Discover places to go in Nebraska using this category, including itineraries for city visits, tips for kid-friendly destinations and restaurants to try. Learn about things to do in Nebraska State Parks and cities like Lincoln, Nebraska City, Chadron and more.
While Omaha’s culinary scene may get international attention, the restaurant scene in Bellevue is nothing to scoff at. From top-contending burgers at Stella’s to impressive cuisine at Umami, Bellevue’s food scene runs the gamut from nice sit down to popular greasy spoons.
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Where is Bellevue, Nebraska?
Bellevue, Neb., is a suburban city in southeastern Nebraska just to the south of Omaha. It’s considered part of the Omaha Metro area. Many people move to Bellevue when they get stationed at nearby Offutt Air Force Base.
Usually, when I venture to Bellevue, it’s to visit Fontenelle Forest or Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Patch (though, if we want to be technical, Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Patch actually in Papillion…but I digress).
Now, on to food!
Best restaurants to try in Bellevue, Neb.
Stella’s Bar & Grill
Where: 106 Galvin Road S, Bellevue, Neb.
Possibly the most famous Bellevue restaurant, Stella’s is known for its Stellanator challenge. Six patties and a ton of toppings invites people with big eyes for the challenge. If you finish the Stellanator and a side of fries within 45 minutes, it’s free and you win a T-shirt. Lose, and it costs $35.
Stella’s regular burgers are a treat. You can get a variety of toppings, such as peanut butter, jalapenos, fried egg and cheese. The eatery serves the burgers on napkins. It’s a fun outing for anyone, including families.
Tip: Be prepared for a short wait regardless of when you visit.
Located in a former Sizzler steakhouse on Fort Crook, Roma features classic Italian dishes, such as spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmesan.
With outstanding appetizers and salads, Roma’s entree portions are large. You may want to consider splitting a dish.
Sinful Burger Sports Grill
Where: 4005 Twin Creek Drive, Bellevue, Neb.
With hearty-sized burgers fashioned after the seven deadly sins, Sinful Burger is an excellent spot to enjoy dinner and watch sports. The family-friendly restaurant also offers the Metro’s only authentic Indian taco, featuring handmade fry bread with taco toppings.
Sinful Burger closes on all major holidays, so employees can enjoy family time.
Where: 12510 S. 29th Ave., Bellevue, Neb.
Using fresh ingredients, including peppers grown in a garden behind the restaurant, Lil Burro’s menu features authentic dishes. From tacos and enchiladas to tamales and burritos, Lil Burro, with its colorful dining room and unique decor, is a popular eatery on Capehart Road, not far from Offutt Air Force Base.
Discover even more unique and quirky restaurants in the book “Unique Eats and Eateries of Omaha.” It’s written by two of my friends, Tim and Lisa Trudell (AKA, The Walking Tourists), and they’ve included and quite a few restaurants on this list, and several more. They provided several photos for this post, too.
Quick Bites Soul Food
Where: 105 W. Mission Ave., Bellevue, Neb.
From gizzards to catfish and po boys, the restaurant on Mission is the place to go for great soul and cajun food. With sides such as candied yams, collard greens, and red beans and rice, Quick Bites has been the place to dine since 2016.
Where: 16609 Clay St., Bellevue, Neb.
Possibly the best spot in the Metro for catfish and other fish dinners, Catfish Lake relocated from its longtime home near Offutt following the 2019 flood to a spot in south Bellevue near LaPlatte.
Open since 1986, Catfish Lake also serves delicious fried chicken and burgers.
John’s Grecian Delight
Where: Inside Southroads Technology Park, 1001 Fort Crook Road N, Bellevue, Neb.
Calling the Southroads home for nearly 40 years, John’s Grecian Delight ranks among the best places in the Omaha area to enjoy a gyro and other traditional Greek cuisine. During Southroads’ heyday, people stood in line for an opportunity to taste John’s food.
Today, the clientele may be a little different, but the food remains outstanding.
Where: 1504 Galvin Road S, Bellevue, Neb.
Known for its delicious sushi, the popular Asian restaurant on Galvin Road attracts diners from around the area. Besides sushi, Umami’s menu includes Chinese and Thai entrees.
A Bellevue staple since 1987, Netties continues to offer traditional Mexican fare. With its famous chili leading the way, Netties offers entrees such as enchilada and taco combinations.
Note: Netties is closed Sunday and Monday.
The Banh Mi Shop
Where: 923 Galvin Road S suite 101, Bellevue, Neb.
Just a couple of years old, The Banh Mi Shop on South Galvin Road quickly became popular for its Vietnamese-style sandwiches. With menu items such as shredded pork and cold cut sandwiches, The Banh Mi Shop’s menu features delicious and healthy options.
Tip: A second location of The Banh Mi Shop opened in 2019 at the Inner Rail Food Hall at Aksarben Village.
With a variety of restaurants to choose from in the Omaha area, Bellevue is home to some of the Metro’s best. So, don’t be surprised if the people at the table next to you drove a distance to enjoy their meal.
Nebraska is known for many things, but a flourishing restaurant scene isn’t one of them. Yet. I’m here to make sure that changes. Here are some of my favorite Nebraska restaurants, as well as the top recommendations from fellow travel bloggers who know and love the state.
Bean Broker Coffee House & Pub
Why: While this is technically more coffee shop than a restaurant, Bean Broker impressed me the moment I walked in. It’s got a wonderful atmosphere that makes you just want to linger.
The food options were what you could expect for a cafe in a bigger city. For Chadron, it was a pleasant surprise.
And the good coffee helped too.
Bean Broker was a true hidden gem in western Nebraska.
Tip: While you’re in Chadron, plan an afternoon to explore the oldest state park in Nebraska, Chadron State Park.
Why: Don’t let the line out the door scare you away. Block 16 is worth the wait. I’m a creature of habit and always get the Croque garcon burger (mainly because I do anything Alton Brown tells me to do).
I know I’m missing out by not trying one of their creative sandwiches of the day. I can’t help it though. It’s an amazing burger.
Anyway, Block 16 also has fantastic fries (try the rangoon fries) and my kids are partial to their fried chicken.
Why: Dante, in West Omaha, brings wood-fired Neapolitan pizza and rustic Italian cuisine to a top-notch level. Chrysa from Thrifty Jinxy visited the restaurant recently and highly recommended it. (Kim’s note: I agree with her!)
Owner and Chef Nick Strawhecker says his menu is inspired by the seasons and food that works well with wood. That means the ever-changing menu incorporates only ingredients that are at their prime, including fresh produce from local farmers whenever possible.
“Whatever is on the menu when you visit, you’ll find delicious pasta, inventive pizzas, amazing main courses and more. If it’s on the menu when you visit, I can’t tell you how delicious the wood-roasted beets and fried kale is – and this is coming from someone who doesn’t even like kale.”
The beverage menu contains only wines only from Italy and creative cocktails – also inspired by the seasons.
The Green Gateau
Why: This is the must-visit brunch spot in Lincoln. I suppose you could go for dinner, but I’ve never known anyone who has.
The Green Gateau is this charming restaurant in downtown Lincoln, with a varied menu that includes French cuisine and creative American standards. Being so close to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, my tip to you is to make a reservation.
Why: Honest Abe’s is a burger institution in the state. I almost always have to visit whenever I’m in Lincoln (I like the downtown location best – it’s within walking distance of Lincoln Children’s Museum).
When you go, be sure to go hungry, because the burgers are large, the fries are great, and you’d be missing out if you don’t at one of their handcrafted shakes. They even have boozy versions.
Why: For more than 75 years, Mac’s Drive-In has been serving old-fashioned fast food to the McCook area. Odyssey Through Nebraska recommends this restaurant.
Mac’s is known for Nebraska beef burgers as well as onion rings that are homemade daily. Besides their sandwiches and chickens, they have several salads on the menu. Plus ice cream – this location could almost qualify as a soda fountain too!
While their food is fresh, their decor is retro. Being able to place orders via a table phone is a fun kind of nostalgia.
They are closed on Sundays and Mondays and major holidays. Every other day of the week, Mac’s continues with serving 1940s-style food to a modern generation.
Why: Modern Love brings New York City swankiness to the middle of the country. With a focus on elevated comfort food, you won’t walk away hungry at this 100% vegan restaurant. The portions are generous, and the plating is refined.
Modern Love is owned by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a well-known cookbook author. There’s a second location in Brooklyn, New York as well. It comes highly recommended by Cadry of Cadry’s Kitchen, a vegan travel blog.
The menu changes depending on the season. Keep an eye out for mac and shews (made with cashews), mushroom stroganoff with chickpea cutlets, and nachos. Whatever you do, don’t leave without getting dessert. The Snickers pie and raspberry cheesecake are exceptional.
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge
Why: Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge is an iconic Nebraska small-town tavern that opened up right after the Prohibition ended in the 1930s.
During the hunting season, this location was especially popular. The owner, Ole, was a hunter himself. More than 200 of his finest specimens are hung around the restaurant. This is why patrons can dine with both a polar bear and a giraffe looking on.
Since this restaurant has only had two owners, the menu has remained consistent.
Options are extensive, according to Gretchen at Odyssey Through Nebraska, who recommends this restaurant. For the casual diner, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and soups are available. Dinners include steaks, prime rib, fried chicken and their catch of the day. Prices are quite affordable, and the portions are good size.
Located a few miles off of Interstate-80, Ole’s hours reflect its Rocky Mountain time zone status.
Why: I had to visit this restaurant a few years ago after reading a rave review about it in a Lincoln newspaper: “Sisters Café is, at its base, a small-town cafe. That’s part of its charm and why it’s unusual menu — and the success of that menu — is even more notable.”
Sisters Café opened in 2014 by two sisters, Jit and Noopin, featuring a menu of Thai and German cuisine. Strange as that sounds, it worked. I stuck to trying just the Thai side of the menu during my visit. It was extraordinary!
Alas, things change (as they always do). The German menu is no longer available. Which I’m OK with since I loved the Thai food I had tried.
Why: When people think of Nebraska food, they typically go straight for the beef (and for good reason). However, one restaurant is serving up an unlikely delicacy in the landlocked state: Umami in Bellevue. LeAnna at the Well-Traveled Nebraskan recommends it.
Sure, you might be skeptical of delicious sushi in Nebraska, considering the proximity to the seas, but you are in good hands with Master Chef Keen Zheng, who learned from the best of the best sushi chefs in NYC before heading to Nebraska.
As a meat-eater, LeAnna always thought she wouldn’t like sushi. If you are new to the scene, start out easy, like with a California or Philadelphia roll or even something battered and fried (tempura) and you might surprise yourself like she did.
But, as someone who has now had sushi literally all over the world, LeAnna says you’d be doing yourself a disservice to at least not TRY some of the other specialties! It really is some of the best sushi in such an unsuspecting location!
Some other delightful surprises are the affordability and selections. The quality of food you’ll get at Umami would earn you a huge bill at other establishments (even IN nearby Omaha), but your bill won’t be insanely outrageous here.
Also, not sure if your Cornhusker heart can handle the sushi? No problem! There’s also hibachi, teriyaki dinners, plenty of cooked noodle entrees and even Thai or Chinese options!
Pair these adventures with your Nebraska restaurants
While you’re off exploring Nebraska’s food scene, you may want to plan a few activities in between. The state offers a wide variety of outdoor activities and festivals you’ll want to experience (especially in the summer).
I’m totally biased being a born-and-raised Nebraska girl, but I recommend you plan more than just driving through the state! Nebraska is a great state to explore with a lot to do. Here are my recommended 101 things to do in Nebraska.
Nestled smack-dab in the middle of Nebraska, the city of Kearney is a fun option for a weekend trip with the family. Complete with museums of all kinds, surprising outdoor recreation options, plenty of arts and entertainment, and some really fantastic restaurants in Kearney, it’s a wonderful option for a memorable getaway that won’t break the bank.
Things to know about Kearney, Nebraska
Born from the westward push of the railroad after the civil war, Kearney has grown into a thriving college town, providing a home for the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK).
Its main claim to fame, however, is its status as the “Sandhill Crane Capital of the World.” Each year, over 600,000 Sandhill Cranes stop near Kearney to “fuel up” and rest during their migration north. Over 40,000 people — including famed anthropologist Jane Goodall — visit the Kearney area each year in March and early April.
Now, of course, all of this is interesting, but the BIG question remains: Where do all of these tourists eat when visiting Kearney, Nebraska?
Must-try (and family-friendly) restaurants in Kearney, Nebraska
Well, just stick with me, and we’ll focus on some locally-owned, family-friendly restaurants that add value and an all-round good time to your next family getaway!
A beloved Kearney tradition, Daylight Donuts has been churning out fresh, tasty, unbeatable donuts for as long as I can remember. With crunchy-sweet old fashioned donuts, bear claws as big as a toddler’s head, and satisfyingly-good coffee you don’t always find small donut shops, it really is the perfect way to start a day of exploring Kearney.
Like many classic donut shops, Daylight Donuts is open only in the morning — from 3 a.m. to noon, so it’s important to get there early for the best selection!
It’s important to note that they have a wide selection of non-coffee drinks like chocolate milk and juice for the kiddos. My favorite recommendation actually isn’t a sweet one — their “gravy wrap” is a decadent concoction of flaky dough and sausage gravy, and I’d probably eat one every day if I could!
Another well-loved, always-bustling breakfast option is Barista’s Daily Grind. A Kearney staple since the 90s, you can trust you’ll find a decadent drink, fresh-baked goodies, and even a few savory options to get you through your morning.
Across the street from UNK, this Kearney coffee shop is full of patrons from the university — both students and professors alike — and its constant traffic means it’s not the quietest place during peak caffeination hours. This means you can bring headphones if you need to get some work done, but it also means you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing you can take the kids there without feeling like you’re disturbing someone.
I highly recommend the dirty chai latte! It’s creamy, not too sweet, and served by some seriously friendly baristas.
A smaller south location can be found on Second Avenue — the “main drag” — and provides a slightly smaller selection of the offerings found at the main store.
Komal Mexican Taqueria
This Kearney restaurant is one of my favorite gems — ranging from options that satisfy picky kids who only eat beige-colored food, to incredibly flavorful, authentic Mexican fare that will feed your whole family quickly and affordably.
Tacos, burritos, nachos, tortas, quesadillas, some of the most delicious guacamole you’ll ever eat, and a fantastic salsa bar all come together to make everyone happy in a welcoming atmosphere. Though I’m not vegetarian, I love getting the nachos with guacamole instead of meat, and asking for the chips on the side.
With homemade agua fresca, horchata, and flan, it’s an all-around, honest-to-goodness meal that will keep even the pickiest eaters satisfied until dinner.
You’ll find that a lot of restaurants in Kearney serve up the delicious, deep-fried menu options you’d expect in a smaller city, but Cunninghams Journal manages to turn your typical “bar food” into something special.
Big, fat, juicy burgers, salty fries, and deep-fried pickles are well-made bar staples, but their menu of varying skewer baskets shine for people who are looking for something a little different (not to mention keto and gluten free-friendly, if that’s something you need). Tender chunks of sirloin steak and grilled shrimp are wrapped in bacon, served over grilled vegetables, and brought out with a unique “bistro sauce” to round it all out.
They also have pizza and wings on the menu, meaning my picky kids have options.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for a chicken nugget option, ask for boneless wings without sauce.
There are two locations: the original in downtown Kearney, and a newer one right off the interstate, going by the name “Cunninghams on the Lake.”
Kyoto is a relatively new restaurant in Kearney, and adds a local, friendly vibe to your typical hibachi experience.
What I love the most about Kyoto is that you can enjoy the spectacle of talented chefs tossing shrimp into peoples’ mouths and lighting onion volcanoes on fire, or you can simply dine in and order from the menu.
Or you can sit at the sushi bar and watch all of the sushi getting made.
Or you can enjoy a drink at the well-stocked bar and watch the game.
Or you can simply stop in to get a bowl of rolled ice cream without even having to stop for dinner.
The big bonus? They have a kids menu, so if you’re craving sushi and the kids need french fries, everyone can be happy.
Thunderhead Brewing Co.
Located “on the bricks” — a title that simply refers to the original downtown area with old-fashioned brick streets — Thunderhead Brewing sports a big, beautiful stone oven for pizzas, calzones, and soft pretzels, as well as super-melty mozzarella cheese bread.
While it is a bar, this Kearney brewpub is still a favorite local place for families to gather and enjoy some really awesome stone oven pizza. Little kids might get bored and antsy, but the pretzels come out fast enough to distract them while they wait for the rest of their meal.
The beers are brewed in a nearby town, and are time-tested and well-loved. In fact, Thunderhead has recently opened tap houses in downtown and west Omaha, if you’d like to give their craft brews a try. The only location that serves food, however, is in Kearney.
I practically insist that, if you’re not afraid of jalapeno peppers, you try the Thunder Pie. It’s a pizza with an alfredo sauce base, shredded chicken, bacon, and jalapenos. Ask for a side of ranch and you’re in pizza heaven!
Wondering about dessert in Kearney? Look no further than Ktown Cakery, another stop on the bricks. Decadent bars, cupcakes, cake balls, cookies, call-ahead full-sized cakes, and even ice cream from the UNL Dairy Store await you in this adorable little shop on Central Avenue.
The staff is friendly, and there are a couple of tables available to sit and enjoy your treats with the family.
Ktown Cakery supplies a handful of local businesses with sweet treats (you can find their cookies at the aforementioned Barista’s Daily Grind), so don’t be surprised if you see their goodies at multiple places!
The location is quite small, however, so if you’re traveling with a big group it might be a better idea to call ahead and order some treats to take to your hotel room or a nearby park.
Family fun and fantastic restaurants in Kearney, Nebraska
Kearney is certainly smaller than Lincoln or Omaha, but don’t let that scare you! With culture, history, recreation, and unforgettable food, this lively college town in the middle of the state might just surprise you!
Lauren Bonk, owner of the Curtain and Pen, hails from Kearney, Neb., where she works as a freelance copywriter for small businesses, startups, and even larger corporate entities in need of professionally-written marketing content for their businesses and organizations.
With a background in both Theatre and English, Lauren loves to help companies find a voice, fine-tune it, and authentically utilize it in written collateral like blog posts, website copy, and social media content.
You can typically find Lauren drinking coffee, listening to music that’s probably a little too loud, and daydreaming about drinking more coffee the next morning.
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I love Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, but I’m most familiar with the park in the summer. However, we’ve started visiting on unseasonably warm winter days and discovered a whole other side to the park. We enjoyed it so much, I decided to share my tips for visiting Mahoney State Park in the winter.
Turns out, it’s worth a visit during the winter, especially with kids.
Note: There is construction at Mahoney State Park right now that’s slated to last until fall 2020. The Walter Scott Jr. Observation Tower and surrounding trails at park are closed temporarily to accommodate the painting of the tower and Riverview Event Center construction project. The tower and trails will reopen at completion of the construction projects.
Where is Mahoney State Park?
Mahoney State Park is located in southeastern Nebraska along Interstate 80, about midway between the state’s two largest cities, Omaha and Lincoln. It’s roughly 30 miles from each city (give or take).
Take exit 426 off of Interstate 80 to get to the park. That exit happens to get you to a variety of fun family destinations in the winter. Two I recommend would be the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum and the indoor education center at Schramm Park.
Day trip or overnight trip to Mahoney?
Living in Omaha, Mahoney State Park is almost always a day trip for us. However, we have made whole weekends of a visit, and I recommend trying it at least once…but plan ahead.
Mahoney State Park has notoriously popular cabins, making it difficult to book a cabin on a summer weekend unless you plan a year in advance.
Booking a cabin in the winter is a different story. Non-peak season cabins are easier to come by, and cheaper too. Look for non-holiday weekends for your best (and discounted) options.
It’s worth noting that Mahoney State Park also has a lodge. The rooms at the lodge are much cheaper than a cabin. It’s similar to staying at a hotel, but staying at one without a pool.
Indoor winter activities at Mahoney
First, the indoor stuff. This is my favorite since I hate being cold. Luckily, Mahoney has a few very good indoor options for active families.
One must-visit place is the Activity Center. If you’ve never been, you’re going to won why you hadn’t been here sooner with the kids.
For $2 each (FREE for kids 2 and younger), you get endless play on their indoor playground. It’s pretty sweet, even for a grown up. Don’t be shy, put down your smart phone and get in there and play with your kids.
The Activity Center also has an outdoor ice rink, with a $3 skate rental fee. If it’s fairly warm, part of that rink melts (duh), as was the case on the day we visited.
We returned another month and managed to make our shaky way around the rink.
The newest addition my family has loved at the Activity Center is the indoor wall climbing. It’s a pretty affordable, all-day activity. Buy the wristbands and have access to climb for the entire day.
The cost is $11 for adults and and $10 for children ages 12 and younger.
There is food available for purchase at the Activity Center, like pizza, hot dogs and nachos. You’re not supposed to bring in outside food or drinks. *supposed to*
The Activity Center’s winter hours in 2019-2020 are from September to May. It’s open:
-Monday, Thursday & Friday: 4 to 8 p.m.
– Saturday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
– Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
– Tuesday & Wednesday: CLOSED
Mahoney State Park conservatory
Not a far walk from the Activity Center is the conservatory/greenhouse.
This is a great place for a quick warmup if it’s particularly freezing outdoors. It’s like 150 degrees in there. It’s small but there’s a lot to look at, including a fish pond.
In a separate room, there are a couple aquariums featuring native Nebraskan animals, like snakes and a turtle. The kids liked looking at them.
Two other indoor options I can’t vouch much for since we tend to do more active things while we’re there:
– The park has moved the arts and crafts center over to the marina. You can paint ceramics, work with leather, and do all sorts of other crafts for a nominal fee.
– The park offers live theater with family-friendly fare year-round. See which melodrama is playing and buy tickets here.
What to do outdoors at Mahoney State Park in the winter
A big outdoor draw at the park is the toboggan run. It has been relocated in the past year, so if you used to go here, know that the sledding hill is now by the Activity Center.
The toboggan run at Mahoney State Park is a pretty nice, long hill but not too steep. I like that it was far enough away from trees that I could relax.
This is a FREE activity, just bring your sleds.
Another FREE activity is hiking around the park. While I prefer my hikes when I can feel my fingers, trails are still open at Mahoney in the winter.
Just be warned, Mahoney isn’t the best place for hikes in this part of Nebraska. There aren’t a lot of trails at this park.
But, then again, it’s not like you want to hike very far with young children in the middle of a Nebraska winter.
Or do you?
My kids slept 12 hours straight after our visit to Mahoney in the winter. I’m sold on visiting parks in the winter now.
My kids loved the Activity Center so much, I’d even make the drive out to Mahoney just for that. I bet you will be driving home with some tired kiddos after visiting the Activity Center, too.
Special events at Mahoney
I recommend checking the Nebraska Game & Parks calendar before planning your visit. You may be able to time a winter visit to coincide with a memorable holiday event or family-friendly event.
One year, we visited the park when they had ice fishing for children. The park already made the holes in the ice and provided the fishing gear for the kids.
Every fall, my family joins thousands of others making the short trip to Nebraska City. In the past, this was a day trip for us, but this year, we planned a longer stay to see and do more things. Keep reading to find my list of favorite things to do in Nebraska City, especially in the fall!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Arbor Day Foundation. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
Where is Nebraska City?
Nebraska City is the county seat of Otoe County located in southeastern Nebraska. The population is less than 10,000.
Nebraska City is a two-lane highway drive from Omaha. It’s not far, and can be pretty scenic, if you like golden fields in the fall.
Here’s the drive distance to Nebraska City from several metro areas:
-Omaha to Nebraska City – 40 miles
-Lincoln to Nebraska City – 50 miles
-Topeka, Kan. to Nebraska City – 120 miles
-Kansas City, Mo. to Nebraska City – 140 miles
Timing a visit to Nebraska City
Very few people are going to argue this: Nebraska City’s prime time is autumn! Home to Arbor Day, trees are treasured in the city, so you can imagine how beautiful things get in the fall.
Nebraska City is home to popular apple orchards and pumpkin patches, which again, are best to visit in the fall. Apples are ripe for picking in mid-September and pumpkins are ready shortly after that.
Nebraska weather can be unpredictable in the fall, so if you plan a visit, pack in layers. Don’t forget an umbrella! We got caught in the rain on our recent visit.
My second favorite time to visit Nebraska City is in the summer, when the green trees provide ample shade. If you want to see sunflowers — and there is a sunflower field at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure — you’ll want to visit the last week in August.
Nebraska City hotel recommendations
There are not a lot of options for hotels in Nebraska City. You’ll find a range of motels and moderate-priced hotels, as well as my recommended accommodations: Lied Lodge & Conference Center.
My last stay at the lodge was about 15 years ago, and in the past five years, the Lied Lodge has undergone renovations. It’s gorgeous!
What I love about Lied Lodge is that it’s very family-friendly, focused on sustainability, and it’s within walking distance of our favorite Nebraska City destination: Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure.
Actually, the Tree Adventure and Lied Lodge are all part of the 260-acre Arbor Day Farm, managed by Arbor Day Foundation. Arbor Day Foundation is the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees.
Other notable features about the Lied Lodge:
-Indoor Olympic-size swimming pool, kiddie pool and hot tub.
-Two restaurants on site, Timbers and the Library Lounge. The Library Lounge is a cozy-looking bar setting with a limited menu.
-Kids eat FREE at Timber at Sunday brunch.
Oh My! Omaha readers save 10% if you book a package! Be sure to use promo code OHMYOMAHA. Visit LiedLodge.org for details.
Things to do in Nebraska City
Play in tree houses
Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure has had a 50-foot-tall tree house to explore for years, but Treetop Village is a new addition in 2019. It consists of 11 tree houses. I’ve been looking forward to taking the kids to see it!
The Treetop Village’s tree houses are connected by rope bridges. There are a few slides, including a net slide. The highlight is the WonderNet, the first net trampoline of its kind in North America.
Don’t skip the Treetop Village…but expect a possible wait if you go on a weekend. Due to the nature of the bridges, traffic is one-way, so they have to monitor how many people enter the village at a time.
And note that if you go down a slide or step through one of the exits, you have to go back to the start and wait in line again. The wait wasn’t long for us, luckily.
Shop for tree souvenirs
OK, maybe that’s just me. The gift shop at the Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure is packed with gifts and souvenirs inspired by nature, trees and camping. It’s the best place to shop for kid’s stuff.
Another good place to shop is the Apple House Market. It’s a cute decor shop, wine tasting room, and restaurant all in one building, and it’s within walking distance of the Arbor Day Farm Tree Tree Adventure.
Learn Arbor Day history
There are two places to learn more about the early days of Arbor Day and the Morton family. The Discovery Ride, which I mentioned above, as well as a visit to Arbor Lodge State Historical Park
The historic state park is the property where Arbor Day started. J. Sterling and his wife, Caroline, lived there when they initiated their vision and started challenging people to plant trees. On the first Arbor Day, April 10, 1872, they say nearly 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska.
You don’t need a park permit to enter the grounds of Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, but you will need to pay admission if you want to walk through the 52-room mansion.
In the mansion, you’ll find artifacts from the Morton family, and see beautiful rooms preserved as they once were.
The mansion is a little worn on the exterior, but signs indicated that a renovation is planned. I’m excited to see the mansion restored to its former glory.
Pick apples in Nebraska City
Apple picking is a seasonal activity in Nebraska City, with prime picking being in September (which is why the city holds the AppleJack Festival every year in mid-September!).
We picked a peck during our visit to the Tree Adventure, searching for the best apples among primarily Fuji and Jonagold trees. Your options may vary depending on when you time your visit.
My family also got to pick apples in the Preservation Orchard at the farm. You have to take the Discovery Ride to get to this special orchard. The apple trees in the Preservation Orchard are heirloom varieties you’ll never find in a grocery store.
It was an exciting chance to taste a Kandil Sinip, Winter Banana and Stern apple.
We didn’t get a chance to pick pumpkins on our recent weekend getaway, but we have picked pumpkins at the Tree Adventure in the past. It’s fun to ride the hayrack out to the pumpkin field and scour the patch for a good one!
Quite possibly the most memorable experience we had the entire weekend was climbing a tree. Both kids made it to the top!
Tree climbing is held on select weekend days at the Tree Adventure, and it’s included with admission. It can be popular, and we were lucky to get there early enough to not have much of a wait.
The folks helping with the tree climb were wonderful coaches for the kids. They were also pretty patient trying to help me figure it out. In case you were wondering, it’s ridiculously hard for an adult woman to try to climb a tree!
Take a Discovery Ride
This one-hour ride is a backwoods experience at the Tree Adventure. Part history lesson, part tour, the ride takes you to orchards you don’t usually get to see, including the Preservation Orchard.
I liked the opportunity to try the rare apples. My fourth grader loved hearing and about the history he’s beginning to learn this year. For younger kids, the most enjoyable part may have been the chance to touch animal pelts.
Tip: There are no restroom breaks on the Discovery Ride. My youngest learned this the hard way.
Attend a special event
Everyone and their grandma has heard of the annual AppleJack Festival in Nebraska City, but that’s only one September weekend. There’s plenty of special events happening on other weekends.
Here are a few events to look forward to this fall:
-Living History Weekends (Arbor Lodge Mansion, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 27). On the weekend we visited, my kids loved talking with a man who made beaded pieces and they got a chance to throw a tomahawk.
-Harvest Celebration (Arbor Day Farm, through Oct. 31)
-Hayrack Ride, Storytelling & S’mores (Tree Adventure, Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 9; reservations are required)
-Halloween Pumpkin Party (Tree Adventure, Oct. 26)
Eat good food
For the best dining experience, I recommend Timbers inside the Lied Lodge & Conference Center. We tried dinner there as well as breakfast. Reservations are recommended for weekend dinners and Sunday brunch. I had no problem reserving meals the day before.
Outdoor seating is an option, and the view was wonderful.
Tip: When we were there, Timbers had a sign that advertised that kids eat FREE at Sunday brunch! The brunch is a buffet that starts at 11 a.m. We went before 11, so there was still a buffet, just not as large…and kids were $5 each.
If you’ve come for all-things-apple, Nebraska City is your place. Apple pie (with the works) is available at The Apple House Market, as are caramel apples and apple cider.
Looking for apple cider donuts? I didn’t find them at The Apple House Market, so your best bet is to head to Kimmel Orchard, where we got some that were still warm from the fryer.
Porters, a barbecue restaurant attached to The Apple Market House, is also a great option. It’s extremely popular, and I almost always saw a line. We tried brisket, smoked chicken and pulled pork. The baked beans were the best side, IMO.
If you’re wondering about restaurants in Nebraska City away from Arbor Day Farm, I asked around and got quite a few tips. Oh My! Omaha Twitter and Facebook followers shared these Nebraska City restaurant recommendations. Here were their tips: The Keeping Room, Buck Snort, Ladybug BBQ and Tacos El Pueblito.
We had the hardest time finding a place open after 7 p.m. on a Friday night! Our first pick was Tacos El Pueblito but we missed its closing time by 15 minutes. We ended up at El Portal, which had pretty good food. But being one of the few restaurants open after 7 p.m., there was quite a wait.
Sip Nebraska wines
Nebraska wines, like a lot of Midwestern wines, tend to be sweet. My personal preference is to stick to the white varieties. The reds just aren’t robust enough for my taste.
Arbor Day Farm offers two places to try wine tastings – daily at The Apple House Market and on Friday and Saturday evenings in the lobby of the Lied Lodge. FYI: Tastings are not free.
I recommend trying the Arbor Day Farm vignoles. If you like super sweet stuff, a lot of people in the tasting room when I visited loved the honey crisp wine.
Enjoy the trails
Our visits to the Tree Adventure almost always include an easy hike through the forest. You’ll find a play area, cute photo opps, and a fun look-and-find game. Be on the lookout for the fairy doors, too!
We had plans to bike the Steamboat Trace Bicycle Trail until we found out the crushed limestone trail had been flooded this year. We’ll return to explore it another (drier) year.
Play outdoors at the Tree Adventure
For my family, Nebraska City is about spending time together outside. The apples, the pumpkins, the hayrack rides…those are all a part of it. But’ nothing beats the pure joy of simply playing.
Among my kids’ favorite places to visit at the Tree Adventure are:
-The Nature Explore Classroom where they can play the marimba and build with blocks, and sit in colorful hammocks.
-The little zip line course, huge spider web, and larger-than-life tic tac toe game. They’re all group near each other.
-The Treetop Village is a new favorite.
Take a hayrack ride
There are two opportunities for hayrack rides at Arbor Day Farm. You can get a free one while you’re in the Tree Adventure, which will take you to the pumpkin patch and apple orchard.
If you plan ahead–like months ahead–you can reserve spots on the Hayrack Ride, Storytelling & S’mores. The rides are seasonal on Friday and Saturday nights. The ride was full on the one rain-free night we were there, unfortunately.
Save on your Nebraska City stay
If this post has inspired a future weekend getaway, you’re in luck!
I’m excited to announce that Oh My! Omaha readers can save 10% off their stay at the Lied Lodge & Conference Center in Nebraska City! Be sure to use promo code OHMYOMAHA.