Cute Christmas Decor Made In Nebraska

Christmas Decor Stock Photo

It’s been a year, hasn’t it? 2020 has affected all of us. What’s troubling to me is how it’s impacted small businesses and artists, though. So this year, I’m challenging myself and my friends to shop local and support local. With that in mind, I’ve found some Nebraska artists and locally-owned stores that will help get you into the holiday spirit this year.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking the link, I receive a small referral stipend.

Nebraska-made holiday decor

There are many makers, artists and crafters in Nebraska creating home decor in a variety of styles. Here are a few Nebraska artisans’ works on Etsy that have caught my eye:

1. Rustic Barn Wood Christmas Trees by Bialas Crafted in Omaha

2. 2020 Christmas Ornament “We Stayed Home” by Bleacher Spirit in Omaha

3. “A Christmas Story” Leg Lamp Door Hanger by Peppered Wood in Omaha

4. Holiday Hoobie Whatty Wood Sign by Rusticly Inspired in Scottsbluff

5. Christmas Tree Doormat by Black & Wheat Co. in North Platte

6. Fused Glass Christmas Present Ornament by Flat Rock Glass in Sutherland

7. Plaid and Burlap Christmas Stockings by Prairie Burlap Living in Juniata

8. Oh Fudge Circle Doorhang by Knock Knocks Door Hangs in Lincoln

Locally-owned shops in Nebraska where you can find cute holiday decor

If you prefer your shopping in person (please follow local ordinances on social distancing and/or mask-wearing), here are a few great shops in Nebraska to start browsing:

1. Tannenbaum Christmas Shop

Where: 1007 Howard St., Omaha

It’s Christmas year-round at Tannenbaum. This charming shop in the Old Market is packed with decorations, ornaments, and holiday inspiration.

The Old Market is a wonderland at Christmastime, with twinkling trees and, sometimes, strolling carolers. Plan to stay a while and visit a restaurant while you’re in the neighborhood.

2. Village Pomegranate

Where: 8724 Pacific St., Omaha

You’ll find seasonal home decor ranging from whimsical serving dishes to witty holiday napkins. I found some truly unique Halloween decorations at the Village Pomegranate this year so I’m excited to see what they have in stock for Christmas.

3. Mulhall’s

Where: 3615 N. 120th St., Omaha

You might think Mulhall’s is just for gardening and plants, but that’s only half of it. Mulhall’s is quickly becoming a hip place to shop for home decor, as well. They’ve already started teasing some of the holiday decorations they’ll have on their social media platforms.

4. Mangelsen’s

Where: 3457 S. 84th St., Omaha

Sure, Mangelsen’s is the place to go for all-things-crafty, and you’re likely to find everything you need to create your own custom holiday decorations. But, Mangelsen’s also has Christmas decorations and lots of them.

You’ll find more traditional and folksy decor options there.

5. Earl & Gray

Where: 15416 Second St., Bennington, Neb.

From the gang that brought the beautiful Found shop in the Benson neighborhood of Omaha, there’s Earl & Gray. They’re planning a holiday kick-off event in mid-November so I anticipate finding some darling decorations in the shop all season long.

6. Salt Creek Mercantile

Where: 1502 Silver St., Ashland, Neb.

One of the most beautiful stores in the entire state is found in the little town of Ashland. I only just discovered Salt Creek Mercantile this summer, so I can’t 100% promise you that they’ll have some swoon-worthy, Farmhouse-style Christmas decorations, but I’m hopeful just by the looks of their fall decorations found in their Insta feed.

Shop for locally-made gifts!

Support small businesses and local artisans this year. Here are a few of my favorite things that are made locally and/or sold locally. These guides go live on October 22!

Like this post?

Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter sharing family travel ideas, giveaways and more! Subscribe here.

7 Outdoors Winter Activities To Do In Nebraska

Sledders at Mahoney State Park

Winters in Nebraska are notoriously cold and windy, and only occasionally snowy. But, with the idea of a pandemic lingering, I’m starting to ponder what we can do outdoors in this state to make this winter enjoyable. Through my planning for my own family, I came up with a great list of outdoor activities in Nebraska this winter. Happy trails…and stay warm!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking the link, I receive a small referral stipend.

Snowshoe in a park

The average Joe isn’t going to own snowshoes, so I’m going to tell you about places in Nebraska (particularly near Omaha) where you can rent snowshoes and then do some hiking.

A close-up photo of rented snowshoes

In Omaha, you can rent snowshoes from the University of Nebraska at Omaha Outdoor Venture Center (even if you’re not a student), and then head to nearby Elmwood Park. Try trekking around the golf course there.

** Note: The venture center may be closed or have limited hours due to COVID-19. It is slated to reopen in the spring of 2021.

Head to Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue to rent snowshoes from the visitor center and then explore the trails.

If you do have your own snowshoes, consider trying Neale Woods in North Omaha or make the drive to Indian Cave State Park in Shubert.

In the market for snowshoes? The highest-rated snowshoes on Amazon are $300+. I found more reasonably priced (under $100), and still highly rated snowshoes by Flashtek.

Tips: It’s not in Nebraska, but Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa, is pretty close to the Omaha metro area and they rent snowshoes, as well.

Ice skating outdoors

Omaha has a couple outdoor ice skating spots, usually open around the holidays. But, for a longer season of outdoor ice skating, head to Ashland. During the winter season at Mahoney State Park, you’ll find a large, covered (but still outdoors) ice skating rink there.

Ice fishing

We’ve only had minimal exposure to actual ice fishing. Mahoney State Park in Ashland usually plans one weekend a year to teach kids (and their grown-ups) how to do it. My kids enjoy it. 

Ice fishing Clinic at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Cass County, Nebraska.
Photo courtesy Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Me? It’s a tad too cold just standing there.

But, if you want to find a prime spot to try ice fishing, try: 

  • Valentine National Wildlife Refuge Lakes and nearby Merritt Reservoir in Valentine
  • Island Lake at Crescent National Wildlife Refuge in Ellsworth
  • Prairie Queen in Papillion
  • Chalco Hills at Wehrspann Lake in Omaha

By the way, you’ll need a fishing permit. There’s a Nebraska ice fishing forum that can give you more information.

Bird watching in Nebraska

If you want to see bald eagles, bundle up and get outside in Nebraska this winter. You’re most likely to see more of them in January than any other time of the year.

A banded Canada goose walks through the snow at Platte River State Park in Cass County, Nebraska.
Photo courtesy Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Generally, you’ll have the best luck seeing the grand birds near shallow water along streams, rivers and lakes. 

Some of the best Nebraska birding lookouts include the Bald Eagle Viewing Center at Lake Ogallala, Lake McConaughy, Harlan County Reservoir, Sutherland Reservoir and Indian Cave State Park.

Cross country skiing

The idea of cross country skiing intrigues me, but also makes me tired just thinking about it. But I know a few hearty Minnesota-types who love it, so it’s making me rethink my opinion. 

Cross country skiing in Nebraska
Photo courtesy Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Ponca State Park (located in Ponca) is the only state park with well-groomed cross country trails. Other parks where you’ll find some decent skiing include Indian Cave State Park and Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area. Not a coincidence, these are located near the Missouri River and have bluffs to explore.

If you don’t own skis, I know you can rent cross country skis from UNO’s Outdoor Venture Center.

** Note: The venture center may be closed or have limited hours due to COVID-19. It is slated to reopen in the spring of 2021.

Sledding

I’ll be the first to admit that we’ll likely just look for sledding hills close to home. In Omaha, that means the long runs at Memorial Park, or perhaps finding smaller hills in the neighborhood.

Girl sledding near Omaha in the winter

But, if you want to consider a few other sled runs around the state, I heard Pioneer Park in Lincoln has a 300-foot wooden sled run that’s legendary.

Mahoney State Park in Ashland also has a wide, and not-too-steep toboggan run.

Tanking

Yes, tanking. So, usually tanking is a Nebraska summer tradition, where you take a cattle tank down a river with some friends. But every winter in March, a hearty group take part in the Polar Bear Tank Race on the Middle Loup River north of Mullen.

It’s really a whole weekend affair of festivities, an awards banquet, and social fun. But, true to its name, you will be racing other teams in frigid temperatures. 

Keep tabs on the next race at Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.

Nebraska has plenty of outdoor options even in the winter. Am I missing something you like to do in the winter? Leave a comment and tell me what else can be added to this list!

Button to read more Nebraska stories

Like this post?

Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter sharing family travel ideas, giveaways and more! Subscribe here.

Get outdoors in Nebraska this winter! Here's a list of great outdoor activities and things to do, even when it's cold and snowing.

6 Wonderful Iowa Winter Vacations

John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum in Waterloo

While winter brings cold temperatures and snow, there’s no reason to keep us from enjoying a weekend getaway. Whether you’re an indoor person or outdoor enthusiast, planning an Iowa winter vacation is as easy as opening Google maps. Actually, we’ve done the homework for you and suggest any of these locations for a fun family, couple, or friends’ getaway.

When Things Get Moving is a popular permanent exhibit at the Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines.

Des Moines

About a two-hour drive from Omaha, Des Moines is perfect for a winter getaway.

From exploring science, including playing meteorologists on television and building their own paper rocket, children will have a blast at the Science Center of Iowa. Everyone will enjoy visiting SCI’s planetarium, where you can explore the galaxy and beyond.

With more than 5,000 pieces of art, the Des Moines Art Center is a great spot to enjoy contemporary art. Plus, a walk through the 27-piece Pappajohn Sculpture Park – with its giant pumpkin and wooden horses – offers a fun experience for everyone. With the state capitol in the backdrop, the Brenton Skating Plaza offers a great outdoor experience.

Fun places to eat include Jethro’s BBQ, a local favorite. Home to The World Famous Adam Emmenecker, perhaps you can talk someone into taking on the challenger of consuming the sandwich featuring a giant pork tenderloin, Angus steak burger, Texas brisket, bacon, fried cheese, buffalo chicken tenders, and cheese sauce.

Or, you can enjoy a themed burger at Zombie Burger. Fong’s Pizza offers you an opportunity to create your own pizza or enjoy one of their creations, such as the crab rangoon.

Related post: 10 Must-Try Des Moines restaurants

Interior of Bluedorn Science Imaginarium in Waterloo, Iowa.
Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Waterloo

With impressive museums, Waterloo is an excellent city to spend a winter weekend.

A four-hour drive from Omaha, the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum looks at the role Iowans have played in military conflicts dating back to the Civil War. Interactive exhibits offer an accurate look into Iowans’ military action.

A special exhibit at the museum looks at the loves of the four Sullivan brothers, who served on the same ship during World War II. It was attacked, and the brothers perished, along with their shipmates. From a replica of the family’s living room to personal items, the exhibit offers an emotional look at the family.

The military museum is part of the Grout Museum District, which also includes the Grout Museum of History and Science. From a look at pioneer life in Iowa to the area’s economic development, the museum includes an up-close look at farm life and the onset of the industrial age in Waterloo.

Children will enjoy checking out the interactive exhibits at the Bluedorn Science Imaginarium. They can also pet a 12-foot-long python.

A trip to the John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum lets you follow the journey from a new plow to impressive tractors and combines, that you can even sit in. Follow the history of tractor production at an actual working plant.

Newton’s Paradise Café is an excellent choice for any meal. With album-sized pancakes and biscuits and gravy that cover a plate, portions are huge and affordable. Morg’s Diner has been around since the 1960s and continues to produce quality meals, such as pork tenderloin sandwiches and hamburger
steak dinners.

Learning about mummies and Egyptian hieroglyphs  at the Putnam Museum in the Quad Cities.

Quad Cities

While Quad Cities includes cities both in Illinois and Iowa, this region still counts as a great destination in the winter. The Quad Cities are about a four-hour drive from Omaha.

With an interactive science center, Putnam Museum in Davenport is an interesting spot for people of all ages. The museum also offers a look at the history of the Quad Cities, from prehistoric times through the
20th century.

The Figge Art Museum includes a look at art, from classic paintings and sculptures to the works of regional artist Grant Woods, best-known for his American Gothic painting.

Antique enthusiast will enjoy a drive along the Mississippi River to LeClaire, home of the original American Pickers’ Antique Archaeology store. Browse for collectibles and maybe a few souvenirs.

The John Deere Pavilion in Moline features a look at some of the company’s unique developments, including a logging machine found only in Europe.

Related post: FREE Things To Do In The Quad Cities With Kids

Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy hiking trails at some of the area’s parks, including Black Hawk State Historic Site, Scott County Park, and Loud Thunder Forest Preserve. Snowstar is the place to go for skiing, tubing, and snowboarding.

Head to Lagomarcino’s in Moline for lunch, followed by their homemade ice cream, because ice cream is perfect during winter. Don’t forget to take home some of their homemade chocolates and sweets.

Inside the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa, a fun winter destination for families.
Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Dubuque

Explore life along the Mississippi River at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, where you’ll find a floor-to-ceiling aquarium with fish native to the river. From Minnesota to the Louisiana bayou, you’ll see a variety of animals that call the Mississippi River home, from sturgeon and ducks to snapping turtles and even an alligator. Interactive exhibits range from ones for children to historical displays.

Dubuque, a five-hour drive from Omaha, has added several murals that help tell the area’s story. Combined with art pieces along the river, the public art scene is impressive year-round.

For snowboarding and skiing fun, head to Sundown Mountain. Featuring 21 trails, as well as a kids park, the winter resort also offers impressive scenery of the Mississippi River region.

From alligator nuggets to a catfish club sandwich, Catfish Charlie’s offers a unique menu that will provide a memorable dining experience in Dubuque. Don’t worry, non-fish eaters will enjoy options including a variety of burgers and sandwiches. Enjoy fast casual dining at Magoo’s Pizza, where you
create your own pie.

Car at Sioux City Public Museum

Sioux City

A mere 90 minutes north of Omaha, Sioux City makes an excellent winter getaway spot.

The Public Museum offers a fun and interesting look into Sioux City history. From a plesiosaur hanging on a wall from the area’s time as a prehistoric sea to the city’s stockyard days, the museum infuses interesting displays to showcase the history.

You can also find old building signs, such as a bank, that help tell the area’s history beyond the usual information boards.

With pop culture exhibits and unique displays, the Sioux City Art Center offers a fun experience. You can also take a stroll along Fourth Street, taking in sculptures, such as a cigar-chomping dragon.

A walk along the Missouri Riverfront leads to sculptures of animals that were found along the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Inside the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, you’ll find interactive exhibits that showcase the team’s exploration along the Missouri River.

As the site of the only death on the expedition, the center features a special exhibit on Sgt. Charles Floyd. A couple miles south of the interpretive center is the Floyd Monument, which resembles the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.

Head to Palmer’s Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe to check out its supply of goodies, including the Bing, which is produced at the Palmer plant. Next, stop in at the Jolly Time Popcorn Museum at the Koated Kernel Shoppe for a look at the history of one of the nation’s most-popular popcorn producers. You’ll leave with a bag full of popcorn treats.

With plenty of restaurants to choose from in Sioux City, you’ll want to visit Taqueria La Juanita for authentic Mexican food. Bring cash, as they don’t accept cards. From buffalo wings to handmade pizza, Bob Roe’s Point After has been a local favorite for nearly three decades.

Related post: If you want more ideas on what to do, here’s a local’s guide to the best things to do in Sioux City!

Girl on the stage at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Clear Lake & Mason City

The two cities, about four hours northeast of Omaha, combine for an excellent winter getaway. Mason City’s MacNider Museum is home to a collection of puppets that were used in the movie “The Sound of Music.” Architect fans will want to reserve a tour of the Historic Park Inn, the lone remaining hotel in the
world designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Take in the history of rock-n-roll at the Surf Ballroom. Known for being the last place that young musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper performed before their plane crash, the ballroom serves as a shrine to the trio, as well as featuring instruments and other memorabilia from performers.

Downtown Clear Lake is home to several boutiques and shops. Larson’s Mercantile is a great spot to pick up souvenirs and a few treats. The Red Geranium is the spot to pick up home décor accessories. Emerson’s by the Lake features women’s clothing and accessories.

Grab a hot drink at Cabin Coffee and take a stroll along Clear Lake. Afterward, stop by Cookies, etc. for outstanding baked goodies.

Each February, Surf Ballroom hosts the three-day Winter Dance Party. Concerts and other activities take place, featuring classic musicians.

In mid-February, giant cats, whales, horses, and more take over the frozen water of Clear Lake, as the city celebrates the Color the Wind Festival. Featuring hundreds of kite pilots from around the world, the event should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Related post: My Clear Lake Bucket List

Both cities have outstanding restaurants. In Mason City, Thai Bistro is an excellent option for Thai and sushi. Pro’s is home to loose meat sandwiches (an Iowa favorite) and more.

For a taste of rock-and-roll, or great burgers, Clear Lake’s Surf District Rock-n-Roll Grill is the place to visit. For pizza, check out The Other Place, where you can create your own pizza or order one of their specialty pies.

Iowa is home to several outstanding attractions to visit year-round. Winter offers an opportunity to explore museums and other indoor attractions, as well as take advantage of the snow and try your hand at skiing, tubing, or snowboarding. As you head out, always check the weather forecast and drive safely.

Cure Midwest cabin fever with a winter getaway in Iowa. Here are six ideas for Iowa winter vacations, with tips on what to do and where to eat. Iowa cities include Des Moines, Waterloo, Dubuque, Quad Cities, Clear Lake and Mason City.

Visit Lincoln History In 5 Quick Stops

Plaza in the Haymarket of Lincoln

One of my friends is a wealth of Nebraska knowledge. So, when Gretchen told me she’d written a new book, “A History Lover’s Guide to Lincoln,” I knew it would be something packed with information…and maybe, travel inspiration. I’ve been to Lincoln many times, but it’s always good to have a new reason to visit.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I received a complimentary copy of “A History Lover’s Guide to Lincoln” in order to write this review.

About the book

Gretchen Garrison published  “A History Lover’s Guide to Lincoln” in 2020. It’s divided into sections that explore the history of dozens of buildings in the city, including the areas most visitors are familiar with: Downtown Lincoln, the Haymarket, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"A History Lover's Guide To Lincoln" book

I thought it was interesting to read how some of my favorite places, like Rococo Theater, got their start. Rococco was originally Lyric Theater, which presented vaudeville before closing in 1929.

Tip: Gretchen points out that you can see an artifact from the old Lyric Theater – the painted curtain – at Barrymore’s next-door.

The Appendix in the book is full of more ways to explore Lincoln. If you want to see works by Lincoln artists, Gretchen shares where to see public sculptures, galleries and other displays of known Lincoln artists. She also has a section for Lincoln architects.

A Mini Lincoln History Tour

Want to do a mini history tour of Lincoln? Here are a few of my favorite Lincoln attractions, each with their own bit of history shared in the book. These buildings are fairly close to each other, making it a manageable walking or driving experience.

Morrill Hall

Where: 645 N. 14th St.

Dad and kids standing by Archie the Mammoth, located in front of Morrill Hall in Lincoln, Neb.

Why: This is Nebraska’s wonderful natural history museum located on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. The photo opp with Archie the Mammoth in front of the building is just the start. Venture inside too see the unique collection of mammoth bones and native Nebraska species.

If you’re visiting Lincoln with kids, don’t skip the children’s area in Morrill Hall. There is an admission fee to Morrill Hall.

Tip: If have time, make plans to visit the Nebraska History Museum or the Lincoln Children’s Museum near campus.

Related post: Best Things To do With Kids In Lincoln

Kimball’s Administration Building

Where: 12th and R streets

Why: This building is now home to the remarkable contemporary art museum, Sheldon Art Gallery. The gallery is FREE to visit.

Beatrice Creamery Building

Where: 701 P St.

Why: This grand building in the Haymarket is home to two of my favorite must-visit places in Lincoln: Ivanna Cone, a cute ice cream shop, and Indigo Bridge Books, a wonderful, independent bookstore.

Tip: The alleyway next to the building is Art Alley, an impressive block of murals and artwork. Visit at night for the full affect.

H.P. Lau Coffee & Spice Annex Telesis Inc.

Where: 729 Q St.

Why: This awesome warehouse is now home to Lazlo’s and Empyrean Brewing. I love the food here, plus the beer is top notch. It’s family-friendly, as well.

Exterior of Lazlo's and Empyrean Brewing Co. in the Haymarket of Lincoln.

FYI: Lazlo’s was Nebraska’s first brewpub, which opened in 1991 at a nearby site. 

Hotel Lincoln

Where: 141 N. Ninth St.

Reception desk at the Graduate Hotel in Lincoln. The building was originally the Hotel Lincoln.

Why: This grand, seven-story building has gone through a few hotel iterations, starting first in 1890 as Hotel Lincoln. For a time, it was also a Holiday Inn. Today, it’s the chic Graduate Lincoln Hotel.

Button to read more Nebraska stories

Like this post?

Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter sharing family travel ideas, giveaways and more! Subscribe here.

A unique way to visit Lincoln, Nebraska: Exploring its history! Here's a mini history tour of Lincoln inspired by a new book called "A History Lover's Guide to Lincoln."

A Bookworm’s Road Trip Inspired By Famous Nebraska Authors

Willa Cather exhibit. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Nebraska is one of those “gem” states. It’s whimsical, it’s beautiful, it’s rugged, it’s competitive, and it’s fun.

I know other states have plenty of great qualities, but I think there’s something about this diverse state that makes it perfect for just about everyone. 

Whether you’re in it for the museums, hiking, agritourism, boating, theatre — you name it — there’s something for you. There’s even something for people like me, who would much rather curl up with a good book than step foot on a hiking trail. 

Nebraska has been called home by more than a few extremely influential literary figures, and with well-maintained historical sites dedicated to these incredible authors, it’s easy to turn a road trip into something fun and educational.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking the link, I receive a small referral stipend.

Willa Cather (Red Cloud, Neb.) 

Known for: “O Pioneers!,” “My Antonia,” “Death Comes for the Archbishop

A view of downtown Red Cloud, Nebraska. You can see the sign for the Willa Cather State Historic Site on a building on the lefthand side of the road.
Photo courtesy Robert Olsen

When it comes to famous Nebraskan authors, it doesn’t get much more prolific than Willa Cather. Recognized by notable critics as “…one of the most important American novelists of the first half of the 20th Century,” Cather is listed among greats like Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. 

Willa Cather lived most of her life in Red Cloud, Neb., and the city has become a literary destination visited by people from across the nation.

The National Willa Cather Center is only the beginning of Cather-related features in Red Cloud, alongside tours of Cather’s childhood home, literature-centric events, and even the recently-renovated and reopened Red Cloud Opera House. 

Important Addresses:

  • National Willa Cather Center, 425 N. Webster St., suite 2466, Red Cloud, Neb.
  • Willa Cather’s childhood home, 241 N. Cedar St., Red Cloud, Neb.
  • Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, 5 miles south of Red Cloud, Neb.

Mari Sandoz (Chadron, Neb.)

Known for“Old Jules,” “Crazy Horse,” “Buffalo Hunters,” years of Native American advocacy

Mari Sandoz was born in Mirage Flats, Neb., near Hay Springs. With an in-depth knowledge of life in the Sandhills, and a passion for sharing the history of and advocating for Native Americans, her writings have become an important part of Nebraska’s cultural history.

Exterior of Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center in Chadron, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Daniel Binkard/Chadron State College

Through extensive in-person interviews of Crazy Horse’s peers, she wove together the infamous biography of the celebrated warrior in a time when many people had no interest in the persecution of the Native Americans. 

You can visit the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center on the Chadron State College campus in Chadron, Neb. The center has exhibits and archives available, along with educational programming coordinated by the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society. Admission is free. 

Important Address:

  • Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center at Chadron State College, 1101 Main St., Chadron, Neb.

What’s nearby: Chadron State Park

John G. Neihardt (Bancroft, Neb.)

Known for: “The Divine Enchantment,” “A Cycle of the West,” “Black Elk Speaks

At the age of 11, John G. Neihardt, along with his mother and two sisters, settled in Wayne, Neb. Neihardt would eventually graduate from Wayne Normal College at 16, and move to Bancroft, Neb, where he worked as the editor of the local weekly publication, “The Bancroft Blade.” 

The exterior of the John G. Neihardt Study in Bancroft, Nebraska.
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

His body of work is massive, beginning with the poetry he began writing at the age of 12, and progressing to his position as Nebraska’s Poet Laureate at age 40.

One of his most famous works, “Black Elk Speaks“, grew from his acquaintance and fascination with Native American tribes of the region. 

The John G. Neihardt State Historic Site in Bancroft offers an interestingly varied experience. You can visit the “Sacred Prayer Hoop Garden,” designed by Neihardt and inspired by Oglala Lakota Holy Man, Black Elk, as well as visit Neihardt’s study and the memorial room, dedicated to his life. 

Important Address:

  • John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, 306 Elm St., Bancroft, Neb.

Bess Streeter Aldrich (Elmwood, Neb.) 

Known for: “The Rim of the Prairie,” “A White Bird Flying,” “A Lantern in Her Hand

Bess Streeter Aldrich published nine novels, one novella, two short story compilations, and over 160 other short stories and articles over the course of her 40-year career.

She and her husband settled in Elmwood, Neb., where she raised their children and supported them through college by way of her literary earnings, once her husband passed away in 1925.

She was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Nebraska in 1934, and was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame posthumously in 1973. Aldrich’s novel, “A Lantern in Her Hand“, is read in many high school English classrooms across the country, providing a heartfelt, authentic look into the life of Midwestern pioneers.

You can visit the Aldrich House and Bess Streeter Aldrich Museum in Elmwood, Neb. You can enjoy tours of both the author’s home and the museum for a small admission fee.  

Important Addresses:

  • Aldrich House, 204 E F St., Elmwood, Neb.
  • Bess Streeter Aldrich Museum, 124 W. D St., Elmwood, Neb.

What’s nearby: Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari

Button to read more Nebraska stories

Like this post?

Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter sharing family travel ideas, giveaways and more! Subscribe here.

This is a great way to explore Nebraska - road trip to destinations related to famous Nebraska authors and Nebraska poets! This is the ultimate list of places to visit in Nebraska if you consider yourself a bookworm.

21 Awesome South Dakota Road Trip Stops

Is your road trip passing through South Dakota? You’ll need a few pit stops to stretch your legs or grab some grub. I’ve traversed the state enough times to have some favorite stops to recommend.

Black Hills billboard

Favorite road trip stops in South Dakota

1. Wall Drug

After a thousand signs along the interstate telling you to stop, how could you not? Don’t skip this kitschy, fun place. Take your requisite photo on the jackelope, wait in line for the divine doughnuts, and buy the bumper sticker.

Where: 510 Main St., Wall

2. Reptile Gardens

An epic roadside attraction if there ever was one, Reptile Gardens puts you up close to snakes, alligators, tortoises and many more. You’ll spend a few hours here, especially if you attend an animal show. Admission does apply.

Where: 8955 US-16, Rapid City

One of the most well-known free attractions in Rapid City, Dinosaur Park.

3. Dinosaur Park

This is more of a nostalgic pit stop than anything. The seven giant dinosaur sculptures have been towering over Rapid City since 1936. Snap your photos at this quick stop before moving on.

Where: 940 Skyline Drive, Rapid City

Related post: 17 Fun Things To Do In Rapid City

Kids in front of a mural in Art Alley, located in Rapid City, South Dakota.

4. Art Alley

If you want a quick stop to stretch our legs, Art Alley is a great option. Stroll this block-long alley to see the colorful murals and artful tags that are begging to be in your Instagram feed. It is free to visit.

If you want to make it a longer pit stop, stroll around downtown Rapid City looking for all of the statues of presidents.

Where: 599 Seventh St., Rapid City

Exterior of the Chapel of the Hills in Rapid City, South Dakota

5. Chapel of the Hills

It’s a bit of a drive through neighborhoods to find this hidden architectural gem, but it’s worth it. Chapel of the Hills is a wooden replica of Borgund stavkirke, which was built around 1150 in Laerdal, Norway.

There’s also a small museum and prayer trail. It’s free to visit, and donations are accepted.

Where: 3788 Chapel Lane, Rapid City

Inside one of the cabins at Cosmos Mystery Area in Rapid City

6. Cosmos Mystery Area

Wacky optical illusions mess with your sense of balance at Cosmos Mystery Area. This isn’t a quick stop since you have to take a guided tour (especially if you have to wait for the next one to start). It can be a little hokey with the stories about about hot spots causing the gravitational pull to change.

Where: 24040 Cosmos Road, Rapid City

Time a visit right to see the active dig site in action at Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

7. Mammoth Site

This active dig site is fascinating to visit, even with older children. You’ll learn about the 60+  Columbian and woolly mammoths that have been found there, plus other interesting creatures.

You can roam around after the tour and visit the exhibit hall and gift shop.

Where: 1800 U.S. 18 Bypass, Hot Springs

A waterslide at Evans Plunge
Photo courtesy South Dakota Tourism

8. Evans Plunge Mineral Springs

This place has been around for ages and it still is a hit with kids. You may even feel a bit of nostalgia if you visited when you were young.

If you haven’t visited, Evans Plunge is an indoor/outdoor pool with waterslides. It’s naturally warm thanks to thermal mineral water spring.

Where: 1145 N. River St,, Hot Springs

The Avenue of Flags that lead up to a great spot to view Mount Rushmore.

9. Mount Rushmore National Monument

Possibly the most iconic monument in the Midwest, Mount Rushmore is totally worth a stop. If you have a few hours, there are informative museums and hiking trails…and if you ask my kids, ice cream to purchase.

If you’re short on time, you are able to spot the monument from pull-offs soon the road.

Where: 13000 SD-244, Keystone

10. Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center

Located next to a former gold mine, the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center is part-history museum, part-geology, and apparently, part-putt putt. Just kidding. It’s not at all a putt-putt attraction, though I hear there’s a hole-in-one guaranteed there.

Where: 160 W. Main St., Lead

11. “Dignity of Earth and Sky”

This 50-foot-tall stainless steel statue of an indigenous woman is a sight to behold. She represents courage, preservation and wisdom among the Lakota and Dakota tribes. Plus, it’s FREE to visit.

Where: Near Chamberland off Interstate 90.

Parks in South Dakota that are worth the stop

12. Badlands National Park

Most national parks are worthy of at least a day, and I’ll venture to say Badlands National Park falls into that category.

And did we only stop momentarily to take in the sweeping view and then continue on our road trip? Yes.

If you’re short on time, too, drive the Badlands Loop Road along Highway 240 for spectacular views and possibly some wildlife spotting. Estimate about two hours or less for the drive and stopping.

Where: East of Rapid City

Hiking around Sylvan Lake I nCuster State Park in South Dakota

13. Custer State Park

There’s a lot to see here, but if you want just one place to go, make it Sylvan Lake. There’s a beautiful hike around the lake.

Not that you really want to drive even more, but Custer has a wonderful Wildlife Loop. You may be able to get out of the car to interact with the famous begging burros.

Where: 13400 US, US-16A, Custer

14. Falls Park

If you have time to do only one thing in Siooux Falls, stop at Falls Park to admire the waterfalls. If you have time to do two things, definitely add an ice cream pit stop in there at Falls Overlook Café.

Of course, there’s more to do there and Siouxland Families has the scoop.

Where: Sioux Falls, between North Phillips and North Weber and what would be about First through Fifth streets

A tour of Wind Cave, a national park located in South Dakota

15. Wind Cave National Park

Where: 10 miles north of Hot Springs

During non-COVID times, you can take guided cave tours. Short on time and/or have impatient young kids? Take the Natural Entrance Tour since it has the least amount of standing and listening. Also, layer up. It gets cold down there.

Besides the cave, you’ll spot wildlife there. We saw bison, prairie dogs and a coyote.

Storybook Island, a free park in Rapid City, South Dakota

16. Storybook Island

Call it a quirky, free attraction, call it a park. Storybook Island is a one-of-a-kind pit stop that allows families to stretch their weary legs. Inspired by fairytales and cartoons (many that are, ahem, trademarked), Storybook Island features playground structures and scenes that will keep kids busy for at least an hour.

Where: 1301 Sheridan Lake Road, Rapid City

Button for a South Dakota and Western Nebraska road trip itinerary.

Recommended South Dakota restaurants

17. Buffalo Burger and Bun Co. (Custer)

If you want a burger to tell your friends about, get in line at Buffalo Burger and Bun Co. I had the best hamburger in South Dakota there.

18. Firehouse Brewing Co. (locations in downtown Rapid City and in Hill City)

Firehouse Brewing Co. is an excellent combo of pub food and brewery, plus, it’s family-friendly. Both locations have great outdoor seating, but if I had to pick a location, it’s more scenic at Firehouse SmokeJumper Station in Hill City.

19. Purple Pie Place (Hill City)

I can’t say pie is something I often seek out, but the homemade goodness at Purple Pie Place is worth the side trip. And you can’t miss it, the building is literally all purple.

Interior of Harriet and Oak in Rapid City, complete with a VW van.

20. Harriet and Oak (Rapid City)

If your road trip stop is on the early side of noon, get your caffeine and pastry fix at this charming coffee shop in downtown Rapid City. Try the ham and cheese pasty (it’s like a very tasty Hot Pocket).

21. Armadillo’s Ice Cream Shop (Rapid City)

If you want ice cream, this is the place to go. You’ll likely find a line snaking around the block at this downtown Rapid City ice cream shop.

Like this post?

Subscribe to the FREE e-newsletter sharing family travel ideas, giveaways and more! Subscribe here.

Button to read more stories about South Dakota
Plan some memorable stops during your South Dakota road trip! Here are scenic stops, quirky roadside attractions, and historic monuments you will want to see. PLUS, tips on where to stop to eat in South Dakota!