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.

Books to help plan your next trip through Nebraska #travelbooks

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

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

Off The Beaten Path Series

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

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

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

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

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

Detour Nebraska

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

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

100 Things To Do Series

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

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

More Nebraska Travel Books

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

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

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


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

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

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February 11, 2018

What’s New At Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum

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

Guide to Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Nebraska

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

Temporary Exhibit At The Museum

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.

Temporary exhibit at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Nebraska
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.

Temporary exhibit activity at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Nebraska
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.

Temporary exhibit circuit board at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Nebraska
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.

Children's Learning Center quake table at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Nebraska
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!

Planes in the hangar at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Nebraska
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, 2018 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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October 26, 2017

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

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.

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.

Detour Nebraska book cover

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.

Planning a road trip through Nebraska? Here are some fun, bucket list-worthy stops to include! #Nebraska #roadtrip #familytravel

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.

Covered wagon ride tour that gets you close to bison
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.

Seward, Nebraska, during its Fourth of July celebration
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.

Inside the Happy Jack Peak & Chalk Mines in Scotia, Nebraska
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” was released in 2017 (it actually was published on 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), where you can also try out this fun scavenger hunt; 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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June 12, 2017

7 Reasons To Visit Platte River State Park

Platte River State Park is one of the closest state parks to the Omaha and Lincoln metro areas. There is an abundance of fun things to do with kids, especially during the summer.

Yet, I think it gets overlooked for flashier, newer parks. But, with the addition of glamping, I think this park is going to become very popular soon.

7 reasons why you should visit Platte River State Park in southeastern Nebraska #familytravel #outdoors #waterfall #Nebraska

Here’s are seven reasons why you should plan a visit the park. Bringing kids along? Don’t miss this guide to taking kids to Platte River State Park.

Great Hiking Trails

Small waterfall at Platte River State Park in Nebraska
This waterfall at Platte River State Park is my favorite destination of any Omaha metro trail.

I’m guilty of thinking of another state park near Platte River for day trips first (ahem, Mahoney), but when I want to immerse myself and kids in nature, few places nearby can top Platte River State Park.

The trails at Mahoney have nothing on Platte River. First off, there’s a waterfall that’s incredibly quick and easy to get to at Platte River State Park.

For those looking for more of a challenge, Platte River State Park’s terrain will satisfy you.

It’s still the Midwest, so you know, it’s not mountainous, but it’ll do.

Horseback Trail Rides

Horseback riding at Platte River State Park in Nebraska
My son right before we began our trail ride at Platte River State Park.

Your family can ride horses at Platte River State Park. The cutoff age is one year younger than Mahoney’s (age 6). They do a great job matching your ability to the right horse.

The route takes you past a creek, over a bridge and through some inclines in the forest. In all, you’re on your horse for about an hour.

Naturalist Programs

Crawdad Creek activity at Platte River State Park in Nebraska
The kids spent more time than I could have imagined trying to catch tadpoles during the naturalist program held at Crawdad Creek at Platte River State Park. The creek opened at the park in 2017.

This is the first summer we’ve really taken advantage of the programming offered at a state park, perhaps because all of our stays in the past have been off-season. At least through June 30, there are daily activities for kids.

Some teach fishing; others might instruct them on creek ecology. There’s a small nature center with aquariums of native Nebraska species. One naturalist program let kids get up close to some of them to learn more about their characteristics.

Tip: If you stay over Memorial Day Weekend, you may even find a special event on that Friday night. When we were there, the kids got to learn some archery, try out an air rifle, and learn about Dutch oven cooking.

Movie Screenings

Saturday nights through the summer, you can go to the park’s little amphitheater to watch a family-friendly movie for free. We brought snacks and drinks, and since it was early summer still, a blanket.

There is bench seating, so you don’t have to bring a chair.

Fun Lake

Paddle boat on the lake at Platte River State Park in Nebraska
Paddle boats and fishing are the popular activities at this lake at Platte River State Park.

The lake at Platte River State Park is a lovely one surrounded by tall trees. There’s a marina where you can get a variety of food and cold treats, as well as rent a paddle boat for a half-hour.

Tip: You can check out fishing poles for your kids for free (bait is extra).

Near the lake you’ll find Crawdad Creek. It’s a new addition to the park, and the kids loved it. It features three ponds with little waterfalls flowing from one to the next. There’s a naturalist program at the creek, during which a guide helps kids look for tadpoles and other critters and bugs.

Cheaper Cabins

Exterior of a cabin at Platte River State Park in Nebraska
The camper cabin at Platte River State Park offers beds with bedding, A/C, and a refrigerator like other modern cabins, but it lacks one biggie: Water. You’ll have to walk if you want to take a shower, use the restroom or wash your hands.

Having stayed about both Mahoney and Platte River state parks, I can affirm Platte River has cheaper options, including teepees if you’re so inclined. The options are cheaper because Platte River State Park has things like camper cabins, which has some amenities of a typical cabin (A/C, refrigerator, beds) but not all of them (no water or bathroom).

Having spent a few nights in a camper cabin, I’m cool with spending a few more bucks to have a bathroom next time.

Proximity to other fun stuff

Mahoney State Park aquatic center/water park in eastern Nebraska
The view from my lounger at the Mahoney State Park aquatic center. The pool has an annoying schedule, and is closed over dinner time; however, if you go when it’s open for those few hours after dinner, you’ll find a much less crowded pool.

The great thing about Platte River State Park is that it’s near places like Mahoney State Park, so you can stay (cheaply) at Platte River, and then take the 10-minute drive to the other park to enjoy what’s there as well.

I’d recommend heading to Mahoney to the aquatic center, which is much larger than Platte River’s little pool, plus it has water slides and a kids area. If it’s a rainy day, nothing beats letting the kids run wild in the indoor play area at Mahoney, too.

If you go

Platte River State Park

Where: 14421 346th St., Louisville, Neb.

Cabin & Camping Information

Visiting in the off-season? Read this post on what to do at Platte River State Park in the winter.

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