29 Awesome Farm And Food Experiences Near Omaha

Picture yourself in a place with wide open spaces, fresh air, and perhaps, adorable animals. That, my friends, is what I’ve been seeking lately: Outdoor farm experiences near Omaha. There’s a term for it. Agritourism. If you’re interested in some farm experiences (and maybe a little food or drink), read on!

What Is Agritourism

Agritourism is a growing type of travel that combines agriculture and tourism. That’s simple enough, right? But, what does it mean? Let’s use the National Agricultural Law Center for a better definition:

Sign at Nelson Family Farm in Nebraska

“Simply stated, agritourism could be thought of as the crossroads of tourism and agriculture. Stated more technically, agritourism can be defined as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism in order to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and/or educating the visitors and generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner.

“Regardless of the exact definition or terminology, any definition of agritourism should include the following four factors:

• combines the essential elements of the tourism and agriculture industries;

• attracts members of the public to visit agricultural operations;

• is designed to increase farm income; and

• provides recreation, entertainment, and/or educational experiences to visitors.”

Farms Near Omaha

If a farm has animals, it’s a hit with my family. Here are a few of our favorites! The listings are based on proximity to Omaha, starting with the closest.

Milking a goat near Honey Creek Creamery in Iowa.
  • Scatter Joy Acres (4966 Newport Ave., Omaha) – Scatter Joy Acres is all about animal encounters, from goats, cows and horses to more exotic species like peacocks and a porcupine.
  • Nelson Produce Farm (10505 N. 234th St., Valley, Neb.) – Pick produce off the plants (or buy from their farmstead), plus check out adorable animals at Nelson Produce Farm. You can buy food to feed some of them. This farm has a small cafe where you can buy lunch, or treat yourself to a large watermelon slice or a tasty strawberry shortcake.
  • Honey Creek Creamery (25593 Old Lincoln Highway, Honey Creek, Iowa) – My first introduction to Honey Creek Creamery was early spring one year when they started hosting goat yoga sessions. It was more cuddle time with the babies than serious stretches, and I loved it. It’s located next door to Stanley’s Snack Shack, where you can buy ice cream made with goat’s milk. If you’re lucky, they may show you how to milk one of the goats!
  • Other farms – Gifford Farm (700 Camp Gifford Road, Bellevue, Neb.); Hansen’s Dairy (8461 Lincoln Road, Hudson, Iowa)

Farm-To-Table Experiences

Another sub-group in the farm category are the ones that involve eating good food or wine straight from the farm. While having fresh watermelon at or goat’s milk ice cream is one thing, the following take the food experience to the next level.

Luna Valley Farm in Decorah, Iowa.
  • Weekends at Slattery Vintage Estates (8925 Adams St.,  Nehawka, Neb.) – Come for the wine tasting (during non-COVID times) and wood-fire pizza, stay for the live music outdoors. The setting is absolutely charming (though, technically, the ingredients for the pizza weren’t grown there). We spent a night in one of their glamping tents, making it an easy walk to dinner and entertainment that night.
  • Farm to Table (Nelson Produce Farm at 10505 N. 234th St., Valley, Neb.) – One weekend a month, the farm hosts a dinner on Friday and Saturday nights with a fresh menu. Dates are up for August and September, with October to be determined still.
  • Farm to Fork (Central Avenue in Nebraska City, Neb.) – I’ve been eyeing this annual event in Nebraska City and have never been able to snag tickets. They go on sale in March/April and sell out long before the event in August. Each year, the multi-course, family-style dining experience features “dishes created by regional restaurateurs utilizing locally-sourced products complemented with regional wine.” Sounds amazing.
  • Luna Valley Farm (3012 Middle Sattre Road, Decorah, Iowa) – This is the farm that started an obsession for me. I had wood-fire pizza at a farm one weekend in Decorah and I’ve never forgotten it. The ingredients were grown and raised on the farm. And they had live music and beer to pair with it. Heaven. Note: I’ll be the first to confirm this is not close to Omaha. But if you’re in that part of Iowa, make an effort to go!
  • More options: Pizza on the Prairie at Wallace Centers of Iowa (2773 290th St., Orient, Iowa)

Living History Farms

See what life was like on a farm a century (or longer) ago at these living history farms.

Family walking around Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa
  • Living History Farms (11121 Hickman Road, Urbandale, Iowa) – This giant, open-air museum is probably the most well known living history farm for Iowans and Nebraskans. It’s so well done, and covers several Midwestern eras of farming. My kids loved the hands-on nature of it and the knowledgable staff.
  • Other living history farms: Wessels Living History Farm (5520 S. Lincoln Ave., York, Neb.); Carstens 1880 Farmstead (32409 380th St., Shelby, Iowa)

Orchards Near Omaha

Whether you choose to pick your own apples or berries, or buy them straight from the farmer who grew them, these are the orchards to visit in Nebraska and Iowa. The listings are based on proximity to Omaha, starting with the closest.

Apple picking at Ditmars Orchard in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
  • Ditmars Orchard (19475 225th St., Council Bluffs, Iowa) – I’ve loved this charming little orchard for years now. It’s never crowded, it’s a super close orchard to Omaha, there’s a good variety of apples and they have a fun play area for kids. Oh, and they have the most delicious apple cider donuts. And wine. Don’t forget their wine.
  • Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure (2611 Arbor Ave, Nebraska City, Neb.) – Picking apples is just a small part of the fun activities at the Tree Adventure. However, one of the unique things about this orchard is the chance to pick and taste heirloom apples.
  • Other orchards – Bellevue Berry Farm & Pumpkin Patch (11001 S. 48th St., Papillion, Neb.); Trees, Shrubs & More (3803 Cornhusker Road, Bellevue, Neb.); Small’s Fruit Farm (1844 194th St., Mondamin, Iowa); Union Orchard (2405 S. Highway 75, Union, Neb.); Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard (5995 G Road, Nebraska City, Neb.)

Pumpkin Patches Near Omaha

Pumpkin patches have grown to be more than strolling through a field of pumpkins. The whole-day experiences. The listings are based on proximity to Omaha, starting with the closest.

Vala's Pumpkin Patch & Apple Orchard in Gretna, Neb.
  • Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Apple Orchard (12102 S. 180th St., Gretna, Neb.) – It’s not fall until my family has been to Vala’s. Some people (myself included) refer to it as the “Disney of Pumpkin Patches” because there is so much to do there, it takes an entire day. The apple orchard is fairly new. Don’t leave without trying a slice of pie.
  • Other pumpkin patches – Welch’s Pumpkin Patch (17676 Sunnydale Road, Council Bluffs, Iowa); Pioneer Trail Orchard & Pumpkin Patch (21534 Chestnut Road, Council Bluffs, Iowa); Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch (3935 NE-133, Blair, Neb.); Bloom Where You’re Planted Farm & Pumpkin Patch (911 108th St., Avoca, Neb.); McCurdy’s Pumpkins (intersection of Highway 71 and Highway 6 on the east edge of Atlantic, Iowa); Poppy’s Pumpkin Patch (55275 837th Road, Norfolk, Neb.); Uncle Bill’s Farm (244 400th Ave., Grinnell, Iowa) 

Hay Rides Near Omaha

While many farms and orchards have a variation of a hay ride, if the ride itself is what you seek, rather than picking fruit or petting an animal, then read on.

Tractors lined up for hay rides at Shady Lane Ranch in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
  • Shady Lane Ranch (17744 Shady Lane, Council Bluffs, Iowa) – A great place to combine a hayrack ride with a bonfire, a trip to Shady Lane is a fall favorite of mine. Fun warning: Hay rides usually involve hay fights between passing tractors.
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Tours Near Omaha

Find out where your food and drink comes from, and how things get made, on these tours.

Passport for the Living Loess tour in Iowa.
  • Living Loess tour (various destinations around western Iowa) – This monthly (and seasonal), self-guided tour highlights various destinations in the Loess Hills of western Iowa. Each month, a different destination is featured and hosts activities. On one outing, we went to Harvest Studio, where botanical artist Cynthia Gehrie, works. With her guidance, my family painted nature art. As you visit a destination, be sure to get the stamp on your passport for a chance to win a prize.
  • Other tours – Tassel Ridge Winery Tour (1681 220th St., Leighton, Iowa; see the steps “from vine to bottle”)

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Explore agritourism in Nebraska and Iowa with these farm destinations near Omaha. Farm experiences include farm-to-table dinner, petting zoos, goat yoga, living history farms, u-pick fruits, and more!

Sweet Foodie Experiences You Gotta Try In Kansas City

Kansas City, and the surrounding communities, is a foodie paradise, especially if you have a sweet tooth. After many years of visiting, I’m sharing my favorite KC restaurants for ice cream, cookies, and other sweet treats.

Disclosure: Some of these restaurants or shops I’ve visited while being hosted by a visitors bureau; others I’ve visited and paid my own expenses. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

If you go to Kansas City for food, include dessert on the list! Here's a guide to sweet foodie experiences in the KC area (Kansas and Missouri sides). Find tasty treats from ice cream and cake to pastries and candies.

I chose restaurants and shops that aren’t necessarily in Kansas City, Kan., or Kansas City, Mo. Instead, these restaurants are in the “greater Kansas City area.” It’s a broad term, sure, but just hop on the interstate and you’ll be getting your sweet treat fix in no time.

COVID-19 UPDATE: I highly recommend following up on local protocols for the pandemic. Some Kansas counties require masks indoors, for instance. Also, check with the business to determine if they are open at this time before visiting.

Ice Cream in Kansas City

We tend to get ice cream on every road trip. The most memorable ice cream stop was at Sylas and Maddy’s in Olathe, Kan.

Mint chip ice cream cone with homemade waffle cone at Sylas and Maddy's in Olathe, Kan.

This family-owned ice cream shop has a ton of homemade flavors. So many, it’s hard to choose. So maybe go ahead and get yourself that five flavor sampler.

Cake and pastries in Kansas City

Hands down, the best cake I’ve had was the cream cheese coffee cake at Strawberry Hill Bakery in Merriam, Kan. I don’t know where it’s been all my life, but I’m so glad to know about it now. 

Cream cheese coffee cake from Strawberry Hill Bakery in Merriam, Kan.

Be sure to keep the cake chilled. It gets rather crumbly, otherwise. Not that I’ve tried sneaking a slice in my car or something.

While I’m partial a savory breakfast, I sometimes sample the sweet pastries my family orders. And in Kansas City, they’ve ordered some doozies.

For more creative spin on a pastry, go to Black Bear Diner in Olathe and try the Bear Claw French Toast. The bear claw is so sweet, you really don’t need much syrup, if any.

Cinnamon roll at Corner Cafe in Kansas City, Mo.
Four people couldn’t finish this cinnamon roll on top of regular breakfast orders. Plan accordingly.

For a more traditional pastry, try a giant cinnamon roll at Corner Cafe (there are a few locations). We tried to split it between four people and couldn’t finish it. Granted, we all had ordered our own breakfast entrees, but still. It’s that big.

Cookies in Kansas City

The French macarons at Kate Smith Soirée are almost too pretty to eat. Almost. We found a way.

Assortment of French macarons at Kate Smith Soiree in Lenexa, Kan.

We came across Kate Smith Soirée while having lunch at The Public Market in Lenexa. I tried a lavender and honey macaron, and it was as delicate as it sounds. 

Sweet breads in KC

Ever heard of a povitka (pronounced poh-va-teet-sa)? Me neither, but I learned all about the hand-rolled bread on a recent visit to the Kansas City area.

Povitka from Strawberry Hill Bakery

It’s a Slovakian bread and Strawberry Hill Bakery in Merriam, Kan., has spent decades making this homemade delicacy. Try the most popular povitka, the English walnut. It’s delish. 

Candy in Kansas City

For gorgeous candy that’s more of a work of art than a treat, go to Christopher Elbow Chocolates in the Crossroads District of KC. This is definitely splurge chocolate. It does taste as good as it looks.

Assortment of chocolates from Christopher Elbow Chocolates in Kansas City, Mo.

For a less spend-y candy treat, I have a few suggestions. If you’re on the Kansas side of Kansas City — you know, The Sunflower State—be sure to get yourself some candy with sunflower seeds in it.

Assortment of dummies and chocolate covered sunflower seeds from Sunflower Food Co., based in Lenexa, Kan.

Sunflower Food Co., based in Lenexa, Kan., sells two kinds of chocolate-covered sunflower seeds. My whole family settled on the milk chocolate ones over the dark chocolate.

Sweet drinks in Kansas City

Whether you want hot or cold sweet drinks, I found some great ones in KC. Since it’s summer when I’m writing this, I’ll start with the ice-cold drink of choice for me.

Melanie Gieringer serving a strawberry lemonade slushee from her farm in Edgerton, Kan.

This one’s a bit of a drive outside of the KC metro area, but it’s worth it. Head to Gieringer’s Family Orchard & Berry Farm in Edgerton, Kan., and try the strawberry lemonade slushee. After picking berries in the summer sun, you’ll want to gulp down this drink, but beware: Brain freeze is real.

Related post: 10 Awesome Things To Do Outdoors In The KC Area

For a grown-up hot drink, I’ll have to admit to buying (and loving) the expensive alcoholic hot chocolate that’s available at Worlds of Fun during Winterfest.

Alcoholic hot cocoa drinks at Winterfest at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Mo.

It warms you up, no doubt about it. But, buy it only if your budget allows because, whoa.

Related post: 15+ Fun Things To Do During A KC Christmas Getaway

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The Stunning Chapel Overlooking Interstate 80

Have you noticed the little chapel standing on a bluff overlooking Interstate 80 near the Gretna, Neb., exit?

The Holy Family Shrine is part religion and part art. The glass-enclosed chapel allows visitors an opportunity to spend time praying, meditating, or just admiring its beauty.

Ever wonder what that amazing structure on the hill over Interstate 80 in eastern Nebraska? Here's a look at the Holy Family Shrine in Gretna! Learn about the history behind the chapel and why the architecture is so significant. This is one of the most unique hidden gems in the Midwest!

COVID-19 Update: The Holy Family Shrine is temporarily closed on Sundays. Masks are required, and hand sanitizers are placed throughout the grounds. There is a limit to how many people can be inside the chapel at one time.

Inside Holy Family Shrine’s Chapel

The chapel is an architect’s dream. With glass walls, the chapel was designed to reflect life on the plains.

Close-up of the woodwork on the chapel at Holy Family Shrine in Nebraska

Nearly 50 feet tall, the chapel’s red cedar arching wood and trim resemble grain waving on the prairie.

Inside, an altar and about a dozen rows of pews await you. Sit and spend time with your thoughts or just admire the beauty.

Exterior of Holy Family Shrine along Interstate 80 in Nebraska

Behind the altar, an etching of the holy family – Mary, Joseph, and Jesus – appears on the southern panel. When illuminated, the chapel and the etching create a beautiful sight.

While the chapel is Catholic-based and hosts a mass each Saturday morning, it’s open to everyone regardless of faith. It is a place where people can pray or meditate at their convenience.

Altar of Holy Family Shrine in Gretna, Nebraska

Related post: Looking for more chapels with unique architecture in the Midwest? You have to see the gorgeous Chapel in the Hills in Rapid City, S.D.

History of Holy Family Shrine in Nebraska

Opened in 2002, the chapel was the dream of a priest in the early 1990s that eventually brought together four strangers, who worked to make that dream come true. Unknown to each other, they felt a mission to create a special place along the interstate where people could come to pray and practice
their Catholic faith.

Exterior of Holy Family Shrine chapel in Nebraska. You can see trucks on Interstate 80 in the background.

Once together, they spent two years working to find the perfect spot on Interstate 80 to become home for the chapel.

The chapel, itself, is a story of collapse and rebirth. Breaking ground in 1997, according to Fast Company, a wind storm destroyed it in 2000.

Undeterred, organizers rebuilt it, and it stands strong today.

What you’ll see at the Holy Family Shrine

Your visit to the Holy Family Shrine includes a tour of the visitors center, with artwork and biblical artifacts that help tell the story of Jesus Christ and the crucifixion. A dozen storyboards describe the history of the shrine.

Interior of the visitors center at Holy Family Shrine  in Nebraska

Representing the shroud of Jesus falling to the ground after his resurrection, a sculpture hangs from the ceiling in the middle of the visitors center.

A stream guides the path from the visitors center to the chapel, and then on to a cross showing Jesus at his crucifixion equals the distance that he traveled, carrying the cross on his march along the Stations of the Cross.

Visit the statue of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane at the beginning of the trail, then follow the path to the chapel. South of the chapel, standing about 40 feet tall, the cross recognizes Jesus’ sacrifice for people. The statue of Jesus on the crucifix is 8 feet tall and faces the interstate to share his sacrifice with passersby.

Surrounded by a small garden, the site includes a bench for visitors to sit and reflect.

If you go

Holy Family Shrine

Where: 23132 Pflug Road, Gretna, Neb.

The shrine is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday. A gift shop offers religious-themed items.

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10 Awesome Things To Do Outdoors In The Kansas City Area

Want a quick getaway? The Kansas City area is a great Midwest destination for families, especially outdoorsy families. 

COVID-19 Update: The counties surrounding Kansas City have mask laws enforcing masks indoors and masks outdoors if social distancing isn’t possible. Everyone is falling these instructions, but it does make for long waits for activities. Bring a mask and patience.

Disclosure: I partnered with KC Destinations. I received complimentary admission and travel compensation in order to write about my experience. All thoughts, opinions, and typos are my own.

Explore outside places in the Kansas City area from parks and farms to historical sites and amusement parks. Have a fun and safe afternoon in the outdoors.

Tip: Keep reading to the end of this post to find out how visiting a few of these places could get your kiddo a prize!

Kansas City, Kansas vs. Kansas City, Missouri

I’m not trying to start a debate. I just want to clarify that the Kansas City community spans two states.

During our travels, we’ve stayed in Kansas City, North Kansas City, Overland Park and, most recently, Olathe. It’s taken me a few years to conquer the interstate system, but now that I understand it, we get around a lot easier.

On our recent outdoorsy getaway, we spent our time exploring Olathe, Shawnee, Overland Park, Merriam, Gardner, and Lenexa. 

Of course, we didn’t go to every place on this list in a weekend. We’ve been to KC many times, so I’ll include some of the gems we’ve been to in previous visits. If you want to add some indoor activities to your trip, check out my list of 35 Fun Things To Do With Kids In KC.

Outdoor Things To Do In The Kansas City Area

Mahaffie Stage Coach Stop & Farm 

Where: 1200 E. Kansas City Road, Olathe, Kan.

This wonderful historic stop is mostly outdoors, though there is a small museum display indoors, as well as the option of touring the actual Mahaffie house where they fed travelers passing through the area along the Santa Fe Trail. 

Stagecoach ride at Mahaffie Stage Coach Stop & Farm in Olathe, Kansas, in the Kansas City area.

My kids enjoyed the 1860s farm immensely, playing old school games, petting animals, and taking a stagecoach ride. My son even helped stoke the fire for the blacksmith demonstration.

Employees at Mahaffie are dressed in period costumes and are full of insight about the era.

Tip: The road you turn into the parking lot was once the Santa Fe Trail.

There is an admission price. Stagecoach rides are on a schedule, so pay attention when you arrive so you can be sure to catch one of them.

Dodge Town at Antioch Park 

Where: 6501 Antioch Road, Merriam, Kan.

Antioch Park is a 44-acre, tree-filled park that made me envious of the families in the KC area. It’s beautiful, with two lakes, including one lake that has fun stepping stones.

Stepping stones in Antioch Park in Merriam, Kansas

Dodge Town is a playground located in the park, but it’s not a typical playground. Its theme is an old Kansas Town, with buildings, a train station, and, of course, a train to climb on. My youngest enjoyed this area, pretending to teach math to a few 3 year-olds in the one-room school house.

Being a park, this is a FREE activity. 

Tip: Looking for sweet treats while exploring Kansas City? Read about my favorite desserts and sweet shops in KC!

Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

Where: 8909 W. 179th St., Overland Park, Kan.

Strolling around a shaded path or exploring gorgeous gardens, this Overland Park gem was a hit with my family. My son enjoyed the Railroad Garden while my daughter had fun posing with every statue she encountered.

Boy being silly in front of a sculpture of the painter Monet at Overland Park Arboretum.

There’s a picturesque spot inspired by Monet’s paintings of waterlilies on ponds. Don’t miss it. It’s also near a larger lake, where my family marveled at the giant koi fish and cute turtles swimming around. 

There is an admission fee, but it’s pretty inexpensive.

Gieringer’s Family Orchard & Berry Farm

Where: 39345 W. 183rd St., Edgerton, Kan.

Depending on the time of year you visit, what you pick will vary. When we visited, we picked a few blueberries and blackberries in the hot July sun. Visit earlier in spring, and you could pick strawberries; visit this fall, and you can pick pumpkins.

Girl picking blackberries at Gieringer's Family Orchard & Berry Farm

During regular times, the orchard would have tractor-pulled rides and the kid’s area would be open for a ton of fun activities. If you visit in the summer of 2020 (and maybe even fall of 2020), these activities aren’t happening.

Tip: You need to reserve a time to go berry picking. Sign-up on the farm’s Facebook page!

After you’re done picking, be sure to reward yourself with a strawberry lemonade slushee. 

There is a small admission fee per person to help keep this family-run farm in operation, plus whatever you end up picking.

Bike the Gary L. Haller Trail

Where: Trail endpoints are at Nelson Island on the Kansas River and Mill Creek Streamway Park in Olathe, Kan.

My husband and I biked this pretty trail during a quick summer trip to Bonner Springs for a concert. The paved trail is 17 miles long, but we didn’t bike that whole length.

While we biked the Haller Trail, there were plenty of walkers and runners enjoying it, as well.

I’d feel confident both kids on this trail soon. They’ve only just started being able to bike longer distances.

Shoal Creek Living History Museum

Where: 7000 NE Barry Road, Kansas City, Mo.

Shoal Creek located in Hodge Park was a hidden gem we encountered on our first trip to KC with the kids. This pretty, outdoor park explores Missouri’s history by showcasing old buildings and farms. 

Plenty of open space to run at Shoal Creek Living History Museum in Kansas City.

It is a living history museum, and I’ve heard they do reenactments occasionally. There weren’t any volunteers or costumed reenactors there during our visit. We were free to roam, but also didn’t get any insight into any of the buildings’ significance.

The highlight for my kids was seeing the bison at the park.

It’s FREE to go to Shoal Creek.

Dine at food trucks

Where: Historic West Bottoms neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo.

The West Bottoms is a charming warehouse district with antique stores, boutiques, and quirky shops. I highly recommend Fetch Gifts, though, oops, it’s not outdoors.

Food trucks in the Historic West Bottoms neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri.

The Festival of the Full Moon Weekends is held each month over the first weekend. And while the stores are open their doors, food trucks roll in.

It was tough deciding what to eat. Being in KC, my husband and I settled on barbecue. We found a table that was half in shade and enjoyed the lunch.

Attending the Festival of the Full Moon Weekend is FREE, but of course, anything you from a food truck or store will cost you money.

Penguin Park

Where: 4124 NE Vivion Road, Kansas City, Mo.

Penguin Park‘s playground equipment is shaped like giant animals, making it quite a sight for little ones when they see it. When we visited, the animals had seen better days as far as peeling paint goes. But looking back through my photos, maybe my memory was a bit harsh.

Penguin Park is an animal-themed playground in Kansas City, Missouri.

It doesn’t matter, though. My kids didn’t care about old paint. They had fun, and that’s all that mattered.

The park is FREE.

Thompson Park

Where: 8045 Santa Fe Drive, Overland Park, Kan.

I more or less stumbled upon this small but perfect playground. We were going to have lunch at The Snack Shack on Santa Fe. As we parked, we couldn’t help but notice the outdoor seating area of the Snack Shack butts up to a park.

Colorful xylophone at Thompson Park in Overland Park, Kan.

So, while we waited for our burgers to cook, the kids climbed on a novel playground and got soaked in the little splash ground.

I’d recommend combining a meal (or just shakes) at The Snack Shack with playtime at the park.

Worlds of Fun & Oceans of Fun

Where: 4545 Worlds of Fun Ave., Kansas City, Mo.

Chances are good you’ve heard of these two. The massive amusement park and waterpark are a full day (or two) of outdoor fun. 

Oceans of Fun is definitely a place to keep cool if you’re visiting in the summer. I’m partial to Worlds of Fun in the fall. The lines are shorter and the sun is less harsh.

Paradise Falls at Oceans of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri.

I have not visited since pre-COVID normal times, so I can’t vouch for how summer is there. Do keep in mind that popular rides will always have a line (hopefully with social distancing in place), and there’s likely a delay to boarding a ride if staff has to clean each car before people can board the ride.

How to win a prize visiting family-friendly KC places

There’s a new tour on the Otocast app (Apple and Google) that rewards families for visiting kid-friendly places in the Kansas City area. Most of these stops are on the Kansas side of the region. Once you download the app, search for KC Region, and you’ll find KC Kid-Friendly Trip.

Screenshot of the KC Trips on Otocast app.

Here’s how it works:

  • If you don’t have an itinerary already in mind, look at the map available for the KC Kid-Friendly Trip and see what’s nearby. 
  • Once you are at that location, the app will send you a notification that you’re near a tour stop. Tap that notification and you’ll get a virtual stamp.
Map of the stops on the KC kid-friendly trip app

Here are the stops:

  • C.W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth, Kan.
  • Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary in Liberty, Mo.
  • Jerry’s Shave Ice in Lansing, Kan.
  • Legends Outlets Kansas City in Kansas City, Kan.
  • RoKC in North Kansas City, Mo.
  • Moon Marble Co. in Bonner Springs, Kan.
  • Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park, Kan.
  • Incredible Pizza Co. in Shawnee, Kan.
  • Silas and Maddy’s Homemade Ice Cream in Olathe, Kan.
  • Dodge Town at Antioch Park in Merriam, Kan.
  • Gieringer’s Family Orchard & Berry Farm

You don’t have to go to all of the stops. Visit five and you’ll get the prize! 

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Trips to the Kansas City area should include some outdoors stops! Here are 10 awesome places in KC that have outdoor activities for the whole family.

17 Fun Things To Do In Rapid City

We’ve been to Rapid City, South Dakota, twice with the kids – once pre-COVID and then again this summer. If you’re thinking about planning a Mount Rushmore visit this summer, read on, since I’ve got a lot of additional activities to round out your trip – and most are outdoors. 

Disclosure: We received complimentary passes to some of the attractions in this post so that I can review them. We paid admission to others. 

Making Rapid City, South Dakota, your homemade for exploring Mount Rushmore and the nearby towns? Here are some fun things to do in Rapid City when you're not seeing the monuments!

COVID-19 Update

The COVID-19 has had a relatively small impact on South Dakota (or so it will feel when you visit), so many places are open with some modifications. Check out Rapid City’s visitor’s bureau’s website to see what is open and what has a modified schedule prior to your visit.

We drove through Rapid City in June 2020, stopping for two nights. I probably would’ve not stopped had I known how little concern people showed for the global pandemic, especially considering how many travelers pass through the area.

Please be aware that most people you will encounter in Rapid City will not be wearing face masks, even at popular tourist attractions. It was a bit unsettling.

There were some signs at places we stopped, like Cosmos Mystery Area, but no one was following the social distancing request nor was anyone wearing a (including staff).

Even restaurant staff was at about 50/50 with wearing face masks, and even then, a few had them on incorrectly.

If all that concerns you, plan a visit when there isn’t a pandemic.

Downtown Rapid City

Where: The area between Omaha Street and Columbus Street (park near Main Street to be right in the heart of it), and between East and West boulevards in Rapid City, SD.

Cost: FREE

I remember our first visit to Rapid City, and we spent just a short time in downtown Rapid City. And I remember regretting not having more time.

Our second visit fixed that. We allowed enough time for dinner, dessert, running around, and Art Alley.

Evening at Main Street Square in downtown Rapid City, SD

I think the focal point of downtown is Main Street Square, a community gathering space with a stage, sprayground, and nearby shops and restaurants. It’s a great place for kids to run around.

You’ll also find statues of the presidents in downtown Rapid City. It’s one of the more interesting and well-done public art trails I’ve encountered.

Art Alley

Where: 599 Seventh St., Rapid City, SD

Cost: FREE

Art Alley is another downtown attraction to see. It’s definitely worth the short walk if you already plan to visit the plaza area. Different artists and taggers have decorated this block-long alley.

Girl at Art Alley in Rapid City, South Dakota

There are some social messages, some crazy creatures, and a few pop culture references. It’s all amazing. 

Side note: If you’ve been to the Art Alley in Lincoln, Neb., this is similar…and much better.

Storybook Island

Where: 1301 Sheridan Lake Road, Rapid City, SD

Cost: FREE

The fantastic free attraction is geared toward young kids. Picture a giant playground inspired by fairytales and cartoons, and then imagine amateur artists creating play areas about them, and you’ll get the sense of Storybook Land.

I thought it was well done, though my husband thought it was all a little creepy.

The kids, of course, loved it.

Reptile Gardens

Where: 8955 US-16, Rapid City, SD

Cost: $15, adults (16+); $13, seniors; $12, youth (ages 11-15); $10, children (ages 4-10); FREE for children ages 3 and younger.** These rates apply during the summer and fall season.

** Rates reduced in 2020 because several animal shows are not offered at this time.

The king of roadside attractions, Reptile Gardens is well worth a stop. We visited this attraction pre-COVID, but I do know it is open now (with, hopefully, some safety measures in place).

It’s a fun place for families, with safe animal encounters. When we went, there were animal shows and demonstrations, but they temporarily eliminated some shows in 2020.

Chapel in the Hills

Where: 3788 Chapel Lane, Rapid City, SD

Cost: FREE

After seeing pictures of Chapel in the Hills, I was intrigued enough to insist we drive out of our way to find it. I’m glad we did, since it was beautiful.

Exterior of Chapel in the Hills in Rapid City, SD

This chapel is an exact replica of Borgund stavkirke, which was built around 1150 in Laerdal, Norway.

The structure itself and the nearby museum were closed due to the pandemic, but you can still get a pretty good view of the wooden chapel with all its intricate carvings and peek inside. Details from signs to statues hint at the Norwegian inspiration for the chapel.

There’s also a nearby prayer trail. 

Dinosaur Park

Where: 940 Skyline Drive, Rapid City, SD

Cost: FREE

If your kids love dinosaurs or you just like fun photo opps, be sure to stop here. It’s free, so why not? The paved path takes you by the giant statues.

Indoor Water Park at Best Western Ramkota Hotel

Where: 2111 N. Lacrosse St., Rapid City, SD

Cost: 6 passes to the indoor waterpark included with each guest room.

While the hotel itself is nothing remarkable, its two pool areas put it above many other hotels in the area, especially if you’re traveling with kids. On one side are your typical pool (perhaps a little larger than the usual hotel pool), a hot tub, and a small kid pool. 

The indoor water park at the Best Western in Rapid City, South Dakota

But the other side is the big draw for kids. It has a zero-entry pool with small slides, a pirate ship, and a few climbable water creatures. Oh, and then there are the two, 135-foot water slides, which my kids went down about a dozen times.

We stayed at the hotel, so a trip to the pool was included with our stay. Beware: There are no lifeguards on duty in either area, though there was technically an attendant by the slide. She was on her phone and didn’t acknowledge anyone who approached the slides, but you know, she was there. I guess.

Cosmos Mystery Area

Where: 24040 Cosmos Road, Rapid City, SD

Cost: $11 for adults, $6 for children ages 5-11, FREE for children 4 and younger

You know how you can just tell a place is a tourist trap? That’s Cosmos Mystery Area for you. But you go because you know your kids will love it. And guess what? They will.

Kids at Cosmos Mystery Area in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Cosmos relies on optical illusions and messing with your sense of balance, while telling you some silly stories about hot spots causing the gravitational pull to change.

My kids’ minds were blown, so I suppose it was a success.

I was less impressed and also concerned about the extreme lack of concern for the global pandemic occurring all around us. Our tour group was large, and while we were mostly outdoors, we did have to crowd into little shacks for some demonstrations. Our family was the only one in masks.

You can also spend a few additional bucks for the kids to crack a geode. I’d say it’s totally skippable but your kids will beg to differ.

Getting on my soapbox: People are dying. Put on a mask. Yes, we’re all tired of the pandemic. Yes, we all want life to just go back to normal. Wear a mask so we can speed recovery up!

Go to a great Rapid City restaurant

I love finding unique restaurants in a city I visit, and Rapid City did not disappoint. The bonus was that these restaurants were great food foodies and for families.

A few that I recommend:

Harriet and Oak – A charming restaurant for breakfast and coffee in downtown Rapid City. The coffee is fresh and the pastries are tasty. Try the ham and cheese pasty (it’s kinda like a very tasty Hot Pocket).

Firehouse Brewing Co. – Yes, it’s a brewery, and yes, you can bring your kids. Go to the downtown location if you want a kid’s menu. This is pure pub food at its finest.

We’ve been to the downtown Rapid City location of Firehouse Brewing Co. (which has an excellent outdoor seating area), as well as the Firehouse SmokeJumper Station in Hill City (which has an even better outdoor seating area).

Armadillo’s Ice Cream Shop – You’ll likely find a line snaking around the block at this downtown Rapid City ice cream shop. Our waitress at Firehouse SmokeJumper recommended it to us, and it didn’t disappoint.

When we went to Armadillo’s this summer, there was no indoor seating permitted. There were A LOT of people enjoying their ice cream in front of the restaurant. No masks, obviously, while they ate, and no masks while waiting in line, either. The restaurant did, at least, mark off social distancing spots for everyone in line.

Things to do near Rapid City, South Dakota

Rapid City is a great home base for exploring Mount Rushmore and the nearby touristy areas. A few of the stops you might want to include:

  • Mount Rushmore (about 25 miles away) – The monument itself is free to visit, but parking is not.  We went on our first visit, getting ice cream and touring the visitor center in addition to walking a little closer to the monument. Given our luck at other national parks this summer (all visitor centers were closed), we decided to just drive by the monument instead of stopping.
  • Custer State Park (about 35 miles away) – I highly recommend visiting this park to see wildlife and to hike around the beautiful Sylvan Lake. There’s a gorgeous trail around the lake that’s pretty kid-friendly.
  • Crazy Horse Monument (about 40 miles away) – I just learned during our recent trip that there’s a free, nightly light show at Crazy Horse (weather permitting).
  • Wind Cave National Park (about 55 miles away) – My family took a guided tour of a cave pre-COVID. It gets pretty cold underground, so dress accordingly. 
  • Badlands National Park (about 60 miles away) – Explore the other-worldly landscape of Badlands National Park.
  • Hot Springs (about 60 miles away) – A day trip to Hot Springs means some time to splash around Evans Plunge, a long-running indoor water park build around a hot spring, and Mammoth Site, an active dig site.

Plan a South Dakota trip

Planning a trip to South Dakota? I wrote a series of posts and reviews of kid-friendly attractions, lodging and a photo-heavy trip recap. Check them out:

South Dakota Bucket List (Badlands Edition)

Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure With Kids

Comfort Suites and Convention Center (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Dakotah Steakhouse (Rapid City, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

The Hills Inn (Hot Spring, South Dakota)

Evans Plunge (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

Mammoth Site (Hot Springs, South Dakota)

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Road trip to Mount Rushmore? Stop in Rapid City for family-friendly restaurants, attractions, and sights. Rapid City, South Dakota, is our home base for exploring nearby national parks, state parks, and landmarks.

14 Amazing Nebraska Road Trips For The Summer

This is truly the summer of road trips. A few weeks ago, I shared some Iowa road trips and one reader asked if I had a similar round-up of Nebraska road trips. Well, to be honest, no, I hadn’t written one…until now. Here are a few of my favorite destinations in Nebraska, as well as suggestions from other Nebraska bloggers. Happy travels!

Nebraska Road Trips

How far is this road trip from Omaha?

Nebraska is a lot bigger than you’d think, or at least, it feels really large when driving across it. Almost everything on this list is better enjoyed with, at least, an overnight planned. A whole weekend is even better.

Plattsmouth – 20 miles from Omaha (day trip)

Mahoney State Park – 30 miles from Omaha (day trip, but overnight is better)

Platte River State Park – 30 miles from Omaha

Nebraska City – 45 miles from Omaha (there’s so much, plan for an overnight)

Lincoln – 60 miles from Omaha (there’s so much, plan for an overnight)

Brownville – 75 miles from Omaha (day trip)

Homestead National Monument – 100 miles from Omaha

Ashfall Fossil Beds  – 175 miles from Omaha

North Platte – 280 miles from Omaha

Pandhandle – 450 miles from Omaha 

Fort Robinson State Park – 460 miles from Omaha

Hudson-Meng Bison Kill Site – 480 miles from Omaha

Of course, there are many more places to visit, from off-the-beaten path gems in Nebraska to quirky places to stay in Nebraska. For a larger list of inspiration, read 101 Things To Do In Nebraska.

If you’re more inclined to plan a trip around food (you’re my people), here are lists for planning a Nebraska Donut Road Trip or a Nebraska Ice Cream Road Trip.

Planning a road trip to Omaha?

When writing this blog post, I wondered if I should include Omaha on the list. Certainly, I have a lot of readers outside of Omaha. But, alas, I don’t have just one blog post about a trip to Omaha. Instead, I’ll share several links to help you plan a trip to the city:

33 Must-Try Restaurants

Downtown Omaha Hotels & Restaurants

20+ Museums To Visit In Omaha

40+ Expert Tips For Visiting Omaha’s Zoo

Nebraska is full of outdoor adventure and history! Want inspiration for future summer road trips through Nebraska? Here's a round-up of  some of the state's popular attraction, as well as a few historic and scenic hidden gems.

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