Like the last leaves of fall on a windy day, the fall of 2015 disappeared in an instant. Life with a newborn often makes the days feel long, but then they disappear so quickly. Our family grew in October, and by early December we were all anxious to find an opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy a way to welcome the Christmas season.

We were thrilled to make Grand Island a weekend getaway that would serve that purpose, as well as offer the convenience of being not so far away that it would be difficult with a six week old baby in tow.

We set off after our daughter finished school on Friday, and fueled up and hit the road. Scenic Hwy 2 is always a lovely way to travel and provided a perfect opportunity to plan all our must-do’s while in town.

First stop, checking in to the lovely Hampton Inn just off Hwy 281. We arrived just before supper time, and were greeted by a lovely staff and cookies just out of the oven. It was the perfect way to start out the weekend, with a chance to unload, stretch, and take care of little one. While I unpacked all our gear, my husband and daughter headed over to a new place called Firehouse Subs to get our supper to go. Another win for us! The food was delicious, and the customer service fantastic. We ate supper in our cozy room while we waited for Grandma to come and sit with little one. Once she arrived, we bundled up to head out for the highlight of our weekend.

The Stuhr Museum is a treasure to all of Nebraska. It holds special memories from my youth long ago, of a couple of school field trips, and always a landmark to be spotted while traveling to get onto I-80. We got in line, and were greeted by cheerful volunteers who welcomed us to “Christmas Past and Present.” As we parked the car, and grabbed our gear, the stream of vehicles parking alongside was telling of the enthusiasm for this yearly tradition. We turned on our flashlight and began to follow the hushed lines of people who were walking under the twinkling lanterns, headed for Railroad Town.

Ringing in Christmas...Past and Present in Grand Island

The sight that greeted us took me back in time. The oil lanterns lit the walk ways and illuminated the windows of a picture right out of the 1800’s. Our daughter didn’t know which way she wanted to go first as each building beckoned crowds to see what token of Christmas was on display in each one. We saw women toiling over antique cook stoves to make gingerbread and vinegar candy. We saw families playing out the part of wrapping gifts and decorating trees. The blacksmith was working over his fire, the hat maker talking about creating vintage hats that they sell each year. We enjoyed Christmas caroling and students playing the piano. A highlight was visiting town hall to see Father Christmas and get a candy cane. The enthusiasm of all who attended this event could be felt despite the cold winter winds. It was truly a magical experience. After seeing all there was to offer, we headed over to the newly renovated museum to see the festival of Christmas trees on display and sit with Santa Claus.

As late evening came and the museum was preparing to close for the night, we then headed to the local Walgreens to get our daughter a replacement tooth brush, and to McDonalds to get some hot chocolate to close out the night. It was an evening that was truly refreshing to our little family.

Ringing in Christmas...Past and Present in Grand Island

Saturday and Sunday provided opportunities to do a little Christmas shopping and enjoy all Grand Island has to offer for dining and gift purchasing. First stop was the new Carnivore Meat store to purchase gift cards for family members as Christmas gifts. The choices there are phenomenal. We also bought beef sticks and beverages and chatted with the owners about how they source their meat and what all they offer. We also ventured to Eileen’s Cookies to buy cookies to bring home and share with family. I was able to get into Grand Island Optical and order my new glasses while the rest of the family hit the mall and bought Christmas gifts there as well as at the Grand Island Western Store. While trying to get the baby to take a snooze, we cruised through Anderson Ford’s pick up display, and drove downtown to take in the Christmas lights and decorations. We were able to enjoy a really nice meal at Napoli’s Italian restaurant as a way to conclude our mini weekend getaway. The authentic food was outstanding, and the owner even personally came around to refill drinks and thank people for their patronage. It’s nice to support locally owned businesses who are truly invested in their communities!

We can’t thank The Stuhr Museum and the  Grand Island Visitors Bureau enough for their hospitality this weekend. A special thanks to the Hampton Inn for the lovely accommodations that were so family friendly! That in itself, was a special treat for us all. When looking for a family getaway, easy to please all, please consider making Grand Island your destination. Year round, they provide the fun and relaxation sure to please!

For more information on the 2016 Past and Present Event, visit The Stuhr Museum online.

Click here for another review of Christmas Past and Present.

Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.