Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
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Ponca State Park

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park


Winterfest in the Parks - Rekindle the fun of being together!

The anticipation of the holidays is sometimes too much to bear for some little ones. Parents will do just about anything to get the kids out of the house, for even a few hours, before the big day arrives. Last year, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission provided one more option for parents with its Winterfest Celebrations at Platte River, Ponca, and Eugene T. Mahoney state parks. And this year will be doing so again.

But just as there is a pulse in the air before the holidays, there is sometimes a post-Christmas lull that envelops a home. The state park system has you covered again with a host of activities all the way through February to get you through the winter months.

So read below for a list of this year's events, each sure to keep the family together a little longer before and after the most exciting time of the year.

Ponca State Park:

November 29 - December 20: Christmas in the Woods
Each Saturday, seasonal educational activities include old-fashion holiday crafts, lighted hayrack rides, free cookies and wassail, groomed cross-country ski trails, a sledding hill na dice skating. A 30 percent discount lodging package will be offered.

December 14: Christmas Bird Count
This all-day event coincides with the Audubon Society National Christmas Bird Count. Birdwatchers of all ages are invited to compare notes and sighting reports. A chili feed will follow.

December 27: Winterfest
This event features the park's 3K Quest for the Yule Log, the National Fruitcake Fling, seasonal crafts, lighted hayrack rides and more.

January 1: First Day Hike
Ponca State Park is offering a healthy start to your new year with this event. Guests are welcome to take part in unguided hikes from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. At the conclusion of their hike, participants are encouraged to stop in at the Missouri National Recreational River Resource and Education Center to warm-up and enjoy a complimentary cup of hot cider and cookies.

January 16-18: Women's Wellness Weekend
This 1st annual workshop includes presentations and activities on health and wellness, relaxation, meditation, self-improvement, outdoor recreation and more.

February 1: Super Bowl Sunday Mini-lodge Cabin Package
Special cabin discounts and incentives are available for Super Bowl weekend.

February 14-15: Birds & Breakfast
The focus of this event package is the Great Backyard Bird Count and Valentine's Day. Slated for this event are bird counts and tours, a Saturday morning breakfast, complimentary wine or cider, lodging discounts and other activities.

Platte Valley Parklands Winterfest Events Calendar

Platte River State Park:

December 6: Archery on Fire Event
This fun family archery event will run from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Participants, from beginners to seasoned veterans, will enjoy the great facilities at Platte River State Park's Roger G. Sykes Outdoor Heritage Education Complex. For more information visit

January 3: Yule Log Quest
This exciting event for family and friends starts at 3 p.m. as teams use a series of clues to find the location of the yule log. The day will also consist of other events, including a kindling hunt for kids, crafts, story time and s'mores by the fire. An evening hayrack ride caps off the day.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park:

December 13: Classic Christmas
Kids can come and have their photo taken with Santa Claus from 1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. at the Activity Center Building. Portraits will be taken by NEBRASKAland Magazine photographers. Families can also participate with their children decorating cookies, making ornaments or creating a greeting card for our local veterans. Enjoy free horse drawn wagon rides for a memorable and unique tour of the park. There is a $2.00 admission fee.

January 24: Cold Day, Warm Hearts and Family Fun
Bring the whole family to the Owen Marina from 3:00 p.m. - 6 p.m. to learn about surviving the winter wilderness and enjoy fishing and birding activities. Stay to create memories with the children and grandchildren while making winter crafts and enjoy roasting hot dogs and s'mores over an open fire. There is a $2.00 fee for hot dogs and s'mores.

February 11-14 Valentine's Special
Reserve a cabin or lodge room at regular price and add a valentine's Special Package for only $55. Package includes a meal for two and gift package delivered to your room or cabin. Those interested in booking this package, please call (402) 944-2523 to book now as this special offer will sell out quickly!

Take advantage of off-season camping/cabin stays in the Nebraska State Park System! Enjoy a 30% discount on cabin and lodge room stays from Sunday through Thursdays, excluding Holidays in the off season! Electricity is on year-round at campgrounds and campers can take advantage of the reduced winter rates. Year Round Cabin Stays available at: E.T. Mahoney State Park, Platte River State Park, Ponca State Park, Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area and Niobrara State Park.

December Events at other Nebraska State Parks
  • December 6 - Fort Robinson Historical Christmas Dinner
  • December 13 - Decorating Nature for the Holidays, Wildcat Hills Nature Center
  • December 13 - Christmas at Bowring Ranch State Historical Park - dinner & Santa Claus
  • December 19-22 - Christmas at the Cody's at Buffalo Bill's Scout's Rest Ranch