Christmas City title

Hurry to the Christmas City of the High Plains

You cannot help but feel happy and delighted in WaKeeney, the Christmas City of the High Plains.

WaKeeney: The Christmas City with everything

Every year, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, WaKeeney, Kan., lights up the night for Christmas. WaKeeney’s fantastic Christmas display lasts from Thanksgiving Saturday until New Year’s. If you love Christmas, this is a must-see, bucket list stop. We enjoyed a romantic holiday evening with delicious food and a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Enjoy a Christmas kiss under those fabulous lights.

At the climax of the night’s festivities, you’ll hear shrieks of delight and exclamations of joy from those assembled at the base of WaKeeney’s giant Christmas tree. That alone is a wonderful reason to visit WaKeeney on Christmas opening night.

2019’s event schedule in the Christmas City

The 2019 Christmas lighting ceremonies will be held on Nov. 30. Start the day with shopping at the Christmas Bazaar at the Trego County Fairgrounds, 13th and Russell, and Trego Community High School Commons, 1200 Russell Ave. The bazaar begins at 9 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m. Also enjoy the Twelve Days of Christmas Display at the Trego County Historical Society Museum, 128 N. 13th, during the museum’s regular hours, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The exhibit will be open through Jan. 6.

After you’ve visited the bazaar and the museum, take a short ride to Shiloh Vineyard.

Toast the season at Shiloh Vineyard

Host a cup of cheer to the holiday season with one of Shiloh Vineyard‘s delicious wines. You’ll enjoy visiting with Kirk and Treva Johnston, the owners.

Shiloh grows its grapes. Every wine Kirk and Treva sell is truly scrumptious. We especially enjoy their peach, plum and Paisley Pear wines. Yum, yum! We highly recommend the Aroma dessert wine, grape wine with coffee added. Eat it with dark chocolate, a combination to be savored.

Shiloh Vineyard
Shiloh Vineyard is beautiful year round, but especially during the winter holidays. (Shiloh Vineyard)

We love to visit their vineyard, which stands on Kirk’s family farm. The tasting room is a converted chicken coop and the events center is a restored barn. (It’s a great place for a wedding.) Try their wine samples for $5. Add a cheese plate with Kansas-produced cheeses for another $5. Their winter hours are Friday-Saturday noon-6, Sunday 1-5. Watching the sunset from their patio is a wonderfully romantic experience.

However, if you stay for the sunset, you’ll likely miss the Christmas opening ceremony. No worries. You can always return to Shiloh as many times as you want. Trust me: You’ll want to come back.

Shiloh Vineyard is in the country. You’ll drive several miles of gravel roads to arrive there. Please check road conditions before making the trip. Tours are available. They last from 1 1/2 to 2 hours but are only held by appointment.

Get ready for a magical night in the Christmas City of the High Plains

Sign up to drive Santa’s sleigh and visit with him

Back in WaKeeney, sign up for your free tickets for Santa’s sleigh ride and your visit with Santa. The ticket booth opens at the WaKeeney Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #3349, 400 N. Railroad Ave., at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are free.

Drive Santa’s sleigh

virtual reality trailer at Christmas City
Setting up the virtual reality trailer for Santa’s sleigh ride. At left, a TV shows the people inside attempting to drive Santa’s sleigh through the air. Watching them is almost as fun as the sleigh ride itself.

The virtual sleigh ride opens at 3 and runs until 8:30 p.m. While you’re waiting to enter the virtual reality trailer at Nex-Tech on the north side of Russell Ave., make sure to watch the monitor to the side. See how you’ll be acting when you’re driving Santa’s sleigh. Your anticipation will mount to great heights while you await your turn.

Until your ticket time arrives, check out Santa’s Downtown Workshop on Main St. from 5-8 p.m. Families can enjoy free games, crafts, and snacks while waiting. Enjoy the reindeer herd on Main from 4-8 p.m.

Identify your child and eat soup at the VFW

While at the VFW hall, take your children to the Child ID Kit booth. The officer will take your children’s measurements and other information, including a picture. The information could save a child’s life. If a child is missing, law enforcement and other searchers need all the information available.

Once the officer has collected the children’s information, the officer will turn over the information to the parent(s). The parents determine who is allowed to see the information. Law enforcement does not retain information. Complete your children’s ID kits from 4-5:30 p.m.

Make sure to eat some soup!

The VFW will hold a benefit soup supper starting at 4:30 p.m. We highly recommend eating at the soup supper. Nothing tastes better on a cold evening than a hot bowl of soup. Add dessert, too. We devoured ours.

Meet Santa’s reindeer and visit his workshop

A herd of reindeer will be on Main Street from 4-8 p.m. Santa’s Downtown Workshop will be open from 5-8 p.m. Visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, but make sure you have a ticket. The tickets will assign you a time to come and spare you standing in a cold line.

The Main Event in the Christmas City

At 6 p.m., WaKeeney will hold its annual Lighting Ceremony. Then Santa will arrive at 6:15 to inspect the 35-foot tree and greet his guests. He’ll hand out goodies to the children. Hearing children (and older folks) shriek in delight at the Big Man’s appearance is an experience not to be missed. You cannot help but feel happy and delighted when you hear the joy in people’s voices.

For that moment alone, you need to come to WaKeeney, the Christmas City of the High Plains. All the rest is a major bonus.

Eric and Roxie in the Christmas City
We’re cold but happy we visited the Christmas City of the High Plains.

Dress warmly. Daytime temperatures are often mild in Northwest Kansas, but the bottom will drop out once the sun begins to set.

WaKeeney hosts one more major Christmas event. Wreaths Across America will lay wreaths at the Kansas Veterans Cemetery, WaKeeney, on Dec. 14.

Honor veterans in the Christmas City

Every year, Wreaths Across America honors America’s veterans. They place a wreath at every grave in national and state veterans’ cemeteries. You may sponsor a wreath, volunteer or both. The wreath-laying ceremonies will be held Saturday, Dec. 14, at 11 a.m. at Kansas Veterans Cemetery in WaKeeney. The cemetery’s gates at 403 S. 13th stand open from sunrise to sunset daily.

Where to stay and where to eat in the Christmas City

Our favorite place to eat in WaKeeney is the Western Kansas Saloon. Try the prime rib. Unless you’re a big eater, you’ll need to either share it or take some home. Their chicken-fried steak is all that Midwest classic should be.

Ask to see the secret hole in the floor where they used to hide the safe. Enjoy the murals on the wall, antiques, and the original freight elevator.

The saloon is tied into the Christmas City. Art Keraus owned Keraus Hardware in the saloon’s building. He and Jake Heckman, a local banker and artist, designed the original WaKeeney tree.

We’ve enjoyed every one of our stays at Best Western Plus WaKeeney Inn & Suites. The staff is attentive and courteous. They are knowledgeable about the area and willing to assist you in finding a fun outing. The facility’s cleanliness is superior.

For a magical, romantic holiday season, take Interstate 70 to WaKeeney, Kan. You’ll be glad you did.

Read more about what Northwest Kansas has to offer.


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