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