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!
Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is a fascinating Natural Landmark located right here in Nebraska!
See complete skeletons of barrel-bodied rhinos, three-toed horses, llama-like camels, and saber-tooth deer that were entombed in volcanic ash 12 million years ago. These skeletons are preserved for an amazing viewing and discovery experience!
The historical park is located in northeast Nebraska, near Royal.
Brownville is a charming small town that celebrates the arts in a big way. Seriously, they have more than their fair share of galleries and bookstores, as well as a winery and well-known summer theater.
The town has a lovely trail through it, as well. Add to your day trip by visiting Indian Cave State Park, located not too far from Brownville.
There's so much to do at Fort Robinson, one day will not be enough. The state park, one of Nebraska's most popular, offers typical park activities like horseback riding and natural history, as well as some more unique experiences like off-road jeep rides and horse-drawn stagecoach rides.
If you've ever dreamed of seeing a rodeo or attending a chuckwagon dinner, this is the park to go to.
Nebraska doesn't have many national parks, but one that tells the story of our state and the U.S.: Homestead National Monument in Beatrice.
Featuring educational centers, trails, and a Junior Rangers program, you can spend an afternoon here. Read on to learn more about experiencing hands-on history of the 1862 Homestead Act at this monument.
A gorgeous state park near the Missouri River, Indian Cave attracts campers and hikers from around the state. The name derives from the historic cave there, which isn't a cave you enter, that features prehistoric Native American petroglyphs.
This park has a small living history area and is known for its Halloween celebrations each year.
One of our favorite destinations in the state of Nebraska, Lincoln is full of fun things to do. A family-friendly city, don't skip taking the kids to Morrill Hall to learn about natural history, Lincoln Children's Museum, and the Lincoln Children's Zoo.
For food, head for downtown Lincoln and find something inviting in the Hay Market or go to our favorite, Honest Abe's.
You can spend an entire weekend at Mahoney State Park and never leave. There's horseback riding, a huge aquatic center with water slides, and putt putt golf, among other outdoorsy options. Reserve a cabin and have a blast.
But if you did so, you'd miss nearby attractions in Ashland. Consider planning a visit to nearby Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum or the drive-thru Wildlife Safari.
While most people think of Nebraska City as a fall destination to pick apples or meander pumpkin patches, it's also a fun place to visit in the summer.
The Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure is a must-visit for active families. It features trails, the TreeTop Village, and a nature playscape. Take a tour of the acreage and sample some of the rare, heritage apples.
For another orchard experience, go to Kimmel Orchard. While there, don't forget to order fresh apple cider donuts!
Niobrara River, tucked in the beautiful Sandhills of northcentral Nebraska, is a prime spot for canoeing and tubing. Most float trips plan to stop at Smith Falls, a tall waterfall that's absolutely freezing to dip your head into (and welcoming on a hot, summer day).
We stay the weekend for a trip like this, reserving a motel room in nearby Valentine. There are also options to camp along the river with outfitters.
North Platte has two historic sides to explore on a modern-day visit: Buffalo Bill and the railroad. Plan on learning a bit about both when you visit this western Nebraska city.
Home to several museums (including a children's museum) and Bailey Yard, is the largest switchyard in the world, there is plenty for the history buffs and train buffs to enjoy. But if you want just a fun time, plan a stop Cody Go Karts Fun Park.
You'll cover a lot of miles exploring the Panhandle region of Nebraska - it's the entire far northwestern part of the state.
Much of the state's most unique landscapes can be found in the panhandle, including Toadstool Geological Park and Scottsbluff National Monument. The area is also rich with history, from museums exploring pioneers, the fur trade, and Native American artifacts.
The region is also home to one of the state's quirkiest attractions: Carhenge, located near Alliance.
Its waterfall and scenic trails are a big draw, but Platte River State Park's popularity may be due to its proximity to Omaha and other state parks. Plan on a full weekend at the park, fishing, horseback riding, and letting the kids cool off at the sprayground.
Extend the fun by visiting the nearby Louisville State Recreation Area, which has a large inflatable obstacle course.
Plattsmouth is home to one of the state's most charming Main Streets, where you'll find shops, restaurants, and a small museum.
It's easy to pair a stop here with a longer visit to Nebraska City.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
Audubon offers great outdoor spots like the T-Bone Bike Trail, which is a paved bike trail that spans from Audubon south through Hamlin, Exira, and under I-80 into Cass County. Littlefield Recreational Area outside Exira offers camping, fishing, swimming at a beach, and more. Nearby you’ll find the “tree in the middle of the road” unique site as well. Downtown you’ll find the John James Audubon bird walk and a beautiful city park.
Restaurants like El Adobe and The Bakery on Broadway will fill up your tummy with delicious foods. Want to try a prize-winning tenderloin? Head to Darrel’s Place in Hamlin!
Nearby in Gray, you’ll find the Heritage Rose Garden, which features more than 200 varieties of roses and flowers. If you need something to do indoors, head to the Audubon Rec Center.
Enjoy a stay at the historic Taylor Hill Lodge. This century-old barn has been renovated into a lodge and it’s a great place to stay and enjoy Iowa countryside!
There is plenty to keep you and your family busy in Audubon County.
Clear Lake is the perfect place to plan a summer getaway! Families will enjoy visiting City Beach where you can take a dip in Clear Lake or have fun in the new splash pad area. We recommend grabbing a sandwich at nearby Starboard Market and having a picnic during your day at the beach.
Nature lovers will enjoy exploring Clear Lake by taking a tour on the Lady of the Lake, or by going on a walk at Central Gardens or either state park (Clear Lake or McIntosh). We also recommend staying in the yurts at McIntosh State Park.
History buffs will enjoy visiting the Surf Ballroom or the Cerro Gordo County Freedom Rock to learn about important stories and people that made an impact both locally and nationwide.
There is something for everyone in Clear Lake and don’t forget to get a black raspberry ice cream cone at the Viking Drive-Inn while you visit!
Read on about the Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip's stop at Viking Drive-Inn in Clear Lake.
Decorah is a small town full of outdoor adventures in northeastern Iowa. Located in the Driftless Area of the Midwest, the landscape is surprising in areas: Waterfall, rocky terrain, and Upper Iowa River, which National Geographic listed as one of the 100 Greatest Adventures in America.
On our visit, we stuck to paved path of Trout Run Trail for a bike ride, but the area is also popular with mountain bikers.
The city is proud of its Norwegian heritage, so get a sample of some of the Nordic delicacies at Ruby’s Restaurant and Catering. My favorite meal, though, was at Luna Valley Farm, which serves wood-fired pizza made from ingredients grown and raised by them. Don't forget to cap off your day with a beer from one of the local microbreweries!
You can easily spend a weekend in Des Moines, the state capital of Iowa, and not see all the highlights. From cultural experiences like the Science Center of Iowa and the Living History Farms to big thrills at Adventureland, the city has enough to keep any family busy.
Des Moines has a great restaurant scene. Among my favorites that I return to again and again are Fong's Pizza and Zombie Burger.
A great place for an Iowa summer getaway is Dubuque! There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
Some of my favorite things to do during the summer are: Ziplining at Sky Tours Dubuque, hiking at the Mines of Spain, and enjoying the Mississippi River. Several boat companies do river cruises, but if you have your own boat there are lots of sandbars that you can enjoy.
The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium and the Fenelon Place Elevator are worth a stop too.
The Yardarm has outside riverfront dining which is lovely on a warm day. Along Rhomberg Avenue you’ll find an independently-owned Dairy Queen, the menu is slightly different from the regular locations and it’s walk-up, like a human drive-thru!
The Hotel Julien and the Grand Harbor Resort are popular Downtown lodging options. However, if you are into camping, you’ll find a couple of campgrounds. Miller Riverview Park is very close to Downtown located on Schmitt Island, or just across the river in Wisconsin (a 10-minute drive), is the large Coconut Cove Resort, which is great for families.
Elk Horn is the “capital” of the Danish Villages. Learn about Dutch culture and history by visiting this small town.
The Museum of Danish America & the Danish Windmill Museum are great places to learn about the connection of Elk Horn to Danish culture along with the impact on our society. If you’re a wine fan, we recommend heading outside Elk Horn to Danish Countryside Winery.
Make sure to check out the other Danish Village of Kimballton. This town is home to the Hans Christian Anderson Little Mermaid sculpture park and fountain.
Get a taste for traditional Danish food like frikadellar and Abelskiver at the Danish Table. Award-winning tenderloins are available at Larsen’s Pub or grab delicious pizza at Grace on Main!
Looking for a place to stay? We recommend Blue Grass Inn & Suites in Audubon.
Estherville is most likely one of the most overlooked towns in Iowa. It is nestled along the Des Moines River and Fort Defiance State Park.
The state park has several beautiful hiking trails that challenge hikers, as well as the casual walker. The Des Moines River Water Trail provides more than 20 miles to explore by kayak, boat, or canoe. The outdoor enthusiast will fall in love with this area of the state.
Book an overnight stay at Little Swan Lake Winery/Bed & Breakfast. Here you can enjoy the rolling hills of Iowa, with a jaw-dropping view off of your deck.
Your visit would not be complete without a meal at Woody's Pizza, as it is one of the most recognizable restaurants in the state of Iowa.
A stroll around the town square will remind you how peaceful and beautiful life is in small-town America.
Right in the heart of north Iowa with easy access via US-20 or I-35, Mason City is an ideal summer getaway for families, with music, architecture, art, food, and plenty of greenery.
For fun, stroll or bike the Meredith Wilson footbridge and visit Music Man Square to learn more about the musical Music Man, River City, and how Mason City inspired it all. At the Charles H. MacNider Museum, find the adorable puppets from the Lonely Goatherd scene in Sound of Music, as well as works in a variety of mediums from many different artists, including paintings by Thomas Hart Benton.
Architecture aficionados will love the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Historic Park Inn and Stockman House, and will notice tributes to his style all over town, from century-old leaded glass to contemporary murals and more!
If all this fun makes you hungry, Northwestern Steakhouse and Black Dog BBQ will make sure you don’t stay that way, while Birdsall’s ice cream and Mama Sugar’s Cupcakery will be the icing on your delicious trip!
Want more info? Here’s the full take on visiting Mason City with kids.
Okoboji, and the collection of nearby towns and lakes, are one of the most popular summer destinations in the state. Whatever kind of lake vacation you wish for - quiet, active, or a party - you'll find it in Okoboji.
Boaters flock here, but since we don't own a boat, we cruised the lake with a canoe from our resort.
Make time to visit the historic Arnolds Park Amuseument Park, home to one of the oldest wooden rollercoasters in the U.S. Grab a cold treat at the Nutty Bar Stand after your afternoon at the amusement park.
If you can pull yourself away from the lakes, you'll find museums, bike trails, and a fun nature center in the area.
Just south of Cedar Rapids sits the small, Midwest town of Ottumwa – a city waiting to surprise you with numerous experiences!
Ottumwa’s tagline, “Let Us Surprise You,” was announced in 2016 as part of the city’s rebranding to maintain it’s proud past and cultivate an exciting future. So what does this mean for you? Ottumwa has exactly what families (like mine, and yours) are looking for, all the experiences in one place!
Not only did I find a city that reminded me of the small town I grew up in, but it also offered some of the bigger city vibes I crave as well. Visiting was a whirlwind experience of nostalgia and adventure, as well as anticipation to see even more of what Ottumwa’s future looks like. Ottumwa is growing. I can’t wait to bring my family back!
The Quad Cities - Betterndorf and Davenport in Iowa and Moline and Rock Island in Illinois - feel like one large city with small-town atmospheres. The Mississippi is the natural divider for the states and cities.
We visited on a particularly rainy weekend, so we spent most of our time indoors. There are several excellent museums, including the Putnam Museum (a science center crossed with natural history museum), Figge Art Museum, and the Familly Museum.
There are two free, not-to-miss places to include on your visit. The Fyxell Geology Museum located on the picturesque Augustana College campus, and is home to fossils and rocks and petrified dinosaur poop. (Kids love it)
The John Deere Pavilion is also a free attraction, with hands-on activities and an up-close look at farming equipment.
It's tough to say which city you should stay overnight in. But, they're all near each other so you can't really choose incorrectly.
Indoors and outdoors, Sioux CIty has plenty of activity options to fill a weekend.
Stone State Park and the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center in the city are two great places to hike. The trails at the nature center connect to the rest of Stone Park if you’re looking for a longer hike. The nature center is a must-visit if you have young kids.
Sioux City has a surprising number of museums for a city of its size. Some that I especially recommend to visitors include the Sioux City Art Center (the Grant Wood corn room is a must-see!), LaunchPAD Children’s Museum for little visitors, and the Sioux City Railroad Museum with its brand new grand-scale railroad now open for rides.
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)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A state park permit is required for vehicles. The Education Center is an additional fee (see the next section for details).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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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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.
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.
I love a good science center, since it has things that my kids will love but also things that I can enjoy. It's like my whole family can be kids here. Plan on spending a few hours at the Science Center of Iowa in downtown Des Moines. Read on for details on what to see and do.
Blank Park Zoo is a bit off-the-beaten-path compared to other Des Moines attractions, but it's a lovely place to spend an afternoon. There are animal encounters, a fun playground, and of course, a lot of animals.
Here's a freebie to add to your list of things to do in Des Moines: VIsit the state capitol building. Tours are free, and you get the chance to see the breath-taking library. We did take our little ones on the tour and they did OK, but would definitely appeal to an older age demographic more.
Our first introduction to the magnificent sculpture garden in downtown Des Moines was during the Des Moines Summer Art Festival (an even worthy of its own trip to the city). Since then, we've returned again and again.
The Pappajohn Sculpture Park is a free park to visit with more than 30 sculptures. While I admire a lot of the artwork there, I'd be lying if I didn't say all that green space is excellent for kids to get some energy released.
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.
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.
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.