August 15, 2016

Kids & The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum

Editor’s Note: Updated on January 3, 2019

The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum has created a space for children of all ages to explore STEM ideas (that’s science, technology, engineering, and math).

Overhead view of the Children's Learning Center at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum
The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum opened the new Children’s Learning Center in early August 2016.

The new Children’s Learning Center opened last weekend. It consists of 10 interactive stations designed as an out-of-classroom experience for children to experiment and learn about science, technology, engineering, and math and the physics, forces, and technology of flight. Families can easily spend an hour here, especially if the children get into building structures at a couple of the stations.

Families playing at the Children's Learning Center at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Nebraska
One engineering station asks kids to build a building or bridge the can stand up to an earthquake.

I explored with my preschooler and first-grader and they had as much fun as the older kids there. Some activities were better suited for the limited patience of little ones than others, but with the help of an adult, they could build and experiment alongside the big kids. 

Thank you to the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum for the complimentary passes so I can visit and get some great pictures. It was a fun day!

What you’ll find at the Children’s Learning Center

Child playing at Children's Learning Center at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum
The Bernouli Blower was a beacon for little ones with the the colorful beach balls.

Bernoulli Blower: Discover the principles of airflow and how air speed and pressure effects objects, like beach balls.

KEVA Planks: Create structures and gain first-hand experience with balance, leverage, geometry and the principles of physics.

Building station at Children's Learning Center at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum
Children build structures that can stand up to the shaking earthquake table.

Make-it-Tables: Experience the engineering design process by building machines or structures using materials provided.

Interactive Kiosk Station: Explore the four forces of flight.

Race track at Children's Learning Center at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum
Kids race their LEGO cars on a test track at the Children’s Learning Center.

Wind Trainer: Learn about the science and technology of flight in terms of aircraft roll, pitch and yaw.

Dual Test Track: Learn how friction, drag, weight distribution, and gravity affect the design and operation of aircraft and other vehicles.

Foam building station at Children's Learning Center at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum
The area with the large blue foam blocks was like a free-play engineering playground.

Innovation Station: Create inventions, environments, and activities with large scale foam blocks that encourage teamwork and imagination.  

Quake Table: Design structures and explore the phenomena of earthquakes and their effects.

Overhead view of Children's Learning Center at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum
The tennis ball launcher almost always had a wait on opening day. There’s something making things airborne that draws a crowd.

Tennis Ball Launcher: Explore the effects of gravity on different sized and massed objects.

Twin Air Blaster: Experience how airflow impacts aircraft design.

What else is for kids at the museum?

If your kid loves planes, you’re set. This place has a ton of them, and many that you can peek inside. There’s also an area dedicated to Nebraska’s astronaut, Clayton Anderson, who’s from Ashland, Neb.

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.

There are a few items that are an additional cost to admission, but can be a big hit with kids. When they were younger, it was the 50-cent rides. Now, they’re all about the flight simulators.

Exterior of Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Nebraska
The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Neb., is a must-visit if your kids are fascinated by airplanes and spacecraft.

The museum also regularly has traveling exhibits now. Read about those and other things to do with kids at the museum in this post about what’s new at 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

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 

2019 events & exhibits

Here are a few of the upcoming events and programs offered at Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. Find more events here, and explore the educational offerings here.

Jan. 19 – Indoor Air Show

Jan. 19 through May 10 – “Robot Zoo”

Feb. 16 – Nebraska Robotics Expo

March 2 – Leprechaun Chase

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July 14, 2014

Nebraska’s Wildlife Safari With Kids

Think Nebraska’s wildlife is boring?

Think again.

The Nebraska wildlife safari is home to two dozen Sandhilll Cranes. You'll find them, swans and ducks in the area of the park the mimics the Platte River region.

The Nebraska wildlife safari is home to two dozen Sandhilll Cranes. You’ll find them, swans and ducks in the area of the park the mimics the Platte River region.

 

We recently visited Simmons Wildlife Safari in Ashland, Neb., (about 20 minutes west of Omaha).

Wildlife Safari logo

It was my dad’s first trip to the attraction, so we were excited for him to enjoy it with the kids.

Some of the gang

Some of the gang

What to expect

Grab that map they hand at the admission gate. Not because you’ll get lost – the kids love it.

He never stops to ask for directions.

He never stops to ask for directions.

You’ll be driving at a maximum speed of 7 mph, so hang on, partner! You want to go slower, really, to catch all the wildlife. You’ll notice each area is separated by gates akin to the ones you remember from “Jurassic Park.” Scare the kids and put a water glass on your dashboard and recreate the T-Rex scene.

You’ll see deer, elk and an assortment of birds at the start. It’s pretty tranquil.

Animal collageWM

Then you’ll drive around some wetlands, featuring photogenic waterfowl.

American White Pelicans hanging out in the 10-acre Wetlands.

American White Pelicans hanging out in the 10-acre Wetlands.

You can get out of your car at this point. A lot of people just drive on by, so expect minimal crowds.

Your next stop is shortly after that. Definitely get out, because there’s the Hands-On Corral (AKA petting zoo) your kids will like.

There are plenty of goats hoping to be fed and brushed at the Nebraska Wildlife Safari.

There are plenty of goats hoping to be fed and brushed at the Nebraska Wildlife Safari.

Near there is a little play area with picnic tables, as well as an old Rosenblatte tower you can climb for a nice view.

A bald eagle at the Nebraska Wildlife Safari.

A bald eagle at the Nebraska Wildlife Safari.

Venture over to the bald eagles and then double back to walk an inclined trail to see owls, bears, wolves and further afield, toads.

This is either Cinnabon or Licorice, two sister bears at the Nebraska WIldlife Safari.

This is either Cinnabon or Licorice, two sister bears at the Nebraska WIldlife Safari.

We accidentally timed our visit to coincide with feeding time and the 1:30 p.m. enrichment talk.

It was a fortunate accident! I think Mr. Wonderful and I were more enthralled by the feedings than the kids, but whatever.

One of the keepers explains the wolves' feeding schedule and preferred foods.

One of the keepers explains the wolves’ feeding schedule and preferred foods.

Back in the car, you’ll get to drive past some pretty birds on your way to the big attraction: American bison.

We asked them to pose.

We asked them to pose.

These free-roaming creatures get near your car, making for some impressive photos.

Reason #1 you want to keep your speed in check at the Wildlife Safari in Nebraska.

Reason #1 you want to keep your speed in check at the Wildlife Safari in Nebraska.

Be sure to stop back at the visitor center. There are more animals to see inside and outside, as well as a small playground and a group of sculptures kids seem to like climbing on.

Timing a picnic

There are a couple picnic tables near the petting zoo that aren’t very shaded. More tables are located near the visitor center.

If you didn’t bring food, you can purchase snack bar items, ice cream and other goodies at the visitor center.

Tip

It pays to time your visit! Feeding time is prime animal viewing time. On Saturdays and Sundays it’s at 1:30 p.m., and includes interesting talks with the keepers. While were were there, the keeper said the 3 p.m. feeding time is the best since that’s when she gives the bears and wolves the most food. I can’t find that time listed anywhere online, so I can’t confirm that it is the exact time to catch a second feeding.

It’s really the best chance to see these beautiful creatures up close. In past visits, the wolves and bears have been far from the fences.

 

If you go

 

Eagle statue at wildlife safariLee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari

Where: Take Exit 426 off Interstate 80, 16406 N. 292 St., Ashland, Neb.

Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October.

Cost: Even though you’re driving in a single vehicle, you have to pay admission for each person. $6.50, adults 12 and older; $5.50 military adult $4.50 children, 3-11; $3.50 military child; $5.50 seniors, 65 and older; FREE children 2 and under; $40 household season membership

 

2014 Events

Lookout at Nebraska Wildlife Safari

Going Buggy

They creep and crawl, dangle and fly…come discover what else bugs can do on Saturday, Aug. 9, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fly over to Wolf Canyon to check out bug displays, learn about their important role in nature and participate in buggy crafts. Before leaving the area, be sure to explore the area and see what type of creepy crawlies you can find on your own. Event activities are free to Wildlife Safari Park members or with paid Park admission.

Sounds of Fall

Become an animal detective for a day. Learn to identify animals by their sounds, tracks and evidence they leave behind at Wildlife Safari Park during the Sounds of Fall event on Saturday, Sept. 6, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Enjoy touching and feeling animal artifacts, participating in crafts and enjoying other special activities at Wolf Canyon. Event activities are free to Wildlife Safari Park members or with paid Park admission.

Haunted Safari

Go on a haunted hike, take a spooky ride, enjoy a hot dog supper, roast marshmallows and play ghostly games for candies in the great outdoors from 6 to 9 p.m. at Wildlife Safari Park on Friday, Oct. 10, and Saturday, Oct. 11. Event does not include general Park admission during the operating hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Extras

The Wildlife Safari Park offers family classes throughout the summer. Check their website for updates.

 

You may be interested in posts about attractions near the safari:

Strategic Air & Space Museum With Kids

Mahoney State Park For Families

Mahoney State Park In The Winter

 

November 19, 2013

Exploring Math Alive

I’m torn about the traveling exhibit at the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, Neb. “Math Alive” is supposed to inspire kids about math using pretty cool interactive displays… and all I want to do is leave my kids at home so I don’t have to wait my turn at the snowboard game. If they’d made the climbing wall big enough for adults to use it, we parents would claim the exhibit “ours” and never bring the kids.

The climbing wall at "Math Alive" was too small for me... my only complaint.

The climbing wall at “Math Alive” was too small for me… my only complaint.

Alas, it is truly an exhibition designed to entertain and educate kids, and I’m not really that selfish.

You really ought to check it out before it ends on Jan. 5, 2014. The appeal is clear – it’s highly interactive with engaging graphics and hip pros celebrating math – from musicians to engineers to skaterboarders, math looks cool.

I visited the exhibit recently with a 2- and 4-year-old. Here’s my take-away:

Who’d like it

It’s engaging for all ages, but I’d say kids in grade school on up will get the most out of it. Take a look at the featured videos and interactive games. My kids tested a bicycle game and boardercross game. The instructions were over their head and they were just a tad too small to move the pedals, but they had fun doing what they could.

My kids perpetually wiping out while virtual snowboarding together.

My kids perpetually wiping out while virtual snowboarding together.

Obviously, if your child enjoys math, he or she will love it. The exhibit’s creators, though, went out of their way to make this appealing to the math challenged.

What’s the highlight?

My kids are attracted to bright lights, much like the common moth.

My kids are attracted to bright lights, much like the common moth.

Tough call. The kids’ were drawn to the adventure sports stuff like the snowboarding game and climbing wall, as well as anything that was flashing lights (which, let’s be honest, was a lot of stuff there). I would’ve liked to check out some of the stuff in the design area. The display that seemed to draw the most people to it was the 360-degree image generator. Twenty cameras take your picture from every angle while you strike a pose, and then the resulting image/video is emailed to you. I could’ve played studied the concept for 20 minutes had the kids stayed still long enough.

Why go

Fun with shadows at "Math Alive" at the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Nebraska.

Fun with shadows at “Math Alive” at the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Nebraska.

According to the Math Alive website: The exhibition is designed to answer the age-old question: “Will I ever use all this math they’re teaching us?” Having an answer to that question is reason enough for me.

I say, if your kids used to love playing at the children’s museum but they think they’re too old for it now, they’d have a lot of fun here. If your kids are young and still enjoy the children’s museum, take them to this exhibit. And if you don’t have kids, check it out and play all the games you want there without guilt of wanting to nudge your child away from the screen so you can get a chance to play. (Sorry about that tiny rock wall, though, it’s just not for us).

May 28, 2013

Mahoney State Park For Families

Updated: April 28, 2018

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is a fun day-trip from Omaha or Lincoln, but there’s so much to do, I recommend planning at least staying overnight if not longer. Especially if you have kids. Especially if you have to factor in naps.

Mahoney State Park trails often lead you to a great river view, and if you're lucky, you'll catch a passing train. For my two kids, it was one of the highlights of the whole weekend.

Mahoney State Park trails often lead you to a great river view, and if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a passing train. For my two kids, it was one of the highlights of the whole weekend.

Lodging Options at Mahoney State Park

On our way to brunch at the lodge. (I'm not too impressed with the food there, but I hear the rooms are nice)

On our way to brunch at the lodge. (I’m not too impressed with the food there, but I hear the rooms are nice)

The park offers camping/RV parking, a hotel and cabins. We have yet to camp with the kids, but there are are nice campgrounds near the main lake (the paddle boat lake, as I’ll call it for simplicity’s sake). Most of the lodge rooms have balconies.

Yeah, you might not want to lean to hard on that screen window, dear.

Yeah, you might not want to lean to hard on that screen window, dear.

For cabins, your options include two-, four- and six-bedroom cabins. We opted to stay at a two-bedroom cabin this spring – I highly recommend it. They have AC, appliances and dishware, bathtubs, grills, and for those who like going to a state park but not going outside, they have satellite TV. Ours had an included deck with not-too-sturdy netting (if your child often channels The Hulk, best keep a close eye on her while out there). For dining, our cabin had two picnic tables and a dining room table.

There are now even nicer cabins available. All cabins, new or older, can be reserved up to a year in advance, and many are already filled up for next summer.

The living room of one a two-room cabin at Mahoney State Park. Nothing fancy, but also not roughing it.

The living room of one a two-room cabin at Mahoney State Park. Nothing fancy, but also not roughing it.

If you’re ready to go camping or to reserve a cabin, click here to check availability.

Family-Friendly Activities At Mahoney

You never forget the first time you had a s'more. Cheers, Mooch!

You never forget the first time you had a s’more. Cheers, Mooch!

Basically, everything at the Mahoney State Park is family-friendly; what will be the most fun depends on the age of your children. Mine are happy running across a bridge or collecting rocks. Your older kids might require a little more to thrill them.

Playgrounds: There are several, including a huge indoor play area (it has an admission fee but it’s awesome). The biggest one is near the swimming pool – it has a separate jungle gym for smaller kids.

Gardens: My kids love walking around the gardens, especially the greenhouse

Pony rides: Ages 3-9. Cost is $7 per kid. Pony rides are weather permitting and run daily through Aug. 13, and then they’re only on Saturdays and Sundays.

Pool – Two water slides, wave pool and an area for small children. Very popular summer spot. It costs $10 per adult, $8 per child (ages 3-12), and FREE for children 2 and younger.

Arboretum

S’mores eating

Ball Field

Bicycling

Bird watching

Paddleboats – Paddleboat rentals are down by the Owen Marina. They are $8 per boat for a half-hour rental.

Fishing – Several fishing clinics are planned during the summer.

Explore the marina – For me, includes exploring the ice cream shop there. This is also where all the arts & craft stuff are.

Hiking: If you’re lucky, you see a nearby passing train.

Farley on a hike with Grampy at Mahoney.

Farley on a hike with Grampy at Mahoney.

Putt-putt golf – Mini golf is $3.50 per person. There’s also a driving range, and it’s $3 for a bucket of balls.

Soccer/Rugby Field

Lookout tower: It’s a tall one with a great view, and climbing it is a useful tool for tiring out little ones.

You climb this baby a couple times and you'll have buns of steel.

You climb the lookout tower a couple times and you’ll have buns of steel.

Kountze Memorial Theater – Melodramas are often performed here. Usually there are two show options and tickets are $7 per adult and $5 per child (ages 12 and younger. The family package, which is two adult tickets and two child tickets, is $20.

Stargazing: Climb the lookout tower for a spectacular view. There are a few clinics this summer sponsored by the Omaha Astronomical Society & Prairie Astronomy Club, who will bring telescopes. Check here for dates.

Horseback riding – You must be 6 or older to ride a horse. Read more about trail rides at Mahoney here. The cost is $18 per person.

Horseshoe pits

Mountain/trail bicycling

Tennis

Nature programs – The park offers about several free programs, including ones focusing on horses, native reptiles, insects, prairie and hummingbird workshops, archery, nature hikes and fishing clinics.

For hours and fees on activities, visit this link. Park’s phone number is 402-944-2523.

All the family-friendly activities and things to see at Mahoney State Park in eastern Nebraska

New Ropes Course Opened in 2018

The Go Ape! Treetop Adventure opened April 28, 2018. This course includes Treetop Adventure and Treetop Junior, so it’s an outing suitable for kids and adults. There is a height requirement of a minimum 4 feet 7 inches, and there is a maximum weight limit of 285 pounds. The course includes zip lines, obstacles and a ropes course, and expect it to last two to three hours.

Cost is $49 for ages 16 and older and $39 for children 15 and younger. There must be a supervising adult age 19 or older to accompany children. Reservations are suggested.

Nearby Excursions

Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum: Planes and space exploration stuff. The new Children’s Learning Center opened in August 2016, and I wrote all about it here.

Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari: Drive-through safari featuring native species. Read What to Expect if you Visit the Wildlife Safari with Kid

Ashland: Nearest town, and it has two ice cream shops, pizza option and winery (for mommy)

Louisville State Recreation Area: There are plans to upgrade the park, including adding a water obstacle course! Read this post for details.

Schramm Park State Recreation Area: Trails for hiking and an aquarium with cheap admission. There are plans to upgrade the park! Read this post for details.

Platte River State Park: Great hiking trails, including one to a waterfall. Here are 7 Reasons To Visit Platte River State Park. There are plans to upgrade the park! Read this post for details.

Stay in the know

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.