April 11, 2016

Exploring The Sioux City Public Museum

On a recent kid-free getaway to Sioux City, Iowa, Mr. Wonderful and I decided to explore the area near our hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

We had a couple options within walking distance – the contenders being the Sioux City Public Museum and the Sioux City Art Center. Both had free admission. One was near a brewery…so Sioux City Public Museum won.

We do plan on making it to the art center – with the kids (I heard there’s a fun space just for them). If you make the trip by May 8, 2016, you can see “The Art of the Brick,” featuring LEGO sculptures by Nathan Sawaya.

What to expect at Sioux City Public Museum

The Sioux City Public Museum is a free museum in downtown Sioux City.

The Sioux City Public Museum is a free museum in downtown Sioux City.

This museum is dedicated to explaining the history of the city and its people in a colorful and interactive way. For Omahans, I’d liken it to a smaller-scale Durham Museum that’s less about a region and more about a city.

Before you start exploring, you’ll be encouraged by volunteers to watch a 12-minute film, “The Spirit of Sioux City.” I’ll second the suggestion. It does its job quickly covering centuries of history, but it does it in a very cool, multi-media way with additional lighting and projections to take things off the screen a bit.

The permanent collection has a little bit of everything. It covers transportation, Native American history, music, agriculture, everyday life through the decades…just about everything.

There's a lot of Iowa history on display at the Sioux City Public Museum.

There’s a lot of Iowa history on display at the Sioux City Public Museum.

You can easily spend an hour walking around. If you grew up in the Midwest, some pieces will be nostalgic.

What’s there for kids

Kids can dig for fossil replicas in the "Big Dig" at Sioux City Public Museum.

Kids can dig for fossil replicas in “The Big Dig” at Sioux City Public Museum.

“The Big Dig” stood out for what will appeal to my kids, at least. It has replica fossils children can dig for.

There are other areas for kids to explore, like a Native American lodge house, tipi and a pioneer log cabin.

Some items on display had an interactive activity for children (or adults like me).

Some items on display had an interactive activity for children (or adults like me – how do you like my beaded vest?).

Some exhibits have engaging signs. There may be a trivia question or a make-your-own activity connected to the item on view. My kids can’t read well yet, but they do love opening and closing doors so these features at least make them pause at artifacts longer than usual.

 

If you go

Sioux City Public Museum

Where: 607 Fourth St., Sioux City, Iowa

When: Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m.

Cost: FREE

Website

 

Plan your getaway with these posts:

Couples Getaway To Sioux City (guide to eating, entertainment and where to stay)

My Sioux City Bucket List (for visits with and without kids)

Rock Star Status At the Sioux City Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

April 4, 2016

Rock Star Status At Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

One of Sioux City, Iowa’s star attractions combines live music, good food and Lady Luck: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City feels like two venues in one – the hotel maintains the character of the historic Battery Building and the casino has a modern look. The music theme is carried throughout both. This view is of the hotel side. Photo courtesy Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

Located a stone’s throw from Interstate 29, the hotel is a themed experience that allows guests to live the rock star life for a night.

Disclosure: Our stay was hosted by Sioux City Tourism. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own. 

I recently stayed a night courtesy of the hotel. Mr. Wonderful and I needed a night off and so we found a sitter for the kids and drove off to Sioux City. It was a blast and being short (enough) distance from Omaha, it was a perfect overnight getaway. Read about 24 kid-free hours in Sioux City here.

The Hard Rock Hotel experience

Right when you walk in, you see it’s not like most hotels.

Hard Rock Hotel Sioux City lobby

How’s this for a hotel lobby? Photo courtesy Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

Jimi Hendrix stares down at you from the wall. The front desk is a bar. And as part of check in, you have the option of getting a complimentary drink to take with you up to your room (beer or house cocktail).

Hard Rock hotel Sioux City drink

You get the choice of a beer or house cocktail at check-in at the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel Sioux City.

Why thank you, Mr. Bartender.

Everywhere you walk in the hotel, you see music memorabilia and lyrics. The theme carries over into the rooms.

Hard Rock Casino & Hotel Sioux City memorabilia

The hall connecting the hotel to the casino and restaurants is lined with music memorabilia.

I’m a sucker for a hotel like this. It makes your stay memorable.

The Hard Rock Hotel look

Music fans will love all the memorabilia throughout the hotel. The main floor is especially cool with all the apparel, signed guitars and plaques explaining the significance.

Hard Rock Sioux City guitars

Obviously, you’re going to find a lot of autographed guitars here.

The décor in restaurants, from the buffet the trendy gastropub, Main + Abbey, carry the music theme throughout.

Hard Rock Casino & Hotel Buffet

Concert art line booths at the World Tour Buffet. Photo courtesy Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

The newness of rock is contrasted by the history of the building itself. The hotel portion of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City is located in the Battery Building, which is on the National Historic Register of Historic Places. It dates back to 1905.

The combination of exposed brick and concert posters actually works really well. It’s such a great look, especially in the rooms.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino room

Here’s one of the standard rooms at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Nice, eh? Photo courtesy Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

Our hotel room had vaulted ceilings that made the standard room feel much more spacious.

The bathrooms were sleek and modern, with walk-in showers. I felt spoiled staying there.

 

Hard Rock Casino & Hotel Sioux City bathroom

Our bathroom did not have a tub (or a glass of wine), but we did have a huge shower. Photo courtesy Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

The Hard Rock Hotel Dining

There are three restaurants at the Hard Rock, plus room service. We tried Main + Abbey, which is definitely the Date Night place to be in Sioux City. Reservations would be smart.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City restaurant

Main + Abbey is a gastropub inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City. Photo courtesy Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

Rather than order entrees, we split several appetizers and order drinks. If you do the same, I recommend asking them to be brought as they’re prepared rather than all at once. It cuts down on some coming out lukewarm. We had a couple that were cold, and our waiter was super quick to replace the dishes with hot ones.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino restaurant dining room

The dining room at Main + Abbey. Photo courtesy Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

We tried poutine, shrimp pierogies, street chicken tacos and split the onion soup and shrimp bisque. Wondering what to order? The pierogies were so good, the the poitine while heavy, was very flavorful. Those are superb, but next time, I think we’ll go with entrees and just one appetizer.

Your meal will include free beer bread and ends with square of chocolate sea salt caramels. Delicious!

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has a big buffet, and whenever I walked by it, there was a line to get in, so they must be doing something right.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City restaurant

I love the lobby of the World Tour Buffet – those are cassette tapes lining the walls. Photo courtesy Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

There is also a grill within the casino called Fuel, where you can load up on burgers and the like.

Room service looks to combine the offerings from Fuel and Main + Abbey, with clever names thrown in to keep the music theme going.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino room service menu

The room service menu at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Entertainment at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

This is a hotel and casino combo, so a lot of people are there to gamble. That’s not my scene, so I ventured in only briefly. It’s a very popular spot that Saturday night.

If you’re hoping to avoid the casino part, it can be done easily. However, if you’re hoping to see a show at Anthem, you’ll have to enter the casino to get there.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City bar

The bar at Anthem. Photo courtesy Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

Anthem is a large venue that looks deceptively small from the outside. During our visit, we saw Jon Lovitz (thank you, Hard Rock, for the complimentary tickets!). There is a nightly show there from music to stand up.

You never know who you might meet at the Hard Rock. Lovitz stopped into the karaoke party the night before his show.

Jon Lovitz at Hard Rock Casino & Hotel Sioux City

This photo with Jon Lovitz was not taken at karaoke.

There are tons of shows on the calendar, but one annual event to keep on your radar is Saturday in the Park. Held in July, this is a free, all-day event presented by Hard Rock Hotel & Casino features huge acts. The 2018 Saturday in the Park is July 7 with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit headlining. Get more details here.

What else you should know

Hard Rock Casino & Hotel Sioux City quote

This is decidedly an adult playground, from the drinks at check in to the casino.

The pool is outdoors and seasonal, so only pack your suit if you’re staying between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

There is gift shop where you can get your Hard Rock gear. And if you’re the guilt-ridden kind of parent, you can get a cute teddy bear or something for the kids you left at home.

What’s near the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

The hotel is within walking distance to some bars and restaurants, as well as some of the city’s other great attractions: Sioux City Art Museum, The Public Museum, and a cool trail along the Missouri River. There’s also a movie theater and the Orpheum Theater nearby. Again, it’s all walkable (unless the weather stinks). It’s also near Jackson Street Brewing if you’re into trying local beer.

If you go

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City

Where: 111 Third St., Sioux City, Iowa

Cost: Rates vary depending on the season and day of the week you stay. It’s high-end so expect high-end prices. Comparing different dates, you can save almost $100 staying during the week than on the weekend.

Website

 

Plan your getaway with these posts:

Couples Getaway To Sioux City (guide to eating, entertainment and where to stay)

My Sioux City Bucket List (for visits with and without kids)

Inside the Sioux City Public Museum

March 28, 2016

Couples Getaway: Sioux City

It’s pretty easy to get stuck in a rut as parents. To recharge yourself, you need a break. Sometimes, it has to be a quick one.

Mr. Wonderful and I took a kid-free overnight trip to Sioux City, Iowa. It was a lot of food, drink, comedy and music. Sounds good, right?

SiouxCity

 

Sioux City was picked because it was just far enough to feel like a getaway – about an hour and a half north of Omaha. Our stay was coordinated by the Sioux City Visitor & Convention Bureau and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

The second reason I wanted to go there was the entertainment. I was looking for a good concert or show to catch within two hours of Omaha. And at the Hard Rock I found a goodie: Jon Lovitz! Yes!

So, we dropped the kids off with my brother and his family and off we went.

We arrived in Sioux City around lunch time, so I was determined to try one of the tavern sandwiches I’d read about.

Taverns are a loose meat sandwich, akin to the sloppy joe without the sloppy part (no tomato). We headed straight for Miles Inn, the bar recommended by several friends (and winner of the Sioux City Journal tavern showdown a few years ago).

Smiling at Miles Inn.

Smiling at Miles Inn.

It was March Madness time so the place was packed and full of lively regulars. We got our cheap taverns ($3.25 each), and two schooners because…when in Rome.

The schooners of domestic beer were only $3.25 and by all appearances, the one only glass beer is served in. Bottoms up!

They're on to something up in Sioux City. A tavern pairs well with cold beer in a schooner.

They’re on to something up in Sioux City. A tavern pairs well with cold beer in a schooner.

 

The taverns there had American cheese added and were quite peppery. I liked it, but it wasn’t a favorite of my husband’s.

We were still hungry, so we drove down the street to another recommended Sioux City original: Tastee Inn & Out.

An iconic sign in front of Tastee Inn & Out in Sioux City.

An iconic sign in front of Tastee Inn & Out in Sioux City.

There, we ordered their famous tastee sandwich (a tavern, but without the cheese) and the onion fries and dip.

Onion fries in a cup.

Onion fries in a cup.

Tastee is a drive-thru, so we pulled into the parking lot to eat and compare the two taverns.

(Miles Inn wins)

We headed to downtown Sioux City next. The plan was to walk around but it was a colder day than anticipated. So, we planned two stops: The Sioux City Public Museum and Jackson Street Brewing. The Sioux City Art Museum is super nearby and if we had another hour and a bit more sunshine, we would’ve walked down there too.

The Sioux City Public Museum is a free attraction and worth visiting with or without kids.

Plan to spend about an hour checking out exhibits at the Sioux City Public Museum, as well as 12 minutes watching the intro video.

Plan to spend about an hour checking out exhibits at the Sioux City Public Museum, as well as 12 minutes watching the intro video.

They have a 12-minute movie that gives a good account of the city’s origin and features a neat immersive experience with lighting and projections around the room synced with the movie.

Afterward, you could spend about an hour walking around the colorful museum. There is a lot of interactive areas that kids will like.

A block from the museum is the new Jackson Brewing Company, which opened July 2015.

We picked out four beers to sample in a flight.

You choose the four beers to sample on a beer flight at Jackson Street Brewing Co.

You choose the four beers to sample on a beer flight at Jackson Street Brewing Co.

Flights start at $8.50 and go up if you get high alcohol content beers. Of the four I tried, the maibock was my favorite.

We talked with the bartender and two locals while we were there and got the lowdown on breakfast spots for the next day. Super friendly people.

We checked into the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, located within walking distance of the brewery and museums mentioned above.

The hotel has a music theme (obviously) that’s goal is to make you feel like a rock star. To that end, once you check in, you get a complimentary drink.

You get the choice of a beer or house cocktail at check-in at the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel Sioux City.

You get the choice of a beer or house cocktail at check-in at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City.

Yes please.

If you’re not ready to hit the ground running rock star-style, you can get a drink ticket for later.

We settled into our room – again, feeling all rock star with the décor and music playing in your room as you enter. The exposed brick in the rooms creates a great look when paired with modern touches and concert posters.

I kinda wished we were in the Prince room at the end of the hall. Check out that door. There's always next time.

I kinda wished we were in the Prince room at the end of the hall. Check out that door. There’s always next time.

Then we headed downstairs for dinner, with a short stop at the casino. I’m not a gambler, so not a lot of time or money was spent there. If you’re the same, you can easily spend your hotel stay without entering the casino…unless you’re going to show there, then you’ll have to walk through the casino to get to Anthem, the concert venue.

The hall connecting the hotel to the casino and restaurants is lined with music memorabilia.

The hall connecting the hotel to the casino and restaurants is lined with music memorabilia.

You have a couple dinner options at the hotel, but we wanted a date night experience and had made reservations at Main + Abbey. The restaurant is ranked No. 1 on Trip Adviser, and perusing the gastropub’s menu, it seemed like mine kind of place.

Rather than order entrees, the two of us split several appetizers and order drinks. Wondering what to order? The pierogies were so good, and the poitine while heavy, was very flavorful. And if you’re an Instagrammy kind of person, order the pretzel appetizer – you’ll want to take pictures of it for sure.

We had complimentary tickets to Jon Lovitz’s second show, and were invited to a meet & greet with him. It was the very definition of meet & greet – we met him, greeted him, posed for a picture and moved on.

Funny. The only photo I took with my husband on the trip includes Jon Lovitz.

Funny. The only photo I took with my husband on the trip includes Jon Lovitz.

The show was at Anthem within the casino part of the hotel. From the outside, it looks deceptively small, but this pace can fit more than 900 people. There’s a bar inside Anthem to grab drinks before the show starts.

Lovitz had an opener, and then he entertained the crowd. It was a fun night, and the best part was that we didn’t have to head to our car to get back to our hotel. It was great to leave the show, walk to the hotel part of the building and be back in the room in no time.

Breakfast the next day was up in the air until we had that chat at Jackson Street Brewing. They were quick to recommend the Hard Rock’s buffet, but we asked for where locals would go and they steered us to what they referred to as a great greasy spoon: Horizon Family Restaurant.

So Horizon is was for us. Outward appearances weren’t much, but with a packed parking lot, we figured it couldn’t be too bad.

Not much of an exterior, Horizons is the greasy spoon you seek after a night at the casino.

Not much of an exterior, Horizon Restaurant is the greasy spoon you seek after a late night.

It’s a no-frills diner that was hopping on the Sunday we went. Offerings were pretty typical for diners, and the coffee was great.

To burn off the big breakfast, we headed to Stone State Park located within Sioux City’s city limits. Our timing wasn’t great since everything was leafless from winter, and being Sunday, the Dorothy Picaut Nature Center wasn’t open (it’s open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays).

A late winter/early spring hike near the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center at Stone State Park in Sioux City.

A late winter/early spring hike near the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center at Stone State Park in Sioux City.

Still, we took a nice hike near the nature center and discovered a cool nature playscape. The kids would love this place!

Nature play structures at Stone State Park.

Nature play structures at Stone State Park.

The park and nature center are FREE.

The short getaway over, we headed back to Omaha. Rather than take the quick route via Interstate 29, we drove along the Loess Hills Scenic Biway. If you have time, try it out, especially if you’re itching to take some pretty photos.

If time permits, always take the route with the dirt road.

If time permits, always take the route with the dirt road.

We tried two of the scenic loops – Stagecoach Trail and Wilderness Trail.

It was picturesque in spite of the time of year. We resolved to drive it again when the scenery’s lusher – fall would be perfect.

Fall would be a great time to drive the Loess Hill Scenic Biway, but that's not to say the vistas are bad in early spring.

Fall would be a great time to drive the Loess Hill Scenic Biway, but that’s not to say the vistas are bad in early spring.

 

Thinking about a getaway? Read more Sioux City stories:

My Sioux City Bucket List (for visits with and without kids)

Rock Star Status At the Sioux City Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

Exploring History At The Sioux City Public Museum

March 11, 2016

My Sioux City Bucket List

Just off Interstate 29, 100 miles north of Omaha, is Sioux City, Iowa. For me, it’s only been a stopping point on the way to Valentine, Neb., where we can stretch our legs, and fill up on hot dogs at Milwaukee Wiener House or pick up road trip goodies at Palmer Candy Co.

Perhaps for others, it’s seen as a good stopping point on the way to Sioux Falls, S.D.

But what about staying a while? I started to wonder what more I could do there than eat. After scoping the city’s offering, I decided it makes a nice destination for a quick kid-free getaway (though the mom in me made note of what’s there in case we return with the kids… there’s some good stuff!). I only have 24 hours to spend there, so this list below of my Sioux City must-see stuff is not bound by that timeframe or money.

Sioux City Bucket List

My Sioux City Bucket List

Check Out Fourth Street District – This is historic part of the city with brewpubs, breweries and restaurants, all things I love. One that stood out is Jackson Street Brewing.

Forth Street District in Sioux City is known for its restaurants and bars. Photo courtesy Visit Sioux City

Forth Street District in Sioux City is known for its restaurants and bars. Photo courtesy Visit Sioux City

 

Dine at Main + Abbey – My lists always seem to include a lot of eating, so why hold back now? When I looked into the hotel we’d be staying at – Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City – I noticed they had a gastropub. Nice. It has a great beer list, poutine and locally sourced steaks. You can count on casinos in the Midwest having a restaurant that serves good steaks (it’s like a law or something).

Go to Saturday in the Park – This annual music festival sponsored by the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has been going strong for close to three decades and with powerhouse acts (Aretha Franklin and Foster the People were two acts from last year’s lineup). Did I mention this was FREE? I’d love to go without the kids just because an all-day music festival with kids sounds like I’d hear a lot more complaining from the kiddos them than the good music. However, they have a kids zone with live entertainment of their own, inflatables, carnival rides and a ton of other things to keep them occupied, so this sounds like a totally manageable festival with kiddos in tow.

The mega music festival, Concert in the Park, is an annual free event at Battery Park. Photo courtesy Visit Sioux City

The mega music festival, Concert in the Park, is an annual free event at Battery Park. Photo courtesy Visit Sioux City

Try a Tavern – In my research, I found out that there’s a famous loose meat sandwich called the tavern that originated at Ye Olde Tavern back in the ‘20s (a couple years later, Maid-Rite followed suit). This is not to be confused with a sloppy joe, apparently. Anyway, there’ are a couple places to find a tavern in town, including a bar called Miles Inn, Tastee Inn and Out (a place that’s been called “iconic” on Reddit), and Gus’ Family Restaurant. The Garden Cafe’s tavern made the cut to represent Iowa in Food Network Magazine’s list “50 States, 50 Sandwiches” in 2012.

Try a Burrito At La Juanita – This restaurant’s burritos are apparently so good, they rank in the top 5…according to Esquire Magazine readers a couple years ago. The readers poll released in February 2013 included the Iowa burrito – the only one in the midwest – as one of the 10 “most life-changing burrito in America.”

There are several things I’d like to take the kids to in Sioux City:

Launch Pad – This is the city’s brand new children’s museum – so new, it just opened this year.

Launch Pad, Sioux City's children's museum, just opened in early 2016. Photo courtesy Visit Sioux City

Launch Pad, Sioux City’s children’s museum, just opened in early 2016. Photo courtesy Visit Sioux City

Sioux City Arts Center – This arts center consistently pops up on travelers’ posts about the city. First off, it’s FREE. But, there’s a room there that features all sorts of hands-on activities for children. My kids would love this. Plus, if you visit before May 8, 2016, you can see the temporary exhibition “The Art of the Brick®” featuring large-scale sculptures constructed out of LEGO bricks.

"Art of the Brick" is on display at Sioux City Art Center through May. Photo courtesy brickartist.com

“Art of the Brick” is on display at Sioux City Art Center through May 8, 2016. Photo courtesy brickartist.com

The MIlwaukee Railroad Shops (AKA, the Railroad Museum) – Trains are always a hit with the kids, and this place sounds pretty interesting. If you time your trip right, you can go during a special event – such as Touch a Truck or Train Day, the Halloween event, or Santa’s Whistle Stop Tour at Christmas time. 

Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center – I’m always on the lookout for a good hike or place to explore while on vacation, and this place sounds like I’ve found Sioux City’s best. The nature center has a lot of hands-on ways for kids to explore the Loess Hills’ natural history. It’s located in Stone State Park with hiking trails (note to self: Avoid the trail with the bat house; find the trail that has the Playscape Area).

Get out into nature at the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center at State Park. Photo courtesy Visit Sioux City

Get out into nature at Stone State Park, and don’t forget to check out the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center while there. Photo courtesy Visit Sioux City

Sioux City Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center & the Betty Strong Encounter Center – This looks like a good place to explore a little of our region’s history, and I hear it has hands-on exhibits, which is always good when visiting with kids.

Try a Twin Bing – And we return back to eating. It’s what I do best on vacation. Twin Bing was created in 1923 Sioux City at Palmer Candy Co. While I’ve been to this cool candy shop – you’ll be tempted to take a lot of pictures there – I haven’t tried a Twin Bing, which consists of cherry nougat covered in roasted peanuts and chocolate. I’ll give it a try, even though I hate fruity flavors added to my chocolate.

Everyone finds something they like at Palmer Candy Co. Photo courtesy Visit Sioux City

There are Twin Bings and other goodies in the basket at Palmer Candy Co. Photo courtesy Visit Sioux City

 

Your turn: What’s missing from this list? Share your favorite restaurants, bars, foods and things to do in Sioux City, Iowa? Never been? Then what on this list would you visit?