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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Looking For A Farm Near Omaha? Check Out Nelson Produce Farm

Agritourism continues to grow in popularity in the Midwest, and I’m seeing it more in Nebraska each year. Visiting a working farm is an example of agritourism, which not only gets us outdoors and active, but more importantly, to connect us with our state’s roots and food system. Our recent visit to Nelson Produce Farm in Valley, Neb., is a prime example of ag-tourism done right.

A farm close to Omaha

This year, I’ve been seeking close-to-home adventures and hidden gems. I’d heard about Nelson Produce Farm last fall, when social media exploded with pictures of their gorgeous sunflower field.

Sign at Nelson Produce Farm in Valley Nebraska

Months later, I still hadn’t visited so I decided a summer field trip, of sorts, was in order.

COVID-19 UPDATE: The farm currently requires families to pre-purchase tickets for a reserved time at the farm in an effort to keep capacity at 50%. Masks are recommended, and staff will wear them if the temperature is under 85 degrees. It was hotter than that on our visit, so no one had masks on. Also, hand washing stations and hand sanitizer could be found throughout the farm.

Valley is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Omaha, and even closer if you live in West Omaha. It’s not the closest working farm to Omaha, but it still attracts a crowd.

There’s plenty of parking, but it’s all on a field, so if your car isn’t designed for off-roading, don’t go on a wet day.

The food side of the farm

There are two draws to the Nelson Produce Farm: Animals and produce. I’ll start with the produce side since I think it really sets it apart from other farm experiences.

Picking strawberries at Nelson Produce Farm

We visited in early summer, so strawberry season. The kids decided to pick strawberries, each getting more than a point of bright, juicy berries.

While half of the group picked berries, the other passed time riding the trikes nearby and shopping in the store.

The Market is a darling little shop selling produce, farm-raised meat, baked goods and a few toys for kids.

The exterior of The Market at Nelson Produce Farm in Nebraska

Nearby, a concession stand sold hot food, snacks and drinks. It was so incredibly hot, that we opted for a refreshing snack of watermelon slices.

The animal side of the farm

There were plenty of animals on the farm, but there was a distance maintained between guests and most furry friends. This is a different experience than those who’ve been to Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha.

Feeding a sheep at Nelson Produce Farm

The goats, sheep, horses, and cattle were in their pens when we visited. You can buy food to feed the adult sheep and goats. For an additional fee, you can also bottle feed the babies.

Inside the barn, families encounter more animals like lambs, pigs, and a bunny. One employee on the farm took Solo, the bunny, out of her cage while we were there, so the kids got the chance to pet her.

Petting a rabbit at Nelson Produce Farm in Valley, Nebraska

He also let my kids know it was OK to pick up the baby chicks. I hope that was OK! I kept telling my kids to not do it, and then he OKed it. So, when you go, maybe ask?

You can, however, get close to the ponies and pet them without worry. They were out in the open.

Baby chick at Nelson Produce Farm

Things the kids will like

So, after animal petting and feeding, and strawberry picking, what else is there to do? Play time.

Here’s where they’ll get messy and – fingers crossed – tired.

Running on hay bales in Nebraska

The first thing kids want to do when they arrive, and when it’s time to leave, is play on the hay bales near the entrance. Several are lined side by side, allowing for a fun running track for kids.

There’s also a tire mountain to climb. This was where our kiddos spent the most time playing.

Tire mountain at Nelson Produce Farm

Your kids may like the digging area, where a bucket, shovels, and a mount of dirt wait for them. My kids are past the digging stage, so we didn’t hang out there for too long.

There’s also a mini train, but it was not operating while we were there.

How much time should you plan to spend there?

Current requirements at the farm (due to the Coronavirus) state that guests plan on spending two and a half hours at the farm. On a hot day, that was just about all we could stand anyway.

On a nice day? I could see us spending three or more hours there.

Looking at the chicks at Nelson Produce Farm

How much does it cost?

Admission to Nelson Produce Farm in 2020 was $6 per person (plus a processing fee online). For now, you’ll want to buy your tickets ahead of time, since they are trying to stay at a 50% capacity this summer.

I have some friends who have a membership here, which means they can visit all season long (but they still need to reserve their visit time online ahead of time).

Animal food was $2 per cup; interaction with baby animals was $10 per person. Train tickets were also an additional fee.

Watermelon slices at Nelson Produce Farm

Strawberry picking was calculated by-the-pound. Food prices from $6.25 for kids’ meals and $10.99 for adult meals, to treats from $4-$6. The desserts sounded awfully tempting, like strawberry shortcake, root beer floats, and berries and ice cream.

We went the healthy route and opted for gigantic watermelon slices.

FYI: You can buy whole watermelon on the farm to take home. I’ve been told their Black Diamond watermelons are the best.

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Looking for a farm experience near Omaha, Nebraska? Here's what it's like at Nelson Produce Farm in Valley, Neb. From animal encounters and berry picking, there's a lot to do that will keep kids busy for an afternoon!
Have a fun day on a farm at Nelson Produce Farm near Omaha, Nebraska. Get the details on things to do with kids, what's included and what costs extra, and what animals you'll find on the farm.

14 Awesome Iowa Road Trips For The Summer

I’m always up for a weekend getaway, and Iowa has become my reliable, go-to state. Iowa cities provide an inexpensive vacation, and all within just a few hours from Omaha. Here are a few of my favorite, memorable vacations in Iowa, plus recommendations from Iowa travel bloggers.

Is it a day trip or a weekend trip?

So, good question. How far away are these places from Omaha? And should you plan just a day or a weekend? I almost always plan overnight trips, even to nearby towns in Iowa.

I typically plan overnight stays for anything more than a two-hour, one-way drive from Omaha. But, to help you decide, here are the distances from Omaha:

Elk Horn – 65 miles from Omaha

Audubon – 80 miles from Omaha

Lake Icaria – 85 miles from Omaha

Sioux City – 100 miles from Omaha

Des Moines – 135 miles from Omaha (so much to do, I’d recommend more than a day)

Estherville – 190 miles from Omaha

Okoboji – 200 miles from Omaha (definitely an overnight – but you’ll want a whole weekend there)

Ottumwa – 220 miles from Omaha (definitely an overnight trip)

Clear Lake – 250 miles from Omaha (definitely an overnight trip)

Decorah – 330 miles from Omaha (definitely an overnight trip)

Summers are for road trips! If you're looking for a Midwestern destination, here's where to road trip in Iowa, with tips on what to do in each city and what to see. Iowa has wide-open spaces, amusement parks, and quirky attractions.

Closer Iowa road trips

Looking for places closer to Omaha for a quick getaway? I recommend exploring southwest Iowa. Here are a few notable places and things to do:

Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek

Hikes in the Loess Hills in southwestern Iowa

14 unique trails in Pottawattamie County, Iowa

Wabash Trace Nature Trail in southwestern Iowa

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Need an inexpensive but fun summer getaway? Here are 13+ Iowa road trips this summer, with tips on what cities to visit, what to do, where to eat, and what's not-to-miss.

How To Step Up Your Nature Game At Fontenelle Forest

I love hikes and finding new outdoor spaces to explore, like trails near my home in Omaha. However, when hiking with my kids, I hear a lot of questions I don’t have answers for (unless I bust out my iPhone to Google it). Fontenelle Forest has created a non-tech solution: Family Backpacks.

Disclosure: I’m a member of Fontenelle Forest, so my admission was free, and for this post, the forest provided a complimentary backpack to check out.

Where’s Fontenelle Forest?

Before jumping into what’s in the backpack, for those unfamiliar with Fontenelle Forest, this lovely nature center is located in Bellevue, Neb., just south of Omaha.

Related post: 10 Must-Try Bellevue Restaurants

Boardwalk at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, Nebraska

It’s a beautiful place to take the family. There are miles and miles of trails, plus a long boardwalk, making it accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. There’s also the Raptor Woodland Refuge to explore and a fun nature playscape.

COVID-19 update: Although Fontenelle Forest buildings are closed, the trails are open to members, or with the purchase of daily admission. Memberships and daily admission can be purchased online at FontenelleForest.org or by calling (402) 731-3140. The boardwalk is marked with one-way arrows to help with social distancing. The Raptor Woodland Refuge and nature playscape space, as well as all buildings, are closed temporarily.

Fontenelle Forest COVID-19 guidelines

What’s a Family Backpack?

Fontenelle Forest started the Family Backpack Program in May. Each backpack contains guides, activities, and tools to enhance a visit to the forest. Two themes are available: Hiking or birding.

I’ve used similar backpacks at Hitchcock Nature Center or DeSoto Wildlife Refuge and loved how they added a lot to our hikes!

We used a backpack on our recent visit to Fontenelle Forest. We checked it out before hitting the ropes course at TreeRush Adventures.

My 8-year-old was eager to sort through the backpack to see everything available.

Girl using binoculars from the Family Backpack at Fontenelle Forest

She was immediately drawn to the binoculars and magnifying glasses.

Each backpack comes with a lot of items and activities – some items are yours to keep.

Items include:

  • Map and activity sheets
  • Cloud identification guide
  • Guide to common birds of Fontenelle Forest
  • Flashcards to common trees at Fontenelle Forest
  • Guide to common spring and summer plants at Fontenelle Forest
  • Don’t touch flashcards with photos of plants you want to avoid (super helpful!)
  • A pair of kid’s binoculars
  • Five magnifying glasses
  • One bug box
  • And to keep: Crayon pucks, pencils, construction paper, stickers
Girl with Fontenelle Forest's Family Backpack

While the backpack itself is pretty large, it’s not too heavy for a kid to carry.

How long can you use the backpack?

Bags are to be checked out for two hours, and in my opinion, there’s no way you’ll get through all activities in one backpack in two hours.

And I think that’s the point. These bags would be great for multiple visits.

Think of it as having easy-to-plan, themed field trips this summer.

Girl with magnifying glass at Fontenelle Forest

Do the backpacks cost money?

Yes. A backpack costs $10 for two hours. You’re going to call ahead to reserve the backpack at 402-731-3140. It’s a first-come, first-served basis.

Be sure to return the backpack within two hours. You will be charged another rental fee if you keep the backpack beyond your allotted time.

Are the backpacks safe during COVID-19?

Fontenelle Forest stresses the fact that they sanitize each backpack and everything in it after every use.

The items that they cannot sanitize were ours to keep.

Planning a trip to Fontenelle Forest, near Omaha Nebraska? Here's a way to learn about the plants and wildlife you'll see there! #outdoors #Nebraska #familytime #Midwest #hiking

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8 Nifty Things You Need To Know About Schramm Park

Schramm Park State Recreation Area, or simply Schramm Park as it’s more commonly known, is a diamond in the rough that’s easily overlooked due to its proximity to more flashy parks in southeastern Nebraska. I was unimpressed with our first visit there, but I’m so glad I returned with the kids because it has become one of our annual outdoor getaways near Omaha.

COVID-19 Update: The Education Center is temporarily closed at Schramm Park. For updates, visit the Nebraska Game and Parks website.

Looking for a beautiful, off-the-beaten-path park near Omaha? Check out Schramm Park State Recreation Area. Learn about the trails, Education Center, fossil dig site, and more! #Nebraska #outdoors #familytimr

Here’s are a few key things to know about Schramm Park to plan a visit:

Where is Schramm Park?

Schramm Park is located in Gretna, Neb., about 30 miles from Omaha. Its address is 21502 West Highway 31.

What to bring to Schramm Park

A few key things to bring if you’re visiting Schramm in the summer (or any Nebraska parks, for that matter):

  • Bug spray is a must.
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottles. The Education Center has a water fountain to refill them.
  • Old shoes, because the trails can be muddy and if you climb around the geological site, you’ll get pretty dusty.
  • Snacks or a picnic. There aren’t a lot of restaurants nearby, so if you get hungry, plan on a little drive to find food.

What to do at Schramm

When we head to Schramm Park, our main intention is to hike. OK, scratch that, my main intention is to hike. My kids are at the age now where they speak their minds and prefer other things.

Ponds at the Schramm Park hatchery

OK, but the hiking is great. For a good woodlands trail hike, Schramm offers a nearly 1.5-mile loop to a cool suspension bridge. It’s just the right length for families.

There are a few uphill parts, but mostly, it’s not too challenging for most skill levels.

The trail leads to a suspension bridge, which for us, is a good turn-around point.

A suspension bridge at Schramm Park near Omaha,  Nebraska

You can go beyond the bridge for a longer hike, about 3 miles total.

Schramm is home to Nebraska’s first fishing hatchery. It’s now a museum, but I’ve never seen it actually open.

You can walk around the hatchery area, though. It’s picturesque and there is a machine to get some fish food for a quarter.

Fish hatchery at Schramm Park in Nebraska

Nearby ponds, still a part of the hatchery area, attract a lot of waterfowl. On our last visit, we saw goslings.

If you ask my kids, the biggest draw is the geological display, or what we just call the “dig site.” At the dig site, the kids climb and search for fossils. Expect dirty and excited kids afterward.

Tip: You can’t actually dig there, so don’t bring chisels or any tools like that.

The geological display at Schramm Park in southeastern Nebraska. You can find fossils there.

There are also picnic areas, a playground, and plenty of bird watching to be done there. The park is located near the Platte River, and there is an access point there if you have your own canoe or kayak.

Can you camp there?

No. This is a day-use park only.

It’s not too far from Louisville State Recreation Area, Platte River State Park, and Mahoney State Park, though. All three offer camping, and the latter two also have cabins.

Related post: Guide to Nebraska State Park Cabins

Does it cost money to go?

A state park permit is required for vehicles. The Education Center is an additional fee (see the next section for details).

A boy on a trail at Schramm Park in Nebraska

Is the Education Center worth the admission?

You might remember old school field trips to Schramm, visiting the Aksarben Aquarium there. Well, in 2019, the aquarium and Education Center got a multi-million dollar upgrade.

New additions include:

  • Aquariums featuring Nebraska’s natural aquatic habitats: Cool water streams, rivers, reservoirs, and farm ponds. Some tanks include some of Nebraska’s smaller, lesser-known fish species.
  • Live animal tanks featuring Nebraska’s reptile and amphibian species.
  • A reading nook, maker’s space, bird watching area, and pre-school play area with a little slide.
  • Interactive activities including a digital topographical map, interactive wayfinding maps, touch screens focusing on the species of the area.
  • Virtual reality mountain biking experience.
Pre-school play area at the Schramm Park Education Center

Now, with all the updates and additions, admission is $10 for adults (ages 13+), $7 for children and seniors, and FREE for children age 3 and younger. For our family of four, that’s $34. Was it worth it?

It is certainly impressive, but I thought the admission price was a little steep for the experience. Granted, I’ve traveled quite a bit and have visited some equally unique education centers were included with the price of park admission, so I’m seeing things through that lens.

Racing on the virtual mountain bikes at Schramm Park SRA

My kids loved it, though. The touch tank could’ve kept my daughter occupied for an hour alone.

And I had fun “racing” my kids on the virtual mountain bike experience.

But, you will learn a lot about Nebraska, and on a hot summer day, it’s a nice place to cool off. And on a cold winter day, it would perfect to hunker down with the kids for a few hours to play, read, and create. So, maybe you will feel like it is worth the price of admission.

Touchscreen at Schramm Park Education Center

Can you really find fossils there?

Yes, we’ve found small fossils at the geological site. Fossils found in the limestone and shale are Paleozoic marine fossils like brachiopods or corals.

I’m pretty sure my kids’ dream of finding a fully-intact dinosaur fossil someday.

Dream big, kids, dream big.

Looking for fossils at Schramm Park  in Nebraska

What’s near Schramm Park

While Schramm Park can take a few hours to explore, you may want to combine visits to two parks to really tire the kids out (especially if you’re already making a long drive to get out there).

Here’s a sample of what you can do at other nearby parks, which don’t forget, require a state park permit to enter:

Louisville State Recreation Area floating obstacle course
  • Louisville State Recreation Area: For an extra fee, you can tackle the inflatable water obstacle course. There’s also a nearby beach.
  • Platte River State Park: Hike to a small waterfall, fish, climb up the lookout tower, and for an additional fee, play in at the spray ground or go horseback riding. There are also paddle boats.
  • Mahoney State Park: A lot of things at Mahoney State Park are an additional fee, like horseback riding, paddle boats, putt-putt golf & driving range, and the indoor activity center with rock climbing and huge play area. The big draw is the awesome aquatic center with waterslides. But, for free, there are some great playgrounds, a lookout tower, toboggan run in the winter, a conservatory, fishing, and paved trails.

If you didn’t pack a picnic for your Schramm Park visit, there are a few options for food nearby. Check out Around The Bend Steakhouse in Ashland, Neb. (home of the Testicle Festival), or for ice cream, go toward Springfield, Neb., and grab a seat at the old-fashioned soda fountain inside Springfield Drug (one of the most unique ice cream shops in Nebraska).

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Plan a fun day trip to Schramm Park   near Omaha, Nebraska. Here's what you need to know about the park, including what to bring, what the trails are like, and if the admission to the Education Center is worth it. #Nebraska #statepark #hiking #daytrip #familytravel