6 Off-The-Beaten-Path Destinations In Nebraska

Nebraska’s flat, they say. There’s nothing to see, they say. Guess what? Nebraska is home to hundreds of fun and interesting attractions, some along the interstate; some off the beaten path. To really see Nebraska, you need to get off the main roads and explore. You’ll find hills, trees, and amazing off-the-beaten-path attractions. Here’s a look at a few of them.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Planning a road trip through Nebraska? Include stops to see these six off-the-beaten-path destinations, including Carhenge, Nebraska's Badlands, and the hometown of Johnny Carson. #Nebraska #USA #USATravel

Ashfall Fossil Beds

Where: Royal

Nebraska was once a Serengeti, with plush grasslands and ample watering holes for prehistoric mammals that roamed the land. With creatures, such as a saber-tooth deer and miniature horses and rhinos, the sight had to be amazing.

However, one day, hundreds of miles away, a volcano erupted in Utah and eventually covered the region with ashfall. Covering and killing animals’ food sources and contaminating the water, the animals eventually perished.

Go off the beaten path in Nebraska - Ashfall Fossil Beds State Hisortical Park
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Buried in underneath tons of ash and later rock and soil, the first fossil in the northeast Nebraska area was discovered in the early 1970s. Since then, Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is open certain days May 1 through the second week of October and daily Memorial Day-Labor Day.

Visitors can walk along a boardwalk inside the Rhino Barn and watch paleontologists and interns dig for new fossils. As you tour the barn, you’ll see fossils of animals in the soil, only a few feet away from you. Children can “dig” for their own fossils in a play area near the visitor’s center.

Klown Doll Museum

Where: Plainview

What started as an innocent collection of clown figurines has grown into the world’s largest clown collection. The Klown Doll Museum in Plainview is home to everything clown-related, with a collection of more than 7,000 clown figurines, dolls, and paintings.

Quirky Nebraska - The Klown Doll Museum in Plainview
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Located in a former gas station and restaurant, the museum originally was located inside the Chamber of Commerce building. As you tour the museum, you’ll see rows and rows of trinkets featuring famous clowns, such as Emmett Kelly.

While the museum may not be for people fearful of clowns, for people who love the colorful characters, you’ll find yourself in clown heaven.

Tip: Since Royal and Plainview are about a 20-minute drive from each other, you may want to plan a visit to both spots.

Taylor Villagers

Where: Taylor

As you enter the village of Taylor, you may think the locals are a bit wooden. And, you’d be correct. The Taylor Villagers – life-size wood cutouts of people – have been scattered throughout the community, about a 90-minute drive north of Kearney.

Unique Nebraska destination - Taylor Villagers, life-sized wood cutouts of people
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

The public art project by Marah Sandoz, a local entrepreneur, seeks to attract visitors to Taylor. Park your car and walk around town, so you can visit local shops and stores as you take in the more than 100 “residents” posed in scenes depicting kids heading off to a fishing hole or a man standing beside his antique car. 

Johnny Carson’s Hometown

Where: Norfolk

Norfolk, in northeastern Nebraska, proudly proclaims itself the hometown of TV talk show star Johnny Carson. From a downtown mural chronicling his television career to a large exhibit at the Elkhorn Valley Museum, you can also stop by his childhood home.

Places to go in Nebraska - Johnny's Carson's hometown, Norfolk
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

The museum exhibit features a replica of his show’s set and the Emmy Awards he won – all donated by the star, himself. The museum also highlights the careers of other well-known Norfolk residents, including Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of “Tony the Tiger” and the holiday song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” The museum also traces the lives of the Hall brothers, who went to create Hallmark greeting cards.

The Elkhorn Valley Museum also provides a look at the region’s history, from local Native American tribes to the invention of a 90-degree turning radius tractor. The museum hosts a series of special exhibits, such as one highlighting rock-and-roll bands from the state.

Toadstool Geologic Park

Where: Crawford

Nicknamed Nebraska’s Badlands, Toadstool Geologic Park challenges you to look at Nebraska the same way again. Formed through years of erosion, several rocks resemble toadstools, thus the name.

Go way off-the-beaten-path in Nebraska and visit Toadstool Geologic Park in western Nebraska
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Hiking through the area can be physically challenging, but the park features three trails for visitors. A one-mile loop may be the best path for people seeking a memorable, but less challenging hike. The other trails are three- and five-miles long.

As you hike through the area, located in northwestern Nebraska as part of the panhandle, you will be amazed at the beautiful scenery and landscape. 

Carhenge

Where: Alliance 

An homage to the United Kingdom’s Stonehenge, artist Jim Reinders used old cars spray-painted gray to create Carhenge. Located just outside Alliance, in north-central Nebraska, the public art piece was built as a memorial to his father, who became interested in Stonehenge while studying in England.

One of Nebraska's most unique and quirky destinations: Carhenge in western Nebraska
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Carhenge is part of a unique attraction, anchoring a park featuring other art pieces using automobiles and their parts. You’ll find a covered wagon, which is a station wagon with a Conestoga frame, and a bench made from tire rims.

As you travel around Nebraska to take in its unique attractions, remember that the best way to get to know the state is by getting off the main roads and checking out the off-the-beaten-path attractions.

Nebraska story archives button

Looking for more things to do and see in Nebraska? Here are my favorite must-do summer adventures in Nebraska. And, you’ll need a place to stay while on your road trip, so check out these unique places to stay in Nebraska.

About the guest blogger

Tim Trudell is a writer/online content creator, who calls Omaha home. He started writing The Walking Tourists bog with his wife Lisa in 2011. Beginning with exploring their backyard of Omaha, The Walking Tourists expanded coverage to the Midwest, exploring places on and off-the-beaten-path.

Tim loves sharing stories about people and places in his native state of Nebraska. Tim’s stories of Omaha led to greater opportunities, including writing the books “100 Things to Do in Omaha Before You Die” and “Unique Eats and Eateries of Omaha.” A third book – “100 Things to Do in Nebraska Before You Die” will be published in April 2020. Tim is the primary author of both books, with Lisa handling social media and promotional efforts.

As a former community journalist for about 10 years, Tim’s background also includes working as a project manager and a team manager for telecom account managers. His love for writing led him back to the profession as a freelance writer. Besides travel, Tim enjoys writing about personal profiles, sports, military and veterans attractions, as well as minority issues and accomplishments.

Tim and Lisa have two adult children from his first marriage, as well as three cat kids – Gus, Lassiter and Shawn.

Tim is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Native American Journalists Association, American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, North American Travel Journalists Association and the Midwest Travel Network.

Venture off the interstate for these six hidden gems in Nebraska! See where the active fossil dig site is located, venture into a clown doll museum, and traverse Nebraska's Badlands. #Nebraska #roadtrip #Midwest

The Great Iowa Ski Trip

We may have just created a new annual winter tradition: The Iowa ski trip. We went with a group of friends to Seven Oaks Recreation in Central Iowa, staying in the nearby Hotel Pattee, a historic hotel with individually-decorated rooms and suites for families.

Family ski trip to Iowa? You bet! Here's an itinerary and guide to skiing in Central Iowa, including what hotel to stay and where to ski and snow tube. #Iowa #Midwest #skiing #familytravel #wintervacation

Disclosure: I was hosted by The Hotel Pattee and Seven Oaks Recreation. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

What you need to know about skiing in Iowa

Yes, you can ski in Iowa (downhill and cross country). Let’s get that out of the way. There are actually a couple of places to ski in Iowa. What the state lacks in mountain ranges, it makes up for well-groomed and hilly terrain to create solid (if a little short) runs.

Since my kids were completely new to skiing, going skiing in Iowa made more sense than heading to a much more expensive destination in another state. In Iowa, they can learn the basics for a fraction of the cost.

For a kid to ski in where we went in Boone, the price for a ski lift plus rental gear was $50. Add a helmet rental for $8 and an hour of tubing for another $5… and the total cost was $63.

I just compared the price to the first place I learned to ski in Colorado (rhymes with Speckinridge) and a lift ticket for one child is currently $122 for a Sunday. Renting gear? That starts at $40 for a child.

Snowboarders at Seven Oaks Recreation in Iowa

Now, if everyone in your family or group are seasoned skiers or snow boarders, you probably won’t be challenged in Iowa.

But you’ll save a lot of money.

Where you can ski in Iowa

Our destination for skiing in Iowa was Seven Oaks Recreation, a friendly, family-run ski resort in Boone. It has 11 runs, including a beginner hill and a pretty sweet railyard for snowboarders. There are two triple chair lifts and three surface lifts.

Our group consisted of three families with kids ages 10 and under. Most kids were complete beginners, and then there were adults like me who hadn’t skied in 20 years. I was definitely less confident in my skiing abilities than the kids. Who knew I was no longer as fearless as teenage Kim?!

Kim getting ready to ski at Seven Oaks Recreation in Boone, Iowa.

Fortunately, Seven Oaks offers complimentary beginner lessons as well as private lessons if you want more in-depth instructions. For the complimentary lesson, everyone learned the basics like stopping and the correct way to get up after you fall.

Then, the instructors took the time to help each beginner make their first run down the hill. I watched the instructors with my kiddos and they were so patient and kind. I was impressed that it was completely free.

Once we mastered the bunny slope, the kids were eager to try another easy, but longer slope so we went to Abby’s Alley. There were a lot of first aid skiers on the slopes, and patient lift operators, who were quick to help my newbie kids and offer quick instructions throughout the day.

Beginner ski slope at Seven Oaks Recreation.

Was it easy and without falls? Of course not.

But by the end of the day, the kids felt confident enough to try an intermediate slope. I wasn’t confident enough, but I crossed my fingers and followed after them. I made it down in one piece. Victory!

A day at Seven Oaks Recreation

We skied on a Sunday, so our day started a little later than, say, a Saturday start (11 a.m. vs. 10 a.m.) at Seven Oaks Recreation. We skied for a couple of hours and then enjoyed a picnic lunch outside. It was a “warm” 40 degrees.

Seven Oaks has an indoor seating area, too, and you can order food and drinks there.

We skied for a few more hours after lunch before the kids went tubing for an hour.

My friends who’d snow tubed in Colorado remarked that Seven Oaks had a much smoother operation than places like Keystone. Seven Oaks had a lift to get tubers up to the top of the hill and had sectioned-off slopes for tubers to safely make it down to the bottom. The kids loved it.

Snow tubing hill at Seven Oaks Recreation in Iowa

It’s not a huge ski resort, so it’s easy enough to include an hour of tubing into your day. It’s extremely popular, though, so know that they limit how many people can do it at a time.

Tip: We were able to tack the tubing on to the end of the day, but only after a bit of pleading (see, there were only spots for five people to tube that hour and we had six children). I heard that if you want to guarantee time on the tube run, you should plan on doing it first thing in the day.

We ended our day at Seven Oaks at about 4 p.m. The only way we could get the kids to leave was the promise of hot cocoa, cookies and/or other treats (don’t judge).

Where to stay for this Iowa ski weekend

While we could’ve found a hotel closer to the Seven Oaks Recreation (and I know we could’ve gotten a discount package combining the hotel and skiing), our group opted to stay at Hotel Pattee in Perry. It’s about 30 miles from Boone, but well worth the distance.

The gorgeous lobby of Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa

The gorgeous boutique hotel with a railroad motif throughout has 40 uniquely decorated rooms. The great thing for families is that they have suites with either bunk beds or trundle beds for kids.

Our room was the Travel Suite (perfect for me, right?), with details throughout from airplanes on the overhead light to maps on the wall and travel quotes on the furniture. Sliding doors can be closed to separate the kids’ area from the main part of the room. The bathroom was large with an oversized jacuzzi tub.

Related post: Want to pair a stay at the hotel and enjoy a train ride? Perry isn’t far from Boone, as I mentioned before, and it’s home to the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad.

The hotel has a restaurant and bar called Harvey’s. In the basement, you’ll find the Copper Door Spa, with separate spas for men and women consisting of a hot tub, sauna, and steam room.

The moms in my group took advantage of the spa and each booked one-hour massages. While one friend was getting a massage, the rest of us split our time hanging out in the quiet, comfy waiting room and spa area.

Bowling at Hotel Pattee in Central Iowa

Meanwhile, our husbands took all the kids to the hotel’s bowling alley. I think it was a great plan…for us moms.

By the way, this hotel does not have a pool. While this typically is a deal-breaker for my kids, they loved spending time with their friends and bowling magically made up for the lack of splash time.

And, I’d say the hotel had the perfect crowd pleaser to end each day: A tray of chocolate chip cookies placed on a table on each floor at the end of the day. My kids wanted to hoard the entire tray.

Sample itinerary for a ski weekend in Iowa

Our trip was three days and two nights, which meant we arrived in the afternoon of Day 1 and left the morning of Day 3. Feel free to customize the trip length to fit your schedule best.

Girls ready to take the ski lift at Seven Oaks Recreation

Day 1

Arrive in Perry and check in to Hotel Pattee. If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to request one of the themed family suites when making a reservation.

Have dinner at Casa de Oro, a Mexican restaurant within walking distance of the hotel. Don’t miss looking at some of the neat public art near the hotel, as well. The alley next to the Hotel Pattee was our favorite.

Day 2

Breakfast at Harvey’s, the restaurant inside Hotel Pattee. If you’re a large group, let the restaurant know ahead of time or you’ll find yourself waiting quite a while for the tables to be set up. Don’t be surprised if at least half your group orders the breakfast mac and cheese.

Arrive late morning to Boone, and ski and tube Seven Oaks Recreation. Have lunch at Seven Oaks. You can buy a warm lunch at Seven Oaks’ lunch counter or brown bag it.

Return to the hotel. The evening options for activities include bowling at the hotel, seeing a movie in Perry, or if you plan ahead, book a massage for yourself. 

The moms had dinner at Harvey’s in the hotel, while the dads and kids got takeout from Hy-Vee, a grocery store not too far from the hotel.

Day 3

Time to check out and head home. 

In just one weekend, my kids have decided that they love skiing. I foresee another ski trip in our near future!

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A fun winter vacation idea in the Midwest: A ski trip in Iowa! Here's a weekend itinerary pairing downhill skiing at Seven Oaks Recreation and overnight accommodations in family suites at the historic Hotel Pattee.

3 Great Lake Vacations In Iowa

Iowa is home to a variety of lake destinations. Depending on your vacation goal – relaxation or play time or a mix of both – I know a good lake for it. Here are three of my favorite lake vacations in Iowa: Lake Icaria, Clear Lake and Okoboji.

Lake Icaria

Vacation goal: Relaxation and getting away from it all

Consider Lake Icaria your bucolic lake destination. You’ll feel removed from crowds and traffic at this large lake located in rural western Iowa. There are trees and with occasionally rocky shorelines.

Fishing at Lake Icaria in western Iowa

Lake Icaria is a county park, where you can have your pick of RVing, tent cabin, and my favorite, cabins. Even with cabins, you have the option of roughing it (cabin without water) or having all of your creature comforts with a large fully-equipped cabin.

This lake is great for fishing, tubing and water skiing, plus it has a small beach. There are a playground and a trail around the lake, as well.

The small beach at Lake Icaria near Corning, Iowa.

It’s not totally remote, though. In the summer, food trucks park near the beach. We had barbecue one afternoon there, enjoying our lungh to-go in the covered picnic area facing the lake.

The nearest town is Corning, which has a few restaurants if you don’t feel like catching your dinner or grilling. We went to Three C’s Diner, which has the distinction of winning Iowa’s best breaded pork tenderloin sandwich one year.

I’m eager to go back and visit Primrose, which I heard about after our trip to Lake Icaria. Primrose is a creative farm-to-table restaurant. There’s also a winery that’s fairly close to the park.

Clear Lake

Vacation goal: Relaxation with a coffee shop within easy reach

Clear Lake is a hidden gem in Iowa, offering modern conveniences within easy reach of lake relaxation. This is the place to go when you want a getaway that’s relaxing, but you aren’t about to rough it (unless you want to try a yurt).

If you’re looking for live music, a nearby grocery store, art center, or perhaps, a tiki bar on the beach, Clear Lake is your place.

Playing in the water in Clear Lake, Iowa

Our motel was located directly on the shore of the lake. We ate breakfast outdoors and walked on the pier to watch the sunset. It was nothing fancy, but perfect for a family.

Clear Lake is small town of about 8,000 people with plenty of shopping, restaurants (and coffee shops), and cultural attractions. The Surf Ballroom is in Clear Lake, the historic concert venue and museum. Music fans can make the trek to the nearby field where the plane carrying Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens crashed.

Kim on a speed boat in Clear Lake, Iowa.

When we went to Clear Lake, we did the beach thing (of course…there are THREE beaches), rented a boat to cruise the lake, and explored a community garden. Our visit timed out with the Fourth of July celebration, so we also spent an evening riding rides and overeating cotton candy.

Fourth of July carnival in Clear Lake, Iowa

For restaurants, I highly recommend Starboard Market for great sandwiches and PM Park for a meal with a view – and that tiki bar I mentioned before. We actually went there for breakfast and lunch, and if I had to recommend one thing to try, I’d say go for the french cakes at breakfast.

Since my last visit, a brewery opened in Clear Lake that I’m eager to check out.

Related post: Clear Lake was one of the high points on the Great Iowa Road Trip.

Okoboji

Vacation goal: Lakeside fun and a variety of entertainment options

Okoboji is the place to go in the Midwest when you don’t want to feel like you’re in the Midwest (though, you still can’t escape it). You’ll find a lakeside bar where boaters regularly drive up and park to enjoy lunch, live music, and perhaps, a beer or cocktail.

Ferris wheel at Arnolds Park Amusement Park in Arnolds Park, Iowa, located in the Okoboji region.

It’s home to historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park. And it’s just a bustling place to be all summer long.

There is enough variety of lodging options that place you in the middle of all the fun or far away from it. Our hotel, Crescent Beach Family Resort, was far enough away that we could have quiet nights on the beach, and then in about 10 minutes, be right in the center of all activities.

The view of the lake from the beach at Crescent Beach Family Resort in Okoboji, Iowa.

The towns that make up the resort area of Okoboji has A LOT of dining options. My favorites included the great and quirky coffee shop Arnolds Perk, Tweeters for lunch and Pub 19 Bar and Grill, serving great pizza on a golf course in Spirit Lake. You can’t go to Okoboji in the summer without getting a Nutty Bar.

You’re going for the lakes, obviously, where you can boat, fish, kayak, and splash in the beach. But, if it’s a rainy day, you’ve got options too. We went to the Dickinson County Nature Center, which had a fun climber for the kiddos, as well as the surprisingly great Pearson Lakes Art Center, with the second-largest collection of Russian impressionist art outside of Russia, as well as a swell little art space for kids.

A beehive-themed climber at the Dickinson County Nature Center in Iowa.

There’s just so much to do in Okoboji, it’ll be hard to ignore it all while you sit on a lounge chair with your feet in the sand.

Other Iowa destinations for water adventures

If lakes aren’t your thing…then why are you still reading? Just kidding. If you want some more ideas for a water adventure in Iowa, I shared quite a few of them in this list of 101 Things To Do In Iowa, including white water rafting, waterfalls, and moonlight kayaking on a river.

No matter which place you choose, be it a lake or a river or somewhere all together different, I think you’ll enjoy the Midwestern hospitality that’s common throughout Iowa. Happy travels!

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Looking for a summer vacation idea in Iowa? Consider one of the three great lake vacation destinations in Iowa! Get tips on things to do in Clear Lake, Okoboji and Lake Icaria, including where to eat and whether it's a more relaxing or active lake to stay at. #Iowa #summer #Midwest #lakes #activevacation

10 Must-Try Bellevue Restaurants

While Omaha’s culinary scene may get international attention,  the restaurant scene in Bellevue is nothing to scoff at. From top-contending burgers at Stella’s to impressive cuisine at Umami, Bellevue’s food scene runs the gamut from nice sit down to popular greasy spoons.

Bellevue, Nebraska has a surprising number of great restaurants. Check out 10 must-try restaurants in Bellevue, ranging from sushi and banh mi to gyros and burgers. #Bellevue #Nebraska #eatlocal #restaurants #Midwest #Midwestisbest

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link, I will receive a small compensation for referring you.

Where is Bellevue, Nebraska?

Bellevue, Neb., is a suburban city in southeastern Nebraska just to the south of Omaha. It’s considered part of the Omaha Metro area. Many people move to Bellevue when they get stationed at nearby Offutt Air Force Base.

Usually, when I venture to Bellevue, it’s to visit Fontenelle Forest or Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Patch (though, if we want to be technical, Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Patch actually in Papillion…but I digress).

Now, on to food!

Best restaurants to try in Bellevue, Neb.

Stella’s Bar & Grill

Where: 106 Galvin Road S, Bellevue, Neb.

Inside Stella's Bar & Grill in Bellevue, Nebraska, one of the city's most popular restaurants

Possibly the most famous Bellevue restaurant, Stella’s is known for its Stellanator challenge. Six patties and a ton of toppings invites people with big eyes for the challenge. If you finish the Stellanator and a side of fries within 45 minutes, it’s free and you win a T-shirt. Lose, and it costs $35.

Stella’s regular burgers are a treat. You can get a variety of toppings, such as peanut butter, jalapenos, fried egg and cheese. The eatery serves the burgers on napkins. It’s a fun outing for anyone, including families.

Tip: Be prepared for a short wait regardless of when you visit.

Burger and fries at Stella's Bar & Grill in Bellevue Nebraska
Photo courtesy Visit Omaha

Related post: Stella’s is one of the 15+ Quirky Restaurants in Omaha, thanks largely to its unique Stellanator.

Roma Italian Restaurant

Where: 605 Fort Crook Road N, Bellevue, Neb.

Entree at Roma Italian Restaurant, located on Fort Crook Road in Bellevue, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Tim Trudell

Located in a former Sizzler steakhouse on Fort Crook, Roma features classic Italian dishes, such as spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmesan.

With outstanding appetizers and salads, Roma’s entree portions are large. You may want to consider splitting a dish.

Sinful Burger Sports Grill

Where: 4005 Twin Creek Drive, Bellevue, Neb.

Burger and fries at Sinful Burger, a restaurant in Bellevue, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Tim Trudell

With hearty-sized burgers fashioned after the seven deadly sins, Sinful Burger is an excellent spot to enjoy dinner and watch sports. The family-friendly restaurant also offers the Metro’s only authentic Indian taco, featuring handmade fry bread with taco toppings.

Sinful Burger closes on all major holidays, so employees can enjoy family time.

Lil Burro

Where: 12510 S. 29th Ave., Bellevue, Neb.

Entree at the Mexican restaurant Lil Burro in Bellevue
Photo courtesy Tim Trudell

Using fresh ingredients, including peppers grown in a garden behind the restaurant, Lil Burro’s menu features authentic dishes. From tacos and enchiladas to tamales and burritos, Lil Burro, with its colorful dining room and unique decor, is a popular eatery on Capehart Road, not far from Offutt Air Force Base.

Discover even more unique and quirky restaurants in the book “Unique Eats and Eateries of Omaha.” It’s written by two of my friends, Tim and Lisa Trudell (AKA, The Walking Tourists), and they’ve included and quite a few restaurants on this list, and several more. They provided several photos for this post, too.

Quick Bites Soul Food

Where: 105 W. Mission Ave., Bellevue, Neb.

From gizzards to catfish and po boys, the restaurant on Mission is the place to go for great soul and cajun food. With sides such as candied yams, collard greens, and red beans and rice, Quick Bites has been the place to dine since 2016.

Catfish Lake

Where: 16609 Clay St., Bellevue, Neb.

Catfish Lake entree
Photo courtesy Tim Trudell

Possibly the best spot in the Metro for catfish and other fish dinners, Catfish Lake relocated from its longtime home near Offutt following the 2019 flood to a spot in south Bellevue near LaPlatte.

Open since 1986, Catfish Lake also serves delicious fried chicken and burgers.

John’s Grecian Delight

Where: Inside Southroads Technology Park, 1001 Fort Crook Road N, Bellevue, Neb.

Gyro at John's Grecian Delight

Calling the Southroads home for nearly 40 years,  John’s Grecian Delight ranks among the best places in the Omaha area to enjoy a gyro and other traditional Greek cuisine. During Southroads’ heyday, people stood in line for an opportunity to taste John’s food.

Today, the clientele may be a little different, but the food remains outstanding.

Button to Omaha restaurants archive

Umami

Where: 1504 Galvin Road S, Bellevue, Neb.

Known for its delicious sushi, the popular Asian restaurant on Galvin Road attracts diners from around the area. Besides sushi, Umami’s menu includes Chinese and Thai entrees.

Related post: Umami has such a following, it’s one of the must-try restaurants in the state of Nebraska.

Netties Fine Mexican Food

Where: 7110 Railroad Ave., Bellevue, Neb.

A Bellevue staple since 1987, Netties continues to offer traditional Mexican fare. With its famous chili leading the way, Netties offers entrees such as enchilada and taco combinations. 

Note: Netties is closed Sunday and Monday.

The Banh Mi Shop

Where: 923 Galvin Road S suite 101, Bellevue, Neb.

Vietnamese-style sandwich at The Banh Mi Shop in Bellevue, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Tim Trudell

Just a couple of years old, The Banh Mi Shop on South Galvin Road quickly became popular for its Vietnamese-style sandwiches. With menu items such as shredded pork and cold cut sandwiches, The Banh Mi Shop’s menu features delicious and healthy options.

Tip: A second location of The Banh Mi Shop opened in 2019 at the Inner Rail Food Hall at Aksarben Village.

Bellevue Nebraska is known as being home to Offutt Air Force Base, but it also is home to several great locally-owned restaurants. Here's the scoop on great restaurants in Bellevue, including Stella's, known for having some of the best burgers in Nebraska, and Umami, a popular sushi restaurant. #Nebraska #dining #foodie

With a variety of restaurants to choose from in the Omaha area, Bellevue is home to some of the Metro’s best. So, don’t be surprised if the people at the table next to you drove a distance to enjoy their meal.

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10 Must-Try Nebraska Restaurants

Nebraska is known for many things, but a flourishing restaurant scene isn’t one of them. Yet. I’m here to make sure that changes. Here are some of my favorite Nebraska restaurants, as well as the top recommendations from fellow travel bloggers who know and love the state.

10 must-try Nebraska restaurants - From small towns cafes and steakhouses to gourmet restaurants in Omaha, here are the best and most memorable restaurants in Nebraska. #Nebraska #food #restaurants #foodie #travel #Midwest

Bean Broker Coffee House & Pub

Where: Chadron

Why: While this is technically more coffee shop than a restaurant, Bean Broker impressed me the moment I walked in. It’s got a wonderful atmosphere that makes you just want to linger.

The food options were what you could expect for a cafe in a bigger city. For Chadron, it was a pleasant surprise.

And the good coffee helped too.

Bean Broker was a true hidden gem in western Nebraska.

Tip: While you’re in Chadron, plan an afternoon to explore the oldest state park in Nebraska, Chadron State Park.

Block 16

Where: Omaha

Why: Don’t let the line out the door scare you away. Block 16 is worth the wait. I’m a creature of habit and always get the Croque garcon burger (mainly because I do anything Alton Brown tells me to do).

I know I’m missing out by not trying one of their creative sandwiches of the day. I can’t help it though. It’s an amazing burger.

Anyway, Block 16 also has fantastic fries (try the rangoon fries) and my kids are partial to their fried chicken.

Related post: Check out the 33+ other great restaurants I recommend you visit in Omaha!

Dante

Where: Omaha

Why: Dante, in West Omaha, brings wood-fired Neapolitan pizza and rustic Italian cuisine to a top-notch level. Chrysa from Thrifty Jinxy visited the restaurant recently and highly recommended it. (Kim’s note: I agree with her!)

Wood-fired pizza at Dante in Omaha, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Thrifty Jinxy

Owner and Chef Nick Strawhecker says his menu is inspired by the seasons and food that works well with wood. That means the ever-changing menu incorporates only ingredients that are at their prime, including fresh produce from local farmers whenever possible.

“Whatever is on the menu when you visit, you’ll find delicious pasta, inventive pizzas, amazing main courses and more. If it’s on the menu when you visit, I can’t tell you how delicious the wood-roasted beets and fried kale is – and this is coming from someone who doesn’t even like kale.”

The beverage menu contains only wines only from Italy and creative cocktails – also inspired by the seasons.  

The Green Gateau

Where: Lincoln

Why: This is the must-visit brunch spot in Lincoln. I suppose you could go for dinner, but I’ve never known anyone who has.

Exterior of The Green Gateau in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska

The Green Gateau is this charming restaurant in downtown Lincoln, with a varied menu that includes French cuisine and creative American standards. Being so close to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, my tip to you is to make a reservation.

Honest Abe’s

Where: Lincoln

Why: Honest Abe’s is a burger institution in the state. I almost always have to visit whenever I’m in Lincoln (I like the downtown location best – it’s within walking distance of Lincoln Children’s Museum).

Interior of Honest Abe's in Lincoln, Nebraska

When you go, be sure to go hungry, because the burgers are large, the fries are great, and you’d be missing out if you don’t at one of their handcrafted shakes. They even have boozy versions.

Mac’s Drive-In

Where: McCook

Why: For more than 75 years, Mac’s Drive-In has been serving old-fashioned fast food to the McCook area. Odyssey Through Nebraska recommends this restaurant.

Mac’s is known for Nebraska beef burgers as well as onion rings that are homemade daily. Besides their sandwiches and chickens, they have several salads on the menu. Plus ice cream – this location could almost qualify as a soda fountain too! 

Photo courtesy Odyssey Through Nebraska

While their food is fresh, their decor is retro. Being able to place orders via a table phone is a fun kind of nostalgia.

They are closed on Sundays and Mondays and major holidays. Every other day of the week, Mac’s continues with serving 1940s-style food to a modern generation.

Modern Love

Where: Omaha

Why: Modern Love brings New York City swankiness to the middle of the country. With a focus on elevated comfort food, you won’t walk away hungry at this 100% vegan restaurant. The portions are generous, and the plating is refined.

Snickers pie at Modern Love in Omaha, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Cadry’s Kitchen

Modern Love is owned by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a well-known cookbook author. There’s a second location in Brooklyn, New York as well. It comes highly recommended by Cadry of Cadry’s Kitchen, a vegan travel blog.

The menu changes depending on the season. Keep an eye out for mac and shews (made with cashews), mushroom stroganoff with chickpea cutlets, and nachos. Whatever you do, don’t leave without getting dessert. The Snickers pie and raspberry cheesecake are exceptional.

Kearney, Nebraska best restaurants blog post

Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge

Where: Paxton

Why: Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge is an iconic Nebraska small-town tavern that opened up right after the Prohibition ended in the 1930s.

During the hunting season, this location was especially popular. The owner, Ole, was a hunter himself. More than 200 of his finest specimens are hung around the restaurant. This is why patrons can dine with both a polar bear and a giraffe looking on. 

Entrance to Ole's Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge in Paxton, Neb.
Photo courtesy Odyssey Through Nebraska

Since this restaurant has only had two owners, the menu has remained consistent.

Options are extensive, according to Gretchen at Odyssey Through Nebraska, who recommends this restaurant. For the casual diner, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and soups are available. Dinners include steaks, prime rib, fried chicken and their catch of the day.  Prices are quite affordable, and the portions are good size.

Located a few miles off of Interstate-80, Ole’s hours reflect its Rocky Mountain time zone status.

Sisters Cafe

Where: Plattsmouth

Why: I had to visit this restaurant a few years ago after reading a rave review about it in a Lincoln newspaper: “Sisters Café is, at its base, a small-town cafe. That’s part of its charm and why it’s unusual menu — and the success of that menu — is even more notable.” 

Rice soup at Sisters Cafe in Plattsmouth, Neb.

Sisters Café opened in 2014 by two sisters, Jit and Noopin, featuring a menu of Thai and German cuisine. Strange as that sounds, it worked. I stuck to trying just the Thai side of the menu during my visit. It was extraordinary!

Alas, things change (as they always do). The German menu is no longer available. Which I’m OK with since I loved the Thai food I had tried.

Umami

Where: Bellevue

Why: When people think of Nebraska food, they typically go straight for the beef (and for good reason). However, one restaurant is serving up an unlikely delicacy in the landlocked state: Umami in Bellevue. LeAnna at the Well-Traveled Nebraskan recommends it.

Sure, you might be skeptical of delicious sushi in Nebraska, considering the proximity to the seas, but you are in good hands with Master Chef Keen Zheng, who learned from the best of the best sushi chefs in NYC before heading to Nebraska.

As a meat-eater, LeAnna always thought she wouldn’t like sushi. If you are new to the scene, start out easy, like with a California or Philadelphia roll or even something battered and fried (tempura) and you might surprise yourself like she did. 

But, as someone who has now had sushi literally all over the world, LeAnna says you’d be doing yourself a disservice to at least not TRY some of the other specialties! It really is some of the best sushi in such an unsuspecting location!

Some other delightful surprises are the affordability and selections. The quality of food you’ll get at Umami would earn you a huge bill at other establishments (even IN nearby Omaha), but your bill won’t be insanely outrageous here. 

Also, not sure if your Cornhusker heart can handle the sushi? No problem! There’s also hibachi, teriyaki dinners, plenty of cooked noodle entrees and even Thai or Chinese options!

Planning a trip through Nebraska? You'll want to plan a few stops to try some of the best restaurants in Nebraska. Here are 10 places to eat in Nebraska, from small town steakhouse to wood-fired pizza and vegan cuisine in Omaha. #Nebraska #restaurants #restaurantguide #foodie #foodietravel #Midwest

Pair these adventures with your Nebraska restaurants

While you’re off exploring Nebraska’s food scene, you may want to plan a few activities in between. The state offers a wide variety of outdoor activities and festivals you’ll want to experience (especially in the summer).

I’m totally biased being a born-and-raised Nebraska girl, but I recommend you plan more than just driving through the state! Nebraska is a great state to explore with a lot to do. Here are my recommended 101 things to do in Nebraska.

Hotel In Downtown Minneapolis: Marquette Hotel

If you’re planning a weekend trip to Minneapolis, most likely, you have plans to head downtown. It’s home to great museums, pro sports stadiums, and theater venues, as well as popular restaurants. You’ll need a hotel in downtown Minneapolis that makes it convenient to get around. Here’s a review of one luxury hotel in downtown Minneapolis – The Marquette Hotel.

Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by Meet Minneapolis. All thoughts, opinions, and typos are my own. 

The beautiful lobby of The Marquette Hotel in downtown Minneapolis

My thoughts on the Marquette Hotel

The Marquette Hotel is part of the Hilton Curio line, a collection of hotels in historic buildings. It’s an exquisite hotel in the center of the busy city of Minneapolis.

The lobby is impressive, but I think the bigger draw of this hotel is its prime location. Located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, those staying at the hotel can easily walk to great restaurants, entertainment venues, and public transportation.

My family of four stayed at the Marquette Hotel over Labor Day Weekend. Keep reading to see some of the fun Minneapolis places we visited using this hotel as our home base.

The rooms at the Marquette Hotel

One of the big appeals of the Marquette Hotel is the grand windows in rooms. The windows in our room spanned more than one wall.

Large windows in the Marquette Hotel Minneapolis guest room.

For a family of four, you’ll want to request a suite or at least a room with two queen beds. Our room had two full beds and it was a pretty tight fit – two adults would not be comfortable on one of those beds.

The rooms had a mini-fridge, which was convenient to chill our water bottles prior to bike rides each day. It’s great for leftovers, too.

Our room had a shower without a tub. It was fine with our kids, but if you prefer a bath before bed, you’ll want to reconsider this hotel.

About the hotel’s restaurants

The Jolliet House, a restaurant inside The Marquette Hotel in Minneapolis.

The hotel has two restaurants: The Marquette Lounge and The Jolliet House (which will soon reopen as Social House). The Marquette Lounge has a children’s menu.

We had breakfast at The Jolliett House but since it’s changing to the Social House, I’m not sure if my review still applies! When we were there, though, we got the breakfast buffet. If you are a Diamond member of Hilton’s rewards club, the buffet is complimentary. For everyone else, it is about $20 per person (including kids).

I would only recommend going here if you can get a free meal for being a rewards member.

Things we liked about the Marquette Hotel

Bike riding in Minneapolis

Hands down, the big draw is the hotel’s location. We could easily walk to restaurants and Walgreens to buy forgotten toiletries. The hotel is connected to a shopping center. Where there once was a Macy’s, there will soon be The Dayton’s Project with a food hall.

The closest stores to the hotel are Marshall’s, Saks Off Fifth, Target and smaller stores in IDS Center.

Let’s not forget that if you’re into sports, arena concerts or live theater, the hotel is also within walking distance of US Bank Stadium, the Target Center and Hennepin Theatre District.

One of the best restaurants we dined at in Minneapolis, Hell’s Kitchen, is two blocks away, which to me, is a huge perk.

The light rail and public buses are also a short walk from the hotel.

We wanted to bike on our trip, and we found it was around thanks to being a block away from Nicollet Avenue, where only bikes and buses can use. From there, it was less than a mile to the riverfront trail.

We brought out own bikes for the weekend, but we could’ve rented some from the hotel.

Things we’d change about the Marquette Hotel

Guest room at Marquette Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

A big drawback for a traveling family is that this historic building does not have a pool. We had plans to play at a beach and thought it would not be a big deal to not have a pool, but it turned out to be too cool for beach time. A pool would’ve been nice.

I’d say this hotel is more suited for business travelers, romantic getaways or girlfriends trips. While the front desk loved to hand stickers to my kids, I wouldn’t call it a family hotel. Mine were the only kids we saw there.

Like any big city, paying for parking can be a bit shocking, and you’ll have to you’re your car somewhere if you’re staying in a hotel in downtown Minneapolis. Overnight parking at the Marquette Hotel was $30 a night, which needs to be factored in when looking at costs.

Looking for a hotel in downtown Minneapolis? Here's what to expect if you stay at Marquette Hotel, a Hilton Curio hotel located in an historic building. It's near a ton of restaurants, shops and things to do! #Minneapolis #Minnesota #Hotel

Plan a Minneapolis family trip

We’ve explored Minneapolis and St. Paul in the summer and the winter. Here are some more fun things to do and places to visit in the Twin Cities (and nearby):

A Perfect Weekend Itinerary For Minneapolis

Holiday Weekend In Minnesota 

Bakken Museum: A Minneapolis Hidden Gem

Ultimate Mall of America Guide – For Kids!

What Young Kids Like At Science Museum Of Minnesota

Christmas at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis

Where To Stay Near The Twin Cities

Roseville & Twin Cities Bucket List 

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