18 Midwest Supper Clubs I Want To Visit

Supper clubs are a long-running Midwestern dining experience, but being a Nebraska native, it’s a foreign concept to me. After reading a book about the history of supper clubs and some of the restaurants that are still open in Iowa, I’ve been inspired to learn more about them and, who knows, maybe visit a few!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of “Iowa Supper Clubs” in order to review the book. This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking the link, I receive a small referral stipend. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

“Iowa Supper Clubs”

As long as I’ve known Megan Bannister, I’ve known her to be a knowledge foodie based in Iowa. It made since that she’d write a book about restaurants (she’s written a post about awesome Des Moines restaurants for me, after all).

Iowa Supper Clubs - This book shares a nostalgic look at the Midwestern phenomenon of supper clubs. There's even a chapter about the Iowa supper clubs that are still open!
Image courtesy Megan Bannister

“Iowa Supper Clubs” sets out to, first, explain what a supper club is (a relish tray isn’t a requisite, but “You know it’s one when you see it”). Then she dives into the history of supper clubs in Iowa.

My favorite part of the book covers the supper clubs in Iowa that are still open. (And if we’re being honest, the information about the ones that serve ice cream after-dinner drinks.)

Photo courtesy Megan Bannister

The nostalgia and community-oriented nature of supper clubs reminded me a lot about my own book, “Lost Restaurants of Omaha,” only in Megan’s book, there remains a few long-running establishments you can visit today. And I intend to do so.

So, read on to see which supper clubs I’m dreaming of visiting!

Iowa supper clubs I want to visit

The following is a list of Iowa supper clubs I found in Megan’s book that are still open in Iowa, starting with the ones closest to Omaha. Priorities, right? 

Exterior of Breitbach's Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa
Photo courtesy Travel Iowa

Note: These supper clubs may be operating under reduced hours and with social distancing restrictions in place. Call before visiting! (Not that you’ll be able to make a reservation, just so that you can know if they’re or offer curbside takeout)

Steak meal at Archie's Waeside, a supper club in Le Mars, Iowa
Photo courtesy Travel Iowa

Midwest supper clubs I want to visit

Inspired by Megan’s book, I began to seek what some of the classics around the Midwest were. Fodor’s even had a list. Iowa (and its abundant supper clubs) is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce wedge.

After creating my list of Iowa stops, I pondered what a Midwest supper club road trip would look like. I also pondered what my waist would look like after said road trip. Let’s not get into those details.

Note: These supper clubs may be operating under reduced hours and with social distancing restrictions in place. Call before visiting!

Starting first with the state that’s possibly most famous for its supper clubs: Wisconsin. I’m sure I’m missing a few giants, but among my Wisconsin supper club list are:

Oh, sure, there are more, so check out “Wisconsin Supper Clubs” if you want more insight into the state’s supper club fascination.

And, then one of my favorite states to vacation in, Minnesota, has its share of lovely options. By lakes, no less. Here are a few ones on my radar:

  • Bar Harbor (Brainerd Lakes area)
  • Fisher’s Club (Avon…and supposedly you shouldn’t miss the breaded walleye fish fry) 
  • Crooner’s Lounge and Supper Club (Minneapolis)

And last, but certainly not least, are some of the supper clubs of Illinois. I got a taste of supper clubs in downtown Chicago at the Tortoise Supper Club. A few other classics I’d like to visit:

  • Millie’s Supper Club (Chicago)
  • Timmerman’s Supper Club (East Dubuque – and said to have a beautiful sunset view overlooking the Mississippi River Valley)

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Supper clubs are truly a Midwestern tradition! Here are more than a dozen I want to visit, starting with the ones closest to me - the Iowa supper clubs!

9 Nifty Facts About Waubonsie State Park

Tucked away in a remote part of southwestern Iowa, Waubonsie State Park is dream for those wanting to enjoy nature away from crowds. Visitors can enjoy shaded woodlands and prairie ridges while at the park. Read on to learn more about this hidden Iowa State Park gem.

1. Where is Waubonsie State Park

Founded in 1926, Waubonsie State Park is located at 2585 Waubonsie Park Road in Hamburg, Iowa. It’s about 60 miles south of Omaha, and not too far off of Interstate 29.

2. You’re in the Loess Hills

If you’re not familiar with the Loess Hills and what makes them so special, don’t skip this section. Loess soil (pronounced “luss”) is a unique landform found only in the Loess Hills along the eastern edge of the Missouri River Valley and China. The hills were formed by winds carrying silt and glacial material and depositing them into massive drives.

Hiking in the Loess Hills at Waubonsie State Park in Iowa

I’d compare hiking at Waubonsie State Park to hiking at one of my favorite parks near Omaha, Hitchcock Nature Center. Hitchcock still beats Waubonsie, not only because it’s so close to Omaha. Hitchcock has a superior nature center and a neat lookout tower.

What Waubonsie has going for it is its remote location. There were very few people at the park on a beautiful summer day. I’m talking about one of those perfect days when there’s no humidity and it’s not even 90 degrees.

Hitchcock Nature Center is no longer a hidden gem, and in the last year or two, we’ve always crossed paths with other hikers. If you like solitary time, consider Waubonsie over Hitchcock.

Related post: 3 Places To Hike In The Loess Hills

3. Most trails are less than a mile

If you’re a true hiking enthusiast, this fact won’t likely sound enticing. But, for the rest of us who are more casual about our hiking experiences, it’s good news.

Downhill trek down a trail at Waubonsie State Park

If you’re a true hiking enthusiast, this fact won’t likely sound enticing. But, for the rest of us who are more casual about our hiking experiences, it’s good news.

There aren’t many long trails in Waubonsie, though many connect to each other. I wasn’t too impressed with the signage on the trails indicating which paths to take. We had a map and thought we were on Bridge Trail but we were really on the more moderate level Valley Trail at one point.

Here are the trails at the park:

Overlook Trail – An easy trail that leads to a scenic view of the treetops and the Missouri River Valley. There are some stairs, though. (.1 mile)

Mincer Interpretive Trail – An easy hiking trail near the picnic area. (.3 miles)

Ridge Trail – An easy trail you can take after doing the Overlook Trail. (.4 miles)

Bridge Trail – Like Ridge Trail, it’s near the Overlook Trail, so it’s an easy add-on to extend your trail time. (.6 miles)

Valley Trail – This is a short, but moderate hike through the forest. Expect some inclines. (.7 miles)

Sunset Ridge – This is the longest hiking trail in the park, and at a moderate rating. If you combine it with Mincer Trail, it’s a full loop. (2.1 miles; for 2.4 miles when combined with Mincer Trail).

There’s also Equestrian Trail that’s 5 miles long, and i’s in another area of the park.

The short path up to the scenic overlook at Waubonsie State Park

4. About the park’s namesake

Wabaunsie State Park is named for Chief Waubonsie of the Pottawattamie tribe. You may recognize Pottawattamie. Council Bluffs, just across the Missouri River from Omaha, is located in Pottawattamie County.

5. Waubonsie has a Lewis & Clark connection

If you make the short trek to the park’s scenic overlook, you’ll notice some faded signs. One explains how the park is a site on the historic Lewis & Clark Trail.

William Clark had written about the area’s “bald-pated hills.”

6. You can find CCC structures in the park

The Civilian Conservation Corps was a voluntary public work relief program in the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the young men in the program built structures around the country.

A picnic structure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s or 1940s

At Waubonsie, you may find the two shelters that were built by CCC workers. They’re pretty odd shelters, shaped like a mushroom.

My son and I found one of the shelters on our way from the Overlook to Valley Trail.

7. You can camp there

You aren’t going to find an abundance of lodging near Waubonsie State Park, since it’s in a pretty rural area of Iowa. However, the park offers plenty of accommodations if you want to rough it.

There are 42 campsites, 24 that have electrical hookups. There are modern shower and restroom facilities there, as well as a dump station. The equestrian campsite has 36 campsites and non-modern restroom facilities.

The forest of Waubonsie State Park in Iowa

I’m more of a cabin kind of camper, and Waubonsie has a few options. There is a two-bedroom and three-bedroom cabin that are open year-round. The larger cabin has a bathroom; the smaller one does not. Both cabins have heating and air conditioning.

There are five camping cabins (a bit more rustic). The cabins have A/C, but no heat.

Reservations for campsites and cabins can be made online here.

Unlike other state parks near Omaha (and located in Nebraska), this park doesn’t convenience store for any supplies you may have forgotten.

8. You can now boat at Waubonsie

Back in pre-kids life, I went to Waubonsie and it was strictly a hiker’s kind of place. But now, the park has added the Wa-Shawtee Unit, and with it, Lake Virginia. It’s limited to electric motors only.

The 7-acre lake is good for fishing. You’ll find largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish.

Bring your own canoe or kayak if you want to paddle the lake.

Fun story: I tried to find this lake during our summer visit. Followed the signs and everything. We never found it. But I swear, I know there’s a lake there.

9. The state park is near fun stuff

During non-COVID times, you could plan a visit to time out with the state’s largest outdoor rodeo. It’s held each July in Sidney, Iowa. Sidney is the closest town to Waubonsie State Park; it’s 6 miles north.

If you didn’t get enough of trees at Waubonsie, the park is only 9 miles from Nebraska City, Nebraska (the birthplace of Arbor Day). There are a lot of things to do in Nebraska City, but if I had to pick one thing, I recommend you go to the Arbor Day Lodge Tree adventure. It has an easy hiking trail, the very cool Treetop Village, apple orchards, children’s outdoor education area, and more.

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Waubonsie State Park is a beautiful, wooded park in southwest Iowa. Located in the Loess Hills, the terrain is unique in the USA, and the trails are not too challenging. Read on for interesting facts about this Iowa State Park.

31 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.
  • Alpacas of the Heartland (7016 County Road 39, Fort Calhoun, Neb.) – Make a reservation to visit this small non-profit one morning, as you’ll get a bag of carrots to feed more than 30 alpacas. Hours are limited.
  • 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)
A selfie with an alpaca at Alpacas of the Heartland in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska.

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) 

Flower Maze

There are gardens and botanical gardens, and then there’s something called a flower maze.

Picking out flowers for a make-your-own bouquet at A-Mazing Flowers & Studio in Prague, Nebraska.
  • A-Mazing Flowers & Studio (103 W. Center Ave., Prague, Neb.) – This small-town attraction is gaining a lot of attention for its unique claim to fame: The world’s only cut flower maze. You’ll learn a lot about flowers as you make your way through the maze, pointing to the flowers you want to add to your very own bouquet. You’ll want to book your tour far in advance. (And if time allows, add a flower-press experience to your visit)

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!

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.

Awesome Things To Do In Des Moines On A Weekend Getaway

Des Moines, Iowa, is one of those cities that I take for granted that it’s so near. We’ve visited the city just a handful of times since I started this blog, and each time, we discover something new and exciting. It’s probably time I compile some of the greatest hits of our DSM adventures for you!

COVID-19 Update: Businesses in the state of Iowa is opening at a limited capacity, so double check before your visit to see what the restrictions are. Either contact the restaurant or attraction or see if there is an update on Catch Des Moines, the city’s official tourism website. Check the Iowa Department of Public Health for the latest health updates.

Plan a weekend getaway using this list of fun things to do in Des Moines,  Iowa. List includes attractions, must-try Des Moines restaurants, and tips  on what to do with kids. #Iowa #DesMoines #DSM #Midwest #Travel #familytravel

Des Moines Attractions

Discover Des Moines attractions, museums, and restaurants to visit on your next weekend getaway. Here are a few of my favorites, as well as a few that are on my to-visit list for our next trip.

Sample family-friendly weekend itinerary for Des Moines

We’ve “done” Des Moines in two different ways: As an extended pitstop on a longer road trip through Iowa, and as a dedicated weekend ‘o fun.

Based on both experiences, and on my experience of always stopping at a particular restaurant in Des Moines every.single.chance. I get, here is my suggested itinerary.

Day 1

Spend the day in downtown Des Moines. If it’s a Saturday and it’s summer, stroll through the farmer’s market. Sample a few foods as you make your way down the street to your first destination: The Science Center of Iowa.

After a few hours there, you’ll be hungry. Lucky for you, Fong’s Pizza is on the same block. Get the crab rangoon pizza. Just trust me.

If your kids are, somehow, still full of energy, have them run it out at the Pappajohn Sculpture Garden. If you’d rather be indoors, head to the state capitol building for a tour.

End the night with a crazy huge burger at Zombie Burger in the Historic East Village.

Slice of crab rangoon pizza at Fong's Pizza  in Des Moines, Iowa

Day 2

Hope you’re rested. Today you can choose between thrills at Adventureland or history and cows at the Living History Farms. Either way, you’ll be walking a lot and probably really hot by the end of the day.

If you’re at Adventureland, just plan on eating in the park for lunch.

At the Living History Farms, you’re not farm from the Machine Shed. The servings are huge, so I hope you’re hungry.

For dinner, pick something off Megan’s list of the best restaurants in Des Moines. And, um, take a shower before you go.

Slice of chocolate cake at the Machine Shed in Des Moines, Iowa

Where to stay in Des Moines

To be honest, I don’t have a favorite hotel in Des Moines, but I can recommend a few that are near some attractions, and maybe that will be enough of a deciding factor.

If you are planning to spend a day or two at Adventureland, I wrote about the hotel that’s super close to the amusement park.

If your plans take you to West Des Moines (or further), we stayed at the Wildwood Lodge in Clive. This one had a pretty cool lodge theme to it and the kids loved the pool.

15+ Things To Know About Wabash Trace Trail (Plus Taco Ride Tips)

Omaha has a pretty decent amount of paved and mountain bike trails, but every so often, we come across a trail that outshines the others. I’m talking about the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, which yes, isn’t in Omaha, but it’s close enough. Let me tell you about this long trail in southwestern Iowa.

Related post: 15+ things to do in southwest Iowa with kids

Where is the Wabash Trace Nature Trail?

The Wabash Trace Trail is a rails-to-trail path in western Iowa stretching from Council Bluffs to Blanchard. It’s 63 miles of crushed limestone and, for the most part, it’s pretty straight and flat (being a former railroad route and all).

Girl riding a bike in the fall on the Wabash Trace Trail in Iowa

Most people that I know, ie. those living in the Omaha metro area, start in Council Bluffs. The access point in Council Bluffs is on the south end of town, not far from Iowa School for the Deaf. There’s a park near the trail where you can leave your car, as well as a Lewis Central School District school parking lot.

I’ve biked this trail mostly, but there are quite a few runners and walkers on the trail, as well.

A few things to know about the trail

This trail is maintained by two nonprofits and volunteers, not taxpayer money. So, it’s extremely important to pay the minor trail pass fee so surfaces and bridges can be maintained.

And so trees and debris can be removed from the path.

A fallen tree blocks the path on the Wabash Trace Trail in southwest Iowa

The last I’d checked, the fee is $2 per day for anyone between the ages of 12 and 64, or an annual pass of $20. You simply drop your fee or donation in the collection poll at any trailhead. Annual bike passes are available at local bike shops.

The northern half of the trail, where I’m most familiar with, offers vistas of the Loess Hills. I’ve yet to make cover the entire distance. If you want to, there are places to stay overnight, making it a manageable overnight or weekend trip.

Must-stop on the trail: Mineola

Most Omaha bikers of any skill level can make the out-and-back trip to Mineola. It’s not easy — it’s nearly 20 miles in all — but it can be done.

Why Mineola? It’s the first town stop on this trail when you depart from the Council Bluffs trailhead. And it’s home to one of the first restaurants that’s a short ride off the trail: Tobey Jack’s Mineola Steakhouse.

Exterior of Tobey Jacks Mineola Steak House in Iowa

It’s located at 408 Main St., so about a block or so from the trailhead in Mineola. The town isn’t huge, so it should be fairly easy to find.

What to like about it? Outdoor seating and lots of it!

We ordered a few appetizers to split, but there’s also a kid’s menu and much heartier fare to choose from.

Riding with kids on the Wabash

There is a Wabash trail map you can check online to see the distances between each stop. We rode the Council Bluffs to Mineola leg of the trail with two kids ages 7 and 9.

Mom and daughter on the Wabash Trace Trail in southwestern Iowa

My kids are fairly seasoned bikers for their young age, so the 9.6-mile one-way ride wasn’t too difficult, but it did require us a stop to rest each way.

The good news about that route:

  • – It’s mostly shaded. I love a good route with towering trees.
  • – There are a few bridges to cross, which are always fun for kids. There’s also a tunnel.
  • -It’s pretty straight and flat, so kids who aren’t that sure on their two wheels don’t have sharp turns or steep downhills to worry about. While it looks flat, you will occasionally notice a slight incline, though.
  • – I enjoyed the scenery. It’s very easy to feel removed from the rest of the world and yet you’re not very far from the city.
  • – There’s at Mineola restaurant called Tobey Jack’s to look forward to at the turnaround point. You can order food or get a frozen treat out of the cooler. Grown-ups, there is also beer on the menu.
Boy biking on a bridge on the Wabash Trace Trail

The bad news about that route:

  • – The path is made of crushed limestone, so if you own a road bike, you’re not going to want to take it on this trail.
  • – My kids became bored with the trail being so straight.
  • – The route does involve crossing a few country roads. They aren’t busy roads, at least, but you just have to be ready to stop occasionally to look both ways for cross traffic.
  • – Water fountains are not found along this route. We refilled at our mid-way point.
  • – Bathrooms are also not a given on this trail. You may just have to use the great outdoors, mostly. We did find a port-a-potty at Margaritaville, a funny little picnic area not too far from Mineola. If you can hold it, wait until you get to the restaurant in Mineola, though.
Wabash Trace trailhead

The popular Taco Ride on the Wabash Trace Trail

Perhaps you’ve heard of a Thursday night bike ride called The Taco Ride. It’s the exact same route I took with the kids, from Council Bluffs to Mineola.

Margaritaville during the day is just a quiet picnic area to rest on the Wabash Trace Trail. During the Taco Ride, it's packed with people.

This popular weekly event draws hundreds and sometimes thousands of cyclists, and it’s a lot of fun. While you may just breeze by Margaritaville on a day trip, it’s a must-stop during the Taco Ride.

It’s been going for decades now, and the Taco Ride got its name because the original restaurant you’d stop at offered discount tacos and beers on Thursday nights. The name stuck even when it turned into a steakhouse.

There is no set-in-stone start and end time, but most people head to the trail shortly after work ends on Thursday. Consider it the bike rider’s happy hour.

An Iowa microbrew beer served at Tobey Jack's Mineola Steak House

Is it kid-friendly, you might wonder? Well, I’ve been on the ride a few times in my younger days with friends and rarely saw a kid riding with a parent. I’d say kids wouldn’t be shunned, it’s just not the scene I’d want to bring a kid to.

But if you do want to bring kids, go early in the evening and head back before dusk.

The first view of Mineola heading south on the Wabash Trace Trail

There are some risks to the Taco Ride, if you aren’t prepared. Here are a few tips:

  • – The trail is not lit with street lights, so the bike ride back from Mineola is super dark. Bike lights are a must. Be on the lookout for those without bike lights. While you’re at it, don’t wear dark-colored clothes at night.
  • – Wear a helmet.
  • – It is pretty common for people to bring beers for the ride and/or partake in a few drinks in Mineola. Expect a few people to not be riding the straightest line.
  • – Warn others behind you of fallen tree limbs and cross streets.
  • – The Taco Ride in the summer can be pretty hot, but other times in the year, the temperatures will drop after the sunset. Bring layers.
  • – Bring water for yourself. And for others.
  • – Bring a repair kit for your tires and others who may encounter bike troubles along the way.
Link to more stories about Iowa

Find more things to do in Iowa by reading a few of my favorite posts:

14 Unique Trails In Iowa

101 Things To Do In Iowa

10 Things You Must Do In Council Bluffs In The Fall

Tips for biking the Wabash Trace Trail in southwest Iowa, a dirt path running more than 60 miles. What to expect if you bring kids, where's a good place to stop for lunch, and what's the big deal about the Thursday night Taco Ride. #Iowa #outdoors #Midwest #bikeride
Explore rural southwest Iowa with a bike ride along the Wabash Trace Trail. It's a kid-friendly trail, but this post includes tips for what to expect if you take kids. And if you haven't heard about the popular Taco Ride, this post explains what that is, too. #Iowa #bikes #familytime #trails #Midwest #ThisIsIowa