May 19, 2019

College World Series Guide To Omaha Hotels & Dining

You’ve got your College World Series™ tickets, you know when you need to be at TD Ameritrade Park… now what? This College World Series guide is designed to help you plan a trip to Omaha for the games. If you don’t have hotel reservations, read on for suggested places to stay. If you don’t have a restaurant plan for dining before or after the game, read on. Feel free to comment with any specific questions – I’m happy to help!

Related post: Essential Guide To The College World Series

Headed to Omaha for the College World Series? Here are locals' tips on where to eat, where to drink, and where to stay near the ballpark. #guide #Omaha #Nebraska #tips

Hotels for College World Series fans

Omaha has plenty of hotels, but if you’re looking for a room within walking distance of TD Ameritrade Park, you’d better book early. The closest hotels will be full when the College World Series start in June.

If you want some hotel recommendations, here are my top picks for CWS hotels:

– If you want to be within walking distance to TD Ameritrade Park, look at Holiday Inn Omaha Downtown, Hampton Inn & Suites, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, and Cambria Hotel. I can vouch for Holiday Inn being a great location for families, especially with its small indoor waterpark.

Tips for College Works Series Fans - Hotels near College World Series Games Cambria Downtown Omaha, which has some rooms with views of the ballpark
Cambria Downtown Omaha is one of the city’s newest hotels. Some of the rooms have a view of TD Ameritrade Park. Request a top floor room with an even number and you may luck out with this view.

– The Old Market has several hotel options as well, and they could be within walking distance if you’re willing (and don’t mind the heat!). Many will likely have some sort of shuttle  service, too. My family’s favorite is Embassy Suites because the rooms are large, the manager’s happy hour is great, and it has possibly the best complimentary hot breakfast in town.

Tips for College Works Series Fans - Hotels near College World Series include an Old Market favorite, Embassy Suites. The size of the rooms, complimentary breakfast and happy hour make it popular with out of town visitors.
All rooms at the Embassy Suites in the Old Market of Omaha face the large atrium of the hotel. Strolling along the bottom floor, you’ll find water features, as well as a lot of seating for the complimentary happy hour and breakfast.

– If North Downtown and Old Market hotels are booked (or out of your price range), look further afield. Consider looking at hotels that are near the airport, on the outskirts of downtown or in Midtown Omaha. DoubleTree is a great option, and for a more chic historic stay, check out Magnolia. While Magnolia doesn’t have a pool, Pickles Travel stayed there with her family and wrote a good review of the Magnolia family experience. At Midtown Crossing, you’ll find Element, known for its eco-friendly practices.

Restaurants & bars suggestions for CWS fans

This is my favorite topic: Eating. Omaha has a lot of great restaurants, so you’re in for a treat when you visit during the College World Series! I’ve written about the 20+ must-try restaurants in Omaha, so it’s a good post to start with.

Tip: If you’ve brought kids with you to the CWS, start with this list of downtown Omaha restaurants that are great for families.

Where to eat near the College World Series games - Blatt Beer and Table is one of the closest restaurants to TD Ameritrade Park. It's home to the delicious Dirty Bird sandwich.
My favorite guilty pleasure: The Dirty Bird sandwich at Blatt Beer and Table. Blatt has several locations, including one next to TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha.

I asked my Facebook fans to share some of their restaurants recommendations, and they mentioned a few great places to eat near TD Ameritrade Park. Near the stadium, Emily K. recommended Blatt Beer and Table. I’d have to second this recommendation – there’s a reason why it shows up on all of my “best of” restaurant lists for Omaha. However, due to its proximity to the stadium, be ready for a wait. But, hey, if you snag a seat on the rooftop, it’s worth it, right?

Like parties? If you’re looking for a restaurant or bar scene that’s going on the nutty side, insiders tell me that Capitol District and Mattress Factory will have the largest parties.  There are several other bars outside the stadium that are a blast to be at pre- and post-game.

Recommended downtown Omaha restaurants and bars for CWS fans - Lighthouse Pizza & Fries in the Capitol District has great pizza, plus if you enjoy beer, you'll have to check out the self serve taps.
Lighthouse Pizza & Fries has a location in the Capitol District with self serve taps.

Not looking for a party? I’d recommend getting out of the NoDo area around the stadium. Head to neighborhoods like Benson and Blackstone for a variety of local restaurants and bars without the rowdiness (usually).

In the Old Market area, bars to head to include Barry O’s or the Stadium Club. Several bars around Omaha become specific spots for teams. Barrett’s on Leavenworth Street, for instance, is definitely big for LSU fans. Dannel T. recommends you try Big Mama’s Kitchen And Catering, which was featured on “Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives.” You’ll get your fix of Southern good eats there.

Another recommendation was in Midtown Omaha, Ann D. suggested Spezia. Spezia is an Italian restaurant with a pretty big steak selection. There are a ton of places to get steaks in Omaha (and who comes to Omaha and doesn’t seek out the best steak??!).

Want some more food ideas?

The following lists will include restaurants in downtown Omaha, but also many that are a few miles away from TD Ameritrade Park. Note the address, especially if you’re relying on public transportation or Lyft.

So, let’s see, what are you hungry for?

For the best pizzerias in Omaha, read this post.

Need breakfast inspiration, check out these 19 places to get breakfast in Omaha. If you just want donuts, read this post instead.

Want to cool off with ice cream? Here are 8 great places to get ice cream in Omaha.

College World Series fans' guide to restaurants, bars & hotels. Here are some tips on where to stay near the baseball stadium, plus tips on nearby restaurants and bars you can go to between games. Find kid-friendly suggestions, too. #Omaha #Nebraska #Guide

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May 10, 2019

The Inspiration Behind ‘She Rocks’

There’s usually a great music-based show at Omaha Community Playhouse each summer. The music is familiar, the local performers is phenomenal (Example A: Last year’s “Rock Twist” with Billy McGuigan). This year, the show is “She Rocks: The Women of Rock” and the star is Tara Vaughan. Vaughan has been in McGuigan’s band for six years and this is first time having a summer residency at OCP! “She Rocks” runs June 13-30, 2019 and tickets are available now.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by “She Rocks: The Women of Rock” and Rave On Productions. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Tara Vaughan performs "She Rocks: The Women of Rock" at the Omaha Community Playhouse June 13-30, 2019. She says her mother is the inspiration behind the show.

To Vaughan, “She Rocks: The Women of Rock” is more than simply a show celebrating female singers and songwriters from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Vaughn’s inspiration for “She Rocks” comes from her Mom, LeeAnn. LeeAnn not only helped share the show, but she also remains a constant source of encouragement as Vaughan prepares for her first residency at the Omaha Community Playhouse before taking the show on its maiden tour across North America in the fall.

Vaughan shared with me her thoughts on her mother just in time for Mother’s Day. Enjoy!

A Mother’s Day Note From Tara Vaughan

As a little girl growing up in 1960s South Omaha, my mom would wrap herself in a bath towel, pretending it was an opulent evening gown, and sang the hits of Diana Ross and Petula Clark to the dolls and stuffed animals she’d lined up on her front porch. Did she see a little of that child in me 30 years later as I’d clomp around the living room in her high heels, singing Paula Abdul for her and my dad? Now another 30 years behind us, does she feel a twinge of that child again as she watches me onstage? She’s my biggest cheerleader, so it’s very easy for me to conjure up a mental image of her in the audience; nervously biting her lip, silently mouthing along the words to each song and probably internally praying I won’t make a joke
too awkward for this crowd.

Tara Vaughan and her mother, LeeAnn, the inspiration behind Tara's show "She Rocks: The Women of Rock"
Tara and her mother, LeAnne. Photo courtesy Tara Vaughan

As I developed my stage show “She Rocks,” I knew that I wanted to pay tribute to the women who have inspired me. I wanted to play the songs that have been the soundtrack to my life, and tell stories of the women who performed and wrote those songs, overcoming odds and adversity to be voices for women everywhere in a male-dominated industry. So sure, “She Rocks” is about Carole and Aretha and Stevie. But for me, it’s also about the original rock goddess in my life. She may not have the gold records or Grammys of some of the other women I pay tribute to, but LeeAnn Vaughan is a total and complete badass.

In addition to raising four of us kids (no easy feat; somewhere in the Omaha World Herald archives is a photo of the three oldest of us proudly sporting synchronous broken right arms), my mom is a science teacher for Omaha’s public schools. After going to college in her 30s when she felt a calling to education, she became a pioneer in the field, developing Nebraska’s first biotechnology program for high schoolers at Omaha North and the Air and Space Academy at Burke. She’s been recognized nationally for her teaching,
earning the Christa McAuliffe Prize for Courage and Excellence twice, receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence, and even being invited to join a NASA flight to observe infrared astronomy.

Tara Vaughan, her siblings and their mother, LeeAnn. Tara credits her mom for inspiring the show "She Rocks: The Women of Rock"
Tara Vaughan and her three siblings with their mom, LeeAnn. Tara credits her mom for inspiring the show “She Rocks: The Women of Rock.” Photo courtesy Tara Vaughan

I haven’t gotten to learn physics or rocketry from my mom like some students, but she’s taught me so much. She’s shown me by her example that each day brings a series of rich moments to relish, each set of challenges a set of lessons worth learning, and each stranger in line at the grocery store, a new potential friend. She’s shown me to be at once fierce and vulnerable, in love with all the beauty that this world has to offer and angry at its injustices, bold and defiant but ferociously loving. She’s shown me that all of these things, all these gloriously vexing parts and pieces, are what it means to be a woman.

Tara Vaughan and her parents. Tara credits her mom for inspiring the show "She Rocks: The Women of Rock"
Tara Vaughan and her parents. Tara will perform “She Rocks: The Women of Rock” June 13-30 at Omaha Community Playhouse. She credits her mom for inspiring the show. Photo courtesy Tara Vaughan

My mom has had a big hand in “She Rocks,” planting the seeds of its set list as she cranked KGOR in our family minivan, and putting the final touches on it as I modeled different hats options for her, asking “Is this one too hipster?” She has shaped and inspired me immeasurably, and I hope that when she sings along with me to “Downtown,” she’s taken back to that little girl on the front porch, wrapped in a towel. Happy Mother’s Day, Marm.

About ‘She Rocks’ & Tara Vaughan

“She Rocks: The Women of Rock” celebrates women artists and songwriters of the 1960s to the 1980s, woven together with songs and stories. Backed by an all-star band, Tara Vaughan performs music from artists like Janis Joplin, Linda Ronstadt, Aretha Franklin, Blondie, Heart, and many more. In this unique review, Vaughan masterfully presents an evening of classic rock and roll with the focus on female artists and songwriters.

Vaughan’s influences can be heard throughout the show. In her vocal style, you can hear echoes and influence of legends like Patsy Cline and Sam Cooke. Her abilities on the piano are strongly influenced by rock icons like Carole King and Elton John.

A graduate of Tufts University, Vaughan is a singer-songwriter who has independently released three albums, the most recent of which, “Dandelion Wine,” was nominated for several Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards. Vaughan’s extensive touring history has lead her to open for such artists as Lifehouse, Ben Kweller, and James McCartney. Most recently, she has been touring internationally with “Billy McGuigan’s: Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience,” “Rave On! The Buddy Holly Experience” and “Rock Twist.”

"She Rocks: The Women of Rock" begins its North American tour soon. It starts with a run at Omaha Community Playhouse in June 2019.  Tara Vaughan says her mother is the inspiration for the show. Read her words about her mother's influence on her.

If you go

“She Rocks: The Women of Rock”

When: June 13-30, 2019; performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Where: Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St.

Cost: $30. Tickets are available online at TicketOmaha.com or calling the box office at 402-552-0800.

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April 25, 2019

Essential College World Series Guide

Every June, the NCAA Men’s College World Series sweeps into Omaha. If you’ve never been to a game, it’s a whirlwind. Here’s the most comprehensive guide to going to a CWS came, with everything you need to know before you go.

I’ve interviewed a few College World Series regulars, the “pros” that have been going to games for years. Some of their tips are included in this post.

Planning to go to the College World Series held each June in Omaha, Nebraska? Here's a guide to all the need-to-know information: How to get tickets, where to park, how to get to the game, and where to tailgate. Plus, read locals' tips on CWS activities from parking to where to sit.

When is the CWS this year?

In 2019, games will be held June 15 through June 25/26, depending on how the championship game series goes.

Where can you get tickets?

General admission ticket books, which contain 10 general admission tickets for the 2019 NCAA Men’s College World Series, are available through TicketMaster. They are already available. In April, you should start seeing these ticket books sold at local grocery stores like Hy-Vee and Bakers, as well as service clubs and the CHI Health Center Omaha’s box office (near TD Ameritrade Park Omaha). Individual General Admission tickets are sold at the box office for $15 each.

Reserved seats went on sale April 13, 2019.

One step up from reserved seats is the NCAA Experience, with packages that include hospitality extras like pre-game tented lounge with food and cash bar (among many other nice perks).

There are season tickets to the CWS, and those become available in mid-January. Some people hold onto their season tickets for decades.

Here’s the NCAA ticketing page for more information and links to buy tickets. This is also the page to people to sell their unneeded tickets.

Pro Tip: Want to attend an evening game? Make sure your seats aren’t facing the sun. Most of the General Admission seats will be facing the sun. – Jamie H.

Guide to the College World Series - Tips on tickets, tailgating and eating at the NCAA CWS in Omaha, Nebraska
The College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Things to know about CWS General Admission tickets

General Admission tickets are the most affordable way to see a College World Series game.

The audience tends to be younger.

It’s important to note that General Admission tickets don’t guarantee a seat! Most games won’t be a problem, but big games like the opening weekend or finals, things could be tight. When it is at capacity, they admit people in a “one in, one out” basis. General Admission seats about 5, 500 fans, with about 1,500 extra spots for standing room people.

If you’re determined to snag a seat in General Admission, get in line early. At the very least, arrive when gates open (two hours before game time). Some say to get there even earlier for big games.

The queue begins on the sidewalk adjacent to 10th Street. There will be stadium staff at the front of the line and at the end of the line. You’ll most likely enter the stadium through Gate 3, though occasionally you may be directed to enter through Gate 4.

On two-game days, if you have General Admission tickets to the second game, keep in mind the first game could go long. If that’s the case, expect the line to be longer and the gates to less than two hours before the game.

And speaking of two-game days, you cannot go to the first game and stick around in General Admission for the second game. The stadium is cleared out after each game. You’ll have to get back in line.

You may be able to upgrade your general admission. Available Reserved Seats open up when the box office opens at 10 a.m. Get in line before 9 a.m. on game day and cross your fingers – they will do a random drawing to set the order fans line up.

Tip: Be patient. Even the most popular games, you will get in eventually, if only after a few innings.

Tip 2: General Admission is less stressful during games held on weekdays.  

Getting to a CWS game

Expect traffic (for Omaha standards) and some drivers getting confused by one-way streets in some parts of downtown Omaha. Parking is sparse and expensive, so I’d recommend finding alternative ways to get to a game.

The CWS Stadium Circulator is a popular choice and it’s only 25 cents a ride. Pickup locations include: Some downtown hotels, the ballpark, Fan Fest, and spots in the Old Market. Here’s what the 2018 route looked like.

Additionally, the Omaha bus service has standard routes that pass by TD Ameritrade Park. Look up that information here.

Omaha has a bike-share program, just look for the blue bikes at a B-station throughout downtown Omaha.

Omaha also has ride-share options like Lyft and Uber.

Where to park for the College World Series

I get it. You’re planning on driving (and maybe tailgating, right?). You’ll find parking for nearly 4,000 cars near TD Ameritrade Park, though some will be for season ticket and pass-holders. Public parking Lot A and the CHI Health Center garage are one of the closest options, and that will set you back about $10-$12 a car.  You’ll find ADA parking there, and additional ADA parking stalls in Lot B. Tailgating is permitted in TD Amertrade Park and CHI Health Center lots. Lots open at 8 a.m. and close about 90 minutes after the event.

Additional parking that also allows tailgating can be found at Creighton University.

Motor homes or RVs are not allowed in most of the parking lots. You can find parking for RVs around the Omaha metro including, Haworth Park, Lake Cunningham, N.P. Dodge Park and West Omaha KOA. Outside of Omaha, there are spots at Horseshoe RV Park, Lake Manawa, Mahoney State Park,Riverwest Park, Walnut Creek Lake and Wilds RV and Golf Resort.

The City of Omaha has surface parking and parkings lots, as well as metered spots. Pricing varies. I recommend downloading the Park Omaha app and paying for your metered parking by phone.

Tailgating at the College World Series

You’ll find no shortage of tailgating opportunities in the blocks near the stadium. Be sure to know the rules or you can get into trouble (ie. open containers are prohibited and you will get ticketed).

Another thing to know is that the MECA-controlled lots near TD Ameritrade Park open two hours before CWS events start. (MECA is an acronym for Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority, which manages the stadium).

Pro Tip: “Tailgating is pretty much in every direction from the stadium. You can also reserve a tailgating spot online.”  – Madonna B.

Guide to the College World Series - Get information about tailgating before CWS games in Omaha, Nebraska
Madonna and a friend tailgating before a game during the College World Series in downtown Omaha. Photo courtesy Madonna B.

What to bring to a CWS game

Things you can bring to the game:

  • – Cameras are permitted, but the need to have a lense shorter than 1 inch and you can’t bring additional, detachable lenses.
  • – You can bring one clear plastic bottle for water, per guest. And it has to be 20 oz. or smaller.
  • – You bring must everything in a clear bag.
  • – If you bring a stroller, it has to be small enough to fit under your seat.

Things you can’t bring:

  • – Any purse or clutch larger than 4.5 inches by 6.5 inches is not allowed. Absolutely no large purses, backpacks or fanny packs are allowed.
  • – Carrying a concealed weapon is prohibited at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, even lawfully concealed firearms.
  • – Seat cushions with pockets
  • – Bubbles or bubble making machines
  • – Bottles or cans; Food or Drink coolers, Yeti cups or coolers
  • – Outside food or drink
  • – Frisbees or beach balls
  • – Large umbrellas
  • – Laser pointers
  • – Noise making devices of any kind (i.e. bells, whistles, horns, etc.)
  • – Fireworks
  • – Drones, anywhere on MECA campus
  • – Selfie sticks
  • – Hover boards
  • – Illegal drugs and alcohol
  • – Commercial signs or banners without the prior approval of TD Ameritrade Park Omaha
  • – Any item deemed to challenge public safety

Pro Tip: Don’t carry a big or heavy purse to the game. Most clear bags aren’t going to be heavy to begin with, but don’t overpack them. – Jamie H.

Pro Tip 2: Pack sunscreen or put it on before you go to the game. “A hat and sunglasses are essential.” – Jamie H.

Things to know about rain delays at the CWS

It never fails, there will be bad weather at some point during the run of the College World Series. If you have a rain delay, here’s what you should know:

  • – If you’re sitting in General Admission, talk to a staff member before – leaving the ballpark.
  • – Tickets are good for the game only. If that game gets a new time or day, your ticket is still only good for that game. If your game has started and then is delayed, your ticket will be marked and/or scanned for use during the new start time. Hold on to that ticket!
  • – No game is skipped. So if the game you’re attending is affected by bad weather, and the date is changed, the rescheduled game will still occur before any future games.  
  • – Because all parking passes are by day, if a game is moved to a new day, they also will be accepted. If a lot becomes full due to the change in date, an alternate lot will be made available upon your arrival at that gate.
  • – Stay in the know: Follow #CollegeWorldSeries or visit the CWS News page on NCAA.com/CWS for weather updates.

Eating and drinking at the game

You cannot bring in outside food and drinks to the College World Series. So, you’ll have to get your food there. There’s the usual hot dogs, burgers and pizza options, of course. Here’s a list of what food was available during College World Series games in 2018 (I’ll update it as soon as they have 2019 items).

Evening game at TD Ameritrade Park. Every June, the NCAA Men's College World Series is held at the ballpark in downtown Omaha, Nebraska. Here's a guide to attending the College World Series.
Photo courtesy Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau

If you’re wondering where to eat or drink between games, check out this post with details on recommended restaurants and bars are near the stadium.

Things to know about Opening Weekend of CWS

Many people think Opening Weekend is THE time to go to a game at the College World Series. Every team and their fans are hopeful. It’s one of the busiest weekends in the Old Market. It’s fun…unless you don’t like crowds.

There’s usually a great free concert near the stadium on Opening Night.

Pro tip: “Opening Weekend!! It is the best because all teams and fans are in town and everyone is very excited. The tailgating is the best opening weekend.” – Madonna B.

Things to know about TD Ameritrade Park

TD Amertriade Park Omaha, 1200 Mike Fahey St., has been the home to the NCAA Men’s College World Series since 2011. The ballpark seats 24,000. If you want to see a layout of the ballpark, click here.

Is TD Ameritrade Park ADA accessible?

Yes. There are three accessible entrances. For an elevator, use Gate 2 near the ticket windows, or the Suite/Club entrance located south of Gate 1 on 13th Street. The Gate 3 is accessible by ramp and is located on the east side of the stadium.

Guide dogs are permitted in the park. It’s recommended that you bring proof of certification or a license for service animals. Notify your ticket seller at the time of purchase so you can get an aisle seat.

Guide to the College World Series in Omaha Nebraska | Essential information for attending CWS games | How to get tickets to the College World Series | Tailgating at the College World Series | Things you should know about visiting Omaha during the College World Series #baseball #Nebraska #sports

More College World Series Information

Need a hotel for your trip to the College World Series? Read this post of recommended hotels near the stadium.

If you want to start planning food options because you’re going to be traveling with your kiddos, begin with this post about family-friendly restaurants in downtown Omaha. For a more general overview of the best restaurants near the baseball stadium, visit this post.

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April 18, 2019

Nostalgic Restaurant In Papillion

On a recent spring afternoon, my kids and I headed to Freddy’s Custard & Steakburgers in Papillion, Neb., for a treat. We had just finished two soccer games and were planning a walk around the trails at Walnut Creek Recreation Area. For a quick but satisfying lunch, this was a great restaurant in Papillion to head to!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Freddy’s Custard & Steakburgers. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

What's at Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers? Read up on the best thing to order, what kids love on the menu, and more! #Papillion #Nebraska #Restaurant

What should you order at Freddy’s?

Having only been to Freddy’s one other time to write about it as a cub reporter at The Daily Nonpareil, I wasn’t quite sure what to order. So, I chatted with Mary Seretta, to get the scoop on what’s popular at the restaurant.

Freddy’s was started by a guy name Freddy (surprise!), who opened up his first restaurant in Kansas with the idea of serving up down home food.

The burger that started it all the double steakburger. Unique to Freddy’s is the flat patty that makes up the steakburger. If you haven’t had one, they’ve got a crispy edge that makes them pretty unique.

Things to eat at Freddy's - The double steak burger is an original favorite
The double steak burger with cheese is an original favorite of customers at Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. At the Papillion location, the local favorite is that steakburger with bacon.

At the Papillion location of Freddy’s, the bacon and cheese double steakburger and patty melt are more popular in than the original. Being a newbie to Freddy’s, I went with the original. Everything is cooked to order. See the full menu here.

I had fries with my burger (of course), and Freddy’s just might have the best ones in the business. These thin, almost shoestring thin, fries are perfectly seasoned. Freddy’s has two fry sauces in addition to ketchup, and you should try them. The jalapeno version wasn’t spicy, surprisingly.

Other menu items include hot dogs, chili (and therefore, chili dogs), and limited-time food like fish sandwiches. The Papillion Freddy’s just started serving crispy chicken sandwiches, with a spicy option available.

Things to eat at Freddy's - Try any of the Specialty Custards as a sundae. Options include the Hawaiian Delight, Signature Turtle and Chocolate Brownie Delight
Freddy’s Specialty Custards are available as sundaes or concretes, which have the toppings blended into them.

And then there’s the custard. There are a variety of specialties to choose from, as well as sundaes, shakes and concretes (which has the toppings blended in). Or you can order your own creation – there are about 30 toppings to choose from.

I ordered the mint Oreo concrete, which was a delicious treat. The custard is a lot creamier and richer than ice cream I’m used to.

What kids can eat at Freddy’s?

There is a kid’s menu available at Freddy’s, which includes the entrée, fries and drink. One of my kids ordered chicken fingers and the other had a steakburger, which was a pretty generous serving for a kiddo. Glad he was hungry!

Things to eat at Freddy's - The specialty custard treats like the Brownie Sundae
My kids first choice in sundaes at Freddy’s is the Dirt ‘N Worms Sundae, and then this brownie sundae came along and they fell in love with that, too.

They both opted for Dirt ‘N Worms sundae, a tasty treat with vanilla ice cream, cookie crumbles and gummie worms, topped with whipped cream and a cherry.

And, I’ll confess, we also tried the brownie sundae. The chocolate ice cream is a rich chocolate that I loved.

The other frozen treats you might be interested include custard cookie sandwiches. One is made with Oreos, the other made with Nutter Butters.

Tip: If you have dogs with you, Freddy’s has a “pup cup” available to order! These small servings of custard make nice treats for the pups. 

What it look like inside Freddy’s?

Freddy’s has a cool retro look to it, with red throughout. It’s got a pretty nostalgic feel to it.

You’ll find black and white pictures of the real Freddy throughout the Papillion location. Freddy was a Vietnam vet, and it’s interesting reading the captions of the photos to learn more about his history and travels.

Interior of Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers in Papillion, Nebraska
Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers has a distinct retro look with a lot of red accents.

Freddy’s is a restaurant chain that involves itself in the local community of each location. This particular Freddy’s, which is right be Shadow Lake Towne Center, participates in a variety of fundraisers, especially for schools. They offer up to a generous 30% donation on profits for fundraising nights. On the day we visited, Mary told me about the effort the restaurant had made to raise money for the Red Cross to support Nebraska flood victims.

What’s near this restaurant in Papillion?

The big draw to the area is Shadow Lake Towne Center, where the Freddy’s Papillion location is located. This is a great outdoor shopping center with a mix of national brands and local stores like Michaels, Bath & Body Works, Chocolatier Stam and Nebraska Brewing Co.

If you head east on Highway 370, you’ll hit two favorite places of mine. The first, is Walnut Creek Recreation Area, which consists of a large lake, a playground, and paved and dirt bike trails.

Walnut Creek Recreation Area trail in Papillion, Nebraska
Walnut Creek Recreation Area has bike trails through wooded areas. The park is located in Papillion, Neb., not too far from Freddy’s.

The other place worth mentioning is Sumtur Amphitheater, which hosts outdoor concerts and has a great lineup of free, family-friendly movies each summer.

If you go

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

Where: Shadow Lake Towne Center, 11674 S. 73rd St., Papillion, Neb.

Looking for a family-friendly restaurant in Papillion, Nebraska? Here's a review of Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburger. Enjoy a concrete or order a famous burger. They even have a pup cup dessert for your dog! #Nebraska #restaurant

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April 14, 2019

10 Things Your Daycare Provider Wishes You’d Ask

Earlier this year, I shared insight into the world of local daycares, thanks to a partnership with Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center. I remember far too well how stressful it was to find a good daycare, and I hope it’s been a helpful series for you! If you missed earlier posts, check out these tips for things to look for when searching for a daycare provider and then discover how kids are learning through play.

Disclosure: This is sponsored post by Premier Academy. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Looking for a daycare center and wondering if you're asking the right questions? Read what a real daycare director wishes you'd ask! #sponsored #daycare #premieracademy

Ever wonder what daycare providers wished you knew…if only you knew what questions to ask? I asked Jewelyn McKercher, the Center Director at Premier Academy, to share some things daycare workers wished you’d ask.

Are background checks completed on your employees?

According to McKercher, daycares should follow the minimum requirements for the state of Nebraska, so ask about them. Requirements include: Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Central Registry Check; Nebraska State Sex Offender Registry; and the Nebraska State Patrol Criminal History.

What training are the teachers required to have?

You’re curious about teacher training, right? (I was) So, McKercher said you should ask about it. The training she said is important for providers to have includes training for: Pediatric CPR; Pediatric First Aid; Child Abuse Prevention (ie. being able to recognize the signs of child abuse and knowing how to report it); Safe With You training (required by the State of Nebraska); and Continuing Education in the field of Early Childhood Education.

How is your employee turnover?

This was one of the few questions I remember asking when searching for daycare. McKercher said “Consistency is extremely important to children and the environment in which they learn best. Getting used to new teachers takes time and energy that could be spent learning.”

Things daycares wished you'd ask - "How do teachers communicate with parents?" When looking into a daycare, ask how they tell parents about their kid's day!
Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

How do teachers communicate with parents?

Do you like a full write up or do you like to just talk about your kid’s day? It’s a good thing to ask potential daycares how they communicate with parents.

“Each day you should receive a daily report of your child’s day,” said McKercher. “It should include highlights of that day, what they ate/drank, lessons/curriculum, and if the children are younger diaper changes.”

What is the teacher to child ratio?

Ask how many children there are for each teacher. McKercher said the fewer the children to a teacher the better.

“You want your child to get plenty of attention and care,” said McKercher. “The younger your child, the more important this is. Babies need a teacher to child ratio of 1:4 (one teacher to four infants), while 4-year olds can do well with a ratio of  1:12 (one teacher for 12 children).”

Is the program licensed or regulated?

Licensure ensures that the center is registered and has met or exceeded the state’s local requirements.

“It also advisable to contact the state to see if they have any outstanding complaints filed against them,” said McKercher.

Things daycares wished you'd ask - "How healthy are the meals?"
Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

How is the food prepared and how healthy are the meals served?

In addition to asking about the food, go ahead and ask to see a menu. Additionally, you can ask if they serve a variety of fruits and vegetables. McKercher said serving a variety will “encourage the children to expand their taste for different types of foods.”

Is there a fenced-in outdoor play area with safe equipment?

I didn’t realize how important this was to me until I started looking around daycare and seeing how drastically different outdoor spaces were. Additional questions to ask in this area, include

  • Can the caregivers see the entire playground and all of the children playing?
  • How often do the children go outside?
Things daycares wished you'd ask - "Do you have a curriculum?"
Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

Do you have a curriculum?

Yes, even childcare centers have curriculum! McKercher encourages prospect parents to ask about it when touring and to ask if the center incorporate the Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines.

She suggested a couple other curriculum questions to ask: What is your Kindergarten readiness rate? How prepared or advanced are your students when beginning Kindergarten?

What are your hours of operation?

Seems like a pretty important question, right? But go beyond the weekday hours, and ask about holidays and bad weather, too.

About the post sponsor

I hope this post helps you if you’re looking for a daycare provider. If you thought McKercher was helpful, and you happen to be in the market for childcare, I encourage you to check out her employer, Premier Academy. There are locations in West Omaha and Elkhorn.

Exterior of Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center, which has locations in Omaha and Elkhorn, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

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April 10, 2019

Best Omaha Restaurants For Families

Omaha is enjoying an explosion of great, locally-owned restaurants opening up. The food is creative and delicious. But just because I have kids–and I often take them out with me to restaurants—there are just some that I wouldn’t dare take my kids to. But others? I’ve learned how to spot the restaurants that welcome families AND have good food. Here’s my list of the best Omaha restaurants for families, where you’ll find good food and a kid-friendly environment. I’ve asked a couple of friends who dine at far better places than I typically go to with kids, and they’ve added their recommendations to the list. Bon appetite!

Local's tips on the best restaurants in Omaha for families - Where to go for a special family night out or the restaurants that offer something good for adventurous diners. #Omaha #Nebraska #USA #restaurant

Big Green Q & Ted & Wally’s

Where: 6023 Maple St.

Why: It’s no secret that I have an undying allegiance to Ted & Wally’s – they have the world’s best Dutch chocolate ice cream. If you venture to the ice cream shop’s Benson location, you’ll find Big Green Q sharing the building. This barbecue place has a following from its food truck days. The food is pretty good, the kid’s meals are reasonable, and then you have to get ice cream for dessert, right? One thing that makes Big Green stand out is that its effort at sourcing ingredients locally AND everything is compostable. And the tots are good too.

Blatt Table + Beer

Where: 610 N. 12th St.; 2835 S. 170th Plaza; inside Westroads Mall at Flagship Commons, 10000 California St.

Why: Blatt is on just about every restaurant list I make. The food is just that good, plus they have a great craft beer selection. But, for the purpose of this post, I’ve been a fan of the restaurant since my early parenting days when I discovered the original NoDo location had a changing table in the bathroom. The kid’s menu offers substantial servings, similar to what adults can order.

Related post: Looking for more downtown Omaha restaurants that are kid-friendly? Check out this list of 8 Great Downtown Omaha Restaurants For Families.

Bob’s Donuts

Where: 3824 Farnam St.

Why: What kid is going to resist the chance to order an Oreo donut or one topped with cereal? Not even a big kid. But, creative flavors aside, Bob’s Donuts is on this list because they also serve chicken sandwiches. For breakfast. I love them. I may have my favorite donut shop elsewhere in Omaha, but Bob’s is great for my family because the kids can have their donuts, and I can force a little protein into them by having them split a chicken sammie, too.

FarmHouse Cafe & Bakery

Where: 3461 S. 84th St.

Why: This is my extended family’s go-to place for breakfast out with a large group. They also offer lunch and dinner, but breakfast is my jam there. The variety of food is great (portions are ginormous) and there are usually coloring pages offered to occupy kids. Even with the large portions, you may want to order a pecan roll to split with the rest of the table. The only downside to the restaurant is that on the weekends, there will likely be a wait. But, the good news is that FarmHouse is connected to Mangelsen’s, a craft shop that’s fun to explore while you wait. You’ve got to check out the Halloween and Christmas sections.

Korean Garden

Where:  5352 S. 72nd St., Ralston, Neb.

Why: So one of my friends is Korean and I trust her taste in food, so if she says a Korean restaurant is good, I’m going to believe it. And, knowing she’ll take her three kids there means it has a spot on this list. And as a bonus, Korean Garden has tabletop grilling there. My kids will eat anything if they’re allowed to cook it themselves.

Lalibela Restaurant

Where: 4422 Cass St.

Why: If you have adventurous eaters, head to Lalibela. It’s an Ethiopian restaurant where traditionally, you eat from shared plates (and you eat with your hands). If you’ve never experienced it, basically, you’ve got injera, the bread, and you tear off a piece and scoop up the food. Some kids are going to love it (mine did not). The food is fantastic and the service is prompt.

Louie M’s Burger Lust

Where: 1718 Vinton St.

Why: This is a meat eaters’s kind of place, where you’ll find more creative burger options than you thought possible. The real reason we go here, though, is that it’s one of the closest restaurants to Omaha’s zoo. There are closer restaurants, but the food at Louie M’s is better. It’s not a big place, so you might have a wait. The kid’s menu has some activities on it to help pass the time.

Mar Cafe

Where: 4646 Dodge St.

Why: This is one of my friends’ picks for restaurants, especially for breakfast. This Mexican restaurant is pretty unassuming on the exterior, but the food, I hear, is fantastic. The chef at Mar Cafe hails from the province of Michoucan, Mexico.

Pitch

Where: 5021 Underwood Ave.; 17808 Burke St.

Why: Handmade dough and a great Happy Hour? Pitch doesn’t quite sound like a family-friendly place. But it is. I always see kids there, because…pizza. Now this is the type of pizza my kids balk at – it’s what my kids call “Fancy Pizza.” I like it very much, but it’s not your chain restaurant type of pizza.

Related post: Pitch made it onto this list, Where To Find The Best Pizza In Omaha.

Plank Seafood Provisions

Where: 1205 Howard St.

Why: This is one of the few Old Market restaurants where you can get good fish entree, and as a bonus to parents, there’s a kid’s menu. Kid’s meals at Plank come with a little bag of goodies, including tattoos.

Shuck’s

Where: 1911 Leavenworth St.; 16901 Wright Plaza; 1218 S. 119th St.

Why: Like Plank Seafood Provisions, Shuck’s is a fish lover’s destination. It’s preferred by my family to Plank (for the price, it can’t be beat). Tables typically have brown paper on them, making it ideal for kids and adults to color and play tic-tac-toe while you wait. If you go during Lent, expect a wait on Fridays.

Upstream Brewing Co.

Where: 514 S. 11th St.

Why: Rare is a brewpub that welcomes families, but Upstream Brewing Co. is a good one. Kids get little bendy sticks to play with while you wait. If you visit on Tuesday nights, you may encounter Joe Cole, a roving magician who’s highly entertaining. Kid’s portions are large and they come with a choice of vanilla ice cream or a root beer float for dessert. And, for adults, the standard beer Upstream brews is superb and they have a few seasonal ones that can be pretty creative flavors.

Zio’s Pizzeria

Where: 1109 Howard St., 7834 Dodge St., 12997 West Center Road, and 18110 Wright St.

Why: Zio’s is a favorite of my family’s (but not of mine). However, it’s one of the few places that I know of that you can ask for a ball of dough and they’ll bring it to you. When my kids were younger, this was better than Play-Do to them. There is a kid’s menu, but we usually order pizza by the slice. The Old Market location on Howard Street is convenient to most tourists visiting Omaha, but if you ask me, the Dodge Street location has better pizza.

11-Worth Cafe

Where: 2419 Leavenworth St.

Why: 11-Worth Cafe is the quintessential greasy spoon on an unappealing street, yet, people love it. They’re doing something right. This is a good place for breakfast near the Old Market, where the service is quick, the food is good, and sometimes, your kid leaves with a balloon. It’s also the last of the Caniglia-owned restaurants, which probably means something only to those who’ve lived in Omaha for decades. If you’re looking for healthy breakfast options, this isn’t going to be your place.

Restaurants to go to on off-hours

So the following are restaurants that aren’t going to snub you if you bring well-behaved kids, but they’re in this category because they may either be typical “date night” places or they’re just a little fancier than the run-of-the-mill family restaurants. Don’t overlook them, just know that the dining experience is a little more formal.

Avoli Osteria

Where: 5013 Underwood Ave.

Why: I’m going to take my foodie friends at the word for Avoli being family-friendly (at off-hours) because I’ve been saving it up for a special date night occasion and haven’t been. I’ve heard it’s “impress-your-date” good. But my friends have brought their kiddos to this Dundee staple to enjoy the northern Italian cuisine, so at least one family has pulled it off.

Dario’s Brasserie

Where: 4920 Underwood Ave.

Why: While I have’t brought my kids here–yet–the thought has crossed my mind to do so. (I have gone for date nights and it’s fantastically casual and yet romantic). Featuring fine Belgian cuisine and the best fries in Omaha, Dario’s a remarkable restaurant that reminds me of charming European cafes I visited in my 20s. My friends and their kids have gone during quiet hours and can vouch that it’s suitable for families. And, by the way, this place has one of the best beer selection in Omaha, if you love Belgian stuff.

M’s Pub

Where: 422 S 11th St.

Why: Introduce your kiddos to an Omaha institution. M’s has had quite a history, being one of the first restaurants to open in the Old Market after it was revitalized decades ago, only to suffer a terrible fire that nearly ended its run. It’s a beloved restaurant by many, and I’ve been there for date nights (pre-fire). It’s a rather small place, so go during off-hours if you don’t have a reservation.

Via Farina

Where: 1108 S. 10th St.

Why: Via Farina serves wood-fired pizza in an impeccably designed space. If you’re the Instagramming kind of person, you’ll feel at home. I love it for hanging out with friends before a show at the Bluebarn Theatre. I wouldn’t have thought of it as a place to bring my kids since they usually snub yummy wood-fire pizza, but my friends have brought their kiddos. The pizza here has more adventurous ingredients (by my kids’ standards).

From fine dining to casual, local Omaha restaurants welcome families. Here are our top picks for family-friendly restaurants in Omaha. #Nebraska #dining #eatlocal

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