What’s in Nebraska?

As a travel counselor we have lots of continuing education in the form of conferences and online studies.  Learning about all the different, new and upcoming destinations, along with all the new ships and tour operators!  There is so much for us to learn!  Oftentimes in life we learn from our own trials/errors.  And oftentimes we find we learn from others.  At least I do!  That’s what happened to me this spring!  While sitting in my office with a client and having some casual talk she mentioned the really neat Zoo in Nebraska.  (INSERT: Jaw dropping)  Now, no offense to those that live in Nebraska but other than Tornadoes and flat roads/highways I didn’t think there was ANYTHING else in Nebraska, at least nothing “touristy”.  BUT!  I was wrong!  I’ve been educated!

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Arriving into Nebraska at dusk

So being the planner that I am- I took a trip that we had planned to Iowa (to go see my in laws) and turned it into a family vacation.  They were excited to join us on our adventure so we met up with them in Nebraska, stayed 2 nights, hit the zoo and then came back to Iowa for a relaxing weekend with family.  From Central IL it is a 6-hr drive.  For my family in Iowa it was about 3.5-4 hours.

A little bit about Nebraska- {Omaha to be exact}:
I recommend you check out the Visit Omaha website!  There are LOTS of quaint places with lots of great eating places- perfect for the FOODIES out there!  There is shopping and things to do!  One of those things to do with families is to visit the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.

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View of the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Omaha, NE

It was a good experience.  Fun for the kids and lots to see.  But I will say I wasn’t impressed with the “shows”.  Rather there weren’t any shows– they had Sea Lion training, Elephant training, and Lion training and really it was just giving the animals commands while a narrator told what they were doing and checking with the animals.  I was SUPER excited for a sea lion show with my son but the show started 5 minutes late (not good with an active, needing-a-nap 2-yr-old) and then did not hold his attention because they didn’t really do anything.  The show ended quickly after it began.  We were all pretty disappointed.  So don’t waste time with the shows!  But I will say the exhibits all had LOTS of viewing areas so you were never “on top” of other people trying to get a “peak”.  There were plenty of windows to move about and see the animals.

While it would’ve been so fun to go “downtown” and eat and walk the streets, our kids were NOT in the mood to be able to do that!  After a long day and heat everyone went back and crashed at the hotel for a short time before we found a BBQ joint nearby, Smoking Jays BBQ.  A mom and pop shop with pretty affordable and good food.  We then spent the evening back at our hotel swimming pool and in our cozy comfy beds!

Another tour option nearby Omaha is Council Bluffs, IA.  We chose to stay here as it was a tad cheaper in price and was about 7 minutes away from the Zoo and the rest of Omaha.  We stayed at the Springhill Suites Marriott.  I could write a blog post on this alone!  Suites are  so nice when traveling with kids.  We also took advantage of the free hot breakfasts! Afterall, who wants to pay for a buffet for a 2-yr old that is going to pick around and eat like a bird?! My niece and sister in law are gluten free and we were pleased with their selection of items available for them as well; they had yogurt, eggs, oatmeal, and fresh fruit.

So let’s break this down!

Omaha for the families:
YOU GUYS! I’m still learning so much about this place and we seriously will need to plan a trip back!  Here are some things to do with your family– in this family-friendly destination!

  1. Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, get up close to the worlds fastest aircraft, Walk under, sit in the cockpit, or peek into the bomber bay of rare warplanes!
  2. Visit Bob The Bridge!  I would’ve loved to take a walk on this Bridge!  Did you know it’s taller than the leaning tower of Pisa?!  It floats 60′ above the Missouri River!
  3. Float down the Elkhorn River in a tube!
  4. Catch a kid-friendly show at the Rose Theater; a fully-restored 1927 theater showcasing childhood favorites!
  5. Rent Heartland B-cycles and go for a family ride through Omaha city parks. (Ages 12+)
  6. Visit the Heartland of America Park and go for a gondola ride similar to those found in Venice, Italy.  Then marvel at one of the worlds largest shooting fountains!
  7. Eat, Play, and Ride at the Amazing Pizza Machine.  A 60,000 sq ft funhouse filled with indoor rides, arcade games, and pizza!
  8. Train lovers?  Walk up to Kenefick Park and visit the Centennial No. 6900 and the Big Boy No 4024, two of the most powerful locomotives ever built.
  9. Explore the First National’s Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park, featuring more than 120 bronze sculptures.
  10. Visit the Children’s Museum!

I’m thinking Fred and I just may need to go back ourselves even, as a couples getaway.  We would stay downtown and visit the Old Market, Midtown Omaha, Central Omaha and so much more!  Each of the entertaining areas deserves to be scouted out and observed!

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Finally- our hotel was located near a large BASS PRO SHOP!  With two “outdoorsy” guys we couldn’t say goodbye to Coucil Bluffs without a stop!  It was fun.  I tried my hand at shooting some fake raccoons, never fear, my aim is terrible.  I think I shot 1 thing (out of 25).  My husband fared a little better….

And finally, after our fast trip to Omaha and the zoo we headed back to Iowa.  There we had the privilege of eating dinner with one of my clients that I get to call MY FRIENDS!  I love the PEOPLE aspect of my job.  I love making YOU happy and I LOVE that the relationships turn into friendships.  I am blessed and thankful!

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Sorry for the blurry picture and the lighting.  It was late and kiddos were tired!  A fast snapshot was all we got!

Safe Journeys,

Megan

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