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Travels in the Heartland: Celebrate the season with Visit Nebraska’s Holiday Passport

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Posted at 7:43 PM, Nov 17, 2023

Santa Claus loves Nebraska so much that he wants you to visit 20 of his favorite spots across the state as part of the 2023 Nebraska Holiday Passport. From Humboldt to Scottsbluff, visitors can earn a few more gifts for their stockings.

Following the success of its 12-year summer Passport Program, Nebraska Tourism is sponsoring the Holiday Passport for the second consecutive year. The program runs Nov. 17-Jan. 7, 2024. About 15,000 passports were printed in 2022, with 31 people completing all 20 stops.

“We weren’t sure what to expect last year,” said Madison Johnson, passport coordinator with Visit Nebraska. “We had that big ol’ snowstorm out west last year. So, we were pretty impressed we had that many people complete the passport.”

Holiday passports can be picked up at any of the participating attractions or ordered online with Nebraska Tourism, Johnson said. People need to mail in their passport with at least five completed stamps by Jan. 14, 2024, to receive prizes, including a $5 Nebraska state lottery ticket for five visits, two tickets for 10 visits, three tickets for 15 visits. Visit all 20 stops and you'll receive a champions holiday ornament as well as the lottery tickets. Participants must be at least 19 years old by Jan. 1.

While 20 attractions were selected, 80 businesses applied to be part of the second-year program, Johnson said. Participants are located throughout the state.

“I feel passionately that no matter where you live in Nebraska, you should be able to participate,” Johnson said. “It’s very important to me that you can get to a stop relatively quickly, no matter where you are.”

Among this year's stops is the Burt County Museum in Tekamah. With garland around its front porch setting a festive tone, the Victorian-era house features classic holiday decorations accenting the historical exhibits celebrating the town's history.

Omaha's Durham Museum lights its giant 40-foot-tall Christmas tree on Nov. 24, kicking off its annual Christmas at Union Station celebration, which includes children visiting with Santa Claus, local musical groups and an international holiday festival on Dec. 1. Durham's festivities run through Jan. 7.

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Durham Museum in Omaha is kicking off its annual tree lighting ceremony Nov. 24. Its holiday festival runs through Jan. 7, 2024. Photo by Tim Trudell

“The cool thing about the holiday program is that you can go places you haven’t been, or maybe it’s somewhere you have been, but need to go back,” Johnson said. “Like the Durham. Maybe you’ve been there a handful of times, but you’ve never gone during the holiday season. The Durham is special this time of year.”

In Humboldt, the Southeast Nebraska Memorial Cancer Garden will offer visitors a walk through the season, with white lights illuminating pathways. Colorful Christmas lights, lighted Santa Claus and reindeer figures, as well as inflatable decorations, will highlight your holiday adventures. And Santa Claus will visit Dec. 10 to hear children's gift lists.

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Southeast Nebraska Cancer Memorial Garden in Humboldt observes the holiday season with lights. Photo courtesy of Kim Rist

As you tour the state, stop at the Buy Nebraska Store in Kearney, where you can celebrate Nebraska products. A basket featuring Nebraska goodies like flavored popcorn, syrup, soaps and lotions, as well as Dorothy Lynch salad dressing - a statewide staple - makes for a tasty holiday.

After Kearney, head to Sumner, about a 35-minute drive, and enjoy a meal at Tub's Pub. While there, get your passport stamped.

Fremont's Platte Valley Equipment celebrates the holiday season with decorations and a stamp for your passport. Who knows, maybe you'll find some tractors decorated with holiday themes.

Western Nebraska features a stop at the Midwest Theater in Scottsbluff. The vintage theater celebrates the holiday with Rhythm of Yuletide Dance, with a live on-stage performance by a Celtic dance group featuring world-champion Irish dancers and traditional Irish musicians. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the theater.

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Midwest Theater in Scottsbluff will host a holiday show featuring Celtic dancers. Photo by Tim Trudell

Other participants in the Holiday Passport include:

Beulah's Emporium, Chappell.

Cedar Hill Home and Holiday, Lincoln.

Dude's Steakhouse and Brandin' Iron Bar/Lounge, Sidney.

El Patron Mexican Restaurant, Schuyler.

Frahm Bar, Hastings.

LOCAL Gift Boutique and Tea Lounge, Hemingford.

Main Street Jewelers, Plattsmouth.

Ponca State Park, Ponca.

Prairie Arts Center, North Platte.

Red Path Gallery and Tasting Room, Seward.

Rustic Riverside Mercantile, West Point.

Wessels Living History Farm, York.

Wettlaufer's Garden Center and Flower Shop, Atkinson.

The Holiday Passport is special because it introduces people to places around the state, Johnson said.

“Maybe you don’t go to all 20 of the stops,” she said. “But the cool thing is that the holiday program allows you to go somewhere during the season that you haven’t maybe gone.”

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