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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April 2, 2017

Visiting The Western Historic Trails Center

The Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs is one of those notable historic landmarks within a few miles of Omaha that you know you ought to visit at least once, but you probably haven’t.

The Western Historic Trails Center is located in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

At least, that was my family’s case until recently.

 

One unseasonably warm winter day, we decided we wanted to get outdoors, but we were tired of going to the same park, the same trails. And then I remembered the paved trails on the Council Bluffs side of the Missouri River. Why not do something new that combined a hike with a bit of local history?

About Western Historic Trails Center

Some exhibit pieces at the trails center were interactive, making it more engaging for children and adults.

This small center is dedicated to teaching us about four historic trails that passed through this area: the Lewis and Clark, Oregon, California and Mormon Trails. You can learn about the pioneers who traveled the trails, as well. The National Park Service designed and built the center and admission is free.

The exhibit space includes photos, maps, some interactive pieces sculptures, and my kids’ favorite, audio records (must be the thrill of holding a phone? I dunno). There’s also a small theater space to watch a film. If you want to learn more about the area’s significance, read this.

What is it about phones? This might have been my kids’ favorite exhibit just because they could listen to people on this audio device.

We didn’t spend a whole lot of time here. Only one child could read, for one thing; for another, they still have a rough concept of time. Everything “old” to my preschooler is 99 years old, no matter what.

Outside the Western Historic Trails Center, you’ll find paved and unpaved trails, as well as interpretive sculptures.

Still, it’s worth peeking in before going on to my favorite part of the area: The trails.

Trails By The Western History Trails Center

Flat terrain make it easy to keep an eye on speedy kids.

The paved trails will take you toward the Missouri River for a nice walk, or if you’re on bike, you can take the trails further along north toward two casinos and the Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, or further south toward Lake Manawa State Park. Part of the trail is unpaved if you’re going to try to get a view of the river.

We weren’t expecting to find a pond along the way to the Missouri River. The kids loved drawing in the sand.

We were on foot and with our dog, so we opted for the easy walk to the river. We passed by a small pond, which was a nice diversion to explore. It was disappointing to see how much trash has been left in the area.

That’s the eastern side of Omaha across the river.

In short order, we made it to the river and got a fairly plain view of Omaha (it was winter, after all). Still, your kids should be able to spot some landmarks, including the zoo and the train engines at Kenefick Park near Lauritzen Gardens.

Events at Western Historic Trails Center

Inside the Western Historic Trails Center.

This year, the center is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the theme is Wild West. Events will be held throughout the year, though I don’t have much details on them. So far, I’ve heard of some documentaries screened there as a part of that celebration. The next screening coming up is on April 30 showing the film “American Experience Documentary: Annie Oakley.”

In the past, there have been music jams, live re-enactments along the trail, and holiday events. I recommend following WHTC on Facebook to keep up to date.

If you go

Western Historic Trails Center

Where: 3434 Richard Downing Ave., Council Bluffs, Iowa

When: Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; closed official state holidays

Cost: FREE

Website

 

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March 30, 2017

Watching The Total Solar Eclipse In Nebraska

Unless you’ve been on a social media break or you live under a rock, you’ve heard about the total solar eclipse this summer (Aug. 21, 2017). And the bigger news for Nebraska is that the path of this eclipse passes through it.

 

Why is a total solar eclipse big news?

A solar eclipse is a type of eclipse that occurs when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and the Moon fully or partially blocks the Sun. When it’s a total solar eclipse, the Moon fully blocks the Sun, and then a shadow is cast on Earth – it’s almost as dark as night.

Edgerton Explorit Center educator, Dan Glomski, explained the significance in Nebraska well (read full text here): “Total solar eclipses are extremely rare events. The last visible from the Grand Island area occurred in the year 1194, and the next won’t be until the year 2744. In fact, there hasn’t been a total solar eclipse witnessed in the continental United States since 1979 and won’t be another until 2024.”

Where To See The Total Eclipse In Nebraska

So, now you want to be somewhere that falls along the path of the total eclipse, don’t you? I’ve been geeking out about this for months, and already booked my hotel room in Grand Island. Should you go there? Should you go somewhere else? Don’t ponder it for too long, lodging is filling up.

Here’s a list of some of the activities I thought sounded the most promising for families. 

Alliance

There’s a weekend of events in Alliance, as they bill it: “Food, Bands, Arts, Games along with educational and fun events to make your visit to Alliance memorable, educational, and fun for the entire family.” What stood out to me were the motocross races that weekend. There’s also the music fest, Toadstock: Party on the Prairie, Aug. 18-22. Carhenge also happens to be one of the viewing places for the eclipse, so there’s that.

Beatrice

One of the closest cities to Omaha that’s falls into the path of the total eclipse is Beatrice. The main viewing site is Homestead National Monument of America, which was named by USA Today as one of the top 10 places to view the solar eclipse. The PBS animated show, “Ready Jet Go,” will be part of the events Aug. 20 and 21, with all-ages programming, including demonstrations by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory astrophysicist Dr. Amy Mainzer and live music by the Ready Jet Go Band. Around town, find Stock Car Racing on Aug. 18, as well as special screenings of ‘50s horror movies . It also coincides with Village of Adams Community Days.

Cortland

There will be country music and a life-sized board game in the park, and following the eclipse, the town plans on having a brief fireworks display and a watermelon feed and ice cream social.

Grand Island

There’s free viewing at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, which sounds like a cool venue for it. The Crane Trust has some amazing activities included with its two-day packages, including kayaking, fat biking and hiking (price includes overnight stay). The city has also partnered with nearby towns for a complete weekend of activities, includingThe partnership is working to create viewing opportunities and educational programs surrounding the eclipse, including Eclipse Extravaganza at the Edgerton Center, a portable planetarium that will travel throughout the state, a nighttime star party, and more.

Hastings

Hastings is holdings its first ever SolFest from Aug. 18-21, that looks like it’s going to mix art, music, and science.

Kearney

Kearney will have several viewing sites, including the Arch. Some of the weekend festivities include live music and an astronomer chat.

Lincoln

Our state capitol is on the north end of the totality path. Head to the Saltdogs baseball field, Haymarket Park, for viewing. There is a special noon game that day, which will go into eclipse delay, so fans and players can enjoy the rare phenomenon.

North Platte

Sitting on the edge of the totality path, North Platte has some great activities for all ages in the works, including historical presentations of Native American and early settlers’ reaction to past eclipses; make and take art workshops; astronomy education for all ages; and area historical and cultural presentations.

Pawnee County

There are a couple sites to view the total eclipse. In Table Rock, one location includes a farm with a view of the valley and the entrance fee covers lunch. Organizers point out that the farm is neighbors with Amish, so there’s an interesting twist to your viewing.

Ravenna

Details aren’t out yet for Ravenna, but organizers have indicated that festivities will include speakers, concerts, vendors, games, and many more exciting opportunities.

Stapleton

Activities start Aug. 17 here, with a rodeo that runs through Aug. 20. There’s also a 5K race and parade on Aug. 19. There’s a lot planned actually. There are two dedicated viewing sites:  Logan County Fairgrounds or August Wind Golf Course.

Sutherland

Morgan Birdwood Ranch in Sutherland has a couple packages for those looking for an unordinary way to experience the eclipse: From a secluded ranch. The price point is out of my range, but maybe you’d like it.

Tryon

A lot of activities on the schedule for Aug. 20 and 21, in addition to viewing the eclipse, but the ones that sound fun to me include a prairie tour/trail ride for $35/family, a working cow dog exhibition, sod house tour, and a petting zoo. 

More things to know about the solar eclipse

Where did I get this information and where can you find updated details? You’re going to want to go to this site first. Several cities or counties have their own pages, as well. 

Before you go: Some of these viewing sites charge a fee, so be sure to make a reservation to be sure you get in on the day of the eclipse. And as noted earlier in this post, hotels are filling up. My first choice destination for the weekend had ZERO hotel rooms left, so don’t procrastinate on booking.

Are you planning on traveling to see the total solar eclipse? Where and why did you pick it?

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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?

October 5, 2016

6 Worlds Of Fun Halloween Tips For Families

I think I found a new fall tradition: Halloween at Worlds of Fun. It’s like summer vacation meets sweater weather. It’s fabulous.

pirate-at-worlds-of-fun

Visiting Worlds of Fun in the fall means Halloween activities for all ages, plus all of your favorite rides (except for those water ones…)!

My family was invited by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and Blog Meets Brand to experience the Great Pumpkin Fest at Worlds of Fun for the first time ever this year. We’d had a blast at Worlds of Fun in the early summer, so I was curious to see how different it was in the fall.

Here’s how to make the most of it fall activities at Worlds of Fun, especially if you’re going to visit with young kids.

Beware: Daytime Halloween is completely different from nighttime Halloween at Worlds of Fun.

1. Time your visit right for your family

Hints of what happens at Worlds of Fun at night can be found throughout the park.

Hints of what happens at Worlds of Fun at night can be found throughout the park.

The park is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays this month. Great Pumpkin Fest is on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Go then if you’re looking for the fall festival feel. Things turn mighty creepy after dark on Friday and Saturday nights for Halloween Haunt. Go only if your kids are old enough (recommended age is 14+). Click here to get the park hours and be doubly sure you’re going at the right time.

And in case you were wondering, most rides are open and the lines are much shorter in October than they are in the summer. Holla!

2. Going on Saturday for Great Pumpkin Fest? Hit the big rides early

The lines were shorter for rides earlier in the day during The Great Pumpkin Fest. When grown-ups started to arrive for Haunt, the lines for the roller coasters grew.

The lines were shorter for rides earlier in the day during The Great Pumpkin Fest. When grown-ups started to arrive for Haunt, the lines for the roller coasters grew.

Saturday is the only day that has both Great Pumpkin Fest followed by Halloween Haunt. The older crowd that’s planning on going to Haunt start arriving before it actually starts (scares begin at 6  p.m.), but not so early in the day as you think. If your kid is tall enough for roller coasters and the other big rides at Worlds of Fun, ride them before about 2 or 3 p.m. to enjoy the shorter wait. There is a notable uptick in visitors later in the day and those grown ups are headed to the thrill rides.

 

3. Plan ahead and get your preschooler a FREE ticket

Small kids will like the easy hay bale maze.

Did you know you can get free complimentary admission to Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun for all of 2017 by registering your kiddo for a Pre-K pass? If you register now, your preschooler can get a free ticket to Great Pumpkin Fest!

Totally new this year, Worlds of Fun offers kids ages 3 to 5 a free Pre-K pass. The pass grants complimentary admission to Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun for the entire 2017 season. Register and process (AKA, redeem) a Pre-K pass during the 2016 season in order to get a free visit to the Great Pumpkin Fest this year! Get started here.

 

4. Let your kids wear costumes

You can meet Snoopy during The Great Pumpkin Fest at Worlds of Fun.

Costumes come in handy with all the photo opportunities and the trick or treating.

There’s a costume contest in Planet Snoopy at 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays for ages 11 and younger. Kids love dressing up regardless. But, more importantly, in this age of Instagramming everything, just think of the cute photos. Which leads me to the next tip.

 

5. Bring the camera

You'll find oversized photo opps inside and outside the park, like giant jack-o-lanterns.

You’ll find oversized photo opps inside and outside the park, like giant jack-o-lanterns.

Throughout the park, you’ll find great fall-themed photo opportunities. Be sure to tag Worlds of Fun, you just might end up on one of the TVs throughout the park. Use #WorldsOfFun and if it’s your first time going there, use #WOFFirstTimer.

And yeah, some of the photo opps will be creepier than others.

6. Pick your Halloween fun

The mini pumpkin patch at Planet Snoopy.

The Linus’ Great Pumpkin Patch at Planet Snoopy, the kids area at Worlds of Fun.

Worlds of Fun is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Charlie Brown’s The Great Pumpkin so they’ve planned a lot of activities for the kiddos. My kids wanted to ride everything AND see everything, which just isn’t possible. So they picked what they really wanted to do: Meet Snoopy, pick a pumpkin out, and trick or treat. Throw in a handful of rides and it was a great afternoon.

Here’s the rundown for your family to pick your Halloween must-dos, you’ll find all of this in Planet Snoopy:

– Photo opps with Peanuts characters walking around

– “It’s the Great Pumpkin” Picture Show on the screen at the Peanuts Showplace

– Lucy’s Costume Contest

– Trick-or-Treating in Peanuts Playhouse

– Peppermint Patty’s Haybale Maze is cute for the littler kids

– Linus’ Great Pumpkin Patch is right near the entrance of Planet Snoopy and that’s where your kids can pick out their free pumpkin

– Sally’s Creepy Crafts

– Spooky Tales With Snoopy

 

If you go

Worlds of Fun in October

When: Great Pumpkin Fest and Halloween Haunt are going on now through Oct. 29 (Fridays, from 6 p.m. to midnight, and Saturdays, 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.). Plan ahead next year, Halloween festivities begin in mid-September.

Where: Worlds of Fun, 4545 Worlds of Fun Avenue, Kansas City, Mo.

Cost: Park tickets are as low as $36.99. Tickets cover admission to all Great Pumpkin Fest starts activities and if you wanted to, you can stay for Halloween Haunt. Halloween Haunt-only tickets starts at $35.99. Parking starts at $15.

Worlds of Fun Website

Make a trip of it!

My family has had a long love affair with Kansas City. For ideas for other fun things to do with kids in Kansas City, start here! If you can’t make it to Kansas City this fall, consider winter because, seriously, it’s the best time to visit! Here are 15+ things to do in Kansas City at Christmas time, and here’s a KC weekend winter itinerary.

Need a hotel? Check out this great Courtyard we stayed at with the kids. A little further from Worlds of Fun, but closer to some fantastic attractions is the Sheraton the my kids still talk about (that rooftop pool…).

September 2, 2016

10 Things You Must Do In Council Bluffs In The Fall

Fall is an ideal time to visit Council Bluffs, Iowa. A gorgeous time.

I was recently asked by the Council Bluffs Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to write about the city which inspired this sponsored post. I’m not exactly a local expert but the city has a special place in my heart. I spent about 10 years working in Council Bluffs, and even though my daily commute doesn’t bring me down West Broadway anymore, I return with my family to revisit my favorites.

If you haven’t visited in a while, here’s a list of fun things you must do in the fall in Council Bluffs.

10

Shady Lanes Ranch

Hayrack ride time at Shady Lanes in #CouncilBluffs!

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Shady Lanes Ranch Inc. has fun hayrack rides that end with your group being dropped off at your own bonfire. We brought friends last year for the first time and had so much fun. The kids enjoyed the hay fights between with passing hayracks.

Ditmars Orchard

 

It’ll be tough to find a closer apple orchard than Ditmars. My family enjoys the relaxed pace of the orchard, which is perfect for younger children. You can walk out to the orchard or hop on a hayrack to go further into the orchard (if you’re going with little kids, this hayrack ride is a hit). They also have a pumpkin patch for later fall activities. While there, kids will enjoy the playground and corn maze. Before you leave, do not skip the concession stand. You must get the fresh apple donuts. You’ll thank me.

Ditmars is a hot spot in the fall for events. In September alone, there’s the AppleGrass Festival, Fields of Flight hot air balloon weekend, and a kite-flying weekend.

Bayliss Park

Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs is pretty visit any time of day, but the modern fountain lit up at night is a sight to see. The park has a splash ground that’s great for kids on hot summer days, too. The park also has free concerts and movies throughout the summer.

Union Pacific Railroad Museum

So many buttons to push in this place

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If you have a train-loving kid in your house, you need to visit Union Pacific Railroad Museum in downtown Council Bluffs. This FREE museum features some interactive displays, and lots and lots of memorabilia.

If you’re kids are really into trains, plan for a second train stop in C.B. at RailsWest Railroad Museum.

 

Wabash Trace Trail

This long, crushed limestone trail is great for cycling (not with your road bike, mind you) and running. Wabash Trace Trail starts in Council Bluffs and takes a scenic route southward through the Loess Hills and tree-lined fields for 63 miles. It’s an old railroad route so the slopes are never steep. On Thursday nights, hundreds of bike riders take the famous Taco Ride from Council Bluffs to Mineola for food and drinks, and then ride back. It’s a ton of fun! If you try it, make sure your bike lights are working – it gets very dark on the trail.

 

Dixie Quicks

 

Few restaurants in the metro area can compare to the creativity and taste of Dixie Quicks and for that alone, you should visit. The cool setting, quirky shop and gallery connected to the restaurant, and the dinosaurs kids can play with while you wait are icing on the cake. Brunch is my favorite time to dine there. Find Dixie Quicks on the historic 100th block of Council Bluffs, a pretty part of the city not to be missed.

Arts Center at IWCC

The Arts Center at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs has two performance spaces where you can see student performances and touring productions. There’s a full season of shows, so it’s not just a fall thing to do. Occasionally a kid-centric show will be presented there, so keep an eye on the schedule.

Lake Manawa State Park

 

Lake Manawa is definitely busy in the summer with boaters, fishers and swimmers enjoying the beach. In the fall, take advantage of the cooler weather to bike the paved trails or if you’re the adventurous sort, the 8 miles of mountain bike trails. If’ you’re there with younger children, don’t skip Dream Land Park.

 

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

I like running to another state over my lunch breaks, how about you? #Nebraska #Iowa #runner

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Probably one of the top 5 photographed attraction in the metro area, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spans the Missouri River, connecting Iowa to Nebraska. The photo opp of all photo opps is straddling the state line. Summer on Council Bluffs’ side can be pretty busy, especially on the green space of the park that’s right near the bridge, Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park. There are concerts and outdoor movie screenings there, especially during Loessfest.

 

Stir Outdoor Concert Cove

OK, this is more of a summer place to be for live music, but the Stir Concert Cove schedule stretches into the fall so I’m including it. The outdoor music venue at Harrah’s Casino and Hotel brings in some of the best touring bands that come to the metro area. While they are all-ages shows, I usually find a sitter when I get tickets to a show.

 

Bonus!

Where to eat in Council Bluffs

I can’t limit myself to just 10 great things about Council Bluffs, at least, not if it means I have to cut out some food talk. Dixie Quicks is great, but it’s not the only restaurant in town. If you’re hungry for pizza, head to the local favorite, Pizza King. If you’re at Bayliss Park, my favorite spot for a treat afterward is Ellie’s Deli & Ice Cream Shoppe. Christy Creme is another ice cream place to visit in the summer; we usually stop there after a trip to nearby Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek.

For a filling breakfast a cozy diner, head to Duncan’s Cafe on Main Street. I dare you to tackle the serving of hashbrowns – I swear the plate is the size of a hub cab.

If you’re in Council Bluffs without kids, my favorite spots I recommend visiting is 1892 German Bier House, 360 Steakhouse at Harrah’s (the best view!), and Cellar 19, and wine bar and deli.

 

Places Still On My To-Visit List

For all the years I’ve worked in Council Bluffs, I’m a little embarrassed to say I’ve never been to two of its biggest historical attractions: Squirrel Cage Jail and the Gen. Dodge House. The Dodge House often has events with actors dressed in period costumes and at Christmas time, they have special nights for families. (drips), a new-to-me coffee shop on Main Street, is also a place on my list.

 

Your turn: What are some of your favorite Council Bluffs attractions and restaurants?