Exploring Platte River State Park In The Off-Season

On a recent cool, gray spring day, I took the kids to Platte River State Park in search of a waterfall.

Platte collageWM

I needed some fresh air and a change of scenery, and the kids needed some place to run and explore.

Farley poking around a fallen tree trunk.
Farley poking around a fallen tree trunk.

I can’t recall the last time I’d been to this park, if I ever had. I know now, we’ll be back.

We parked in the first lot by the park entrance, the sign “waterfall” in view. Off we went, following an easy, flat trail of dirt and bridges.

The start of the easy hike to the waterfall at Platte River State Park. I see my daughter has my patient look.
The start of the easy hike to the waterfall at Platte River State Park. I see my daughter has my patient look.

The hike to the little waterfall was not long and can be walked by the smallest of kids. Or ran as is usually the case.

Spring’s not quite here in Nebraska, but even with the gray surroundings, the park’s setting is remarkable this time of year.

Regardless of the season, I have a feeling this park is pretty year-round. It's pretty peaceful, at least.
Regardless of the season, I have a feeling this park is pretty year-round. It’s pretty peaceful, at least.

It’s peaceful and you feel very much like you have the park to yourself.  My kids and I enjoyed being silly on the trail.

You can hear the waterfall before you see it. The anticipation of exactly how big it will be grows.

Found the waterfall!
Found the waterfall!

OK, I’ll admit it’s no Smith Falls. The kids wanted to keep walking so we didn’t spend much time by it.

If you keep on the trail heading toward the river, you’ll encounter a steep climb. I let the kids lead and, naturally, they headed for the hill. It’s manageable for most abilities.

Going up, up, up on our loop hike at the Platte River State Park.
Going up, up, up on our loop hike at the Platte River State Park.

Once at the top, there’s a clearing with some campsites and picnic tables. You can complete a loop back to the trail to your parked car in under an hour easily.

I think we’ll be back once things are greener and warmer. The park has paddleboats I’d like to take the kids on, and certainly more trails to explore.

Platte River State Park meets the kids' approval.
Platte River State Park meets the kids’ approval.

Your turn: Have you been to Platte River State Park? Where do you recommend us exploring next?

Strategic Air & Space Museum With Children

Until recently, I figured the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, Nebraska, just wasn’t my thing. I didn’t think aviation was my thing, and while space travel sounds exciting, I never felt motivated to visit the museum. Then I had kids. And it turns out that this museum is for people like me. It impresses me, actually.

But more importantly for this post – my kids enjoyed it there. A lot. As in, take off like they’ve been launched into space as soon as we get into the museum.

What to check out with kids?

Your first stop will likely be the Science Zone right by the entrance – or if your kids are especially wound up from the car ride, head to the hangers so they can run. And run. And run.

Our last visit was this winter and the Science Zone featured several activities, some more suited to my under-4 crowd than others.

Didn’t matter, they enjoyed watching big kids play, too.

Dominoes were tough for my littles to figure out but they liked watching the big kids make an elaborate path.
Dominoes were tough for my littles to figure out but they liked watching the big kids make an elaborate path.

The hit was the over-sized building blocks, though the kids also liked the weather map and rocket launcher. I think I disappointed the kids since I have very little mechanical ability – the rocket I helped them construct was a dud.

Launching - or at least trying to launch - their handmade rocket in the Science Zone.
Launching – or at least trying to launch – their handmade rocket in the Science Zone.

The museum features two large areas of full of aircraft, displays on uniforms and a lot of history. There’s an exhibit on astronaut Clayton Anderson that at least made my kids pause on their sprint around the museum. Enhance your visit by sharing some fun facts on the SAS website.

Strategic Air and Space 6

However, if yours are like mine, my kids were only interested in the planes they could climb in (can you blame them?). I’m pretty sure the kids didn’t even notice any signs.

"Roger that, Houston."
“Roger that, Houston.”

And the ride-on toys. And the bounce houses.

Naturally.

Bigger kids will like the simulation ride. That’s extra (as is the ride on toys and bounce houses. Naturally).

Many people like to pair a visit to the SAC Museum with some of the attractions nearby – Mahoney State Park and the Gene Simmons Safari. That’s fine, especially if you’re traveling from far. However, the museum itself is worth the trip by itself.

Kids love the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Nebraska.
Kids love the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Nebraska.

If you go

Address: Strategic Air & Space Museum, 28210 West Park Highway, Ashland, Nebraska

Hours: Open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: $12 for adults; $11 for 65+ and active/retired military; $6 for kids (4-12); free for kids 3 and younger and members

Food: There is a cafe on-site offering mini pizzas, hotdogs, chips, pretzels, that sort of thing

Thank you to the Strategic Air & Space Museum for providing two complimentary passes. All opinions expressed were my own.