Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is a fun day-trip from Omaha or Lincoln, but there’s so much to do, I recommend planning at least staying overnight if not longer. Especially if you have kids. Especially if you have to factor in naps.
The park offers camping/RV parking, a hotel and cabins. We have yet to camp with the kids, but there are are nice campgrounds near the main lake (the paddle boat lake, as I’ll call it for simplicity’s sake). Most of the lodge rooms have balconies.
For cabins, your options include two-, four- and six-bedroom cabins. We opted to stay at a two-bedroom cabin this spring – I highly recommend it. They have AC, appliances and dishware, bathtubs, grills, and for those who like going to a state park but not going outside, they have satellite TV. Ours had an included deck with not-too-sturdy netting (if your child often channels The Hulk, best keep a close eye on her while out there). For dining, our cabin had two picnic tables and a dining room table. Cabins are modern, but not fancy.
Basically, everything at the Mahoney State Park is family-friendly; what will be the most fun depends on the age of your children. Mine are happy running across a bridge or collecting rocks. Your older kids might require a little more to thrill them.
For the Wee Ones
Playgrounds: There are several, including a huge indoor play area (it has an admission fee but it’s awesome). The biggest one is near the swimming pool – it has a separate jungle gym for smaller kids.
Gardens: My kids love walking around the gardens, especially the greenhouse
Pony rides: Ages 3-9
For All Ages
Pool – Two water slides, wave pool and an area for small children. Very popular summer spot.
Explore the marina (which, for me, includes exploring the ice cream shop there)
Hiking: If you’re lucky, you see a nearby passing train.
Craft center: Paint ceramics, work with wood or leather
Lookout tower: It’s a tall one with a great view, and climbing it is a useful tool for tiring out little ones.
Kountze Memorial Theater – Melodramas are often performed here
Stargazing: Climb the lookout tower for a spectacular view. There are a few clinics this summer sponsored by the Omaha Astronomical Society & Prairie Astronomy Club, who will bring telescopes. Check here for dates.
Horseback riding – You must be 6 or older to ride a horse
Nature programs: The park now offers about 20 programs, including ones focusing on horses, native reptiles, insects, prairie and hummingbird workshops, nature hikes and fishing clinics. Learn more here.
For hours and fees on activities, visit this link. Park’s phone number is 402-944-2523.
Strategic Air & Space Museum: Planes and space exploration stuff. The new Children’s Learning Center opened in August 2016.
Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari: Drive-through safari featuring native species
Ashland: Nearest town, and it has two ice cream shops, pizza option and winery (for mommy)
Schramm Park State Recreation Area: Trails for hiking and an aquarium with cheap admission