March 28, 2019

Guide To Nebraska State Parks Cabins

If you love the idea of being immersed in nature but you don’t like sleeping on the ground, cabins are for you. In Nebraska, I always look at the state parks for cabin choices. I’ve stayed at a few that I could recommend, but there are even more in the state I’ve yet to visit. Here are all the state parks cabins in Nebraska (as well as a few other lodging options that don’t involve sleeping on the ground:

Kim’s note: In 2019, 75% of Nebraska countries were impacted by floods. Check the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission website to be sure the park you’d like to visit is unaffected.

Not all state parks in Nebraska have cabins and not all cabins are equal. Here's a guide to staying at state park cabins in Nebraska. Find out what's included in a cabin and what you can do nearby at each state park.

Chadron State Park

Where: Chadron in northwestern Nebraska

Hikers on a trail overlooking Chadron State Park in western Nebraska
A hiking trail at Chadron State Park, the oldest state park in Nebraska. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

About the cabins: Chadron State Park is Nebraska’s oldest state park. We stayed at one of the two-bedroom rustic cabins during a trip through western Nebraska and South Dakota. It was bare minimum and dated, but a pretty inexpensive lodging option. There are 22 such cabins available seasonally.

Exterior of a two-bedroom cabin at Chadron State Park in Nebraska
We stayed at this two-bedroom cabin at Chadron State Park.

Things to do at Chadron State Park: The park offers horseback trail rides, craft center and evening programs. We spent some time at Chadron State Park with the kids, and visited the pool, hiked, and did the paddle boats. The park lies in the Nebraska National Forest with bike and hike trails through the ponderosa pines. Elevation reaches 5,000 feet in the park.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park

Where: Ashland in southeastern Nebraska

About the cabins: Cabins at Mahoney State Park are notoriously hard to reserve for the summer, especially for weekend stays, so the sooner you pick a date, the better. Reservations may be made up to a year in advance, which is what you’ll need to do for the summer. Winter reservations are much easier to make and, also, cost less. Mahoney State Park has some of the newest cabins in the park system, and they usually are reserved first. I’ve stated at treetop cabins and would recommend them. They’re older, certainly, but pretty comfortable with a “treetop” living room.

Exterior of a cabin at Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Nebraska. Cabins reservations fill quickly. They are among the most popular state cabins in Nebraska.
Here’s an example of one of Mahoney State Park’s older cabins, which is still pretty nice. The newer cabins are even bigger. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

All cabins at Mahoney State Park are fully furnished, include a fireplace, satellite TV, and WiFi. There are 57 cabins, with more under construction. There are 49 two-bedroom cabins, three four-bedroom cabins, and five six-bedroom cabins.

The park also has Peter Kiewit Lodge, which has 40 guest rooms, some with sleeping lofts and electric fireplaces.

Things to do at Mahoney State Park: Summer is peak season at Mahoney. The park has a Family Aquatic Center with two waterslides, zero-depth wave pool and a water playground, plus a traditional pool. There is also a zip line course, horseback trail rides, putt putt golf, fishing, paddle boats, craft center, disc golf, and a live theater. Hiking isn’t the best here, but there are some trails. Don’t skip the conservatory and observation tower. Mahoney State Park has a lot of activities for families.

There’s also a great indoor play area with a climbing walls. In the winter, there is ice skating, sledding, and ice fishing. Here are more things to do at Mahoney State Park in the winter.

Fort Robinson State Park

Where: Crawford in northwestern Nebraska

Riders on horseback at Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford, Nebraska
A horseback trail ride at Fort Robinson, a Nebraska State Park that covers more than 22,000 acres. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

About the cabins: Rather than having individual cabins, this park makes use of the historic fort’s 1909 enlisted men’s barracks for accommodations. This is quite possibly the best park in Nebraska for large family reunions. Accommodations sleep between 2 to 60 people, with 35 different group lodging options to choose from. All options have kitchens, baths and bedrooms. Larger cabins have living rooms.

A historic building at Fort Robinson in Crawford, Neb. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Things to do at Fort Robinson State Park: This park is spread out over 22,000 acres with an abundance of things to do in the summer. Much of what there is to do and see is connected to the outpost’s history when it was in operation during the Indian Wars until after World War II. The park has an enclosed swimming pool; museums; horseback trail rides and pony rides; rides by jeep, stagecoach and hayrack; bike, kayak and tube rentals; hiking trails; and fishing. For food experiences, the park has buffalo stew and steak cookouts and hayrack breakfasts.

When we went to Fort Robinson with young kids, the highlight was definitely the off-road jeep rides (though the ponies were a close second).

Lewis & Clark Lake State Recreation Area

Where: Crofton, Neb.

About the cabins: Lewis & Clark has 10 newish modern lakeside cabins next to Nebraska’s second largest reservoir. All are two-bedroom cabins that sleep up to eight, plus they’re air conditioned. Each cabin has a porch with a picnic table, grill and a view of the lake.

Boater on the lake at Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area in Nebraska
Boating is a popular activity at Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Things to do at Lewis & Clark SRA: This park has an unsupervised swimming beach. There are a total of five recreation areas on the lake that feature hiking trails, mountain biking, and lake access. This lake, as you can imagine, is popular with boaters.

Medicine Creek Reservoir State Recreation Area

Where: Cambridge, Neb.

About the cabins: Medicine Creek has four lakeside, two-bedroom cabins that are available to reserve from April to December. They’re fully furnished with an indoor bathroom and include a deck.

Things to do at Medicine Creek Reservoir SRA: Medicine Creek is among southwest reservoirs that offer quite a bit of water-based activities. This particular state recreation area has an unsupervised beach and boat ramp. Fish for walleye, white bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, wiper and crappie there. The other reservoirs nearby are Swanson Reservoir SRA, Enders Reservoir SRA, and Red Willow Reservoir SRA.

Niobrara State Park

Where: Niobrara, Neb.

About the cabins: Niobrara State Park has 20 modern cabins, with a mix of two-bedroom and three-bedroom options.

A cabin surrounded by trees at Niobrara State Park in northern Nebraska
Niobrara State Park is near both the Niobrara and Missouri rivers. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Things to do at Niobrara State Park: The park sits on the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers, so you can imagine access to the rivers are a draw for boaters. There are also horseback trail rides, buffalo cookouts, hiking trails and a pool (open mid-June to mid-August). There are two ponds at Niobrara State Park that are stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish. Go to pond 2 for rainbow trout fish in the fall and early spring.

The buffalo cookouts are popular and held on Saturdays throughout the summer. The cookouts include entertainment, which may be cowboy poets or storytellers. Reservations are required, and you’ll need to make them at the park admin office.

Platte River State Park

Where: Louisville, Neb.

About the cabins: Platte River State Park has quite possibly the widest range of accommodations, from absolute bare minimum to the ultimate in glamping. There are 20 modern cabins, including one four-bedroom cabin. Four of those modern cabins have a fireplace. In 2018, the park opened its glamping tents, ultramodern two-person digs that are pretty swanky. They also book very far in advance.

The exterior of a camper cabin at Platte River State Park in eastern 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.

The park also has camper cabins. I’ve stayed at one of these and they’re bare bones, but super affordable. There is no running water and you must use the restrooms/shower facilities with other cabins. Most cabins have air conditioning. Most. There are also teepees at this park.

Things to do at Platte River State Park: Platte River State Park has some great hiking trails, including an easy, kid-friendly trail that passes a little waterfall. The park recently opened a large sprayground that replaces its pool. There are horseback trail rides, paddle boats, naturalist programs, Crawdad Creek, an observation tower and fishing opportunities. This is one of the few parks to have a shooting range for a variety of disciplines, including sling shot, tomahawk throw, rifle, pellet gun, and shot gun. We’ve been there when they’ve offered educational programs, where my kids learned some archery basics.

Ponca State Park

Where: Ponca, Neb.

About the cabins: Ponca State Park opened 10 gorgeous two-bedroom cabins in 2017, which adds to their 15 four-bedroom mini lodges, two two-bedroom “green” cabins, and rustic log cabins (two-bedroom and one-bedroom options). The new cabins are often all reserved early so plan accordingly.

Exterior of a mini lodge cabin at Ponca State Park in eastern Nebraska. The mini lodges at Ponca are among the most popular state cabins in Nebraska.
Here’s what a mini lodge looks like at Ponca State Park. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Things to do at Ponca State Park: I haven’t been to Ponca in years, but it’s a picturesque park situated on the Missouri River, and one of the most popular state park in Nebraska. There is a new aquatic center, as well as hiking and mountain bike trails, kayak programs, and horseback trail rides (Memorial Day to Labor Day). The park also has a nine-hole golf course and a shooting range.

Ponca State Park features one of the state’s most comprehensive outdoor and environmental education programs, with programs held daily Memorial Day through Labor Day and on weekends during the spring, fall and winter. 

Spring is a good time to visit for bird watching. In the fall, they have a popular haunted hayrack ride. There are winter activities, as well, including snowman building contests, sledding, ice fishing, and special events like Christmas in the Woods and Winterfest.

Two Rivers State Park Recreation Area

Where: Waterloo, Neb.

About the cabins: Two Rivers doesn’t actually have cabins. Instead, they call their “cabins” caboose cabins. They have a lot of amenities that you’d find in traditional cabins – air conditioning being one biggie. Each has a kitchen and restroom and sleep up to six people. It’s one of the more unique lodging options in Nebraska.

A row of caboose cabins at Two Rivers State Recreation Area near Omaha, Nebraska
Each caboose “cabin” at Two Rivers State Recreation Area sleeps up to six people. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Things to do at Two Rivers State Park: Two Rivers State Park has sandpit lakes that are popular for catch-and-release fishing. Catfish are stocked in Lakes 3 and 4; Lakes 1 and 2 are stocked annually with catchable channel catfish. Find largemouth bass at Lakes 1-4. Fee rainbow trout fishing is available at Lake 5, as is smallmouth bass. There is unsupervised swim beach, which we visited once. It’s rather small, but the kids liked it. This is not a park for hikers.

Victoria Springs State Recreation Area

Where: Anselmo, Neb.

About the cabins: Cabins are limited here – just two modern, two-bedroom. The cabins have a kitchen (with ranges, refrigerators, tableware, sink), double beds, linens, blankets, shower and toilet. The kitchenettes are furnished. The cabins are seasonal and are typically available from Memorial Day Weekend through mid-November.

Things to do at Victoria Springs SRA: Victoria Springs is one of the state’s oldest parks, and its waters were once renowned for its “healing” qualities back in the heyday of spas. Now it’s just a picturesque getaway in the Sandhills. Fishing is a draw, and the 5-acre pond is stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish. Boating is permitted and paddleboat are available to rent.

How to make reservations for Nebraska State Park cabins

There are two ways to reserve a cabin at a Nebraska State Park. You can reserve them online at OutdoorNebraska.org, which is my preferred method. You can also call 402-471-1414 (they have pretty traditional business hours, Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

Over-night stay minimums at Nebraska State Park cabins

There is a two-night minimum for reservations are required if you’re staying at peak season, and weekends. Otherwise, one-night stays are allowed during non-peak season from Sundays to Thursdays.

Want to stay in a yurt?

Nebraska doesn’t have yurts, yet. I stayed at the closest yurt to Nebraska one summer – you can find two yurts in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Looking for a cabin in Nebraska? Here's a list of all the state parks with cabins and what you can do in the park while you're there | Nebraska travel guide | Places to stay in Nebraska | Things to do in Nebraska

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March 20, 2019

Ultimate List Of Things To Do In Omaha In The Summer

Omaha is, in my opinion, a great place to live and a great place to visit. And no season is packed with more things to do than summer. I’ve gathered a list all the great things to do in Omaha this summer, including top places to go, things to do, and water activities that will help you stay cool in Omaha.

Kim’s note: While a large portion of Omaha was spared from devastation from the 2019 floods, please note to double check your routes and the location’s hours before visiting this year.

Tons of things to do in Omaha this summer! This list includes water activities, things to do at nearby parks, plus concerts, festivals and other summer events in Omaha. #Nebraska #USA

Water activities in Omaha

Bumper boats – The only place you can find bumper boats is Fun Plex.

Float Trips – You’ve heard of tubing, sure, but we also tank in Nebraska. You can rent tubes and tanks from RiverWestPark; just tubes from Tubing & Adventures and Uncle Scott’s Outfitters; and just tanks from Tank Down The Elkhorn.

Inflatable water obstacle course – Just outside of southwest Omaha is Louisville State Recreation Area, which opened an inflatable obstacle course on one of its lakes in 2018.

Paddling – You can kayaks classes through Neighborhood Offshore and Omaha Parks and Rec. For rentals, you can rent kayaks and canoes at Lake Manawa Beach (located inside Lake Manawa State Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa), the University of Nebraska at Omaha Outdoor Venture Center (open to the public, not just students), and Neighborhood Offshore.

Paddle boats – Two state parks have paddle boat rentals by the half-hour: Mahoney State Park and Platte River State Park. Before going to either park, check out these guides: Mahoney State Park For Families and 7 Reasons To Visit Platte River State Park.

Pools – Omaha parks has several outdoor pools – Gallagher Leisure, Miller Water Park, Camelot Traditional, Elkhorn Traditional, Lee Valley Traditional, Roanoke Traditional, Elmwood Leisure, Hanscom Leisure, Hitchcock Traditional, Karen Traditional, Spring Lake Traditional, Cryer Traditional, Deer Ridge Leisure, Oak Heights Leisure, Zorinsky Aquatic Center – as well three indoor pools (Montclair, Mockingbird and Common Ground). Council Bluffs has two outdoor pools, including Pirate Cove Water Park (with water slides) and Katelman Water Park. Goldfish Swim School has feature afternoon Family Swim sessions that are open to the public.

Spraygrounds – Omaha Parks and Recreation Departments has 9 spraygrounds open Memorial Day to Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The best part? They’re free. Find them at: Benson Park, Fontenelle Park, Kountze Park, Orchard Park, Seymour Smith Park, Upland, Morton, Westwood Heights, and Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Plaza. You’ll have to pay admission to Omaha’s zoo for this next sprayground, but it is, hands down, the coolest of them all: Alaskan Adventures. On the busiest of summer days, there may be a wait to get into it. Other spraygrounds can be found at: Council Bluffs’ Bayliss Park, Shadow Lake Towne Center in Papillion, First National Bank Tower in downtown Omaha (more of a fountain you can play in), and Omaha Children’s Museum. Located a few miles south of Omaha, Platte River State Park opened a two-level spray ground in 2018.

Standup Paddleboard (SUP) – You can rent SUP equipment or take classes through Neighborhood Offshore.

Looking for things to do in the summer in Omaha, Nebraska? Omaha's zoo is a popular destination! Some of the add-on activities include feeding animals. #Nebraska
When the weather allows, you can feed giraffes at the zoo on the weekends. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Omaha Attractions That Are Great In The Summer

You may have to brave summer vacation crowds at the following attractions, but I think it’s worth it. A good rule of thumb is to get there first thing in the morning, or at the end very of business hours. Here’s what some Omaha attractions and landmarks has planned for the summer:

The Bob – The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spans the Missouri River and it goes by the name “Bob” or, “The Bob.” Crossing it is “Bobbing.” We usually ride our bikes across it, as there are trails on both sides of the river. Be sure to take a picture straddling the state line for Iowa and Nebraska – it’s right in the middle of the bridge.

Do Space – Head to Do Space for hands-on tech activities for kids. There’s a room for younger kids and one for teens (that has a huge video game screen). Check out kits to play with robots and try new games. Adults may use the computers, all the available software, and 3D printer (there’s a fee for materials). Best of all – it’s FREE!

Durham Museum Expect the Durham Museum to be busy this summer due to the temporary exhibit, Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family, opening on June 8 (it runs until Sept. 1). The Durham Museum is a great place to spend the afternoon, crowds withstanding, since it’s so spacious and air conditioned. If your kids love trains, this is the place to be.

Joslyn Art MuseumJoslyn Art Museum is my go-to for a calming experience indoors. When I’m with my kids, we head to Art Works or check out an activity backpack and do all the activities. When we’re done, we head out to the water sculpture in front, where kids (and adults) can splash in. The outdoor sculpture garden is nice to explore, as well.

Lauritzen GardensLauritzen Gardens is a colorful and serene place to visit in the summer. The kids’ favorite garden is open (the model train garden), for one thing. If it’s extremely hot, the conservatory is a refreshing place to explore, especially the more temperate room with the water feature.

Lewis & Clark National Park Head Quarters – At the base of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is the small building for the Lewis & Clark National Park Head Quarters. Inside, you’ll find a gallery of hands-on activities created for families (and adults who are kids-at-heart). A ranger may be available to talk about the artifacts and animal pelts on display. When we visited the national park headquarters, the kids played dress up, learned about the animals Lewis & Clark encountered, and tried writing with a quill.

Old Market – The charming few blocks of brick road in the Old Market is worth a stroll when the weather’s right. Check out this post about free things to do in the Old Market or learn about this urban walking labyrinth that takes you on a self-guided tour of the district.

Omaha Children’s Museum – Each summer, the museum has two temporary exhibits that make a visit exciting even for regular. This year, the exhibits are “Enchanted Kingdom,” featuring animatronic dragons and a unicorn, as well as “Attic Adventures.” Both end Sept. 1. This place is best for kids under 10. Don’t miss building something in the Tinker Lab. Before you go, check out these insider tips for OCM.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium – Some of the zoo’s best attractions for kids are open in the summer, including Alaskan Adventure (a huge spray ground) and Children’s Adventure Trails. The zoo’s other seasonal activities, from Stingray Beach to the zipine, are in full swing in the summer, too. Opening this summer is the second phase of Asian Highlands, so expect big crowds in that area. Oh, and there are a lot of animals. Plus, check out all the things you did’t know you could do at Omaha’s zoo!

Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum – Technically, it’s not in Omaha, but don’t overlook an afternoon at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Neb. If your kid loves planes (or you do), it’s worth exploring. There’s also an educational kid’s area to check out.

Union Pacific Railroad Museum – Another one that’s not technically in Omaha, but close enough. The Union Pacific Railroad Museum in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa, is a FREE museum, so if you have a train-loving kid, it’s a no-brainer place to visit.

Water parks & aquatic centers If you’re looking for water slides, there are just a handful of water parks/aquatic centers to add to your list. Fun Plex is Omaha’s largest water park, and the closest we get to having a theme park with rides. It has a wave pool, slides, and a large water feature, as well as a small rollercoaster, go carts, and rides. Zorinski Park is a city park pool that has water slides. At Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Neb., is a great aquatic center with a regular pool, wave pool, slides and a sprayground. Kroc Center in South Omaha has an indoor aquatic park with slides, a little lazy river, and zero-depth entry pool.

Looking for things to do in the summer in Omaha? This list includes places to go indoors and outdoors, attractions to see and things to do, including hiking to this waterfall at Platte River State Park. #Nebraska
This waterfall at Platte River State Park is my favorite destination of any Omaha metro trail.

Things to do at parks near Omaha

FootGolf – It’s soccer. It’s golf. It’s FootGolf. Find FootGolf courses in nearby towns including La Vista Falls Golf Course in La Vista, Papio Greens Golf Center in Papillion, and Elkhorn Ridge Golf Course in Elkhorn.

HikeHummel Park has a few trails, some for moderate skill levels. The park has a hiking club that heads out on the first Saturday of the month. The nature center is great, too.

Playgrounds – Hummel Park has the most unique slides you’ll find in the area, but they’re for slightly older kids. Looking for a sand-free playground? Head to Stinson Park at Aksarben Village. For a large, wooden playground, check Dreamland Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa. For more park ideas, see this post.

Trail Rides – Guided horseback rides are available at Mahoney State Park and Platte River State Park. There are age and weight limitations and they differ per park. Mahoney also has pony rides for younger kids. Rides are seasonally offered.

Waterfall – There is only one natural waterfall near Omaha, and it’s located just off a trail at Platte River State Park. It’s not large, by any means, but it’s a favorite of mine and it’s an easy hike for kids. The water is shallow, so you can walk in the water around it to cool off.

Zip line – There’s only one place to zip line in Nebraska and it’s near Omaha. Go Ape has a zip line course at Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Neb. In Iowa, there’s a zip line at Mt. Crescent in Crescent, Iowa. It’s close enough to the Omaha metro (just about 20 miles) to count, I say.

Looking for things to in the summer in Omaha? Head indoors! Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park is West Omaha has a ropes course. #Nebraska #familyfun
The Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park has a ropes course is suitable for kids and adults.

Things To Do Indoors In Omaha

When the temperature hits 90 or hotter, I start looking for things to do indoors. Here are some fun indoor places to visit on hot summer days:

Axe throwing – This is a fun thing to do with a group, older children or as a couple. Some places, like Axe Games, allow younger kids to throw if they’re supervised, but let them know ahead of time that you’re bringing a kid. Other places to look into include Flying Timber Axe Throwing and Craft Axe Throwing.

Archery Games – I tried out Archery Games with friends, and it’s a workout…but a fun one! Figuring out a bow and arrow in the archery arena may frustrate younger kids, but older kids may get the hang of it pretty easily.

Bowling – Bowling alleys in Omaha include Maplewood Lanes, West Lanes Bowling Center, The MARK, Papio Bowl, Chops Bowling Alley, and Western Bowl. Some are straight forward bowling allies; others offer additional activities like laser tag. If your family regularly bowls, be sure to sign them up for the Kids Bowl Free program.

Climbing Walls – Mahoney State Park has a climbing wall and a bouldering wall at the park’s Activity Center (must pay state park admission fee, as well as fee for climbing). Approach Climbing Gym is another option for the public. UNO also has a climbing wall and its free for UNO students, and pretty inexpensive for non-students (kids must be at least 5 years old). Omaha Children’s Museum’s special exhibit, “Attic Adventures,” has a small wall for young kids. The exhibit runs through Sept. 1, 2019.

Entertainment centers – These entertainment centers cater to different ages. For arcade games, laser tag, and other activities that may appeal to older children and adults, go to the Amazing Pizza Machine,  The MARK and Dave & Buster’s. For families with younger kids, there is a Chuck E. Cheese in Midtown Omaha.

Escape rooms – Escape rooms in Omaha include Get Out Omaha, House of Conundrum, The Escape Omaha, Entrap Games, and Locked Room Omaha. Escape rooms, generally, are better for older kids or going there with a group of your friends. Younger kids will like the occasional escape rooms held at the Millard branch of the Omaha Public Library branches (check the calendar for when these one-day programs are held).

Gyms – More for younger kids, gyms are popping up everywhere to give kids a chance to run, tumble, and climb safely. Gyms with public play hours include GO! Kids Gym, KIDS body shop, Kids Warrior Gym, and PE 101 Kids Gym. Premier Gymnastics’ open gym will appeal to older kids, especially those training in gymnastics, tumbling or parkour. You don’t have to be a member to go to the open gym.

Mini Golf – Like the idea of playing putt putt around a pirate ship or dinosaurs? Omaha has several indoor putting options. See where you can putt indoors (and outdoors) in Omaha in this post.

Trampoline parks & other places to jump – For trampoline parks, Omaha has three places to go: Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park and Altitude Trampoline Park. Urban Air is the more expensive option for trampoline parks, but it also has an indoor ropes course and a ninja course (as well as a large play area). Pump It Up and BounceU are large, indoor bounce house centers. You’ll have to sign wavers before playing at any of these places.

This list of things to do in Omaha in the summer includes indoor and outdoor ideas, like attending an Omaha Storm Chasers baseball game.
The berm section at an Omaha Storm Chasers baseball game.

More ideas for summer fun in Omaha

Cheap movie series – Two cinemas I keep an eye are Film Streams and Marcus Theaters. Film Streams‘ Forever Young Family & Children’s Series is high quality new films or films from our childhood, and kid tickets are only $2.50 for the series! These are screened at the Ruth Sokolof Theater in downtown Omaha. There are three locations of Marcus Theaters in the metro area that usually run the low-price kids’ movie series Check the website for upcoming series. The locations that run these films usually are at Village Pointe, Majestic and Twin Creek.

College World Series – This kind of goes without saying, right? For a few weeks every June, Omaha attracts thousands for the NCAA Men’s College World Series. Beyond the games, there’s the Opening Day Celebration, Fan Fest, a fun run, live music and so much more.

Free outdoor concerts – Every weekend (and many weekdays), you’ll find a free outdoor concert. Some of my favorites series include Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing, Bridge Beats and the Saturday concerts at Stinson Park. There are also free concert series at Village Pointe, Rockbrook Village, and more. Check out this post for additional free concert ideas. Don’t forget the big, free concert held usually the Saturday before the Fourth of July at Memorial Park. I have a huge list of free summer concerts in this post.

Nebraska Passport – Start collecting stamps for the 2019 Nebraska Passport right here in Omaha. There are three stops in Omaha this year: Crystal Forge at Hotshops Art Center, General Crook House Museum and
the Lithuanian Bakery (if you go there and don’t order a slice of the apricot napoleon torte, can you even say you’ve been there??).

Omaha Storm Chasers Baseball – Attending an Omaha Storm Chasers game is more than just watching a game of baseball. For kids, Werner Park has a play zone and a mini golf area. You can read more family-friendly things to do at Storm Chasers games here. Plus, there’s all the good food. I compiled a list of locals’ favorite ballpark foods.

Summer festivals – Every weekend seems to have competing festivals to attend. Some of the big ones that are free include Omaha Summer Arts Festival and Taste of Omaha. For major music acts, snag tickets to Maha Music Festival.

Looking for things to do in Omaha and nearby during the summer? This list includes fun things to do indoors and outdoors, plus a few day trip ideas, like a visit to Indian Cave State Park. #Nebraska
Indian Cave State Park is a popular park to hike. It’s south of Omaha.

Explore beyond Omaha

If you’re an outdoorsy person, check out this post about 10 outdoor activities near Omaha, including sand beaches, the Great Tree Adventure and Indian Cave State Park.

If you’re looking for more ideas, here’s a post listing the top family-friendly outdoor activities near Council Bluffs, Iowa. Most on the list are just a day trip away!

Huge list of things to do in Omaha in the summer - Water activities, parks to visit, museums & exhibits, and free activities for families and visitors. #Nebraska #outdoors #vacation

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March 11, 2019

Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do At Omaha’s Zoo

I’ve been a member of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium for nearly a decade, and like many residents of Omaha, I feel like I’ve got every inch of the zoo memorized after visiting countless times. And so, I still am surprised by things there. The zoo updates exhibits, adds exhibits, adds animals and adds programs, so it’s forgivable if you don’t notice all of them. Here are things that you may not know you could do at the zoo:

Get the scoop on all the tours, animal encounters and camping opportunities available at the Omaha zoo! #Nebraska #familytravel #USA

Eat not-so-typical zoo food

Sure, you can find popcorn, hot dogs and hamburgers at the zoo, but if you want to try something different, head to one of these concession stands:

Inside the Tusker Grill dining hall at Omaha's zoo
Tusker Grill is located in the African Grasslands at Omaha’s zoo. Some of the food available to purchase are African favorites. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Tusker Grill: The food includes African favorites. Some of the dishes are perri perri chicken, a beef brai sandwich and boerewors sausage, which is a farmer’s sausage. You can also get sweet potato fries there, and they’re great. (It’s open seasonally). Find the Tusker Grill in the African Grasslands.

Sea Turtle Café – You can add some candy mix-ins with your soft serve ice cream at this cafe. (It’s open year-round).

Camp at the zoo

There are a couple options for camping at the zoo, and all of them sound awesome (if you like camping, that is). The lower price option is called Family Sleeping Bag Safaris, and they range from $45 to $48 per person. With these, depending on the date you choose, you might sleep in the aquarium, African Lodge, or the Wild Kingdom Pavilion. A few require you bring a tent, and for those, you can sleep in the Desert Dome or the Lied Jungle. The Family Sleeping Bag Safaris include zoo admission, an evening snack, breakfast and a visit from one Animal Ambassador.

One of the Family Sleeping Bag Safaris allows families to stay overnight inside the zoo’s Desert Dome. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

For something a little fancier, you can also stay overnight at the Safari Tent Camp near the African Grasslands, right by the lion enclosure. This sounds a bit more like glamping, where you’ll get a tent with cots, a rug, night stand, lantern and an electrical outlet. For Family Safaris, the cost is $100 per person (two-person minimum and a five-person maximum in the tent). Included with that cost is zoo admission, educational programming, snack, breakfast, a morning hike, and a visit from Animal Ambassadors.

The Safari Tent Camp at Omaha's zoo
The Safari Tent Camp is located near the lion enclosure at the zoo. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

There are requirements for each of these camps. For most, if you bring a child, he/she must be at least 4 years old. If you bring many children, you need one adult per 10 youth. And some camps

Camp with no kids around

I bet a few of you like the sound of this (I know I do). Similar to the Family Safaris above, it offers all the programming, animals, hike and such, but one-ups it by adding a gourmet dinner, drinks, and an additional hike. It also costs more ($120 per person). And you have to be 21 or older.

One of the tents at Omaha zoo's Safari Tent Camp with a view inside
The zoo has adults-only camping options where you can stay at the Safari Tent Camp overnight. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

There’s also a Photography Safari for those 18 or older. Camps for adults are held a few times a year so check the zoo’s website for details.

Be a keeper for a day

Learn how to take care the zoo’s animal ambassadors in the Animal Programs Keeper experience. You’ll work side-by-side with keepers in the Wild Kingdom Pavilion. These happen only on select days of the month. Kids under the age of 17 will need to be accompanied by an adult.

Workout at the zoo

Yoga sessions take place in the aquarium on select Saturdays and Sundays in the morning. The cost includes an hour of yoga and admission to the zoo. Participants must be 16 years old or older.

A yogi holding a pose in the aquarium at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
Yoga in the Aquarium is held on select weekend mornings at Omaha’s zoo. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Each September, there’s a fun run in the zoo. This one’s open to all ages. Watch out, though, there are more hills than you think.

Runners at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
The Zoo Run is held each September at the zoo. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Feed animals

One of the oddest experiences is feeding a giraffe; though, it’s second only to feeding a stingray. You can do both at the zoo each summer (for an added fee, of course). Giraffe feedings are $3 and happen on the weekends, weather permitting.

Crowd at the Stingray Beach pool at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
At the Omaha zoo’s Stingray Beach, you can touch stingrays as well feed them.

Admission to Stingray Bay is $3 for members and $4 for non-members; feeding cups are $1.50 and they limit the quantities daily.  Keep in mind that you will have to pay admission into Stingray Beach AND pay for a feeding cup. You don’t have to feed stingrays if you don’t want to.

Other food experiences include feeding a budgie (parakeet) in the Children’s Adventure Trail area. It’s only $1 a stick. The feedings are on the weekends, weather permitting.

Feeding a giraffe at Omaha's zoo
You can feed giraffes at the zoo on the weekend, weather permitting, for a small additional fee. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Have a beer at the zoo

Little known fact, alcohol is available for purchase at the zoo. Beer is available at the Durham TreeTops Restaurant (and you can’t take it out of the building). Some special events also have alcohol available for purchase.

Watch monkeys while you eat

Durham TreeTops Restaurant is the restaurant to go to if you want to eat with a view of the indoor rainforest. Stalk the tables near the windows for the best views.

Diners at TreeTops Restaurant sitting at tables by the windows overlooking the indoor rainforest at Omaha's zoo
The TreeTops Restaurant at Omaha’s zoo is one of the best places to eat for one big reason: The tables located by the windows overlooking the indoor rainforest.

Go behind the scenes

The zoo has a program called Backstage Pass. My son was gifted a chance to go on the Octopus Backstage Pass, where he got to meet a keeper and go behind-the-scenes at the aquarium.

Behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
The Backstage Pass takes visitors behind-the-scenes at Omaha’s zoo. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Other options include an aquarium general one where you can watch a feeding of sharks, Kingdoms of the Night, and a Lied Jungle experience. These happen only on select days and are limited to a small group. Kids under the age of 17 will need to be accompanied by an adult.

Catch the bats at their most active moments

Love bats? You’ll want to head to the Lied Jungle at the end of the day to see them when they’re most active (aim for 4 p.m. or later). Me? I don’t personally like having bajillion* or so bats flying even remotely close to me, but my kids love it.

*My estimate may not be exact

Walk around lemurs

Back in my newspaper days, many years ago, I attended the grand opening of Lemur Walkway (located in front of the Expedition Madagascar exhibit). At that time, the lemurs were pretty curious creatures, and they got pretty close to us.

Family is near lemurs at the Lemur Walkway at Omaha's zoo
Lemur Walkway is located at Expedition Madagascar at Omaha’s Zoo. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

The walkway is one to definitely visit, but I’ve yet to see the lemurs get very close to people since that first day. Keep your expectations in check for this one.

Ride the rides all day long

If you wanted to, there’s the option of having unlimited rides all day long at the zoo, seasonally. This is for unlimited rides on train, tram, Sue’s Carousel and Skyfari.

Tons of animal encounters

You probably knew the zoo had animal encounters each day, but did you realize how MANY they had?

Kids touch a tortoise at Omaha's zoo
The zoo has animal encounters with Animal Ambassadors as well as regularly scheduled feedings and enrichment programs to watch. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Here’s what I’ve come across:

Touch Tank Open, Scott Aquarium
African Animal Discovery, Kopje Outcropping – African Grasslands
Antarctic Penguin Feeding, Scott Aquarium
Elephant Enrichment (Memorial Day – Labor Day), Lower Elephant Yard – African Grasslands
Sea Lion Training (Excluding Wednesdays), Sea Lion Pool
Shark Feeding (Wednesdays and Saturdays), Scott Aquarium
Animal Discoveries, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Pavilion
Meet a Reptile Keeper (Saturday – Sunday)
Orangutan Enrichment (Memorial Day – Labor Day), Hubbard Orangutan Forest
Lion Training (Memorial Day – Labor Day) Lion Viewing – African Grasslands
All animal encounters are weather and staff-dependent. Check the website for specific times.

There are a ton of experiences, tours & food you didn't know you could have at Omaha's zoo! #Nebraska #USA

Before you plan your next outing to Omaha’s zoo, check out Experts’ Tips For Visiting Omaha’s Zoo.

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February 21, 2019

Omaha Children’s Museum Insider’s Tips

It’s been several years since I’ve written a post dedicated to Omaha Children’s Museum. My last non-exhibit post about the museum was written before I started working there. (Now’s a good time to fully disclose, that, yes, I’m employed at Omaha Children’s Museum. And I’m totally biased.) But with more than eight years as a member and three as an employee, people often ask me for tips, so now I’m going to put them into a post. Read on for my tips on the best times to visit, how to navigate special events, and dining at the museum:

Tips for visiting Omaha Children's Museum - Know when to go, know how to save money, and understand the perks of membership #Omaha #Nebraska #museum

Who is the museum’s target audience?

I said this before, but children’s museums are geared toward about a 10 and younger audience, while science centers cater to a wider range (but aren’t always zeroes in on the younger kids). In Omaha, I’d say the exhibits are best for 8 and younger, though the Tinker Lab is the exception. My son is 9 and still loves visiting and never misses the chance to build something in the Tinker Lab.

If your kids are preschoolers, you’ll spend most of your time in the museum’s most popular exhibit, Imagination Playground, where you’ll find the mini grocery store, barn, hospital, and climb space. Actually, even early grade schoolers love the space.

Mini grocery store at Omaha Children's Museum
My kids baking a cake at the grocery store’s bakery inside Omaha Children’s Museum.

There’s a three-tiered water table that pretty popular. There are covers to keep kids dry, but you may want to bring a change of clothes, just in case.

The Imagination Playground is a great spot for parents on their own with two or more kids. There is just one way in and one way out.

For kids under 3, there’s a space called the Wiggle Room. You’ll need to remove your shoes or wear shoe covers if you go in there.

If you have a baby, the museum has a breastfeeding room. It’s located in the Family Discover Room, which you’ll have to pass through the Imagination Playground to get to. It’s cozy and has peaceful music playing over speakers.

When to go to Omaha Children’s Museum

Omaha Children’s Museum has two sets of hours – winter and summer hours. In the winter, the museum is closed on Mondays, and then is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The later weekend hours are new for 2019.

In the summer, the museum is open Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Dancing in the Moving With Light exhibit at Omaha Children's Museum
The end-of-the-day parade held at the museum each summer included a brief dance at the Moving With Light exhibit.

Member hours: These are great… if you aren’t working a full-time, weekday job. Member hours are weekdays from 9 to 10 a.m. when the museum is open. So, in the winter, that’s every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. In the summer, Monday is also included.

If you’re a member, this is the ideal time to go. I’ve heard people say it’s like having the museum to yourself. Monday mornings in the summer are the best of the best.

If you’re not a member, though, weekdays are still going to be the best time to visit. In the winter, this is especially the case. When to time the visit depends on your kids, really. When they were younger, they got up early and took ridiculously long naps, so afternoons were straight out for going to the museum.

But let me tell you – those last few hours of the day? Those are great times to visit. The morning crowd typically leaves around lunch time (AKA, nap time), leaving the great parking spots open to boot.

Special events at Omaha Children’s Museum

Omaha Children’s Museum has special events almost monthly, and all but a handful are included with museum admission. That means, the events are free for member families.

The museum’s Friday Family Date Nights are popular events happening on select Fridays during the winter months. The hours for these events have expanded in 2019, so they now run from 4 to 8 p.m. I highly recommend arriving before 4 p.m. if you can manage it. Chances are good that your child will want to play first before doing any of the themed activities, so might as well let them.

Tip: You can visit even come earlier in the day, leave and then return. So, let’s say you visit in the afternoon, leave for dinner, and then return for themed activities. Totally acceptable. Just keep your admission stickers on.

For Friday Family Date Nights, and other events like Star Wars Night, you do not need to purchase tickets in advance. Just show up and buy them at the front desk.

Making flower crowns at Omaha Children's Museum
At one of the Worldfests at Omaha Children’s Museum, the Lithuanian area included making flower crowns.

Besides evening events, there are a few annual ones to look forward to. I love going to Worldfest with the kiddos each summer, as well as Tinkerfest. There is also an annual Little Scientist Day that ties in with NESci Fest. I know I’m missing a few others.

The museum has a few ticketed events that require pre-purchasing tickets. The most popular is the Fairytale Ball, held each summer. Kids (and many of their grown ups) dress up for it. It includes a dinner, tons of characters, crafts and horse-drawn carriage rides. You save about $15 off each ticket if you’re a member.

Eating at Omaha Children’s Museum

The museum has the Rainbow Cafe, located upstairs by the carousel. The prices are surprisingly low for museums or attractions, in my opinion. And there is a good amount of healthy options like sliced apples & dip, cheese sticks, and carrots & dip. And then, of course, there are the not-so-healthy options like pizza slices, large pretzels, and hot dogs.

I’ve eaten there a few times when I forget to bring my lunch to work. It’s easy to make healthy choices, but I often end up getting a pretzel and cheese sauce (because I’m weak).

New food in 2019: The museum’s cafe just added Mini Melts Ice Cream to its offering. This brand is similar to Dippin’ Dots, only creamier.

On the first floor, your offerings are limited to what’s available at the gift shop. This includes $1 popcorn. There’s also coffee available, and a little tip for winter visits, the coffee machine also makes delicious hot cocoa.

The good news is that it’s totally fine to bring outside food here and eat it in one of the designated dining areas. Please do not eat in any of the exhibits spaces. In the summer, I often eat at the picnic tables outside. The tables are next to the antique fire truck kids like play on.

There aren’t a whole lot of restaurants within walking distance of the museum, not at least any that I’d send you guys too. One of the closest is Block 16, and while it’s crazy delicious, you’ll likely encounter a line (and there’s no kid’s menu). You’re better off driving the short distance to the Old Market and trying one of these family-friendly restaurants.

Parking at Omaha Children’s Museum

The museum has two parking lots on the south side of the building. Parking in them is free. On the weekends and in the summer (and on school holidays), the parking lot of the elementary school across the street is available for free, overflow parking, as well.

On busy days, during the summer, and on the weekends, though, the free parking fills up. There are plenty of metered parking spots along the street, but of course, those cost money (except on Sundays). Timing your visit on one of those busy days may help you snag a parking spot in the main parking lots. I recommend visiting right after the lunch hour, say around 1 p.m. Why? Because families often leave around lunch in order to get home in time for naps.

What makes Omaha Children’s Museum unique?

Very few children’s museums have as many special exhibits each year. In Omaha, there are two big special exhibits in the larger, upstairs space each year. On the lower level, there’s a smaller exhibits space that changes more frequently, and usually includes something seasonal. So, for Halloween, there’s Cobweb Castle and at Christmas time, there’s Santa’s Magic.

Omaha Children's Museum's light piano.
Don’t skip playing a song or two on the museum’s light piano.

The museum is also one of the few to design and build their own exhibits (well, for bigger pieces, they design and then hire places like Heartland Scenic Studio to build them). These exhibits tend to be more hands-on and less branded. They occasionally rent an exhibit, and that’s when you’ll typically see the brand name characters involved.

Upcoming special exhibits include:

Attic Adventures (March 2 through Sept. 1, 2019)

Enchanted Kingdom (summer 2019)

Digging’ Dinos (October 2019 through mid-April 2020)

OCM Family Memberships

If there’s a chance your family is going to visit more than two or three times in one year, I highly recommend getting a membership. Even if you think you’ll only visit twice – get one.

Why? Your membership gets you into other museums and science centers around the country for FREE (they have to belong to the Association of Science and Technology Centers and be more than 90 miles from your home museum). This is why I also recommend getting a family membership even if you have a kid on the verge of aging out (or if your oldest has already aged out). The regular Family Membership gets you reciprocal membership benefits to more than 250 science centers and technology centers. Some of the places I’ve used the reciprocal membership include the Science Center of Iowa and The Field Museum. I explain it better in this post.

If you buy a Patron Family Membership, which costs more, you also get discounted admission into children’s museums that are in the Association of Children’s Museums. ACM doesn’t give you free admission for up to four people, though. It’s usually 50% off. It’s still a nice perk.

I wrote an entire post about the perks of an Omaha Children’s Museum membership; read it to learn about the discounts on camps, birthdays, gift shop purchases, etc.

Discounts to Omaha Children’s Museum

People often ask about free days at Omaha Children’s Museum. Well, hate to break it to you, but there aren’t many free days. The only one is the first Sunday in December during the Omaha Lights Festival’s Family Festival. As you can imagine, it gets very busy and parking is hard to come by.

Your best bet, if you’re local, is to have an Omaha Public Library card. On certain times of the year, each OPL branch has a limited amount of family passes to check out. The passes admit up to four people, and you must show your library card when you bring it to the museum. There are some limits to it – you have to be 18 and older, for instance; and you can only check one out per “wave” of passes.

Other libraries that have similar pass programs include Council Bluffs Public Library and Carter Lake Public Library.

If you’re not local, I recommend downloading the Visit Omaha app called the Omaha Savings App. You can save money on each ticket for up to six people.

Better yet, if you have a membership to a science center that might belong to the ASCT, use it to get in free! Remember, there are rules that apply, so if your ASCT membership is to a museum closer than 90 miles of OCM, it won’t get you in for free.

Things to know before you visit Omaha Children's Museum - Get tips on when to go, dining options, and parking suggestions #Omaha #Nebraska #familytime

Want more Omaha Children’s Museum tips?

I could write another 1,000-word post about the museum, but I’d rather not. Leave me a comment if you have a specific question for me to answer. I’m happy to help!

If you go

Omaha Children’s Museum

Where: 500 S. 20th St.

Cost: $13 (ages 2 to 59), $12 (seniors), and FREE for kids under 24 months and members.

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February 8, 2019

Most Unique Places To Stay In Nebraska

Nebraska offers a wide variety of adventures for families, from stagecoach rides in the west, to canoeing in the north, and a world-class zoo in the east. And while you’re out venturing to each of those corners to the state, you’ll need a place to stay. I’ve been planning mini getaways for my family (checking off things on my Nebraska Bucket List), and I’ve started coming across some unique places to stay in Nebraska.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. At no cost to you, if you purchase something after clicking the link, I may receive a referral fee from it.

My hope is to eventually spend at least one night in each of these. I’ll report back to you all with a review of the accommodations so you can decide if it’s right for you and your family. Take a look at some of the cool inns, B&Bs, and, well, quirky places you can stay in Nebraska:

List of incredibly unique overnight experiences in Nebraska - From glamping to sleeping in a corn crib or teepee #Nebraska #travel

The Corn Crib 

Where: Crab Orchard, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: You’re staying in a unique “cottage” that screams “Nebraska.” The Corn Crib is just that, a corn crib, but it’s been remodeled into a guest cottage, complete with a balcony overlooking a lake. It’s located on the estate grounds of Sheah Blue Vineyard.

Book it (Get $40 off your first AirBnB booking if you use this referral link!)

The Former Officers Quarters at Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska
Instead of individual cabins, Fort Robinson State Park lets guests stay overnight in former officers quarters. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Former Officers’ Quarters

Where: Fort Robinson State Park, Crawford, Neb.

Fits: 2 to 20 people

Why: This state park’s accommodations are pretty unique. You can stay in former officers quarters that date from 1874 to 1909. While they’re not cabins, They’re equipped like them: They have a kitchen and bathroom, and some of the larger ones have living rooms. And it’s full housekeeping, so they have linens and all the kitchen utensils you might need.

Book it

Glamping At A Winery

Where: Slattery Vintage Estates & Tasting Room, Nehawka, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: Slattery was the first place that introduced the concept of glamping in Nebraska to me. Glamping tents are set up within walking distance to the tasting room (and of yeah, you can request wine and snacks to be waiting upon your arrival).

Note: This is one overnight you’ll want to leave the kids at home. Also note that, due to its location, you cannot bring outside alcohol with you when you’re glamping here.

Book it

Glamping cabins are available at Platte River State Park in eastern Nebraska
Glamping cabins opened at Platte River State Park in the summer of 2018. These cabins are part of the Outdoor Venture Park initiative. Photo courtesy NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Glamping At A State Park

Where: Platte River State Park, Louisville, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: The three glamping sites at Platte River State Park have been a hot item to reserve ever since they first opened in 2018. They’re modern and outfitted with all the amenities you’d want (namely air conditioning and a comfy bed). Snagging a weekend reservation is tough, though.

Note: This is one overnight you’ll want to leave the kids at home.

Book it

A teepee at Platte River State Park in eastern Nebraska
Teepee Village is located at Platte River State Park in eastern Nebreaska. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Teepee Village

Where: Platte River State Park, Louisville, Neb.

Fits: 8 people

Why: While we’re talking about Platte River State Park, let me tell you about the teepees there. The Pawnee TeePee Village at Platte River State Park consists of four teepees situated on top of platforms, so at least your not sleeping on a ground. It’s a step above camping, but not on par with even a yurt. I’m pretty sure the only reason why you’d want to stay in one of these is to say you’ve stayed in one.

Book it

Kottage Knechtion Treehouse

Where: South Sioux City, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: The Kottage Knechtion Treehouse is a B&B nestled between two cottonwood trees. It’s not far from downtown Sioux City, which I had fun exploring with my husband.

Book it (Get $40 off your first AirBnB booking if you use this referral link!)

One-Room School House

Where: Arnold, Neb.

Fits: 5 people

Why: Facebook fan Laura S. recommended Center School B&B and Museum, saying “We stayed there on the last night of our Sandhills trip. The apartment is clean and serviceable but the museum is AMAZING. Berni, the owner, is putting so much work into making it as authentic as possible and she has so many great stories to tell about the building and one room schoolhouses in general! As a teacher myself, I appreciated the care and detail in the museum so much!”

Note: This lodging does not have air conditioning, but the host notes that guests stay in the basement, which stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Book it (Get $40 off your first AirBnB booking if you use this referral link!)

River Inn Resort

Where: Brownville, Neb.

Fits: 2 people (possibly more)

Why: Here’s your chance to stay in a floating B&B! This 18-room floating inn is located on the Missouri River (and near one of my favorite towns in Nebraska).

Book it

Safari Tent Camp

Where: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Omaha, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: While zoo offers a variety of camping options for the whole family, it was the Safari Tent Camp for adults-only that caught my eye – you stay in the safari tents near the African Grasslands. Tents include an electrical outlet, nightstand with lantern, area rug, dining table, two director chairs and oscillating fan. There are only a few nights offered each year, so you’ll have to plan ahead.

Book it

Cabooses at Two Rivers State Recreation Area in Waterloo, Nebraska
The cabooses at Two Rivers State Recreation Area in Waterloo, Neb., can accommodate up to six people. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Vintage Caboose

Where: Two Rivers State Recreation Area, Waterloo, Neb.

Fits: 6 people

Why: Ever since we saw the cabooses on our first camping trip to Two Rivers SRA, I knew that one day, we’d have to stay there. First off, they’re REAL cabooses, outfitted with bunkbeds and two mattresses in the cupola. But more important, unlike camping in a tent, they have air conditioning.

Note: Two Rivers is catch-and-release fishing spot more than anything else, though there is a small beach at one of the lakes. If you’re looking for hiking, this ain’t your park.

Book it

Get some road trip inspiration for your trip through Nebraska. Follow the Nebraska Travel board by Oh My! Omaha on Pinterest.

Stay somewhere fun in the Cornhusker State! Here's a list of unique places to stay in Nebraska, from clamping to staying in a corn crib, one-room school house or teepee #Nebraska #travel

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July 13, 2018

What’s New At Nebraska State Parks Near Omaha

There are a lot of updates happening at four Nebraska state parks and state recreation areas near Omaha, including an addition of a ropes course, “glamping” cabins, and an aqua playground. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission calls them Outdoor Venture Parks. Here’s a look at what’s new and what’s coming. What’s great for us is that these parks are located within about 30 miles of Omaha.

For the most up-to-date information and to see the artist renderings of everything, visit Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s website.

A look at the plans for four venture parks in eastern Nebraska #statepark #outdoors #adventure

Mahoney State Park

Artist rendering of Mahoney State Park climbing walls
A rock wall will open in the Activity Center at Mahoney State Park in Nebraksa. Artist rendering courtesy Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Where: Ashland, Neb.

What’s new: The Go Ape Ropes Course opened at Mahoney State Park in the spring of 2018. It’s Nebraska’s only treetop rope course, and in it you’ll find ziplines and suspended walkways. There are age and height restrictions.

What’s on the way: Slated to open in the fall of 2018, Mahoney State Park is expanding its Activity Center and adding an indoor rock climbing wall. In the winter of 2018-2019, be on the lookout for a new alpine and sledding hill. That means year-round sliding, folks. There is also the addition of a lazy river at the park that’s been proposed, but no design plan has been selected yet and no installation date has been set.

Platte River State Park

Glamping cabins are available at Platte River State Park in eastern Nebraska
Glamping cabins opened at Platte River State Park in the summer of 2018. These cabins are part of the Outdoor Venture Park initiative. Photo courtesy NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Where: Louisville, Neb.

What’s new: Glamping! The three glamping cabins opened in July 2018, and are an upscale way to camp. The feature I’m most interested in is the queen-size bed on rollers that can be moved out onto the deck to sleep under the stars. This summer, Platte River State Park also opened a two-tiered splash pad. It replaces the pool, and is intended for preschoolers on up to young teens. In 2017, Platte River State Park added Crawdad Creek, which was a hit with my kids. Find it by Jenny Newman Lake – it’s a series of small ponds. Look up program times, where kids (and adults) can learn and explore with a parks employee.

Related post: Glamping isn’t only found at Platte River State Park. Check out this post about all the unique places to stay in Nebraska!

What’s on the way: Sometime in the summer of 2018, they park should have river access for visitors, including kayaks to rent. It may be open already. Be on the lookout for a new RV campground in the fall of 2018. Further ahead in the future, the park will be enhancing mountain bike trails to make it a premier regional destination for mountain bikers. Those trails are scheduled to be completed in 2019.

Louisville State Recreation Area

Louisville State Recreation Area floating playground is the first of its kind in Nebraska
The floating playground at Louisville State Recreation Area (SRA) will open in July 2018. Photo courtesy NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Where: Louisville, Neb.

What’s new: A new floating playground is supposed to open any day now. It’s a huge, inflatable obstacle course, and as such, there are age restrictions. You’ll also be able to rent watercycles and paddleboards.

What’s on the way: A new access point to the Platte River should open in the fall of 2018. No word on being able to rent equipment.

Schramm Park State Recreation Area

Artist rendering the the Schramm Park interactive exploration center
Schramm Park State Recreation Area (SRA) will open a new interactive exploration center aquarium soon as part of the Nebraska Outdoor Venture Parks. Artist rendering courtesy Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Where: Gretna, Neb.

What’s new: Nothing new…yet, though sometime this summer, there should be more access to the river, with expanded rec options like canoeing, kayaking and other water-based activities.

What’s on the way: I’m happy to say the former Aksarben Aquarium is getting a makeover. Expect the renovated center, soon to be called Interactive Exploration Center, to open in the fall or winter of 2018. It should be a state-of-the art nature center and aquarium when finished. This fall, there should be some enhanced and expanded mountain bike trails opening.

List of what has opened at the Nebraska Venture Parks and what is planned. These are all parks within 30 miles of Omaha.

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