Holiday Planning in Omaha, NE
The holidays are here! Almost, technically, but according to the aisles dedicated to Halloween that popped up in many of our local retailers last month, being prepared early seems to be a prevailing trend and with good reason. This month many have already begun to get in gear for what’s ahead—plenty of holiday parties and gift giving! Whether you fall into the “I’m SO excited!” category right now (we’ve all seen those Buddy the Elf memes) or need a little more time and encouragement to get there, you’ll still want to keep a few things on your radar so the best opportunities don’t pass you by.
Holiday Party Planning
In the spirit of the holiday season, which is much about fellowship and celebration, the calendar for the next few months is highly likely to be jam-packed for most of us, with parties, gatherings and events positioned throughout. In order to get everyone on the same page for the best turnout, you’ll want you party to get penciled in as a priority well before it’s in competition with a crazy mix of engagements. Furthermore, the calendars for our local businesses with holiday offerings are already filling up, so it’s a rule of thumb to secure your date, and even your vendors, this month if possible for any holiday event that you’ll be hosting yet this year.
Selecting Your Venue
Similar to wedding season, while we do have a fantastic selection of local venues, it’s astounding how fast they all book up for the holiday season. The most popular dates tend to book the earliest, which would be your Thursday, Friday, and Saturday affairs.
With off-peak dates and times only slightly less desirable in this particular scenario (and for a variety of reasons, preferable to some), these too are hot commodities within such a limited window of time. If you have your heart set on that perfect place to host your holiday party, or will need a specific venue to accommodate the size of the party, theme or desired activity, catering preferences, or any other determining factors at play, you’ll want to get this one detail finalized as soon as you can.
Parties are unique, with no one the same as the next. While the holiday theme is what the majority will have in common this time of the year, there is quite the diverse spectrum of options available to choose from in the Omaha Metro. With so many local venues to consider, it really depends on your vision for the event, and more importantly with precious little time to spare, how much time and effort you want to invest. While some are natural party planners and find great satisfaction in coordinating all of the details, others will greatly benefit from partnering with experienced professionals. These are the people who specialize in taking all of the stress and responsibility off of the client’s shoulders and onto theirs during the planning stages along with flawlessly executing their role when it’s party time.
If you’re looking for somewhat of a blank canvas or open area that can be transformed to your own taste and specifications, a ballroom or designated event space will afford you plenty of options. Alternatively, you may want to go where the action’s at to keep your guests engaged with one another and entertained, possibly even providing the opportunity to try something new. Or, you could even create an itinerary for a “night on the town” experience and travel to several different locations, which could be in close proximity and within walking distance or arrived at via group transportation. With so much fun to be had all around town, it can really be tough to narrow it down to just a few options, so we’ve provided a few great examples of each to check out for inspiration!
A fun night out catching a movie at the theatre is a form of entertainment that’s universally enjoyable. When you add fantastic modern touches to the traditional movie-going experience like a full bar, a chef-driven menu similar to one you’d find in an upscale restaurant, and service right at your seat—it ranks high on the list of unique venues that would be perfect for a holiday party.
“We are well known for presenting the best film, food and drink all in one seat for an experience that’s second-to-none and have many wonderful options for private holiday parties, with our ‘Action Pack’ being the most popular,” says Tyler Calabrese, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s Franchise Principle for the Omaha Market. “Entertainment options include holiday-themed quote-alongs, sing-alongs, bingo, trivia, and TV classics. We provide everything—costumed hosts, onscreen pre-show, and décor in the theater—so you can relax and enjoy your event. You can even mix and match your holiday options to create your Ultimate Holiday Party!
While you could certainly book a group for lunch or dinner and a movie, or one of our holiday party packages, you could also choose a venue rental package, which includes event planning services, three-hour auditorium rental, use of A/V equipment, and full wait service during the event. We have 8 auditoriums ranging in size, so we’re able to accommodate parties of up to 200 people. For both food and drinks there are really fantastic options to choose from. For the fare, hosts have the option of full menu service, buffet service (for groups of 25 or more), or plated custom service. With a full bar, signature cocktails, beer and wine or non-alcoholic options are available. Seasonal holiday food and drink specials are available in addition to our regular menu too. Or if you prefer to keep it simple, the standard movie staples of freshly popped popcorn with a fountain drink won’t disappoint!”
A favorite local destination year-round–and quite the scenic, festive setting for a holiday party or gathering–is Lied Lodge & Conference Center at Arbor Day Farm.
“Lied Lodge is a perfect location to show your appreciation with a unique and inspiring holiday party,” says Jennifer Phillips, Senior Conference Planner at Lied Lodge & Conference Center. “Throughout the holiday season, we offer many one-of-a-kind experiences. As a Conference Planning Manager, I assist clients in choosing options that fit any particular budget or group size and menu offerings with a holiday flair. I’d suggest incorporating one or more of our biggest holiday offerings. Back again by popular demand is the Holiday Trolley Tour of Lights. Climb aboard Arbor Day Farm’s enclosed trolley for a one-hour tour of historic Nebraska City. For the second year, Christmas at the Mansion offers the opportunity to tour the 52-room Morton Mansion at Arbor Lodge State Historical Park while enjoying holiday themed displays, refreshments, holiday music, and vintage décor.
From guest rooms and conference spaces to the grand lobby, guests will appreciate the refreshed interior with nature-inspired, timeless and contemporary updates from our recent $9 million renewal. We want everyone to have a safe holiday season and encourage people to enjoy themselves and ‘take the elevator’ home at the end of evening.
Choosing a date early is especially advantageous, as it gives your guests the opportunity to ‘save the date’ during a busy festive season. Christmas at the Mansion offers an after-hours look at Arbor Lodge all dolled up in vintage decor, or hop aboard the Holiday Trolley for a tour of Nebraska City — either choice offers something unique your guests will remember. If it’s not too cold, an evening bonfire during a beautiful snow fall complete with s’mores and Arbor Day Farm’s famous hot apple cider sets the perfect ambiance.”
Another venue with a scenic backdrop, Bellevue Berry Farm has a warm, rustic ambiance that sets the scene perfectly for a holiday party.
“We have four barns on the property that vary in size and we decorate them every year for the holidays with tons of lights and gorgeous Christmas trees,” says Tyson Schaefer of Bellevue Berry Farm & Pumpkin Ranch. “Each of the barns has an outdoor area with a firepit, which is stocked with wood and ready to enjoy. The combination of indoor and outdoor entertaining areas is ideal as it allows guests to mingle and switch up the scenery.
The barns are already festive as is, so you could leave it at that, but if you want to take it up a notch we offer the services of our in-house decorator who is incredibly talented and has done many different things with the spaces. Catering and bar services are thoughtfully planned out, with plenty of options to choose from, and since there’s a campfire on-site, s’mores make for the perfect dessert. As far as entertainment, there’s a lot of freedom here too: live band, deejay, comedian, magician, Santa and Mrs. Claus—we’ve even had guests bring in their own mechanical bull! We can also provide hayrack rides for your party guests, which is another really nice special touch that’s popular for holiday parties.
We start booking fast this month for dates in late-November and December, so if you’re interested in exploring the options at Bellevue Berry Farm, we’d love to talk to you as soon as possible.”
Finally, you might also consider experiences in the form of activities to partake in together, such as a group cooking or art class. It keeps things interesting and allows for the expression of creativity along with interaction and engagement with one another. After all, holiday parties in the traditional sense are tons of fun but can all
lean towards being very similar, so it’s refreshing to do something unique.
“Here’s something different you could do – schedule a woodworking class as a private party,” suggests Gerry Phelan of Midwest Woodworkers. “Spend some quality time with your friends, family or co-workers and learn a new skill at the same time. If you are looking for a creative outlet that gives you a chance to work with your hands, we have some excellent opportunities. Carving, pen making, marquetry, scroll sawing – there are lots of possibilities that would work for a small group. Just let us know what you would like to do and we will try to make it happen.”
Securing the Entertainment
As with some of the venues we’ve already mentioned, the entertainment is already a part of the equation. However, there are also other forms of entertainment that can be incorporated at almost any venue of your choosing. Once you have the basics in place, all of the special touches can be arranged accordingly.
Choosing a Caterer
With one of the more eagerly anticipated aspects of the holiday party experience being the fare, as one might suspect, caterers also book up rather quickly during the holiday season. As such, this will likely be another priority item to check off of your list, and with a similar sense of urgency as booking the venue. There are several different avenues to consider for party catering, all with a wide variety of possibilities for customizing your spread: 1. Choose from the catering selections available at the venue you’ve booked; 2. Hire a local catering company; or 3. Utilize one of our local restaurants with catering offerings. Setting up a meeting with your top two or three choices to really get a grasp of what they’d be able to provide is advised since you’re working with a little more time on your side at this point.
“When it comes to holiday party fare, we have just about any delicacy you’d associate with a holiday meal,” emphasizes Sean Fuller, owner of Just Good Meat. “In customizing a meal for an upcoming party, meat is obviously our specialty and as such, our customers have a wealth of options such as pulled pork, smoked or marinated chicken breasts in many different flavors, sliced pork loin, phillies, or meat and cheese trays with a wide variety of gourmet sausages and cheeses to choose from all the way up to fine dining fare such as farm-fresh turkeys, geese, capons, duck breasts, quail, old-fashioned dry cure ham, prime rib, and of course, any cut of steak you can think of.
There are many more items available that I haven’t named, and since we have so much variety when it comes to main dishes, sides, and hors d’oeuvres, it’s advantageous to line up a consultation via phone or in person so that we can go over everything together and set up a meal that best fits the particular event. All of our offerings are available to pick up in-store or for catering on location, so you are free to choose what works best for your specific needs and fits within your budget. We run a holiday special on prime rib throughout the season, which is a nice alternative for those who are looking for a somewhat non-traditional holiday dinner. As there are plenty of parties to attend and holiday meals to enjoy, it also can be a refreshing change of pace. However, if you’re sticking to the classic turkey dinner, we offer the finest all-natural, locally-sourced turkeys and we can also smoke them for enhanced flavor.”
Sweet Treats to Share
Indulging in sweet treats is a part of the holidays that many enjoy the most and with good reason—cookies, pies, candies…YUM!
With plenty of creativity to share, the talented professionals at your local bakery are just the folks you’ll want to work with for your holiday party delicacies.
“Whether the style you’re looking to achieve is elegant, traditional, whimsical, cute, or unique, there’s a dessert option that will fit the bill nicely and we’d love to create it for you this holiday season,” says Michelle Kaiser, owner of The Omaha Bakery. “For groups of ten employees or 200+ guests alike, the key is to get your order in as soon as possible so we have time to explore the possibilities. It ensures you’ll get exactly what you want, when you want it, along with having the opportunity to incorporate personal touches and a little creativity too if you like. This is an exciting holiday season for us because we’ve added so many signature offerings to our already well-rounded list of delicacies available. We also make it a point to accommodate special requests and all budgets. Just give us a call and we’ll go from there!”
Serving Up Holiday Spirits
The beverages, of the adult variety and otherwise, are another enjoyable aspect of a holiday party to consider. If your chosen venue is a restaurant or bar, this part is already conveniently checked off the list by default. However, if you’re hosting at your home, office, or a venue where you’ll be responsible for setting up the bar, there will be a few more items on the planning side to cover. The two best options here are putting together your own bar or booking a local company that can bring the bar to you.
Assembling Your Bar:
Cornhusker Beverage & Bridal offers an amazing selection, so you’re sure to find exactly what’s on your list of must-haves. Chances are good that you may even run across something new or fun to try out! As knowing what to serve and the exact quantities needed can be quite the dilemma, the experienced staff at Cornhusker Beverage & Bridal will not only help you decide the best fit for beverage offerings but also the optimal proportion of beer, wine, liquor, punch and soft drinks while also staying within your budget. In addition to carrying all of the classic party favorites, you’ll have convenient access to party goods such as tableware and professional bartenders are also available for hire.
Concierge Beverage Service:
The Margarita Man is a convenient and fun option for parties; with delivery, set-up and pick-up of everything you’ll need to serve up delicious frozen beverages, it’s definitely one of the more stress-free ways to entertain. There are over 20 different gourmet flavors to choose from, and for kid-friendly parties, the Grand Fiesta Package includes two machines so that you can provide a non-alcoholic option. The Margarita Man will personally mix the first batch on-site and leave behind easy-to-follow directions for the next, cups and straws are provided, and you can choose to have a designated server present or let guests serve themselves at their leisure. Simple and hassle-free!
“One of the best ways to make your holiday party memorable and special is to incorporate something unique that sets it apart from all of the others,” says Dan Cheloha, owner of the Margarita Man franchise serving clients in Nebraska. “Providing frozen drinks is one way you could achieve that, because while they’re refreshing in the summer months, they’re just as tasty in the winter! For example, if your holiday event will be held at a local winery, you could provide an additional option that pairs well—frozen sangrias or peach Bellini’s are past favorites. Or alternatively, similar to Christmas in July parties, doing just the opposite of what is expected is more often than not a welcome surprise. As such, you could also opt for a non-traditional holiday party theme that transports your guests to a destination with a warmer climate; we’ve done holiday fiestas with a selection of margarita flavors that pair well with a taco or enchilada bar and Hawaiian luaus with tropical daiquiris. We enjoy creating custom frozen drinks for our clients and would love to chat about the possibilities for your upcoming holiday party!”
Arranging for Transportation
Holiday parties are notorious for having the drinks flowing, no matter the location. Closer to the holidays there are free cab rides offered by local businesses, and with Uber there is much better access to safe transportation across the Omaha Metro these days. However, as a responsible party host, booking transportation for your guests would be greatly appreciated and allows everyone to let loose and enjoy themselves without worry of logistics as the event draws to a close.
Making Plans for Your Pets
There is a lot packed into a short amount of time during the holidays, with much to do that requires more of a commitment of time and attention (and probably a lot of running around town) than during the rest of the year. With travelling and entertaining in the home to add to the equation, you’ll want to make sure that any necessary arrangements for your family members of the furry variety are handled soon because this is another area of high demand during the holiday season.
Particularly if you’re hosting a gathering at your home, visitors and so much action may be a stressor to your pets. With everyone coming and going, it’s also easy for your pet to slip out the door unnoticed. If you don’t have a quiet, secure place in your house where your pet can lay low during the festivities, you’ll probably want to plan for transport to another location, whether it’s a friend or family member’s house or a place where you can board your pet. Alternatively, if your pet enjoys being the center of attention, a trip to the grooming salon for a holiday style is likely on the agenda. Of course, to be party-ready on the day of the event, you’ll want to make sure the appointment is on the books well in advance for a fresh style 1-2 days prior.
… And Everything Else
We’ve covered a lot of territory in terms of party prep, but there are still a few other things to add to your list (which of course you’ll check twice–can’t be too careful!).
Holiday lights are a must! While there are some ambitious enough to take on the job, it can easily turn into a situation that closely resembles something out of Clark Griswold’s playbook if you’re not careful. By hiring a local company to bring your party to life with festive holiday lighting, this will all be avoided and the results are guaranteed to be absolutely stunning.
What’s a party without plenty of fun photos to look back on fondly at a later day – or to post on any number of social media channels immediately to show everyone how much fun you’re having, who are we kidding?!
As such, dressing the part is a must. You might have go-to statement pieces in your wardrobe, but it’s always fun to debut a brand new look that’s fitting for the occasion. Holiday parties run the gambit from casual dress to glitz and glamour, and even venture into themed attire—you’ve probably got an ugly sweater just waiting to be unleashed yet again this year.
If your goal is to dress to impress, make sure to check out the local boutiques in town because these are the places where you’re sure to find the best hidden gems! You’ll find a great selection of pieces that are perfect for holiday parties, with plenty of new arrivals coming in all throughout the season.
Now you should be well on your way to putting together the best holiday party yet!
Holiday Gift Preview
With all of the holiday party necessities out of the way, this brings us to an equally important topic during the holidays: Shopping for the perfect gifts.
While for most gifts there is a little time to spare before you’ll need to get started with your holiday shopping adventures, for a select few items now is the time to act.
Gifts that need to be special ordered are best to get out of the way as soon as possible, particularly if there are lead times involved. A prime example is anything you’d need personalized—a last name embroidered on sports apparel, an engraved watch or flask, and anything that would be custom-made, from furniture to jewelry and so many more possibilities on past those.
Corporate gifts often fall into the customized area, if not because of the gift itself but because they are generally ordered in numbers as opposed to just one item. Placing your orders this month is ideal to ensure you receive your gifts with enough time to distribute them accordingly.
It’s also the best time to pick up the items that will be in high demand; while you may find good deals during the holidays, there are plenty of other items that may not vary that much in price when all is said and done.
To get you started, we’ve listed some ideas for gift giving provided by a few of our favorite local businesses:
“Our steak gift boxes are always very popular among our corporate clients. These can be customized with an assortment of different cuts, and can even be purchased in bulk for a special discounted price. They make a great gift for either your employees or your clients, whether you choose to hand them out at the office, deliver them around town, or give them to guests at your holiday party. Furthermore, meat can be purchased in bulk which is perfect for companies who want to send all of their employees home for the holidays with turkeys or hams.” – Sean Fuller, Just Good Meat
“If you have a woodworker on your list, we are your one-stop woodworking gift shop with thousands of items in stock. As the woodworking ‘season’ ramps up the fall, we stock more heavily on the hardwoods, particularly the exotics. We also begin looking for new useful tools and gadgets that will fill every need; from gift to stocking stuffers. It has been interesting in recent years to see folks taking classes to learn a new discipline and then using that newly learned skill to make holiday gifts. Pen making or box making would be good examples.
The opportunity to learn a new skill is a priceless gift that will last a lifetime. Anyone who takes pleasure in creating projects with their hands will enjoy woodworking. So if you have someone on your list who needs a creative outlet and enjoys working with their hands, a woodworking class is a great choice. Even better, you could take a class with them. You can both enjoy learning and doing, while sharing some quality time together.
Remember that your time and attention is the best gift of all. If you are able to make something special with your own hands, that gift has a much stronger personal connection. Woodworking takes time to do it right and some woodworking projects can take quite a while to complete. If you are a woodworker, now is the time to get started on those holiday gifts. We see folks even starting gift projects in late summer and early fall. And you don’t want to cut it too close – once the woodworking is done you need to allow time to get a great finish on your creation. And of course you need to allow time to wrap it!
At the end of the day, if you’re completely unsure what your woodworker needs, a gift certificate can’t miss! We offer gift certificates in any amount that never expire and have no service charges. If you are not sure what to give, we can help – we are woodworkers and we can offer gift suggestions and answer your questions. Just let us know what your favorite woodworker’s interests are and we’ll go to work for you.” – Gerry Phelan, Midwest Woodworkers
“Our dessert trays and gift baskets are very popular during the holidays, particularly as corporate gifts. With the variety of items and flavors we have to offer, putting together the perfect combination is easy and fun. As the holidays can get quite hectic, we make it easy for our customers by offering the option of ordering customized items ahead of time to be picked up at a convenient time or having ready-made gifts available that are easy to grab on-the-go.” – Michelle Kaiser, The Omaha Bakery
While there are always going to be those things on the holiday checklist that end up getting put off until the last-minute, there are others that you’ll want to get on top of right away. Most notably, if your holiday party plans necessitate a date in November or December, or if you’ll need to special order a custom gift, this month is the time to act!