April 15, 2014

Exploring Platte River State Park In The Off-Season

On a recent cool, gray spring day, I took the kids to Platte River State Park in search of a waterfall.

Platte collageWM

I needed some fresh air and a change of scenery, and the kids needed some place to run and explore.

Farley poking around a fallen tree trunk.

Farley poking around a fallen tree trunk.

I can’t recall the last time I’d been to this park, if I ever had. I know now, we’ll be back.

We parked in the first lot by the park entrance, the sign “waterfall” in view. Off we went, following an easy, flat trail of dirt and bridges.

The start of the easy hike to the waterfall at Platte River State Park. I see my daughter has my patient look.

The start of the easy hike to the waterfall at Platte River State Park. I see my daughter has my patient look.

The hike to the little waterfall was not long and can be walked by the smallest of kids. Or ran as is usually the case.

Spring’s not quite here in Nebraska, but even with the gray surroundings, the park’s setting is remarkable this time of year.

Regardless of the season, I have a feeling this park is pretty year-round. It's pretty peaceful, at least.

Regardless of the season, I have a feeling this park is pretty year-round. It’s pretty peaceful, at least.

It’s peaceful and you feel very much like you have the park to yourself.  My kids and I enjoyed being silly on the trail.

You can hear the waterfall before you see it. The anticipation of exactly how big it will be grows.

Found the waterfall!

Found the waterfall!

OK, I’ll admit it’s no Smith Falls. The kids wanted to keep walking so we didn’t spend much time by it.

If you keep on the trail heading toward the river, you’ll encounter a steep climb. I let the kids lead and, naturally, they headed for the hill. It’s manageable for most abilities.

Going up, up, up on our loop hike at the Platte River State Park.

Going up, up, up on our loop hike at the Platte River State Park.

Once at the top, there’s a clearing with some campsites and picnic tables. You can complete a loop back to the trail to your parked car in under an hour easily.

I think we’ll be back once things are greener and warmer. The park has paddleboats I’d like to take the kids on, and certainly more trails to explore.

Platte River State Park meets the kids' approval.

Platte River State Park meets the kids’ approval.

Your turn: Have you been to Platte River State Park? Where do you recommend us exploring next?

April 13, 2014

Birthday Celebration Day 7: Strategic Air & Space Museum Pass Giveaway

Stock photo by Praveen (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en). Photo has been edited.

Stock photo by Praveen (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en). Photo has been edited.

The Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, Neb., is one of those museums that truly caters to all ages.  Children and adults like exploring the museum and for different reasons.

My kids love the planes and looking inside them. They love the kids’ science area.

Hands-on exhibits interest my kids at the Strategic Air & Space Museum.

Hands-on exhibits interest my kids at the Strategic Air & Space Museum.

Adults, particularly history and aviation buffs, appreciate the impressive collection of aircraft, the attention to detail in the exhibit descriptions. Who am I kidding? We also like being able to get inside the planes, too.

Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

It’s one of the most unique museums in the state, and well worth the 30-minute drive from Omaha to visit.

* * * * *

Giveaway!

AirAndSpace_005WIN

Want to see what’s new at the Strategic Air & Space Museum? I’m giving away two passes to the museum!

It’s easy to enter. You can get extra entries if you follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, plus you can tweet about this giveaway daily for an extra entry each day!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends at 11:59 p.m. on May 4. A random winner will be selected by Rafflecopter, and I will contact that winner via email with details on retrieving the tickets. Total value of the tickets is $24.

I want to thank the sponsors who are making Oh My! Omaha’s birthday celebration so awesome, especially the Strategic Air & Space Museum for providing tickets for today’s giveaway! Other great sponsors are Omaha Symphony, The Rose, Omaha Performing Arts, Omaha Children’s Museum, and Vino Van Gogh.

 

Check out the other giveaways:

Win 4 tickets to see National Geographic Live’s Exploring the Red Planet – ends April 18

Win two tickets to see Omaha Symphony’s “Singin’ in the Rain” + a $25 gift card to Upstream Brewery – ends April 20

Win 2 tickets The Rose’s “Ramona Quimby” – ends April 20

Win 4 tickets to “Spank! Harder The Musical” – ends April 27

Win 4 passes to any Vino Van Gogh class in Omaha – ends April 27

Win a family pass to the Omaha Children’s Museum – ends May 4

Win 2 tickets to Bluebarn Theatre’s “33 Variations” – ends May 4

March 18, 2014

The Ultimate Nebraska Adventure This Summer

Maybe you don’t have the time to sit down and think of a whole Nebraska bucket list like the one I did yesterday.

No biggie.

Turns out, others have made a check list for you this year.

Great Park Pursuit

First up is the Great Park Pursuit – A Nebraska Outdoor Adventure. Get the rules here.Great Park Pursuit

Basically, you get a team together (AKA, your family). You pick a park. You print the Park Page and take it with you. Following some clues, you find the GPP post in the park and then put your Park Page over the post and make a tracing of the impression (so you’ll want to bring a crayon or pencil – and being a mom, I’m pretty sure I already have one of those in my purse).

It begins May 1. Send all of your completed nature impressions in by Sept. 17 in order to be entered in for the prize drawings.

This would be a load of fun to do with kids – maybe combine it with some camping or hiking?

Nebraska Passport Program

PrintThe Nebraska Tourism Commission recently the 80 stops in the 2014 Nebraska Passport Program. This one goes beyond parks and into towns, businesses and – a little mom and dad high five here – breweries.

The gist of this great hunt is that you go to the participating attractions, collect stamps and then you earn prizes. This year, they divided the 80 stops into 10 themed tours: Sips and Suds, Patchwork Passion, Rare Finds, Home Grown Nebraska, Fork in the Road, Hit the Snooze, Without Walls, Stars and Stripes, How We Move and Can’t Get Enough.

Now this could be a fun family activity all summer long, or I could see it as a great list to check off with your mate. I’m particularly eyeing the Sips & Suds list as something I could see me and Mr. Wonderful taking care of without the kids (of the breweries and wineries listed, we’ve only been to one so it’s almost all new to me).

This fun program runs from May 1 through Sept. 30. For each completed tour, participants win a Nebraska Passport T-shirt. Travelers also can receive 20 $1 Nebraska Lottery Scratch coupons (for 20 stamps) and a digital picture frame (for 40 stamps) and a Pebble Smartwatch (for all 80 stamps). The grand prize is a TV. If you turn in a passport with at least one stamp (and you’re 19 or older), you qualify for a drawing for 300 $1 Nebraska Lottery Scratch tickets.

Passports will be available at participating stops in May or can be pre-ordered by emailing info@NebraskaPassport.com.

Combine Them For The Ultimate Nebraska Summer?

Lucky me, some destinations on my bucket list are part of these two programs, or near them. If I were a planning woman – and I am – I could see checking off several stops from both the  Great Park Pursuit and Nebraska Passport Program in one outing.

Your Turn: Do you plan on doing either of these programs this summer? Where do you want to go?

March 17, 2014

My Nebraska Bucket List

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Good ol’ Nebraska. It’s my home state, I’m pretty protective of it. Fly over it if you must, but you’re missing out.

I’ve done my fair share of exploring but there is a lot in Nebraska I have yet to see. So here it is, things I need to see in Nebraska before I die, My Nebraska Bucket List:

Nebraska Bucket List

1. See Nebraska’s Ultimate Landmark. Chimney Rock is Nebraska’ ultimate icon, our claim-to-fame in pioneer history. It’s probably time I see it in real life.

Chimney Rock, one of Nebraska's most recognizable landmarks. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Chimney Rock, one of Nebraska’s most recognizable landmarks. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

2. Go Western. I’d like to do the whole Fort Robinson experience thing.

A trail ride near Fort Robinson.

A trail ride near Fort Robinson.

Ride the Fort Robinson Express stagecoach, maybe go on a horseback trail ride, see the buffalo and longhorn cattle herds and take part in a campfire singalong.

UPDATE: We visited! Here’s my review of the state park including one thing I didn’t know about: Off-road jeep tours!

The Fort Robinson Express. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

The Fort Robinson Express. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

3. Stay at a ranch, maybe do some ranch things. I’m not sure what that would be – probably ride a horse and herd cattle. I should watch “City Slickers” again to refresh my memory. Here are a few guest ranches that I could see myself channeling my inner cowgirl: Ponderosa Ranch and Rowse’s 1 Plus 1 Ranch. And by channel, I mean, I do about 10 minutes of hard work and then relax the rest of my stay.

4. See a Native American pow wow. Long ago, I was an exchange student in Spain and my host family thought it was all pow wows in Nebraska. Not so much. But, I feel like I owe it to my host sister and her obsession with Native Americans and go to one of these finally.

Fort Robinson holds the Inter Tribal Pow Wow every year. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Fort Robinson holds the Interyribal Gathering and Pow Wow every year. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Fort Robinson is known for a big one, the Intertribal Gathering and Pow Wow, in June. There’s one in north Omaha held each September, the Fort Omaha Intertribal Powow, on the same grounds here Ponca Chief Standing Bear was once imprisoned.

5. Walk along strange land. Ever since I saw a picture of Toadstool Geologic Park (the Oglala National Grassland), I’ve been fascinated by the strange rock formations. People say they look like toadstool mushrooms or the lunar surface. I should see for myself.

Toadstool rock formations. This does not look like a place in Nebraska, right?! Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Toadstool Geologic Park. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

UPDATE: We did it! You can see a picture of our visit in this Western Nebraska/South Dakota road trip recap post.

6. Watch paleontologists at work at Ashfalls Fossil Bed State Historical Park. This one’s pretty self-explanatory.

Ashall Fossil Beds in Nebraska. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Ashalls Fossil Beds in Nebraska. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

7. See Nebraska’s archaeological hidden gem. Toadstool isn’t too far from the Hudson-Meng Research and Education Center where there’s an excavation of a 10,000 year old bison bonebed going on. I read about the hidden gem last summer and it’s stuck with me ever since. Add that to my list.

8. Take an airboat tour. I’ve seen airboats glide along the Platte River and it just looks fun. I’ve seen that river countless time from a car and the lookout tower at Mahoney State Park, so I want to see it from a different view now.

Sunset on the Platte River. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Sunset on the Platte River. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

9. See the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island. I haven’t been to the state fair since I was child – back when it was in Lincoln. I don’t even remember it. It’s probably time I go back. And I suppose I ought to bring the kids.

The Nebraska State Fair in 2011. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

The Nebraska State Fair in 2011. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

10. See the Scottsbluffs National Monument so I can check off a Top 10 list.

Scotts Bluffs National Monument. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Scotts Bluffs National Monument. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

The Nebraska Tourism Commision released a list of 10 of the state’s top attractions and events and this was one of two I haven’t been to (see #1 on this list for the other). So I must go there. I’m a completist.

11. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Omaha style. South Omaha has a large celebration every year, and every year I think I ought to check it out (former exchange student sense of duty).

Cinco de Mayo festivities in South Omaha. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Cinco de Mayo festivities in South Omaha. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

12. Enjoy a dinner paired with the right wine at the Boiler Room in Omaha’s Old Market. While this isn’t the new darling on the Omaha dining scene anymore, it’s one of those restaurants that I’ve been meaning to check out and never do. I’ve heard the wine list is divine.

13. See one of the College World Series championship games in its new home, TD Ameritrade Park. I’ve been to many CWS games at Rosenblatt Stadium, never one of the championship ones, though.

The College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

The College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

For more ideas on where to go in Nebraska, consider a quirky book like Nebraska Off the Beaten Path®: A Guide To Unique Places or Nebraska Curiosities: Quirkly Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff .

Your turn: What’s on your Nebraska bucket list? And what’s missing from this list?

February 28, 2014

60 Days of Science At Strategic Air & Space Museum

Saturday’s a big day at the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, Neb. It’s the start of 60 Days of Science – two months of STEM activities and presentations (STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) for children. The Discovery Challenge caps off the 60 days, more on that later.

60 days of scienceThere’s a lot planned and depending on what your little one’s interests are (or what you want them to be), you may find yourself visiting a few times in the next few months.

Any time you visit during March and April, you’ll want to check out the Science Zone for kid-friendly activities. In March, there will be a microscope lab, density jars, acids and bases, and an air launcher activity. In April, check out the diffusion activity, popsicle stick catapult, gumdrop atoms, paper airplane and a catapult activity.

Launching - or at least trying to launch - their handmade rocket in the Science Zone.

Launching – or at least trying to launch – their handmade rocket in the Science Zone.

My kids had fun at the Science Zone during our visit, so even kids as young as 2 years old will probably enjoy messing around in there.

If you visit on the weekends, you’ll find presentations and hands-on fun in addition to the Science Zone. Each weekend is themed and each has a presentation at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; following the presentation will be a variety of activities.

Themes

Biology – March 1-2, 8-9

Astronomy – March 15-16, 22-23, 29-30

Engineering – April 5-6, 12-13

Invisible World – April 19-20, 26-27

Here are a few weekend happenings that caught my eye:

This weekend

  • Dissecting a shark. Holy cow. That’s all I have to say. There are biology themed activities after the presentation, but holy cow. Dissecting a shark. Plan your visit this Saturday or Sunday to coincide with either the 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. presentation.
  • Oreo Moon Phases. This is one of the activities that follows the astronomy week presentation on March 15-16, 22-23 and 29-30. It just sounds tasty.

Do you have a mini Einstein that totally rocked a science fair this year? You’ll want to check out the Discovery Challenge on April 30. STEM Champions (qualifiers had to place first through third in any STEM related competition) from around the region will display their projects at the museum. That in itself would be interesting to check out – I’m sure there will be some impressive projects.

The projects will be judged and the winner not only gets bragging rights, he or she will get cold hard cash, as well the student’s teacher. Get all of the details here. Applications accepted through April 15.

 

If you go

Address: Strategic Air & Space Museum, 28210 West Park Highway, Ashland, Nebraska

Hours: Open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: $12 for adults; $11 for 65+ and active/retired military; $6 for kids (4-12); free for kids 3 and younger and members

January 21, 2014

Strategic Air & Space Museum With Children

Until recently, I figured the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, Nebraska, just wasn’t my thing. I didn’t think aviation was my thing, and while space travel sounds exciting, I never felt motivated to visit the museum. Then I had kids. And it turns out that this museum is for people like me. It impresses me, actually.

But more importantly for this post – my kids enjoyed it there. A lot. As in, take off like they’ve been launched into space as soon as we get into the museum.

What to check out with kids?

Your first stop will likely be the Science Zone right by the entrance – or if your kids are especially wound up from the car ride, head to the hangers so they can run. And run. And run.

Our last visit was this winter and the Science Zone featured several activities, some more suited to my under-4 crowd than others.

Didn’t matter, they enjoyed watching big kids play, too.

Dominoes were tough for my littles to figure out but they liked watching the big kids make an elaborate path.

Dominoes were tough for my littles to figure out but they liked watching the big kids make an elaborate path.

The hit was the over-sized building blocks, though the kids also liked the weather map and rocket launcher. I think I disappointed the kids since I have very little mechanical ability – the rocket I helped them construct was a dud.

Launching - or at least trying to launch - their handmade rocket in the Science Zone.

Launching – or at least trying to launch – their handmade rocket in the Science Zone.

The museum features two large areas of full of aircraft, displays on uniforms and a lot of history. There’s an exhibit on astronaut Clayton Anderson that at least made my kids pause on their sprint around the museum. Enhance your visit by sharing some fun facts on the SAS website.

Strategic Air and Space 6

However, if yours are like mine, my kids were only interested in the planes they could climb in (can you blame them?). I’m pretty sure the kids didn’t even notice any signs.

"Roger that, Houston."

“Roger that, Houston.”

And the ride-on toys. And the bounce houses.

Naturally.

Bigger kids will like the simulation ride. That’s extra (as is the ride on toys and bounce houses. Naturally).

Many people like to pair a visit to the SAC Museum with some of the attractions nearby – Mahoney State Park and the Gene Simmons Safari. That’s fine, especially if you’re traveling from far. However, the museum itself is worth the trip by itself.

Kids love the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Nebraska.

Kids love the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Nebraska.

If you go

Address: Strategic Air & Space Museum, 28210 West Park Highway, Ashland, Nebraska

Hours: Open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: $12 for adults; $11 for 65+ and active/retired military; $6 for kids (4-12); free for kids 3 and younger and members

Food: There is a cafe on-site offering mini pizzas, hotdogs, chips, pretzels, that sort of thing

Thank you to the Strategic Air & Space Museum for providing two complimentary passes. All opinions expressed were my own.