December 26, 2019

10 Must-Try Nebraska Restaurants

Nebraska is known for many things, but a flourishing restaurant scene isn’t one of them. Yet. I’m here to make sure that changes. Here are some of my favorite Nebraska restaurants, as well as the top recommendations from fellow travel bloggers who know and love the state.

10 must-try Nebraska restaurants - From small towns cafes and steakhouses to gourmet restaurants in Omaha, here are the best and most memorable restaurants in Nebraska. #Nebraska #food #restaurants #foodie #travel #Midwest

Bean Broker Coffee House & Pub

Where: Chadron

Why: While this is technically more coffee shop than a restaurant, Bean Broker impressed me the moment I walked in. It’s got a wonderful atmosphere that makes you just want to linger.

The food options were what you could expect for a cafe in a bigger city. For Chadron, it was a pleasant surprise.

And the good coffee helped too.

Bean Broker was a true hidden gem in western Nebraska.

Tip: While you’re in Chadron, plan an afternoon to explore the oldest state park in Nebraska, Chadron State Park.

Block 16

Where: Omaha

Why: Don’t let the line out the door scare you away. Block 16 is worth the wait. I’m a creature of habit and always get the Croque garcon burger (mainly because I do anything Alton Brown tells me to do).

I know I’m missing out by not trying one of their creative sandwiches of the day. I can’t help it though. It’s an amazing burger.

Anyway, Block 16 also has fantastic fries (try the rangoon fries) and my kids are partial to their fried chicken.

Related post: Check out the 33+ other great restaurants I recommend you visit in Omaha!

Dante

Where: Omaha

Why: Dante, in West Omaha, brings wood-fired Neapolitan pizza and rustic Italian cuisine to a top-notch level. Chrysa from Thrifty Jinxy visited the restaurant recently and highly recommended it. (Kim’s note: I agree with her!)

Wood-fired pizza at Dante in Omaha, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Thrifty Jinxy

Owner and Chef Nick Strawhecker says his menu is inspired by the seasons and food that works well with wood. That means the ever-changing menu incorporates only ingredients that are at their prime, including fresh produce from local farmers whenever possible.

“Whatever is on the menu when you visit, you’ll find delicious pasta, inventive pizzas, amazing main courses and more. If it’s on the menu when you visit, I can’t tell you how delicious the wood-roasted beets and fried kale is – and this is coming from someone who doesn’t even like kale.”

The beverage menu contains only wines only from Italy and creative cocktails – also inspired by the seasons.  

The Green Gateau

Where: Lincoln

Why: This is the must-visit brunch spot in Lincoln. I suppose you could go for dinner, but I’ve never known anyone who has.

Exterior of The Green Gateau in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska

The Green Gateau is this charming restaurant in downtown Lincoln, with a varied menu that includes French cuisine and creative American standards. Being so close to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, my tip to you is to make a reservation.

Honest Abe’s

Where: Lincoln

Why: Honest Abe’s is a burger institution in the state. I almost always have to visit whenever I’m in Lincoln (I like the downtown location best – it’s within walking distance of Lincoln Children’s Museum).

Interior of Honest Abe's in Lincoln, Nebraska

When you go, be sure to go hungry, because the burgers are large, the fries are great, and you’d be missing out if you don’t at one of their handcrafted shakes. They even have boozy versions.

Mac’s Drive-In

Where: McCook

Why: For more than 75 years, Mac’s Drive-In has been serving old-fashioned fast food to the McCook area. Odyssey Through Nebraska recommends this restaurant.

Mac’s is known for Nebraska beef burgers as well as onion rings that are homemade daily. Besides their sandwiches and chickens, they have several salads on the menu. Plus ice cream – this location could almost qualify as a soda fountain too! 

Photo courtesy Odyssey Through Nebraska

While their food is fresh, their decor is retro. Being able to place orders via a table phone is a fun kind of nostalgia.

They are closed on Sundays and Mondays and major holidays. Every other day of the week, Mac’s continues with serving 1940s-style food to a modern generation.

Modern Love

Where: Omaha

Why: Modern Love brings New York City swankiness to the middle of the country. With a focus on elevated comfort food, you won’t walk away hungry at this 100% vegan restaurant. The portions are generous, and the plating is refined.

Snickers pie at Modern Love in Omaha, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Cadry’s Kitchen

Modern Love is owned by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a well-known cookbook author. There’s a second location in Brooklyn, New York as well. It comes highly recommended by Cadry of Cadry’s Kitchen, a vegan travel blog.

The menu changes depending on the season. Keep an eye out for mac and shews (made with cashews), mushroom stroganoff with chickpea cutlets, and nachos. Whatever you do, don’t leave without getting dessert. The Snickers pie and raspberry cheesecake are exceptional.

Kearney, Nebraska best restaurants blog post

Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge

Where: Paxton

Why: Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge is an iconic Nebraska small-town tavern that opened up right after the Prohibition ended in the 1930s.

During the hunting season, this location was especially popular. The owner, Ole, was a hunter himself. More than 200 of his finest specimens are hung around the restaurant. This is why patrons can dine with both a polar bear and a giraffe looking on. 

Entrance to Ole's Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge in Paxton, Neb.
Photo courtesy Odyssey Through Nebraska

Since this restaurant has only had two owners, the menu has remained consistent.

Options are extensive, according to Gretchen at Odyssey Through Nebraska, who recommends this restaurant. For the casual diner, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and soups are available. Dinners include steaks, prime rib, fried chicken and their catch of the day.  Prices are quite affordable, and the portions are good size.

Located a few miles off of Interstate-80, Ole’s hours reflect its Rocky Mountain time zone status.

Sisters Cafe

Where: Plattsmouth

Why: I had to visit this restaurant a few years ago after reading a rave review about it in a Lincoln newspaper: “Sisters Café is, at its base, a small-town cafe. That’s part of its charm and why it’s unusual menu — and the success of that menu — is even more notable.” 

Rice soup at Sisters Cafe in Plattsmouth, Neb.

Sisters Café opened in 2014 by two sisters, Jit and Noopin, featuring a menu of Thai and German cuisine. Strange as that sounds, it worked. I stuck to trying just the Thai side of the menu during my visit. It was extraordinary!

Alas, things change (as they always do). The German menu is no longer available. Which I’m OK with since I loved the Thai food I had tried.

Umami

Where: Bellevue

Why: When people think of Nebraska food, they typically go straight for the beef (and for good reason). However, one restaurant is serving up an unlikely delicacy in the landlocked state: Umami in Bellevue. LeAnna at the Well-Traveled Nebraskan recommends it.

Sure, you might be skeptical of delicious sushi in Nebraska, considering the proximity to the seas, but you are in good hands with Master Chef Keen Zheng, who learned from the best of the best sushi chefs in NYC before heading to Nebraska.

As a meat-eater, LeAnna always thought she wouldn’t like sushi. If you are new to the scene, start out easy, like with a California or Philadelphia roll or even something battered and fried (tempura) and you might surprise yourself like she did. 

But, as someone who has now had sushi literally all over the world, LeAnna says you’d be doing yourself a disservice to at least not TRY some of the other specialties! It really is some of the best sushi in such an unsuspecting location!

Some other delightful surprises are the affordability and selections. The quality of food you’ll get at Umami would earn you a huge bill at other establishments (even IN nearby Omaha), but your bill won’t be insanely outrageous here. 

Also, not sure if your Cornhusker heart can handle the sushi? No problem! There’s also hibachi, teriyaki dinners, plenty of cooked noodle entrees and even Thai or Chinese options!

Planning a trip through Nebraska? You'll want to plan a few stops to try some of the best restaurants in Nebraska. Here are 10 places to eat in Nebraska, from small town steakhouse to wood-fired pizza and vegan cuisine in Omaha. #Nebraska #restaurants #restaurantguide #foodie #foodietravel #Midwest

Pair these adventures with your Nebraska restaurants

While you’re off exploring Nebraska’s food scene, you may want to plan a few activities in between. The state offers a wide variety of outdoor activities and festivals you’ll want to experience (especially in the summer).

I’m totally biased being a born-and-raised Nebraska girl, but I recommend you plan more than just driving through the state! Nebraska is a great state to explore with a lot to do. Here are my recommended 101 things to do in Nebraska.

November 5, 2019

Ultimate Winter Guide To Mahoney State Park

I love Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, but I’m most familiar with the park in the summer. However, we’ve started visiting on unseasonably warm winter days and discovered a whole other side to the park. We enjoyed it so much, I decided to share my tips for visiting Mahoney State Park in the winter.

Should you spend a day at Mahoney State Park in Nebraska...or a weekend? Here's a guide to winter at Mahoney State Park - with tips on things to do at the park (both indoors and outdoors), where to stay, and what kids will like. #Nebraska #statepark #outdoors #winter #guide #USA #Midwest

Turns out, it’s worth a visit during the winter, especially with kids.

Note: There is construction at Mahoney State Park right now that’s slated to last until fall 2020. The Walter Scott Jr. Observation Tower and surrounding trails at park are closed temporarily to accommodate the painting of the tower and Riverview Event Center construction project. The tower and trails will reopen at completion of the construction projects.

Where is Mahoney State Park?

Mahoney State Park is located in southeastern Nebraska along Interstate 80, about midway between the state’s two largest cities, Omaha and Lincoln. It’s roughly 30 miles from each city (give or take).

Take exit 426 off of Interstate 80 to get to the park. That exit happens to get you to a variety of fun family destinations in the winter. Two I recommend would be the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum and the indoor education center at Schramm Park.

Day trip or overnight trip to Mahoney?

Living in Omaha, Mahoney State Park is almost always a day trip for us. However, we have made whole weekends of a visit, and I recommend trying it at least once…but plan ahead.

Mahoney State Park has notoriously popular cabins, making it difficult to book a cabin on a summer weekend unless you plan a year in advance.

Mahoney State Park Cabin in the winter.

Booking a cabin in the winter is a different story. Non-peak season cabins are easier to come by, and cheaper too. Look for non-holiday weekends for your best (and discounted) options.

It’s worth noting that Mahoney State Park also has a lodge. The rooms at the lodge are much cheaper than a cabin. It’s similar to staying at a hotel, but staying at one without a pool.

Indoor winter activities at Mahoney

First, the indoor stuff. This is my favorite since I hate being cold. Luckily, Mahoney has a few very good indoor options for active families.

Activity Center

One must-visit place is the Activity Center. If you’ve never been, you’re going to won why you hadn’t been here sooner with the kids.

The best place to go with young kids at Mahoney State Park: The indoor activity center.

For $2 each (FREE for kids 2 and younger), you get endless play on their indoor playground. It’s pretty sweet, even for a grown up. Don’t be shy, put down your smart phone and get in there and play with your kids. 

The Activity Center also has an outdoor ice rink, with a $3 skate rental fee. If it’s fairly warm, part of that rink melts (duh), as was the case on the day we visited. 

We returned another month and managed to make our shaky way around the rink.

Ice skating at Mahoney State Park

The newest addition my family has loved at the Activity Center is the indoor wall climbing. It’s a pretty affordable, all-day activity. Buy the wristbands and have access to climb for the entire day.

The cost is $11 for adults and and $10 for children ages 12 and younger.

Things to do indoors at Mahoney State Park - Indoor wall climbing

There is food available for purchase at the Activity Center, like pizza, hot dogs and nachos. You’re not supposed to bring in outside food or drinks. *supposed to*

The Activity Center’s winter hours in 2019-2020 are from September to May. It’s open:

  • -Monday, Thursday & Friday: 4 to 8 p.m.
  • – Saturday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • – Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • – Tuesday & Wednesday: CLOSED

Mahoney State Park conservatory

Not a far walk from the Activity Center is the conservatory/greenhouse.

Inside the small conservatory at Mahoney State Park

This is a great place for a quick warmup if it’s particularly freezing outdoors. It’s like 150 degrees in there. It’s small but there’s a lot to look at, including a fish pond.

In a separate room, there are a couple aquariums featuring native Nebraskan animals, like snakes and a turtle. The kids liked looking at them.

Two other indoor options I can’t vouch much for since we tend to do more active things while we’re there:

  • – The park has moved the arts and crafts center over to the marina. You can paint ceramics, work with leather, and do all sorts of other crafts for a nominal fee.
  • – The park offers live theater with family-friendly fare year-round. See which melodrama is playing and buy tickets here.

What to do outdoors at Mahoney State Park in the winter

A big outdoor draw at the park is the toboggan run. It has been relocated in the past year, so if you used to go here, know that the sledding hill is now by the Activity Center.

The toboggan run at Mahoney State Park is a pretty nice, long hill but not too steep. I like that it was far enough away from trees that I could relax.

This is a FREE activity, just bring your sleds.

Another FREE activity is hiking around the park. While I prefer my hikes when I can feel my fingers, trails are still open at Mahoney in the winter.

Exploring the easy-to-hike trails near the lookout tower. If you time it right, you can catch a nice view of passing trains.

Just be warned, Mahoney isn’t the best place for hikes in this part of Nebraska. There aren’t a lot of trails at this park.

But, then again, it’s not like you want to hike very far with young children in the middle of a Nebraska winter.

Or do you?

Anyway.

My kids slept 12 hours straight after our visit to Mahoney in the winter. I’m sold on visiting parks in the winter now.

We're smiling because we know these two monkeys are going to sleep well tonight.

My kids loved the Activity Center so much, I’d even make the drive out to Mahoney just for that. I bet you will be driving home with some tired kiddos after visiting the Activity Center, too.

Special events at Mahoney

I recommend checking the Nebraska Game & Parks calendar before planning your visit. You may be able to time a winter visit to coincide with a memorable holiday event or family-friendly event.

One year, we visited the park when they had ice fishing for children. The park already made the holes in the ice and provided the fishing gear for the kids.

More about Mahoney State Park

Where: Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, 28500 West Park Highway, Ashland, Nebraska

Cost: You need a valid Nebraska State Park annual pass or you can pay a daily admission per vehicle. Annual permits are now $30. A day pass is $6.

Ice Rink conditions(402) 944-2523, Ext. 7122

Mahoney State Park is one of Nebraska's most-visited parks. See what there is to do at Mahoney in the winter, from ice fishing and sledding to indoor wall climbing and a huge activity center. #Nebraska #statepark #winter #winterfun #Midwest

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October 18, 2019

Top Posts In 2019

Reader Favorites Of 2019

If the top posts of 2019 are any indication, Oh My! Omaha readers love two things: Food and traveling. Here are the reader favorites of the year:

October 2, 2019

10+ Best Things To Do In Nebraska City

Every fall, my family joins thousands of others making the short trip to Nebraska City. In the past, this was a day trip for us, but this year, we planned a longer stay to see and do more things. Keep reading to find my list of favorite things to do in Nebraska City, especially in the fall!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Arbor Day Foundation. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

10+ things to do in Nebraska City - This guide shares the best time to visit, best thing to do and eat, and the best place to stay in Nebraska City. Guide includes what's fun for kids at Arbor Day Farm. #sponsored #ArborDayFarm #Nebraska #guide

Where is Nebraska City?

Nebraska City is the county seat of Otoe County located in southeastern Nebraska. The population is less than 10,000.

Nebraska City is a two-lane highway drive from Omaha. It’s not far, and can be pretty scenic, if you like golden fields in the fall.

Here’s the drive distance to Nebraska City from several metro areas:

  • -Omaha to Nebraska City – 40 miles
  • -Lincoln to Nebraska City – 50 miles
  • -Topeka, Kan. to Nebraska City – 120 miles
  • -Kansas City, Mo. to Nebraska City – 140 miles

Timing a visit to Nebraska City

Very few people are going to argue this: Nebraska City’s prime time is autumn! Home to Arbor Day, trees are treasured in the city, so you can imagine how beautiful things get in the fall.

Sunset view of Nebraska City from Lied Lodge & Conference Center. Early fall is a great time to visit Nebraska City.

Nebraska City is home to popular apple orchards and pumpkin patches, which again, are best to visit in the fall. Apples are ripe for picking in mid-September and pumpkins are ready shortly after that.

Nebraska weather can be unpredictable in the fall, so if you plan a visit, pack in layers. Don’t forget an umbrella! We got caught in the rain on our recent visit.

My second favorite time to visit Nebraska City is in the summer, when the green trees provide ample shade. If you want to see sunflowers — and there is a sunflower field at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure — you’ll want to visit the last week in August.

Nebraska City hotel recommendations

There are not a lot of options for hotels in Nebraska City. You’ll find a range of motels and moderate-priced hotels, as well as my recommended accommodations: Lied Lodge & Conference Center.

Want to learn more about the hotel and save 10% off a stay? Visit the Lied Lodge & Conference Center website! Be sure to use promo code OHMYOMAHA.

The impressive lobby of the Lied Lodge, my top recommended hotel in Nebraska City

My last stay at the lodge was about 15 years ago, and in the past five years, the Lied Lodge has undergone renovations. It’s gorgeous!

What I love about Lied Lodge is that it’s very family-friendly, focused on sustainability, and it’s within walking distance of our favorite Nebraska City destination: Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure.

Actually, the Tree Adventure and Lied Lodge are all part of the 260-acre Arbor Day Farm, managed by Arbor Day Foundation. Arbor Day Foundation is the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees.

Other notable features about the Lied Lodge:

  • -Indoor Olympic-size swimming pool, kiddie pool and hot tub.
  • -Two restaurants on site, Timbers and the Library Lounge. The Library Lounge is a cozy-looking bar setting with a limited menu.
  • -Kids eat FREE at Timber at Sunday brunch.

Oh My! Omaha readers save 10% if you book a package! Be sure to use promo code OHMYOMAHA. Visit LiedLodge.org for details.

Things to do in Nebraska City

Play in tree houses

Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure has had a 50-foot-tall tree house to explore for years, but Treetop Village is a new addition in 2019. It consists of 11 tree houses. I’ve been looking forward to taking the kids to see it!

Things to do with kids in Nebraska City - Visit Treetop Village at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure.

The Treetop Village’s tree houses are connected by rope bridges. There are a few slides, including a net slide. The highlight is the WonderNet, the first net trampoline of its kind in North America.

Don’t skip the Treetop Village…but expect a possible wait if you go on a weekend. Due to the nature of the bridges, traffic is one-way, so they have to monitor how many people enter the village at a time.

And note that if you go down a slide or step through one of the exits, you have to go back to the start and wait in line again. The wait wasn’t long for us, luckily.

Shop for tree souvenirs

OK, maybe that’s just me. The gift shop at the Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure is packed with gifts and souvenirs inspired by nature, trees and camping. It’s the best place to shop for kid’s stuff.

Another good place to shop is the Apple House Market. It’s a cute decor shop, wine tasting room, and restaurant all in one building, and it’s within walking distance of the Arbor Day Farm Tree Tree Adventure.

Learn Arbor Day history

There are two places to learn more about the early days of Arbor Day and the Morton family. The Discovery Ride, which I mentioned above, as well as a visit to Arbor Lodge State Historical Park

The historic state park is the property where Arbor Day started. J. Sterling and his wife, Caroline, lived there when they initiated their vision and started challenging people to plant trees. On the first Arbor Day, April 10, 1872, they say nearly 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska.

The mansion at Arbor Lodge Historic State Park in Nebraska City.

You don’t need a park permit to enter the grounds of Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, but you will need to pay admission if you want to walk through the 52-room mansion.

In the mansion, you’ll find artifacts from the Morton family, and see beautiful rooms preserved as they once were.

The mansion is a little worn on the exterior, but signs indicated that a renovation is planned. I’m excited to see the mansion restored to its former glory.

Pick apples in Nebraska City

Apple picking is a seasonal activity in Nebraska City, with prime picking being in September (which is why the city holds the AppleJack Festival every year in mid-September!).

We picked a peck during our visit to the Tree Adventure, searching for the best apples among primarily Fuji and Jonagold trees. Your options may vary depending on when you time your visit.

Shelley, the guide during our Discovery. Ride, showed my daughter one of the antique varieties of apples in the Preservation Orchard at Arbor Day Farm.

My family also got to pick apples in the Preservation Orchard at the farm. You have to take the Discovery Ride to get to this special orchard. The apple trees in the Preservation Orchard are heirloom varieties you’ll never find in a grocery store.

It was an exciting chance to taste a Kandil Sinip, Winter Banana and Stern apple.

Pick pumpkins

We didn’t get a chance to pick pumpkins on our recent weekend getaway, but we have picked pumpkins at the Tree Adventure in the past. It’s fun to ride the hayrack out to the pumpkin field and scour the patch for a good one!

Related post: 20+ Things To Do This Fall In Nebraska

Challenge yourself

Quite possibly the most memorable experience we had the entire weekend was climbing a tree. Both kids made it to the top!

Tree climbing is held on select weekend days at the Tree Adventure, and it’s included with admission. It can be popular, and we were lucky to get there early enough to not have much of a wait.

The folks helping with the tree climb were wonderful coaches for the kids. They were also pretty patient trying to help me figure it out. In case you were wondering, it’s ridiculously hard for an adult woman to try to climb a tree!

Take a Discovery Ride

This one-hour ride is a backwoods experience at the Tree Adventure. Part history lesson, part tour, the ride takes you to orchards you don’t usually get to see, including the Preservation Orchard.

Learning about the history of Arbor Day Farm and the Morton family on the Discover Ride at Tree Adventure in Nebraska City.

I liked the opportunity to try the rare apples. My fourth grader loved hearing and about the history he’s beginning to learn this year. For younger kids, the most enjoyable part may have been the chance to touch animal pelts.

Tip: There are no restroom breaks on the Discovery Ride. My youngest learned this the hard way.

Attend a special event

Everyone and their grandma has heard of the annual AppleJack Festival in Nebraska City, but that’s only one September weekend. There’s plenty of special events happening on other weekends.

One of the special events held in Nebraska City is the Living History Weekends held on Saturdays and Sundays seasonally.

Here are a few events to look forward to this fall:

  • -Living History Weekends (Arbor Lodge Mansion, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 27). On the weekend we visited, my kids loved talking with a man who made beaded pieces and they got a chance to throw a tomahawk.
  • -Harvest Celebration (Arbor Day Farm, through Oct. 31)
  • -Hayrack Ride, Storytelling & S’mores (Tree Adventure, Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 9; reservations are required)
  • -Halloween Pumpkin Party (Tree Adventure, Oct. 26)

Eat good food

For the best dining experience, I recommend Timbers inside the Lied Lodge & Conference Center. We tried dinner there as well as breakfast. Reservations are recommended for weekend dinners and Sunday brunch. I had no problem reserving meals the day before.

Outdoor seating is an option, and the view was wonderful.

Tip: When we were there, Timbers had a sign that advertised that kids eat FREE at Sunday brunch! The brunch is a buffet that starts at 11 a.m. We went before 11, so there was still a buffet, just not as large…and kids were $5 each.

The Timbers at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City overlooks the property.

If you’ve come for all-things-apple, Nebraska City is your place. Apple pie (with the works) is available at The Apple House Market, as are caramel apples and apple cider.

Looking for apple cider donuts? I didn’t find them at The Apple House Market, so your best bet is to head to Kimmel Orchard, where we got some that were still warm from the fryer.

Porters, a barbecue restaurant attached to The Apple Market House, is also a great option. It’s extremely popular, and I almost always saw a line. We tried brisket, smoked chicken and pulled pork. The baked beans were the best side, IMO.

If you’re wondering about restaurants in Nebraska City away from Arbor Day Farm, I asked around and got quite a few tips. Oh My! Omaha Twitter and Facebook followers shared these Nebraska City restaurant recommendations. Here were their tips: The Keeping Room, Buck Snort, Ladybug BBQ and Tacos El Pueblito.

We had the hardest time finding a place open after 7 p.m. on a Friday night! Our first pick was Tacos El Pueblito but we missed its closing time by 15 minutes. We ended up at El Portal, which had pretty good food. But being one of the few restaurants open after 7 p.m., there was quite a wait.

Sip Nebraska wines

Nebraska wines, like a lot of Midwestern wines, tend to be sweet. My personal preference is to stick to the white varieties. The reds just aren’t robust enough for my taste.

Wine tasting is available at The Apple House Market and Lied Lodge.

Arbor Day Farm offers two places to try wine tastings – daily at The Apple House Market and on Friday and Saturday evenings in the lobby of the Lied Lodge. FYI: Tastings are not free.

I recommend trying the Arbor Day Farm vignoles. If you like super sweet stuff, a lot of people in the tasting room when I visited loved the honey crisp wine.

Enjoy the trails

Our visits to the Tree Adventure almost always include an easy hike through the forest. You’ll find a play area, cute photo opps, and a fun look-and-find game. Be on the lookout for the fairy doors, too!

We had plans to bike the Steamboat Trace Bicycle Trail until we found out the crushed limestone trail had been flooded this year. We’ll return to explore it another (drier) year.

Play outdoors at the Tree Adventure

For my family, Nebraska City is about spending time together outside. The apples, the pumpkins, the hayrack rides…those are all a part of it. But’ nothing beats the pure joy of simply playing. 

Things for kids to do at Arbor Day Farm - Play at the Tree Adventure

Among my kids’ favorite places to visit at the Tree Adventure are:

  • -The Nature Explore Classroom where they can play the marimba and build with blocks, and sit in colorful hammocks.
  • -The little zip line course, huge spider web, and larger-than-life tic tac toe game. They’re all group near each other.
  • -The Treetop Village is a new favorite.

Take a hayrack ride

There are two opportunities for hayrack rides at Arbor Day Farm. You can get a free one while you’re in the Tree Adventure, which will take you to the pumpkin patch and apple orchard.

If you plan ahead–like months ahead–you can reserve spots on the Hayrack Ride, Storytelling & S’mores. The rides are seasonal on Friday and Saturday nights. The ride was full on the one rain-free night we were there, unfortunately.

Save on your Nebraska City stay

If this post has inspired a future weekend getaway, you’re in luck!

One of the treehouses at Treetop Village at the Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure in Nebraska City.

I’m excited to announce that Oh My! Omaha readers can save 10% off their stay at the Lied Lodge & Conference Center in Nebraska City! Be sure to use promo code OHMYOMAHA.

To book a package, visit LiedLodge.org for details.

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Headed to Nebraska City in eastern Nebraska? Here's a guide to fun things to do, including visiting Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure, Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, and recommended restaurants. If you're looking for all-things-apples, from. orchards to apple pie, this post includes where to go in Nebraska City for all of it! #Sponsored #Guide #Outdoors #Nebraska #ArborDayFarm #USA
September 17, 2019

5 Must-Try Food At Vala’s Pumpkin Patch

A trip to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Orchard is a family tradition of ours each fall. In addition to picking out pumpkins, feeding the animals and racing each other on carts, we know we’re going to eat while there. The food is a big part of the Vala’s experience!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Orchard. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

I visited Vala’s on opening weekend so my family could enjoy some of the special entertainment available during the new Honeycrisp Festival (and so I could try food only available during the festival…more on that below). If you want to catch the Honeycrisp Festival, it’s in September.

Things you should know about Vala’s Pumpkin Patch

If you’re not from Nebraska, you should know a few things about Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Orchard before you go. This pumpkin patch, located just west of Omaha at 12102 S. 180th St. in Gretna, Neb., is not your typical pumpkin patch.

I liken Vala’s to a Disney-fied pumpkin patch full of attractions, photo opportunities and characters (but no rides, though). You need a map or you will get lost. And like Disney, a trip to Vala’s is a full-day affair.

Vala's Pumpkin Patch & Apple Orchard in Gretna, Nebraska is a large attraction near Omaha.

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch hours

Vala’s is open seasonally from mid-September through Oct. 31. The daily hours are Sunday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch prices

Admission varies, and it’s cheaper to visit on the weekdays than on the weekends. 2019 prices are:

  • – Mondays through Thursdays, $12.95 per person
  • -September Fridays through Sundays, $16.95 per person
  • -October Fridays through Sundays, $23.95 per person

There’s also the option of buying a season pass.

Parking is free. The parking is on grass and dirt and is a well-orchestrated operation. There are attendants in the lots on busy weekends directing you where to park.

Related post: Try the Vala’s Scavenger Hunt on your next trip to the pumpkin patch!

Things to know about Vala’s food & drinks

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Orchard is open daily starting at 9 a.m. and going on into the night, so you have the option of breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between for food.

There are 26 different places to purchase food a Vala’s, ranging from sweet shops with ice cream or donuts to more substantial offerings of burgers, pizza and chili. See the current map with all the food options here.

The sign for the Harvest Barn Donuts at Vala's Pumpkin Patch in Nebraska.

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch food prices

For entrees, expect to pay about $6 for kids and about $11 for adults. Ordering à la carte or just snack items will be cheaper.

Tip: You won’t find many water fountains at Vala’s (there’s one by the main restroom). Every food vendor with a soda fountain, though, will kindly fill up your water bottle with ice water, though.

What should you eat at Vala’s if you only want to splurge on one thing? Well, that depends.

Read on for my suggestions:

Best new food to try at Vala’s

Each year, Vala’s introduces new foods to rival your annual must-haves.

In 2019, my favorite new food is the apple funnel cake sundae. The warm, crisp funnel cake is tipped with caramel sauce, baked apples and vanilla ice cream. This is a very shareable treat.

New must-try food at Vala's Pumpkin Patch - apple funnel cake sundae.

Other new treats at Vala’s includes an apple cider donut sundae and a new popcorn and cotton candy stand by the Howl at the Moon Stage.

For more substantial food, new options include meatball subs, available in the Country Bakery and vegetable chili (vegan) available at the Country Bakery.

There are a few new foods available only during the Honeycrisp Festival, including ribs, which I highly recommend trying. You can only find them at Time-Out Turkey Legs. There is also a Honeycrisp apple pie available only early in the season.

Vala’s best snack food to try

This topic – the best snack at Vala’s – is highly debatable. I’m going to suggest no trip is complete without kettle corn. 

I have some close friends who will argue vehemently that there are far superior, must-have-every-time snacks, including the cookie cone and the apple cider donut. 

And while not a sweet treat, I’d add roasted corn on the cob makes for a great snack option, too.

Must-try dinner food at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch

I would recommend visiting Vala’s on the weekend during the Honeycrisp Festival to try the ribs. Those would be my top choice if they were available all season. As it is, you have until Sunday, Sept. 22, to try the and even then, they’re only available on a limited basis Saturday and Sunday. Hurry!

Vala's Pumpkin Patch serves ribs on a limited basis during the Honeycrisp Festival in September.

So, besides the ribs, I’d recommend trying the gigantic pork tenderloin sandwich at Pork Chop Annie’s. It’s good if you’ve got a big appetite.

Pork Chop Annie’s is our go-to place for food at Vala’s. Entrees there come with two sides. Having tried all of the sides, I’d say go with the baked beans and then your choice of a second one (psst, get the fries).

Many people will tell you to just buy a turkey leg and call it a day. You could go that route and it would cost you about the same.

Going earlier in the day? I found out that Vala’s serves breakfast! You can get quiche in The Pie Barn, fresh waffles served with apple butter at Cousin’s Chicken, biscuits and gravy at the Country Bakery.

Don’t miss these pies at Vala’s Pie Barn

Kirsten Fong grew up at Vala’s (her parents, Tim and Jan Vala, started the pumpkin patch in 1984) and her one of her sisters, Kelsey, bakes the pies. I asked Kirsten what the best pie to try was and she told the s’mores pie has a devoted following among the staff members and guests in the know.

Head directly to The Pie Barn if you want to try a slice or any of the other flavors like pumpkin or apple.

The Pie Barn at Vala's Pumpkin Patch serves pies and other pastries.

Vala’s has weekly pie specials. In 2019, the schedule is:

Sept. 20 – Lemon Walnut 
Sept. 27 – Kitchen Sink
Oct. 4 – Chocolate Caramel Turtle Pie 
Oct. 11 – Monster Cookie 
Oct. 18 – S’mores 
Oct. 25 – Apple Cranberry

True story: The pies aren’t the best thing available in The Pie Barn! “Kelsey’s apple dumplings are the very best thing to eat on the whole entire farm. Seriously,” said Fong. “They’re not even a pie, but they’re available in The Pie Barn, and on a limited basis, meaning she sometimes runs out.”

While I don’t have pie recipes, or even tasty dumpling recipes, Vala’s was kind enough to share its pumpkin bar recipe found in their cookbook. You can download it here.

Bucket list food item at Vala’s

If you want to ultimate splurge, even more of a splurge than the apple funnel cake sundae, head to Kyla’s Ice Cream Shop & Caramel Apple Barn and get yourself a Freak Shake. The giant shake comes in two flavors: caramel apple and s’mores. 

The Freak Shakes are each $11.99 and are definitely shareable.

A sign at Vala's Pumpkin Patch for two of their Freak Shake flavors.

Trying a shake is on my bucket list because those things are huge! I can’t vouch for it being tasty or not, but I can tell you it’s highly Instagrammable food.

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.

A trip to Vala's Pumpkin Patch is a fall tradition for families in eastern Nebraska. Find out the best foods to try - including new items like an apple funnel cake sundae! If you're wondering what to budget for food, the post includes what to expect on food prices. #Nebraska #pumpkinpatch #USA #fallfun #familytravel
August 26, 2019

Things To Do Today In Omaha – Ultimate Family-Friendly Events List

There are a ton of things to do in Omaha in the winter, and it’s especially true when it comes to events. Check out this Omaha events calendar for things to do today, this weekend, and future kid-friendly activities, exhibits, stage shows, and more happening in the Omaha Metro Area.

NOTE: This page is updated almost daily. I try to make sure the information is accurate and up-to-date but things change or get canceled occasionally, so please double-check with a venue before going to an event.

Looking for things to do in Omaha? Here's a family-friendly Omaha events calendar, featuring exhibits and shows, free activities, festivals and more! #Nebraska #USA

Things to do in Omaha in January

Forever Young Family & Children’s Series

Where: Film Streams Dundee Theater, 4952 Dodge St.

When: Through March 26; films are “Paddington 2” (Jan. 18, 19, 23, 25, 26 & 30), “New York International Children’s Film Festival Flicks Two” (Feb. 1, 2, 6, 8, 9 & 13), “Charlotte’s Web” (Feb. 15, 16, 20, 22, 23 & 27), “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (Feb. 29, March 1, 5, 7, 8 & 12) and “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” (March 14, 15, 19, 21, 22 & 26)

Cost: $10, general admission; $7.50, seniors, students, teacher & military, and those arriving by bike or bus; $5, members; $2.50 for children ages 12 and younger

Enchanted Tales Film Series

When: Saturdays and Sundays, Jan. 24 through Feb. 17; shows are at  10 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.

Where: Participating Marcus Theatres, including Majestic Cinema and Village Pointe Cinema in Omaha, and Twin Creek Cinema in Bellevue

Cost: $6 (download Disney coloring pages to redeem for FREE popcorn here)

35th Annual Cathedral Flower Festival: For Everything a Season

When: Jan. 25 and 26; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 to 8 p..m., and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.

Where: St. Cecelia Cathedral, 701 N. 40th St.

Cost: FREE (free-will donation accepted)

PJ Masks Storytime

When: Jan. 25, 1 to 2 p.m.

Where: Learning Express of Omaha, 120 Regency Parkway

Cost: FREE

Winter Wonderland Party

When: Jan. 26, noon to 3 p.m.

Where: The Wonder Nook Omaha, 10806 Prairie Hills Drive

Cost: $45, girl; siblings are $35; adults are FREE

Omaha Symphony presents “Is There A Doctor In The House?”

When: Jan. 26, 2 p.m. (pre-show activities start 45 minutes before the show)

Where: Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.

Cost: $15

If you want more ideas for cultural attractions to see in the city (even if there isn’t a must-see temporary exhibit), check out this list of 20+ Omaha museums you should visit.

Corduroy At Story Time

When: Jan. 31 through Feb. 8; storytimes are Jan. 31 at 10:30 a.m. at Florence, Jan. 31 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. (W. Dale Clark Main, this special evening event requires registration), Feb. 3 at 10:30 a.m. (Abrahams), Feb. 4 at 10:30 a.m. (Millard), Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. (Elkhorn), Feb. 6 at 10:15 a.m. (Benson), Feb. 7 at 9:30 a.m. (Saddlebrook) and Feb. 8 at 10:30 a.m. (Saddlebrook)

Where: Various Omaha Public Library branches

Cost: FREE

“Howie D: Back In The Day”

When: Jan. 31 through Feb. 16; performances are Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 5 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Where: The Rose, 2001 Farnam St.

Cost: $25, non-members; 4 free tickets for members

“Louder Than Words: Rock, Power & Politics”

When: Through Feb. 2

Where: The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.

Cost: Included with regular museum admission

“Diggin’ Dinos”

When: Through April 11

Where: Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St.

Cost: Included with regular museum admission

Looking for even more ideas of things to do in Omaha? I always check the Visit Omaha calendar for special events!

“America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near & Far”

When: Through April 19

Where: Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St.

Cost: Included with regular Museum admission, which is $14 for ages 2+, $13 for seniors, and FREE for children younger than 24 months and members

“Nature Connects: Art With LEGO® Bricks”

When: Through May 10

Where: Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St.

Cost: Included with garden admission, which is $10, adults; $5, children ages 3-12; and FREE for garden members and children under 3

“Quest! Navigating the World Traveling”

When: Through May 26

Where: Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, 28210 W. Park Highway, Ashland, Neb.

Cost: Included with museum admission

“Influence”

When: Through Aug. 20

Where: KANEKO, 1111 Jones St.

Cost: FREE

Things to do in February

Now This Is Wrestling – Now This Is Money

When: Feb. 1, 6 p.m. (pre-sale ticket door opens at 4 p.m.)

Where: Beardmore Event Center of Bellevue, 3750 Raynor Parkway, Bellevue, Neb.

Cost: $15, adult; FREE, children 12 and younger

Mommy/Daddy and Me! Valentine Themed Dessert Class

When: Feb. 2, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Omaha Cake Design, 8406 Q St.

Cost: $65, one adult and one child

Weekly activities in Omaha for families & kids

These activities are on-going and held on the same day each week. Still, it’s a good idea to call ahead before going, just to be sure.

Toddler Tuesdays

When: Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m. to noon

Where: The Salvation Army Kroc Center, 2825 Y St. (gym or at the pool starting at 10:30)

Cost: FREE for members; non-members participate by paying a $4 activity fee for your toddler (age 9 months to 4 years) and the attending parent is FREE.

Toddler Tuesday

When: Tuesdays, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Where: Fat Brain Toys, 16909 Burke St.

Cost: FREE

Crafty Tots

When: Wednesdays, 11 to 11:30 a.m.

Where: Omaha Public Library Saddlebrook Branch, 14850 Laurel Ave.

Cost: FREE

Tots of the Town

When: Second Thursday of the month, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Where: Shadow Lake Towne Center, 7775 Olson Drive, Papillion, Neb.

Cost: FREE

Story Time At Barnes & Noble 

When: Fridays at 9:30 a.m. (Crossroads) and Saturdays at 11 a.m. (Crossroads and Oakview)

Where: Barnes and Noble at Crossroads, 7400 Dodge St., and Barnes and Noble at Oakview, 3333 Oakview Drive

Cost: FREE

Inflatable Fridays

When: Fridays, 4 to 7:30 p.m.

Where: The Salvation Army Kroc Center, 2825 Y St.

Cost: FREE to members; non-members pay daily entry fee of $5 per youth, $7 per adults

Kids Craft Time

When: Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Mangelsen’s, 3457 S. 84th St.

Cost: $1

Second Saturdays Nature Program

When: Second Saturday of every month, 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Where: Heron Haven Wetland Sanctuary, 11809 Old Maple Road

Cost: FREE

Kidz Kayak Racing

When: Saturdays, 2 to 4 p.m.

Where: The Salvation Army Kroc Center, 2825 Y St.

Cost: FREE to members; non-members pay daily entry fee of $5 per youth, $7 per adults (for ages 8-12)

Arts for All

When: Saturdays, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Where: Omaha South Public Library, 2808 Q St.

Cost: FREE (ages 8-12, registration required)

Sunday Funday

When: Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m.

Where: The Salvation Army Kroc Center, 2825 Y St.

Cost: FREE to members; non-members pay daily entry fee of $5 per youth, $7 per adults (for ages 8-12)

Fun things to do in Omaha with kids - This Omaha event calendar lists upcoming shows, exhibits, free activities and more things happening in the city and nearby. This list is great for finding things to do with kids in Omaha!

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.