windmill is seen through a window at the Kregel
Windmill Factory Museum in Nebraska City, Nebraska.
The museum is scheduled to open at the end of April
Neb. — While everybody talks about the
"flyover" states, few people stop to see what
all the chatter is about. In the midsection of the United
States sits Nebraska, a state that boasts treasures worthy
of unfastening your seatbelts and putting your tray-table
in its upright position.
"golden triangle" of Omaha, Nebraska City and
the state capital, Lincoln, is a good place to start.
else could you dog the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, visit
the state’s most popular venue and discover terrain that
made "Little House in the Prairie" a hit?
blossoming under the canopy of the Union Pacific Railroad,
Omaha is now a sophisticated city with five Fortune-500
companies and much to see and do. Its Old Market district
is peppered with stately brick warehouses that fell on
hard times when railroads declined.
rest here with their ghost-like ads clinging to the
exteriors still whispering of patent medicines, wood
works, buggy repairs — their interiors resuscitated for
jewel in this crown is the Durham Museum in the old Union
Station. It’s an art-deco classic with multi-colored
marble halls and life-sized resin replicas of folk from
the ‘40s, frozen in time. A traveling salesman pores
over the time table, a matron bellies up to the ticket
counter, a soldier waits for the "all-aboard."
in 1931, the station once handled 10,000 passengers a day,
serving seven railroads. Transfixed with nostalgia, you
can still score a chocolate shake at the old-fashioned
soda fountain. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for kids
most popular attraction is the Henry Doorly Zoo and
Aquarium. Animals in the zoo are partitioned according to
geographic location: South America, Asia, Africa. The site
features the world’s largest indoor desert and an
aquarium that offers a 70-foot water tunnel where fish
slither above you.
places to eat in Omaha include the Boiler Room, J. Coco,
the pub Dundee Dell, and Warren Buffet’s favorite,
include: The Embassy Suites Downtown, located in the Old
Market district; $170-$249, (800) 362-2779; and the nearby
Embassy Suites / LaVista, which sits in a convention
center, (402) 541-1480. The Courtyard by Marriott costs
about $109-$189, (866) 204-9388, and the Holiday Inn runs
between $142-$249, (402) 341-0124.
an authentic flavor of Nebraska don’t miss the Farmers’
Market, May through mid-October on Saturdays from 8 a.m.
to 12:30 p.m. at 11th and Jackson streets, Sundays at
Aksarben Village, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 67th and West Center
you harbor a creative bent you can visit artists in their
lair at Hot Shops Art Center. Located in a former mattress
factory, the Center houses 80 artisans indulging their
muses in everything from blacksmithing to oil painting.
They welcome on-lookers.
glance at the Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha’s botanical
gardens, and you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. You
can hop a tram for 10 bucks and view its 17 outdoor
gardens, incredible model railroad, and massive steam
locomotive that once chugged for the Union Pacific.
on down I-80 about 35 minutes you’ll hit the Wildlife
Safari Park, where you can take a ride on the wild side,
spotting white-tailed deer, bison, elk, wolves, white
pelicans — all in their natural habitat. Open
down the road is the Strategic Air & Space Museum
featuring more than 40 military aircraft including the
centerpiece, the Blackbird spy plane, still the fastest
plane in the world clocking 2,200 mph.
in this region lies Nebraska’s most-visited state park,
the Eugene T. Mahoney. A rustic Disneyland, the park
boasts a water park, miniature golf, fishing ponds, indoor
theater, horseback rides, nature trails, camping
facilities, restaurant and bar (yes, a bar), ice skating.
Open year-round. Admission $5 a day vehicle pass,
attractions cost extra.
miles south of Omaha sits Nebraska City, an idyllic town
that despite its size (4,500) boasts 300 historic sites.
Explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left their
non-carbon footprints in Nebraska City. You can grasp a
sense of their mission with a visit to the Lewis &
Clark Interpretive Trail & Visitor Center here.
spot samples of the flora and fauna they dispatched to
President Thomas Jefferson, the weapons they carried, the
critters they encountered. Re-enactors simulate some of
their activities from May-October.
April 26 the Kregel Windmill Factory Museum will
officially open in Nebraska City. The factory operated
from 1903 to 1991, and it remains exactly as the owner
left it the day he became ill. It’s the site of the
oldest set of business records in the state. They still
abide atop the roll-top desk, yellowed with dust. An
overcoat still clings to its coat rack and the dial
telephone awaits the operator. To arrange a visit before
April email: )
and Best Western charges about $75 a night. (800-WESTERN.)
For dining try Parker’s Smokehouse: BBQ with Soul
(incredible brisket), El Portal Mexican Restaurant (a
favorite of locals) or, for lighter fare, Janie’s
Confections & Coffee.
the way to Lincoln, stop off at Denton and the Spring
Creek Prairie Audubon Center for a three-mile hike through
the REAL Nebraska, the way the settlers first saw it on
their way west.
prairie grasses, confetti of wild flowers, shimmering
cottonwoods and the sounds of the meadow lark punctuate
the undulating moraines that were nudged by glaciers eons
ago. If you look carefully you can even spot ruts left by
the wagons that passed this way.
the triangle with a visit to Lincoln, the state’s
capital and its massive capitol building topped by a
400-foot limestone tower. Tours Monday through Friday on
the hour from 9 to 11 a.m., 1 to 4 p.m. Entrance on the
north side, second floor.
are all kinds of museums here, from the National Museum of
Roller Skating to the Quilt Study Center, with the largest
publicly held collection of quilts in the universe. The
Sheldon Museum of Art displays more than 12,000 works in
all media, the free Nebraska History Museum at 15th and P
streets, follows the state from its pre-historic times to
World War II. Don’t miss the historic Haymarket District
and the Children’s Zoo where you can pet a hedgehog,
feed a llama or consort with hundreds of butterflies in
their very own cloister.
include the Holiday Inn downtown — $139-$148, (800)
465-4329; the Victorian Inn — $69-$105, (402) 475-4921;
and the Cobbler Inn, five miles from the University Campus
— $75-$80, (800) 777-4808.
good eats try the Capital City Grill in the Haymarket
area; Dish, great for seafood downtown; or La Paz Mexican
Restaurant in northeast Lincoln.
time to visit: Spring and fall.
Major airports in Lincoln and Omaha, smaller regional
airports across the state.
and road conditions: (800) 906-9069.
zones: Western third of the state on Mountain Time;
central and eastern areas on Central Time.
Visitors Center: (866) 937-6624;