January 19, 2017

10 Places You Must See In Nebraska

Celebrate Nebraska’s 150th birthday in 2017 by exploring the state. I’ve been lucky to explore our state with my kids, though there are still some Nebraska attractions on my bucket list left like Chimney Rock and Lake McConaughy.

Want to get out there and explore Nebraska? Here are some of my favorites (in no particular order):

Nebraska attractions

10 Nebraska attractions you must see

1. Fort Robinson State Park (Harrison, Neb.)

Checking out the view from the stagecoach at Fort Robinson.

Western Nebraska’s biggest attraction is one of my favorites, Fort Robinson. A few family favorite adventures were the off-road jeep ride, the carriage ride, and since both kids were so little, the guided horse rides.

2. Holland Performing Arts Center (Omaha)

The concert hall inside the Holland Performing Arts Center. Photo courtesy Nick Allen on Flikr

The best venue, hands down, in all of Nebraska to hear a concert is the main concert hall inside the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha. It’s a beautiful building and the sound is incredible. If your favorite performer ever plays there, you must go.

3. Fort Atkinson (Fort Calhoun, Neb.)

Don’t miss the blacksmith during the re-enactment weekends at Fort Atkinson, located in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska.

Located in Fort Calhoun (so pretty close to Omaha), you should time a visit to coincide with an historical re-enactment. I brought the kids to one and it was a lot of fun.

4. Smith Falls State Park (Wood Lake, Neb.)

A view of Smith Falls on a sunny day.

We used to canoe the Niobrara River with friends and family every year, and Smith Falls was always a must-stop destination. It’s the highest waterfall in Nebraska. I dare you to stick your head into the water there.

To get to the Niobrara River, if you’re coming from Omaha at least, will mean passing through the Sandhills, which is another pretty sight to see.

5. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium (Omaha)

On hot days, the aquarium at Omaha’s zoo is a great place to escape the heat.

The most popular Nebraska attraction, by far, is Omaha’s zoo. It’s huge, it’s beautiful, and it keeps getting better. Some of the newest additions include African Grasslands and Alaskan Adventure sprayground. Here are some experts’ tips on visiting the zoo.

6. Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure (Nebraska City, Neb.)

Happy and mud-covered children at Arbor Day Tree Adventure.

This Nebraska City attraction is so cool, we try to visit every season each year. The forest trail, the treehouse, the inviting natural play areas…I love it. I might also love the fact that it’s next door to a place that serves fabulous apple pie and has a wine tasting room.

7. Toadstool Geological Park (Oglala National Grasslands)

Let’s play “Spot the trail” in this picture at Toadstool.

This is off the beaten path, but definitely worth a visit to see this place and hike around. They’re pretty much Nebraska’s own Badlands. Careful hiking around there with little ones, though.

8. Brownville, Neb.

In the center of Brownville on Main Street, you’ll find this old cabin.

So much art and culture packed into a little Nebraska town. Browse bookstores, art galleries, or check out a winery.

The town is also near Indian Cave State Park. I recommend combining a visit to both for a complete day.

9. Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)

A sea of red at Memorial Stadium. Photo courtesy Asten on Flikr

It’s something to experience at least once: The football stadium becomes the third most populated “city” in Nebraska on Husker game day. Wear red or else.

10. Nebraska Wildlife Safari (Ashland, Neb.)

You have to beware of animals crossing the road at the Nebraska Wildlife Safari.

I’m a sucker for driving among bison, I guess. This is a great attraction that showcases Nebraska’s wildlife. Get out of the car to see the bears, wolves, bald eagles and other critters out there.

Honorable mentions Nebraska attractions

A few more favorite places in Nebraska that didn’t make the Top 10 cut: Omaha’s Old Market, Plattsmouth’s Sisters Thai and German Cafe, and Chadron State Park.

* * * * *

There are a lot of exhibits and events planned to celebrate the 150th. Check out the calendar of events here.

 

Your turn: What is on your must-see list for Nebraska?

August 15, 2016

Kids & The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum

The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum has created a space for children of all ages to explore STEM ideas (that’s science, technology, engineering, and math).

 

The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum opened the new Children's Learning Center in early August 2016.

The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum opened the new Children’s Learning Center in early August 2016.

 

The new Children’s Learning Center opened last weekend. It consists of 10 interactive stations designed as an out-of-classroom experience for children to experiment and learn about science, technology, engineering, and math and the physics, forces, and technology of flight. Families can easily spend an hour here, especially if the children get into building structures at a couple of the stations.

One engineering station asks kids to build a building or bridge the can stand up to an earthquake.

One engineering station asks kids to build a building or bridge the can stand up to an earthquake.

I explored with my preschooler and first-grader and they had as much fun as the older kids there. Some activities were better suited for the limited patience of little ones than others, but with the help of an adult, they could build and experiment alongside the big kids. 

Thank you to the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum for the complimentary passes so I can visit and get some great pictures. It was a fun day!

What you’ll find at the Children’s Learning Center

The Bernouli Blower was a beacon for little ones with the the colorful beach balls.

The Bernouli Blower was a beacon for little ones with the the colorful beach balls.

Bernoulli Blower: Discover the principles of airflow and how air speed and pressure effects objects, like beach balls.

KEVA Planks: Create structures and gain first-hand experience with balance, leverage, geometry and the principles of physics.

Children build structures that can stand up to the shaking earthquake table.

Children build structures that can stand up to the shaking earthquake table.

Make-it-Tables: Experience the engineering design process by building machines or structures using materials provided.

Interactive Kiosk Station: Explore the four forces of flight.

Kids race their LEGO cars on a test track at the Children's Learning Center.

Kids race their LEGO cars on a test track at the Children’s Learning Center.

Wind Trainer: Learn about the science and technology of flight in terms of aircraft roll, pitch and yaw.

Dual Test Track: Learn how friction, drag, weight distribution, and gravity affect the design and operation of aircraft and other vehicles.

The area with the large blue foam blocks was like a free-play engineering playground.

The area with the large blue foam blocks was like a free-play engineering playground.

Innovation Station: Create inventions, environments, and activities with large scale foam blocks that encourage teamwork and imagination.  

Quake Table: Design structures and explore the phenomena of earthquakes and their effects.

The tennis ball launcher almost always had a wait on opening day. There's something making things airborne that draws a crowd.

The tennis ball launcher almost always had a wait on opening day. There’s something making things airborne that draws a crowd.

Tennis Ball Launcher: Explore the effects of gravity on different sized and massed objects.

Twin Air Blaster: Experience how airflow impacts aircraft design.

 

What else is for kids at the museum?

The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Neb., is a must-visit if your kids are fascinated by airplanes and spacecraft.

The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Neb., is a must-visit if your kids are fascinated by airplanes and spacecraft.

If your kid loves planes, you’re set. This place has a ton of them, and many that you can peek inside. There’s also an area dedicated to Nebraska’s astronaut, Clayton Anderson, who’s from Ashland, Neb.

There are a few items that are an additional cost to admission, but can be a big hit with kids. My kids can’t resist a bounce house, so that one is always a stop for us.

There’s also a planetarium, small 50-cent rides, and flight simulators.

If you go

Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum

Where: 28210 West Park Highway, Ashland, Neb. (about 30 miles west of Omaha)

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 7 days a week; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve; closed: New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving & Christmas

Cost: Adults, $12; senior citizens, military, $11; children (ages 4-12), $6; FREE for children aged 3 and younger

Extras: Planetarium shows, $3 for adults and $2 for children ages 4-12 (free for members); all-day bounce house, $5 per child; flight simulators, 2D rides are $9 for members $10 for non-members, and 3D rides are $12 for members $13 for non-members.

Website 

 

Upcoming 2016 events for families

Here are a few of the upcoming events and programs offered at Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. Find more events here, and explore the educational offerings here.

Second Tuesday of every month – Pint-Sized Play Dates. Children ages 3-5 can participate in an hour-long themed activity.

Oct. 22 and 23, 2016 – Planes, Trains & Autos. Come dressed in costumes to trick or treat at different stations

Dec. 3, 2016 – Santa Goes to Space. Meet Santa, see Imperial Stormtroopers from 501st Legion, and enjoy free planetarium shows.

 

June 24, 2016

Living History At Fort Atkinson In Nebraska

Fort Atkinson is a Nebraska State Historical Park in Fort Calhoun, which is a short drive north of Omaha. Considering how close it is to Omaha, it’s been a major oversight that I’ve never visited, especially since there are monthly events that are incredibly interesting for families.

Mooch learns a little sewing technique from a seamstress during a living history weekend event at Fort Atkinson in Nebraska.

Mooch learns a little sewing technique from a seamstress during a living history weekend event at Fort Atkinson in Nebraska.

You can visit any time of year to explore the fort, but for I cannot recommend enough that you try to time a visit for a historical re-enactment.

Historic re-enactments

Actresses walking along the north side of Fort Atkinson, located in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska.

Actresses walking along the north side of Fort Atkinson, located in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska.

I never thought of myself as being into re-enactments, but my opinion has evolved, especially after attending the June historic re-enactment of fort life in the 1820s at Fort Atkinson. I was impressed and could not believe more people don’t know about it.

Don't miss the blacksmith during the re-enactment weekends at Fort Atkinson, located in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska.

Don’t miss the blacksmith during the re-enactment weekends at Fort Atkinson, located in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska.

On the first Saturday and Sunday of the month, May through October, Friends of Fort Atkinson recreate life 200 years ago. Their attention to detail and characters they create is great, and made the whole experience fascinating.

A peek inside one of the rooms at Fort Atkinson.

A peek inside one of the rooms at Fort Atkinson.

Rooms throughout the fort are recreated with the typical items of the time and characters describing what their life would’ve been like.

One of the first rooms you'll likely enter when you first get there is the Colonel's office.

One of the first rooms you’ll likely enter when you first get there is the Colonel’s office.

The blacksmith shop looked as real as it gets. You could also watch ladies weave, men make barrels or talk to soldiers getting ready for battle.

And for the serious history buffs, it was acknowledged that there wouldn’t be any women found inside the fort back in its hay day. The actresses explained why that some recreations were done just to give a better idea of life at the time – whether it was cooking, sewing or selling goods.

Ladies in the kitchen at Fort Atkinson. They'll be the first to tell visitors women weren't allowed in the fort back in the day, though. They're part of the re-enactments to give insight to what life was like outside of the fort.

Ladies in the kitchen at Fort Atkinson. They’ll be the first to tell visitors women weren’t allowed in the fort back in the day, though. They’re part of the re-enactments to give insight to what life was like outside of the fort.

What kids will like about Fort Atkinson

When you arrive at the fort, stop at the info table to grab a scavenger hunt.

The outside of Fort Atkinson doesn't really indicate much of what's waiting for your family inside, does it?

The outside of Fort Atkinson doesn’t really indicate much of what’s waiting for your family inside, does it?

Kids need to ask the re-enactors questions in order to successfully finish the hunt. This provides shy kids with talking points to interact with the actors. It was a handy way to learn about things you wouldn’t think to ask about.

Kids can take their finished scavenger hunt to the general store and receive a free piece of rock candy.

The general store at Fort Atkinson is a working store where you can buy gifts, treats and, apparently, barrels.

The general store at Fort Atkinson is a working store where you can buy gifts, treats and, apparently, barrels.

Speaking of that store, this is another kid-favorite if only because they have candy, lemonade and toys. Good luck leaving it without a treat.

Mooch and my dad enjoying an afternoon snack and lemonade on the porch of the general store.

Mooch and my dad enjoying an afternoon snack and lemonade on the porch of the general store.

You don’t have to do the scavenger hunt, of course. We didn’t. The kids still found ways to interact, helping sew a quilt and trying on the colonel’s hat, for instance.

One thing to note: They fire a cannon during the re-enactments. Some kids are going to love the loud boom and others won’t (cover their ears regardless). My kids were not fans.

The cannon is prepped to be fired at Fort Atkinson.

The cannon is prepped to be fired at Fort Atkinson.

If you go

Historical Re-enactments at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park

Where: 201 S. Seventh St., Fort Calhoun, Neb.

When: First Saturday and Sunday of the month through October. The first weekend in July has a focus on the Fourth of July and the Declaration of Independence will be read aloud. Park is open year-round 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: Valid state park permit is required. Visitor Center is $2 for adults, $1 for children under 13, and FREE for children under 3.

Friends of Fort Atkinson Website

April 12, 2016

Lewis & Clark Trail National Parks Service Headquarters In Omaha

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

If you’ve spent any time in Omaha, there’s a good chance you’ve walked along the Lewis & Clark Landing – that riverfront development along the Missouri River. You’ve attended festivals to gorge on roasted corn on the cob and listen to music and you’ve crossed the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge so you can take that Nebraska-Iowa state line photo opp.

Photo opp on The Bob, as the pedestrian bridge over the Missouri River is affectionately called.

Photo opp on The Bob, as the pedestrian bridge over the Missouri River is affectionately called.

And there’s a good chance you’re like me and totally missed the fact that right there on the river front is some National Parks Service property.

Omaha’s right on the Lewis & Clark Trail.

At the foot of the Omaha side of the pedestrian bridge is the Midwest headquarters of the Lewis & Clark Trail, a national historic trail managed by the National Parks Service that meanders 3,700 miles through 11 states.

The Corps of Discovery, led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, traveled the Midwest up to the northwest coast in search of the Northwest Passage from May 1804 and September 1806. Much of that journey was spent going against the current on the Missouri River.

The Missouri River played an integral role in the journey of Lewis & Clark, so it’s not surprising that a visitors center was built along its shores. It was just surprising to me.

The headquarters is housed in a building that’s, quite frankly, forgettable in an office building sort of way, despite of the National Park Service signs and the visitors center stands encouraging you to come in.

The National Parks Service's Midwest Region headquarters to the Lewis & Clark Trail is in Omaha.

The National Parks Service’s Midwest Region headquarters to the Lewis & Clark Trail is in Omaha.

My family has walked through the outdoor area, ignoring the signs explaining the significance. I’ve ran by and, in passing, wondered what was inside and then dismissed the thought. Since the National Parks Service is celebrating its 100th birthday, I decided to remedy the situation.

It was time to look inside.

If you’re thinking the same thing, here’s what you’ll find if you venture into the visitors center:

What to expect at Lewis & Clark Visitors Center

The Lewis & Clark Trail Headquarters Visitors Center in Omaha is contained to a lobby.

The Lewis & Clark Trail Headquarters Visitors Center in Omaha is contained to a lobby.

The visitors center is small, and you can figure 20 or so minutes to look at each display. The displays are themed based on some of the discoveries Lewis & Clark noted throughout their journey – biology, indigenous cultures, etc.

Replicas of artifacts collected during the Corps of Discovery's journey are on display in Omaha.

Replicas of artifacts collected during the Corps of Discovery’s journey are on display in Omaha.

While there, you can view a shortened version of the documentary “Ken Burns: Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery DVD.” It’s about 20 minutes and a great condensed history of the trail.

Or you can buy the 2- disc DVD documentary by Ken Burns and watch all 240 minutes of it. Whatever floats your boat.

What kids will like

If your kids have to touch everything they come across, they're in luck. Some displays have animal furs and replicas of artifacts for them to touch.

If your kids have to touch everything they come across, they’re in luck. Some displays have animal furs and replicas of artifacts for them to touch.

There are several hands-on displays that make a stop here worth it for families.

I tried my hand at writing – poorly – with a quill feather.

Kids will most likely enjoy the animal display and the dress up center.

Children can imagine themselves as a member of the Corps of Discovery as they sort through the costume trunk.

Children can imagine themselves as a member of the Corps of Discovery as they sort through the costume trunk.

The outdoor area, especially in the spring and summer, is a nice place to explore with children, as well.

(And by explore, I mean “climb on the sculptures” and then wander over to the sprayground.)

There's a short trail to walk on the north lawn of the headquarters, and it features informative signs.

There’s a short trail to walk on the north lawn of the headquarters, and it features informative signs your kids will ignore.

If you go

Lewis & Clark Trail National Parks Service Headquarters

Where: 601 Riverfront Drive

When: Summer hours, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday & Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Winter hours (Nov. 13 – April 15),Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday & Sunday, closed; closed some major holidays

Tip: Keep the Lewis & Clark theme going during your visit to Omaha and head to the Henry Doorly Zoo where they’re showing “National Parks Adventure 3D” on the IMAX screen right now.

Other Lewis & Clark Trail points of interest in Nebraska:

Niobrara State Park (Niobrara)

Ponca State Park Visitor Center (Ponca)

Blackbird Hill (Omaha Reservation, just north of Decatur)

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park (Ft. Calhoun)

Lewis & Clark Missouri River Basin Visitor Center (Nebraska City)

Steamboat Trace Trail (southeastern Nebraska)

Indian Cave State Park (Shubert)

April 8, 2016

What’s New In Downtown Lincoln

Have you been to downtown Lincoln, Neb., lately? There are a few new things to see if it’s been awhile:

– Lincoln Children’s Museum new additions

– Nebraska History Museum re-opens

– Centennial Mall’s redesign

I visited with my 6-year-old during a recent day of Spring Break to check things out.

What’s new at Lincoln Children’s Museum

 

The Lincoln Children's Museum

The Lincoln Children’s Museum

 

It’s been two years since we last visited Lincoln Children’s Museum, but two of the biggest updates have only happened at the end of last year: Cuckoo Construction and The Grow Zone. The museum gave my family complimentary admission so I could tell you all about them.

You can’t miss Cuckoo Construction, literally. The three-story exhibit catches your kid’s attention right when you walk in.

The view of Cuckoo Construction from the museum's lowest level. The third level has a wheel chair-accessible entrance.

The view of Cuckoo Construction from the museum’s lowest level. The third level has a wheel chair-accessible entrance.

Farley made a beeline for it even before I could get us into the museum.

Cuckoo Construction, presented by Hausmann Construction, is a clock tower kids can climb, but the fun part is all the construction they can do.

Foam bricks fall every 15 minutes from the Cuckoo Construction tower.

Foam bricks fall every 15 minutes from the Cuckoo Construction tower.

Kids rush to build walls, sending them up a conveyor belt or moving them with a mini wheelbarrow.  Every 15 minutes, the cuckoo comes out and cues the walls of bricks to come tumbling down.

Kids love it and for a second, I thought my son wasn’t ever going to leave that exhibit.

The Grow Zone at Lincoln Children's Museum is a new area for children 3 and younger.

The Grow Zone at Lincoln Children’s Museum is a new area for children 3 and younger.

Farley was too old for the new Grow Zone and determined to play elsewhere, so I only got a peek at it from the outside. This area is separated from the big kids stuff and looks like a little garden. It’s a calm play zone for children younger than 3. It’s a huge upgrade from what was in its place before.

Nebraska History Museum reopens

The Nebraska History Museum exterior was freshened up just as the interior was. "Inside Out" is the name of the artwork on the walls, showing pedestrian and passing cars a hint of what's inside.

The Nebraska History Museum exterior was freshened up just as the interior was. “Inside Out” is the name of the artwork on the walls, showing pedestrian and passing cars a hint of what’s inside.

Confession: I’ve never been to the Nebraska History Museum until last week when it was about to reopen. It’s been around for decades. Anyway, I can’t offer any thoughts on the improvements. But from what I gathered on the preview tour of the museum, the updates were sorely needed and the museum is ready for bigger and better things.

Artifacts on the second floor of the Nebraska History Museum.

Artifacts on the second floor of the Nebraska History Museum.

On two floors, the museum tells Nebraska’s story through displays, photography and audio/visuals. My 6-year-old tagged along on the tour, but I think this is the kind of place that would be enjoyed by multi-generations together. I think it would’ve been fun to have my dad along with us.

The first floor features a quilt display, which signage explaining who made each, why, and where they were made.

The quilts offered a unique glimpse into every day life of Nebraskans from more than 100 years ago. This one was made as a wedding gift and the display included the wedding invitation.

The quilts offered a unique glimpse into every day life of Nebraskans from more than 100 years ago. This one was made as a wedding gift and the display included the wedding invitation.

There’s also a photography exhibit by Barbara and Ralph Fox, which my son enjoyed, especially the photos of a blizzard, flood and the Nebraska State Fair (not in that order), and a gift shop.

Photos in the exhibit "American Dreams in the Cold War: Photos by Barbara and Ralph Fox."

Photos in the exhibit “American Dreams in the Cold War: Photos by Barbara and Ralph Fox.”

The second floor had the really good stuff and will be where most families will spend the most time. For kids, there’s a corner with hands-on activities, clothes for dress up and a teepee to climb in.

Churning butter at the Nebraska History Museum.

Churning butter at the Nebraska History Museum.

The majority of the floor is “Nebraska Unwrapped: Selections from the Collections,” and it takes us through the state’s history via displays of artifacts from colorful beaded sneakers and ball gowns to audio recordings, books and so much more. Some items were more than 1,000 years old. 

Beaded sneakers at the Nebraska History Museum.

Beaded sneakers at the Nebraska History Museum.

There’s also a photography exhibit on that floor called “Photographers and the Plains Indians.” The tour guide had some pretty interesting stories explaining some of the portraits.

Farley was fascinated by some of the stories about the Native Americans in some of the photographs.

Farley was fascinated by some of the stories about the Native Americans in some of the photographs.

The nice thing about this museum is that admission is FREE (donations accepted). They have a free tour every day at 2 p.m. and on the weekends this april, they’ll offer arts and crafts.

The Nebraska History Museum is super close to the children’s museum, and you can easily visit both in a visit. I recommend going to the history museum first, because it’s a struggle to get kids out of a children’s museum.

New look of Centennial Mall

The Centennial Mall was built in 1967 to commemorate the state's 100th anniversary. It's a scenic connection between Nebraska's most important institutions: the State Capitol and the University of Nebraska.

The Centennial Mall was built in 1967 to commemorate the state’s 100th anniversary. It’s a scenic connection between Nebraska’s most important institutions: the State Capitol (pictured, obviously) and the University of Nebraska.

Centennial Mall is undergoing a redesign and it’s going to be a pretty cool thing to check out once it’s all finished – especially the area by the Lincoln Children’s Museum and the Nebraska History Museum.

The mall stretches from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus to the State Capitol Building, from K Street to R Street. Each block will have its own theme.

The plaza by the children’s museum will be “Sparking the Good Life – Imagination to Innovation” (P to R streets), and the highlight will undoubtedly be the sprayground (they call it a “kinetic water feature” but we all know what that means). It will also have an art alcove and an amphitheater-type seating area.

Farley tried to find our county among the tiles lining one block of the mall.

Farley tried to find our county among the tiles lining one block of the mall.

Other themes include:

“We the People” (K to L streets) – There will be a formal, ceremonial plaza with a fountain, and it will recognize “Watchful citizens” and state leaders.

“Our Home Nebraska” (L to M streets) – The hope for this block is that students and visitors will congregate there to learn more about Nebraska. The state’s natural resources will be highlighted here, with a block-wide outline of the state with rivers and eco-regions featured.

“Mosaic of Nebraskans” (M to P streets) – This three-block area highlights the people, cultures, and organizations that have come together over time to create a social quilt of Nebraskans.

 

If you go

Lincoln Children’s Museum

Where: 1420 P St., Lincoln, Neb.

When: Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m.; closed Mondays and some major holidays

Cost: $9.50 (2-61), $9 (62+), $6.50 (1 year old), FREE (under 1)

Website 

 

Nebraska History Museum

Where: 131 Centennial Mall North, Lincoln, Neb.

When: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 4:30 p.m.

Cost: FREE (suggested donation is $2)

Website 

Current exhibits

 

Nebraska’s Centennial Mall

Where: Extends north from the State Capitol seven blocks on what would be 15th Street

Website

February 24, 2016

Omaha Day Trip To Plattsmouth

It started with a great review about a restaurant.

“Sisters Café is, at its base, a small-town cafe. That’s part of its charm and why it’s unusual menu — and the success of that menu — is even more notable.” 

I made note of that. Who knows, maybe someday I’d be in Plattsmouth and need a recommendation.

Sisters Cafe in downtown Plattsmouth, Neb.

Sisters Cafe in downtown Plattsmouth, Neb.

Then I read a year-in-review in another newspaper. There was that restaurant again!

“The best restaurant I reviewed this past year wasn’t in Lincoln. Instead, Sisters Café in downtown Plattsmouth was among those I enjoyed during my annual excursions out of town during July.”

Well then. Guess I should go there.

If you know me well, it’s not too crazy to think I’d make a special trip just for a restaurant. Those who know my family know it’s pretty much what we do. My parents drove to Sioux City once just for sausage.

So during the shortest sabbatical from full-time work ever, I found myself on a little road trip to Plattsmouth, expressly to eat at Sister Café.

About Plattsmouth

Go ahead, stare at the old buildings in Plattsmouth. They're darling.

Go ahead, stare at the old buildings in Plattsmouth. They’re darling.

Plattsmouth is the county seat of Cass County, Neb., and about 20ish miles south of Omaha. Cass County is one of the earliest settled counties in the state of Nebraska, and also one of the largest counties with 15 towns. Plattsmouth was established as a ferrying point of the Missouri River in 1852, and the name comes from its location at the confluence of the Platte and Missouri rivers.

Want to see the confluence of the two rivers? Head to the site once visited by Lewis and Clark Expedition at the Schilling Wildlife Management Area in Plattsmouth.

With a population of little more than 6,500, it’s a small town, and one with the most charming Main Street I’ve come across in recent years.

The colorful buildings on Main Street in Plattsmouth, Neb.

The colorful buildings on Main Street in Plattsmouth, Neb.

You’ll find cute, locally owned shops in the downtown area – clothing and a used book store stood out for me. You’ll also find antique shops.

There’s also the Cass County Historical Society Museum, which I visited briefly. For a small fee, you can see a ton of interesting items from our state’s past.

The historical marker by the Cass County Historical Society Museum.

The historical marker by the Cass County Historical Society Museum.

There were a few hands-on things in the museum, but for the most part, it’s look, don’t touch.

You can play this at the museum. Don't be shy.

You can play this at the museum. Don’t be shy.

It’s small but don’t let it detour you if you have a remote interest in Nebraska history. And, from experience, these types of county museums actually are quite interesting to children. We took a tour of one in Franklin County, Iowa, and all the kids on our tour got a kick out of the old timey stuff, especially the toys, phones and clothing.

One of the volunteers at the museum started playing a record while I was there - now that's how you add atmosphere to a museum.

One of the volunteers at the museum started playing a record while I was there – now that’s how you add atmosphere to a museum.

It’s the same sort of museum here in Plattsmouth. If you visit, expect to spend less than an hour (unless you’re one of those types who has to read every. single. plaque).

Scattered throughout the museum, you'll see lots of items with connections to the county, some invented there, some that belonged to residents, etc.

Scattered throughout the museum, you’ll see lots of items with connections to the county, some invented there, some that belonged to residents, etc.

One of the notable parks in Plattsmouth is Caboose Park with – guess! – a caboose. It’s actually a 1913 Burlington Caboose. The park also has the Cook Log Cabin, an old-time threshing machine and tractor. I didn’t actually see it, so I’m taking the county visitor’s guide’s word for it.

Let’s Talk Sisters Café

For me, the main draw was the Sisters Café, and it did live up to the hype. If you read the reviews, you know it’s both a Thai and a German restaurant. No fusion, the menus are totally separate.

I wish I had brought along Mr. Wonderful or some other relative who puts up with my spontaneous ideas so that I could’ve sampled some other dishes. I’m going back to try some German food next time.

As it was, I asked what the best thing on the Thai menu – crunchy chicken, they told me – and dined happily at the counter. It was so good.

My lunch at Sisters Cafe in Plattsmouth, Neb. - Crunchy Chicken. Must remember: It's impolite to lick the plate.

My lunch at Sisters Cafe in Plattsmouth, Neb. – Crunchy Chicken. Must remember: It’s impolite to lick the plate.

It started out with rice soup. It comes along with the lunchtime entree and it was so satisfying.

The rice soup that comes with the lunchtime entree at Sisters Cafe.

The rice soup that comes with the lunchtime entree at Sisters Cafe.

They also have a selection of German and southeast Asian beer, and wine.

And dessert. Which I regrettably didn’t order. Yelp reviews raved about the dessert. Figures.

Instead, I decided to get a sundae at a nearby soda fountain.

Because…how can you resist a soda fountain?

So, after pigging out at Sisters Café, I walked a block to River House Soda Fountain Café. The interior is pretty fun, and looking at all the dusty old stuff passed the time away until my sundae arrived.

My view when I saddled up to the bar at the soda fountain.

My view when I saddled up to the bar at the River House Soda Fountain Cafe.

Alas, I am spoiled by the ice cream shops in Omaha, and this sundae was, well, nothing special. Still, I can totally see my kids loving a visit here.

Timing your visit

Kim’s note: I’ll update this when I get specific dates for some of the events. Just know that things like the Taste of Plattsmouth and the Harvest Festival do not last a month. 

June through October – Plattsmouth hosts Destination Plattsmouth on Friday and Saturday evenings 

July – Taste of Plattsmouth

September – Harvest Festival, featuring parades, a carnival, car show and other fun competitions like corn eating contest and a water fight with the fire department.

October – Cruizin Mian

December – Victorian Christmas on Main

 

If you go


Sisters Café

Where: 534 Main St., Plattsmouth, Neb.

402-296-3283 (reservations would be smart on the weekend)

Website

 

River House Soda Fountain Café

Where: 402 Main St., Plattsmouth, Neb.

Website 

402-296-4949

 

Cass County Historical Society Museum

Where: 646 Main St., Plattsmouth, Neb.

Website 

402-296-4770