Family and friends are gathering together today to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast and perhaps watch a few football games.
But then how are you going to occupy your time?
An abundance of family-oriented activities — many of which are free — are planned. The fun starts tonight and continues throughout the weekend.
Following are some activities you might want to check out:
* Holiday Lights Festival. The annual festival begins tonight with the Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony in the Gene Leahy Mall, 14th and Farnam streets, in Omaha. Visitors are invited to gather to hear a variety of musical performances, including the choral group MasterSingers, beginning at 5:30 p.m. At 6 p.m., Mayor Jim Suttle will lead the crowd in a countdown to the 2012 lighting display. Trees throughout Gene Leahy Mall and neighboring streets will be lit with hundreds of thousands of twinkling white lights. Following the ceremony, the lighting display will be turned on each evening from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. through Jan. 6.
* Making Spirits Bright Holiday Concert. The free concert is set for 7 p.m. tonight at the Holland Performing Arts Center, 13th and Douglas streets, in Omaha. The concert will feature guest vocalist Susie Thorne accompanied by the Nebraska Wind Symphony.
* MainStreet Fremont Christmas Walk. Downtown Fremont will be buzzing with activity from 5-8 p.m. on Friday. Santa will be making appearances at First State Bank and Schweser’s. Santa’s reindeer will be waiting to meet you from 6-8 p.m. in Schweser’s parking lot. There will be free chili feeds at 5 p.m. at Don Peterson & Associates and The Junktion, and free homemade soup at Just U Fitness and Fremont Community Thrift. Carriage rides will be offered from 6-8 p.m. on Park Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets. The Gingerbread Challenge may be viewed at Fremont National Bank while the Festival of Hope may be viewed at Abe Krasne’s. Bob Yanike’s Broad Street Revue will sing at 7 p.m. at Yankee Peddler West while the Sinai Lutheran Church Choir will perform at 6:30 p.m. at Country Traditions.
* Story time with Santa’s daughter. Santa will make a special appearance at Fremont Mall to introduce his daughter, Annie Claus. The first 50 children to arrive will receive a goodie bag. Annie will read a holiday story and share secrets about her life at the North Pole.
* Tree Lighting Ceremony. The Durham Museum’s annual ceremony which features the lighting of the region’s largest indoor Christmas tree will be held from 4-7 p.m. Friday. Jazz singer Michael Walker will perform his Sinatra-inspired holiday carols. There also will be cookie decorating, holiday crafts and Christmas carols.
* Ninth Annual Holiday Lighting Ceremony. Village Pointe Shopping Center’s event at 168th Street and W. Dodge Road in Omaha will begin with a holiday family concert and sing-a-long at 6 p.m. A holiday parade at 7 p.m. will include the Arlington High School marching band, holiday characters and carolers. Santa will arrive by a “Cinderella” horse and carriage and flip a giant light switch to illuminate the tree and center decor. Fireworks will then be presented by Wild Willy’s Fireworks. Santa will be available for personal visits and photos inside the Marcus Village Pointe Cinema lobby immediately after the ceremony. Free carriage rides will be available until 9 p.m.
* Santa Claus’ arrival. Santa Claus will arrive at the Fremont Mall at 1 p.m. Santa will be available every Saturday and Sunday throughout the holiday season. Photos will be available for purchase.