January 5, 2019

Nebraska Bingo

Think you know Nebraska? I’ve explored the state from Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska to Indian Cave State Park in southeastern Nebraska, and I’ve decided that there’s so much more I’ve yet to see. With the idea that we should get out and explore more, I’ve created this Nebraska Bingo playing card.

How many landmarks can you check off on Nebraska Bingo? I've got more places to visit in this state! #Nebraska #Bingo #travel

I don’t have a Bingo on this card, yet, but it’s going to be my guide for exploring Nebraska from this point on.

Start Planning

There are a few on the list I have written about, so if you want to get some inspiration in order to complete a row in Nebraska Bingo, check out these posts:

Smith Falls – Read about canoeing the Niobrara River, which passes through Smith Falls State Park

Family walking on a trail at Toadstool Geological Park in western Nebraska
Nebraska’s own Badlands, AKA Toadstool Geological Park.

Toadstool Geological Park – An interesting stop during a western Nebraska and South Dakota road trip

Omaha Children’s Museum – I wrote this post about the perks of a family membership long before I started working at the museum, but it still stands. This museum is best for kids ages 8 and younger.

Indian Cave State Park – This scenic park is known for its trails. There is a cave, but it’s not the kind of cave you’re thinking.

Historical re-enactor dressed as a blacksmith at Fort Atkinson in Nebraska
Don’t miss the blacksmith during the re-enactment weekends at Fort Atkinson, located in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska. He may even make a little souvenir for your kid.

Fort Atkinson – The best time to visit is during the historical re-enactments. They’re held the first Saturday and Sunday of the month, May through October.

Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium – There are more detailed posts about recently opened exhibits like Asian Highlands and African Grasslands.

Boy looking out from a stagecoach at Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska.
When we went to Fort Robinson, the kids weren’t old enough for trail rides, so we settled for a stagecoach ride.

Fort Robinson State Park – This is a one-of-a-kind state park in Nebraska. You won’t find anything like it, with it’s jeep rides, stagecoach rides, trail rides, and unique buildings.

With any luck, I’ll add to this list in the next year or two! I’d love to hear where all you’ve been and if you can yell “BINGO” on the Nebraska Bingo card. Leave a comment!

How many Nebraska landmarks have you visited? #Nebraska #Bingo

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December 14, 2018

Winter Day Trips From Omaha

There’s only one thing to do when cabin fever strikes: Bundle up and get out of the house. I recently shared a list of 30+ things to do this winter in Omaha. But if you’ve done it all here, or at least it feels like it, then maybe it’s time to get out of town. Here are some ideas to inspire your next winter day trips from Omaha:

Winter day trips from Omaha, Nebraska - Indoors and outdoor ideas for families #Nebraska #Iowa #familytravel

Council Bluffs, Iowa

You don’t have to go far for your next day trip. Council Bluffs, Iowa, has enough to keep you busy for the day. Visit Union Pacific Railroad Museum for free, or pay a few dollars to see the nearby Squirrel Cage Jail. The city also has Joe’s Carting, for go carts.

Related post: Family-Friendly Outdoor Activities Near Council Bluffs

The historic Squirrel Cage Jail is located in Council Bluffs.  Photo courtesy Iowa Tourism Office

Where to eat? 712 is great food but not necessarily a place you’d necessarily want to bring little kids to. Pizza King is an iconic pizza joint (though Pizza Counter nearly won the entire Great Pizza Tournament this year). Quaker Steak & Lube is a chain restaurant, but the decor gives you plenty to look at while you’re there. 

Honey Creek, Iowa

Bundle up and hit the trails at Hitchcock Nature Center. You can rent snow shoes and if you’re feeling adventurous, try a sled down the Chute Trail. Warm up and have the kids play around the great visitor’s center.

Related post: Fall At Hitchcock Nature Center

Where to eat? When the weather’s nice, I usually pack a picnic for Hitchcock outings. However, I don’t picnic in the winter. Crescent is your closest city with restaurants. My favorite restaurant is closed now, so I guess I’ll just recommend the iconic Crescent restaurant, Pink Poodle. I haven’t eaten there in, oh, about 20 years, though, so I can’t tell you if it’s still great or not.

Truthfully? I drive into Council Bluffs if I’m looking a restaurant near there. 

Crescent, Iowa

The area’s only skiing is at Mt. Crescent in Crescent, Iowa. In addition to ski slopes, there are tubes to rent. Best part? You don’t have to walk up the hill each time with the big tubes; Mt. Crescent has a lift for the tube trail, too.

Where to eat? Mt. Crescent has a small lodge that may have some food. It’s near Crescent, Iowa, so see the above suggestion.

Lincoln, Neb.

There’s so much to do in Lincoln in the winter, but our favorites are the Lincoln Children’s Museum and Morrill Hall. We also enjoyed Lost In Fun!, but it is out of the way of most everything.

Related Post: 8 Great Things To Do With Kids In Lincoln

The hall of mammoths at Morrill Hall on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Where to eat? We always end up eating at Lazlo’s with the kids in the Hay Market. Fora good dessert, I recommend The Rabbit Hole Bakery, an Alice in Wonderland-themed café.

Ashland, Neb.

Mahoney State Park is a destination in itself, but you can combine a stop there with a few hours at Strategic Air and Space Museum. Outdoor activities at Mahoney include tobogganing and ice skating. We usually spend all of our time at the Activity Center, which has a huge indoor playground and climbing walls.

The indoor Activity Center at Mahoney State Park is a popular (and inexpensive) destination for families living in Omaha.

Where to eat? – You could eat at the Activity Center, but I wouldn’t recommend it beyond getting a snack. Head into Ashland for Cherri’s, which has some good sandwiches and ice cream, or just get a pizza to go from Casey’s.

If you’re traveling without kids, there’s winery and tasting room to check out, too. Visit Cellar 426 or Glacial Till Tasting Room.

Related Post: Things To Do At Mahoney State Park In The Winter 

Nebraska City, Neb.

OK, I’ll be the first to tell you Nebraska City is better any other time of the year, but don’t dismiss it. For older kids, explore some of the historic sites including Arbor Lodge and Wildwood Historic Center. If you’re ambitious and hearty in the winter, hit the trails at the Arbor Lodge Tree Adventure.

Related Post: Visiting Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure

Going off the trail at the Arbor Lodge Tree Adventure in Nebraska City, Neb.

Where to eat? The last restaurant we dined at in Nebraska City is now closed and, I confess, I’m more likely to pack a picnic visit (and then eat apple pie at the Apple House Market next door to the Tree Adventure). The Keeping Room looks charming, so if I were to pick the one I’d try out, I’d go there.

Your turn: Tell me a great winter day trip from Omaha!

Great, family-friendly day trip from Omaha - Things to see and do in nearby towns like Lincoln, Ashland and Honey Creek #Nebraska #Lincoln #Midwest

Get more day trip ideas by following my Pinterest board dedicated to traveling with kids through Nebraska:

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July 13, 2018

What’s New At Nebraska State Parks Near Omaha

There are a lot of updates happening at four Nebraska state parks and state recreation areas near Omaha, including an addition of a ropes course, “glamping” cabins, and an aqua playground. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission calls them Outdoor Venture Parks. Here’s a look at what’s new and what’s coming. What’s great for us is that these parks are located within about 30 miles of Omaha.

For the most up-to-date information and to see the artist renderings of everything, visit Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s website.

A look at the plans for four venture parks in eastern Nebraska #statepark #outdoors #adventure

Mahoney State Park

Artist rendering of Mahoney State Park climbing walls
A rock wall will open in the Activity Center at Mahoney State Park in Nebraksa. Artist rendering courtesy Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Where: Ashland, Neb.

What’s new: The Go Ape Ropes Course opened at Mahoney State Park in the spring of 2018. It’s Nebraska’s only treetop rope course, and in it you’ll find ziplines and suspended walkways. There are age and height restrictions.

What’s on the way: Slated to open in the fall of 2018, Mahoney State Park is expanding its Activity Center and adding an indoor rock climbing wall. In the winter of 2018-2019, be on the lookout for a new alpine and sledding hill. That means year-round sliding, folks. There is also the addition of a lazy river at the park that’s been proposed, but no design plan has been selected yet and no installation date has been set.

Platte River State Park

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

Where: Louisville, Neb.

What’s new: Glamping! The three glamping cabins opened in July 2018, and are an upscale way to camp. The feature I’m most interested in is the queen-size bed on rollers that can be moved out onto the deck to sleep under the stars. This summer, Platte River State Park also opened a two-tiered splash pad. It replaces the pool, and is intended for preschoolers on up to young teens. In 2017, Platte River State Park added Crawdad Creek, which was a hit with my kids. Find it by Jenny Newman Lake – it’s a series of small ponds. Look up program times, where kids (and adults) can learn and explore with a parks employee.

What’s on the way: Sometime in the summer of 2018, they park should have river access for visitors, including kayaks to rent. It may be open already. Be on the lookout for a new RV campground in the fall of 2018. Further ahead in the future, the park will be enhancing mountain bike trails to make it a premier regional destination for mountain bikers. Those trails are scheduled to be completed in 2019.

Louisville State Recreation Area

Louisville State Recreation Area floating playground is the first of its kind in Nebraska
The floating playground at Louisville State Recreation Area (SRA) will open in July 2018. Photo courtesy NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Where: Louisville, Neb.

What’s new: A new floating playground is supposed to open any day now. It’s a huge, inflatable obstacle course, and as such, there are age restrictions. You’ll also be able to rent watercycles and paddleboards.

What’s on the way: A new access point to the Platte River should open in the fall of 2018. No word on being able to rent equipment.

Schramm Park State Recreation Area

Artist rendering the the Schramm Park interactive exploration center
Schramm Park State Recreation Area (SRA) will open a new interactive exploration center aquarium soon as part of the Nebraska Outdoor Venture Parks. Artist rendering courtesy Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Where: Gretna, Neb.

What’s new: Nothing new…yet, though sometime this summer, there should be more access to the river, with expanded rec options like canoeing, kayaking and other water-based activities.

What’s on the way: I’m happy to say the former Aksarben Aquarium is getting a makeover. Expect the renovated center, soon to be called Interactive Exploration Center, to open in the fall or winter of 2018. It should be a state-of-the art nature center and aquarium when finished. This fall, there should be some enhanced and expanded mountain bike trails opening.

List of what has opened at the Nebraska Venture Parks and what is planned. These are all parks within 30 miles of Omaha.

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May 2, 2018

8 Great Things To Do With Kids In Lincoln

Lincoln, Neb., is a favorite quick getaway for my family. We plan a day trip or overnight trip to the city at least once a year. After a few years of doing this, we have a good idea of some of the most fun things to do with kids in Lincoln.

I’ve compiled a list of the places my kids loved the most in Lincoln. Here they are, eight great things to do with kids in Lincoln, Neb.:

Lincoln Children’s Museum

Where: 1420 P St., Lincoln, Neb.

Why: Hands down, this is the one place in Lincoln my kids request to visit every. single. time. If your kids are younger than 8, this place will be a hit with them. It’s three stories and full of play opportunities. My kids love the role play areas, like pretending to be Johnny Carson.

Cost: Children (18 months to 15 years old), $10.95; adults (ages 16+), $9.95; and children younger than 18, FREE. Reciprocal membership alert! If you have a Patron membership to Omaha Children’s Museum, you receive 50% off admission for up to 6 people.

Learn more about the Lincoln Children’s Museum.

 

Morrill Hall

Where: 635 N. 14th St., Lincoln Neb. (located on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus)

Why: In a word: Dinosaurs. This is a natural history museum has an appeal for all ages, but if you have younger kids, don’t skip the bottom level, where there’s a great kid’s space with tons of hands-on play like a fossil dig.

Cost: Adults 19 and older, $6 ($10 to include planetarium); children 5-18, $3 ($6 to include planetarium); families of 2 adults and children/grandchildren 18 and younger, $13; children 4 and younger, FREE ($3 to include planetarium, though children younger than 3 are not permitted in the planetarium); UNL students and faculty, FREE ($3 to include planetarium)

See lots of pictures of the kid-friendly side of Morrill Hall here.

 

Sunken Gardens

Where: South 27th Street and Capitol Parkway, Lincoln, Neb.

Why: The Sunken Gardens are meticulously cared for, so it’s a sight to behold. The best part is, it’s a public garden, so there is no cost to stroll the grounds. My kids were fans of the ponds. It’s very near the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, so it’s easy to visit both.

Cost: FREE

I shared details on our visit to Sunken Gardens in this post about 24 Hours in Lincoln.

 

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A beautiful fall day in Lincoln, Nebraska. 😍

A post shared by Kim Reiner (@ohmyomaha) on

 

Gallery Alley

Where: 701 P St., Lincoln, Neb.

Why: By day, this alley in the historic Haymarket isn’t going to draw you in. At night, however, the strung lights are aglow and the murals and sculptures found along the alley walls take on a whole new and exciting life. The Haymarket is nice to stroll around with kids, too. I’ve seen it referred to as Art Alley, which I think is fitting. Read this post for a Haymarket hotel suggestion and restaurant tip.

Cost: FREE

 

UNL Dairy Store

Where: 114 Food Industry Complex, Lincoln, Neb.

Why: Ice cream! The dairy on the East University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus has been in business of handmade food since 1917. If you plan ahead, you can sign up for a complimentary tour the dairy facilities.

Cost: FREE (unless you want to buy ice cream, which obviously, we all do)

I shared details on our visit to UNL Dairy Store in this post about 24 Hours in Lincoln.

 

 

Lost In Fun!

Where: 8431 Cody Drive, Lincoln, Neb.

Why: Lost in Fun! is an excellent rainy day outing in Lincoln. Think bounce house, jump pillow, foam pit, jungle gyms and arcade games. The only downside is that it’s not near ANYTHING else on this list, and it’s not near the interstate. So, it’s not a convenient place, but it’s a ton of fun for kids.

Cost: Mega Fun Pass (ages 6-14), $10.75; Mini Fun Pass (ages 2-5), $6.25; Micro Fun Pass (12 months old), $3.75; and FREE for children younger than 12 months old and adults

 

Lincoln Children’s Zoo

Where: 1222 S. 27th, Lincoln, Neb.

Why: This zoo may be on the small side, but it packs in a lot of animal engagement opportunities. Some are additional fees, like riding a horse or feeding the goats, while others are free, such as touching a lizard or bunny.

Cost: Adults, 13-61, $9.95; children 2-12 and seniors, 62+, $8.95; children 1 and younger, FREE. Check if your zoo membership qualifies for a reciprocal discount.

Get the scoop on things to do at the Lincoln zoo here.

 

 

Antelope Park

Where: 23rd and N Streets to 33rd Street and Sheridan Boulebard

Why: Few parks can compare to the massive Antelope Park. I counted 12 slides when we were there. This is a great, budget-friendly option to let the kids run wild.

Cost: FREE

I shared details about Antelope Park in this post about 24 Hours in Lincoln.

 

 

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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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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. Oh My! Omaha is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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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