It almost prompts a double take when you spot real people sitting by a fire in the days just before a modern American Christmas. Not actors dramatizing how Christmas used to be or the Claus couple stationed beside a mall’s plastic logs. But genuine escaped shoppers quietly turning pages of a book near a stone hearth.
It makes sense at Nebraska City’s Lied Lodge, where actual relaxation is the whole idea behind a holiday escape. The fireplace settles in among stone and timber columns in a lobby rimmed with quotes from Aldo Leopold and others reminding us that while this holiday tide will rush in and back out, nature is standing by with a reliable tonic. And guests tend to take time for such things in this 140-room resort on the western edge of town, an hour south of Omaha and 10 minutes west of Interstate-29.
Heated trolley tours depart from Lied Lodge and Conference Center for a look at the historical streets of Nebraska City, Nebraska.
The lodge’s Green design and message honor the legacy of J. Sterling Morton, a newspaperman and U.S. secretary of agriculture who, in one of conservation’s great ironies, started Arbor Day in 1872 in a famously treeless state. The wooded path between Lied Lodge and Morton’s stately home leads to one of the pleasures of a holiday escape here. The Arbor Lodge grounds are open to anyone who wants to wander the snowy property, accompanied only by squirrels and the trees Morton loved.
When dusk settles on Nebraska City, the lighted trail traces a line back to the lodge, where dinner waits in an excellent restaurant. Think of it as your holiday from the holidays.
Things to do
Lied Lodge and Conference Center Amenities include a sauna, spa and large indoor pool surrounded by windows. Trolley tours of the town depart from the lodge on December weekends before Christmas. liedlodge.org
Brownville Concert Series The annual lineup of live performances in a renovated church 35 minutes from Nebraska City, Nebraska, wraps up with three holiday shows featuring New York performers. brownvilleconcertseries.com
Lewis and Clark Missouri River Visitors Center Stay warm while viewing the river through the soaring windows of a museum filled with boats, tools and other items revealing the epic journey that passed this way. Short walks lead to Missouri River bluffs. mrb-lewisandclarkcenter.org
A trail from the Lewis and Clark center overlooks riverside bluffs.
Waubonsie State Park For longer hikes, head 15 minutes east across the Missouri River to this Iowa park’s hilly forest trails. iowadnr.gov