October 7, 2014

Fun Things To Do Near Lincoln Children’s Zoo

This is the last installment of a series about visiting Lincoln, Neb., with children. We took a whirlwind trip to the city recently – read the recap here.

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is a fun addition to a trip to Lincoln, but if you’re looking for a few extra ideas on what to do after you check out the zoo, I have a few suggestions.

Sunken CollageWM title 

I was pleasantly surprised by our visit to the Sunken Gardens, which is so close to the zoo, you could throw a rock at it, kinda. OK, not really, but it’s really close.

Taking a break to look over the Sunken Gardens in Lincoln.

Taking a break to look over the Sunken Gardens in Lincoln.

The free public gardens are simply gorgeous. If you’re camera-happy, you’ll be in your element here.

Most of the gardens are not shaded, but we enjoyed this short, shaded trail.

Most of the gardens are not shaded, but we enjoyed this short, shaded trail.

My kids enjoyed the water features, like the waterfall and the two man-made ponds.

There are two man-made ponds and a small man-made waterfall at the Sunken Gardens in Lincoln.

There are two man-made ponds and a small man-made waterfall at the Sunken Gardens in Lincoln.

I was fascinated by all the plants that I had no idea could easily grow in Nebraska.

For parents of young kids, you’ll be happy to know there are public bathrooms there. Always plan for emergencies, amiright?

Across busy 27th Street, and even closer to the zoo, you’ll find smaller gardens and a large water feature. The signs say “don’t play in the water” but the whole things screams “PLAY IN ME!” I had a hard time keeping my kids out, especially with the handful of kids splashing away in there.

Cross 27th Street to find this smaller garden area near the Sunken Gardens.

Cross 27th Street to find this smaller garden area near the Sunken Gardens.

 

The smaller gardens were reminiscent of French-style gardens (on a much smaller scale).

Another great find for our family was Antelope Park. We were leaving the zoo and the kids were still wired. All hopes for them napping on the way home were pinned to finding another outlet for them to run around and let out energy.

Then we saw it. A massive playground.

Antelope Park is located near the Lincoln Children's Zoo. It has wheelchair accessibility and a separate playground for younger children.

Antelope Park is located near the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. It has wheelchair accessibility and a separate playground for younger children.

 

Antelope Park is the biggest playground I’ve ever seen. The kid inside me was jealous of my kids.

I counted 12 slides! The park was also wheelchair accessible, and it had a separate area for children under 5. And there was a sandbox off to the side that is easy to block from your kid’s view.

Find the two places mentioned in this post:


 


 

Your turn: What’s near the Lincoln Children’s Zoo that your family loves – restaurants, outdoor areas, shops, etc?

 

More About Lincoln, Nebraska:

Sept. 8 – 24 Hours Of Fun In Lincoln With Kids

Sept. 16Lincoln Children’s Museum

Sept. 23Things To Do Near Lincoln Children’s Museum

Sept. 30 – Lincoln Children’s Zoo

Oct. 7 – Things to Do Near Lincoln’s Zoo (Sunken Gardens, Antelope Park)

 

More from Oh My! Omaha:

What you need to know about reciprocal memberships

My Nebraska Bucket List

Adventures At Morrill Hall

September 29, 2014

Lincoln Children’s Zoo

Today’s another installment in a series about Lincoln, Neb. Read the entire trip recap here.

No trip to Lincoln with kids is complete without a stop to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. The lines between petting zoo and full-blown zoo are blurred here, making a child’s experience all the better.

One of the first animals to greet you when you enter the Lincoln Children's Zoo.

One of the first animals to greet you when you enter the Lincoln Children’s Zoo.

 

During our whirlwind 24-hour trip to the city, we decided to visit one early Sunday morning. It’s a small enough zoo to plan a morning visit and finish in time for a kid’s nap time… if that’s a factor in planning trips.

 

Favorite parts

My favorite aspect of this zoo is the pretty meandering path from exhibit to exhibit. Trees and landscaping made it difficult to see what was around the bend, making each turn an adventure for my kids.

Checking out the flamingos at the zoo.

Checking out the flamingos at the zoo.

It’s really a nice place to stroll – and you can really get up close to the animals.

High five the zoo residents.

High five the zoo residents.

The zoo’s strengths are its hands-on activities, particularly the animal encounters. Mooch loved touching all the animals.

Mooch hit the jackpot with the Critter Outpost, a booth with young volunteers showing some fuzzy, feathery creatures.

Mooch hit the jackpot with the Critter Outpost, a booth with young volunteers showing some fuzzy, feathery creatures.

 

The only drawback to these hands-on activities, were that the encounters were a little too close. Farley – being our bouncy, vibrating-with-energy, Farley – accidentally stepped backward onto one of the lizards on the floor. I was about ready to resign from zoo visits.

Better to have the animals on a table than on a floor...at least when my kids are around.

Better to have the animals on a table than on a floor…at least when my kids are around.

 

Kids can have the opportunity to feed goats and other critters (like a camel), for a small fee, and they can also pay to ride ponies.

Feeding time is all day here.

Feeding time is all day here.

 

There are also small play areas for children scattered throughout the zoo. Sometimes kids just need to climb around like one of the animals, right?

Zoo Collage

Climbing, jumping and sliding are on tap for young zoo visitors.

As for the rest of the zoo, a lot of the exhibits were designed to get youngsters as close as possible to animals. There are also regularly scheduled activities with animals, so during our morning visit, we got to watch the penguins dine on fish.

It was fun to watch the keeper feed the penguins - they each have names and she keeps track of all of them. The crowd had fun trying to keep track of the names, too.

It was fun to watch the keeper feed the penguins – they each have names and she keeps track of all of them. The crowd had fun trying to keep track of the names, too.

 

There is a train to ride at the zoo, but I was disappointed in its route. It circled the outside of the zoo, barely giving you a chance to see animals from a different view.

Family selfie on the train.

Family selfie on the train.

Regardless, the kids loved it, and the tunnel the train goes through seemed to be exciting for them.

This is largely an outdoor zoo – so it’s only open from early spring to late fall. And if you visit during less-than-wonderful weather, you have just a handful options for indoor hideouts (Animal Kingdom being your best bet). We were there during a rainstorm and you just have to make do.

There is a place to buy food and enjoy it outside near a playground and a large dinosaur dig pit (yay for sand! – not). Like most zoos, you’re not going to find a ton of health foods, but there were fruit and vegetable options.

 

If you go

Where: 1222 S. 27th, Lincoln, Neb.

When: Open daily, April 9 to October 19,  2014, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., including holidays

Admission: Adults, 13-61, $8.95; children 2-12 and seniors, 62+, $7.95; children 1 and younger, FREE. Tip for Omaha zoo members – your zoo membership gets you 50% off admission at the Lincoln zoo! Take advantage of it.

Lincoln Zoo 3

 

More About Lincoln, Nebraska:

Sept. 824 Hours Of Fun In Lincoln With Kids

Sept. 16Lincoln Children’s Museum

Sept. 23Things To Do Near Lincoln Children’s Museum

Sept. 29 – Lincoln Children’s Zoo

Oct. 7 – Things to Do Near Lincoln’s Zoo (Sunken Gardens, Antelope Park)

 

More from Oh My! Omaha

What you need to know about reciprocal memberships

My Nebraska Bucket List

What’s Kid-Friendly In Lincoln’s Haymarket

 

September 16, 2014

Lincoln Children’s Museum

My family recently made a quick 24-hour visit to Lincoln, Neb. Read the trip recap here.

The first stop on our to-do list was the Lincoln Children’s Museum.

 

It's hard to capture all three levels of the Lincoln Children's Museum in one shot.

It’s hard to capture all three levels of the Lincoln Children’s Museum in one shot.

You know how tempting it is to compare new things to what you’re used to at home? I did it with the Lincoln Children’s Museum and Omaha Children’s Museum. I couldn’t help it. I’d heard so many people say this or that one was better.

There was no clear winner. There’s a lot to like at each, and each did some things better.

Let’s talk about Lincoln’s, though. It’s located a few blocks from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the downtown area. Parking is tricky, especially if you time it like us, and go on a Husker game day. There is no parking lot for the museum, it’s all street parking.

The three-story museum is a lot to take in for the first-timer. My kids had no idea which way to go, but they spotted a hot air balloon and water feature on the bottom level first, so off we went.

The bottom level had a lot we hadn’t seen at our home children’s museum.

Farley entranced by the water area.

Farley entranced by the water area.

The water area was really large, and was my son’s favorite in the whole museum. Kids could build dams, play with water toys, and for the youngest, there were little seats that gave them access to splash with their hands.

There's a stage in the basement of the children's museum, complete with a sound booth for kids to play with (or dads, as the case is here).

There’s a stage in the basement of the children’s museum, complete with a sound booth for kids to play with (or dads, as the case is here).

The rest of the lower level was an assortment for different interests – a tunnel system to pretend to be prairie dogs; a stage and dress up area; the fun photo opp, the big red rocking chair; and several other play areas.

Enter in those holes at your own risk. Grown up rear ends don't glide through there so easily.

Enter in those holes at your own risk. Grown up rear ends don’t glide through there so easily.

The middle floor featured areas that represented Nebraska life well. Here are a few things you’ll find in Tiny Town:

Tiny Town at Lincoln Children's Museum.

Tiny Town at Lincoln Children’s Museum.

Kids could play at places like:

Kimmel Family Apple Orchard (with a game both my kids enjoyed).

Learning about the harvest season at the Kimmel Family Apple Orchard exhibit.

Learning about the harvest season at the Kimmel Family Apple Orchard exhibit.

 

A Hy-Vee Grocery store

The Nebraska Cornhuskers corner – featuring stuff from the football, volleyball and baseball teams

Note the little Husker football player hiding in the back of the court.

Note the little Husker football player hiding in the back of the court.

 

It also had an area for children to pretend to be in the police and fire departments, as well as a cute separated area for younger visitors.

The place for the littles to play.

The place for the littles to play.

The top floor had some exciting stuff for my kids – a full-size plane, plus a mini space station.

Kids can get inside this airplane.

Kids can get inside this airplane. Or adults, if that’s what you’ve been dying to do.

It was also the location of the small art center and face painting stations, the top of the tree house (the tree runs through all three levels) and some other transportation-related stuff.

A view of the top level of the Lincoln Children's Museum.

A view of the top level of the Lincoln Children’s Museum.

Favorite parts

My preschooler said he loved the water room the most. The sound of the running water was relaxing, and there was a lot of space to play.

Water play at its most fun, with only a slight chance of soaking clothes. Parents and kids differ on whether this is a good or bad thing.

Water play at its most fun, with only a slight chance of soaking clothes. Parents and kids differ on whether this is a good or bad thing.

My 2-year-old seemed to return the stage again and again. Between the costumes and being able to see herself on TV, I know she loved it. I liked how there was a sound booth kids could play with and they can change the scenery themselves.

Dress up is always a hit with this kid. She also liked changing the scenery, so she could be a princess under the seas or in the jungle.

Dress up is always a hit with this kid. She also liked changing the scenery, so she could be a princess under the seas or in the jungle.

If you go

Lincoln Children’s Museum

Where: 1420 P St., Lincoln, Neb.

When: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.

Admission: Children younger than 1, FREE; 1 years old, $5; ages 2-61, $8; 62+, $7.50. Reciprocal membership alert! If you belong to Omaha Children’s Museum, you receive 50% off admission for up to 6 people.

Website

 

 

More About Lincoln, Nebraska:

Sept. 8 – 24 Hours Of Fun In Lincoln With Kids

Sept. 23Things To Do Near Lincoln Children’s Museum

Sept. 29 – Lincoln Children’s Zoo

Oct. 7 – Things to Do Near Lincoln’s Zoo (Sunken Gardens, Antelope Park)

 

More From Oh My! Omaha

What you need to know about reciprocal memberships

My Nebraska Bucket List

What’s Kid-Friendly In Lincoln’s Haymarket

 

August 15, 2014

Exploring Two Rivers With Kids

If you’ve lived in the Omaha are for a few years, most likely you’ve heard of Two Rivers State Recreation Area, AKA Two Rivers. Having spent my childhood just a few miles from there, it’s surprising I had never been there.

Well, not really.

I hated fishing. My family didn’t do the “tent” thing.

Flash-forward to 2014 and here I am with a family interested in doing both.

Two Rivers title

Kinda. I’ll explain later.

What to expect

This place is for families…who love to fish. In addition to the nearby river, you’ll find several sand-pit lakes stocked with trout (lake 5), bass and the like. Fish species available in lakes Nos. 1, 2, 6 and 7 include largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, bullhead, catfish, and carp. Lake Nos. 3 and 4 are catch and release lakes, and barbless hooks are required. All lakes are open year round except for Lake No. 5.

If you love to fish, you've come to the right place.

If you love to fish, you’ve come to the right place.

We brought the kids’ fishing gear to try out the catch-and-release trout lake one morning in August. No luck.

One friendly fisherman tipped us off that the parks department restocks the lake in the spring and that April would be prime time to fish there.

The park is also known for its repurposed cabooses, which sleeps up to six people. They have two bunk beds and two mattresses in the cupola. They have bathroom facilities (with a shower), and a kitchen with a stove, refrigerator and sink. Outdoors, you’ll find a grill and firepit at each of them. They’re only open Memorial Day through Labor Day, though.

You can stay overnight in one of the cabooses at Two Rivers SRA. You can bet it's a hit with children.

You can stay overnight in one of the cabooses at Two Rivers SRA. You can bet it’s a hit with children.

You can bet my kids were enamored with these cabooses. I foresee an overnight in one of these babies in my future.

There are several campgrounds suited for tents and campers. We did the tent thing (our first overnight with the kids – an adventure in itself).

Our camp area was crowded, a combination due to the end of summer nearing and fantastic weather. It’s definitely an RV kind of place.

Tips

Pack a swimsuit and sand toys for the children. One of the kids’ favorite parts of the park was the small beach not too far from our campsite in the Goldenrod section.

Lake No. 4 is a lake you can swim in, though there is no lifeguard on duty.

Lake No. 4 is a lake you can swim in, though there is no lifeguard on duty.

If you’re curious, it’s Lake No. 4 and there are no lifeguards.

It wasn’t too deep, and everything you’d expect from a Nebraska lake.

Bring your bikes. It’s a flat area and drivers seem to be pretty careful out there. We saw many new bicyclists testing out their bikes and training wheels out there. Made us regret leaving ours at home. I found out, after the fact, you can rent bikes there.

There is a convenience store located at the park’s entrance that serves up a decent breakfast if, for example, you packed a pitiful breakfast and everyone’s still hungry.

The park's convenience store has most everything you need for camping, including what I'd consider essential, soft serve ice cream.

The park’s convenience store has most everything you need for camping, including what I’d consider essential, soft serve ice cream.

And thank the restaurant gods, they have a “while you’re waiting” stash of games there. We made use of that.

The convenience store is also where you can get all the other camping supplies you forgot, toys for the beach, and ice cream. All important stuff. They also have a cold water cooler there, which is nice to refill your water bottle if you’re out for a walk.

Drawbacks

We’re a hiking kind of family, so this park was not a good fit for us because there were no great trails.

The closest we got to hiking at Two Rivers SRA was a short trail around one of the lakes.

There aren’t hiking trails like you find at bigger parks. This one was nice but really short and not at all removed from the rest of the world (ie. the campsites).

The closest we got to a hike was a short walk around the trout lake.

The playgrounds were incredibly dated. My kids didn’t so much complain as just willingly leave when I suggested we head back to our campsite to start dinner. My kids never willingly leave a playground.

The playground near our campsite.

The playground near our campsite.

If you go

Two Rivers SRA

27702 F St., Waterloo, Neb.

From Omaha, take Q Street (west) all the way out or Center Street to 264th Street and turn south at the flashing light.

 

There’s a lot of beauty at this park, and if you’re a fishing kind of family, you’ll enjoy this park.

Have you been to Two Rivers? What’s your favorite part of the park?

 

You may also like:

Mahoney State Park For Families

Exploring Indian Cave State Park With Kids

Exploring Platte River State Park With Kids

July 29, 2014

Exploring Platte River State Park With Kids

There’s a lovely state park halfway between Omaha and Lincoln with lookout towers offering views of a river, lush hardwood forests, paddleboats and a pool. If you’re thinking Mahoney State Park, think again.

Platte 6

Platte River State Park is a quick 20-mile drive (give or take) from Omaha. It’s not usually the first park to come to mind when we decide to get some fresh air, but after this past weekend, it’s moved up in the pack. I’d visited the park one time before this, but it was the off-season and we didn’t explore nearly as much. You can read about it in the post Exploring Platte River State Park In The Off-Season.

We didn’t stay in a cabin, so I can’t offer much overnight details (other than tent camping isn’t allowed… but there ARE teepees).

A view of the Walter Scott Jr. Lodge and nearby tower.

A view of the Walter Scott Jr. Lodge and nearby tower.

 

What to expect

Most of my outings involve two young children, so here are a few reasons families will like this park:

Scenery – The hiking trails are pretty extensive in the 418-acre park, with the bonus appeal of offering a waterfall (a small one, but still nice destination for a young family). There some trails that are steep, but most are easy. There are also mountain bike trails but we’re not quite there yet with the kids as far as ability level is concerned. Or ourselves.

Platte collage 2WM

Pool – There is a small pool that opens at 1 p.m. in the summer. Other than a diving board, it doesn’t have much to rival the bigger state park nearby. What it probably does offer is a less crowded place to cool off.

Horseback rides – These rides are guided and open to anyone 5 and older. There are fees, naturally.

Paddleboats – Paddleboat rentals are $8 for a half-hour, plenty of time to explore the small lake at the park. They have sparkly ones, which may not be a selling point to you, but for every kid on the dock that morning we were there, it was a huge one.

Platte collagewm

Ducks – Working downtown, I’m no stranger to watching people feed ducks. It’s just something people love to do. There are a handful of ducks and geese at the park and, for a quarter, you can get a small handful of food to feed them. Kids love that stuff.

Feeding ducks at Platte River State Park.

Feeding ducks at Platte River State Park.

Equipment rentals – You can rent sporting equipment (like tennis rackets or fishing gear for catch-and-release fishing) for FREE. This is the case at most state parks, just so you know.

Lookout towers – Platte River State Park has two lookout towers, a smaller wooden one and a tall metal one. My kids have never met a tower they didn’t have to climb.

 

This tall tower provides a great view of the Platte River.

This tall tower provides a great view of the Platte River.

Craft center – I haven’t been inside their craft center, but if you’re staying for a few days at the park, it’s a nice diversion.

Outdoor Heritage Education Complex – For pretty low fees, you can try out archery or slingshots, or break out the firearms and test out the firearm and shotgun range.

They also have a good education program there. During our visit, there was a park employee with different animal pelts on display sitting at a table near the marina.

 

What’s to eat there?

It’s a state park, so there are ample spots for a picnic, which I’d recommend. If you’re staying a cabin, it’s nice to see they have firepits (not something you see at Mahoney).

The Owen Landing marina has a snack bar with the expected usual concessions, including ice cream.

The Walter Scott Jr. Lodge Restaurant is less casual than the snack bar, though we still ate there after sweating through a long hike. The building is dated, but it has an inviting appeal to it, kinda like visiting your grandma’s favorite restaurant. The service was incredibly friendly. We went on a Sunday, when they only have a buffet to offer. For the price (kids 3 and younger are FREE), it was a good choice for us. If you’re vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions, it may be limiting.

Brunch at the lodge at Platte River State Park. Fried chicken was king with the kids.

Brunch at the lodge at Platte River State Park. Fried chicken was king with the kids.

 

What’s near the park?

It’s not far from Schramm Park and Mahoney State Park, if you want added hiking trails and all the attractions found at Mahoney (see my post on some of our favorites, including the activity center).

It’s also located near Ashland, Neb., where you can visit the Nebraska Wildlife Safari and Strategic Air & Space Museum.

If you’re a fan of wineries, it’s not too far from Soaring Wings Vineyard in Springfield, Neb., and Cellar 426 Winery in Ashland, Neb.

 

Looking ahead

The park shows movies in its amphitheater every Saturday night in the summer. They have a lot of benches to sit on, so I’m not totally sure if you have to worry about bringing your own seating. Here are the remaining movies in the 2014 series:

“8-Below” Aug. 2

“Shrek” Aug. 9

“Finding Nemo” Aug. 16

“The Jungle Book” Aug. 23

“Charlotte’s Web” Aug. 30

 

You may also like:

Nebraska Wildlife Safari With Kids

Mahoney State Park For Families

Ultimate Nebraska Adventure This Summer

July 22, 2014

Exploring Indian Cave State Park With Kids

Note: This visit to Indian Cave State Park was part of a full day trip from Omaha. Most of the day was spent in Brownville, which you can read about in yesterday’s post.

 

Not far from the Missouri border, about 10 miles from Brownville, is the Nebraska attraction, Indian Cave State Park. A little off the beaten path, this gorgeous park is located near the Missouri River and is known for its namesake, Indian Cave. For a detailed history, head to OutdoorNebraska.com.

If you’ve been to the Loess Hills in southwest Iowa, this park will have a familiar feel to it given that it is, in fact set in the Loess Hills (new fact for me, I didn’t think Nebraska could claim Loess Hills).

 

Indian Cave, one of the attractions of this Nebraska state park.

Indian Cave, one of the attractions of this Nebraska state park.

There are lots of campsites – and backcountry camping is allowed – so Mr. Wonderful and I decided we may just come back in the fall to camp here.

With a park map in hand, that’s where we headed to first. Having only seen one picture of the park, I honestly expected the cave to be cavernous. Something we could walk in and explore. Maybe it’s the “Goonies” fan in me.

What we saw, then, was a disappointment.

Here's the cave, which you can see from a wooden walkway.

Here’s the cave, which you can see from a wooden walkway.

The graffiti couldn’t be ignored. It covered the walls of this landmark.

Prehistoric drawings mixed in with some modern idiot graffiti.

Prehistoric drawings mixed in with some modern idiot graffiti.

Farley and I did attempt to find the prehistoric petroglyphs of animals on the wall amid the graffiti.

Looking for prehistoric cave drawings.

Looking for prehistoric cave drawings.

We both lost interest quickly and headed back to the car, where a sleeping Mooch and bored Mr. Wonderful waited.

Onward into the park we drove.

We made a pitstop to play in an ancient park. The hypochondriac in me didn’t like the chipping paint and sharp metal edges on the playground equipment but the kids loved the place.

Can't drive past a park without stopping to play, now can we?

Can’t drive past a park without stopping to play, now can we?

The swings were a hit.

Our next stop was at the Living History cabins. The resident soap maker, blacksmith, candle maker and broom maker are there on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (from Memorial Day into October).

The friendly soap maker.

The friendly candle maker.

We arrived near 4 p.m. and so did a quick run through the area.

The cabin was the most interesting to the children.

The living history cabins and display booths are open weekends during the summer.

The living history cabins and display booths are open weekends during the summer.

Our final stop was a scenic overlook. We watched five raptors soar in the wind.

A scenic lookout at Indian Cave State Park.

A scenic lookout at Indian Cave State Park.

It was peaceful, until Mooch broke out into “Let It Go” and Farley interrupted my brief history lesson by asking when the aliens came.

I think we were all ready to call it a day.

There is a lot more to explore in the park, so we’ll return someday soon.

 

If you go

Indian Cave State Park

65296 720 Road, Shubert,  Nebraska

402) 883-2575

Website

 

Getting there from Omaha

South on Highway 75, East on Highway 136 (9 miles), South on Highway 67 (9 miles), East on Highway 64E (5 miles).

Or you can take Interstate I-29 South, take Exit 110 to Brownville. Follow US-136 West (7 miles), South on NE-67 S (9 miles),  East on NE-64E (5 miles). Continue on NE-64F Recreation Road and you’ll get there.

 

Highlights

– Horseback trail rides are available in season

– There is a restored schoolhouse and general store from the old river town of St. Deroin, where old-time crafts are demonstrated on weekends during the summer

– Halloween is celebrated throughout October. Expect hayrack rides on certain dates, as well as a haunted forest. After hearing the soapmaker describe it (The Headless Horseman makes an appearance with a chainsaw), I’d suggest only older kids go to it!

 

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