April 12, 2018

New Family-Friendly Hotel In Lincoln’s Haymarket

When I look for hotels in Lincoln, Neb., I tend to stick to the Haymarket area. I love the cool shops and great restaurants within walking distance from a hotel, and the Haymarket is super close to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus and places like the Lincoln Children’s Museum. There’s a new family-friendly hotel in Lincoln’s Haymarket – Graduate Hotel.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary stay in order to write this review. I was not compensated to write this post. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

If you’ve been to Lincoln, you may recognize the Graduate Hotel has replaced the Holiday Inn that was in the Haymarket. The restaurant inside Graduate Hotel, John J’s Chow Hall, replaces the Red Onion.

What families like about Graduate Hotel

There are few things that stand out for the Graduate Hotel, as far as family-friendly amenities, and a few that work if your kids are older. Let’s start with a pool, which is about No. 1 on any traveling family’s list. There is a pool… but there is a caveat. It’s deep.

The pool at Graduate Lincoln is deeper than typical hotel pools. The pool deck had a foosball table and ping pong, plus access to some rooftop decks for lounging.

The shallowest it gets is still deeper than 4 feet. It’s great for confident swimmers, but not so much for little ones.

There are a few FREE game options that my family took advantage of, particularly the free arcade games in the lobby. Those were a blast from my past and my oldest, in particular, enjoyed playing them. They’re a little challenging for younger kids, though.

The pool area also has foosball and ping pong tables.

I think the older your kids are, the more they’re going to like staying at the Graduate in Lincoln.

What makes this hotel uniquely Nebraskan

Graduate Hotels is a chain that finds locations in college towns across the U.S., and then curates a look and atmosphere that reflects the community each hotel is in. For Lincoln, there’s a blend of Instagram-worthy designs, especially in the lobby, that’s paired with touches inspired by Nebraska’s landscape. There’s vintage-inspired corn print fabric and wallpaper, art inspired by the state’s national history, and more than a few Husker touches.

Simple touches in the room and lobby made it clear that thought went into the decor and tying things to Nebraska history and pop culture.

There is even an homage to Johnny Carson, native of Nebraska. The rooms all have nightstands that look like old-fashioned TVs.

The hotel’s restaurant, John J’s Chow Hall, is in tribute to John J. Pershing, a World War I general with Nebraska ties.

What’s near Graduate Hotel Lincoln

Graduate Lincoln is located in the historic Haymarket of Lincoln, Neb. Photo courtesy Graduate Hotels

You can’t beat the location of Graduate Lincoln! While the Haymarket is appealing for couples or friends on a group getaway, it also has some kid-friendly places.

Locally-owned Indigo Bridge Books & Cafe is a short walk from Graduate Lincoln. The children’s area has a great selection of books.

Indigo Bridge Books & Cafe about a block away from the hotel and has a darling children’s section. The building it’s located in, The Creamery, is also home to a great little ice cream shop called Ivanna Cone.

Art Alley is also nearby, and is possibly my favorite spot in all of Lincoln.

Art Alley is exactly what it sounds like. By day, it’s a simple alley with some sculptures and murals on walls and doors. At night, it transforms with light adding new dimensions.

For kid-friendly restaurants, I recommend Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill, which has an excellent kids’ menu (all entrees include ice cream for dessert). There are some chains that are kid-pleasers, as well, like Old Chicago, Mellow Mushroom, and Hurts Donut.

Hurts Donuts is known for having unique toppings and flavor combinations – from cereal and candy to bacon and maple. For simpler tastes, there’s always cake donuts with sprinkles and long johns.

There isn’t a playground nearby, though there is a small courtyard with a engine. You’re not far from Haymarket Park, for baseball games, or Pinnacle Bank Arena for a mix of sporting events and concerts. In the winter, there is an ice skating rink at the Railyard and in the spring through fall, you’ll find the Lincoln Farmer’s Market is steps away from the hotel.

Lost in Play in Lincoln had a bounce house, jumping pillow, foam pit, and climbing structures. It’s a sure way to tire your kids.

During this 24-hour visit, we went to Morrill Hall at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln Children’s Museum and Lost at Play. The first two are very near the hotel. Lost at Play is out of the way, for sure, but it is a unique space for a ton of active play. My kids loved it, and I thought the cost was reasonable (if you can stay away from the arcade).

A Novel Idea in Lincoln, Neb., had the best stairwell ever.

One last place to recommend: A Novel Idea, a used bookstore near UNL campus and Lincoln Children’s Museum. I passed time there while the kids and Mr. Wonderful were at the children’s museum.

If you go

Graduate Hotel

Where: 141 N. Ninth St., Lincoln, Neb.

Website

 

Plan a Lincoln getaway

It’s hard to capture all three levels of the Lincoln Children’s Museum in one shot.

You have a hotel recommendation, now you need an itinerary. Start with this 24-hour Lincoln itinerary! There’s a lot packed in there, but it’s all kid-friendly.

By far, my kids’ favorite place to visit in Lincoln is the Lincoln Children’s Museum. If you go, here are some things to do near the museum to round out your day. Another great place for families is the Lincoln Children’s Zoo.

 

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March 26, 2018

My Iowa Bucket List

The more I travel through Iowa, the more I realize I’ve just scratched the surface of what families can do in Iowa. The Great Iowa Road Trip highlighted fun on the water and by rail, and our weekend in the Amana Colonies gave us a taste of the cultural offerings of the state. But, there’s a lot more we have yet to see and do in Iowa.

Here’s my Iowa bucket list for exploring the rest of what the state has to offer:

Things to do in Iowa

Ride the world’s steepest, shortest scenic elevator – Bet you didn’t know that existed. It’s called the Fenelon Place Elevator, and it’s one way to discover a great view of Dubuque (not to mention see two other states while at the top).

Explore caves – Maquoketa Caves State Park in eastern Iowa is on my must-visit list, with its 16 caves you can explore (better pack the flashlight). If it’s on yours, too, make note you have to attend a brief program before setting out on your adventure. Unfortunately, we all have to wait for construction to end first (scheduled to run through Aug. 24, 2018).

Arnolds Park is an amusement park in the Iowa Great Lakes Region. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Iowa Great Lakes Region – I’m one of those rare people from Omaha who has never been to Okoboji or any of its nearby towns surrounding the lakes. It’s taken on mythical vacation status in my mind since everyone I know has fond childhood memories of trips there or goes every summer with their kids now.

Things I want to do there: Take the kids to Arnold’s Park; try a local brewer, like West O Brewing Co.; and I thinkThe Barefoot Bar at the marina looks incredibly fun. There’s also the new Dickinson County Nature Center that just opened, and it has a human-sized honeycomb to crawl through that I might attempt just to embarrass my kids.

Bernie’s Barnyard – So get this, my kids have never been to Adventureland in Altoona. I think 2018 will be the year since the theme park is opening a new kids area with two rides, games, and a playground. It’s been decades since I’ve been to Adventureland, so I don’t think we’ll spend our whole day at the barnyard, there’s a lot to see and our ticket would get us into Adventure Bay Waterpark.

Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa, is home to the only rollercoaster in the Western hemisphere with a negative-G loop. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Need For Speed –  One of Adventureland’s rollercoasters (The Monster) has the only negative-G loop in the Western hemisphere (which means you feel like you’re falling out of the coaster). I’m not totally convinced I want to have that feeling, but I’ll admit at least sounds cool. Ziplines are more of my speed. For the longest, fastest and highest ziplines in Iowa, I think I’ll head to Sky Tours Zipline in Dubuque.

Effigy Mounds is a national monument overlooking the Mississippi River. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Visit Effigy Mounds – I’ve seen pictures of this unique site in Harpers Ferry. Effigy Mounds is an American Indian burial and ceremonial site located in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. The national monument contains more than 200 mounds, and many are shaped like animals.

The Midway at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Iowa State Fair – To be included in the book “1,000 Places To See Before You Die,” the Iowa State Fair must be something that truly stands out over other fairs. For that reason alone it should be on every Iowa Bucket List. But there are also butter cows, legendary corn dogs, and Ye Olde Mill to see. Read Iowa State Fair tips here.

An artist’s rendering of what the Sycamore Falls will look like once it’s opened at Reiman Gardens in Ames. Illustration provided by Iowa Tourism Office

Reiman Gardens – I heard these gardens on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames are beautiful to visit. Expansion plans for Reiman Gardens should conclude fall 2018 or spring 2019, and will feature multiple waterfalls and a reflecting pool. While there, I think we’ll look for Elwood, the World’s Largest Concrete Garden Gnome.

RAGBRAI – Someday, not this year, but someday, I will ride RAGBRAI with a fun group of friends and Mr. Wonderful. If you’ve never heard of it, RAGBRAI is a huge bike ride across Iowa each year. Each stop is a chance to see a new community and enjoy the festivities they’ve planned for the bikers who are in town for a mere night.

Snake Alley in Burlington is called the “Crookedest Street in The World.” Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Walk the “crookedest street in the world – Burlington is home to Snake Alley, deemed by Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the “CROOKEDEST Street in the World.” I’ll walk it, not ride my bike up it, thankyouverymuch.

Exotic Animal Races – Prairie Meadows Race Track in Altoona has live horse racing from April to October, but once a year, things get crazy. Camels, zebras, and ostrich races are held in July (this year, it’s July 15). There are also corgi and dachshund races on the schedule, if that’s more of your speed. Word is it’s FREE and open to all ages but gets very, very crowded (and notably, open to all ages, doesn’t necessarily mean kid-friendly since it is a casino). Arrive early to get good parking, and if you want to beat the heat, make reservations to sit in the third floor club house.

The historic Squirrel Cage Jail is located in Council Bluffs. It may or may not be haunted. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Go to jail – Honestly, there is no good reason why I haven’t been to the Historic Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs. I used to work blocks away from it. It’s one of the oldest rotary jails in the United States (think “lazy Susan”-esque). Word is, it’s haunted, too.

The streets are scrubbed before the start of the Volksparades during the Orange City Tulip Festival. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Have a European getaway – I’d love to take the kids to Europe but realistically, European-inspired towns in Iowa are a more realistic getaway for us at this point. I can get a taste of Holland by visiting Orange City, Pella, or Elk Horn & Kimballton. Windmills? Find one in Pella or Elk Horn. Tulip festivals? Find one in Orange City and Pella (every May). I’m pretty excited to say I’ve got plans to go to Orange City’s this year; it’s held May 17-19, 2018. There are parades, a carnival, performers, and a ton more. I can also venture to Czech Village (Cedar Rapids) or Decorah for a little Norwegian heritage.

The Hotel Pattee in Perry was built in 1913 and has 40 individually decorated and themed rooms, plus a bowling alley. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Stay in a century-old hotel – Iowa has a handful of grand hotels, including the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel that’s still remains, the Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City. You won’t find many super close to Omaha except if you consider Perry, Iowa close. There, you’ll find the Hotel Pattee, built in 1913. Besides looking exceptionally charming, it has a bowling alley, and that my friends, is what you call a vacation hit when traveling with kids.

Hot Air Balloon – I just founds this out: You can make a reservation to ride in a hot air balloon during the National Balloon Classic in Indianola. I thought you just went to gaze at all the hot air balloons, but you can make a reservation to ride in one. Sign me up. This event is held annually in late July-early August.

Everything at Matchstick Marvels is built out of matchsticks. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Matchstick Marvels – This museum in Gladbrooke looks like one my kids would love. In the summer 2018, they will unveil a matchstick replica of the 1970 Dodge Charger from the “Fast & Furious” movies that’s more than 11 feet long.

The Iowa Bucket List For Your Sweettooth

Usually I roll everything into one list, but today, I feel like singling out food. Upon reviewing the list, it’s better to say this is the dessert bucket list for Iowa.

Try the nuns’ candies – There are nuns making caramels in Dubuque and they’re world-famous. I’ve got Monastery Candy on my list, and you can bet their hazelnut meltaways will be the first I try.

Van Veen Chocolates in Pella is one of the stops on the A to Z Foodie Trail in Iowa. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Complete the A to Z Foodie Trail – This is pretty ambitious and, for me, will likely take a few years. The trail is in Marion and Mahaska counties featuring 26 stops in a loop through Pella, Leighton, Oskaloosa, Knoxville and Pleasantville. I just need to stop at each place, get my selfie with the designated letter of the alphabet and move on quickly.

Dine at The Hall – The Hall in West Des Moines sounds like a pretty unique place for a meal and drink. There are food trucks inside a former 1890s railcar barn and iron foundry, and soon, Foundry Distilling Co. is set to open there.

Thanks to Blue Bunny Ice Cream, LeMars is the Ice Cream Capitol of the World. Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Ice Cream Capitol of the World – LeMars, in northwest Iowa, is the Ice Cream Capitol of the World (granted, this designation is self-proclaimed, but who am I to judge?). It got this designation for being the world’s largest producer of ice cream novelties in one location. The place to enjoy said ice cream has to be the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor.

And while I’m on the topic of ice cream, there’s an old-fashioned soda fountain in Grinnell I want to check out: Candyland Station. Their specialty is made of vanilla ice cream, marshmallow, chocolate toppings and Spanish peanuts.

More things for your Iowa bucket list

So, you’re probably wondering about a few things that seem like pretty obvious items that should be on the list. I agree, there are some that should be on the list. I’ve already seen them or did them, though, so they’re not on my bucket list. But they should be on yours if you haven’t. Here are additional Iowa bucket list items to consider:

Zombie Burger – This Des Moines staple is a visually cool place to visit…if you like zombies; if not, stay far away. The food is tasty and has fun names like the Dead Moines Burger. The wait is worth it.

Sleep in a yurt – You don’t find many yurts around here. I stayed at one in Clear Lake. Here’s how the night went down.  While you’re in Clear Lake, better stop by the legendary Surf Ballroom.

Hike in the Loess Hills – The Loess Hills are pretty unique land formations with soil found only in that small stretch along western Iowa and in China. Here are three of my favorite hikes in the Loess Hills.

Ledges State Park – Don’t skip canyon drive, which is a one-way route where the roadways are sometimes covered by Pea’s Creek. It’s kinda cool, but I’ve heard it can sometimes completely flood out the road way. The park is great for hiking and exploring the water ways.

Story City Carousel – This hand-carved wooden carousel in Story City was built in 1913 and still works. We stopped there for a quick ride and it was a hit with my young kids.

Des Moines Arts Festival – It’s one of the largest arts festival in the region, and pretty fun for families. We visited during our Great Iowa Road Trip.

Iowa State Capitol Building – I’m not one to visit state capitols, but even I had to stop and see the beautiful library there. Find the capitol building in Des Moines.

 

For more ideas, visit the Travel Iowa website or check this Pinterest board and start pinning:

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February 28, 2018

Nebraska Travel Book Recommendations

People have asked how I plan trips, what sites and resources I use to find off-the-beaten-path stops. I do quite a bit of research online, solicit other travel bloggers’ recommendations, and I request travel brochures from cities and states on my route. And books. I use travel books.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking the link, writers like me receive a teeny tiny payment for recommending it to you. Thanks for supporting me! I also received review copies of “Nebraska: Off The Beaten Path” and “Detour Nebraska.”

And those are great resources. To find the truly memorable things, though, the stuff that slips under the radar, I look to books.

When planning a trip through a state I know well (my home, Nebraska), here are the travel books I read to learn more about my destination and the hidden gems along the way:

Off The Beaten Path Series

Look to the “Off The Beaten Path” series for eclectic recommendations, especially when traveling the Midwest. These won’t necessarily be the biggest attractions, and some will be downright odd, but I’ve found the series to give me one or two additions to my itineraries each time I read one. Make sure you have the most recent version of your book, as is the case with any travel book, some information may have changed. Double check before going anywhere to be sure things are still open and you know the hours of operation.

Planning a Nebraska road trip? The newest edition of “Off The Beaten Path: Nebraska” will be published this Thursday.

I’ve used an earlier version of this book to plan our adventure in western Nebraska a couple years ago.

Looking through Diana Lambdin Meyer’s updates, I’ve found inspiration for day trip ideas from Omaha, as well as more thing I want to see when I’m at Lake McConaughy. I like the little side stories in the book about some attractions, as well as lists of special events, restaurants, and places to stay.

It’s useful for planning trips since it’s divided by regions and then by counties. If you have a destination in mind, it’s easy to find additions to your itinerary. When I was planning a road trip to Wichita, I found a reason to take a pit stop in Hebron, Neb. thanks to “Off The Beaten Path: Nebraska.” I mean, when else were we going to get a chance to sit on the world’s largest porch swing?

Detour Nebraska

I think planning Nebraska road trips is going to be a cinch combining tips from “Off The Beaten Path: Nebraska” and “Detour Nebraska” by Gretchen Garrison. Both have insightful tips for small town destinations that you just aren’t going to find online.

“Detour Nebraska” has a mix of hidden gems, historical sites, and main attractions for cities and towns in Nebraska. It’s a fairly new book so I haven’t done any road trips through Nebraska since I received the book, but I have a list of things to add to my next trip thanks to this book. Read about the five must-see places I’m adding to my Nebraska Bucket List thanks to “Detour Nebraska.”

100 Things To Do Series

I’m a sucker for lists. I’m not a completist, at least, so I only cherry pick from lists, but still. I love lists for planning trips.

Reedy Press has this series, 100 Things To Do Before You Die, for various cities throughout the U.S. The first that I’ve found for Nebraska is coming out April 15, 2018 (you can pre-order now). “100 Things To Do In Omaha Before You Die” is written by two friends of mine, Tim and Lisa Trudell, so I’m pretty excited to read through it to see what I’m missing in my own city.

More Nebraska Travel Books

Nebraska’s Curiosities – There’s a 2010 book out for Nebraska in the series called “Nebraska Curiosities: Nebraska Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff.”  According to the book cover, this one covers everything from the Avoca Quack Off (which I’ve never heard of, so a point for the authors) to the world’s largest covered wagon.

Culinary History of the Sandhills – OK, less travel book than cookbook and history of a region, but it offers insight to Nebraska’s famous Sandhills. Food plays a big role in the community.

Nebraska Beer – “Nebraska Beer: Great Plains History by the Pint” is definitely more of a history book, but since Nebraska breweries are pretty young compared to other regions, you’ll be able to visit most of the breweries in the book.


Omaha Food – Wondering where to eat when visiting Omaha? Rachel Grace’s 2015 book “Omaha Food: Bigger Than Beef” might tip you off to a few that will satisfy you. Chapters are divided by food types, so you got diverse foods (think Thai to Mexican), pizzas, Reubens, farm-to-table, and booze.

I’d love more book recommendations. Share your favorite Nebraska books that might help a fellow traveler explore the state. Thanks!

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February 11, 2018

What’s New At Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum

My last visit to Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Neb., was over a year ago to see the new Children’s Learning Center, a permanent exhibit that explores aspects of flight and engineering in a super fun way for kids. That was 2016, so it was well overdue for me to see what’s new at the museum, especially since there’s a kid-friendly exhibit there this winter.

If you haven’t visited Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum with your children yet, read this post!

We returned this winter to see a new temporary exhibit that compliments the hands-on activities at the Children’s Learning Center. “Energy Explorers” helps museum visitors of all ages explore principles of energy, like comparing potential and kinetic energy, how energy is transferred to another form, and the relationships of electrical or
magnetic interactions. The new exhibit is open until April 23, 2018.

A table to create circuits at the new exhibit “Energy Explorers” at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Nebraska.

It has the look and feel that it’s designed for school aged children, with slightly complicated instructions for my youngest to understand without my help. She’s not a strong reader yet.

I stayed by her side to explain and build alongside her. She spent the most time playing with the magnets and dominos. And this thing below.

Doesn’t matter your age, it’s always going to be fun to fire an air cannon.

She loved firing shots with the air vortex cannon, knocking down cups and moving tiles with the wind energy she created.

My 8-year-old son jumped right into the more difficult areas like the circuit boards, which involved step-by-step instructions on completing a circuit on your own to light a lightbulb or start a fan.

The kids worked together as a team to build circuits.

 

Here’s what’s all in the exhibit:

– Learning and exploring primary sources of energy – nuclear, fossil, solar, geothermal, hydro, wind

– Performing hands-on experiments that test energy in motion

– Testing the power of wind energy with an air vortex cannon

– Discovering where energy comes from through interactive learning on a kiosk

– Testing the transfer of energy using an electric circuits board or hand crank bulbs

– Experiencing conservation of energy through a newton’s cradle

– Learning about magnetic and electrical fields using magnets, snap circuitry, or sound tubes

This is one of the museum’s two annual interactive exhibits that focus on topics in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). I enjoy timing our visits to the museum specifically to see these interactive exhibits, because my children enjoy them so much.

The Children’s Learning Center is a permanent exhibit at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Nebraska.

We ended our visit by playing in the Children’s Learning center, walking around the planes, and trying out the flight simulator.

New-To-Us At The Museum

The kids finally got their chance to try out the simulation ride, too. It’s an additional fee ($10 each) and there is a height requirement that my daughter finally reached this year. For observers, it looked like an intense rollercoaster experience, completely with several spins upside down, but the kids loved it.

If you think your kids will want to ride it, buy your tickets at the time of purchasing museum admission. You cannot purchase tickets at the ride.

I walked through “Searching for Humanity: Veterans, Victims, and Survivors of World War II” for the first time during this visit. It’s intense, and definitely intended for adults and children old enough to grapple with the subject matter. The exhibit includes photos, memorabilia and testimony of Nebraska Holocaust survivors, soldiers and others who helped liberate prisoners from concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Europe.

The newest permanent exhibit honoring the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II opened on February 2018. It opened after our visit, so we’ll have to check it out the next time we’re there.

Win Passes To Visit!

It’s truly amazing to get such a close-up look at so many airplanes at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Nebraska.

I’m working with Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum to giveaway one daily pass for four to visit the museum! Here’s your chance to see what’s new at the museum. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway ends on Sunday, Feb. 25, at 11:59 p.m. CST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Must be 18 or older to enter. I was not compensated to host this giveaway or visit the museum.

 

If you go

Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum

Where: 28210 West Park Highway, Ashland, Neb. (about 30 miles west of Omaha)

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve; closed: New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving & Christmas. “Energy Explorers” is open through April 28, 2018.

Cost: Adults, $12; senior citizens, military, $11; children (ages 4-12), $6; FREE for children aged 3 and younger

Extras: Fight simulators, 2D rides are $9 for members $10 for non-members, and 3D rides are $12 for members $13 for non-members.

Website

 

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January 15, 2018

Midwest Restaurants With Memorable Breakfasts

In the Midwest, breakfast is not just the most important meal of the day, it’s the best. As a travel blogger who specializes in this region, I’ve had a few stand-out breakfasts at Midwest restaurants, but I’m always on the hunt for the next one to visit. So, I asked the experts, those have frequented more than a few: Midwest travel bloggers.

This group has some fantastic suggestions!

Here’s a collection of the most memorable breakfast experiences at Midwest restaurants:

Illinois

Charlie Parker’s Diner, Springfield, Ill.

“The breakfast horseshoes are so good. And they make a gigantic pancake that is served on a pizza pan. Also just super fun nostalgic place – interesting quanset hut building.” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about it at Chicago Foodie Sisters

Jellyfish, Chicago, Ill.

“The brunch menu includes a variety of signature cocktails, soups and salads and sharing plates of everything from stuffed french toast to eel benedict to fruit sushi.” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about it at Chicago Foodie Sisters

The Goldmoor Inn, Galena, Ill.

“French toast with peaches and waffles with wild blueberries were the stars of our mornings. You can always order eggs made to order if you’d like something other than the daily specialty. Fresh muffins and scones from their pastry chef Tara were decadent and delicious.” Recommended by Sue, who wrote about it at Food Travelist

SafeHouse Chicago, Chicago, Ill.

“I went to their new brunch a few months ago and it was a very cool experience! It is a James Bond spied theme restaurant with a themed brunch menu.” Recommended by Jamie, who wrote about it at Corn Fields and High Heels

Sunda, Chicago, Ill.

“My favorite would probably be the Tempura French Toast. The Oxtail Potstickers were pretty awesome, too.” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about her brunch experience there at Chicago Foodie Sisters

Timmerman’s Supper Club, East Dubuque, Ill.

“Timmerman’s Supper Club offers an amazing Sunday brunch buffet complete with mimosas and awesome bluff top views over the Mississippi River! The buffet features a range of typical breakfast items, a fruit and salad bar, a taco station, a huge selection of desserts and a live omelette and carved meat station. There’s something for everyone…make sure you visit with an empty stomach!” Recommended by Kylie, who wrote about it at Between England and Iowa

Indiana

Cafe Patachou, Indianapolis, Ind.

“Really good upscale breakfast that was featured in Bon Apetit magazine as a top breakfast spot in the county. Nice downtown location overlooking capitol grounds.” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about it at Chicago Foodie Sisters

Creighton’s Crazy Egg Cafe & Coffee Bar, Warsaw, Ind.

“Small town, farm-themed restaurant that will take you by surprise. A pleasant surprise! Simple but unique menu and a full-coffee bar. Located in the middle of nowhere, on a farm!” Recommended by Jamie, who writes at Cornfields and High Heels

Eggshell BistroCarmel, Ind. 

“… stepping inside the Eggshell Bistro is like stepping into a Parisian cafe except here no passport is required…Order a coffee, ask for a recommendation if needed, sit back and enjoy the ambiance of this bistro while forgetting that your feet are still firmly planted on American soil. The menu is an eclectic mix of international flavors and all the menu items have an egg included in it. When you go be sure to order the Kedgeree: house-smoked/sorghum-glazed wild salmon, jasmine rice, curried-spice mix, onion, caper, scallion, soft-boiled hen’s egg. Seriously delicious!” Recommended by Deb, who included the restaurant in her post “Fantastic Foodie Finds + More In Hamilton And Hendricks Counties Indiana” at Just Short of Crazy

Grilled cheese at Milktooth in Indianapolis. Photo courtesy Emily Hines

Herrold on Hill, Wabash, Ind.

“Breakfast was the crowning glory of our stay…Alan made us some amazing protein waffles with strawberries and blueberries and double smoked ham Sandy topped off our meal with a fresh tomato and basil salad because, ‘We have vegetables at every meal.’” Recommended by Cindy, who wrote about it at Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl 

Milktooth, Indianapolis, Ind.

“Named one of the best restaurants in the WORLD by CondeNast Traveler, Milktooth in Indianapolis is an all breakfast/brunch restaurant located in the heart of Indianapolis. This ‘fine diner’ serves up the classics with a twist: Think dutch baby with manchego cheese, grapefruit, and brussel sprouts and a grilled cheese topped with truffle honey and a duck egg. Their award winning food makes this place insanely busy, especially on the weekends but it is worth the wait!” Recommended by Emily, who wrote about it at Em’s On The Road

Iowa

Caroline’s in the Hotel Julien, Dubuque, Iowa

“Classic breakfasts like biscuits & gravy and sweet and unique choices like bananas foster’s french toast are just the tip of the iceberg. Impeccable service and small touches like a saucer with your coffee make this dining experience top notch!” Recommended by Katy, who wrote about it at Flint & Co.

Country Kitchen, Marion, Iowa

“Country Kitchen in Marion, Iowa has the fastest service and most delicious breakfast options around. I could eat there all day with the selection they have but I enjoy their breakfast most. Kids love their chocolate chip pancakes and parents love their value” Recommended by Melissa from ThirtySomethingSuperMom

PM Park, Clear Lake, Iowa

On our first visit to Clear Lake, I was determined to have a lakefront meal. It wasn’t as easy to find a place as I had anticipated, but luckily, there was PM Park. While our meal was being prepared, the kids played on the pirate ship outside and I could sit inside sipping my coffee. Try the french cake (pretty much a french toast pancake). I wrote about it in the Great Iowa Road Trip post.

 

Kansas

The Chef, Manhattan, Kan.

“In a college town where fast-food chains dominate the breakfast scene, The Chef stands out. While there’s nearly always a wait, you can sip coffee and create a sidewalk chalk masterpiece to help pass the time. The Pancakes Bananas Foster and Buenos Dias Frittata are two of our family favorites!” Recommended by Sage from Everyday Wander.

You can watch your breakfast being made if you sit at the counter at Doo Dah Diner.

Doo-Dah Diner, Wichita, Kan.

“…perhaps the best restaurant breakfast meal of my life! Here, cooked from scratch breakfast and lunch items fill the menu. You will drool just reading the descriptions!” Recommended by Melody on The Yum originally and reshared on Visit Wichita (her primary blog is Whereever I May Roam)

Michigan

Breakfast at Tiffiny’s, Portage, Mich.

“Made fresh/from scratch and great healthy choices! Serves lunch too…but breakfast all day!” Recommended by Joan at Gramcracker Crumbs

Bunde’s Bakery, South Haven, Mich.

“Bunde’s Bakery is an adorable neighborhood coffee shop you’ll want to pop into during your summer beach vacation. Grab a delicious cinnamon roll with your latte but get there early if you want your pick of the baked goods and breakfast sandwiches.” Recommended by Lindsay, who wrote about South Haven at Let Me Give You Some Advice

Minnesota

Hell’s Kitchen, Minneapolis, Minn.

“Hell’s Kitchen service staff wears their jammies, ridiculously scary decor and really good food.” Recommended by Diana, who wrote about it at Mojotraveler

Mickey’s Diner in St. Paul is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mickey’s Diner, St. Paul, Minn.

“If you want a unique breakfast experience, we recommend Mickey’s Diner in downtown St. Paul. It’s a dining car that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can sit on a stool at the counter and watch the cooks fry your bacon and flip your pancakes. My family loves the blueberry pancakes. Breakfast is served 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! I also have a general post about how small town cafes serve up the best breakfast you’ve never had! We could eat breakfast for three meals a day!” Recommended by Victoria, who included the diner in her Small Town Cafes roundup on the blog That Was A First

Note: I’ll second this recommendation! They put some magic in their omelets. I’ve never had one so fluffy and cooked absolutely perfectly. It was one of our favorite restaurant stops during our Great Minnesota Weekend.

World’s Best Donuts, Grand Marais, Minn.

“The cake donuts alone make the World’s Best Donuts worthy of its moniker: Lighter in texture than a traditional cake donut, superb when coated with a thick dusting of cinnamon sugar. There are also raised donuts, twists (try the chocolate covered one), cream or jam-filled bismarks, long johns, apple and blueberry turnovers, jam-filled croissants, caramel pull-aparts, and cream cheese and maple swirls. A small selection of gluten-free items is also available, baked off-site at a gluten-free facility. Besides the cake donuts, my favorite item was the skizzle, a flat piece of fried dough coated with sugar–basically a thin version of American Indian fry bread.” Recommended by Stacy, who wrote about it on Tangled Up In Food

Missouri

Cielo at the Four Seasons, St. Louis, Mo.

The winner of the best view at breakfast in the Midwest has to be handed to Cielo, located on the rooftop of the Four Seasons. Definitely order the chicken and waffles.

Eggtc, Kansas City, Mo.

Eggtc is regularly featured on “best of” breakfast lists for Kansas City for good reason: It’s delicious. What made it all the more memorable (from a tired, traveling parent’s point of view), was the waitress thoughtfully got us a to-go cup for our coffee after we were done with breakfast. I wrote about it in 24 Hours In KC With Kids.

Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe, Springfield, Mo.

“History and modern convenience meet at Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe in Springfield, Missouri. An open kitchen allowed us to watch the cooks prepare our unique dishes in this renovated turn-of-the-century pharmacy building. Try a Freedom Waffle for a cheery and colorful way to start your day.” Recommended by Jeff, who wrote about it at Our Changing Lives

Fruit display at the brunch served at The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks. Photo courtesy Postcard Jar

The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks, Branson, Mo.

“The Sunday brunch at College of the Ozarks was amazing! Sunday brunch at College of the Ozarks is more than a meal — it’s an experience. We enjoyed a leisurely brunch in the beautiful Keeter Center there which included full breakfast selections and personalized omelets and waffles all made with farm-fresh ingredients grown on the campus. Details like an ice sculpture, hand-cut fresh seasonal fruits, domestic and imported cheeses, crudités, and made-to-order Caesar salads took brunch to a new level. We loved the award-winning carved ham and were entertained by students who sang and played the piano while we dined.” Recommended by Ann who writes Postcard Jar Travel Blog with her husband, Steve

Nebraska

Culprit, Omaha, Neb.

“I adore Culprit. Their specialty donuts and morning buns are a great welcome-to-Omaha breakfast when you’ve just picked someone up from the airport and want to simultaneously nourish, spoil and impress them — but need to save room for lunch. If you’re feeling more indulgent, you can linger over their perfect, decadent quiche and a Spanish coffee.” Recommended by Jenna, who writes The Beaspora

The Green Gateau, Lincoln, Neb.

This charming downtown Lincoln restaurant has the feel of a European bistro. The food is exceptional and fresh. I always add a beignet to my order. And a mimosa. Always a mimosa. Expect a wait for brunch if you don’t have reservations.

Upstream Brewing Co., Omaha, Neb.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is have breakfast outside at Upstream Brewing Co., while watching the farmers market shoppers. I usually order the french toast. For more Omaha dining recommendations, read this post.

Ohio

Bagel Street Deli, Athens, Ohio

“Best bagel sandwich I’ve had to date at Bagel Street Deli in Athens.” Recommended by Nedra at Adventure Mom

Oklahoma

Dilly Diner, Tulsa, Okla.

“Dilly Diner treats their employees amazing, and their food is absolutely amazing. Their employees are genuine and sweet. Feels like home.” Recommended by Linda

Waffle Champion, Oklahoma City, Okla.

“Flip the menu – one side is sweeter offerings, the other more savory (think bacon, egg, and cheese, or fried chicken) and all of it is delicious. I had the Blueberry Sunrise waffle: blueberry-thyme compote, lemon goat cheese spread, with an oat crumble sprinkled on top. When I asked if they could add pecans, the answer was, ‘Sure! Are espresso pecans all right?’ Um, YEAH, duh.” Recommended by Sheila, who wrote about it in a post called “5 Places to Live Like Local” on the blog Perceptive Travel

South Dakota

And the winner of the tastiest donut in Wall, South Dakota, goes to…the maple donut.

Wall Drug, Wall, S.D.

Wall Drug is about the cheesiest and touristy stop you can have in South Dakota, and it will also be one of the most memorable. For quick but very tasty breakfast, wait in line and get yourself one of their famous cake donuts. I sampled all of their flavors, and can confidently tell you to order the maple donut. I included Wall Drug in this post about our Nebraska and South Dakota Adventure.

Wisconsin

Frank’s DinerKenosha, Wis.

“Frank’s Diner is in an old street car diner. Very cool. And you have to get the garbage plate. Delish!” Recommended by Carrie, who wrote about it at Chicago Foodie Sisters. Sheila from Perceptive Travel also recommended Frank’s Diner, writing “Two visits to this town. Two breakfasts at Frank’s Diner in downtown Kenosha. Batting 1.000 so far.”

Mocha Moment, Janesville, Wis.

“It’s a family-owned and operated coffee shop and cafe in Janesville, Wisconsin. Tucked away from the road, it’s surrounded by the woods. The owners’ son sources and roasts their coffee, and all the delicious pastries are made in house. It’s definitely a local hot spot and was packed with regulars the morning I visited.” Recommended by Erin, who included it in her post about the 10 Best Breakfast Spots of 2017 post on The Epicurean Traveler

Simple Cafe/Simple Bakery & Market, Lake Geneva, Wis.

“Simple Cafe/Simple Bakery & Market is a favorite of locals and in-the-know visitors. The farm-to-table fare features fresh twists on breakfast classics and designer omelettes. The menu changes with the season (pumpkin bread pudding anyone?) Their bakery’s chocolate croissants are TO DIE FOR.” Recommended by Tabitha, who wrote about it at Trippin’ Midwest Mama

 

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January 7, 2018

What Young Kids Like At Science Museum Of Minnesota

On our recent weekend in the Twin Cities, I flip flopped in deciding whether we should go to a children’s museum or a science center. You can’t really go wrong with either place when your kids are 6 and 8. So, we opted for The Science Museum of Minnesota.

Full disclosure: I chose the Science Museum of Minnesota because I wanted a “Stranger Things” shirt. Not for my kids’ enjoyment. J/K (not really, I wanted that T-shirt). Also, our tickets were complimentary so I can review.

Science Museum of Minnesota

Here’s what our kids – both in early grade school – enjoyed at Minnesota Science Museum:

Sportsology

This new addition to the museum was a favorite of the entire family. The kids had simulated races against athletes and T. rex, measured their reflexes, and studied their soccer moves on video. It’s a well-designed space, and a lot of fun.

The only “athlete” the kids could beat in a footrace –
the gopher.

Dinosaurs & Fossils

Dinosaurs capture the imaginations of young kids. There are real fossils on display and replicas, as well as a small area with puppets that appealed to my youngest. Don’t skip seeing the Triceratops – it’s one of only four real Triceratops on display in the world.

One of the few Triceratops fossils on display in the world can be found at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Experiment Gallery

This one has a lot of hands-on fun things to engage the little ones (the museum says “Please do touch”). Both kids enjoyed playing with the wave tank, and they liked the opportunity to build things.

The Mississippi River

Climbing up to the top of the Charles E. Towboat was fun for both kids, who got a kick out of pretending to control the boat while soaking in the view from up high. I nearly dismissed this area, but I’m glad the kids pushed to explore it.

Both kids loved playing with the solar system table.

The Collectors Corner is another neat spot: We saw kids trading rocks for other real objects like a fossil or minerals. If you think of it, have your kids bring along a natural object for your next visit.

Science Live

My youngest enjoyed watching the show on the Science Live stage. She got to be one of the selected participants for the program. To see the list of shows on the schedule, visit here.

First time at Science Museum of Minnesota

This museum is quite large, so if this will be your first visit, I recommend the helpful First Time Visitors page. I, of course, did notice this page until after our visit, but it has a lot of good tips (ie. you can bring your own food in to eat, or eat at one of the cafes).

How much time to spend

We allotted just over two hours for the museum since we had a long drive home. You’ll want more time than that. If you’re including a movie at the Omnitheater, you’ll need a minimum of three hours (if you’re fine skipping some exhibits).

If you go

Science Museum of Minnesota

Where:120 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, Minn.

When: Check hours here

Cost: Adults, $18.95; children (4-12) and seniors, $12.95; children 3 and younger; FREE. FYI: Expect to pay for parking.

* * * * *

Want to plan your own Great Minnesota Weekend?You can get some inspiration from my Holiday Weekend In Minnesota and Roseville & Twin Cities Bucket List now, or check out these upcoming posts:

Christmas at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis

Where To Stay Near The Twin Cities

 

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Want to read more about another great, kid-friendly science center in the Midwest? Check out this post about Science City in Missouri.