April 24, 2017

Old School Omaha: Gorat’s Steakhouse

Kim’s Note: While working on a book about Omaha restaurants that have closed, I started to notice a trend about the more recently shuttered spots.

I hadn’t dined at nearly all the ones that were still open in recent years. And I missed out on some gems. So I’ve decided to make it a goal to visit Omaha’s oldest restaurants before any more shut down before I’ve had a chance to sample their best.

Gorat’s Steakhouse

The first restaurant I ventured to after I made this pledge to dine at Omaha’s oldest restaurants has become an Omaha institution thanks to our city’s favorite billionaire, Warren Buffett. That’s right, we went to Gorat’s Steakhouse.

Food

What you’d expect for a steakhouse dinner.

Old Italian steakhouse entrees remained, even after new ownership. Prime rib au jus, chicken parmesan, and good old spaghetti and meatballs are on the menu, as are burgers, sandwiches and small plates. I tried the chicken piccata, which was pretty good though oddly served with the sauce on the side. It is a kid-friendly restaurant so there is a kid’s menu. The food, from cheeseburger to steak, on the kid’s menu is between $6 to $8.

There’s a plentiful bread basket brought to the table before your meal arrives. My kids were sure to fill up on that so they wouldn’t eat their dinner. Naturally.

Atmosphere

The exterior of Gorat’s Steakhouse still screams old school steakhouse.

The exterior hints at the bygone days, but once you’re inside that old school steakhouse vibe is gone. The restaurant has been remodeled since it first opened in 1944. It looks more modern farmhouse than old school Italian steakhouse, though the women’s bathroom still had an vintage feel to it. There were some pictures to call to mind older days.

There’s a lounge with live music, which attracted my kids (the live music attract them, that is, not the lounge).

Buffett Sightings

No Warren Buffett sightings at Gorat’s, not that my kids appeared to be noticing anything other than the kid’s menu.

It didn’t happen on the night we were there. Has it ever happened to anyone or is that a myth?

Final thoughts

The iconic Gorat’s sign.

I can’t speak for how Gorat’s once was, but I can stay there’s a reason people still dine there. I can’t quite put my finger on that reason – is it loyalty or the dream of rubbing elbows with Warren or love of the food?

Dining at Gorat’s was pleasant but it didn’t feel like I was experiencing a bit of Omaha history while being there. It was underwhelming. My 7-year-old, however, was impressed. As we left, he announced “That was one classy joint.”

Where does he learn these things?

 

If you go

Gorat’s Steakhouse

Where: 4917 Center St.

Website

 

What has been your experience at Gorat’s? Where should I head to next in this series?

 

April 19, 2017

Joslyn Art Museum Summer Camps

My first-grade son has a knack for drawing. His favorite subject in school is art.

You bet I’ve signed him up for an art summer camp at Joslyn Art Museum to feed that love of his.

Students work on sculptures during a summer camp at Joslyn Art Museum. Photo courtesy Joslyn Art Museum

I’ve partnered with Joslyn Art Museum to tell you about their fantastic lineup of summer camps because, you guys, they’re great. My son didn’t really want to leave each day and he took so much joy out of showing me what he’s been working on. Andy Smith, Studio Programs Manager, provided a lot of details that you’ll find helpful when considering a Joslyn summer camp.

What makes Joslyn camps unique

Artwork found throughout the museum inspire the activities in the Joslyn Art Museum summer camps. Photo courtesy Joslyn Art Museum

Location. First, obviously, it’s pretty unique to have a camp inside an art museum. Students create with inspiration and guidance from the artists, media and techniques found there. So, they spend time in the gallery learning about the art-making experience and tools, and then also spend ample studio time.

Themes. A lot of camps focus on art fundamentals–paintings, drawing, sculpture and printmaking–and they tend to be the most popular. I was eyeing drawing for my kiddo, and it was already filled. Other camps draw from exhibitions and galleries in the museum, like several camps that will draw from a “Bijoux Parisien: French Jewelry from the Petit Palais, Paris.” Check the camp list here and register ASAP if you see one you think your child would like.

Age range. Very few summer camp have options for as great of an age range as Joslyn Art Museum. In addition to camps for ages 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12 the museum offers teen camps in ceramics, printmaking, drawing, painting, and alternative art. If your kid has found his or her passion, they can spend many summers happily pursuing it.

Unique partnerships. This summer, Joslyn Art Museum has partnered with the Union for Contemporary Art, 2423 N. 24th St., a fully equipped artists co-op just down the street from the museum. This is where teens will go for their summer camps. Another partnership is between the museum and The Rose, where kids ages 9-14 work on theater design.

Holiday week mini-camps. Joslyn Art Museum offers one-day camps focused on an art fundamental during Fourth of July week. The bad news: Each day is full right now. You can add your child’s name to a waitlist, though.

What’s a typical camp day?

Kids work in the art studio every day of art camp at Joslyn Art Museum, but they also get to explore the museum, as well. Photo courtesy Joslyn Art Museum

Joslyn Art Museum summer camps are half-days, which you can combine the morning and afternoon to make a full day of camp (full day campers get to have supervised lunch in the outdoors sculpture garden). A typical half-day involves most of the time creating art in the studio, with some time spent in the galleries and in discussions about artworks and artists to provide context for the studio challenges that day. There’s a snack break halfway through camp each day. Artists have to eat, you know. Full-day campers need to bring a sack lunch.

Ready For Joslyn Art Museum Summer Camp?

Joslyn Art Museum summer camps are available for children as young as 4 and for teens. Photo courtesy Joslyn Art Museum

Where: Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St.

Cost: Camps for ages 4-5, $60 per camp for members and $70 general public (2-hour camps, no snacks); camps for ages 6-8 and 9-12, $80 per camp for members and $100 per camp for general public; camps for teens, $100 per camp for members and $120 per camp for general public (ceramics camps for teens is $200 and $240, respectively).

Register: Online at joslyn.org

 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary camp registration in compensation for writing this post. All opinions expressed in the post are mine, as are the typos.

 

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April 17, 2017

Strider Bikes Lincoln Race On June 10

I had a bike coach tell me his kids learned to bike using a balance bike. So I followed his lead and got one for my son.

Here’s how the balance bike works: Little ones learn to balance on a two-wheel balance bike and are able to progress easier to two-wheels with pedals, skipping the whole training wheel headache. That’s how it worked with Farley. We’re working on getting kid No. 2 to master the bike now.

Not a single bike ride with training wheels for these two.

Strider Bikes is a giant in the balance bike industry, selling more than 1.5 million bikes. They’re known for durability and high performance. They reached out to me to tell you about an upcoming balance bike race. I was all for this campaign because I love encouraging bike in Nebraska, and I’ve seen first-hand that balance bikes work…and now know not to settle for anything less than a Strider!

2017 STRIDER Cup Series

strider bike race lincoln

The Strider Cup Series race is in Lincoln, Neb., on June 10, 2017. Photo courtesy Strider Bikes

Do you have a kid who’s 5 years old or younger and a total champ on his or her Strider bike? Sign him or her up for the STRIDER Cup Series race in Lincoln, Neb., on June 10. Sounds totally cute and fun. There will even be an Adventure Zone riding area separate from the race where little ones can test out demo bikes (with helmets). It’s a place for children to try out a Strider Bike if they have one and play “in the zone.”

If you go

When: June 10, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (race start times vary for age groups and a special needs wave)

Where: Tower Square in downtown Lincoln, 1300 P St., Lincoln, Neb.

Cost: $25 (plus service fee), and includes a Strider jersey, number plate, and goodies

Register here (registration closes June 9)

** Be sure to check the race website for packet pick-up details and times

Now here’s Strider Bikes race nitty gritty: Genuine Strider Bikes are the only balance bikes allowed to race. You can find them at quality bike stores and online.

But I have great news for you…you can enter to win a Strider bike right here on the blog!

Strider Bikes Giveaway

One lucky winner is going to win a Strider Sport, just in time for the race! These bikes are easy to adjust so they’re good for both an itty bitty 18-month-old or sturdy 5-year-old. They’re a step up from the basic model, with a padded seat, foot rests, and mini-grips designed for tiny hands to have better control.

It’s really simple to enter. Enter through the Rafflecopter entry form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You must enter by 11:59 p.m. April 30. One winner will be randomly chosen within 48 hours – be on the lookout for an email! The winner will have 48 hours to respond before another entry is drawn. Must be 18 or older to enter and a resident of the United States. Prize is valued at $119.99.

Disclosure: I was compensated for writing this sponsored post by Strider Bikes. Opinions expressed are my own 

April 11, 2017

10 Cheap Things To Do In Omaha This Summer

I love a game plan. That’s why I usually have a bucket list of activities and trip ideas to keep things fun and interesting throughout summer.

But, then there’s that pesky budget thing that makes some of the activities improbable.

So I have another list of cheap things to do in Omaha.

cheap things to do in Omaha this summer

My list was published in Omaha Magazine’s Summer Family Guide recently. So check it out and start planning your summer in Omaha now!

Click here to read the story (it starts on page 21 in the digital magazine)

 

Among my favorite things on the list are my family’s favorite places to hike, the metro’s most unique places to enjoy splashing in water, and the names of some of the many kid-friendly festivals you can find in Omaha. I only got to choose 10, but there are so much more – share some of your ideas in the comments!

 

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April 10, 2017

Durham Museum Summer Camps

While on the hunt for the most fun summer camps for my kids, I kept returning to The Durham Museum summer camps list. There are so many to choose from! There are 27 camps there this summer, and they’re all so different from any place else in Omaha. I’ve partnered with The Durham Museum to tell you about them.

Choosing Camp

From time travel to wizardry to spies, there are some super fun themes for summer camps at The Durham Museum. There’s even Meet the Metr’O’ camps, where kids visit things like a courthouse to meet a judge and the First National Bank Tower to get a sky-high view of the city. Check all the summer camps out here.

Summer camps at The Durham Museum are taught by certified, professional educators. Photo courtesy The Durham Museum

I had a hard time figuring which camps my 7-year-old would love best. He is really into history, which is perfect for all of the camps at the museum – camps combine history and science for a balance that turns out to be fun and educational. I’m told they strike a perfect chord for summer – kids have so much fun, they don’t realize they’re learning.

Some of the popular camps at The Durham Museum include Mischief Managed, a wizardry camp that will surely appeal to the “Harry Potter” fans of Omaha; Lego Apprentice, Lego Builder, and Lego Master, camps for the three age groups that are focused on building; and the camp tied with the summer exhibit at the museum, Top Secret, will likely be popular.

New Camps At The Durham Museum

The Durham Museum has added some unique new camps this summer. I think Road Trip! sounds fun. Without leaving the museum, kids will imagine themselves on a Nebraska adventure. It’s great timing for the state’s 150th celebration.

Campers at a Durham Museum summer camp. Photo courtesy The Durham Museum

There’s also a camp called History With Heroes, blending learning about superheroes and real life heroes. The museum is also trying out a camp that’s going to feel like the traditional outdoor summer camp, again without leaving the museum. Think, “campfire” with s’mores kinds of stuff.

What Makes Durham Camps Different

 

Teachers – What impressed me about The Durham Museum summer camps is that they’re all taught by certified, practicing teachers, who also create the camp curriculum. The camps also have what’s called summer facilitators, who assist in the summer camps and many are studying to become educators.

One-Day Camps – Here’s the conundrum for working parents: What do you do with holiday weeks where no place in Omaha is offering week-long camps then, but you still have to work most of those days? The museum has created day-long camps for each day of those holiday weeks (Memorial Day and Fourth of July). Kids can go to just one all-day camp or all four that week (there’s a discount if you sign up for all four).

Variety – Very few camps are repeated in the summer. Many parents working downtown sign their children up for summer camps at the museum all summer long and never have repeated week. There are 27 camps in all.

Extended Hours – The museum offers “Beyond the Camp” Experience, which is before care and after care with planned games and activities with camp staff. It’s such a huge help for me, when my work day starts well before 9 a.m. camp does. Full-day campers also have supervision during the lunch hour, and they get the added perk of having the option of purchasing lunch (they can also bring a sack lunch).

Age Groups – The Durham Museum summer camps are divided by grade levels, so the camp content suits the abilities of the campers all the time. Camps are available for Grades 1-2, Grade 3-4, and Grades 5-6. Note: This is for the grade level kids will be entering in the 2017-2018 school year.

Ready For Durham Museum Summer Camp?

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

Cost: Half-Day Week, $80/members and $90/non-members; Full-Day Week, $160/members and $180/non-members; Summer Fun Days (full-day camp), $40/Day or $140/four days for members and $45/day or $160/four days for non-members; Meet The Metr’O’ (weeklong, full-day), $170/members and $190/non-members.
“Beyond The Camp” Experience: $15/day or $60/week

Register:

Online at Durham.org

Call 402-444-5027

Email Education@DurhamMuseum.org

Write The Durham Museum, Education Dept., 801 S. 10th St., Omaha, NE 68108

Fax 402-444-5397, Attn: Education Dept.

 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary camp registration in compensation for writing this post.

 

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April 6, 2017

Visiting Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure

Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure in Nebraska City has become such a family favorite, we bought a membership. It’s one of my “Happy Places” that I can return to repeatedly and never get bored. That’s nature for you.

We’ve gone every season, though for this post, I’m sharing mostly summer and fall pictures.

Go figure, the snowless, winter pictures just aren’t as beautiful.

What to expect at the Tree Adventure

Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure

There are a variety of structures at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure that blend in well with the setting.

At the Tree Adventure, you will find a mix of paved and dirt trails. None are too long for little legs, nor very challenging for tired adults.

Along the paved trail, you’ll find interactive pit stops. Some will ask you to identify the tracks in the pavement, the smells in a box, or to stop and listen to bird calls.

Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure tree house

The cabin next to the 50-foot tree house has hands-on activities for kids.

Further afield, you’ll find the 50-foot  tree house/lookout tower. Kids will be tempted to race to the top, but try to get them to peek inside the cabin-like room next to the tower first. There are some cool things to see and do in there.

Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure climber

Pretending to be a spider at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure.

If you stay on the paved trail, you’ll find a couple more active pit stops for kids. There are things to climb through, climb under, over, etc. It’s great for working on their gross motor skills, but let’s be real. We’re happy to have yet another thing to help tire kids out.

Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure outdoor education area

Playing the wooden xylophone at the Tree Adventure.

There’s an outdoor education area (actually two, but we just go to the big one) where families should plan on spending quite a bit of time there, especially if you have a young builder. I’d say skip the area if you’re not visiting with kids, but don’t – you’ve got to try the outdoor xylophone, at least.

 

There is an apple orchard where you can pick apples in the fall, as well as a pumpkin patch. There’s a hayrack ride offered to drive you out and back for those two activities.

Throughout the year, there are themed activities to spice up your next visit. In March, there’s a gnome hunt that we tried this year. You search for little statues hidden throughout the woods, using clues and a map to help you. There are also weekend events with activities connected to learning about different animals and insects.

You can see upcoming events planned for Arbor Day, Sunset & S’Mores and more here. Some of these events include activities at other Arbor Day Farm properties.

Into the woods

Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure dirt trail

It’s worth stepping off the paved path to go further into the woods of the Tree Adventure in Nebraska City.

There is a loop called the South Table Creek Trail that goes deeper into the woods, and it’s less than a mile long. Don’t skip it! You’ll cross bridges, encounter “kissing trees,” chairs built for three bears, and find a little fairy door in a tree.

There’s also an added game of sorts, where you’ll look for wooden cutouts of birds and a squirrel. Granted, some will want to look for the real things, this game has become a competitive sport for my family.

Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure bridge

One of the bridges found along the South Table Creek Trail at the Tree Adventure.

The trail through the woods does have some inclines and stairs, so it’s not super stroller-friendly.

About the trees

Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure entrance

The entrance to Arbor Day Tree Adventure in Nebraska City.

Being part of Arbor Day Farm, trees are a focus at Tree Adventure. Obviously. You can visit the greenhouse and get your own free tree seedling to plant at home.

In the visitor’s center, you can also learn more about the role of trees by playing some of the interactive exhibits and watching a short movie. We often skip that area when we visit, but if it’s your first time, check it out.

You can take an hour-long discovery ride to learn even more. It’s $5 extra per person.

Food at Arbor Day Farm

There is no restaurant on property of the Tree Adventure, though occasionally we’ve bought lunch from a vendor who’d set up shop outside the Tree Adventure visitor’s center. You can purchase food next door at the restaurant inside the Arbor Day Farm winery/orchard shop. I recommend getting the apple pie a la mode if you go that route.

And sample the wine, if you’re of age.

Usually, though, we pack a lunch and enjoy it on the trail. You’ll find some benches in the forest and at the outdoor education center, as well as picnic tables near the visitor’s center.

If you go

Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure

Where: 2611 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City, Neb.

Cost: $8, adults; $6, children ages 3-12; FREE, children 2 and younger; the All-Access Day Pass also includes admission to Arbor Lodge State Historical Park mansion, and costs $15 for adults, $11, children ages 3-12, and FREE for children 2 and younger.

Website

 

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