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March 26, 2018

My Iowa Bucket List

The more I travel through Iowa, the more I realize I’ve just scratched the surface of what families can do in Iowa. The Great Iowa Road Trip highlighted fun on the water and by rail, and our weekend in the Amana Colonies gave us a taste of the cultural offerings of the state. But, there’s a lot more we have yet to see and do in Iowa.

Here’s my Iowa bucket list for exploring the rest of what the state has to offer:

Things to do in Iowa

Ride the world’s steepest, shortest scenic elevator – Bet you didn’t know that existed. It’s called the Fenelon Place Elevator, and it’s one way to discover a great view of Dubuque (not to mention see two other states while at the top).

Explore caves – Maquoketa Caves State Park in eastern Iowa is on my must-visit list, with its 16 caves you can explore (better pack the flashlight). If it’s on yours, too, make note you have to attend a brief program before setting out on your adventure. Unfortunately, we all have to wait for construction to end first (scheduled to run through Aug. 24, 2018).

Arnolds Park is an amusement park in the Iowa Great Lakes Region. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Iowa Great Lakes Region – I’m one of those rare people from Omaha who has never been to Okoboji or any of its nearby towns surrounding the lakes. It’s taken on mythical vacation status in my mind since everyone I know has fond childhood memories of trips there or goes every summer with their kids now.

Things I want to do there: Take the kids to Arnold’s Park; try a local brewer, like West O Brewing Co.; and I thinkThe Barefoot Bar at the marina looks incredibly fun. There’s also the new Dickinson County Nature Center that just opened, and it has a human-sized honeycomb to crawl through that I might attempt just to embarrass my kids.

Bernie’s Barnyard – So get this, my kids have never been to Adventureland in Altoona. I think 2018 will be the year since the theme park is opening a new kids area with two rides, games, and a playground. It’s been decades since I’ve been to Adventureland, so I don’t think we’ll spend our whole day at the barnyard, there’s a lot to see and our ticket would get us into Adventure Bay Waterpark.

Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa, is home to the only rollercoaster in the Western hemisphere with a negative-G loop. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Need For Speed –  One of Adventureland’s rollercoasters (The Monster) has the only negative-G loop in the Western hemisphere (which means you feel like you’re falling out of the coaster). I’m not totally convinced I want to have that feeling, but I’ll admit at least sounds cool. Ziplines are more of my speed. For the longest, fastest and highest ziplines in Iowa, I think I’ll head to Sky Tours Zipline in Dubuque.

Effigy Mounds is a national monument overlooking the Mississippi River. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Visit Effigy Mounds – I’ve seen pictures of this unique site in Harpers Ferry. Effigy Mounds is an American Indian burial and ceremonial site located in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. The national monument contains more than 200 mounds, and many are shaped like animals.

The Midway at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Iowa State Fair – To be included in the book “1,000 Places To See Before You Die,” the Iowa State Fair must be something that truly stands out over other fairs. For that reason alone it should be on every Iowa Bucket List. But there are also butter cows, legendary corn dogs, and Ye Olde Mill to see. Read Iowa State Fair tips here.

An artist’s rendering of what the Sycamore Falls will look like once it’s opened at Reiman Gardens in Ames. Illustration provided by Iowa Tourism Office

Reiman Gardens – I heard these gardens on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames are beautiful to visit. Expansion plans for Reiman Gardens should conclude fall 2018 or spring 2019, and will feature multiple waterfalls and a reflecting pool. While there, I think we’ll look for Elwood, the World’s Largest Concrete Garden Gnome.

RAGBRAI – Someday, not this year, but someday, I will ride RAGBRAI with a fun group of friends and Mr. Wonderful. If you’ve never heard of it, RAGBRAI is a huge bike ride across Iowa each year. Each stop is a chance to see a new community and enjoy the festivities they’ve planned for the bikers who are in town for a mere night.

Snake Alley in Burlington is called the “Crookedest Street in The World.” Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Walk the “crookedest street in the world – Burlington is home to Snake Alley, deemed by Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the “CROOKEDEST Street in the World.” I’ll walk it, not ride my bike up it, thankyouverymuch.

Exotic Animal Races – Prairie Meadows Race Track in Altoona has live horse racing from April to October, but once a year, things get crazy. Camels, zebras, and ostrich races are held in July (this year, it’s July 15). There are also corgi and dachshund races on the schedule, if that’s more of your speed. Word is it’s FREE and open to all ages but gets very, very crowded (and notably, open to all ages, doesn’t necessarily mean kid-friendly since it is a casino). Arrive early to get good parking, and if you want to beat the heat, make reservations to sit in the third floor club house.

The historic Squirrel Cage Jail is located in Council Bluffs. It may or may not be haunted. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Go to jail – Honestly, there is no good reason why I haven’t been to the Historic Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs. I used to work blocks away from it. It’s one of the oldest rotary jails in the United States (think “lazy Susan”-esque). Word is, it’s haunted, too.

The streets are scrubbed before the start of the Volksparades during the Orange City Tulip Festival. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Have a European getaway – I’d love to take the kids to Europe but realistically, European-inspired towns in Iowa are a more realistic getaway for us at this point. I can get a taste of Holland by visiting Orange City, Pella, or Elk Horn & Kimballton. Windmills? Find one in Pella or Elk Horn. Tulip festivals? Find one in Orange City and Pella (every May). I’m pretty excited to say I’ve got plans to go to Orange City’s this year; it’s held May 17-19, 2018. There are parades, a carnival, performers, and a ton more. I can also venture to Czech Village (Cedar Rapids) or Decorah for a little Norwegian heritage.

The Hotel Pattee in Perry was built in 1913 and has 40 individually decorated and themed rooms, plus a bowling alley. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Stay in a century-old hotel – Iowa has a handful of grand hotels, including the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel that’s still remains, the Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City. You won’t find many super close to Omaha except if you consider Perry, Iowa close. There, you’ll find the Hotel Pattee, built in 1913. Besides looking exceptionally charming, it has a bowling alley, and that my friends, is what you call a vacation hit when traveling with kids.

Hot Air Balloon – I just founds this out: You can make a reservation to ride in a hot air balloon during the National Balloon Classic in Indianola. I thought you just went to gaze at all the hot air balloons, but you can make a reservation to ride in one. Sign me up. This event is held annually in late July-early August.

Everything at Matchstick Marvels is built out of matchsticks. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Matchstick Marvels – This museum in Gladbrooke looks like one my kids would love. In the summer 2018, they will unveil a matchstick replica of the 1970 Dodge Charger from the “Fast & Furious” movies that’s more than 11 feet long.

The Iowa Bucket List For Your Sweettooth

Usually I roll everything into one list, but today, I feel like singling out food. Upon reviewing the list, it’s better to say this is the dessert bucket list for Iowa.

Try the nuns’ candies – There are nuns making caramels in Dubuque and they’re world-famous. I’ve got Monastery Candy on my list, and you can bet their hazelnut meltaways will be the first I try.

Van Veen Chocolates in Pella is one of the stops on the A to Z Foodie Trail in Iowa. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Complete the A to Z Foodie Trail – This is pretty ambitious and, for me, will likely take a few years. The trail is in Marion and Mahaska counties featuring 26 stops in a loop through Pella, Leighton, Oskaloosa, Knoxville and Pleasantville. I just need to stop at each place, get my selfie with the designated letter of the alphabet and move on quickly.

Dine at The Hall – The Hall in West Des Moines sounds like a pretty unique place for a meal and drink. There are food trucks inside a former 1890s railcar barn and iron foundry, and soon, Foundry Distilling Co. is set to open there.

Thanks to Blue Bunny Ice Cream, LeMars is the Ice Cream Capitol of the World. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Ice Cream Capitol of the World – LeMars, in northwest Iowa, is the Ice Cream Capitol of the World (granted, this designation is self-proclaimed, but who am I to judge?). It got this designation for being the world’s largest producer of ice cream novelties in one location. The place to enjoy said ice cream has to be the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor.

And while I’m on the topic of ice cream, there’s an old-fashioned soda fountain in Grinnell I want to check out: Candyland Station. Their specialty is made of vanilla ice cream, marshmallow, chocolate toppings and Spanish peanuts.

More things for your Iowa bucket list

So, you’re probably wondering about a few things that seem like pretty obvious items that should be on the list. I agree, there are some that should be on the list. I’ve already seen them or did them, though, so they’re not on my bucket list. But they should be on yours if you haven’t. Here are additional Iowa bucket list items to consider:

Zombie Burger – This Des Moines staple is a visually cool place to visit…if you like zombies; if not, stay far away. The food is tasty and has fun names like the Dead Moines Burger. The wait is worth it.

Sleep in a yurt – You don’t find many yurts around here. I stayed at one in Clear Lake. Here’s how the night went down.  While you’re in Clear Lake, better stop by the legendary Surf Ballroom.

Hike in the Loess Hills – The Loess Hills are pretty unique land formations with soil found only in that small stretch along western Iowa and in China. Here are three of my favorite hikes in the Loess Hills.

Ledges State Park – Don’t skip canyon drive, which is a one-way route where the roadways are sometimes covered by Pea’s Creek. It’s kinda cool, but I’ve heard it can sometimes completely flood out the road way. The park is great for hiking and exploring the water ways.

Story City Carousel – This hand-carved wooden carousel in Story City was built in 1913 and still works. We stopped there for a quick ride and it was a hit with my young kids.

Des Moines Arts Festival – It’s one of the largest arts festival in the region, and pretty fun for families. We visited during our Great Iowa Road Trip.

Iowa State Capitol Building – I’m not one to visit state capitols, but even I had to stop and see the beautiful library there. Find the capitol building in Des Moines.

 

For more ideas, visit the Travel Iowa website or check this Pinterest board and start pinning:

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November 5, 2017

My Roseville & Twin Cities Winter Bucket List

We’re braving Minnesota in the winter. Why? Silly question. The question should be why not – the Twin Cities have been touted as one of the top 10 winter vacation spots

To make the most of it, we’re staying in Roseville, who is hosting my family for the trip. Roseville give us easy access to attractions in Minneapolis and St. Paul while staying in a more affordable area (with free parking, a commodity in these parts).

Things to do in Twin Cities & Roseville

I’ve got more things on my bucket list than time allows, but isn’t that the fun thing about bucket lists? Dream big. If there’s something you think is a must-do or must-see while we’re there, please let me know in the comments section!

Roseville & Twin Cities Winter Bucket List

Play & Learn Indoors – Indoor activities will be a necessity during a winter visit. Some of our favorite places to visit on vacations are children’s museums and science centers, so we’re in luck with this part of Minnesota. There’s Minnesota Children’s Museum, which just opened after a major expansion and renovation, and the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul. For pure fun, there’s also Can Can Wonderland (think a fantastical world of indoor mini golf, arcade games, and more). Other options include Minnesota Transportation Museum at Jackson Street Roundhouse, a former steam engine maintenance facility-turned historic gem which provides a unique opportunity for kids of all ages to experience railroading.

Three places I’d love to visit (from top going clockwise): Minnesota Children’s Museum, photo courtesy Minnesota Children’s Museum; Can Can Wonderland, photo courtesy Mike Krivit Photography; Science Museum of Minnesota, photo courtesy of Science Museum of MN.

Shop Pop-Ups & The Mall of America – This one’s more for me than anyone else. There are holiday pop-up shops throughout Minneapolis, not to mention the granddaddy of all shopping experiences, Mall of America. If we’re being truthful, if I go to Mall of America, it’d be more for the experiences than shopping though. I’ll save the shopping for local vendors at the pop-ups and then hit the big mall for things like Nickelodeon Universe and the giant ropes course (and zip line).

Hockey Time – Since we’re there in the winter, why not go to a hockey game? The Wild plays in Minneapolis and there’s a game the weekend we’re there! Check the Minnesota Wild schedule here.

Holidazzle – We want to head to downtown Minneapolis to see Holidazzle, a FREE spectacle held Thursdays through Sundays from Nov. 24 to Dec. 24. Holidazzle events include outdoor movies, skating, an illuminated art installation, fireworks, Santa, Kid Zone, and more.

Twin Cities winter activities

Holidazzle is an annual festival in downtown Minneapolis featuring ice skating, Santa, free movies, fireworks and more. Photos courtesy Holidazzle Minneapolis

Take In A Live Show – Minneapolis boasts a fantastic theater scene. Since we’re there during the holiday season, shouldn’t we take in a show like “A Christmas Carol”? It’s playing at the Guthrie Theater. You know what sounds even more awesome? “A Stocking Full of Awesome VII: The Wreath of Khan,” a family-friendly comedy show presented by Brave New Workshop. The description is the kicker: “This show is appropriate for the whole family…as long as you consider guys throwing knives at each other appropriate.”

JulmarknadAmerica Swedish Institute‘s Christmas market, Julmarknad, is the largest holiday weekend at the historic Turnblad Mansion. First off, this mansion looks like a castle, so it already is going to be a hit with my son. Additionally, there is a ton happening at the market, including performances, kids crafts, Swedish foods for purchase, and a lot of vendors.  I’m hoping this times out with our weekend visit.

Ice Castles – Holy buckets, if this is open when we’re visiting this winter, I want to be there! Go look at pictures, the Ice Castles look amazing. website

Eat All The Good Food – If you know me, I usually plan trips around food. On my list, Hen House Eatery (word is they have a great kids’ pre-meal entertainment pack), The News Room (read headlines in newsprint-inspired decor), ice cream at Sebastian Joe’s in Minneapolis or Grand Ole Creamery in St. Paul, Midtown Global Market (on Fridays, they have Family Fridays activities), World Street Cafe, Hazel’s Northeast, Snuffy’s Malt Shop, Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque and Pirate Bar in Stillwater (this has been featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” – plus I have a pirate fan in the family), and Mickey’s Diner (featured on the Food Network series “Unwrapped,” “Roker on the Road,” Rachel Rays’ “Tasty Travels,” and Alton Browns’ “Feasting on Asphalt”).

Inspiration for my Eat All The Good Food list came from bloggers (like Dining With Alice, who shared family-friendly tap rooms!, and others like Food + Wine, Star Tribune’s best restaurants with kid-friendly menus, and Eater kid-friendly lists (this and this).

Roseville and the Twin Cities have an abundance of breweries, including Bent Brewstillery. Photo courtesy Lane Pelovsky

Minnehaha Falls – What? A waterfall in winter? At southern Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Park, hikers stop at overlooks to see the Mississippi River, limestone bluffs and 53-foot-tall Minnehaha Falls. I’ve seen pictures of the falls frozen in the winter, maybe we’ll have luck? website

Wabasha Street Caves – This St. Paul site has me intrigued. website

Como Park Zoo – I happen to know from experience, zoos are great to visit in the winter. Tip from Working Mom’s Travels about Como is that it’s easy to visit in the winter since buildings are close together. Santa is at the Minnesota Zoo on Saturdays in December! The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at part of Como Park Zoo and looks delightfully decorated during the holidays. Como Park Zoo & Conservatory are FREE (voluntary donations are accepted).

The Marjorie McNeely Conservatory is decked out for the holidays. Photo courtesy Como Park Zoo Conservatory

Saint Paul Winter Carnival – OK, this one doesn’t fit into our travel timeline, but if only. It looks fun! Saint Paul Winter Carnival starts in January, though.

Outdoor Sports –  If we’re feeling ambitious, we could snowshoe or ski. Most likely, we’ll ice skate at Roseville Oval, for sure!

You can ice skate outdoors surrounded by holiday lights at the OVAL in Roseville. Photo courtesy Lane Pelovsky

Photo Opps – We might just swing by the Walker Art Center so the kids can get the iconic picture in front of “Spoonbridge and Cherry” at Walker Art Center. 

 

I want YOUR help. Help me plan our trip! Tell me your favorite things to do, places to eat, and all the other must-see things in Roseville and the Twin Cities! Suggestions don’t have to be for specifically kid-friendly things, but that is greatly appreciated.

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October 26, 2017

5 Nebraska Must-See Places To Add To Your Bucket List

I’m pretty confident that I’ve seen a lot of remarkable places in Nebraska – from Toadstool Geological Park and Fort Robinson to Smith Falls and the Sandhills. Yet, browsing through the new book, “Detour Nebraska,” by Gretchen Garrison, I realize that there’s a lot more I have yet to see. It’s an inspired me to create a new Nebraska must-see list.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through the link, I’m paid a small amount to keep doing what I love to do – writing. Thanks!

Gretchen is a friend of mine, and her blog, Odyssey Through Nebraska, has inspired more than a trip or two of mine. It’s no surprise, then, that her book would prompt more trips. Here are five places she writes about that I want to add to my Nebraska Bucket List.

1. Kreycik Elk & Buffalo Ranch – This is a totally new place to me. At this ranch, guests ride a covered wagon to see the animals, and get this, they can feed the tamer ones. It’s near Niobrara State Park, which has been one of Nebraska’s state parks I’ve been meaning to get to for ages. I see a combo trip in my future.

Kreycik Elk & Buffalo Ranch in Nebraska. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

2.The Arthur Bowring Ranch – The allure of the Sandhills combined with a ranch it too great for me. I have to go here. Plus, there’s a sod house. It’s very Nebraska. There’s a Sodhouse Sunday event on the last Sunday of June that sounds like something I’d drag my family to like to attend so I can see the re-enactments of what early Nebraska life was like.

3. Seward – OK, I really only want to go to Seward for its Fourth of July festivities. It hear it’s called Nebraska’s Fourth of July City for good reason – more than 40,000 people travel there for the parade and parties.

Nebraska’s Fourth of July City, Seward. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

4. Happy Jack Peak and Chalk Mine – One of two underground diatomite mines in the U.S. is located near Scotia, Neb. I have a strange fascination with mines and caves, so naturally, this one is on my radar. I don’t expect to see much in the mine, I just want to go underground because underground stuff is cool.

Happy Jack Peak & Chalk Mine near Scotia, Neb. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

5. Ashfalls Fossil Beds State Historical Site – I first heard of Ashfalls through Gretchen’s blog, so naturally her book reminded me that I have yet to go there. If you visit in the summer, you may catch student paleontologists digging fossils of rhinos, camels and horses.

 

Nebraska attractions

“Detour Nebraska” comes out on Oct. 30 (it’s actually the same day as my book, “Lost Restaurants of Omaha”).

 

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July 17, 2017

My Outer Banks Bucket List

We’re headed somewhere I’ve never been to this summer: The Outer Banks of North Carolina. I’ve never been to that part of the country, so I’ve been excitedly making a wish list.

Let’s be honest: Being land-locked in Nebraska, it’s tempting to just write “BEACH” and be done with it. However, I’ve found a lot of fun things to do in OBX. If time and money were no concern, here’s a bucket list of everything we’d do there:

Hang Glide

We’ll probably head to the largest sand dunes on the east coast: Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head. Maybe I’ll be brave enough to try hang gliding (or if I chicken out, we could just fly kites).

Crabbing

What is more coastal than that? There are charters where families can go crabbing and/or shrimping, literally catching their dinner and having a totally and hands-on experience. This is definitely something new to us Midwesterners.

 

Climb a lighthouse

Check out the view from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Bodie Island Lighthouse are open in the summer for self-guided climbs.

See wildlife

There are a lot of options in North Carolina to view wildlife. If we’re feeling like getting a workout, we could head to Pea Island Refuge and take a guided Interpretive Canoe Tour or try a  paddle tour into the heart of Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. I’m pretty sure we’ll visit Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge anyway, since my kids are excited to do the red wolf howling on the trail.

And, you probably heard of them, but there are also wild horse in the area. I’m hoping we catch a glimpse of some.

Pirate Site-Seeing

My son is obsessed with pirates right now. There’s a very good chance we’ll do quite a few things on this four-day Blackbeard itinerary. For sure, we’ll head to Ocracoke, site of Blackbeard’s last stand, where we’ll find a pirate-y shop and Blackbeard museum called Teach’s Hole. I hear that island is quite lovely to explore, so we’ll check out the village and beaches, too. The Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach was named “Best Beach in America” by Dr. Beach in 2007. Beaufort looks like another pirate-y place we’d love, especially the NC Maritime Museum and Port City Tour’s The Legend of Blackbeard walking tour. A little more kid-oriented is Pirate Adventures of the Outer Banks, and my kids are determined to go on their pirate ship.

Beach time

I’m looking forward to visiting a few beaches in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This is a shot of Coquina Beach at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

There are outfitters to rent body boards, surf boards, SUP boards, kayaks and who knows what else to add some more activity to our beach days. We’re staying an a vacation rental that provides beach gear like that.

Watermelon Festival

I love seeing what special events coincide with vacation. In the case of our great road trip, will be in the Outer Banks during the Watermelon Festival. Sounds like good summertime fun!

 

H2OBX Water Park

There’s a new water park in the Outer Banks called H2OBX. After the fun the kids had at their first visit to a water park, they’ve become fans of water slides and wave pools. This place looks exciting!

Horse ride on a beach

I think a horse ride anywhere is a great addition to trips, but imagine the view and the peaceful feeling of a leisure ride along a beach. Of course, this would have to wait until the kids are old enough.

Cruise with a dune buggy

This sounds like so much fun. I tried scooting around town on a golf cart once while on a vacation, and the looks of the Outer Banks buggies make me think this is a lot faster.

 

Wright Brothers National Memorial

The Wright Brothers National Memorial is in Kitty Hawk, NC. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

How could we go to the Outer Banks and not visit Kill Devil Hills to see the Wright Brothers National Memorial, commemorating where the first controlled heavier-than-air flight took place? The memorial allows visitors to walk to the First Flight Boulder and Flight Line, which mark the location where the Wrights first flew. The memorial is undergoing quite a bit of construction, but it sounds like by Fall 2018, there will some new interactive exhibits worth checking out.

Free fun

Many towns in the Outer Banks have weekly events in the summer, like Duck, where they have interactive performances for children on Tuesday mornings, a family-friendly film that night, a free magic show on Wednesday mornings, and live music on Thursday nights.

Elizabethan Gardens

An aerial view of Elizabethan Gardens in the Outer Banks. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

I don’t know what it is about gardens, but my kids love visiting them on vacations. This one looks particularly beautiful, and on some weekday summer mornings, there’s a themed kids activity included with admission.

First Flight Adventure Park

This one may or may not appeal to my kids, but I have an adventurous spirit, and the ropes course looks like fun. Challenging, yes, but way fun.

Satisfy the sweet tooth

More than a few people have mentioned Duck Donuts once they heard I was going to the Outer Banks. Photo courtesy Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

What’s summer without ice cream and treats? I’m thinking we’ll stop by Forbes Candies, for sure. And, I’ve heard lot of good things about Duck Donuts.

Roanoke Island Festival Park

Knowing my kids, they’d love visiting Roanoke Island Festival Park for one major reason: Touring a 16th-century sailing ship. Ok, not a real ship from that long ago, but a representation. The park and cultural center shows visitors what 16th century settlements were like, with costumed characters to greet you and answer questions. The ship, Elizabeth II, is only one area in the park with re-enactments and hands-on activities for kids; there’s also Settlement Site and American Indian Town. We’d have to stop at the Adventure Museum while there, as well.

Getting there

Check flights and package deals at Cheapo.com, where they have roundtrip flights for a ton of destinations for less than $199!

Your turn!

What should be included on this bucket list for the Outer Banks? Share your favorite restaurants, beaches, attractions, etc. I’d love all the tips you can give!

 

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June 16, 2017

My St. Louis Bucket List

We’re planning a trip to St. Louis during a great time of year: Summer. There’s so much to see there with the kids, I’ve decided to make a bucket list of it all. The last time we were there, it was winter and we couldn’t do a lot of great things.

Here’s what we’d see and do in St. Louis if time and money didn’t matter. Our upcoming visit is hosted by Explore St. Louis and Four Seasons St. Louis

Play outdoors

Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis is continually ranked among the best (and biggest) botanical gardens in the U.S. Photo by Burt Remis, courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

I’d love to further explore Forest Park, home to the St. Louis Zoo and called the No. 1 city park by USA Today. It’s a huge space, with a lake and somewhere in there, the 75-foot Flegel Falls. While we’re in the area, I hope we can time a stop to Missouri Botanical Gardens. The Travel Channel called it one of the best botanical gardens in the U.S. Ever since St. Louis local, Adam from Fly Over Country, included it in on a St. Louis Insider’s Guide on my blog, I’ve wanted to see it.

Since we’ll spend a lot of time downtown, I’d also like to stroll through Citygarden. It’s a cool-looking sculpture park and fountain garden.

See a show at The Muny

The Muny in St. Louis is the nation’s oldest and largest outdoor theatre. Photo by Debbie Franke, courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

Located in Forest Park, The Muny is the country’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre. Broadway revivals are presented in the summer, and I peeked at the season – so good! There are even ones that my kids would love.

Go up the Gateway Arch

This is for my kids, since I’ve already done this tour. They’re dying to get to the 630-foot ride to the top and see the view.

Stay somewhere with a view

A view of the Gateway Arch from a room at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis. Photo courtesy Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis

Being such an iconic part of the city, how cool would it be to have your first view and final view of the day be out a window facing The Arch? Four Seasons in St. Louis has that view, and I’m hoping we get a room with this sort of view! There’s a reason it’s the No. 15 hotel in the entire country, according to the New York Post.

Eat all the food

Dining at the Fountain on Locust, home of the Ice Cream Martini, is on my St. Louis Bucket List, for sure. Photo by Katherine Bish, courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

It wouldn’t be an Oh My! Omaha bucket list if there wasn’t a list of restaurants on it. I’ve got to try some St. Louis barbecue, and two names that keep getting mentioned are Bogart’s and Pappy’s. Pappy’s has been on Food Network and Travel Channel shows, including one “Man Vs. Food” episode about its “Big Ben” meal – a full slab of ribs, 2 sandwiches, a quarter-chicken, and 4 side dishes. Bogart’s was on The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods America,” for what doesn’t seem like too strange of a menu (I suppose apricot-bruleed ribs is a little different).

I also want to take the kids to somewhere fun, like Blueberry Hill in The Loop (Chuck Berry used to play there).

For dessert, where else should we go in St. Louis than Ted Drewes for a concrete? I also have my eye on The Fountain. Every sundae (and they have some adult ones) sounds amazing, and the place just looks cool to be in. Or, we might head to Gooey Louie’s. I read the gooey butter cake is a speciality in St. Louis and Gooey Louie’s is the place to go for it.

See more St. Louis museums

The City Museum is a playground and museum for children and adults. The rooftop is an area I have yet to explore. Photo by McElroy Fine Art Photography, courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

I love St. Louis museums (many are free). We want to go back to City Museum, even though we’ve been to this fantastic place before. Why is it on my bucket list? This time, with nice weather, we’ll be able to explore the amazing rooftop area. 

We also still need to visit The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum, and my son, particularly is loving art museums, so a trip to St. Louis Art Museum is in order. There are family guides to for areas like the armor and mummies.

Have some thrills

Six Flags St. Louis is home to the thrilling Batman the Ride. Photo courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

My kids are starting to become little theme park junkies. We should totally check out Six Flags St. Louis. I wonder if my oldest is tall enough for Batman the Ride yet.

See the Budweiser Clydesdales

You can see the world famous Clydales in St. Louis. Photo courtesy St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission.

There’s a free tour of the historic Anheuser-Busch Brewery, visit the Budweiser Clydesdales and sample some brew (me, not the kids). On a related note, we should visit Grant’s Farm, the 281-acre ancestral home of the Busch family.

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I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Kim, it’s St. Louis, go to the zoo and a Cardinals’ game. I know. I’ve done them both and checked them off my list. We’ve also been to the Science Center (it’s FREE, you should go). I wrote about our first visit to St. Louis years ago (OMG, look how young Mooch and Farley are!).

What else am I missing? Please leave a comment with what should be added to this list!

* * * * *

 

I got a lot of ideas from an Insider’s Family Guide to St. Louis. You ought to check it out!

Want even more ideas? Check out the site Explore St. Louis or view all the stuff pinned to St. Louis Fun With Kids:

 

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March 15, 2017

My Wichita Bucket List

I’m taking the family to Wichita this spring, and as usual, I have a big ol’ list of things to do, places to see, and food to eat. Here’s my Wichita bucket list, if time and money were not an issue:

 

See the Keeper of the Plains

The Keeper of the Plains lit up at night in Wichita, Kansas. Photo by Merrill Thomas

There’s a giant statue along the Big and Little Arkansas rivers called Keeper of the Plains. Each night, you can watch flames spring up from fire drums around the statue, illuminating the surroundings. It sounds pretty cool, especially for my kids. Catch it at 7 p.m. in the winter and 9 p.m. in the summer.

Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper

I still haven’t the chuckwagon dinner I’ve been dreaming about ever since planning our South Dakota road trip two years ago. Maybe Wichita is the place? Just 20 minutes outside of town, there’s Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper, a dinner show with classic cowboy tunes and a chance to ride a wagon.

Tanganyika Wildlife Park

You can feed animals like lemurs or giraffe at Tanganyika Wildlife Park near Wichita. Photo courtesy Visit Wichita

Several friends familiar with Wichita have recommended we take the kids to Tanganyika Wildlife Park. It’s about 10 minutes from downtown. At the park, visitors can get up-close to the 300+ residents, even feeding some like giraffes and lemurs.

Botanica Wichita

The Fossil Wall at Botanica Wichita. Photo courtesy Visit Wichita

There are 26 themed gardens at Botanica Wichita. We’d definitely have to check out Downing Children’s Garden and the butterfly house, as well as the Fossil Wall.

Dart Warz

You’ve heard of laser tag and paintball? Now there’s Nerf battlefields and I just know my kids are going to love this place.

Eat all the food

I heard breakfast at Doo-Dah Diner is the stuff of legends. Photo courtesy Visit Wichita

I have so many restaurants I want to try – how will I decide? Do we get breakfast at Doo Dah Diner (I heard they had some habit-forming french toast there)? Or do we get donuts at Donut Whole or Hurts Donuts for a crazy creations? I’m thinking of getting malts with lunch at the old-fashioned soda fountain in downtown Wichita, Old Mill Tasty Shop.

My foodie friends in Wichita sent me a whole list of places to go to, including burgers at The Anchor, Dempsey’s or Ty’s; pizza at Ziggy’s; Mediterranean food at N&J; Songbird Juice Co.; and Two Olives. The Oh My! Omaha Facebook group also had some good recommendations, and I’m pretty sure The Kitchen will be on our itinerary for the spring trip.

You can watch planes take off and land while dining at Stearman Field Bar & Grill. Photo courtesy Visit Wichita

There’s also Stearman Field Bar & Grill, a restaurant located right on a landing strip where you can watch aircraft take off and land 20 yards from you.

Wichita Art Museum

Wichita Art Museum has free admission on Saturdays, plus they have a kid-friendly space called The Living Room. Photo courtesy Wichita Art Museum

The Wichita Art Museum has a space called The Living Room, which is an interactive gallery for art investigation and make-it/take-it art activities. My kids would totally love it. Plus, if we visit on a Saturday, admission is free.

Exploration Place

We could likely spend an entire day here, exploring flight, nanoscience, and what will likely be my castle-obsessed son’s favorite space, Where Kids Rule with its three-story castle.

Old Cowtown Museum

Old Cowtown has costumed interpreters that portray life in Kansas back in the 1860s, including what a shootout would’ve been like. Photo courtesy Visit Wichita

I think my kids would love seeing the cowboys and other costumed interpreters walking around this open-air museum – they tell visitors about Wichita life in the 1860s. Hope we time the visit right to catch a shootout on Main Street.

Museum of World Treasures

This three-floor museum sounds like a hodgepodge collection dreamed up by my children. It has everything from dinosaur skeletons, a segment of the Berlin Wall, and a mummy.

Old Town Wichita

Old Town Wichita is a charming part of Wichita with converted warehouses and brick roads. Photo courtesy Visit Wichita

Saturday mornings sound like a good time to visit, during the lively farmers market. It sounds very much like Omaha’s Old Market with its brick roads and converted warehouses, so I’ll be right at home.

Wichita Toy Train Club and Museum

In my kids’ younger days, this would be the place for us to spend our entire vacation. It still sounds like a family-friendly stop we’d enjoy. They even have a trains for kids to operate.

Sedgwick County Zoo

Sedgwick County Zoo is known for recreating authentic habitats. Photo courtesy Visit Wichita

I heard the animals live in authentic habitats, like Downing Gorilla Forest, which emulates a Congo village. The Elephants of the Zambezi River Valley exhibit opened in 2016 and has the world’s largest elephant pool (550,000 gallons of water)!

More Wichita Vacation Ideas

Want to see more ideas for family travel to Wichita? Check out Visit Wichita and my Pinterest board:

Share your ideas: What are other not-to-miss things to do in Wichita that my family should check out? Leave a comment!

 

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