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Road trip across Nebraska


Wild West fanatics, archaeologists, outdoor enthusiasts, and antique lovers beware.  Nebraska's hills, rivers, and plains are buried deep in all kinds of history, adventure, and well, quirky stuff.  Big reasons right there that your family should take a road trip across Nebraska and back in time.   

My 10 year old daughter and I just returned from a spontaneous road trip through Nebraska.  The passing of my sweet Grandpa Ted took my 10 year old daughter and I back to our roots.  We left our home in Colorado Springs to celebrate my Grandpa's 96 years of living.  And well-done! I must say.  He was a successful, smart, and loving husband, father, grandpa, and farmer.  So, we headed towards that small northeastern Nebraska town where my parents were born and raised, became high school sweethearts, and married.  Until we see you again in Glory, Grandpa!


On our way, we soon hopped on Interstate 80 through Nebraska's cities of North Platte, Kearney, and Grand Island.  Then we jumped on the Lincoln Highway, the first road across America.  These same highways follow the Platte River and the famous Pony Express Trail, Oregon Trail, California Trail, and Mormon Pioneer Trail.  (Did you know Interstate 80 stretches from downtown San Francisco all the way to New York City?  Sounds like one adventurous future road trip!)

Our by-far favorite stop on this little road trip turned out to be the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument in Kearney.   This cool museum literally sprawls out across the interstate and covers 170 years of America moving and traveling west.  Life size displays and true accounts of families moving west in wagons, Pony Express Riders, 49ers searching for gold, connecting of the railways, car-camping, drive-in movie theatres, and road-side cafes all told through a kid friendly hand-held device.  Takes just under an hour to walk through.  Pretty much the best family-friendly museum I have been to in ages.  My 10 year-old love it.  I loved it.  You'll love it, guaranteed.  


Coming and going across Nebraska, we stayed in North Platte at the Hampton Inn (read pool, free breakfast, and a Starbucks across the street - three musts when traveling with kids).  We happened to be just steps away from the 1960s-feel tourist attraction Fort Cody Trading Post.  This free gem is worth 30 minutes of stepping back in time as you ramble through the gift shop, the free Old West Museum, and especially the free Buffalo Bill's Wild West Miniature Show (20,000 hand-carved wooden miniatures; electric show every 30 minutes).  Buffalo Bill's home, Scout's Rest Ranch, is also in North Platte.

Next time we're in North Platte, we plan to visit Grain Bin Antique Town.  It just so happened it was closed on the days we were there.  And if you have train lovers, The Golden Spike Tower looks fun too - all of the trains you could ever wish to see in one place.

My daughter and I loved our spontaneous road trip tracing our roots.  I was reminded of how much history is wrapped up in this state, and of many other fun Nebraska destinations (see more ideas down below).  We even got to drive by the farm where my mother grew up and where I ran around one or two weeks each summer as a child.  I can picture myself riding one of Grandma's rickety old bikes down that old lane just like it was yesterday.    


More family fun in Nebraska:

Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska's two largest cities, make for super fun family weekends.  Lincoln is home of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers (my dad's alma mater!) where the natural history museum is a family hit.  Stroll around the university and take in a college game.  Eat at Valentino's.  

In Omaha, spend an entire day at the Henry Doorly Zoo -- we love the aquarium there. The Old Market District is Omaha's "most historic, most entertaining neighborhood" with all kinds of restaurants, art galleries, and shopping.  And, one of my favorite free family things to do is take a ride (or two or three!) down the long and lumpy slides at Gene Leahy Mall, just to the north of Old Market.

Mahoney State Park is found midway between Lincoln and Omaha.  This park is open year-round and sounds like an outdoor enthusiast's haven.  Hiking, swimming, biking, trail rides, hunting, golfing, kayaking, and more!  You could stay here and make day trips to Omaha or Lincoln. 

Junkstock stretches out over Sycamore Farms, an old dairy farm in Omaha.  Check Junkstock's Facebook page for their calendar events.  

Arbor Lodge State Historical Park  Just off Interstate 29 in southeast Nebraska.   Stay at the Lied Lodge where they just completed a multi-million dollar renewal!  This place is all kinds of wonderful and I can't believe I haven't been back in ages.

Chadron State Park along the 385 Gold Rush Scenic Byway in northwestern Nebraska.  Get lost among the buttes and canyons of nearby Pine Ridge National Forest.  

For more ideas for travel fun in Nebraska, request a free travel guide by mail, or even better, download the electronic guide at

What have you seen and done in the state of Nebraska?  Please comment below - we'd love to hear your ideas!