February 8, 2019

Most Unique Places To Stay In Nebraska

Nebraska offers a wide variety of adventures for families, from stagecoach rides in the west, to canoeing in the north, and a world-class zoo in the east. And while you’re out venturing to each of those corners to the state, you’ll need a place to stay. I’ve been planning mini getaways for my family (checking off things on my Nebraska Bucket List), and I’ve started coming across some unique places to stay in Nebraska.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. At no cost to you, if you purchase something after clicking the link, I may receive a referral fee from it.

My hope is to eventually spend at least one night in each of these. I’ll report back to you all with a review of the accommodations so you can decide if it’s right for you and your family. Take a look at some of the cool inns, B&Bs, and, well, quirky places you can stay in Nebraska:

List of incredibly unique overnight experiences in Nebraska - From glamping to sleeping in a corn crib or teepee #Nebraska #travel

The Corn Crib 

Where: Crab Orchard, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: You’re staying in a unique “cottage” that screams “Nebraska.” The Corn Crib is just that, a corn crib, but it’s been remodeled into a guest cottage, complete with a balcony overlooking a lake. It’s located on the estate grounds of Sheah Blue Vineyard.

Book it (Get $40 off your first AirBnB booking if you use this referral link!)

The Former Officers Quarters at Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska
Instead of individual cabins, Fort Robinson State Park lets guests stay overnight in former officers quarters. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Former Officers’ Quarters

Where: Fort Robinson State Park, Crawford, Neb.

Fits: 2 to 20 people

Why: This state park’s accommodations are pretty unique. You can stay in former officers quarters that date from 1874 to 1909. While they’re not cabins, They’re equipped like them: They have a kitchen and bathroom, and some of the larger ones have living rooms. And it’s full housekeeping, so they have linens and all the kitchen utensils you might need.

Book it

Glamping At A Winery

Where: Slattery Vintage Estates & Tasting Room, Nehawka, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: Slattery was the first place that introduced the concept of glamping in Nebraska to me. Glamping tents are set up within walking distance to the tasting room (and of yeah, you can request wine and snacks to be waiting upon your arrival).

Note: This is one overnight you’ll want to leave the kids at home. Also note that, due to its location, you cannot bring outside alcohol with you when you’re glamping here.

Book it

Glamping cabins are available at Platte River State Park in eastern Nebraska
Glamping cabins opened at Platte River State Park in the summer of 2018. These cabins are part of the Outdoor Venture Park initiative. Photo courtesy NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Glamping At A State Park

Where: Platte River State Park, Louisville, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: The three glamping sites at Platte River State Park have been a hot item to reserve ever since they first opened in 2018. They’re modern and outfitted with all the amenities you’d want (namely air conditioning and a comfy bed). Snagging a weekend reservation is tough, though.

Note: This is one overnight you’ll want to leave the kids at home.

Book it

A teepee at Platte River State Park in eastern Nebraska
Teepee Village is located at Platte River State Park in eastern Nebreaska. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Teepee Village

Where: Platte River State Park, Louisville, Neb.

Fits: 8 people

Why: While we’re talking about Platte River State Park, let me tell you about the teepees there. The Pawnee TeePee Village at Platte River State Park consists of four teepees situated on top of platforms, so at least your not sleeping on a ground. It’s a step above camping, but not on par with even a yurt. I’m pretty sure the only reason why you’d want to stay in one of these is to say you’ve stayed in one.

Book it

Kottage Knechtion Treehouse

Where: South Sioux City, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: The Kottage Knechtion Treehouse is a B&B nestled between two cottonwood trees. It’s not far from downtown Sioux City, which I had fun exploring with my husband.

Book it (Get $40 off your first AirBnB booking if you use this referral link!)

One-Room School House

Where: Arnold, Neb.

Fits: 5 people

Why: Facebook fan Laura S. recommended Center School B&B and Museum, saying “We stayed there on the last night of our Sandhills trip. The apartment is clean and serviceable but the museum is AMAZING. Berni, the owner, is putting so much work into making it as authentic as possible and she has so many great stories to tell about the building and one room schoolhouses in general! As a teacher myself, I appreciated the care and detail in the museum so much!”

Note: This lodging does not have air conditioning, but the host notes that guests stay in the basement, which stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Book it (Get $40 off your first AirBnB booking if you use this referral link!)

River Inn Resort

Where: Brownville, Neb.

Fits: 2 people (possibly more)

Why: Here’s your chance to stay in a floating B&B! This 18-room floating inn is located on the Missouri River (and near one of my favorite towns in Nebraska).

Book it

Safari Tent Camp

Where: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Omaha, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: While zoo offers a variety of camping options for the whole family, it was the Safari Tent Camp for adults-only that caught my eye – you stay in the safari tents near the African Grasslands. Tents include an electrical outlet, nightstand with lantern, area rug, dining table, two director chairs and oscillating fan. There are only a few nights offered each year, so you’ll have to plan ahead.

Book it

Cabooses at Two Rivers State Recreation Area in Waterloo, Nebraska
The cabooses at Two Rivers State Recreation Area in Waterloo, Neb., can accommodate up to six people. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Vintage Caboose

Where: Two Rivers State Recreation Area, Waterloo, Neb.

Fits: 6 people

Why: Ever since we saw the cabooses on our first camping trip to Two Rivers SRA, I knew that one day, we’d have to stay there. First off, they’re REAL cabooses, outfitted with bunkbeds and two mattresses in the cupola. But more important, unlike camping in a tent, they have air conditioning.

Note: Two Rivers is catch-and-release fishing spot more than anything else, though there is a small beach at one of the lakes. If you’re looking for hiking, this ain’t your park.

Book it

Get some road trip inspiration for your trip through Nebraska. Follow the Nebraska Travel board by Oh My! Omaha on Pinterest.

Stay somewhere fun in the Cornhusker State! Here's a list of unique places to stay in Nebraska, from clamping to staying in a corn crib, one-room school house or teepee #Nebraska #travel

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February 6, 2019

Children’s Museum Within 3 Hours Of Omaha

I rarely plan a trip that doesn’t include a stop to a museum. That’s just how I roll. And when it’s a family trip, a stop to a children’s museum or a science center is in order. My kids love it. This list is for those planning a day trip or a weekend trip within three hours of Omaha. It has all the children’s museums and kid-friendly museums within three hours of the city.

Two things to note:

1. Children’s museums, in general, are going to be geared more toward younger kids. My general rule is that they’re best for the 8 and younger crowd. There is likely something there for older kids, but it’s going to be designed for little ones. Many are going to be suited for preschoolers more so than early grade-schoolers.

2. Science centers, in general, are going to be geared for the 8 and older crowd. That’s not to say they don’t have an area for younger kids – many do and they’re awesome. But, the ones who are going to get the most out of a visit are going to be a little older.

Kid-friendly museums that are a road trip away from Omaha! See which children's museums & science centers are within 3 hours of Omaha, Nebraska. #familytravel #museums

OK, now we can get down to business. Here are children’s museums, science centers, and technology centers that are within three hours of Omaha:

Museums in Nebraska

Omaha Children’s Museum

Where: Omaha, Neb.

Food available for purchase? Yes. There is a cafe on the top floor, plus you’re allowed to bring food in.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Learn more: Check out my post about Omaha Children’s Museum Family Membership Perks (one being that you get to enjoy reciprocal membership benefits!). To plan a visit, go to Omaha Children’s Museum.

Disclosure: I work at Omaha Children’s Museum now, but I’ve been a member of the museum for a lot longer.

Edgerton Explorit Center

Where: Aurora, Neb.

Food available for purchase?No. Outside food is also not permitted in the building.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Learn more: Gretchen at Nebraska Odyssey wrote about her family’s visit to Edgerton Explorit Center. To plan a visit, go to Edgerton Explorit Center.

Hastings Museum

Where: Hastings, Neb.

Food available for purchase? No.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Learn more: Hastings Museum explores the history of Nebraska, including one of my favorite things about the state: The history of Kool Aid. The Walking Tourists wrote a good post about the museum with a lot of pictures. To plan a visit, go to Hastings Museum.

Children’s Museum of Central Nebraska

Where: Hastings, Neb.

Food available for purchase? No, but it is located in a mall.

Any reciprocal benefits? No.

Learn more: Nebraska Odyssey shared pictures from her family’s visit in this post. To plan a visit, go to Children’s Museum of Central Nebraska.

Kearney Area Children’s Museum

Where: Kearney, Neb.

Food available for purchase? No.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Children’s Museums. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Learn more: To plan a visit, go to Kearney Area Children’s Museum.

Lincoln Children’s Museum

Where: Lincoln, Neb.

Food available for purchase? No.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Children’s Museums. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Learn more: Here’s my review of the Lincoln Children’s Museum. Since I wrote it, they’ve updated things (and are planning more updates!). To plan a visit, go to Lincoln Children’s Museum.

University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History

Where: Lincoln, Neb. (This is better known as Morrill Hall by my family.)

Food available for purchase? No.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Learn more: Read about my family’s adventures at Morrill Hall, including the not-to-be-missed kids area in the basement! To plan a visit, go toUNL Museum of Natural History.

Museums in Iowa

LaunchPAD Children’s Museum

Where: Sioux City, Iowa

Food available for purchase? No.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Children’s Museums. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Learn more: To plan a visit, go to LaunchPAD Children’s Museum.

Des Moines Children’s Museum

Where: Valley West Mall, 1551 Valley W. Drive, Des Moines, IA

Food available for purchase? No.

Any reciprocal benefits? No.

Learn more: To plan a visit, go to Des Moines Children’s Museum.

Science Center of Iowa and Blank IMAX Dome Theater

Where: Des Moines, Iowa

Food available for purchase? Yes.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Related post: Exploring the Science Center of Iowa gives you a good look at the museum and what younger kids will like there. To plan a visit, go toScience Center of Iowa.

Museums in Kansas

Kansas Children’s Discovery Center

Where: Topeka, Kan.

Food available for purchase? There are vending machines, and you may bring food into the museum to eat in the cafe.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Children’s Museums. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Learn more: To plan a visit, go to Kansas Children’s Discovery Center.

Wonderscope Children’s Museum

Where: Shawnee, Kan.

Food available for purchase? There are vending machines, and you may bring food into the museum to eat in the picnic area.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Children’s Museums. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Learn more: To plan a visit, go to Wonderscope Children’s Museum.

Museums in Missouri

Science City at Union Station

Where: Kansas City, Mo.

Food available for purchase? No. There are restaurants, though, in other areas of Union Station.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Learn more: For my family, nearly every visit to Kansas City includes a trip to Science City. Here’s a guide to Science City I wrote after our first visit. To plan a visit, go to Science City.

Museums in South Dakota

Children’s Museum of South Dakota

Where: Brookings, S.D.

Food available for purchase?Yes.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Children’s Museums. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Learn more: To plan a visit, go to Children’s Museum of South Dakota.

Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science

Where: Sioux Falls, S.D.

Food available for purchase? Yes.

Any reciprocal benefits? Yes, it’s a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers. Know that benefits do have exclusions based on how close a place is to where you have a membership. Read more about reciprocal benefits in this post.

Learn more: To plan a visit, go to Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science.

Kid-friendly museums near Omaha, including children's museums & science centers. Learn about museums in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas & South Dakota that are 3 hours or less from Omaha! #familytravel #Nebraska

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January 28, 2019

My Missouri Bucket List

Missouri is a state I feel like I’ve only just started to explore – though I’ve spent a great deal of time in Kansas City and St. Louis. I’ve started thinking about a road trip through the state – where I’d stop if I had no time limit, no money limit, and let’s be real, no day job. That’s how I’ve come up with this Missouri bucket list. You may think I’ve left off some key things, and that’s cool. Let me know what shouldn’t be overlooked!

You won’t find much St. Louis and KC items on this bucket list, because, well, I’ve made those lists already. Same with Excelsior Springs (if it’s not on your Missouri bucket list, add The Elms right this minute).

Missouri Bucket List - All the things I want to do, see, eat and explore in #Missouri #USA. Includes caves, ruins, wild horses, and some throwed rolls. #familytravel #bucketlist

Dive through a mine

For this bucket list item, I’m going to have to learn to dive first! The Bonne Terre Mines look like a surreal experience – you’re pretty much scuba diving through an old mine. National Geographic Adventure named the diving experience one of the top 10 adventures in America. If I never learn to dive, there’s always an option of a boat tour.

Feed big cats

The National Tiger Sanctuary, just north of Branson, is home to rescued large cats. There are different types of tours to help the public learn more about the animals, but the one that sounds like a bucket list item is the chance to feed one of the cats. There’s also a behind-the-scenes tour that I could see my daughter loving.

Go into a cave (or 5,000)

Inside Meramec Caverns, Missouri's largest commercial cave.
Meramec Caverns is the largest commercial cave in the state of Missouri. It’s located in the heart of the Ozarks. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

Missouri has more than 5,000 caves, with the most “show caves” in the country. Some that I think merit a visit: Onondaga Cave (claims to have the largest cave living room in the world); Fantastic Caverns in Springfield (home to the only ride-through cave in the U.S.); Marvel Cave (located inside Silver Dollar City and is said to have been discovered by Osage Indians in the 1500s); and two caves in Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Robber’s Cave and the Counterfeiter’s Cave (rumored to have been hideouts for outlaws). The largest of the commercial caves is Meramec Caverns.

Step back into time

My son is fascinated by historic sites, so a trip through Missouri wouldn’t be complete without stopping at a few historic homes. In Diamond, we can set George Washington Carver’s birthplace and see where nature first inspired him as a boy. Independence might be another stop for us in order to visit the Truman Home, a small home of Bess and Harry S. Truman. I’m on the fence about that one since you can only see it by guided tour, and my kids have a 50-50 track record of dealing well with guided tours.

Chase some waterfalls

I’m obsessed with waterfalls (probably because we have so few in Nebraska). Some of the Missouri waterfalls I’d love to see include Rocky Falls near Eminence, Mo., and Crooked Creek Falls in the Ouachita National Forest. Both of these are in the Ozarks. Missouri Life has some of the most picturesque waterfalls here.

Try a natural waterslide

And while I’m on the topic of waterfalls, let’s talk about a natural waterslide. Water flows over smooth boulders at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, making it a perfect place to cool off. Because of it, it’s one of the most popular state parks in the Ozarks.

Canoe the Current

Two kayakers floating down the Current River, part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverway
The Current River is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

My husband planted the idea in my mind that we should canoe the Current River long ago, and I still think about it. Its crystal clear water and gorgeous scenery sound great. The Current River is just one of a couple rivers that are part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The other rivers are the Eleven Point and the Jacks Fork (so I guess I have some options). Together they are Missouri’s largest national park. There’s a hidden swimming hole that I’d love to see called Bluff Hole, located where the Jacks Fork River widens.

Go to the drive-in

They’re a dying breed, aren’t they? 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage is seasonal and said to be the last on this famous highway. This isn’t the only drive-in in Missouri, FYI. I could go to Sunset Drive-In Theater in Springfield and feel like I’ve stepped back in time to the 1950s. 

See some ruins

An overhead drone photo of the castle ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Missouri
The castle-like ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park are the remains of a mansion that was destroyed by fire in the 1940s. Photo courtesy Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau

Near the Current River, there are for-real ruins. Apparently, there isn’t a good address for Welch Spring Hospital Ruins, so I found this post that gives some good directions (just scroll down midway through the post). Ha Ha Tonka State Park, near the Lake of the Ozarks, is home to castle-like ruins, too. Ha Ha Tonka sounds totally amazing. According to “Missouri Off The Beaten Path,” “The complex of caves, underground streams, large springs, sinkholes, and natural bridges at Ha Ha Tonka State Park makes it one of the country’s most important geological sites.”

Stay in a treehouse

The River Of Life Farm is a resort in the Ozarks with treehouse-like cabins. Beauty of the place is it in the heart of Mark Twain National Forest. I personally want to go to hike or canoe, but they are known for having excellent fly fishing.

Catch a throwed roll

I confess to already doing this, but it’s on this list since I feel my kids should experience having a hot roll chucked at their heads, too. Lambert’s Cafe is in two towns in Missouri (the original is in Sikeston, the other is in Ozark). Expect huge portions along with a wait if you go.

Bike the Katy Trail

A biker on the KATY Trail in Missouri
The KATY Trail is a 237-mile trail that runs through Missouri. This photo was taken near
Cooper’s Landing Campground and Marina. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

One of these days, I’m going to plan a weekend trip along the KATY Trail with my husband, stopping for a winery or brewery along the way. It’s flat, it’s scenic, and at 237 miles long, it’s the nation’s longest “rails-to-trail” project. So, um, maybe we’ll just bike part of it. This post in Southern Living has inspired me, though, especially about the B&Bs along the route. One that sounds great is the H.S. Clay House (it even has a pool and hot tub). And we’ll need to eat while we’re doing all this biking. Apparently, bikers in-the-know know to stop for some grub at Cooky’s in Golden City.

Find Charley’s Buffet

Hidden somewhere in a Mennonite community in Lake of the Ozarks is Charley’s Buffet, home to Mennonite-cooked and -served food that has people lining up every Friday and Saturday night.

Explore Route 66

Route 66 passes through Missouri including through the entire Ozarks. I read about a few places to visit just off the historic highway. There’s the scenic Devil’s Elbow, with nearby barbecue joint Elbow Inn and 40-foot-high wooden railroad trestle bridge. Then, there’s Lebanon, where the Route 66 Museum and Research Center is located.

Wine & dine in Missouri’s Wine Country

People having a picnic at Stone Hill Winery in Hermann, Mo.
Stone Hill Winery was built in 1847 in Hermann, Mo. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

Missouri has a lot going on, in terms of wine, in the southeastern part of the state. This includes towns of Defiance, Marthasville, New Haven, and Hermann. Hermann has 10 wineries in the area as well as a couple microbreweries and distilleries. The town has several popular festivals like and Wurstfest and Maifest in the spring and Octoberfest in the fall. It is home to Stone Hills Winery which was built in 1847 and, up until prohibition, it was the second largest winery in the U.S. My friends in St. Louis tell me Hermann is the place to go but I wonder if the smaller down they might have overlooked are with visiting too.

Stay in a caboose

Staying in a caboose is going to keep popping up on my bucket lists for states until I stay at one. I’ve come across a couple in Missouri. Cozy Caboose is located at the St. Louis West KOA campground on Route 66. And this one isn’t your ordinary caboose. It’s decked out with a kitchen, queen bed and bunk bed, and more importantly heating and Wi-Fi. There’s also a place off the KATY Trail called Cruces’ Cabooses B&B with two cabooses for lodging. They come fully-equipped and are nestled in the woods.

Randy’s Roadkill BBQ and Grill

Randy’s Roadkill BBQ and Grill in Rolla intrigues me. Even though I’ve heard there is no actual roadkill on the menu at the restaurant, I feel like I have to go and see for myself. And then by the T-shirt.

See mastodon skeletons

Mastodon State Historic Site has a pretty interesting story behind it: The first evidence of mastodons were discovered there. And it almost didn’t become a public park – it took a group of persistent housewives to stop the archeological site from being sold to developers. According to the book “Missouri Off-The-Beaten-Path, ” four women fundraised and pestered state officials until it became a state park. 

Walk on a swinging bridge (or two)

Southwest Missouri is home to two swinging bridges that are just about 1,000 feet apart from each other. Grand Auglaize Swinging Bridge and Mill Creek Swinging Bridge are near Brummell. There are two near Osage Beach as well, though I read they were rather rickety. Like my fascination with caves, I’ve got an inexplicable interest for swinging bridges.

Have a phosphate at the soda fountain where Truman used to work

Clinton’s, located in Independence Missouri, is a legit old-timey soda fountain complete with the marble counter the uniformed soda jerks. This is where Harry S Truman got his first job. I think I’ll order a malt when we’re there.

Have a 19th-century meal by candlelight

Fort Osage National Historic Landmark is known for historical re-enactments. I could see visiting the fort during the day with the kids and then at night, return for an authentic 19th century dinner and entertainment hearthside in the factory’s dining room.

See the wild horses

Wild horses at Echo Bluff State Park in Missouri
Missouri is home to herds of wild horses who roam Shannon County. These horses were at Echo Bluff State Park. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

I’d heard about wild horses of North Carolina, but I’m surprised to know that there are herds in the Midwest, too. Missouri is home to herds of wild horses in Shannon County. They been roaming for more than 100 years and include the Broadfoot herd, Grassy herds , and Shawnee Creek herd.

Experience Ozarks circa mid-1800s

The Ozarks are is home to several festivals throughout the year, including the Hillbilly Fair in Laurie. The one that intrigues me the most is the Osage River Rendezvous and Mountain Man Festival held the third weekend in September. Here people dressed in period clothes re-create what it was like when fur traders and other early pioneers would gather to socialize, barter, trade and, perhaps, throw a knife or two. 

Buy the monks’ fruitcake

There is a group of Trappist monks in an abbey deep in the Ozarks near Ava. The Assumption Abbey has a bakery where they make more than 30,000 fruitcakes annually. I’m not a fruitcake fan but I hear they’re delicious (and also 2 pounds each). 

Hike by the Elephant Rocks

Hikers pass by the large boulders at Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri.
The granite boulders at Elephant Rocks State Park were formed more than a billion years ago. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism

Just look at that picture of the boulders at Elephant Rocks State Park in Belleview! Don’t you also want to see them in real life? These huge granite boulders that were formed more than a billion years ago. The largest rock in the park is 25 feet high.

Be a cowgirl

One of these days I’m going to stay at a dude ranch. Blame it on “City Slickers.” Missouri has an option – Bucks and Spurs Guest Ranch. Families to stay here and do hands-on work at the horse and cattle ranch.

See Dogwood

I’ve read about Dogwood Canyon Nature Park near Lampe. This nature preserve in the Ozarks is the work of the founder of Bass Pro Shops. I’ve seen pictures and it’s quite picturesque. I’d love to take a bike tour around it, though there are also options of taking a guided horseback or tram tour.

Huge list of things to do in Missouri including obscure festivals, adventures and outdoor pursuits to add to any bucket list. #bucketlist #Missouri #USA

Get more Missouri Bucket List Inspiration

I’ve been pinning ideas I’ve found for months, more than could fit on this list. Check out my Missouri Road Trip Board for additional travel inspiration for the Show Me State:

https://www.pinterest.com/ohmyomaha/missouri-road-trips/
January 24, 2019

Where To Find The Midwest’s Best Donuts

Is there anything better than a perfect donut? No, no there is not. I usually find a way to fit a donut shop stop on our travels, and it turns out, other travel bloggers do, too. I asked my friends to share the best they’ve encountered on the adventures, and let me tell you, these all sound amazing! Who’s up for a Midwest Donut Tour?

Plan a Midwest road trip to the Midwest's best donut shops #doughnuts #donut #sweets

Doughnut Vault

Where: Chicago, Ill.

The best donuts in Chicago are in the best little donut shop in Chicago. The Doughnut Vault is an adorable little “vault” tucked in under a fire escape in the River North entertainment district. (With a second weekday location in the Loop.)

The Doughnut Vault in Chicago sells a limited amount of flavors each day and announces them on Twitter. Photo courtesy Leigh from Campfires & Concierges

The Vault only serves a few flavors a day: Buttermilk old-fashioned, glazed options and a couple of daily flavors that are announced on Twitter each morning. They also only make a limited amount, so keep an eye on Twitter see when they are sold out and closing for the day. On weekends, the Vault opens at 9:30 a.m., but people start lining up way before then. What would normally be a short-lived trend has sustained for several years now!

There is no seating indoors, just a narrow indoor space to queue up for delicious donuts. Leigh at Campfires & Consierges recommends going with a few friends so you can sample all of the available flavors – she has yet to meet a Doughnut Vault donut that I didn’t like!

For more information, visit doughnutvault.com.

Off Site Bar

Where: Chicago, Ill.

So hidden you might walk past it a few times before finding it, the Off Site Bar in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood sits next to a small back patio behind the Longman & Eagle bar/restaurant/inn.

OSB operates as a stand-alone micro bar in the evenings, but as a donut shop pop-up on Saturdays and Sundays.

A donut and coffee at Off Site Bar in Chicago
Off Site Bar in Chicago becomes a pop-up shop for donuts on the weekends. Photo courtesy Julie from Open Wide The World

OSB offers a changing weekly selection of donuts, featuring classics with inspired, modern twists. Our recent favorites have included beet cake with chocolate glaze, peanut butter cream with curry coconut glaze, and chocolate chip with caramel pepper glaze.

Vegans be warned: These donuts are fried in beef fat. If you have no moral objection to that, you will be thrilled by the amazing difference it makes!

Beside the donuts , what else is there to love at OSB? Dark Matter Coffee and Rare Tea Cellar teas, both based in Chicago, are served. And OSB/L&E even offer overnight rooms for rent to travelers. Meaning you can snooze in a urban chic room after a few drinks at night while waiting for phenomenal donuts in the morning. By far, it’s a favorite donut set-up in the city!

For more information about Off Site Bar, visit longmanandeagle.com. If you want more Chicago donuts ? Check out Open Wide The World’s post on 9 Donuts Not To Miss In Chicago.

Donut Drop

Where: Schaumburg, Ill.

While sipping on locally-roasted coffee at Brewpoint in Elmhurst, Ill., you might nibble on a delicious donut from their case. That donut is from a local donut shop in Schaumburg, Ill., called Donut Drop. What pairs better than a locally-roasted coffee and a donut from a local shop?

Tray of donuts from Donut Drop in Schaumburg, Illinois
A variety of donuts and flavors are made at Donut Drop in Schaumburg, Ill. Photo courtesy Melissa Schwartz from A Little Time and a Keyboard

Donut Drop has a mix of both familiar and intriguing flavors. If you are looking for a chocolate cake donut, this is your place. If you are looking for something different like salted caramel, lemon, maple bacon, red velvet or other interesting flavors, Donut Drop is your place! Melissa from A Little Time and a Keyboard loves Donut Drop’s flare including interesting seasonal donuts like Peppermint Bark. Donut Drop is a fun community spot with fresh and yummy donut treats! Plus, they have Brewpoint coffee – local through and through!

For more information, visit donutdrop.com.

Titus Bakery

Where: Lebanon and Westfield, Ind.

Titus Bakery originated in Lebanon, Ind., in the 1950s as a family-run business. Today with a second location in Westfield, Ind., Titus Bakery is still family-owned, and still baking donuts using some of the same delicious recipes. Pam at Be Happy, Be Healthy Wellness visited the Westfield bakery and recommends it.

Donut display with some unique flavors like Cookie & Cream at Titus Bakery in Westfield, Indiana
Titus Bakery, located in Lebanon and Westfield, Ind., has some unique flavors of donuts including Key Lime Coconut and Cookie & Cream. Photo courtesy Pam at Be Happy, Be Healthy Wellness

In addition to traditional yeast and cake donuts, Titus offers a variety of interesting flavors such as Key-Lime Pie, Cookies & Cream and Peanut Butter Fluff. Since Titus is a full bakery, you’ll also find delicious cakes, pastries and even sandwiches using Boar’s Head Meats. The Westfield location offers a party room perfect for a unique kids party with a decorate-your-own-doughnuts theme.

For more information about Titus Bakery, visit titusbakery.com.

Jitters

Where: Sioux City, Iowa

Jitters coffee shop in downtown Sioux City, Iowa makes the best cake donuts, according to Siouxland Families Blog, and for a very reasonable price.

A vanilla-frosted cake donut with sprinkles from Jitters in Sioux City, Iowa
A frosted cake donut with sprinkles at Jitters in downtown Sioux City, Iowa. Photo courtesy Lindsay Hindman from Siouxland Families Blog

While they have espresso-based drinks, chai tea, Italian soda, wraps, sandwiches and more, but the real star is their donuts. They have chocolate, maple, and vanilla frosting with sprinkles, coconut, or peanuts everyday, and on weekends, go gourmet with toppings to rival any you’ve seen on Pinterest. A favorite is chocolate frosting with peanuts.

Jitters is within easy walking distance of many of Sioux City’s downtown attractions, which makes it a great place to meet with friends or stop at on the way to a museum, movie, or downtown store or event.

For more information, visit Jitters’ Facebook page.

Cops & Doughnuts

Where: Ludington, Mich.

When a local bakery that dated back to 1896 was in danger of closing, the local police department came to the rescue. All nine members of the Clare, Michigan PD joined together and purchased the bakery, which was renamed Cops & Doughnuts. They’ve since saved similar bakeries in other small Michigan towns, like the one in Ludington where you can grab a cup of coffee with a galaxy donut, an over-sized donut hole, or a scrumptious apple fritter.

A box of donuts from Cops & Doughnuts in Michigan
Some of the specialties at Cops & Doughnuts include the galaxy donut and over-sized
donut holes. Photo courtesy Carrie Steinweg from Chicago Foodie Sisters

The Ludington location originated as McDonald’s Bakery back in 1898. There are now several locations in the state.

Visit copsdoughnuts.com for more information.

World’s Best Donuts

Where: Grand Marais, Minn.

World’s Best Donuts, a small seasonal shop in Grand Marais, Minn., specializes in cake donuts: Lighter in texture than a traditional cake donut, they’re best when coated with a thick dusting of cinnamon sugar.

World's Best Donut in Minnesota
A donut from the Grand Marais, Minn., donut shop World’s Best Donut. Photo courtesy Stacy Brooks from Tangled Up In Food

Other selections include raised donuts, twists, cream or jam-filled bismarks, long johns, apple and blueberry turnovers, jam-filled croissants, caramel pull-aparts, and cream cheese and maple swirls. Another must-try is the skizzle, a flat piece of fried dough coated with sugar—similar to a thin version of American Indian fry bread.

There’s a café-style seating area inside, outdoor picnic tables, or you can enjoy your donuts on a nearby harbor side bench overlooking Lake Superior.

Visit worldsbestdonutsmn.com for more information.

Glam Doll Donuts

Where: Minneapolis, Minn.

Glam Doll Donuts is one of the most famous donut spots in Minneapolis – for good reason. From the classic Vanilla Darling (featuring vanilla icing and sprinkles), to the mouthwatering Bellybomb mac & cheese donut (for the savory donut lovers), and even vegan donuts, Glam Doll Donuts never fails to electrify visitors’ taste buds.

The colorful interior of Glam Doll Donuts, a popular bakery in Minneapolis, Minn.
Glam Doll Donuts in Minneapolis has award-winning donuts, ranging from sweet to savory including the Bellybomb, a mac and cheese donut. Photo courtesy Kelsey Lee

All doughs, fillings, and icings are made from scratch. Glam Doll opened its first location in 2013 on appropriately named “Eat Street” in Minneapolis; and now you can get your sugar fix in Northeast, as well, and even pair your donuts with a beer. This isn’t your typical donut shop – the Glam Dolls created a pink fantasyland filled with award-winning donuts, rotating art gallery, a photobooth, and much more.

For more information, visit glamdolldonuts.com.

Hurts Donut Co.

Where: Springfield, Mo. (with more locations in the Midwest)

Hurts Donut Company has many locations now but its flagship store is in Springfield, Mo. The company has been making these crazy creations since 1999 and now have more than 70 kinds. From cereal-themed like Fred Flintstone to candy-themed like Reese’s and Twix, there are so many options it’ll make your head spin. Then there are the hands-down guaranteed flavors like S’mores, Nutella, Oreo Cheesecake, Maple Bacon, and Apple Pie.

A box of donuts from Hurts Donuts Company in Springfield, Missouri.
Hurts Donut Co.’s flagship store is in Springfield, Mo. Flavors span from cereal toppings to candy-bars, as well as the popular maple bacon. Photo courtesy Angela Dang from Dang Travelers

And don’t forget the shakes where they grind up a donut with ice cream then plant a whole one on top around your straw! 

For more information, visit wannahurts.com.

Strange Donuts

Where: St. Louis, Mo.

The name tells you exactly what to expect from this St. Louis donut shop. Strange Donuts serves up a weekly donut called “The Stranger” that is more of a gourmet pastry than your typical donut. Past ingredients have included: Lemon curd, raspberry ganache, ice cream, fried chicken, Gruyere cheese, and cookie dough. The list could go on forever. Most of the time, these ingredients are locally-sourced from other restaurants around town, making these donuts something for St. Louis to be proud of, according to Kelly at Greetings From Kelly.   

Exterior of Strange Donuts in St. Louis, Missouri
Strange Donuts in St. Louis is known for its weekly donut called “The Stranger,” which has had creative ingredients in the past including fried chicken, lemon curd and cookie dough. Photo courtesy Kelly Blick from Greetings From Kelly

If “Strange” isn’t your cup of tea, they have plenty of “classics” to choose from. Their classics include: Fat Steve (traditionally known as a long john), a Rainbow Pony (vanilla cake, vanilla buttercream, rainbow sprinkles), or a St. Louis favorite, a Gooey Butter Cake Donut. Strange Donuts even has gluten-free donuts available, so everyone can enjoy them. With three locations across St. Louis (and one location in Mexico City), Strange Donuts is not to be missed on a Midwest Tour De Donut. 

For more information, visit strangedonuts.com.

Olsen Bake Shop

Where: Omaha, Neb.

I’ve tried many donuts around Omaha (seriously. Here’s my Best Donuts In Omaha post to prove it), and while some have some pretty offerings and unique flavors, nothing can compare with the downtown hole-in-the-wall, Olsen Bake Shop. And I say “hole-in-the-wall” with affection here. It’s just tiny, so don’t expect to sit anywhere to enjoy your donuts.

A box of donuts from Olsen Bake Shop in Omaha, Nebraska
Olsen Bake Shop is a small donut shop that makes fresh and delicious donuts in downtown Omaha.

Olsen makes classic donuts with pretty standard flavors, and they do them well. Go with any cake donut and you’ll be happy.

For more information about Olsen Bake Shop, visit their Facebook page.

Bearscat Bakehouse

Where: Bismark, N.D.

Who doesn’t love donuts? Don’t miss your chance to try some of the delicious flavors at Bearscat Bakehouse in Bismarck, N.D. Bearscat is actually a reference to an old cowboy term for donuts. The owners thought it was silly and decided to name their donut shop Bearscat Bakehouse. They have kept up having fun and being silly since 2011.

Bakery case at Bearscat Bakehouse in North Dakota
Bearscat Bakehouse got its name from an old cowboy term for donuts. Bearscat is located in Bismark, N.D. Photo courtesy Bearscat Bakehouse

While they do have traditional donuts , some of their flavors are really unique: Like The Elvis (banana-filled, peanut butter icing, bacon added and chocolate drizzle) or The Kramer (chocolate icing, with pretzels and caramel drizzle). They really do have donuts you will not find anywhere else. There aren’t many donut shops in Bismarck, but they would have some tough competition if there were. This place is delicious.

“Our youngest son chose the cinnamon roll and it was bigger than his head (he ate all of it, but did share a few bites),” said Chris, from State By State Adventure. “Their signature donut is called Bearscat, which is a strange name for a delicious baked good. It is a glazed dark chocolate cake donut and could be the best doughnut we have ever eaten!

For more information, visit bearscatbakehouse.com.

Brewnuts

Where: Cleveland, Ohio

Located in Cleveland’s artsy Gordon Square neighborhood, Brewnuts melds two things that Clevelanders love: donuts and craft beer. The donut bar was begun by two locals who wanted to mix Cleveland’s burgeoning brewery scene with delicious donuts. And they did this by not only opening up a bar that stocks both local beers and handmade donuts, but they make the donuts with the beer.

The bar at Brewnuts in Cleveland, Ohio, where you can order a beer to be paired with your donut.
At Brewnuts in Cleveland, you can pair your donut with a recommended beer. Photo courtesy Amanda Williams from Cleveland Traveler

At Brewnuts, the donut menu rotates with the seasons (usually based on which beers are available). You’ll find filled donuts, cereal-topped donuts, and decorated donuts, all of which are sure to please the taste buds. Eat your donut at the bar, and you can pair it with a recommended beer.
And, of course, Brewnuts is totally Instagrammable, too – both the bar AND the donuts will look great on your social media feeds, according to Cleveland Traveler.

For more information, visit brewnutscleveland.com.

FlyBoy Donuts

Where: Sioux Falls, S.D.

Flyboy Donuts is Sioux Falls’ gourmet donut stop, with a huge variety of donut flavors, shapes, and types. One of the most unique things they offer is donuts shaped like any letter of the alphabet, so people can custom order the letters of someone’s name or a special message as a gift or party decoration! A favorite of the Siouxland Family Blog is the Jet Fuel Joenut, which is a mocha donut topped with chocolate frosting, whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and chocolate-covered espresso beans.

A boy eating the maple bacon long john at a kid's table at Flyboy Donuts in Sioux Falls, S.D.
This kid is digging into the maple bacon long john at Flyboy Donuts, a donut shop with two locations in Sioux Falls, S. D. Photo courtesy Lindsay Hindman from Siouxland Families Blog

Flyboy has two locations, which means wherever else you’re headed in Sioux Falls, one of them will probably be near your path.

For more information, visit flyboydonuts.com.

Midwest's best donuts - A list of popular donut shops in Midwest states, including Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Iowa #doughtnuts #donuts

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January 14, 2019

Tips For Taking Kids To 3 Of The Biggest Chicago Museums

Our family trips usually include a museum or two on our itinerary. On a recent holiday weekend trip to Chicago, there was so much we wanted to see, we had a lengthy list. So we narrowed it down and picked three Chicago museums to visit, two where we’d get free admission thanks to the ASTC reciprocity membership. As it happens, we pick three of the biggest museums in Chicago (and the world!).

Taking kids to Chicago? You'll probably want to go to at least one of these amazing museums! Here are some tips that will make your visits easier. #familytravel #Chicago #Illinois #tips

However, three museums in three days? I would’t recommend it now.  We went to Museum of Science & Industry, Art Institute of Chicago, and The Field Museum, and they are massive. Don’t make the mistake of trying to see them all in one trip, even if it sounds manageable. 

How big are the museums? The Museum of Science & Industry has 400,000 square feet of exhibit space. The Field Museum’s exhibition space is 480,000 square feet. And the Art Institute of Chicago? It has more than a million square feet of exhibition space.

However, let me share some tips for visiting them, should you want to choose one or two for your next visit.  

Before anyone leaves any hate comments, yes, there are WAY more than three museums to see in Chicago. I know this. I agree. First time visitors, though, are probably going to be eyeing the ones the city is most known for.

Related post: Dining With Kids In Chicago

Tips for visiting Museum of Science & Industry

As it’s the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere, the Museum of Science & Industry is going to take you a whole day to visit, and even then, I doubt you’ll see and it all.

The Transportation Gallery at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago.

The museum is so large, we didn’t see all the permanent exhibits during our 5-hour visit. It was Thanksgiving Weekend, so the crowds may have been bigger than usual. But if you visit that time of year, you’re in for a treat: The museum has trees decorated to represent countries from around the world, plus there’s the massive Grand Tree as the centerpiece.

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is decorated for Christmas each year and includes the Grand Tree as the centerpiece.
The four-story Grand Tree is located inside the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago.

Some of the places that were the biggest hits with our 7-and 9-year-olds included the mirror maze, the build-a-toy area, and the Idea Factory, which is essentially a one-room children’s museum.

The Idea Factory inside the Museum of Science and Industry is for children under the age of 10. This was just one corner of the room.

The maze and playground both required timed tickets to limit crowds, so if you know you’ll want to see them, I recommend getting your tickets first thing so you’re not stuck with a really late entry time.

The maze at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago
My daughter and I did the mirror maze at the Museum of Science & Industry easily, since my daughter seemed to have a knack for knowing where to turn.

Your general admission ticket gets you into plenty of exhibits, including ones exploring energy, transportation and robotics, as well as the U-505 Submarine. You can opt to purchase experiences or passes to temporary exhibits (there was a Pixar one there when we went).

Exterior of the U-505 Submarine at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago
The U-505 Submarine is included with regular admission to the Museum of Science & Industry.

We bought tickets to the Coal Mining Experience. It was pretty interesting, and included a little ride in a coal mining train, but for the price, I probably wouldn’t do it again with the kids. It was $40 for us.

Dining tip: There are three dining options inside the museum, including an ice cream parlor. We had lunch at the Brain Food Court, which is a large cafeteria-like food court with healthy options and then your expected grilled and pasta fare. The food was pricey, as is expected at any museum, but I was impressed with the variety.

Parking tip: There is a parking garage at the museum that is$22 for parking. I heard there are parking lots within walking distance in neighborhoods, but I can’t vouch for any. I recommend taking public transportation, taxi or an Uber to the museum.

Playing around with a light and color exhibit at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago.

Reciprocal membership alert: If you are a member of Omaha Children’s Museum or another science center that’s likely a member of ASTC, you receive admission for four to Museum of Science & Industry. This is a huge savings.

Tips for visiting Field Museum

The Field Museum is on par with the big museums of the world like the Smithsonian. So, it’s huge and it’s full of a ton of exhibits in botany, zoology, anthropology and geology. Keep your expectations in check: You’re not going to see it all in one day.

The cast of Máximo the titanosaur in the main floor hall of The Field Museum
My son in front of Máximo the titanosaur at The Field Museum. The titanosaur is the largest dinosaur to ever live. Since this is a cast of fossils, you can touch Máximo!

A docent recommended our family take the one-hour tour with the kids. It took us to several exhibits in the museum and gave us a ton of interesting information. One kid was totally into it, the other was not. So, maybe it’s a good idea for families?

Discovery Squad educator at The FIeld Museum showing how jaws work.
The Discovery Squad at The Field Museum help kids better understand science and natural history by letting kids see specimens up close. My daughter loved the experience.

The docent tour did take us to see SUE, the T. rex that the museum is famous for. The museum is outfitting a new room for the skeleton and you can get a peek at Sue before it’s unveiled soon. It’s out of the way, and we would’ve missed it had we not gone on the tour.

SUE the T.rex at The Field Museum i
When we visited The Field Museum in 2018, SUE the T.rex was in her new home upstairs, but the home itself wasn’t finished. At press time of this post, SUE’s new home is finished and open to the public.

The museum’s general admission gets you into a ton of exhibits that will appeal to kids, from mummies to extinct animals to anthropological exhibits of cultures around the world. In my limited experience, it’s not really worth it to buy tickets to the temporary exhibits (unless it’s a topic you really love). We bought tickets to one, and it was $50 for our family to see that one added exhibit. And, my kids just rushed through it, anyway.

Dining tip: There are two year-round restaurants at the museum, as well as a seasonal outdoor restaurants. We ended up walking to Giordano’s for some deep dish Chicago pizza, instead of trying one of the restaurants.

Reciprocal membership alert: If you are a member of Omaha Children’s Museum or another science center that’s likely a member of ASTC, you receive admission for four to Museum of Science & Industry. This is a huge savings.

Tips for visiting Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is often rated the best art museum in the world. It’s huge, it’s full of incredible works of art, hundreds of thousands of pieces you can’t possibly see in one visit, and definitely not if you’re visiting with kids.

The best tip? Do the JourneyMaker experience with your kids. This free, customized itinerary maker for kids lets them pick a theme, then select artwork to include on the itinerary, and then they have to hunt for the art in the museum and complete small activities. Once they’re done, they get to choose a free art postcard.

My daughter used the JourneyMaker computer to create a customized itinerary for exploring the Art Institute of Chicago based on what interested her.

You’ll find the JourneyMaker computers in the Ryan Learning Center. You should probably plan on spending some time in the rooms of the learning center, as there are art-making activities, toys, and books there for kids.

Drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago for one of the activities in the JourneyMaker tour.
The JourneyMaker at Art Institute of Chicago lets kids create their own themed tour of the museum that includes activities for each stop and a prize to collect at the end.

Anyway, the massiveness of the art museum was almost going to be too much, but the JourneyMaker itinerary took us through many galleries, so I did get to see quite a bit. However, my daughter was so set on finishing it, we ended up breezing through some of my all-time favorite works of art, which was a little heartbreaking.

A lot of people told us to take the kids to the Thorne Miniatures Room, that they’d love the pretty scenes in the tiny rooms. Maybe your kids will. My daughter was mildly interested, but still just dead set on finishing the JourneyMaker so she didn’t want to look for long.

The lions in front of the Art Institute of Chicago are each adorned with a large wreath during the holiday season. When we did the JourneyMaker activity at the museum, my daughter chose the lions as one of our stops.

It took us about 2 hours to do the JourneyMaker itinerary, with stops to linger in the Impressionist gallery and a (very) brief stop to see the miniatures.

We didn’t have any sweet reciprocal discount, but the good news is that kids are admitted free.

Dining tip: There are three cafes in the museum.

What’s nearby: We paired a visit to Maggie Daley Park with a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. They’re within walking distance of each other. This park will spoil you for all other parks – it’s that amazing and fantastically designed.

Tips for taking kids to three of the biggest museums in Chicago - The Field Museum, Museum of Science & Industry, and Art Institute of Chicago. #familytravel #Chicago #Illinois #tips

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January 11, 2019

Where To Stay Near O’Hare

Loews Hotels has two Chicago locations. I wrote about the downtown Chicago location recently and how it’s conveniently located to some of our favorite things in the city. The other hotel’s location is near O’Hare International Airport in Rosemont, Ill. We stayed there for a night during our Chicago holiday getaway with the kids. Here’s what a stay at Loews Chicago O’Hare is like.

Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by Loews Hotels. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own. This post may contain affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may receive a small payment for referring you.

Looking for a hotel near O'Hare Airport or the Fashion Outlets of Chicago? Here's a look at Loews Chicago O'Hare, a place full of art and local flavors. #LoewsPartner #Chicago #familytravel

If you haven’t heard of Rosemont, Ill., it’s a community about 20 minutes from downtown Chicago, with easy access to the city thanks to the train. It’s also about 5 minutes from O’Hare Airport.

What to expect

Loews is an upscale, welcoming hotel, though, I’ll be up-front for your traveling with kids – there is no pool. This gorgeous hotel seems to be better suited for travelers flying in and out of O’Hare and business men and women. Still, it’s a lovely place to stay overnight.

Lobby at Loews Chicago O'Hare
The lobby at Loews Chicago O’Hare was immense and had some neat artistic touches.

This particular location has a lot of artwork, from the moment you walk in, even. Floors have their own gallery even.

I spied this cool artwork above a unique bench just walking around the ground floor.

The lobby was chic and I loved the greenery on the walls.

Entrance to the lobby at Loews Chicago O'Hare hotel
This interesting wall is in the entryway of Loews Chicago O’Hare. Those are large rocks hanging from strings. To the right is a wall of green, grass-type stuff.

The service, as was the case in the downtown location, was impeccable. We had breakfast at The Ashburn, the restaurant with an aviation theme inside the hotel, and when we left, they remembered our names to ask how our meal was.

Breakfast place setting at The Asburn, the restaurant at Loews O'Hare
I liked the touch of color at The Ashburn, like this blue coffee mug I got at breakfast.

A word about the restaurant, The Ashburn. We went with the kids to breakfast there, as guests of the hotel. The Ashburn had a kid’s menu, with typical fare like fluffy pancakes, french toast, and eggs.

Salmon and bagel at The Ashburn, the restaurant at Loews O'Hare
My breakfast at Loews O’Hare’s restaurant, The Ashburn. Fresh vegetables, a crisp bagel and lox.

For me, it was a tough call between ordering the buffet or something off the breakfast menu. The buffet had fresh fruits, pastries, quite a few hot dishes, and house-smoked salmon. After a weekend of heavy foods, I decided to get a light breakfast and ordered the salmon. It was a good call. My breakfast was just the right amount of food and tasted great.

Loews Chicago O’Hare Rooms

We stayed in a room with two queen beds and a lounger. The view wasn’t much, but it was also snowing so there wasn’t much visibility anyway.

The beds in our room at Loews Chicago O’Hare.

The size of the room and bathroom was comfortable for a family of four with minimal luggage. There was plenty of closet space, if you needed it.

We ordered room service and ran out of places to sit, besides the bed.

Flavor By Loews Hotels

One of the coolest things a hotel brand can do is to localize the experience when staying at a property. If you’re staying at Loews Chicago O’Hare, you’ll find they’ve made quite an effort to introduce locally-made products in food and drinks.

Filbert blue raspberry and fresh bread in Chicago

Flavor by Loews Hotels is a brilliant way to introduce travelers to local products. Flavor by Loews Hotels is built on partnerships with artisan food & beverage vendors, and its starting to roll out in Loews destinations across the nation. At the Chicago O’Hare Loews, Flavor by Loews Hotels has different brands to try. Filbert’s Old Time Root Beer is available at The Ashburn; Veruca Chocolates boutique chocolates are paired in desserts at The Ashburn and in-room service; and Rare Bird Preserves are served at breakfast and desserts as well as in sauces used in dishes on the menu at The Ashburn and in-room dining.

We found even more products at the Loews Downtown Chicago location. I you’re there, try Chicago Honey Co-op honey in a cocktail at Streeterville Social; cold-pressed juices are available in ETA Restaurant + Bar; and Revolution Brewing’s Zephyr beer is exclusively available at Loews Chicago Hotel in ETA Restaurant + Bar, The Lobby Lounge and Streeterville Social.

Entertainment near the hotel

I suspect that many of the guests staying at the hotel were staying there for one particular reason: It’s very near Fashion Outlets of Chicago. I saw a lot of people passing through the lobby carrying shopping bags from brands like Armani, Guess and Neiman Marcus.

Shoppers in front of the Burberry store at Fashion Outlets of Chicago
The Fashion Outlets of Chicago is located in Rosemont, Ill. The two-level shopping center has more than 130 designer outlets. Photo courtesy Fashion Outlets of Chicago

It’s a huge mall – a 530,000 square-foot, two-level indoor shopping center with more than 130 designer outlets like Gucci and Prada. Anchor stores include Bloomingdale’s The Outlet Store and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH.

My kids? They liked the Disney Outlet store, in particular.

We went to the mall during the holiday season to meet Santa and tour Santa HQ by HGTV. It’s a high-tech Santa experience, complete with an Elf Academy. If you go, know that it’s open through most of November and closes on Christmas Eve each year.

The view of Santa HQ from the second floor of the Fashion Outlets of Chicago. The seasonal experience is at the mall every November and December.

Doing Santa HQ is about the same price as going to see a regular Santa at the mall, which is to say, not cheap, but when you add in the extras, it’s worth it. Plus, having the ability to make a reservation beats standing in line and waiting.

Loews Chicago O’Hare is also near Parkway Bank Park, a massive entertainment district with up-scale restaurants, bowling, and in the winter, outdoor ice skating. We were in Rosemont during a snow storm and had the hardest time figuring out the parking situation at Parkway. We were trying to have dinner at Hofbräuhaus Chicago, but could not find parking. It was frustrating, and ultimately, we ended up just driving back to the hotel.

Tip: It turns out, our mistake was trying to park in front of the restaurant — there’s very little surface parking, so you just have to park in the nearby, massive parking garage.

If we had more time, there was plenty more for our family to explore, including bowling at Kings Dining & Entertainment, indoor sky diving at iFly, and the free interactive museum, Big Ten Experience.

Looking for a hotel near O'Hare Airport or the Fashion Outlets of Chicago? Here's a look at Loews O'Hare, a place full of art and local flavors. #LoewsPartner #Chicago #familytravel

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