the tree lighting ceremony and sip hot cider while you listen to strolling musicians. The day after Thanksgiving, head to Sunset Plaza Mall for Black Friday sales and visits with Santa.
4. Grand Island
Start your Thanksgiving holidays a few days early in Grand Island with Santa’s arrival at the Conestoga Mall; the event features kids’ activities and family games. Muster your appetite the day after Thanksgiving for the annual Merry Olde 16th Century Yuletide Feaste, which features the La Camerata Madrigal Singers. On Friday, the Fantasy of Trees opens at the fantastic Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer; get into the holiday spirit as you explore dozens of dramatically decorated Christmas trees, and stay to enjoy the museum’s Railroad Exhibit and Pawnee Earth Lodge. The museum also operates the North Pole Express, a Christmas-themed song-and-story event aboard a genuine train car. Thanksgiving weekend brings the Christmas Open House at the Historic 1859 Stolley House.
Enjoy a peaceful farmland Thanksgiving in Columbus, a small town located just north of the Loup and Platte Rivers. The weekend before, check out the Christmas Stroll for treats and prizes at local businesses. On Thanksgiving weekend, the nearby St. Benedict Center hosts the Christmas Craft Show and a display of nativity scenes from around the world. If you’re visiting with kids, spend Saturday in Frankfort Square to watch Santa’s arrival and stop in for a pre-Christmas visit with the man himself.
6. Nebraska City
In Nebraska City, it’s a breeze to celebrate Thanksgiving in style — without lifting a finger. Each year, the beautiful Lied Lodge hosts a Grand Thanksgiving Buffet, so you can enjoy dinner under soaring timber-beamed ceilings with panoramic views of Arbor Day Farm. Thanksgiving weekend marks the opening of Christmas at the Mansion; tour the 52-room Arbor Lodge to see over-the-top decorations and vintage decor with a soundtrack of festive music.
Indulge your foodie dreams with Thanksgiving in Crofton. The weekend before the holiday, check out the Taste of Christmas at the Corps of Discovery Welcome Center. Purchase homemade holiday goods at the bake sale, and stay for the special holiday tasting of wine, cheese, and cider. The annual event also features a Holiday Craft Fair. If you’re in the mood to shop after Thanksgiving, head to nearby Yankton for special downtown deals during Small Business Saturday.
Get away from the hustle and bustle with a Thanksgiving getaway to quiet Fairbury, a small town surrounded by beautiful farmland. Fairbury locals get a quick workout on Thanksgiving morning at Husker Rehab’s Turkey Trot, which offers 1-mile and 5K races. After the race, enjoy a complimentary healthy breakfast to tide you over until dinner. The town comes out en masse to support local companies the weekend after Thanksgiving at Small Business Saturday. The event gathers a variety of vendors, which offer everything from holiday gifts to gourmet coffee, in one convenient spot at the downtown Stagecoach Mall.
If you’re a runner, head to tiny Pickrell for a Thanksgiving Day challenge: the Wild Turkey Chase Half Marathon, Nebraska’s longest Thanksgiving Day race. For the rest of the family, the event also features a 5K race and treats. After the race, bundle up in your complimentary flannel pants for a cozy dinner. If the snow is falling on Thanksgiving, local families head to Pick Hill for sledding and snowball fights.
Ready to go? Check out these amazing Nebraska vacation rentals on Tripping.com.