How To Help Unemployed Neighbors In Omaha

We all know someone who’s lost their job in the last month, right? And, perhaps you’re like me, and want to offer more than just the suggestion that they file unemployment and read the Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s huge Crisis Response Resource page. There is a way you can help people laid off from popular Omaha restaurants and stores – donate to a fund (donate money and/or time).

Below you’ll find neighborhood funds set up for the following parts of Omaha: Dundee, Blackstone, and Gifford Park & Joslyn Castle neighborhoods. I’d love to add more, so if you know of another fund set up, please let me know!

Dundee neighborhood fund for unemployed workers

Employees who’ve lost their job in the Dundee neighborhood are receiving funds from the Dundee-Memorial Park Association and Dundee Merchants Association. You can donate to the fund here.

Both part-time and full-time employees who’ve been laid off will receive $100 checks every two weeks to unemployed people.

One of my favorite restaurants, Mark’s Bistro, had to lay off 40 people.

Many restaurants in Dundee are still open, as are some shops (to a certain degree). Here’s a list of all Dundee businesses, with phone numbers so you can call in an order for food or maybe other items.

Blackstone District fund for the service industry

The Blackstone District Association has set up a similar fund to provide association member employees in the service industry up to $1,000 every 30 days. You can donate through PayPal to contribute to the fund.

Blackstone has some of the best restaurants in Omaha, as well as bars and Coneflower Creamery. Most are still open to some degree, so you can still order take-out and delivery.

Midtown Mutual Aid Network

This network is a little different set up from the funds mentioned above. Here, residents of Gifford Park and Joslyn Castle neighborhoods can offer to help with different needs including:

  • – Childcare
  • – Cooking
  • – Delivery (buying groceries/supplies and dropping them off for folks)
  • – Petcare/dogwalking
  • – Internet subscriptions
  • – Medical advice (medical professional only)
  • – Storage Space
  • – Art, music, writing
  • – Mental health counseling
  • – Conversation/companionship
  • – Housecleaning
  • – Legal representation/advocacy (specifically labor & housing)
  • – Social services guidance (filing for medicare, unemployment, etc.)

People who live in those two neighborhoods can also volunteer to be a neighborhood point person.

Other Omaha area business associations

There are a lot of business associations out there, and while they didn’t have funds set up at the time of writing this post, they may eventually change. Here’s where you can find the latest updates on some of these associations (these are their Facebook pages, which seem to be updated more frequently than their websites):

Benson Neighborhood Association

Old Market Association

Leavenworth Neighborhood Association

Millard Business Association

North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance

Peony Park Neighborhood Association

South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance

Some of the associations have drives going for food, books, supplies, etc., so if you live in one of the neighborhoods above, go ahead and check out the Facebook page to see how you can help your neighbors. The association in North Omaha was particularly active!

More ways to help Omaha businesses

I want to make sure the small businesses in Omaha survive this crisis, so I created a list of 20+ ways you can help Omaha right now. The list includes locally-owned businesses and nonprofits like:

  • – Shops where you can order toys, puzzles, games, gardening supplies, and clothes online or by phone and pick-up curbside.
  • – Restaurants and bars that have take-out, curbside pick-up, and delivery.
  • – Nonprofits and what their current needs are.

30+ Ways To Help Omaha Right Now

The joke going around about the global pandemic is that our grandparents were called to serve in the war and we’ve been called to sit on our couch. But, being stuck at home leaves me feeling a bit helpless. And I wonder, How can I really help? This morning, my husband had a great idea to start a fundraiser, “because we all wish we could do something to help.” And that got me thinking – there are so many businesses, people, and nonprofits in Omaha that need are help. How can we help?

And, so, this post was born. If you wish there was a way you could help the Omaha community, here’s a proactive guide to helping your Omaha friends and neighbors:

Want to shop and support the community but can't leave the house, Omaha? Here's how you can shop and support local businesses! List includes shops, restaurants, craft stores, boutiques, and nonprofits.

How to support Omaha stores

Oh, I know. It’s tempting to go to Amazon or Target to get everything delivered for free. But you can find most things you need locally, keeping the money local and businesses open.

What are you wanting to buy that you can buy locally?

Games – You can browse the game inventory of Spielbound and purchase online. You can opt for free curbside pick-up or get it delivered. I tried the pick-up option, and it was super easy. You can also order coffee drinks to-go and six-packs with your game order.

Puzzles, games, geeky stuff – City Limits in the Old Market is open and full of the funniest, weirdest stuff you didn’t even know you need. Head to their Facebook page to see some videos of what they have in stock, then call them to place in your order, and they’ll bring it out to the curb for you.

Toys – Fat Brain Toys’ storefront is closed but you can still order awesome kids’ toys and games online at FatBrainToys.com. And even better, order it by 3 p.m. and they’ll ship it the same day to your own doorstep.

Omaha Children’s Museum has opened a virtual museum gift shop where you can purchase themed gift bags for kids. They’ll be available for curbside pick-up on select days.

Garden supplies – This dreary weather is going to end soon and before you know it, it will be spring gardening time. Mulhall’s has devised a gardening to-go plan for customers to order online and then pick-up your items (they’ll put it in your car for you).

Candy – Already planning Easter baskets? Or are you just stressed out parent who needs chocolate? You can order candy to-go from Hollywood Candy. Chocolat Abeille has to-die-for chocolate creations just in time for Easter. You can order online for pick-up.

Cookies – Because cookies deserve their own category separate from candy. You can order sugar decorating cookie kits to be delivered from Master’s Hand (technically not in Omaha, but close enough).

Clothing – The Four Sisters Boutique storefront is closed but you are still able to order clothes online to pick-up (and even try on before getting them). Gramercy offers local delivery, curbside pickup, and shipping options. A few Regency Court retailers also have some creative ways for getting you your goods.

Books – Books are getting me and my family through these long days at home (after homeschool stuff is finished, of course). The Bookworm has an online store set up, though you can still get curb-side delivery and home delivery within zip codes 68106, 68114, 68124, 68132, 68144, and 68154.

Urban Abbey in the Old Market also has curbside pick-up. Just call ahead to order your books and/or coffee drinks.

Interior decorating Spruce Interiors & Gifts now offers curbside pickup. In addition to interior design items, there are cute items to gift to a friend (or yourself).

How to support Omaha restaurants and bars

Some Omaha restaurants and bakeries have closed temporarily to weather this pandemic, but many have found ways to stay open and serve customers. So, the obvious way you can help is to continue to be patrons at your favorite restaurants…only do it safely (eating at home seems to be the way to go).

Oh, and tip generously.

Leah and Jay at Gastronomblog wrote the best round-up of Omaha restaurants that are still open – whether they deliver, allow walk-ups, or curbside pick-ups.

Blackstone Business Association has set up a fund to distribute monthly support to service industry members in the neighborhood who’ve been affected by business closures or layoffs. If you love restaurants like Stirnella, Butterfish, Mula, Coneflower Creamery — wow, there are so many great places in that neighborhood — then consider donating to the fund.

Related post: More ways you can help Omahans who’ve lost their job

Omaha Blackstone District Takeout Guide

Love the bakeries and shops at Countryside Village? Check out the neighborhood’s Facebook page for updates on individual restaurants and bakeries that offer frozen food to-go, take-out, and more. Restaurants include Le Quartier Bakery Co., Camille’s Bakery, Swartz’s Deli, and Timber Wood Fire Bistro.

And I can’t forget to mention that Midtown Crossing has a lot of places open, too. You remember that fun day I had with my family at Midtown Crossing? I do, and I can’t wait for the day when we can head back there.

My tip: Don’t forget you can buy gift cards from restaurants and save them for dining out once it’s safe to do so!

How to support Omaha nonprofits

As many of you know, my day job is at a nonprofit, so this is a biggie for me. There are dozens of nonprofits that have had to suspend operations, events, fundraisers, etc. in March. ShareOmaha has a fantastic list of nonprofits that have been impacted and how you can help. It’s not just how to help financially, either.

My tips?

  • – Renew your memberships to the places that are important to you. I’m talking about places like Omaha Children’s Museum, The Durham Museum, Joslyn Art Museum and the like. If you buy or renew your membership to Fontenelle Forest, you can get access to the trails even while they’re temporarily closed to the general public!
  • – Donate to causes that resonate with you – be it art, animals, literary, history, food scarcity, or children.
  • – And if you have the means, donate without restrictions so nonprofits can apply the funds where they need them most.

So what sort of things can you help with? Here’s a few ways I found on the ShareOmaha site:

  • – Food insecure Omaha neighbors through organization like Abide, Catholic Charities, Food Bank of the Heartland, New Visions Homeless Services, Salvation Army and more.
  • – Donate cleaning supplies to youth shelters via Child Saving Institute, MICAH House, Open Door Mission, Stephen Center, and more.
  • – Support seniors whose families can’t visit them by sending them puzzles, craft supplies and more at Florence Home. I’m sure there are others.
  • – Volunteer. Places that need volunteers include Big Brothers Big Sisters, Heartland Hope Mission, Keep Omaha Beautiful, NorthStar Foundation, The 712 Initiative and many more.
  • – Have a talent for online shopping (don’t we all?). Some organizations have set up Amazon lists including Down Syndrome Alliance, Hope Center For Kids, Siena Francis House and more

How to help seniors in Omaha

AARP has Mutual Aid Groups that you can join. These groups are informal groups of volunteers who help pick up groceries, provide financial assistance, or lend emotional support to neighbors. You can look up local groups or start one.

Feed your creativity with Omaha crafts

Omaha craft stores and creative spaces are, well, creative, so they’ve found ways for you to stay crafty at home.

Mangelsen’s offers DIY craft kits that you can order online.

The Makery sells activity kits for kids and adults, like painting and string art. They range from about $12-$34 and include almost everything you need (find your own hammers). You will have to call in your order and pick it up, curbside!

That Pottery Place offers pottery kits to-go for kids and adults. You’ll be able to bring your pottery back for glazing and firing after you’re finished painting.

It’s Yours Pottery in West Omaha offers Creativity To-Go Kits that can be ordered online. The kits include pottery selection(s), glaze colors (up to five) paint brushes, and an instruction sheet. You can call the studio when you arrive for curbside pickup.

Send a gift from Omaha businesses

Since social distancing is the buzz phrase of the month, we can’t visit our friends and loved ones like we want to. So, we can send them our love in the mail or with a special local delivery.

Hardy Coffee Co. has set up one sweet package: Homemade cinnamon roll delivered with a bag of coffee.

Made In Omaha has a way to support local artisans: Send a care package with locally-made products. There are premade packages to choose from or you can select the items to include.

Urban Abbey is selling care packages that can be delivered locally for $5. Packages are themed and include Easter, Mega Mom, and Girl Power.

Watch movies at home while still supporting your local movie art house

Netflix, you guys. I’m getting a little tired of it. Luckily, Film Streams has come up with a solution for film buffs: They’re offering home movies of the indie film variety. Purchase virtual tickets to stream at home and get more information at filmstreams.org.

How to support the businesses that will be impacted by CWS & Swim Trial cancellations

Can you imagine having the majority of your profits earned in a small window each summer? That’s how many businesses near TD Ameritrade Park and the CHI Health Center Omaha operate. So, the restaurants and stores in NoDo, Capitol District and the Old Market are all facing a rough year financially without all the tourist dollars coming in.

Want to make sure these districts continue to thrive?

NoDo has a mix of restaurants, a brewery, and businesses that need continued support. Slowdown shared a list of their NoDo neighbors that could use your business.

The Capitol District is full of restaurants. Here are the restaurants that are offering carry-out.

Here’s a list of Old Market businesses that are open and what services they continue to offer (and when).

Old Market Omaha Takeout Menu

How to support local farmers

Just a quick drive outside of Omaha and you’ll find a lot of farms, as well as CSAs to sign up for. Here are a few to consider: Plum Creek Farms (who has a discount offer for a limited time due to the excess of chickens they have from restaurant closures); Wenninghoff’s Farm, which tentatively plans to open mid-April, but either way, consider signing up for their CSA by April 10 to get a $10 credit to use in their greenhouse in May; and Big Muddy Urban Farm, which has a CSA that starts at the end of May.

Omaha Farmer’s Market has been deemed “an essential service,” but they’re gathering the public’s opinion on when to open. You can share your thoughts on the survey here.

Help me update this post! If you know of more ways to help Omaha businesses, artists, nonprofits, or neighbors, please leave a comment.

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20+ ways to help Omaha businesses and neighborhoods today!

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth At These Tasty Bakeries In Omaha

What’s your vice? Cupcakes? Donuts? Freshly baked croissant that remind you of Paris? Or, how about a taste of Lithuania? Whatever your preference, it seems Omaha has the bakery for you. From Orsi’s to Le Petit, here’s a look at a baker’s dozen of Omaha’s amazing bakeries. 

Wondering if these bakeries deliver or offer curbside pick-up during the COVID-19 pandemic? Read on, I have a section at the post where you can find out how to get your sweet fix.

Hungry in Omaha? Here are 13 must-try bakeries in Omaha. See what local pastry chefs and mom & pop shops are making, from tortes and cakes to donuts, cupcakes and French pastries. #Omaha #Nebraska #MidwestIsBest #eatlocal #resturants

Orsi’s Italian Bakery & Pizzeria

Where: Little Italy at 621 Pacific St.

Omaha’s oldest Italian bakery, Orsi’s opened its doors in 1919. The bakery has made fresh bread and rolls without preservatives almost daily for more than 100 years. The Italian twist loaves are perfect for dipping with marinara sauce. The store also bakes fresh rye bread, pumpernickel, and garlic bread.

Orsi's Italian Bakery & Pizzeria can be found just outside of the Old Market, in a neighborhood that was once a bustling Little Italy.

Orsi’s has long been a stalwart of the Little Italy neighborhood. When the bakery was destroyed by fire in the late 1990s, locals rallied to help the owners rebuild. The home of Omaha’s Sicilian pizza, as well as other Italians goods, such as fresh olives, authentic pasta, and a deli, Orsi’s is a popular stop for Omahans from all neighborhoods.

You’ll want to take your goodies home, as the bakery has limited seating.

Related post: Old School Omaha – A Review Of The Pizza At Orsi’s

Olsen Bake Shop

Where: South Omaha at 1708 S. 10th St.

Olsen Bake Shop is your typical neighborhood bakery. Located in a small building, The bakery features two cases showing off the daily offerings – kolaches (pastries with fruit filling, jams, and other treats in the middle), donuts, other pastries, and cookies.

Donuts from Olsen Bake Shop

The South Omaha staple has been offering delicious pastries since 1942. 

Related post: Olsen tops the list of the 13 best donut shops in Omaha

Lithuanian Bakery

Where: South Omaha at 5217 S. 33rd Ave.

Open for nearly 50 years ago, the Lithuanian Bakery was created by Lithuanian immigrants and continues to be a family-owned bakery. Famous for its torte, the dessert takes three days to make and consists of eight layers of wafers, each coated with vanilla buttercream and lemon extract, with a layer of apricot in the middle.

The popular dessert has people arriving early and willing to stand in line every Saturday, when the torte is available. Try their chocolate torte for a change of taste.

The bakery also creates delicious bread, such as sourdough rye and country rye. The “Kommis Brot,” a thinly-sliced pumpernickel, is made in the old country tradition.

The bakery has a second location, Lithuanian Bakery and Kafe at 7427 Pacific St., which features “old country” recipes and the bakery’s treats. 

Omaha Bakery

Where: 608 S. 72nd St.

Known in its early days as Alotta Brownies in Fremont, Michelle Kaiser rolled the dice and moved the bakery to Omaha, changing its name to Omaha Bakery. Located about a block north of the world-famous Nebraska Furniture Mart, Omaha Bakery is known of its delicious brownies and cheesecakes.

Interior of The Omaha Bakery in Midtown Omaha

The baker also makes cakes, including wedding cakes, as well as bread. Omaha Bakery has also added a keto menu.

International Bakery

Where: South Omaha at 5106 S. 24th St.

Deep in the heart of 24th Street, the South Omaha stronghold has been a fan favorite for nearly 20 years. A visit to International Bakery offers a fun experience, as donuts and pastries have Spanish names.

Even if you don’t speak the language, part of the fun is choosing a delicious-looking treat. Your taste buds will commend your choice.

Take your order to go and enjoy eating at a nearby plaza, where you can enjoy people watching, as well as the beauty and colors of the neighborhood. While a second International Bakery is located on Vinton Street, it is owned by relatives but isn’t associated with the original bakery.

Culprit Café

Where: Downtown at 1603 Farnam  St.

The original Culprit Café, along Farnam Street, features an open kitchen, where you can watch the staff create everything form cookies and pastries to the lunch specials.

Chocolate cake at Culprit Cafe

Known for its homemade bread and cannoli, the café often changes its menus, so you may find new treats during your visit. Order a flavorful coffee to enjoy alongside your pastry. You can also treat yourself to breakfast or lunch, and then enjoy a pastry as dessert.

A second location opened at Midtown Crossing in 2018, which features a separate menu from the original.

Jones Bros.

Where: Aksarben Village at 2121 S. 67th St.

It started with a family chat at the kitchen table. Bill and Brad Jones, along with family members, created Jones Bros. Cupcakes, as a “dessert restaurant.” They opened their first location in Aksarben Village in 2010.

Jones Bros. quickly established itself as one of Omaha’s best places to go for great desserts, including cupcakes and cakes, even cheesecake. Made from scratch, cupcakes include fan favorites red velvet, vanilla, and strawberries and cream. From giant-sized treats, which require a fork, their cupcakes have earned them having been named as the best in Omaha several times.

Cupcakes from Jones Bros. Cupcakes

The eatery has also been featured on national television programs, including Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” With competition from local restaurants, Jones Bros. Cupcakes added sandwiches, soups, and salad to its menu.

While the original location continues to anchor the franchise, Jones Bros. Cupcakes also expanded to two more locations in Omaha – Lakeside and Westroads’ Flagship Commons.

Pettit’s Pastry

Where: North Downtown at 502 N. 16th St.

Not far from the campus of Creighton University, Pettit’s Pastry has called the North Downtown area home since 1954. Located in the neighborhood long before it became a trendy development area, Pettit’s Pastry adds an old-school touch to the modern buildings going up around it.

Home to old-fashioned pastry treats, such as rolls, donuts, and fruit-filled turnovers, order a flavored coffee, cappuccino, or latte, and you can mix old-guard bakery treats with a modern take on coffee. Take your order to go and enjoy it during a stroll around Creighton University’s beautiful campus.

Whisk + Measure

Where: 2505 S. 133rd Plaza

Whisk + Measure isn’t your typical bakery. Home to all types of baking, they pride themselves on creating cakes and treats that include vegan, paleo, and keto diets. They also offer gluten-free and dairy-free options.

While cakes, cupcakes, and cheesecakes are among the most popular items at the bakery, its menu includes muffins, scones, cookies, and bear claws. Enjoy a fresh cup of coffee – they use local distributor Reboot – with your treat in the comfortable seating area.

Farine + Four

Where: Midtown at 3020 Leavenworth St.

Home is where the heart is, they say. But, after some time in New York, a Nebraska woman returned home to open her own bakery. Farine + Four is the vision created from the days in New York for Ellie Pegler.

Coffee cake and coffee at Farine + Four, a bakery in Midtown Omaha

Today, the Omaha bakery creates outstanding pastries, bread, croissants, and bagels, using organic flour and no preservatives. Along with breakfast sandwiches and freshly-brewed coffee, a visit to Farine + Four provides a worldly experience. Grab an order of chocolates to enjoy at home. 

Sweet Magnolias Bake Shop

Where: Cathedral Neighborhood at 813 N. 40th St.

Located in the Cathedral neighborhood, Sweet Magnolias is a boutique bakery, whose menu features delicious cinnamon rolls, scones, cookies, and more.

Known for its cardamom cake, Sweet Magnolias is owned and operated by a Nebraska native, who grew up learning to cook and bake from her parents and grandparents.

Located next door to Lisa’s Radial Café, grab your treats to go and take a walk around the area, taking in the views of St. Cecelia Cathedral and Joslyn Castle.

Cupcake Island

Where: 1314 S. 119th St.

Omaha’s original cupcake shop, Cupcake Island opened in 2006, offering a unique take on cupcakes. With flavors like Pink Champagne, Strawberry Shortcake, and Devil’s Food Among Us, there is no shortage of cupcakes to satisfy your sweet tooth. It’s been my family’s go-to spot for birthday cakes for years, too.

Pirate ship cake from Cupcake Island

When Ed LeFebvre decided it was time to sell the bakery and head off to retirement, he sold Cupcake Island to sisters Melany Dean and Crystal Ryczko in 2018. They’ve added to Ed’s original concept – why mess with success? – with their own specialties. Melany is a chocolate connoisseur, while Rachel enjoys making cheesecakes.

Cupcake Island annually competes for “Best in Omaha” honors.

Le Petit Paris Bakery

Where: Pepperwood Village at 567 N. 155th Plaza

Travel to Paris without leaving Omaha with a visit to Le Petit Paris Bakery. Like its neighbor, Le Voltaire French Restaurant, the bakery is also owned by world-renowned Chef Cedric.

The bakery features croissants made with pure butter, handmade eclairs, and macarons, as well as bread, pastries, and other sweets.

Imagine life along the Champs-Elysees by adding a cup of rich coffee and enjoying your croissant or other treat at an outdoor table, just like in Paris. The bakery is closed on Monday.

Which Omaha bakeries open during the pandemic?

This post was written before we had heard much about COVID-19, so it’s totally fine to wonder if they’re open “business as usual” these days. So, here’s my update on each business’s situation*:

  • Orsi’s – Business as usual, since it is mainly a take-out operation anyway. Call (402) 345-3438 to place an order.
  • Olsen Bake Shop – Closed until further notice.
  • Lithuanian Bakery – The 74th street store is still serving lunch with limited seating. They take to-go orders, so call ahead to order at (402) 391-3503. 
  • Omaha Bakery – They do take-out and curbside pick-up. Call (402) 991-9200.
  • Culprit – Both locations are closed until further notice.
  • Jones Bros. – Takeout is available to order online here for the Aksarben and West Center locations, or you can place a phone order for Askarben at (402) 884-2253 or West Center at (402) 905-9701. The West Center location also has a drive-thru.
  • Pettit’s – Pettit’s downtown location is still open. You can come in the small lobby to order or pre-order over the phone at (402) 345-1111.
Cupcakes from Jones Bros. Cupcakes
  • Whisk + Measure – You can order your coffee, pastries, Dough-to-Go and special orders at their website: whiskandmeasure.com/menu. To-go orders are available from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday curbside pickup available with over the phone payment.
  • Farine + Four – The bakery offers carry-out, curbside and neighborhood delivery from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call (402) 905-2432 or for advanced orders, you can email hello@farineandfour.com.
  • Sweet Magnolia’s – The bakery is closed until further notice, but you can still support the bakery by ordering a gift card to use when they reopen.
  • Cupcake Island – The bakery is open and will bring your order out to the car. You can place an order by calling at (402) 334-6800.
  • Le Petit Paris – The bakery remains open and you can place your order over the phone at (402) 934-9374.

*Businesses update their hours and modes of operation daily (or even faster) during this unprecedented time. Please have patience and call ahead before going to any of the bakeries, just in case.

Which Omaha bakery is for you?

Looking for Omaha desserts and sweet treats? Here are 13 of Omaha's best bakeries, offering tasty pastries, breads, donuts, and more specialities! These are locally-owned shops. #Omaha #localrestaurants #desserts #cupcakes

Whether you’re looking to pick up a dozen donuts for home or enjoying a true dining experience, Omaha’s bakeries offer the best of all worlds. Whether you want a good old-fashioned donut or maybe a classically-designed cupcake or pastry, you can travel around the world for the best treats, all without leaving Omaha.

From Omaha’s oldest Italian bakery celebrating more than 100 years in business to new owners of local classics, enjoy visiting the city’s best bakeries.

Link to more stories about Omaha restaurants

Iowa’s Hidden Gem: Hotel Pattee

Earlier this year, we had a weekend getaway in Iowa to ski and hang out with friends. Our destination: Perry and Boone, Iowa, too small towns with big personalities. Our home base was in Perry, where we stayed at the historic Hotel Pattee.

Inside the historic Hotel Pattee - This unique Iowa hotel in Perry, Iowa, has its own bowling alley, spa, and themed rooms to inspire families who stay there. #familytravel #thisisiowa #Iowahotel

Disclosure: My family’s stay was hosted by the Hotel Pattee, though our food, bowling, and spa experience was on our own dime. All thoughts, opinions, and typos are my own.

Hotel Pattee is temporarily closed due to the national pandemic. The hotel is closed until April 1, and will re-evaluate at that time when it is safe to reopen.

Where is Hotel Pattee?

Since 1913, Hotel Pattee has been a grand presence in the town of Perry, (about 130 miles from Omaha).

Exterior of Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa

Perry is a town of about 7,700 people and is considered part of the Des Moines metro area. One thing to note is that the hotel is near quite a bit of interesting public art. I took a stroll with the kids (a brief one because it was, well, winter) and found some fascinating stuff.

Public sculpture alleyway in Perry, Iowa

Next to the hotel is an alleyway that you should just stroll through to see. There were some statues, tributes to local notable people, and large scale metal sculptures.

What are the rooms like in the Hotel Pattee?

The hotel has 40 individually-decorated and themed guest rooms, which definitely was a highlight for us. Our room was a junior suite with a travel theme (perfect, right?).

A junior suite is perfect for families. They include a king-size or queen-size bed and an adjoining room that either has a bed and trundle bed, or bunk beds.

The travel theme junior suite at Hotel Pattee had a separate space for kids that included a bed with a trundle bed beneath it.

The nice thing about the junior suites is that the adjoining room is separated by sliding doors. Both rooms have their own televisions.

Bed in the travel-themed junior suite at Hotel Pattee

Other options include a full suite, which includes a sitting room, premier rooms, and classic rooms.

The thing about these theme rooms is that if you have a specific one you want, you’ll need to call to book it. You can’t request specific rooms through online booking.

What are the hotel amenities?

Being a historic hotel, I wasn’t really going to expect a large pool or anything to entertain my kids. It’s usually a requirement for wherever we stay. However, Hotel Pattee has some unique offerings to make up for lack of splashing pool time.

Bowling alley at Hotel Pattee

First, the hotel has a small bowling center that’s pretty unique. There is an additional fee to bowl.

The hotel has a dining room and lounge, which sells some local beers for those who are interested.

Our large group had breakfast at Harvey’s inside the hotel one morning. It had a railroad theme, a nod to the town’s history. While the wait was a bit long when youngsters were involved, the food was delivered promptly and warm.

Dining room at Harvey's inside Hotel Pattee

Just a note: There is no kid’s menu, so our kids ordered off the regular menu and no child finished their meal. Think about splitting dishes.

The dads of the group spent one happy together at the lounge one evening, and the moms got the next night in the lounge for a late dinner.

Cheeseburger and fries

Sure, there were salad and healthy options in the lounge. I went with a massive cheeseburger instead. We also tried some unique appetizer, like buffalo cauliflower.

The highlight, for us moms anyway, was the full service spa in the basement of the hotel. Copper Door Spa offered massage, and while we waited for each mom to have her turn, we alternated between sitting in robes in the lounge and sitting in robes in the sauna. (We forgot swimsuits or we would’ve totally taken advantage of the hot tub near the spa)

Spa at Hotel Pattee

Is it kid-friendly?

Absolutely. But, not in the traditional sense, where my kids spent most of their time in a pool. There is no pool.

Evening cookies at Hotel Pattee

But when I asked them what they liked best about the hotel, here’s what they said:

  • – There’s a self-playing piano in the lobby that fascinated them.
  • – Each night, the staff puts a plate of warm cookies on a table on each floor. There may have been more than one cookie eaten by each kid.
  • (And each adult.)
  • – My kids noticed, and appreciated, how each room was uniquely decorated. Like I said before, our room had a travel theme. The other rooms in our party had rooms with a storybook theme and a Swedish theme.
Stairwell at Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa

What’s nearby?

We stayed at the hotel in February for a weekend ski trip. That’s right – a ski trip in Iowa. And you know what? It was awesome and we’ll probably be doing it with the same group of families next year, too.

Girls skiing at Seven Oaks Recreation in Boone, Iowa

Hotel Pattee is not located next to a mountain. It’s still Iowa. But, it is about a 30-mile drive to Boone, where you can find the rather hilly terrain of Seven Oaks Recreation. Seven Oaks also offers summer recreation, which I think we’ll try out later this year (river floats).

Now, Boone also happens to be home to another warm-weather activity a few of you might like: Train rides. The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad departs from a small station in town. We went on a train ride with the kiddos a few years ago.

It is scenic, but it can be rather long for younger kids. Pack entertainment, just in case, or opt for one of the themed rides.

If you stay in Perry, you are also near one of my favorite Iowa State Parks: Ledges State Park. It’s about 30 miles from the hotel. I wrote about our quick visit there when we were taking our Great Iowa Road Trip.

Ledges State Park in Iowa
We looked for rocks in the shallow river that flowed through Ledges State Park.

If you want to stay at Hotel Pattee

Where: 1112 Willis Ave., Perry, Iowa

Reserve a room: If you want to reserve a specific themed room, call 515-465-3511. Otherwise, you can reserve a room online on at hotelpattee.com.

Looking for a unique place to stay in Iowa? Check out Hotel Pattee in Central Iowa. The hotel has 40 themed rooms, a small bowling alley, and plenty of local character. #familytravel #midwest #Iowa #IowaHotels

Virtual Nebraska: Experiencing The State While Staying Home

I miss a lot of my favorite places around my home state, and I imagine a lot of you do too. Since most places are closed, or it’s too hard to maintain social distancing if you do visit them. What’s a family to do? Virtual tours and virtual experiences. And maybe, if we’re lucky, live cams. Here’s my guide for some of Nebraska’s virtual experiences.

Virtual Omaha: Tours & Videos

My hometown, Omaha, is the city I know best. If you follow me on any social platform, you know I’m usually out exploring, so these days are tough for me. So, I started looking around to see where I can find virtual experiences of the city. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Virtual tours in Omaha

I’m not sure how frequent these will be, but Bemis Center For Contemporary Arts had a live virtual studio tour today on Facebook with one of their resident artists.

Omaha Children’s Museums’ “Diggin’ Dinos” special exhibit which is currently at the museum (which is closed through March 31). You can see some of the museum’s past exhibits’ virtual tours, too.

Joslyn Art Museum has a virtual tour of its temporary exhibit, “Fact and Fiction in Contemporary Photography.”

Ever wonder what “the vault” at The Durham Museum is like? There’s a virtual vault tour for that.

360-degree virtual tour of "Diggin' Dinos" at Omaha Children's Museum.

Daily videos and activities with Omaha institutions

Miss Omaha’s zoo? Yeah, me too. Each day at 2 p.m. CST you can visit the zoo’s Facebook page and watch a live, interactive video from inside the zoo.

Omaha Children’s Museum has daily programming geared for kids ages 8 and younger. Stay tuned for daily videos on the museum’s Facebook page. Recent ones have been a story time, game suggestion, and a tinker challenge.

Do you know of any Omaha businesses or museums doing virtual tours or interactive videos? Leave me a comment so I can add them to the post!

Virtual Nebraska road trip, anyone?

Outside of Omaha, you have other virtual options.

Iain Nicolson Audubon Center in Kearney, Neb., has a live crane cam, which is perfect timing to see the impressive sandhill crane migration.

Head to Lincoln, Neb. (virtually, that is) and take a virtual tour of the Capitol and Governor’s Residence. While you’re “in” Lincoln, you can also take a virtual tour of Lincoln Children’s Museum.

Lincoln Children’s Zoo has a fun program going on each day on Facebook. Each day at 3 p.m., the zoo shares a new Keeper Corner Facebook video and a fun activity to go with it. They even have an activity punchcard that you’ll be able to bring into the zoo someday and get a free ice cream cone.

Ever been to Red Cloud, Neb.? You can go there virtually and tour four of the town’s most important sites linked to Willa Cather.

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer has been doing some live Facebook videos around their facilities.

Image to link to more Nebraska stories

More online entertainment and resources

If you’re looking more for activities and educational resources, I have a few posts to help:

Educational Resources For Nebraska Families – These are downloadable materials related to Nebraska history, Nebraska wildlife and nature, and other helpful links to museums and local teachers.

25+ Free Online Resources For Bored Kids – This post contains a ton of links to free sites, including celebrity storytimes, printable Madlibs, and children’s museums with DIY projects for kids.

Bored at home? Here's a running list of Nebraska live cameras, virtual tours and interactive videos from Nebraska museums and zoos.

25+ Free Online Resources For Bored Kids

I’ll be spending a lot of time indoors with my kids this spring, and I do not think I can handle Disney+ for hours on end. So after the board games have been played, the art projects complete, what else can we do? Head online for ideas, I say.

Stuck inside with kids? Here's a list of free games, free e-books, educational activities, virtual tours, science experiments, and more for kids.

Fun activities online

There are SO MANY lists made by bloggers with kids’ activities to help you enjoy self-quarantine. One that I liked was this giant Google document of activities. Oh, and then there are these printable Madlibs.

And then there is this large, gorgeous collection of coloring books from more than 100 museums. They’re free to download!

Love Mo Willems? (I love “Knuffle Bunny”) You can learn to draw him because he’s the Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence and they’re posting a video tutorial each weekday.

Free online publications are starting to pop up. One fun one I came across is the free digital subscription to Ranger Rick.

Educational resources online

Educational websites are providing free access because of school closures. Some notable ones include BrainPOP, iCivics, Discovery KidsOregon Trail (yes, THAT Oregon Trail game), History Trivia via Sporcle, PBS Social Studies Games, American Girl Doll Games, and Scholastic’s “Learn at Home” Program.

A teacher friend of mine shared a post with even more ideas. Here are a few I like: Highlights Kids, Fun Brain, Storyline Online (stories read by movie stars), Switcheroo Zoo, ABC Ya, and Into The Book.

Ready for a virtual field trip with the kids? This list includes links for virtual field trips to the San Diego Zoo, the Great Wall of China, Mars (!), and my favorite, the Panda Cam from Zoo Atlanta.

Your state’s historical society and games and parks department may have resources that are specific to where you live. For Nebraska, I found a lot of great activities and printable.

And if you really just want a good book for your kids (or yourself to read), Open Culture has a list of more than 800 books you can download for free.

Museums with helpful resources

Museums are a great resource, too. These are created by professionals in their fields, so whether it’s science, history, or art, you know you’ll find some quality activities. Here are a few with fantastic ideas:

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum (includes ideas for older kids, too)

Boca Raton Museum of Art’s Keep Kids Smart With ART (available online soon)

Canadian Museum of Nature arctic coloring sheets

Children’s Museum of Sonoma County Science Experiments

Children’s Museum of South Dakota – Recipes for Play

Exploratorium’s Science Snacks

Glazer Children’s Museum @ Home

International Museum of Maritime (Hamburg, Germany) cardboard boat model sheets

Les Fruits De Mer art activities (this museum focused on the Caribbean has a ton of resources)

Maryhill Museum of Art lesson plans and videos

The Metropolitan Museum of Art MET Kids

Monterey Bay Aquarium activity and coloring pages

Museum of Early Trades and Crafts

And I’m super excited to discover that my hometown college, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, has an extensive list of museums, monuments, and historic sites that have virtual tours.

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