Must-See Holiday Lights in and around Lincoln

Must-See Holiday Lights in Lincoln, NEPiling the entire family in the car, armed with hot chocolate and the best Christmas tunes, is a time-honored holiday tradition. The goal, of course, is to drive around town to see the best holiday light displays. With all the hustle and bustle of every holiday season, this tradition is one of the best ways to just relax and enjoy the family. To make the most of your holiday light sightseeing, be sure and use this handy list to guide your tour around town:

Start Close to Home

The Lincoln Journal Star shares their list of must-see light displays from 2015, so it’s a great idea to check back at these locations to see how they’ve outdone themselves this year. But on your way there, don’t forget to check out your neighborhood. After you’ve decorated your own home, of course, take a drive around to see the creativity of your neighbors.

Nativity Scenes

Many churches offer a drive-through nativity scene in their parking lot. It’s a warm way to get into the holiday spirit. There are plenty around town to choose from, but you can start with the Journey to Bethlehem at Piedmont Park Seventh Day Adventist Church or the living nativity scene that Southern Heights Presbyterian Church hosts from December 15-16.

Lincoln’s Capitol

For an indoor display, you have to include the Christmas tree displayed inside of the Capitol building. The tree arrives each year during the first week of December, and it’s even decorated to represent each of the 93 counties in Nebraska. There’s plenty of history and learning involved, and the building is open to visitors every day except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Stuhr Museum

Grand Island is the perfect destination for Christmas tree enthusiasts. The Stuhr Museum has dozens of trees on display until January 4th. You’ll find the admission prices hard to turn down: ages five and under get in free, and tickets range from $4-$6 depending on age. The Stuhr hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you can check out more details on their website.

Omaha

Whether you’re from Omaha or not, you can’t pass up all that the Old Market has to offer, especially during the Christmas season. There are endless restaurants and coffee shops to choose from for a quick snack or elaborate meal, and the mood is set perfectly with the light displays brightening up downtown. See other Omaha lighting displays from our sister company, CBSHOME.

Lincoln Children’s Zoo

Lastly, you can please everyone in the family, including the little ones, with a trip to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo to see Santa. The zoo offers The North Pole Express on December 1-4, 9-11, and 16-18. The zoo is decorated for the season and with a train ride, hot chocolate, elves, and Santa himself, you can’t go wrong. Learn more about times and ticket prices on their website.

School boundaries play an important role in choosing a neighborhood

Moving homes brings up a lot of questions that go much farther than, “Is there a walk-in closet?” or “What are the HOA fees?” If you have children, you’ll also be considering the schools that your potential new neighborhood is assigned to.

According to some sources, regardless of which part of Lincoln you choose for your home, you’re in good hands. In 2015 Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) reports “Lincoln Public Schools has been bestowed with the award of District of Distinction, prestigious national recognition from the District Administration magazine.”

The honor is “a national recognition program created by District Administration magazine to honor school districts that are leading the way with new and innovative ideas that work – yielding quantifiable benefits and that could be replicated by other districts. The winners were selected by a team of editors based on the success of their results, as well as replicability to inspire other school systems.”

But as Lincoln continues to grow rapidly, so does our school district. This map represents the preliminary elementary school changes and their correlating neighborhood school districts for 2016-2017. For all maps, visit the LPS website.

lincoln elementary schools

A Woods Bros Realty agent reports that of all out-of-town buyers choosing Lincoln as their next home for reasons other than job transfers or other family members residing here, quality of life is one of the biggest reasons to choose Lincoln. Low crime and great schools heavily sway their decision. The Realtor says that by the time an out-of-town buyer gets to Lincoln, they’ve already done their homework, and LPS is what they want. This is because our public school district fits in nicely with the “quality of life” they’re looking for.

Of course there are plenty of options in Lincoln besides the public school system, including a number of private and parochial schools. That’s exactly what makes Lincoln so great. Excellent schools regardless of your education preferences.

But if you’re curious about the LPS expansions, and what the new schools mean for you and your neighborhood, or potential new neighborhood, here is an easy break down of the new schools and which neighborhoods will be attending:

  • Marilyn Moore Middle School, which will be built near 84th Street and Yankee Hill Road. Lincoln Public Schools bought the land from the city with proceeds from a voter-approved $153 million bond issue. The $38.4 million school is scheduled to open in fall 2017.
  • Sally Wysong Elementary School, which will be built near 56th and Yankee Hill at 61st Street and Blanchard Boulevard. Also paid for with bond proceeds, the $18.6 million school is set to open in fall 2016.
  • The Bill Nuernberger Center for middle school children with serious behavioral problems is scheduled to open in fall 2016 at the former Bryan Community School, 1801 S. 40th St. The district has set aside about $4 million for renovation of the building, which used to house the district’s alternative high school.

(Information provided via the Lincoln Journal Star)

In short, Lincolnites are proud of our education systems, and we welcome the expansions. If you are partial to a particular school district, keep this info handy when doing your home search!

Grand Terrace neighbors look forward to nearby park

Grand Terrace Park Site

For weeks anxious kids have watched from their windows and driveways of the Grand Terrace neighborhood.

Dump truck after dump truck slowly rumble by, followed by cement mixers, bobcats, and workers with shovels and tool belts. The sight itself is fascinating, but nothing new to the residents of Grand Terrace, a neighborhood South of 84th and Highway that started growing slowly roughly in 2010. It started with one house on a corner, until roads and plumbing made the once lonesome fields an actual community. Some of the first residents in the neighborhood recall walking to the community mailbox in the dark while they waited for streetlights to be installed, but just looking around now at the beautiful homes and happy families, the early beginnings of this neighborhood seem like a distant memory. At the time, children in the neighborhood found fascination in watching the construction go up, one house at a time.

But now, they find fascination in a different type of construction. The rumbling trucks aren’t here for more houses, they’re working towards something far more exciting. Grand Terrace is finally getting a neighborhood park.

JJ Yost of the Lincoln Parks and Recreation confirms that construction began, as promised, just after Labor Day of this year. Today, there are sidewalks leading, in a Shel Silverstein way, to nowhere, except to piles of dirt and geometric plots of gravel—plots that will soon enough be the landing ground of energized kids slipping down slides and chasing each other in passionate games of freeze tag.

Yost also explains that while the majority of the park is set to be finished on November 15, there are finishing touches that will take as long as May 1, 2016. Grass, trees, and shrubbery, are all under contract to make the park feel like home. Other parts of the contract include: all site clearing, grading work and installation of all park improvement infrastructure – concrete footings and flatwork, water service, drainage improvements.

Yost also promises some variation of a “grand opening,” a ribbon cutting could even take place.

Until then, neighborhood kids watch through their windows as they’ve done for years, this time, perhaps, with more anticipation.

A mom within walking distance of park shares “I look forward to a safe place the kids can play, families can gather, and new friends can be made.”

Parents closest to the park are ecstatic for a place for kids to create new adventures all within a safe watching distance.

An avid four year old dump truck watcher is ready to get her slide on once the playground, and of course slide, is completed, but right now she’s most excited about “watching them build it.”

Hazel Abel Park, a quiet Near South retreat

Haels Abel Park

Roundus.com says it best: “Tucked away in Lincoln’s historic Near South neighborhood, this quaint, Renaissance-style park includes a gazebo, fountain, play area and benches all surrounded by an ornate cast iron fence.” And that, in a nutshell, is Lincoln’s own Hazel Abel Park.”

After renovations costing over $200,000 in 2010, Hazel Abel Park has kept its historic charm and beauty but added safety features that include trimmed hedges that allow watchful parents to see inside. The playground equipment was also moved to the front entrance, also for better visible access. The playground floor is a soft, black and white checkered pattern that is handicapped accessible. The checkerboard pattern is the perfect contrast to the aesthetically pleasing black fence, Victorian style benches and lighting fixtures, and of course the extensive gardening that intimately and strategically covers patches of the greenest grass.

A large fountain, columns, and a gazebo urge visitors to forget the world for a few minutes and get lost in a good book. Brides are attracted to the beauty and seclusion making the park a popular wedding spot.

If anything epitomizes the phrase “tucked away,” it’s Hazel Abel Park. And on the way to this quiet retreat on the corner of 18th and E Street, there are plenty of stops along the way to enhance the peaceful experience. A quick stop at the longstanding and infamous Zesto’s, or a mouthwatering lunch at the nearby 9 South CharGrill make a visit to Hazel Abel not just an activity, but an entire experience.

At first glance when walking inside the gates of Hazel Abel, it’s reminiscent of a scene from Alice in Wonderland, or the magical world of Willy Wonka. The playground equipment is simple, but unique and engaging.

A five year old explained “The spinny thing! The spinny thing! The other parks don’t have that spinny thing!” And then he ran off, full of glee, of course, to spin.

The playground equipment proves that for kids, simple is the most stimulating. A simple metal slide, climbing equipment, and see-saw are more than enough to elicit giant grins on the faces of children. The grins are almost impossible to see as the kids speed around the enclosed park, imaginations and tiny legs soaring with pure joy.

The land for Hazel Abel was purchased in 1960, and named lovingly after the purchaser’s mother, Hazel.

Regardless of which part of Lincoln you live, this park is worth a first, second, and third look. It will quickly become a family favorite, either for childhood play or just a place for peaceful reflection with more than a few friendly squirrel companions.

Lincoln’s Little Free Libraries

Little Free Library
A Little Free Library in Thompson Creek neighborhood in Lincoln.

Lincoln has always been a city that encouraged community involvement through literature. From summer reading programs at the public libraries to One Book, One Lincoln, the city thrives in the works of great writers. A more recent trend catching the attention of the nation are Little Free Libraries. Beginning in the early 2000s, Tedd Bol, of Wisconsin, founded the nonprofit organization Little Free Library. The aim of this organization is to promote literacy in communities by encouraging people to build birdhouse-like libraries on their properties. After being stocked with books, community members are encouraged to browse the shelves of these boxes to pick up a book in exchange for another. After a few years, the sensation swept its way to Lincoln, Nebraska where there are now over 50 Little Free Libraries (LFL) scattered across the city.

“It’s like giving life to books that otherwise might just be sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.” says Sarah Wheeler, a Lincoln resident.  She continues, “It’s getting to put an adventure you have been on into someone else’s hands to enjoy while picking up a new mystery for yourself to discover.” These sentiments are echoed across every type of person Lincoln has to offer.

Each owner of a Little Free Library who registers with the nationwide nonprofit receives a spot in the national index as well as a sign to hang on their library. Owners take books from their own collections or receive books by donation to start the “Take a Book, Leave a Book” trade. Some libraries are host to guest logs in which participants in the exchanges express a great deal of gratitude for the opportunity to experience new literature. Often they write about how thankful they are to find books for all ages. Individuals praise the concept of sharing not only meaningful books, but also experiences.

“For me it’s the people I’ve met. From neighbors wanting to talk to me about my LFL to meeting other LFL stewards in Lincoln,” states Bob Dipaolo. “I never would have had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people in person & online if not for my Little Free Library. Little Free Libraries are SO much more than the books. It’s community.”

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