February 11, 2014

Adventures At Morrill Hall

Updated: April 27, 2018

Morrill Hall is natural history museum tucked in the center of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus. It’s a staple on the class field trip circuit, or at least it was back in my day. And it’s been since “my day” – my grade-school days – since I’ve been there.

That’s a long time ago. Things have changed. Imagine that.

Mr. Wonderful and the kids freezing outside in front of Morrill Hall.

Mr. Wonderful and the kids freezing outside in front of Morrill Hall.

Mr. Wonderful and I packed up the kids and made the short trek to Lincoln recently, and included a stop at Morrill Hall. I figured dinosaur bones and wooly mammoths would fascinate my kids.

They kinda cruised by all that.

We spent like 45 seconds in this very cool room!

We spent like 45 seconds in this very cool room!

They found other things to love more there, though.

This room. This is what my kids loved most. Find it in the basement of Morrill Hall.

This room. This is what my kids loved most. Find it in the basement of Morrill Hall.

The Science Discovery area in the basement of the museum turned out to be the big winner of the day. I didn’t even know this room existed!

She's concentrating here (not filling her pants).

She’s concentrating here (not filling her pants).

Mooch loved dusting and scooping in the archaeological dig site, the toy dinosaurs and puzzles; Farley enjoyed the the large tree in the room and playing the “guess the scent” game.

Mr. Wonderful discovered the jar with the skunk scent.

Mr. Wonderful discovered the jar with the skunk scent.

The basement also features displays of native animals in their natural habitats (and some not remotely native ones). Both kids seem to really like this area, especially when they could push buttons to hear animal noises.

My kids loved looking at this types of exhibits, but I lost count of how many times they smacked their foreheads on the windows. Smart kids. Bad depth perception.

My kids loved looking at these types of exhibits, but I lost count of how many times they smacked their foreheads on the windows. Smart kids. Bad depth perception.

On the top floor of the museum, you can find more interactive exhibits.

Wouldn't it be cool if she was absorbing everything from this exhibit. Hello, toddler genius!

Wouldn’t it be cool if she was absorbing everything from this exhibit. Hello, toddler genius!

These were a little above the kids’ heads, but we spent a lot of time here regardless.

Farley, the scientist.

Farley, the scientist.

The main floor of the museum is where you’ll find all the fossils and large exhibits, as well as the planetarium. Stop by planetarium and have your kids step on the special scale.

Lincoln Morrill Hall8I liked the main floor the most. So much history from our state from millions of years ago!

Just look at this room of prehistoric stuff. I mean, please. Look at it. My kids didn't.

Just look at this room of prehistoric stuff. I mean, please. Look at it. My kids barely did.

I marveled at what fossils have been found in the state; the kids spent the time running from room to room.

I lie. Farley did pause to look at one thing on the first floor.

I lie. Farley did pause to look at one thing on the first floor.

I guess in their own way, they enjoyed themselves.

Did you know?

Morrill Hall was recently named an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. That’s a big deal. You can read about it here.

If you go

Where: 635 N. 14th St., Lincoln Neb.

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. – open late on Thursdays until 8 p.m.; Sunday, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Planetarium closed on the same days as Morrill Hall, also closed on Mondays and UNL home football Saturdays.

Cost: Adults 19 and older, $6 ($10 to include planetarium); children 5-18, $3 ($6 to include planetarium); families of 2 adults and children/grandchildren 18 and younger, $13; children 4 and younger, FREE ($3 to include planetarium, though children younger than 3 are not permitted in the planetarium); UNL students and faculty, FREE ($3 to include planetarium)

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February 10, 2014

What’s Kid-Friendly In The Lincoln Haymarket

Have you guys been to Lincoln lately? The Haymarket area – or rather just west of it near the new Pinnacle Arena – has changed so much! Lots of new businesses have cropped up, mostly to cater to the 21-and-older arena crowd before games and concerts.

For families, though, you’ll find things to do, too. In the winter, there is an outdoor ice skating rink. I haven’t checked out most of the restaurants there; so I asked a Lincoln native, Gretchen over at Odyssey through Nebraska, for recommendations.  She suggested Buffalo Wings and Rings (which, I noticed was near a doughnut shop. Just sayin’.).

The kids were begging for pizza, though. Which they do about 240 times a day.

So we tried Mellow Mushroom. It had been on my must-visit list anyway.

Funky stuff to look at when you go into Mellow Mushroom.

Funky stuff to look at when you go into Mellow Mushroom.

Lunchtime on a Saturday meant a wait. While waiting we checked out the funky, psychedelic décor.

Mr. Wonderful and our nephew, Jake, ordered a half-and-half pizza, one part Red Skin Potato Pie, the other a Mighty Meaty.

Mooch  is eyeing the 'za.

Mooch is eying the ‘za.

I ordered a small Kosmic Karma pizza, that was a cross of a margarita pizza with some pesto. The food was delicious, though a little more expensive than Nebraskans are used to paying for some pie. I’d still recommend it, though.

My lunch view at Mellow Mushroom.

My lunch view at Mellow Mushroom.

What else is there to do in the Lincoln Haymarket with kids?

I recommend heading over to the Creamery building (it’s not too far to walk, but it’s forgivable if you want to drive). There’s a bookstore in the building worth seeking out. I’d heard about Indigo Bridge Books on Odyssey through Nebraska first, and I knew my kids would love the train table and musical instruments.

Part of the children's department at Indigo Books.

Part of the children’s department at Indigo Bridge Book.

True to form, they ran to the table.

Like moths to a light, these two and their trains.

Like moths to a light, these two and their trains.

They were distracted long enough for Mr. Wonderful and me to wonder through the store. If you like the vibe and quirky selection found in independent bookstores, you’ll enjoy this place. There’s also a requisite coffee shop inside.

The other place we visited in the building is Ivanna Cone, a cute little family-owned ice cream shop across from Indigo. They have a play area for kids, which is a bonus.

The tricky thing is getting the sticky ice cream off your munchkins before they run to this corner at Ivanna Cone.

The tricky thing is getting the sticky ice cream off your munchkins before they run to this corner at Ivanna Cone.

And the guys working there were helpful – in a bathroom emergency, one recommended we use the upstairs bathrooms, which are bigger and nicer than the first floor one. Good tip.

The Creamery Building has a pottery painting place, some retail spots upstairs, a theater and a few other random businesses.

Check back tomorrow to read about my family’s first trip to Morrill Hall!

Your turn: What’s your favorite restaurant or place to shop in the Haymarket?

January 21, 2014

Strategic Air & Space Museum With Children

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

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

What to check out with kids?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strategic Air and Space 6

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

"Roger that, Houston."

“Roger that, Houston.”

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

Naturally.

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

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

Kids love the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Nebraska.

Kids love the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Nebraska.

If you go

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

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

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

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

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

January 13, 2014

Mahoney State Park In The Winter

I love Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, but I’m most familiar with the park in the summer. We recently visited on two unseasonably warm winter days and discovered a whole other side to the park.

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

I hate being cold, but even I love visiting Mahoney State Park in the winter...on the rare days in January when the temp is above 40.

I hate being cold, but even I love visiting Mahoney State Park in the winter…on the rare days in January when the temp is above 40.

First, the indoor stuff. This is my favorite since I hate being cold. One must-visit place is the Activity Center. Why have I not been here sooner with the kids?!

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. It helps if you were a former Chinese acrobat or retired contortionist, but don’t worry, you’ll make it through those tubes somehow.

Helping Mooch conquer the Activity Center play area. It gets a little hectic in there, so I don't mind playing linebacker for her.

Helping Mooch conquer the Activity Center play area. It gets a little hectic in there, so I don’t mind playing linebacker for her.

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.

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*

Not a far walk from there is the conservatory/greenhouse.

Mahoney 9

Exploring the 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.

Aunt Amy and Mooch check out the fishies.

Aunt Amy and Mooch check out the fishies.

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

Some native species of turtle and snakes on display at the conservatory.

Some native species of turtle and snakes on display at the conservatory.

The park has moved the arts and crafts center over to the marina. We didn’t visit it on that particular day but signs indicated it was still open. The other indoor activity I recommend for kiddos is the junior naturalist place up by the lookout tower (lower level of the building). I peeked in and they were offering warm drinks along with some coloring, the afternoon we were there. There was also a sign of other activities you could do, like a scavenger hunt.

A view of the toboggan run at Mahoney State Park.

A view of the toboggan run at Mahoney State Park.

A big outdoor draw at the park is the toboggan run. On the warm day we were there, people were still trying to sled down the big run. It’s a pretty nice, long hill but not too steep, with bales of hay protecting sledders from trees and other danger spots.

The sledding hill is right by the lookout tower. I can’t imagine it’s a nice climb on really cold days, but it was not bad when we walked up it. The trails near the tower were not too muddy, so we also checked them out.

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

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

While I prefer my hikes when I can feel my fingers, trails are still open at Mahoney in the winter.

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.

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.

If you go:

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

Activity Center hours: Monday, Thursday and Friday, 4 to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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

Upcoming events and activities at Mahoney

Camping info

Cabin and lodging info

Your turn: What’s your favorite thing to do at Mahoney State Park in the winter?

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