Urban Legends, Ghost Tours & Haunted Houses Near Omaha

Every city has its urban legends and supposedly-haunted buildings, and Omaha is no different. Because I’m no ghost hunter — I’m actually a big baby — I went during the day to investigate some of the most-haunted places in the metro area.

Haunted places & urban legends near Omaha

Below you’ll find a few of the places that are home to many of the metro area’s urban legends. From secluded parks and cemeteries to haunted buildings in the middle of the city, here are a few of Omaha’s supposedly haunted places and the legends behind them.

The Monster Club

Where: 1217 Howard St., Omaha

The exterior of The Monster Club in the Old Market of Omaha.

OK, what better place to have a haunted backstory than a restaurant called The Monster Club, complete with horror-themed decorations? 

My first introduction to this building was in the early 2010s, back when it was O’Connor’s Irish Pub & Grille. I was there for a Halloween party one year, but alas, I have no ghost stories. It was an haunt-free night.

What’s the legend: Rumors of lights turning on and off and shadowy figures have been shared over the years. PRISM visited the bar in 2015 (on a nice, full moon kind of night) and documented quite a bit of unusual activity.

Forest Lawn Cemetery

Where: 7909 Mormon Bridge Road, Omaha

Sign for Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery with the chapel in the background.

Forest Lawn Memorial Park (AKA Forest Lawn Cemetery) is an expansive cemetery in north Omaha, with a reportedly haunted chapel.

What’s the legend: Reports from a paranormal investigation group have noted that a “large, black mass” has been seen in the chapel and it has lunged at the group. Other pretty creepy incidents have occurred.

The chapel wasn’t open when I visited the cemetery. I did not get any creepy vibes.

Hummel Park

Where: 3033 Hummel Road, Omaha

Hummel Park's crumbling stone stairs that never seem to add up to the same amount.

Let me put this out there: I love Hummel Park and I don’t really buy into the ghost stories there. My kids have gone to summer camp there. We’ve had a birthday party there. It’s a beautiful place in the daytime. 

I’m sure it’s creepy as all get out at night, though.

What’s the legend: This park has been connected to numerous crimes throughout the years, so the typical ghost story revolves around either someone who had been murdered there or someone’s body had been left there.

And it doesn’t help that there are landmarks like “Devil’s Slide” there. And those odd stone stairs that never seem to add up to the same amount when you walk on them (they’re falling apart, so no one will ever agree on that number of steps).

Adam Fletcher does a great job debunking some of the more macabre stories of Hummel… like no, there were no satanic, albino cannibals roaming there.

All in all, I have never felt like Hummel was haunted. But I would also never go there at night.

The Hatchet House

Where: Third and North Jefferson streets in Papillion, Neb.

The exterior of Portal School, AKA The Hatchet House, in the daytime.

The Hatchet House, or more accurately the Portal School, was a one-room schoolhouse for years in Portal, Neb (or maybe it’s Millard, or more specifically, 120th and Giles road by “Heartbeat Bridge”). I recall as a child, my older brother and his friends going there and to this, he swears some scary stuff went down there.

The building was relocated to downtown Papillion in 1995 due to frequent flooding of the area. The Heartbeat Bridge has been relocated, too.

What’s the legend: The story goes that in the early 1900s, a teacher killed all of her students. Most say she beheaded them in a fit of anger, and then some of the stories add that she took out their hearts and dumped them in a nearby creek. 

The story continued on that if you found the Heartbeat Bridge near the school, you could hear hearts beating as you walk across it at night. All sorts of creepy things were said to occur once you made it to the school.

Mystery Manor

Where: 716 N. 18th St., Omaha

Exterior of Mystery Manor in the daytime

Mystery Manor was a legend when I was a kid and I never went to that haunted house until I was in my late teens because it was rumored to be ridiculously scary. And for real haunted.

What’s the legend: What’s better than a haunted house? A haunted house that’s really haunted. 

The story goes that in the late 1920s, the home was a site of a brutal murder – a man killed his wife (with a hatched, no less). 

Omaha Magazine did some investigating and debunked the story. Turns out, a single lady who bred terriers lived in the house at that time.

Still, it’s a satisfyingly scary haunted house to visit in the fall. Update: Unfortunately, Mystery Manor will not open in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Haunted houses in Omaha graphic

Haunted Hollow Scream Park

Where: 12501 Old Giles Road, La Vista, Neb.

Well, with a name like Haunted Hollow, it has to be haunted right? Well, let’s see if it’s a clever marketing ploy, like Mystery Manor, or is it a truly haunted place.

What’s the legend: A teenage girl had died in a farmhouse, and over many years, owners of the property reported strange sounds and objects being moved. A psychic and PRISM confirmed paranormal activity.

The farmhouse was saved from destruction and converted into a Halloween attraction.

Visit it, if you dare.

Black Angel

Where: 623 N. Second St., Council Bluffs, Iowa on the edge of Fairview Cemetery

The Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial, AKA The Black Angel, in the daytime

Poor Ruth Anne Dodge. Her family had Daniel Chester French build a lovely memorial for her after her death in 1916. It’s a lovely fountain. By a cemetery. 

No one calls it the Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial these days. It’s now The Black Angel, and it has inspired hundreds of ghost tales.

What’s the legend: The story I’m most familiar with is that if the Black Angel visits you in your dreams, you’re going to die soon. Of course, this may be more inspired by the story of Ruth Anne having a series of dreams about an angel before her death.

Anyway, ghost stories that are mostly shared these days include that if you look in her eyes at night (or in some instances, exactly at midnight), you’ll meet an untimely death.

Other fun ones include coming to life at night, fire shooting from her eyes at midnight, and beware, kids going missing if they run behind the base of the statue. 

Squirrel Cage Jail

Where: 226 Pearl St., Council Bluffs, Iowa

A view of the jail cells inside the Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

This architectural wonder is a former rotary jail-turned museum. Its significance is that it’s one of only three rotary jails still in existence in the U.S., and the largest one (it’s three stories tall).

What’s the legend: This is the one place where a historical society seems to not discourage the stories. There has been reports of cabinet doors opening, strange sounds, a little girl’s voice and, my favorite, ghost cats. Word is, the fourth floor seems to have the most occurrences.

All in all, the ghosts of the jail are said to be non-threatening. 

The stories the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County share are merely speculation, though they did have a paranormal team visit and find some interesting evidence.

Tip: The daytime tours are pretty inexpensive and suitable for children. There was no mention of ghosts on the tour. The historical society offers evening tours, ranging from 4 hours to overnight!

Villisca Ax Murder House

Where: 508 E. Second St., Villisca, Iowa

This is a long drive from Omaha, but if you want a landmark with a legit crime occurring in it, head to Villisca, Iowa.

Exterior of the Villisca Ax Murder House in Iowa.

In 1912, two adults and six kids were brutally murdered on Second Street and it remains an unsolved murder case. The house is now a National Historic Landmark, where visitors can take daytime tours six days a week or book overnight stays.

What’s the legend: Ever since the Moore family and two friends of a daughter were brutally murdered, tales have been spun about hauntings in the house. Visitors and paranormal specialists have shared tales of creepy occurrences, many claiming the spirits of the eight victims still reside in the house.

Some of the stories include hearing children’s voices, feeling cold spots, and being able to communicate with the dead while there. When you visit, you can see pictures that past guests have taken there and read some of their stories of haunting experiences.

We took a daytime tour and felt underwhelmed by it all. Perhaps it was all the modern-day toys people have left there for the rumored ghost children? Perhaps it was the bored guide?

I’ve had a friend stay overnight there, though, and she told me “all sorts of creepy things happened.” So, there’s that.

Omaha ghost tours & more tours nearby

The Fairview Cemetery, located in Council Bluffs, is in the background of this Black Angel photo.

Midwest Paranormal Tours

Their Omaha offerings include cemetery tours that regularly sell out, as well as haunted hikes of Hummel. Reasonably priced private tours are available for four or more people. website

Nebraska Tour Co.

This company offers an Old Market Ghost Story Tours for groups. It’s a walking tour that takes about an hour. There’s another Haunted History Tour for groups that includes transportation. website

Ollie the Trolley Haunted Cemetery Tours

These individual group tours are narrated by historians and also happens to be a BYOB type of experience. Tours run from 2 to 5 p.m., so not a late-night experience. website

Ghost Hunts USA

This company offers haunted tours of places like Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs and Malvern Manor (also in Iowa) at a premium price, but at least it includes use of their equipment. website

More odd and creepy Omaha stuff

Can’t get enough of the supernatural things, or places inspired by supernatural things? Check, out these places in Omaha:

Museum of Shadows

Where: 110 Douglas St., Omaha

What: Find a large collection of cursed items in a self-tour through the spooky place.

Haunted House Chinese Restaurant

Where: 7639 Cass St., Omaha

What: It’s a seafood restaurant that challenges you to “Enter if you dare.” I honestly can’t tell you if it’s anything more than a regular restaurant with an eye-catching name. 

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Want a scare? Check out these places in Nebraska and Iowa that are rumored to be haunted! Plus, learn about guided ghost tours, haunted overnight stays and more. Many of these haunted experiences are located in Omaha or within an easy drive.

18 Midwest Supper Clubs I Want To Visit

Supper clubs are a long-running Midwestern dining experience, but being a Nebraska native, it’s a foreign concept to me. After reading a book about the history of supper clubs and some of the restaurants that are still open in Iowa, I’ve been inspired to learn more about them and, who knows, maybe visit a few!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of “Iowa Supper Clubs” in order to review the book. This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking the link, I receive a small referral stipend. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

“Iowa Supper Clubs”

As long as I’ve known Megan Bannister, I’ve known her to be a knowledge foodie based in Iowa. It made since that she’d write a book about restaurants (she’s written a post about awesome Des Moines restaurants for me, after all).

Iowa Supper Clubs - This book shares a nostalgic look at the Midwestern phenomenon of supper clubs. There's even a chapter about the Iowa supper clubs that are still open!
Image courtesy Megan Bannister

“Iowa Supper Clubs” sets out to, first, explain what a supper club is (a relish tray isn’t a requisite, but “You know it’s one when you see it”). Then she dives into the history of supper clubs in Iowa.

My favorite part of the book covers the supper clubs in Iowa that are still open. (And if we’re being honest, the information about the ones that serve ice cream after-dinner drinks.)

Photo courtesy Megan Bannister

The nostalgia and community-oriented nature of supper clubs reminded me a lot about my own book, “Lost Restaurants of Omaha,” only in Megan’s book, there remains a few long-running establishments you can visit today. And I intend to do so.

So, read on to see which supper clubs I’m dreaming of visiting!

Iowa supper clubs I want to visit

The following is a list of Iowa supper clubs I found in Megan’s book that are still open in Iowa, starting with the ones closest to Omaha. Priorities, right? 

Exterior of Breitbach's Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa
Photo courtesy Travel Iowa

Note: These supper clubs may be operating under reduced hours and with social distancing restrictions in place. Call before visiting! (Not that you’ll be able to make a reservation, just so that you can know if they’re or offer curbside takeout)

Steak meal at Archie's Waeside, a supper club in Le Mars, Iowa
Photo courtesy Travel Iowa

Midwest supper clubs I want to visit

Inspired by Megan’s book, I began to seek what some of the classics around the Midwest were. Fodor’s even had a list. Iowa (and its abundant supper clubs) is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce wedge.

After creating my list of Iowa stops, I pondered what a Midwest supper club road trip would look like. I also pondered what my waist would look like after said road trip. Let’s not get into those details.

Note: These supper clubs may be operating under reduced hours and with social distancing restrictions in place. Call before visiting!

Starting first with the state that’s possibly most famous for its supper clubs: Wisconsin. I’m sure I’m missing a few giants, but among my Wisconsin supper club list are:

Oh, sure, there are more, so check out “Wisconsin Supper Clubs” if you want more insight into the state’s supper club fascination.

And, then one of my favorite states to vacation in, Minnesota, has its share of lovely options. By lakes, no less. Here are a few ones on my radar:

  • Bar Harbor (Brainerd Lakes area)
  • Fisher’s Club (Avon…and supposedly you shouldn’t miss the breaded walleye fish fry) 
  • Crooner’s Lounge and Supper Club (Minneapolis)

And last, but certainly not least, are some of the supper clubs of Illinois. I got a taste of supper clubs in downtown Chicago at the Tortoise Supper Club. A few other classics I’d like to visit:

  • Millie’s Supper Club (Chicago)
  • Timmerman’s Supper Club (East Dubuque – and said to have a beautiful sunset view overlooking the Mississippi River Valley)

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Supper clubs are truly a Midwestern tradition! Here are more than a dozen I want to visit, starting with the ones closest to me - the Iowa supper clubs!

10 frightening haunted houses near Omaha

Haunted outdoors

My kids are just starting to get to the age where they’re going to start asking to go to haunted houses. While our speed has been Cobweb Castle as far as scares go, there are a lot bigger, scarier haunted houses around Omaha. Here’s a list of the haunted houses in Omaha, and nearby. 

COVID Update: Some haunted houses will not open in 2020, especially the ones that are only indoors. Those with outdoor space will have social distancing measures in place and likely a changed experience for fans of past haunted houses. Check each individual website or call ahead as the situation changes frequently. 

Haunted houses in Omaha (and nearby)

1. Haunted Hollow Scream Park 

Where: 12501 Old Giles Road, La Vista, Neb.

Dates: Opens Sept. 18 through Oct. 31

What makes it unique: Haunted Hollow is reportedly certified haunted. You can read about it soon in a post I’m writing about urban legends of Omaha.

2. Scary Acres

Where: 17272 Giles Road, Omaha

Dates: Runs Sept. 18 through Oct. 31

What makes it unique: There are three attractions at Scary Acres: the Master’s Castle, the House on the Hill, and the Haunted Woods.

3. Ranch of Terror Haunted House and Haunted Hayrack Rides 

Where: Bellevue Berry Farm, 11001 S. 48th St., Papillion, Neb.

Dates: Runs Sept. 18 through Oct. 31

What makes it unique: The scary hayrack rides at Bellevue Berry Farm are legendary.

4. Mystery Manor Haunted Theater 

Where: 716 N. 18th St., Omaha

Dates: Mystery Manor will not be open in 2020, but plans a Ghouls Gone Wild season in April 2021.

What makes it unique: This is Omaha’s longest-running haunted house with a rumor of being “for real” haunted. (It’s not – but it makes for a great storyline)

Mystery Manor in downtown Omaha

5. The Shadow’s Edge 

Where: 3457 S. 84th St., Omaha

Dates: The haunted house will not open in 2020.

What makes it unique: This haunted house is in the heart of Omaha and near one of the best stores for Halloween shopping, Mangelsen’s.

6. Cobweb Castle 

Where: Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St., Omaha

Dates: The not-so-scary Halloween attraction will not be open in 2020.

What makes it unique: This is the best haunted house for those not wanting to actually be scared: AKA young children. 

Cobweb Castle, a not-scary haunted house inside Omaha Children's Museum

7. Camp Fear 

Where: 233rd Street and West Maple Road, Elkhorn, Neb.

Dates: 2020 dates have not been announced. 

What makes it unique: Camp Fear includes three attractions – Bloodrush: Forest of Terror, Nyctophobia, and Dark Ritual Escape Room. You can save money if you purchase ahead online.

8. Hillside House of Hell 

Where: 114 Green St., Glenwood, Iowa

Dates: Runs Sept. 25 through Oct. 31 

What makes it unique: This Glenwood attraction is Iowa’s largest haunted house and it is only 25 miles from Omaha.  

9. Eagle Hollow Haunts 

Where: 617 238th St., Eagle, Neb.

Dates: Opening date hasn’t been announced.

What makes it unique: The Eagle Hollow haunted house is expanding its outdoor offerings in 2020 by expanding the outdoor walking path, Darklands, and the bus ride to get visitors there.  Due to COVID restrictions, Luminon and Night Terrors will be closed for 2020.

10. Roca Scary Farm 

Where: 16531 S. 38th St., Roca, Neb.

When: Open Sept. 25 through Oct. 30.

What makes it unique: A pumpkin patch by day, a scary farm by night.

Haunted road trips

If you want to get out of town for your scares, I recommend heading to Kansas City, Mo., for Halloween Haunt at Worlds of Fun.

Worlds of Fun during the Halloween season in the daytime.

Unfortunately, Halloween Haunt will not be held in 2020.

The night is pretty scary, so if you have young kids, I recommend going for Halloween fun during the daytime.

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Want to get scared this Halloween season? Here are the haunted houses in Omaha, as well as haunted outdoor attractions near Omaha.

16 Charming Pumpkin Patches Near Omaha

Fall in the Midwest means one thing – time to pack up the family and head off to the nearest pumpkin patch. The Omaha area is blessed with several outstanding pumpkin patches where you can spend an entire day. Here’s a look at a few of the best patches in the area.

COVID-19 update: Before heading out, please ensure you check each pumpkin patch’s website or Facebook page for their requirements and restrictions.

1. Vala’s Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard

Where: 12102 S. 180th St., Gretna, Neb.

Dubbed by some as Nebraska’s “Disney World,” a trip to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard is a visit to pumpkin paradise. From the food, including giant turkey legs, sandwiches, soup, and all kinds of pie, to children’s rides, entertaining shows, and scary haunted houses, it may be challenging to decide what to do first.

Vala’s is home to a petting zoo, where you can also purchase feed for animals, such as goats and a camel. Take a trip through a giant corn maze, as well as try your luck at the pumpkin cannon, and more.

Oh, you’re here for the pumpkins, right? Hop aboard and enjoy a hayride to the pumpkin patch, where you can search acres upon acres for the perfect pumpkin.

A wagon full of mini pumpkins at Vala's Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard in Nebraska

You do know you’ll need a pumpkin for each person in your party, right? Otherwise, how will you make scary jack-o-lanterns, as well as pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread? On your way out of the park, don’t forget to pick up a few treats, including caramel apples, freshly popped kettle corn, and so much more!

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch opens for its 35th season Sept. 18 (as well as open for the special weekend-only Apple Festival from Sept. 4-7) and will be open through Nov. 1.

Related post: Vala’s Scavenger Hunt

2. Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch

Where: 11001 S. 48th St., Papillion, Neb.

You’re never quite sure what to expect when visiting Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch. With an old western town, you feel like you may encounter a gunslinger looking for a shootout. But, then, you find the pirate ship, so the pirates are going to take on the cowboys?

While your imaginary characters figure out what to do, you can enjoy a wagon ride around 20 acres of farmland, including a trip through a wooded area.

Children can have fun playing at the How the West was Won area, including slides, ziplines, and a climbing net. They can also play on a bounce pad and pirates swing, as well as ride a kid’s train and explore a haunted walk.

Then, it’s time to head to the pumpkin patch, in search of the gourd that tops all other gourds. Bellevue Berry Farm and Pumpkin Ranch also offers hot food and drinks, including barbecue and turkey legs. On weekends, the Pirates Pub serves alcohol.

Open weekends, the pumpkin patch season runs from Sept. 12 through Oct. 31.

3. Wenninghoff’s Farm

Where: 6707 Wenninghoff Road, Omaha

You won’t find a haunted house at Wenninghoff’s. Instead, the north-central Omaha pumpkin patch encourages everyone to become a kid again and get a little dirty playing on a combine slide and a corn play area, as well as playing tug of war and painting a pumpkin.

Enjoy a walk through the corn maze, and an old-fashioned hayrack ride before venturing off to select your pumpkin.

Open weekends Sept. 26-Oct. 31, Wenninghoff’s also offers weekday school field trips.

4. Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch

Where: 3936 State Highway 133, Blair, Neb.

Realizing a longtime dream, Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch opened in 2008 between Omaha and Blair. With more than 30 attractions on the farm, you’ll want to plan to spend the day.

From the nation’s largest tornado simulator at Tornado Alley to a giant slide, as well as a corn pool and gigantic bounce pillows, your children will be challenged NOT to have a good time. With one of the best corn mazes in the Metro area, enjoy an adventure through 10 acres of cornfield fun.

While at Skinny Bones, enjoy a large turkey leg and pulled pork BBQ sandwiches, or a hot dog, among other items on the full-service menu.

Of course, the main reason for the visit is to find a great pumpkin, so climb aboard for a hayride to the pumpkin patch, which is open daily Sept. 11 through Oct. 31.

Welch's Pumpkin Patch in Council Bluffs, Iowa
Photo courtesy Welch’s Pumpkin Patch

5. Welch’s Pumpkin Patch

Where: 17676 Sunnydale Road, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Welch’s foregoes the games and activities. Instead, they want to help you pick out the best pumpkin you can find, so the farm features wooden toys, such as a fort. Open daily, Welch’s season starts Sept. 12 and runs through October.

More pumpkin patches in Nebraska and Iowa

If you want even more ideas for pumpkin patch outings, here are a few more to consider. All of these are about an hour or less from Omaha, with the first ones being the closest:

  • 6. Ditmars Orchard & Vineyard, 19475 225th St., Council Bluffs, Iowa
  • 7. Pioneer Trail Orchard & Pumpkin Patch, 21534 Chestnut Road, Council Bluffs, Iowa
  • 8. Nelson Produce Farm, 10505 N. 234th St., Valley, Neb.
  • 9. Bloom Where You’re Planted Farm, 911-108th St., Avoca, Neb.
  • 10. Camp Fontenelle, 9677 County Road 3, Fontanelle, Neb.
  • 11. Martin’s Hillside Orchard, 2024 Ashland Road, Ceresco, Neb.
  • 12. Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure, 2611 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City, Neb.
  • 13. Harvest Moon Farm, 1410 Highway 77, Oakland, Neb.
  • 14. Roca Berry Farm, 16531 S. 38th St., Roca, Neb.
  • 15. 3 Bees Farms, 14922 535th St., Griswold, Iowa
  • 16. McCurdy’s Pumpkins, at Highway 71 and Highway 6, Atlantic, Iowa

With impressive pumpkin patches in the area, you may find it difficult to choose just one to visit. Since the pumpkin season runs about six weeks, that should be enough time to maybe, I don’t know, visit each of them.

Just imagine how many jack-o-lanterns you and the young ones can make. And how many pies and pumpkin bread you can make. And pumpkin cookies. And pumpkin bars. And…

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12 Sweet Apple Orchards Near Omaha

‘Tis the season for everything apple — pie, cider, and, even, caramel. And nothing is more fun than a family adventure to the apple orchard. You can find the perfect apple orchard in the Omaha area, which is more than just picking out a bag of apples.

Covid-19 alert: Before heading out, please check your orchard’s website or Facebook page for any requirements or restrictions.

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard

Where: 12102 S. 180th St., Gretna, Neb.

It seems natural that Nebraska’s largest pumpkin patch should add an apple orchard, right? Well, that’s what the Vala family thought, too, so, in 2014, they planted their first group of apple trees.

Then, in 2017, Vala’s Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard started offering pick-your-own apple orchard visits. With about 30 acres, the orchard is home to 45 varieties of apples, including favorites such as Gala, Honeycrisp, and Golden Delicious, as well as unique flavors, including Smokehouse, Shizuka, and Pixie Crunch.

Silly picture at Vala's Pumpkin Patch and Orchard.

A trip to the Vala’s apple orchard is a new tradition for families, couples, and friends. And don’t forget to grab some apple cider (even hard apple cider), or their handmade caramel apples at the patch’s store.

Super Bee Orchard

Where: 4571 US Highway 75, Fort Calhoun, Neb.

Located on a hillside, just off Highway 75 south of Fort Calhoun, the family-owned apple orchard has called the area home for more than 50 years. With a variety of apples ready to be picked, Super Bee Orchard’s season runs from September through mid-November.

You’ll have a blast heading out to the trees to find the best apples for your plans, but don’t forget to pick up some homemade apple cider, jelly, or other goodies before heading home.

Green apples on a tree

Trees, Shrubs, and More

Where: 3803 Cornhusker Road, Bellevue, Neb.

An apple orchard on the site of a landscaping company? Oh yeah, and what an orchard! With about 3,000 dwarf trees –- they’re small, but, boy, do they produce full-size apples –- yielding more than a dozen varieties, you’ll have a fun time picking your own apples, such as Gala, Jonathan, Fuji, and MacIntosh.

With nearly 5 miles of trees, Trees, Shrubs, and More knows you’ll find an apple to your liking. With the pick-your-own season underway in September, the season runs until all the trees have been picked clean, so it’s better to get there as soon as possible.

Ditmars Orchard and Vineyard

Where: 19475 225th St., Council Bluffs, Iowa

For more than 25 years, Ditmars Orchard and Vineyard has grown and changed, adapting to their customers’ wants and desires. Today, the orchard features more than two dozen varieties of apples, including Mutsu, Granny Smith, and Crimson crisp.

Just-picked red apple at Ditmars Orchard in Iowa

With its pick-your-own season a smash with visitors, they’re ready to help you find the right apple for your needs. The on-site store also sells each apple variety, as well as other goodies.

With its season starting in September, apple harvest usually runs
through late October or early November.

Related post: 10 Things You Must Do In Council Bluffs In The Fall

Wostrel Family’s Union Orchard

Where: 2405 S. Highway 75, Union, Neb.

You may want to reach for an apple donut as soon as you arrive at Wostrel Family’s Union Orchard, but pace yourself. You’ll want to first explore the apple orchard, where you pick your own apples, ranging from red delicious and Honeycrisp to Arkansas Black and Candycrisp.

Once, your group has finished filling your bags with sweet, delicious apples, head to the country store, where you can purchase apple butter, caramel apples, and apple cider.

Barrel of red apples

Oh, now buy a dozen or so of the apple donuts, as you’ll want one for
the drive home, and for later.

More orchards in Nebraska and Iowa

There are, of course, more orchards around Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa! These orchards would make a great fall road trip:

  • Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure (Nebraska City, Neb.; 42 miles from Omaha). If you plan a trip to the Tree Adventure, read this post first to find more fun things to do in Nebraska City.
  • Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard (Nebraska City, Neb.; 42 miles from Omaha)
  • Small’s Fruit Farm (Mondamin, Iowa; 43 miles from Omaha)
  • Martin’s Hillside Orchard (Ceresco, Neb; 45 miles from Omaha)
  • Fontenelle Orchard (Nickerson, Neb.; 50 miles from Omaha)
  • 3 Bee Farm (Griswold, Iowa; 51 miles from Omaha)
  • DeGroots Orchard (Madison, Neb.; 113 miles from Omaha)
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With apple picking season, comes great responsibility. That is, to choose wisely on the apples you want to take home, for eating, making pies, homemade caramel apples, and, for the adventurous, your own
apple cider. Regardless of which orchard you visit and apples you choose, you know you’ll have a fun time venturing out.

Fall in Nebraska and Iowa means apple picking time! Here are the beautiful apple orchards near Omaha, and the fun activities and tasty food offered at each of them.

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7 Awesome Outdoor Things To Do In Kearney

Snuggled right up next to Interstate 80, smack-dab in the middle of Nebraska, you’ll find Kearney, a city of about 34,000 people. If you’ve driven through the state a number of times, you might know it better by the giant, sunset-colored Archway that sprawls over the interstate lanes, connecting the city to the Platte River. 

While I’d highly recommend a trip to the Archway (it’s actually a fantastic historical museum in addition to something fun to drive under), this article is focused on stiff breezes, open air, and fun activities spent outdoors! Kearney is home to many well-maintained, diverse parks, an epic hike-and-bike trail, and a few surprising local gems — enough to keep the whole family busy for a quick day trip or a weekend away! 

Cottonmill Park

Although there are many great parks in Kearney, Cottonmill Park is by far my family’s favorite. With a beautiful, 43-acre lake at the center, you can enjoy plenty of water-centric activities like fishing and no-wake boating, or you can simply have a lakeside lunch at one of the picnic tables by the water.

There are paddle boats available for rental during the summer season, and if you’ve got a paddleboard (and a good sense of balance!) the small lake is perfect for floating leisurely. 

Fountain at Cottonmill Park in Kearney Nebraska
Photo courtesy Kearney Parks and Recreation

Our family’s favorite feature is the 18-hole disc golf course that sprawls across a good chunk of the park — it’s a challenging course and a good hike, and is a great 2- to 3-hour family activity. 

In addition to the disc golf course, the park sports hiking trails, a swimming hole, nature barn, outdoor amphitheater, playground equipment, and sand volleyball courts.

Cottonmill is also the trailhead of Kearney’s 13.1-mile hike-and-bike trail, so it’s an awesome place to start the weekend!

Nielsen Kids U-Pick Pumpkin Patch

When the air cools down and fall starts whispering in everyone’s ears, a pumpkin patch is the perfect way to celebrate! Located just southwest of Minden — about a 45-minute drive from Kearney and very near Pioneer Village — the Nielsen Kids U-Pick Pumpkin Patch is a great option for a fall family frolic. 

With popcorn, themed activities, and an extensive corn maze, this pumpkin patch is a great mix of affordable, no-frills pumpkin hunting and a whimsical, seasonal getaway for everyone. 

Rowe Sanctuary

One of the things Kearney is most famous for is the annual Sandhill Crane migration. Thousands of people, er, flock here every spring to see the incredible numbers of Sandhill Cranes as they rest and feed on the Platte River.

A pair of Sandhill Cranes at Rowe Sanctuary in Kearney, Nebraska.
Photo by Richard Derevan

The epicenter of this travel phenomenon is Rowe Sanctuary, a center “dedicated to the conservation of Sandhill Cranes, Whooping Cranes and other migratory birds, and their habitat along the Platte River in south-central Nebraska.”

Rowe Sanctuary isn’t just a spring hot spot, it’s open year-round and is a wonderful place to hike the trails, learn about ecosystems, and experience the beauty of the Platte River in conjunction with the local wildlife. 

The World Theatre Drive In

The World Theatre is a beloved Kearney gem that continues to showcase community spirit and a devotion to the arts, even during a global pandemic. Once a Vaudeville theater in the ‘20s, the World was renovated and reopened in 2012 through a community-driven fundraising campaign spearheaded by Kearney native and NBC’s “The Blacklist” creator Jon Bokenkamp. 

Cars parked at The World Theatre Drive In located in Kearney, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Bryce Jensen

When theaters across the nation were forced to close their doors in the spring of 2020, The World went to work, trying to figure out how to navigate the new normal. In early summer, The World Theatre Drive In was debuted at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, and has been showing beloved classics like “Back to the Future,” “The Goonies,” and “Footloose” (and providing concessions) every weekend since. 

The World plans to show movies into mid-October of 2020, and is hoping to bring it back in the summer of 2021. 

Yanney Heritage Park

Kearney really does have some unforgettable parks, and Yanney Heritage Park is one that will keep your whole family busy for hours. With attractions ranging from multiple splash grounds to a well-stocked fishing lake, rentable swan-shaped paddle boats, a gorgeous labyrinth, and a lookout tower that gives you a sprawling view of the entire city, there’s something for everyone. 

Swan-shaped paddle boat at Yanney Heritage Park in Kearney, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Kearney Parks and Recreation

At certain times throughout the year, the outdoor stage hosts a variety of different performances, including theatre and concerts. It’s also a stop on the hike-and-bike trail, providing a beautiful halfway point for a quick lunch or a place to stretch your legs. 

Apple Acres Orchard

Looking for the perfect fall photo op for your family? This small, family-owned orchard 8 miles west of Kearney is just the ticket for fresh, local produce and a fantastic place to snap a few Instagram-worthy pictures of the kids with pink noses and fluffy fall scarves. 

With a small orchard store on the property, you can also bring home local honey, caramel-drizzled apples, and fresh cider, pressed onsite with hand-picked apples.

Apple Acres Orchard is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. 

Fort Kearny State Historical Park

Fort Kearny is another local gem with many different features! Originally built as a protection/resting place for travelers on the Oregon and California trails, this historical site has been reconstructed for recreational and education purposes.

Historic market at Fort Kearny with the fort in the background.

With rebuilt historical structures and an interpretive center, Fort Kearny is a great place to have fun and learn some local history! 

One of the biggest draws to Fort Kearny, though, is the State Recreation Area attached to it. Located at the east end of the Kearney hike-and-bike trail, it’s a popular haven for camping, RV-ing, fishing, and swimming in both the Platte River and the recreation area’s swimming hole. 

Button to post about Kearney restaurants

About the guest blogger

Lauren Bonk, owner of the Curtain and Pen, hails from Kearney, Neb., where she works as a freelance copywriter for small businesses, startups, and even larger corporate entities in need of professionally-written marketing content for their businesses and organizations.

With a background in both Theatre and English, Lauren loves to help companies find a voice, fine-tune it, and authentically utilize it in written collateral like blog posts, website copy, and social media content.

You can typically find Lauren drinking coffee, listening to music that’s probably a little too loud, and daydreaming about drinking more coffee the next morning.

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Headed to Kearney, Nebraska and looking for things to do? Here's a great list of fun outdoor activities and places to visit!