Don’t pass through southwestern Nebraska without stopping once or twice. When I drive from Omaha to Colorado, we’ve made some memorable stops in towns like Paxton and cities like North Platte. But there are so many more places waiting to be discovered. Here are some of my recommended things to do when exploring southwest Nebraska.
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- One of Nebraska’s newest wineries, Old Depot Vineyard and Winery, 33651 E. Banner Road, Brady, has an interesting story. It’s housed in a train depot that had to be moved from Gothenburg to Brady.
- Enders State Recreation Area, 73122 338th Ave., Enders, is a lot more primitive and peaceful place to visit over other reservoir areas. It’s a wildlife refuge in the fall and winter, making the area protected and largely undeveloped. Still, there’s a swimming beach and plenty of camping.
- Lavender Market & Lavender Littles, 1040 Court St., Imperial, is part-kid’s boutique with adorable clothes and toys, and part-home decor and stuff for moms. Why should kids get all the cute stuff?
- Designed to look like an Amish shop, The Madrid General Store, 302 S. Perkins Ave., Madrid, is not quite a general store like the name suggests. It’s a bakery and coffee shop with a reputation for tasting baked goods, particularly pies and bread.
- Mac’s Drive Inn, 809 W. B St., McCook, is a long-standing restaurant that hasn’t changed a whole lot since its early days. They still have carhops who’ll bring your food to your car. I tried their popular fried chicken, and honestly, I don’t see the draw. But, the menu is huge and I’m sure you’ll find something great for a memorable lunch or dinner.
- Come hungry to the Italian deli in McCook, Citta’ Deli, 110 W. First St., McCook. In addition to Italian dishes, they make their own desserts. Word is that the meatball sub is one of the state’s best.
- You’ve heard of Runza sandwiches, but if you want to try a homemade version of a Runza, go to Sehnert’s Bakery & Bieroc Café, 312 Norris Ave., McCook, and get yourself a bieroc.
- It’s not all good eating in McCook. Sample some locally-brewed beers while you’re in town at Loop Brewing Co., 404 W. A St., McCook. But if you’re hungry, you can get brick-oven pizza at the brewery, too.
- Spend a day at the lake at Red Willow State Recreation Area, 72718 Trail 2. McCook. The 1,628-acre reservoir has a swimming beach and a large lake for waterskiing and fishing.
- Nebraska doesn’t have many roadside attractions, but this place is one. And you can’t go to North Platte and not visit Fort Cody Trading Post, 221 Halligan Drive, North Platte. Find western souvenirs and jewelry, as well as silly shirts and gag gifts. There’s also Buffalo Bill memorabilia, an Old West Exhibit, and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in Miniature – an impressive display with 20,000 hand-carved figures.
- The Cedar Room, 505 N. Dewey St., North Platte, is fine dining on the plains. The 1885 building has been restored to match the exquisite atmosphere created inside.
- Whatever outdoor adventure you want to have in North Platte, Dusty Trails, 2617 N. Buffalo Bill Ave., North Platte, will be the outfitter for you. Horseback rides, tanking or floats down the river, and even horse-drawn carriage rides are all options.
- Along with serving up great craft beer and pizza, Pals Brewing Co., 4520 S. Buffalo Bill Ave., North Platte, also has side gig: They have an Airbnb nearby called McNeil House Bed & Brew.
- If wine is more of your thing, Feather River Vineyard and Winery, 5700 SE. State Farm Road, North Platte, is one of the state’s largest vineyards. The soil is pretty distinct in this region so you’ll have to taste the wine.
- Bet you didn’t know the world’s largest rail yard is in North Platte. Watch all the commotion from Golden Spike Tower, 1249 N. Homestead Road, North Platte.
- Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park, 2921 Scouts Rest Ranch Road, North Platte, is home to beautifully restored mansion and barn of famed showman, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. It’s not too far from Buffalo Bill State Recreation Area, where there are tons of outdoor activities from trail rides to kayak rentals.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth at Double Dips Ice Creamery, 522 N. Dewey St., North Platte, an ice cream shop housed in a charming historic building.
- The Petrified Wood & Art Gallery, 418 E. First St., Ogallala, was one of my favorite hidden gems to discover on a family road trip. It’s a free gallery, so why not see why it’s worth a stop?
- Sure, you can get steaks and burgers made with patties from a ranch not too far from Ogallala. But, Driftwood, 118 N. Spruce St., Ogallala, is so near Lake Mac, you may want to order fish while you’re there.
- Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area, 1475 Hwy. 61 N., Ogallala, is a huge draw to the area. As the state’s largest reservoir, it’s a playground for water sport enthusiasts. And the white, sandy beaches are unexpectedly part of the Lake Mac package.
- Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area, 1475 Hwy. 61 N, Ogallala, is known as “The Little Lake” next to Lake Mac. It’s a smaller, quieter lake that is great for fishing.
- Tour Mansion on the Hill, 1004 N. Spruce St., Ogallala, a Victorian home as well as a one-room school house and the O’Brien/Lute home, an early 1900s homestead era dwelling. Walk three blocks west of the mansion to see Boot Hill, 119 E. Second St., Ogallala, where cowboys were buried with their boots on.
- Front Street Steakhouse and Crystal Palace Saloon, 519 E. First St., Ogallala, is easy to spot: Its exterior looks straight out of an Old West movie. It’s a steakhouse for most of the year, and in the summer, Front Street Crystal Palace Revue revs up with gunfight reenactments, singing and dancing.
- Anne Marie’s Antiques and Gifts, 111 S. Oak St., Paxton, will surprise you. The cute shop is packed full of home decor, both vintage and farmhouse modern.
- The Grainery, 119 S. Oak St., Paxton, is a gem of a coffee and ice cream shop. It’s definitely a photo-worthy stop.
- Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse, 123 N. Oak St., Paxton, has been a Nebraska legend for more than 80 years. Dig into your steak in a dining room full of a bewildering assortment of big game trophies.
- Allsorts Boutique, 820 First St., Sutherland, is a boutique for vintage and new, hand-painted furniture, as well as home decor and clothing. It’s called Allsorts, right? While there, get your caffeine fix at MUG Coffee Shop in the same building.