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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December 30, 2017

10 Beautiful Midwest Destinations For Families

I’d like 2018 to be a year of beauty and wonder for my kids. The good news is that you don’t have to travel far to encounter some truly beautiful or unique places. There are so many beautiful Midwest destinations! Here are a few of my family’s favorites so you, too, can have a year of beauty and wonder with your family.

I’m stilling brainstorming where we may go in 2018, so I’d love your suggestions! Where in the Midwest should I go with my family for beautiful sights and wonder-inducing experiences?

 

Botanica, The Wichita Gardens

The Monster Trees might have been my favorite part of all Botanica Wichita.

Where: Wichita, Kan.

Why it’s beautiful: Obviously, being a botanical garden, things are going to be beautiful. Must-see pretty spots at Botanica include the koi pond and Chinese Friendship Garden.

Why kids will like it: You must take the kids to the whimsical Downing Children’s Garden to see the Monster Woods, musical maze, the familiar storybook character statues. and, being Kansas, the yellow brick road.

Read more about this kid-favorite destination!

 

Clear Lake

The view from the top of the carousel at Clear Lake’s Fourth of July celebration.

Where: Clear Lake, Iowa

Why it’s beautiful: Like most Midwestern lakes, there’s a beautiful of the sky reflecting on the water and the serene appeal of quiet, lapping waves on a shore. But, the bonus with Clear Lake is that it’s a getaway without being far from modern conveniences. The town of Clear Lake is literally right at the water’s edge.

Why kids will like it: There are a couple beaches to choose from where kids where it’s shallow enough for littles to enter the water safely. My kids particularly remember Clear Lake for its Fourth of July festival…and the chance to stay overnight in a yurt.

Want to stay in a yurt? Here’s a post about the only yurts in Iowa you can stay in. 

 

Coronado Heights Park

Coronado Heights Park has a structure that looks strikingly like a castle to young children (and grown ups with big imaginations).

Where: Lindsborg, Kan.

Why it’s beautiful: Coronado Heights sits on a sandstone bluff looking over flat pastures. The beauty is the view, yes, but also the stark contrast of an ancient-looking castle set on the plains.

Why kids will like it: The castle, obviously. It’s not really a castle, but go ahead and let them believe there was once a small, medieval castle just northwest of Lindsborg.

Bonus: Don’t just visit the park and miss out on the charming town of Lindsborg. The town wears its Swedish heritage with pride, and it’s utterly charming to visit.

We tacked on a visit to Coronado Heights during our weekend trip to Wichita. Read about that stop here!

 

Ledges State Park

We looked for rocks in the shallow river that flowed through Ledges State Park.

Where: Madrid, Iowa

Why it’s beautiful: This park is an unexpected treasure in the middle of Iowa. The walk along the sandstone gorge carved out by a tributary of the Des Moines River is unforgettable.

Why kids will like it: Playing in the water is a big draw, but part of the fun, too, is Canyon Drive, a route that passes through the sandstone gorge and is often partly submerged under water. The bigger the splash, the better.

 

Loess Hills

They don’t call them the Loess Hills for nothing. Don’t expect a flat hike at Preparation Canyon State Park.

Where: Western Iowa and Missouri

Why it’s beautiful: We’ve hiked a few trails in western Iowa’s Loess Hills, and each have had their own unique beauty about them. Trails along these unique formations can sometimes lead to rolling hills or steep bluffs, and have views of prairies or forests. You’ll find them along the eastern edge of the Missouri River flood plain.

Why kids will like it: This is Midwest nature at its purest.

Here are three hikes in the Loess Hills to consider!

 

Missouri Botanical Garden

The Japanese Garden at Missouri Botanical Garden is 14 acres with bridges, waterfalls and peaceful nooks.

Where: St. Louis, Mo.

Why it’s beautiful: This huge botanical garden has a space that appeals to everyone, but the most beautiful, to me at least, is the 14-acre Japanese Garden. It’s peaceful with its path around the lake, and everywhere you look, you see pure beauty.

Why kids will like it: The kids enjoyed feeding the Koi fish at the Japanese Garden and looking for turtles around lake. However, you’d be making a huge mistake if you skip the seasonal Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden. It’s a lot of fun (pack their swimsuits).

They don’t call this place one of the most beautiful gardens in the U.S. for nothing! Read why here.

 

Smith Falls

A view of Smith Falls on a sunny day.

Where: Cherry County, Nebraska (nearest city is Valentine, Neb.)

Why it’s beautiful: Located in Smith Falls State Park, this 63-foot waterfall is the tallest in Nebraska. You don’t forget the first time you ever see this waterfall.

Why kids will like it: You hear the waterfall before you actually see it, which thrills children to no end. The fun part is that you can stand under the water, if you dare (it’s very cold no matter the season, and the water hits you pretty hard).

Bonus: Getting to Smith Falls from Omaha is half the fun – you drive through the beautiful Sandhills of Nebraska. Plus, most people opt to canoe the Niobrara River to Smith Falls State Park, which in my opinion, is another beautiful thing to experience.

Get Western Nebraska road trip inspiration to visit Smith Falls here!

 

Sylvan Lake

Where: Black Hills, South Dakota

Why it’s beautiful: Sylvan Lake is found within Custer State Park in South Dakota, which is itself, a truly unique and wonderful destination. Visit Custer, and make sure Sylvan Lake is on your list of stops. This gorgeous lake is a worthy destination for any family, either for an easy hike, water sports, or a waterside picnic.

Why kids will like it: The trail around lake is mostly easy, but there are some more challenging points that kids love. This is a spectacular spot to immerse yourself in nature.

Get inspired for a Black Hills road trip starting with this post!

 

Table Rock Lake

Jumping into Table Rock Lake to cool off in the summer.

Where: Stone County, Missouri

Why it’s beautiful: Table Rock Lake is a reservoir in the expansive Ozarks region of southern Missouri (and expands well into Arkansas). I particularly enjoyed Table Rock because it offered an peaceful escape from the frenzy of nearby Branson, Mo.

Why kids will like it: Water sports and small cliff jumping is a big appeal here. If you plan ahead, you can rent a houseboat to extend your stay on the water.

Toadstool Geologic Park

Nebraska’s own Badlands, AKA Toadstool Geological Park.

Where: Harrison, Neb.

Why it’s beautiful: This is Nebraska’s own Badlands. It’s off the beaten path, and much smaller than South Dakota’s Badlands, but park is just stunning to hike.

Why kids will like it: I suspect they like it because they’re imagining they’re on the moon. At least, that’s why I liked the park. Please note: The trail can be challenging for young children, and seriously panic-inducing for parents who bring their young children. Hike with care.

Read some Western Nebraska road trip inspiration in this post!

* * * * *

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October 26, 2017

5 Nebraska Must-See Places To Add To Your Bucket List

I’m pretty confident that I’ve seen a lot of remarkable places in Nebraska – from Toadstool Geological Park and Fort Robinson to Smith Falls and the Sandhills. Yet, browsing through the new book, “Detour Nebraska,” by Gretchen Garrison, I realize that there’s a lot more I have yet to see. It’s an inspired me to create a new Nebraska must-see list.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through the link, I’m paid a small amount to keep doing what I love to do – writing. Thanks!

Gretchen is a friend of mine, and her blog, Odyssey Through Nebraska, has inspired more than a trip or two of mine. It’s no surprise, then, that her book would prompt more trips. Here are five places she writes about that I want to add to my Nebraska Bucket List.

1. Kreycik Elk & Buffalo Ranch – This is a totally new place to me. At this ranch, guests ride a covered wagon to see the animals, and get this, they can feed the tamer ones. It’s near Niobrara State Park, which has been one of Nebraska’s state parks I’ve been meaning to get to for ages. I see a combo trip in my future.

Kreycik Elk & Buffalo Ranch in Nebraska. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

2.The Arthur Bowring Ranch – The allure of the Sandhills combined with a ranch it too great for me. I have to go here. Plus, there’s a sod house. It’s very Nebraska. There’s a Sodhouse Sunday event on the last Sunday of June that sounds like something I’d drag my family to like to attend so I can see the re-enactments of what early Nebraska life was like.

3. Seward – OK, I really only want to go to Seward for its Fourth of July festivities. It hear it’s called Nebraska’s Fourth of July City for good reason – more than 40,000 people travel there for the parade and parties.

Nebraska’s Fourth of July City, Seward. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

4. Happy Jack Peak and Chalk Mine – One of two underground diatomite mines in the U.S. is located near Scotia, Neb. I have a strange fascination with mines and caves, so naturally, this one is on my radar. I don’t expect to see much in the mine, I just want to go underground because underground stuff is cool.

Happy Jack Peak & Chalk Mine near Scotia, Neb. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

5. Ashfalls Fossil Beds State Historical Site – I first heard of Ashfalls through Gretchen’s blog, so naturally her book reminded me that I have yet to go there. If you visit in the summer, you may catch student paleontologists digging fossils of rhinos, camels and horses.

 

Nebraska attractions

“Detour Nebraska” comes out on Oct. 30 (it’s actually the same day as my book, “Lost Restaurants of Omaha”).

 

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September 13, 2017

Halloween At Nebraska & Iowa Parks

There are a lot of city and state parks Halloween events in 2017. Most are appealing for all ages, though if you’re looking for some scares, you can find a park for you. I mostly gathered details for fun events near Halloween in Nebraska parks, but included some nearby Iowa park events as well as notable state parks with themed plans.

Please note: Most of these parks will require a park permit to enter.

Halloween at Nebraska Parks

Looking for more fall fun? Check out the 20+ Things You Must Do In Nebraska This Fall list!

 

Viking Lake State Park Spooktacular

When: Oct. 7

Where: Viking Lake State Park, 2780 Viking Lake Road, Stanton, Iowa

What: Details to come on this event, other than things start at 5 p.m.

Scare factor: TBD

 

Halloween Campsite Decorating Contest & Trick-or-Treating

When: Oct. 14

Where: Fremont State Recreation Area, 4349 W State Lakes Road, Fremont, Neb.

What: Decorate your campsite for a chance to win free nights of camping. Judging and trick or treating runs from 5 to 7 p.m. Don’t forget to bring candy for the kids.

Scare factor: Low

 

Trunk or Treat at Homestead Knolls Campground

When: Oct. 14

Where: Calamus State Recreation Area, 42285 York Point Road, Burwell, Neb.

What: Kids in costumes are invited to trick or treat around the campsites from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Decorate your campsite and hand out candy. Registration is required for those wanting to decorate their vehicle or campsite for the event by calling the park office at 308-346-566 or email the park at ngpc.calamus@nebraska.gov.

Scare factor: Low

 

Lewis & Clark State Park Halloween Celebration

When: Oct. 14

Where: Lewis & Clark State Park, 21914 Park Loop, Onawa, Iowa

What: No details available, yet, except activities start at 5 p.m.

Scare factor: TBD

 

Ledges State Park Trick or Treat

When: Oct. 14

Where: Ledges State Park, 1515 P Ave., Madrid, Iowa

What: Hike through the campground and trick-or-treating at campsites decorated for the occasion. Activities run from 5 to 7 p.m.

Scare factor: Low

 

Bellevue State Park Trick or Treat

When: Oct. 14

Where: Bellevue State Park, 21466 429th Ave., Bellevue, Iowa

What: Trick or treating through the campground from 5 to 7 p.m.

Scare factor: Low

 

Harvest Fun Days

When: Oct. 14, 21 and 28

Where: Hummel Nature Center, 11808 John J Pershing Drive, Omaha

What: Free activities run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., including fall crafts, exploring trails and games, as well as rides to the pumpkin patch. Pumpkins are $2 each. Reservations requested.

Scare factor: None

22nd Annual Haunted Hollow Hayrack Rides

When: Oct. 14, 20-21, and 27-28

Where: Indian Cave State Park, 65296 720 Road, Shubert, Neb.

What: From 7 to 9 p.m., enjoy several activities throughout the park, including a Halloween scavenger hunt, campground decorating contest, pumpkin roll contest, horseback rides, costume contest, face painting, Halloween crafts to make and take, living history demonstrations. Rides depart from the museum parking lot. Must purchase tickets in advance starting Oct. 1 at 402-883-2575. Adults are $8, kids (4-12) are $6 and children 3 and younger are FREE.

Scare factor: Most events are low on scares. If they do a hayrack ride–I believe they once they did–I’ve heard the is scary for littles.

 

All Hallow’s Eve at Botna Bend Park

When: Oct. 20 and 21

Where: Botna Bend Park, 42926 Mahogany Road, Hancock, Iowa

What: Campfire stories for all ages will be presented by Council Bluffs Library on Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m. Activities planned all day Oct. 21 include Halloween crafts at 10 a.m.; a two-person team corn hole tournament starting at noon (register in advance at the park office the morning before); Raptor Recover demos at 3 p.m.; campground trick-or-treating at 6:25 p.m.; Movie in the Park screening of “Hotel Transylvania” at 7:15 p.m. Meet at Olson Lodge for all activities.

Scare factor: Low to none

 

Nature’s Harvest

When: Oct. 21

Where: Hitchcock Nature Center, 27792 Ski Hill Loop, Honey Creek, Iowa

What: Costumes are encouraged for this event that runs from 4 to 6 p.m. Activities planned for participants of all ages including guided hikes, games, scavenger hunts, refreshments, campground trick or treating & hayrack ride. Free-will donation accepted. Everything is FREE with park entry fee. RSVP here.

Scare factor: None

 

30th  Annual Pumpkin Carvers Event

When: Oct. 21

Where: Calamus State Recreation Area, 42285 York Point Road, Burwell, Neb.

What: Spend the day carving pumpkins. Carving utensils and patterns will be provided but visitors are encourage to bring their own. Pumpkins will be limited; recommended that visitors bring their own to carve. Pumpkins will be displayed around the campground starting at 5 p.m. Access to the campground will be closed to vehicle traffic from 6 to 10 p.m. to allow viewers to enjoy their time looking at the displays. All parking will be located at the Homestead Knolls boat ramp area and also day use area.

Scare factor: None

 

Pink Pumpkin Walk

When: Oct. 21

Where: Indian Cave State Park, 65296 720 Road, Shubert, Neb.

What: This is a 10 a.m. breast cancer walk for survivors and in memory of loved ones. Registration is $25 and includes a T-shirt. You can call to order a personalized pink pumpkin in memory of a loved one, for those who have beat cancer and those currently with their fight.  $10 due by Oct. 14. Proceeds going to Richardson County Cancer Society and Nemaha County Giving Hope Cancer Fund.
Pre-register online by Oct. 14 here.

Scare factor: None

 

Vintage Halloween

When: Oct. 21-22 and Oct. 28-29

Where: Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, 22 Street & 2 Avenue, Nebraska City, Neb.

What: Step back in time to see historic trades, talents, and other demonstrations come alive inside the mansion and out. The weekend is full of Vintage Halloween fun frivolity as we celebrate vintage Halloween customs, games, crafts, and décor from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mansion admission is $8 adults, $6 youth (age 3-12). Entrance to the park is free.

Scare factor: None

 

Camp ‘n Treat!

When: Oct. 27-31

Where: Red Willow Reservoir State Recreation Area, 72718 Trail 2, McCook, Neb.

What: A Halloween camping event with half-price camping rates of $10/night for a pad site, $4/night for a tent site. There is a camper/campsite decorating contest with a price of three nights free camping on dates of your choice. Kids pumpkin carving contest is at 4 p.m. on Oct. 28. Camper to Camper Trick or Treating on Halloween night. Bring treats for the kids in exchange for the half-price camping.

Scare factor: 1

 

Trunk & Treat

When: Oct. 28

Where: Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, Fort Calhoun, Neb.

What: Fort Atkinson State Historical Park will have a truck or treat event from  from 1 to 3 p.m. There will be Halloween activities, a parade of costumes and pumpkin painting.

Scare factor: None

 

Haunted Hike Night

When: Oct. 28

Where: Windmill State Recreation Area, Gibbon, Neb.

What: Get in some exercise as you walk, or RUN, the trail filled with swamp monsters, zombies, and more. Trail is recommended for individuals 13 years or older, or with parental consent. Hot cocoa is offered at the end of the trail. Event is $1 a person or a donation of a canned food item to be donated to the Gibbon Food Pantry.

Scare factor: Scary

 

Do you know of some other events at parks in Nebraska or Iowa that can be added to this list? Leave a comment or email ohmyomaha (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks!

 

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September 7, 2017

20+ Things You Must Do This Fall In Nebraska

Here’s everything you could ever want to do in the fall in Nebraska, as well as favorite activities in Iowa for those looking for a day trip.

Fall in the heartland is fun. There’s a bounty of good things to eat, pretty places to visit and awesome sites to see.

I shared my favorite fall activities, and crowdsourced to fill in what I’m missing. Tips came from the Oh My! Omaha Facebook page, Omaha Area Foodies Facebook Group, and Midwest Travel Bloggers. Leave a comment with your favorites!

– Pick apples at the closest apple orchard to Omaha, Ditmars Orchard in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Other places to go include Martin’s Hillside Orchard near Ceresco, Neb., and Kimmel Orchard in Nebraska City.

– While you’re at the orchards, you have to try some of their apple specialties. I love Ditmars’ fresh apple cider donuts. You might also like their fried apple pie there. Other items to try: Kimmel’s apple wine and Union Orchard’s caramel apple pie (both located in Nebraska City).

– Spend the afternoon at an Oktoberfest celebration in Omaha. Popular ones are at Crescent Moon, Gerda’s and the German-American Society.

– Go to a “for real” haunted place. One of the closest to Omaha that I know of is that is reportedly haunted is the Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs. Here are five of Iowa’s spookiest, according to Olio in Iowa. If you’re brave, head to Villisca Ax Murder House in Villisca, Iowa. (shared by Mojotraveler).

– Make an Arbor Day Farm family field trip. We pretty much do this every year. We head to the Arbor Day Farms Tree Adventure first for a hike and then order the apple pie a la mode at the restaurant on the property. Arbor Day Farm is in Nebraska City.

– Get a group together to do the hayrack ride and bonfire at Shady Lane in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Having s’mores on the menu is a must.

– Get a new take on the s’more and try B & B Classic Dogs’s dessert: Smore Krispies. They torch the marshmallow right before it leaves the kitchen.

– Head to the pumpkin patch. Some Nebraska and Iowa favorites include Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in Gretna, Neb. (shared by The Walking Tourists); SkinnyBones Pumpkin Patch in Blair, Neb.; and Bellevue Berry Farm & Pumpkin Patch in Bellevue, Neb. Head to Iowa for more day trip destinations like: Bloomsbury Farm and Wilson’s Orchard in Cedar Rapids; Enchanted Acres in Sheffield, Iowa (shared by Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids); or The Pumpkin Patch in Winterset, Iowa (shared by Olio in Iowa). Sioxland Families shared a big list of pumpkin patches around Sioux City, too.

– Navigate a corn maze.

– Attend a fall festival. Recommended ones include the Applejack Festival in Nebraska City and Applefest in Woodbine, Iowa.

– Make soup or buy your favorite from a restaurant. Not a cook? Try to potato soup at Don & Millie’s.

– Go to a U-pick farm.

– Take the kids to a Halloween event. There are no shortage of events in Omaha each year, but some of my favorites include Omaha Symphony’s “Symphony Spooktacular,” Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium’s Spooktacular, and Omaha Children’s Museum’s Cobweb Castle. All are great for my little ones, because they’re low on scares.

– Carve a pumpkin.

– Go to a Husker football game. It’s true: The stadium, when full, becomes Nebraska’s third-most populated “city.” Or you can watch the game at home and make tried-and-true Husker recipes, like Crack Dip (cream cheese, sausage and Rotel).

– Drink apple cider. One of my favorite places to get on-site pressed apple cider is at Arbor Day Farm’s little restaurant in Nebraska City.

– Taking a slow walk or hike. A recommended trail from a reader: Papio Trail. Here are seven of my favorite trails near Omaha.

– Bob for apples.

– If you’re in Omaha and love food, you know fall means Omaha Restaurant Week.

– Take a brewery or winery tour. You could also grape stomp (something I’ve tried, but I actually do not recommend. One word: bees).

– Visit a farmer’s market for the fall bounty of produce. One foodie said she makes zucchini bread with the last of the giant squash everyone avoids.

Your turn: What are your favorite fall activities in Nebraska or Iowa?

 

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