If there’s one time of year all eyes are on Nebraska City, it’s in the fall. Crowds visit the orchards and there are hayrack rides and all sorts of festival, autumn-y events. And there’s AppleJack Festival, named by USA Today as one of the Top 10 Harvest Festivals in America. So, here’s why you’ll want to go, and what to expect.
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When is the AppleJack Festival?
The AppleJack Festival used to be one weekend in September but it’s grown so large, it’s held over two weekends in Nebraska City. In 2022, the dates are Sept. 16-18 and Sept. 24-25.
The timing coincides with peak apple season (though if you’re a Honeycrisp fan, you’ll want to visit earlier in September).
Where is the festival?
The festival is in Nebraska City at various locations. And while some of us might think Nebraska City is small and easy to navigate, it’s not a walk-to-everything kind of festival, though there are a few things near each other.
I recommend making a plan before going. When I went with my family in 2021, I spent so much time on my phone trying to figure out where everything was.
What are the highlights of the festival?
The AppleJack Festival highlights really depend on your interests. Maybe you like the parade or carnival, or just want to shop, or you want to do the progressive dinner? I divided the planned events into categories. Please note that times are subject to change without notice.
Farms & Orchards
- AppleJack at Arbor Day Farm – Sept. 17-18 all day at Arbor Day Farm, 2611 Arbor Ave. U-pick and pre-picked apples, Treetop Village in the Tree Adventure, the newly-remodeled Apple House, Arbor Lodge Mansion, wine and hard cider, and food.
- AppleJack at Kimmel Orchard – Sept. 17 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sept. 18 & Sept. 24 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sept. 25 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard, 5995 G Road. Homemade apple donuts, fresh cider, wine tastings, pre-picked & U-pick apples, a vendor fair, hayrack rides, and adventures on the Pollinator Playground.
- AppleJack at Union Orchard – Sept. 17-18 all day at Union Orchard, 2405 Highway 75. U-pick and pre-picked apples, plus activities. The 2022 AppleJack Art Show will be in the Union Orchard Pavilion.
- AppleJack Festival at the Farm – Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Steamwagon Enterprises, 5585 H Road. Craft and merchandise vendors, small petting zoo, straw maze, and Kona Ice.
- Makin’ Memories at Pumpkin Ridge – Sept. 17-18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 815 N. 60th Road. Crafters, vendors, food trucks, face painting, petting zoo, pony rides, and more
- AppleJack Flea Market – Sept. 16 from 2 to 7 p.m. and Sept. 17-18 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Along Central Avenue from Third to Fifth streets
- AppleJack Used Book Event – Sept. 16 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sept. 17 & 24 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Morton-James Public Library, 923 First Corso
- Love, The Locals Makers Market: AppleJack Edition – Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sept. 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Historic Barns at Arbor Day Farm, 2611 Arbor Ave. Admission: $5 ages 18+; kids are free.
- Sweet Pickins AppleJack Craft, Vendor, & Maker Market – Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sept. 18 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lourdes Central Catholic School, 412 Second Ave. 50+ crafters, artists, and vendors indoors and outdoors.
- Gress Produce – Open Sept. 16-18 and Sept. 24-25, hours unknown. Apples, pumpkins, other seasonal produce, flowers, fall decor, jams, jellies, popcorn and more. 1/2 mile north of the intersection of Highway 75 and Business 75
- Craft Show – Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sept. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Eagles Club, 600 First Corso
- Antiques & Collectibles – Shop a sale at 424 Central Ave. on Sept. 17 from 2 to 7 p.m., Sept. 18 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
History & Classic Stuff
- H.L. Hunley Exhibit – An xhibit of a full-scale model of the Civil War-era “H.L. Hunley,” the world’s first successful combat submarine – Sept. 16-18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m at Civil War Museum, 910 First Corso
- Heritage Needlework Guild Quilt & Needlework Show – Sept. 16 from 4 to 7 p.m., Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sept. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bethel Church, 2400 Central Ave.
- 18th Annual Lewis & Clark Reunion – Sept. 17-18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lewis & Clark Center, 100 Valmont Drive. Living History re-enactors, with activities for adults and kids. See the new keelboat replica and view a wildlife photography exhibit. FREE outdoor demonstrations, but there is an admission fee to go indoors.
- 1st Nebraska Brass Band Concert – Sept. 17 at 11 a.m. at Civil War Veterans Museum, 910 First Corso. This 15-piece recreated Civil War band wearing authentic Union uniforms and playing authentic music from the Civil War era. FREE
- Community Kregel Talk – Sept. 17 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Kregel Windmill Factory Museum, 1416 Central Ave. In celebration of the 143rd Founders Day, people are gathering to share stories about the Kregel Windmill Factory. Call to reserve a spot, 402-873-1078.
- Book Signing – Author Rachel Brupbacher will celebrate the release of her new book, “Nebraska’s Carl Milton Aldrich and the Arbor Day Song” with a book signing and talk at the Morton-James Public Library, 923 First Corso, on Sept. 17 from 3 to 5 p.m.
- River City Classics Car Club AppleJack Car Show – Sept. 18 starting with 8 a.m. registration, noon judging, and 3 p.m. awards along Central Avenue between 11th Street and Sixth Street.
- Literature Fights and Re-Fights the Civil War – Sept. 18 at 1 p.m. at Civil War Veterans Museum, 910 First Corso. Dr. Dan Holtz, emeritus professor of English, Peru State College, will explore how literature, novels, poems, and more, have framed the nation’s understanding of the Civil War, its causes, and consequences. FREE
- Living History Weekend: Table Creek Rendezvous – Sept. 24-25 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Arbor Lodge Mansion, 2600 Arbor Ave. Demonstrations of blacksmithing, fabric dyes and printing, seed beadwork, rigid heddle weaving, leather crafting, Dutch oven cooking, fire building, skins & skulls, and more. Outdoor demonstrations are FREE and admission into the mansion is $9 adults, and $7 youth (age 3-12).
Fun & Creative Stuff
- Tinsel, Feathers, & Braids (cute hair styles for kids) – Sept. 16 from 3 to 6 p.m. at CRUSH Boutique, 902 Central Ave. It’s a fundraiser for the Nebraska City Elementary PTO. Cost is $5 per service.
- Annual AppleJack Fun Run/Walk – Sept. 17 starting at 7:30 a.m. at Steinhart Park. There’s also a one-mile kids run.
- Apple Tree Paper Craft – Sept. 17 at 10 a.m. at Morton-James Public Library, 923 First Corso. FREE
- Crafts at Splinters & Smidges – Sept. 17 at 10 a.m. is Paint an Apple Magnet and from 10 a.m. to noon is Paint Your Own Apple Portrait in Watercolor at Splinters & Smudges, 814 Central Ave. Paint an Apple Magnet is also Sept. 24 at 10 a.m. FREE
- Decoupage Pumpkins – Sept. 17 at 10 a.m. at Grimm’s Gardens, 1401 S. 11th St. decoupage a pumpkin with flowers that have been pressed throughout the season. $25
- Camp Catron Adventures – Sept. 17-18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Camp Catron, 609 N. 60th Road. Climbing wall, dual racing zipline, quick flight, and obstacle course. $40 for all amenities or $15 for individuals.
- 54th Annual AppleJack Parade – Sept. 17 at 1 p.m. along Central Avenue from 16th Street to Sixth Street, and Sixth Street south to First Corso. Following the parade, head to Central Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets to watch the water barrel fights starting at around 3:30 p.m.
- Artist Meet & Greet at Self Expressions – Self Expressions Gallery, 819 Central Ave., will have a meet & greet Sept. 17 & 18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as refreshments, including a special bootleg AppleJack Rabbit drink.
- Bags Tournament – Participate in a bags tournament on Sept. 18 at 1 p.m. at Dinty Moore’s Bar, 108 S. Eighth St. $40 per team.
- Cosmic Bowling – Arbor Lanes Bowling Alley, 2023 Industrial Road, has bowling all day Sept. 17 & 18. $10 per person for two hours unlimited bowling, shoe rental, and small soda.
Rodeo & Carnival
- River City Carnival – Sept. 16 from 5 to 11 p.m.; Sept. 17 from noon to 11 p.m.; Sept. 18 from noon to 5 p.m. along Sixth Street and Central Avenue.
- Nebraska City Extreme Bull Riding Tour – Sept. 16-17 starting at 7 p.m. at Hidden Falls Cabins & RV Park Arena, 6124 Steinhart Park Road. Gates open at 5 p.m. $20 at gate ($15 before Sept. 1). Kids under 9 are free with paid adult.
Where can we eat during AppleJack Festival?
You’ll find food for purchase at:
- Arbor Day Farm, including food trucks and Porter’s BBQ
- Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard, snacks like apple cider donuts
- Sweet Pickins AppleJack Craft, Vendor, & Maker Market, will have food trucks Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sept. 18 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lourdes Central Catholic School, 412 Second Ave.
- The Keeping Room Cafe, 715 Central Ave., including apple sangria
- Pumpkin Ridge, 815 N. 60th Road, will have food trucks
- Fire House Grille, a fundraiser for the Fire House Museum, will sell brisket and hot dogs Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Nebraska City Fire Station, 1409 Central Ave.
Special festival events involving food and drinks in Nebraska City
- Breakfast & Bloody Marys – Sept. 16-18 and Sept. 24-25 at 8 a.m. at The Keeping Room Cafe, 715 Central Ave.
- Sunset Orchard Wine Tasting – Sept. 16-17 and Sept. 23-24 at 5:30 p.m. at Arbor Day Farm, 2611 Arbor Ave. Reservations must be made in advance because there is a max of 10 couples per event. Seating in the orchard, charcuterie, Arbor Day Farm wine tastings for two, plus a bottle of your favorite. $125 per couple.
- AppleJack Pancake Feed – Sept. 17 from 7:30 to 10 a.m. at the Fire Station, 1409 Central Ave.
- FREE Eileen’s Cookie (while they last) – Sept. 17 at 9 a.m. at CRUSH Boutique, 902 Central Ave.
- Bethel Women’s Fellowship Food Stand – Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 810 Central Ave. Hot dogs, nachos, snacks, pop, and water.
- Brunch, Babes, & Cars – Sept. 18 from 9 to 11 a.m. at CRUSH Boutique, 902 Central Ave. Apple cider mimosas, breakfast treats, and shopping…all while the car show is going on outside the doors. Free popcorn for all shoppers while supplies last.
- Beer Garden – Little Ted’s AppleJack Beer Garden will be open Sept. 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sept. 19 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. outside Little Ted’s Pub & Grill, 416 Central Ave.
- 12th Annual Ulbrick’s Dinner – Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with pick-up in the parking lot of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, 411 Fifth Rue. Take home a meal from a longtime and favorite Nebraska City restaurant, Ulbrick’s. Meal includes: chicken breast & dark meat, mashed potatoes & gravy, creamed corn, creamed cabbage, frog eye salad, and a slice of pie. MUST PRE-ORDER by calling 402-269-0911 or visiting website.
- Food Truck Street Fair – Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sixth Street and Central Avenue
- All Things Music, Food, and Apples – Sept. 24 from 6 to 11 p.m. at Eagles Club, 600 First Corso. Shadow Ridge Band will perform in the beer garden (free-will donation for band). Smoked half chicken and ribs with sides for $15 from 6 to 9 p.m.
- Taste of AppleJack “All Things Apple” Recipe Contest – Sept. 25 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Historic Barns at Arbor Day Farm, 2611 Arbor Ave.
- Taste of Nebraska City AppleJack Progressive Dinner – Sept. 25 starting at 4 p.m. Eateries include City Tap House, The Keeping Room, and Whispering Pines Bed & Breakfast. Food and drinks at each location, and live music by the Talbot Brothers. Cost is $80. Call (402) 873-6654 to register. Details here.
Nebraska City hotel recommendations
Good accommodations are limited in Nebraska City, especially during AppleJack Festival, and the key is to book your room early.
I highly recommend Lied Lodge & Conference Center. You’ll be able to walk over to Arbor Day Farm from the hotel. We stayed at the lodge earlier in September one year and the kids loved it (it helps that there’s a pool). The lodge also has a great restaurant inside it – Timbers.
As a back-up, consider Holiday Inn Express & Suites (especially if you want free breakfast).
Other unique options:
- Whispering Pines Bed & Breakfast (in town)
- Country Farmhouse (about 9 miles outside of Nebraska City)