Holiday Cheer in Lincoln, NE

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Holiday Cheer in Lincoln, NE

While there’s plenty to do during the holidays that necessitates being out and about, with shopping and parties being the main events this time of year, many of us are also inviting people to join in the celebration at our own homes. Entertaining does take work, but far less on the part of the host who utilizes the talents of our local businesses and puts them to work doing what they do best!

{Your} Home for the Holidays

Whether staying with you while in town or invited over for a gathering, if you’ll be opening your home to holiday guests, you’ll need to prepare accordingly.

The basics of entertaining remain the same in your home as they do at any other venue around town. Key details to consider include atmosphere, fare, drinks, and entertainment.

Charming Atmosphere

When going out we focus on getting ourselves presentable, which by definition means “fit to be seen.” Those who are entertaining in their homes not only have to look the part, but must also ensure that the surroundings do

As such, the emphasis is on cleanliness, creating a comfortable and welcoming ambiance, and of course during the holidays, festive décor is a must too. However, since this is a space that’s lived in daily, preparation in terms of the party setting can be quite the formidable challenge.

Also, there’s the all-too-familiar panic-induced cleaning session the night before or day of the arrival or event that can suck all of the remaining time, energy and attention away from anything else that might be just as deserving of priority status. Unless you thrive in this type of situation, it’s to be avoided if at all possible.

Hiring a cleaning company that performs services for residential clients around the holidays may be the option that’s right for you. With cleaning taken care of, which as we’re all aware can be a huge time suck, it will free up valuable time that you can spend on what’s probably a lengthy list of other things that will demand your attention. Whether it’s just key areas of the home that will be trafficked more with visitors, such as the kitchen and bathroom, or a full-scale cleaning session, there are generally no requests that are too small or large to accommodate. You will want to look into booking these services as soon as possible, because as you might assume based on the convenience factor plus the fact that most people don’t really like to clean anyway, they’re in high demand this time of year.

Crystal Patzel Crystal Clean Housekeeping Inc. - Headshot

Crystal Patzel
Crystal Clean Housekeeping Inc.

“For those hosting in their homes, I recommend a deep cleaning of kitchen and bathrooms as well as dining room and living room,” advises Crystal Patzel, owner of Crystal Clean Housekeeping Inc. “These are the main rooms where guests will be spending time. The last thing you want is setting your turkey on the table and having dust bunnies fall from your fans, and dirty toilets are an absolute no-no. When booking a cleaning service for the holidays, be sure to call at least 2 weeks in advance so that you can time everything right. You’ll want to set the appointment as close as possible to the actual holiday if guests will be staying with you, or the date of the special event you’ll be hosting. This year we are offering $15 off your deep cleaning service around the holidays and would love to help you prepare to welcome guests into your homes!”

David Hastreiter Christmas Décor by Festive Expressions - Headshot

David Hastreiter
Christmas Décor by Festive Expressions

As far as décor and ambiance go, holiday lighting is major. If you’re making an investment in lighting based on the potential of hosting guests at some point or for a planned event, you may as well enjoy it all season long. As with cleaning, this is another area where hiring a professionals can make life a lot easier. Arriving at a home that’s all decked out in a professional display of twinkling holiday lights is a fantastic way to welcome–and dazzle—your guests! This month is the ideal time to have holiday lights put up at your residence, and since you can simply turn them on or leave them off as you like, no time is really too soon to set the appointment. The team of professional holiday decorators at Christmas Décor by Festive Expressions right here in Lincoln, NE that will do it all for you – display design, installation, maintenance, take-down and clean-up/storage. “We evaluate and map the property, listen to our client’s desires, and create holiday lighting and decorating plans that accentuate the unique features of their home and its landscaping,” says David Hastreiter, owner of the local Christmas Décor by Festive Expressions franchise and sister company Pro-Scapes Landscape Development & Maintenance. “The decorating season is short, and our schedules tend to fill up by mid-November, so now is the time to give us a call if you haven’t already made plans for your holiday lighting.”

On the other side of the coin, you might be in the group of folks who are dedicated to the task of putting their own holiday lights up each year. Whether you’re a complete novice or consider yourself as experienced as one of Santa’s elves, it’s important not to let your inner Clark Griswold take over for obvious reasons. There’s no one more familiar with the hazards than your electrician, who can also offer some great energy saving tips too!

Matt Collins Oak Electric, Inc. headshot

Matt Collins
Oak Electric, Inc.

“Over the years, I have been excited to see more and more Christmas lights using LED technology as this greatly reduces the load on your circuits,” advises Matt Collins of Oak Electric, Inc. “Another tip to save energy would be to install timers to turn on and off your decorations.  Some of my customers have even requested to have switched outlets installed in the overhangs so they can easily turn on and off their decorations with an interior switch.

Also, when it comes to hosting family for meals, one of the first things I think that I find many people don’t is the Crock-Pots and slow cookers.  You’ve seen them; a tidy row along the countertop plugged into power strips and extensions cords.  I have been to countless emergency calls where somebody smells smoke because a circuit has been overloaded and burned out.  Not only is this a safety hazard, but it can put a major damper on the holiday spirit. My wife and I host many family gatherings throughout the year and in my personal residence, I have wired each and every outlet in our kitchen to its very own dedicated circuit.   I strongly encourage anyone who is planning to host to consider having a licensed electrician inspect their current situation.

Please consider these ideas and plan ahead this holiday season, because you’ll be disappointed if you wait until the last minute. To schedule a project, call us at (402) 440-5969 or visit our website at www.oakelectriccompany.com.”

Once you’ve got the outside lighting taken care of (and any other issues we’ve covered resolved, because safety first), you can focus on putting your decorating skills to work on the inside of your home, which is usually much more fun anyway!

Speaking of which, when assessing what you need for décor along with the other party essentials and where you’ll go to find those items, keep in mind that rental may be a better options than purchasing outright in some instances. Whether you’re in need of practical items for your party, such as extra tables and chairs or place settings, or you’re looking for just the right accents to set the mood, finding a good place to rent these things for a short period of time will save you from spending money on something you may never use again.

Categories of interest to those hosting parties this year might include bar service, candelabras, centerpieces, chafers, linens, chairs/tables/dance floors, china and porcelain, décor, entertainment, event lighting, games…there’s so much good stuff just waiting to be put to use!

Party Fare

Appetizer spreads galore. Platters of pretty treats. Classic holiday feast staples. This is exactly what we all have to look forward to during this year’s festivities, no surprises there!

As with the fare for any type of party, you can get as creative as you please since Lincoln is rich with culinary talent. If you’re going all out this year, get to it and start talking possibilities with the businesses at the top of your list to ensure you can still get on the books for the date(s) you need. Catering and having meals prepared in the home for parties, and even incorporating cooking classes into the mix, have also becoming much more popular and requested services; all of which would definitely take your party to the next level. Or, if you simply want to treat your guests to a few good meals during their stay but don’t want to slave in the kitchen to make that happen, no problem there either. In any scenario, working with someone who has done it before and can guide you through the process or alert you to things that may not have crossed your mind is highly recommended.

photo-nathan-newhouse-attitude-on-food

Nathan Newhouse
Attitude On Food

“The holidays are a very busy time so let Attitude on Food take the stress out of your event,” says Nathan Newhouse, owner and General Manager of Attitude on Food Catering. “Our highly-trained staff will take care of all the details so you as the host can enjoy yourself and entertain your guests. We’ll set up the room, arrange for all rental needs (china, linens, glassware etc.), coordinate vendors and even wash the dishes if needed, leaving your kitchen as clean as we found it.”

He further advises, “It’s very important to plan ahead and book a caterer, florist and other vendors as soon as possible.  December and January are very busy times and waiting to the last minute can result in disappointment when you find out that your favorite vendor is unavailable.

Get your caterer to do a site visit at your home or business especially if this is your first time working with them.  It is important for them to know where to load in, staging areas, trash removal and layout of the room for food and guests seating.

Also, take into consideration some kind of coat check, whether you rent a clothes rack and tickets or you make room in a spare bedroom or closet. If you are planning a larger party you might also want to consider valet parking, especially if you have older guests or if the weather is not the best.”

Newhouse also has some suggestions to offer for those who are looking to do something new and fresh for this year’s party. “From experience and what we’re seeing with the latest trends in Omaha and Lincoln, comfort food with a twist is big right now.  You want to plan a menu that your guests can relate to that’s also fun. Things like, for example, our famous Mac ‘n’ Cheese with a toppings bar of smoked chicken, maple bacon, lobster, white truffle oil and other delicious ingredients, are always a big hit and also substantial enough to leave your guests feeling satisfied. Or, how about something more entertaining–our smoked shrimp and grits served in an orb that’s filled with Applewood smoke by our chef in front of guests using a mini ‘smoking gun’!

We have recently expanded our pastry chef team, so we are now offering a wonderful selection of freshly baked breads and holiday treats. In addition, we have commissioned our new AOF Food Truck that’s been hitting the streets hard the last couple of months.  It’s available for large parties and gatherings, but also serving those who just want to grab a bite to eat. On our Facebook page, we list the upcoming locations of where we will be over the lunch and dinner hours.”

Joe Armstrong Cowboy Chicken

Joe Armstrong
Cowboy Chicken

A fresh twist on classic holiday fare is also fun—you could test the waters with the sides, or go right to the main event and do your turkey a little bit different this year. Instead of oven-baked/roasted, Cowboy Chicken, which specializes in wood fire rotisserie chicken that’s to-die-for, is applying the same cooking method to turkeys for a limited time during the holiday season!

 

“Our wood fire rotisserie turkeys have the perfect flavor, and paired with our seasonal apple cobbler, makes every November and December special for our guests,” said Joe Armstrong, co-owner of Cowboy Chicken Lincoln. “By using our proprietary Cowboy seasoning, and cooking over a wood-burning fire, you get layers of flavor.”

You can place an order for a wood fire rotisserie turkey or holiday meal package and have it waiting for you to stop by to pick up exactly when you need it, or catering services are also available for holiday parties.

Kelli Pilkington Venue Restaurant & Lounge - headshot

Kelli Pilkington
Venue Restaurant & Lounge

Kelli Pilkington of Venue Restaurant & Lounge also highlights what they have to offer in this particular area. “For those who will be a hosting a gathering in their homes, we are more than happy to schedule a private event and bring the meal to you. We set-up gorgeous buffets, plated dinners, cocktail arrays and welcome any special requests. We absolutely love taking care of a full-service event so you don’t have to worry about it, and we’ll do it right in the comfort of your own home.

As another great option, during the holidays we offer amazing holiday trays for our guests to conveniently order online, over the phone, or by stopping in and placing an order with us here at Venue.  These are simple yet elegant and will blow your guests away!

Our specialty is putting all of the details together, so the most important thing now that we’re already into November is to make sure to get started with your planning right away.”

Celebratory Drinks

What’s a holiday party without a great toast? Being in the company of those we hold dear, mingling while sipping festive drinks, is the epitome of holiday soirees. Our local bars are not only a great escape from home when hosting guests (with or without them…), but can also help you get everything together for hosting guests in your home.

Setting up a bar or drink station at home or preparing a special concoction to serve at your party requires a bit more planning than heading over to your neighborhood bar and lounge, but it’s almost as easy with the help of those who have plenty of experience in this area.

photo-Barb-Ballard-From-Nebraska-Gift-Shop-and-James-Arthur-Vineyards

Barb Ballard
From Nebraska Gift Shop
James Arthur Vineyards

“Setting up a wine bar is a particularly great option for those hosting in their homes because it doesn’t require messing with ice,” says Barb Ballard of From Nebraska Gift Shop and James Arthur Vineyards. “Or, for entertainment at your holiday party, you could buy a number of wines, including those from JAV, put them in brown bags and do a blind wine tasting. Have guests make notes and have fun trying a number of different styles of wine. The winery also makes a great place for an impromptu gathering, especially if family is in town. It’s a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy each other’s company while sipping on wine and enjoying some Nebraska-made food

On the other side of the coin, as a guest in someone’s home during the holidays, it’s customary to come bearing gifts. Bring a beverage of choice along to share with everyone or as a gift for the host, depending on what called for on that particular occasion. With great seasonal wines and limited edition gift arrangements this time of year, you’re sure to find something that will be a big hit at our local retailers.

Ballard suggests, “At From Nebraska Gift Shop in the Haymarket, it’s a one-stop shop for great gifts. We offer all Nebraska products; anything grown or made in Nebraska, from food items, clothing and art to award-winning wine, the store has something for everyone. If you’re looking for an easy way to impress, From Nebraska Gift Shop also puts together an absolutely amazing assortment of gift baskets full of Nebraska-made goodies. The great thing about it is that we have pre-made gift baskets that are beautifully created or we can customize a basket to fit any need or budget. If the gift needs to be shipped, we can take care of that as well.

When it comes to our offerings at James Arthur Vineyards, wine always makes a great gift for family, friends or co-workers. Whether it’s a gift for a host or wine for that special holiday dinner, we can help find the perfect match.

We really try to encourage people to let us take care of all the details and make it as easy as possible for the customer, whether it be party or gift needs. For example, if someone walks into the From Nebraska Gift Shop, all they need is a budget and an idea of what they want and we’ll take care of the rest. Our goal is to simplify the process however possible. And, what better way to reduce stress than sampling some wine while you shop?”

As it’s a traditional wine bar and shoppe, barVino offers plenty of great merchandise for the wine lovers and wine connoisseurs on your gift list too! There’s a nice selection of barware, accessories, glassware, and more.

Jennifer Amen Tomka barVino headshot

Jennifer Amen Tomka
barVino

Jennifer Amen Tomka, owner of barVino, offers a few unique ideas for gifts, parties, and anyone hosting guests in their homes this holiday season. “We just started our wine club, and our members enjoy great perks. This includes monthly featured wines, which are perfect for bringing along to parties or sharing with guests, and an exclusive invitation to a monthly wine tasting on the 1st Friday of the month, which will be a nice respite from all of the holiday action coming up. This is in addition to our monthly wine tasting event that is open to anyone who wants to join on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. Cost for this tasting is $15 for guests, but it’s another free perk for our wine club members. The membership to the wine club itself is even an awesome gift. Since opening, we’re adding retail offerings and will have a great selection of barware, accessories, glassware, and fun items like t-shirts and keychains that make great stocking stuffers. Of course, there are tons of wines to choose from too!

One variety in particular that has just arrived in time for the holidays is cru Beaujolais, which we’ve found to be a fantastic dupe for Beaujolais Nouveaux. This is a favorite of many that’s released the third Thursday of November every year and sells out fast, if you can even find it. Ours is a better quality version, which makes it way better paired with a holiday meal.

Whether you’re looking to host your holiday party or gathering at barVino or just want to get everyone out of the house for a little bit together, we’d love to host your group. We like to think we have something for everyone, with plenty of wine but also a nice selection of beer and spirits along with a great appetizer menu. There is no fee charged for use of our facility on Sunday and Monday when we’re closed, and we can reserve space as needed throughout the week for groups of all sizes. Just call ahead and we’ll have everything ready when you arrive.”

Festive Entertainment

You’ve got everyone together, food and drinks have been thoroughly enjoyed…but there’s still something missing. What to do now? While sometimes conversation is all that’s needed for a great party, it also doesn’t hurt to plan on some entertainment to keep things interesting. For events hosted at a private residence, space is likely the determining factor, but there are still ways to incorporate fun and festive forms of entertainment. You can’t go wrong with holiday music—karaoke, sing-alongs, dancing to all of the classics, or even live music courtesy of carolers, local bands, or professional musicians if you’re going all out. Games are usually a great time too, and there are certainly plenty out there to choose from.

Alternatively, as has been already mentioned, if you’ll have out-of-town guests staying with you during the holidays, getting out and about to have some fun will probably be on the agenda at some point. What to do then?

Here are a few fun things to consider:

The Bowling Alley

Remaining one of the most popular ways to spend time together with family and friends year after year, it only makes sense that our local bowling alleys are a hot spot during the holidays.

Jennifer Davis Korn of 48 Bowl advises, “As you begin to prepare for the holidays and hosting guests in your home, you might start to wonder what you will do to entertain all of these extra people. 48 Bowl, Inc. (Parkway Lanes and Hollywood Bowl) can offer you a great venue for getting everyone together in a fun and friendly atmosphere that is not your home! As we’ve said before, this is our company’s favorite time of year because we get to help you celebrate with your family and friends. Here’s what makes bowling a great group activity: anyone can participate! As long as you come with a good sense of humor about the ugly rental shoes and any gutters you may throw, there’s opportunity for everyone to laugh and enjoy their time together.

Here are some tips about how to plan your family/friends outing:

  • Make it informal. Bowling’s greatest strength as a group activity is that it offers everyone a chance to spend time together, talking, laughing and having fun.
  • Reserve your lanes ahead of time. We offer many opportunities for open bowling on weekdays, evenings and weekends, but the holiday season is our busiest time of year. Make your reservation with one of our centers at least 48 hours in advance and if you can, reserve now! The most popular times (Friday and Saturday evenings) can fill up a couple of months in advance.
  • Reserve 1 lane for every 4-6 people in your group.

Time considerations. If you have other plans to fit in your day, you can expect one game of bowling to take ten minutes for every person on your lane. For example, if you have six people on your lane, allow for about sixty minutes to bowl one game, and possibly a little more time if you have small children playing.

For information about how to reserve lanes, you can visit our website at 48bowl.com and click on the white “Reserve A Lane” button. If you’d rather speak with someone directly, please feel free to call our centers. For Parkway Lanes, 2555 S. 48th St., call (402) 483-7763. For Hollywood Bowl, 920 N. 48th St., call (402) 466-1911.

Jen Miseno Sun Valley Lanes - Headshot

Jen Miseno
Sun Valley Lanes

In agreement, Jen Miseno of Sun Valley Lanes adds, “Hosting a family gathering can be a stressful occasion, especially with extra people around the house. When you have guests from out of town that need something to occupy their time, also perhaps allowing you to finish your preparations, send them bowling. It’s a great family bonding event in which everyone can participate.

Also, as this is a time when the kids are out of school on break and looking for entertainment, during the week between Christmas and New Year’s we give our league bowlers a break too. This means there are more open lanes available during prime-time weeknights so that anyone can come here and bowl.

If you are considering an outing for your family, or your business, don’t wait until the last minute.  Depending on the size of your group and the time frame you’d like, there may not be openings.  You should also assess the ages and capabilities of those attending.  While we offer something for all ages and skill levels, not all places will have that. If you are looking for something to do on New Year’s Eve, keep us in mind too.  We host a variety of parties ranging from youth/family during the day and early evening to adult-oriented in the late evening.”

The Escape Room

This is one of the newer group entertainment trends that continues to be tremendously popular among all ages. If you’re looking for a new experience to try while family and friends are in town, test your skills at solving a mystery and book a visit to your local escape room!

Anh McClure Escape Lincoln headshot

Anh McClure
Escape Lincoln

Anh McClure of Escape Lincoln points out, “We offer rooms for small and large groups on the weekends, but I think the best thing about our setup is we can accommodate custom requests for groups of any size for times during the week. Groups from 6 on up can set up a date and time with us where just their group will have access to the escape room. At our flat rate per room of $110 plus tax, it is actually a bit cheaper than a group of 6 costs on the weekend! This allows families and friends to plan events without the stress of trying to find a time during busy holiday weekends (although we are happy to coordinate weekend bookings as well!). The holidays can be a difficult time in terms of planning since so many others are doing the same things, but we make it a point to work with our clients to schedule custom times that work with their schedules.”

Olivia German Lincoln Escape Room - Headshot

Olivia German
Lincoln Escape Room

Olivia German of Lincoln Escape Room also highlights the unique nature of their offerings. “We currently have 3 different rooms to choose from: the Cure, the Missing Musician, and LiCastro’s Lair. Depending on your room (or rooms) of choice, we can accommodate anywhere from 1 to 25 people at once. Escape rooms are for everyone, so bring on the corporate groups, friends, grandparents, and in-laws!

Right now, we’re really excited about some new experiences that we are adding. This includes expanding our space and developing some new and exciting challenges, and increasing our maximum group size. We’re always pushing for the latest and greatest escape room experiences, and are also currently in the process of developing mind-blowing virtual reality experiences for single-player escape games. We’ll be able to push the limits of reality and create some experiences that can’t be done in real life! Each of our experiences has a unique scenario that challenges our guests to think outside the box. To decide what challenge is best for your team, visitors can check out our website for more information or to book a room.

When it comes to corporate events and parties, we can provide tables and seating for select groups and private events. Special bookings can be made if a group wishes to bring in their own food and beverages; otherwise we offer snacks and soda for those interested. All you have to do is give us your event timeline and headcount; we’ll work with your schedule! Plus, larger groups receive special pricing, so don’t worry about having to skip dinner! If you do plan on grabbing a bite to eat before or after your event, our convenient location is in close proximity to establishments with very tasty fare.

We will be continuing our regular weekday promotion through the holidays, which can be found on our website, and we plan on releasing some more soon! Anyone can stay up to date on our promos by checking our website – www.lincolnescaperoom.com – or following us on social media; including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat!”

Regarding the planning-related specifics, she adds, “When it comes to large group bookings, it’s helpful to plan ahead. Let us know what you’re planning 2 weeks in advance, or earlier if possible, so you have time to snag rooms before they all get booked. This also gives us some time to adjust our schedule, if needed. There is a large group booking request form on our website that anyone with 13 or more participants can fill out and send our way. We’re usually able to reply within a day or two.

Another step some groups might overlook is our waiver requirement. Every participant is required to sign a waiver before entering the rooms for liability reasons. It’s not like there’s anything dangerous in the rooms, it’s just a precaution. Anyone under 18 must have the form signed by a parent or legal guardian. The form is available on our website and can be printed out for guests to bring with them, or the form can be signed at our facility.

Another misunderstanding we sometimes see here is groups getting paired with other groups when they don’t expect to get mixed. As stated on our website, any seats that are not purchased in your booking are available to book by anyone else. You do have the option to block off extra seats for $5.00 per seat, but we encourage making new friends!

Finally, arrive early! In order to make sure your group starts on time, we ask that every participant show up at least 10-15 minutes prior to their scheduled time in order to check in, use the restroom, and allow our Game Masters enough time to give preliminary instruction. Once you are locked in the room, you will not have bathroom access; so try to remember to go before you arrive!”

The Paint & Sip Studio

Yet another unique concept, the Paint & Sip experience can be enjoyed by anyone, no matter the level of artistic talent. Wine seems to come up frequently, as this is another place where you can enjoy sipping on your favorite variety with the added element of a creative outlet.

J. Christopher Cook of Pinot's Palette - headshot

J. Christopher Cook
Pinot’s Palette

“We take pride in providing a high quality, unique entertainment experience that almost anyone will enjoy,” says J. Christopher Cook, the owner of Lincoln Pinot’s Pallette studio. “We have an extensive library of paintings to choose from, as well as the option to further customize them with the help of our talented artists on staff. We can design something holiday-inspired for your group too, which can be displayed for years to come as a memorable reminder to time spent with family and friends. Especially during the holidays, a time when we can experience more stress than usual, the combination is one that promotes relaxation along with the opportunity to spend time together doing something fun.”

The Gathering Place

With such a diverse selection of venues in town, from bars to restaurants and lounges and even coffee shops, everyone has their own favorites to show off to guests during the holidays. Wherever you like to spend time, chances are, others will too. For out-of-town guests, it can be a chance to check out the local scene here and have some fun in unfamiliar territory, or if they’ve lived here before at some point, to revisit old stomping grounds or see what’s new in the Capitol City. Alternatively, since it can be tough to find the time to get together with our favorite people during the rest of the year, the holidays seem to be when people make the time to see one another. No matter the particulars of your scenario, there’s always delicious food and/or festive drinks waiting for you at your preferred destination, all you need to do is send out the invitation to join (and make plans accordingly if it’s something that requires a reservation or prior notice, of course!)!

The Live Performance

For many, attending special shows together during the holidays, such as well-known classics The Nutcracker or Manheim Steamroller/Manheim Steamroller Christmas, is a time-honored tradition.

In Lincoln, the Lied Center for Performing Arts has plenty in store for audiences during the holiday season. Just a few to keep on your radar (or secure tickets immediately if you want to make sure you’ll have a seat in the house) are Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra: Deck the Halls on December 4th, Canadian Brass Christmas on December 10th, Manheim Steamroller/Manheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis on December 20th, and of course, Lincoln Midwest Ballet Company will again present The Nutcracker, featuring performances from nearly 200 dance students from right here in southeastern Nebraska along with nationally-known guests, on December 17th and 18th.

The Holiday Light Tour

photo-lori-hiebner-leisure-limousine-and-sedan

Lori Hiebner
Leisure Limousine and Sedan

Lori Hiebner of Leisure Limousine & Sedan offers a great idea that will get everyone in the holiday spirit—a tour of the holiday lights! “Holiday light tours are offered in the evenings throughout the month of December and include a pre-determined route of the city’s best light displays. Gather your guests or pack up the kids and enjoy this special time of the year together. Pajamas welcome! If you’re looking to see the Christmas lights in comfort and style, book your holiday light tour now because spots are limited.”

Anytime you venture away from your own home for the holidays, whether it’s to someone else’s home or any other destination, it’s important to plan for safe transportation.

Hiebner advises, “It seems like transportation can sometimes be an afterthought when planning a party or going out with friends. Holiday parties with family or work friends tend to be a ton of fun!  Since many holiday parties involve alcohol, it’s wise to plan the transportation BEFORE the festivities begin.  I would suggest hiring a limo to pick everyone up and drop everyone off at the end of the evening to alleviate any concerns if someone has overindulged.  Don’t leave your holiday party transportation up in the air this year.  Make the impression you want to make while enjoying the peace of mind that a professional car service provides. Plan early so you can reserve your specific times and dates!”

Decision Time

After reviewing all of the details provided, those who are still reading this likely fall into two categories. First, you may be even more excited to host guests in your home! Of course, we hope that you’re inspired, have new ideas to explore, and also are reminded of important items that can be easily overlooked during all of the holiday hustle and bustle. However, and this is not a bad thing by any means, upon further evaluation of the pros and cons associated with entertaining in your home, you may have decided to abandon ship in favor of proceeding with alternate plans. Should you find yourself in this position, not to worry…yet.

If this means simply finding other arrangements for your guests while they stay in town for whatever reason, booking a hotel room it probably your best bet. Doing so as soon as possible will ensure you are in control of the decision and can pick one with the best location and amenities.

At this point there are still plenty of wonderful options to consider with availability yet this year for private events, whether you’re hosting family and friends or a corporate affair. If a local venue is determined to be the best option for your event, the same advice applies–you’ll want to get your reservation made as soon as possible. Right now many are still planning their holiday parties, but are beginning to kick things into high gear for the most part.

At Country Inn & Suites, you can arrange for your guests’ stay during their holiday visit, you can book a space for your party – or you can do both!

Deborah Carroll Country Inn & Suites headshot

Deborah Carroll
Country Inn & Suites

“For our holiday events clients really like that we can offer a great hotel stay as well as a great event,” says Deborah Carroll of Country Inn & Suites Lincoln North. “It is always nice to find a venue that can provide you with a lovely atmosphere, great food, easy access, and guest accommodations at an affordable price, which is exactly what we do at Country Inn & Suites Lincoln North. With free hot breakfast, free parking, shopping close at hand, and a great indoor pool, not only can your guests attend your holiday event but they can stay and enjoy a short ‘staycation’ at the hotel at the same time.”

Back to party fare and entertainment, Carroll also offers a few suggestions to consider. “In the past a traditional buffet has always seemed to be popular, but how about changing things up with food stations?  We’ve created Slider Stations, Potato Stations, and the most popular, our Mac & Cheese Station, which are all great fun. You can always mix it up and offer several different stations to appeal to a variety of preferences and appetites too. This service style tends to lend itself to a more relaxed atmosphere.  Along with that the board game tables, Minute to Win It and other games and prize giveaways that can be arranged by our on-site event coordinators are fun and keep people engaged. Assistance with planning is complimentary for anyone hosting an event at our venue, and it’s something that we truly enjoy doing for our clients.”

Recently opening a brand new private event space just in time for the holidays nestled in the Historic Haymarket, which is already well known for its festive ambiance this time of year, Culinary Underground is another go-to spot for those who are seeking the perfect destination to host their guests. The charming party room has its own full bar and bartender, fireplace, televisions, stage and window seating, private sectioned seating, and of course, an amazing selection of catering offerings courtesy of Culinary Underground. It’s well worth checking out for holiday events this year – you must see it in person to appreciate!

{Leaving} Home for the Holidays

Now that we’ve discussed at length what to plan for if you’ll be entertaining at home, let’s talk a little bit about things to keep in mind if you’ll be away from home during the holidays this year. Here is a handy Holiday Vacation Checklist for all of you soon-to-be travelers out there:

  1. Create an up-to-date inventory of valuables, such as TVs, jewelry, computers and other large-ticket items. Include detailed descriptions, photographs, makes, models and serial numbers. Make sure that this information is as organized and exhaustive as possible.
  2. Store items that you consider to be most important in a fireproof vault or safe that’s hidden in a designated spot.
  3. Install automatic light timers and set the timers to go on and off at logical times of the day. If you’re able to control your home’s key systems remotely, make sure to take advantage of that feature to periodically turn the lights on and off; set an alert as a reminder if you need it.
  4. Turn down your thermostat to save on electricity or gas bills. (You may also be able to adjust this from your mobile device if you have a home automation system, but it doesn’t hurt to get in the habit of doing it before you leave for an extended period of time.)
  5. Arrange for snow removal while you’re away so it’s not a telltale sign that no one has been coming or going. (And because it’s your duty as a homeowner in the city of Lincoln to keep those sidewalks cleared!) Also, make sure no vehicles are left on the street just in case an emergency parking ban goes into effect while you’re away.
  6. Check your holiday lights for fraying or damage, including cracked lamp holders or loose connections. (When purchasing light strings, extension cords, spotlights, electrical decorations, and even gas appliances or carbon monoxide alarms, look for the certification mark of an accredited certification organization such as CSA International, UL, or ELT to ensure that the products comply with applicable standards for safety and performance.) Also, make sure to follow the golden rule of extension cords: Never connect more than one together.
  7. Trim shrubbery and trees. Overgrown shrubs provide the perfect cover for would-be intruders.
  8. Place a temporary hold on mail and newspaper deliveries or ask someone to pick them up daily for you.
  9. Don’t leave holiday gifts out where they are visible to passersby or can be spotted through the windows. Break down boxes and place them in dark trash bags or recycle bins when you take them to the curb for pick-up. Leaving them out in the open will advertise what’s inside your home.
  10. As you leave, do a final walk-through of your home to ensure all windows and doors are locked, and unplug all nonessential devices.
  11. Activate motion detectors and alarm systems. Download your alarm company’s app onto your phone to monitor your home while you’re away.
  12. Pass the word along to your neighbors so that they know to watch for any unusual activity while you are away.
  13. Be aware of what you are posting on social media; most importantly, your location. If it’s common knowledge that you’re away, you become more of a target for home invasion and theft.
  14. Designate a neighbor or someone you trust to check in periodically while you are gone, or consider inviting someone to stay in your absence. DO NOT leave a key under the mat, in the closest planter, at the top of the door frame, or any other common hiding spot.

{SHOP LOCAL} for the Holidays

Last but not least, now that we’ve thoroughly covered the gatherings, let’s end on an important topic related to finding all of these gifts. During a time when a significant amount of money is being spent, we can all make our dollars go even further by supporting our local economy and the businesses in our community.

Keep in mind that many local retailers offer the option of online shopping, so you can do all of your normal shopping in the convenience of your home or wherever you may be with a little extra time on your hands while still doing business with the people right here in Lincoln.

A great example is local firearms sales and service center DE Guns. “We take pride in our user-and mobile-friendly website, DEGuns.net, which makes purchasing gifts very easy for our customers,” says Derek Broman, owner of DE Guns. “Both shipping and in-store pick-up options are always available, and our Deal of the Day page always offers great merchandise at the lowest price around. So if you see a good deal on our website, don’t be afraid to purchase online because you can always pick up the item in-store and check it out thoroughly before you leave with it. Furthermore, sometimes our inventory moves really fast so if you see something you like you’ll want to get your order placed as soon as possible. Firearm accessories, cleaning supplies and ammunition (especially defensive, which costs more but is well worth it for the benefits) always make great gifts. A gun safe is a really nice and useful item, and we also have a selection of concealed carry purses in many different styles that have been a popular online purchase.”

Another good example is Body Nouveaux Spa, which always offers holiday gift certificates that can easily be purchased on their website and printed out anytime and anywhere you please.

While some great deals can be found online from local retailers, some of which we’ve already mentioned, others will require a bit of luck in finding them at the source, in person at the store.

Diane Hesson - Play It Again Sports - headshot

Diane Hesson
Play It Again Sports

A common option for gifts is the practical variety and more specifically, those that support what a person really loves to do or perhaps has always wanted to try. Take Play It Again Sports for example. There are tons of great gifts in every price range for the golfer, the runner, the gym rat, the coach, the outdoors enthusiast—even just for the person who’s always on-the-go or who is setting a fitness goal for the coming year. Furthermore, consider the fact that you could save a lot of money getting these items gently used. Check out Play It Again Sports first—their inventory is always changing and you can even trade in your gently used items for more money to spend on gifts! “We offer both new and gently used items at a fraction of the retail price,” says Diane Hesson, owner of Play It Again Sports. “Each year we bulk up on our inventory specifically for the holiday rush, which means you have an even better chance of getting a great deal on exactly what you have in mind. Gift cards are also available, and are particularly useful for the spring sports that are right around the corner. We welcome trades all year long, which will allow you to get rid of items you don’t need any longer while stretching your holiday budget. In addition to our extensive selection of sporting goods, we also carry a full line of fitness equipment, apparel and accessories. Our goal is to make your holiday shopping experience painless, and we look forward to assisting holiday shoppers in finding exactly what they’re looking for over the next couple of months!”

Another example of a place where it’s best to go right to the source to find those exciting “hidden gems” for the most important people on your gift list is Sartor Hamann Jewelers. With so many different options to choose from during the holidays, including the ability to design your own pieces along with their incredible inventory selection this time of year, you’ll definitely want to make this a designated stop on your shopping route.

The familiar lyrics of a timeless holiday favorite say it best: “If you want to be happy in a million ways – For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home.” As we all prepare for our upcoming holiday festivities, keep in mind that there are so many different ways our local businesses can be of service during this wonderful time of year. With gatherings and gifts, there are such amazing possibilities to explore – and the time to do that is upon us!