Prairie Fire's Take-along Guide for the Nebraska Passport

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Discover What There Is to See in Nebraska

By Shannon Peterson

Sometimes people ask me, “What is there to do in Nebraska?”

They ask with a hint of sarcasm in their voice as if to imply there couldn’t possibly be anything to do here. Even people who live here—we’re a humble, modest group—often dismiss what Nebraska has to offer. We have a hard time believing in ourselves.

But Nebraska is amazing and diverse.

Are you a nature lover? Our landscape changes from luscious river valleys to wide-open prairies to spectacular rock formations that beckoned the pioneers. Discover the beauty of the state in hidden waterfalls, the undulating Sandhills and the endless horizon.

Looking for outdoor adventure? Explore the miles of waterways on a guided airboat tour, tackle the Niobrara National Scenic River in a canoe or take a leisurely float in a livestock tank. Grab your bike or hiking boots and head to one of our 87 state parks and recreation areas. Or visit one of the state’s award-winning golf courses; there are nearly 200 public-play courses to consider.

If you’re a history buff, Nebraska is paradise. Step into the state’s prehistoric past as you survey ancient fossil beds, including the largest bison bone bed in the western hemisphere. Follow in the footsteps of the great explorers, pioneers and Plains Indians. Or get in touch with the state’s rich cultural heritage at one of the many summer festivals.

So how does one find all these Nebraska gems? One way is with the 2012 Nebraska Passport program, which highlights the diversity of things to do and see in the state.

Developed by the Department of Economic Development’s Travel and Tourism Division, the Passport includes stops organized into 10 special-interest tours: culinary, culture, family fun, festivals, golf, GROW Nebraska, parks, unique accommodations, water adventure and wineries.

In addition to exploring fun sites across the state, travelers can earn great prizes just by getting their Passport stamped at the designated stops before Sept. 30. Participants can earn tour-themed T-shirts, $25 GROW Nebraska gift cards and digital cameras. And there will be a grand-prize drawing for an iPad at the end of the program.

Of course, the Passport stops are just a sampling of the state’s riches. The incentives are meant to entice travelers to visit a Passport site and collect a stamp. In turn, those stops will promote other opportunities in the area and encourage visitors to stay longer and explore other attractions.

That is the real benefit of the program—increased interest, traffic and tourism across the state. And there are additional economic benefits, as each participant travels across the state buying fuel, eating meals, spending nights and paying entrance fees along the way.

Visitors and residents alike are invited to pick up a Passport at a participating site or peruse the 2012 Travel Guide at www.VisitNebraska.gov/zinio and start discovering everything there is to see in Nebraska.

Passport Tour Descriptions

Culinary Tour

Culinary tourism continues to grow in popularity around the world. And truthfully, who doesn’t eat when they’re on vacation? So, since you’re going to eat, why not make your meals delicious and memorable? We’ve selected 10 local gems to tempt your taste buds. Imagine drinking an iced mocha in a horse stall, without the horse odor, or sampling the signature spuds at the state’s oldest tavern. From an art gallery, café and coffee shop with a roller-skating server to a family-style restaurant overlooking Johnson Lake, this tour gives foodies a quest to call their own.

Stops

  • Glur’s Tavern
  • Sandstone Grill
  • The Pink Poodle
  • The Sisters Grimm
  • The Most Unlikely Place
  • Kahill’s Steak - Fish & Chophouse
  • Green Lantern Steakhouse and Lounge
  • LakeShore Marina Resort

Culture Tour

Nebraska is rich with history, and Nebraskans take great pride in this fact. This tour will take you to historically and culturally significant sites across the state. Discover what it meant to stake a claim and make a home on the prairie at Homestead National Monument of America outside Beatrice. Explore the detailed architecture of the State Capitol, delicate carvings in petrified wood and beautiful beadwork of American Indians. The diversity of this tour reflects the diversity of Nebraska’s people, industry and history. But be warned: you may learn something along the way.

Stops

  • Wessels Living History Farm
  • Homestead National Monument of America
  • Willa Cather State Historic Site / Red Cloud Opera House
  • Museum of the Fur Trade
  • Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
  • Petrified Wood Gallery and Art Center
  • Woodland Trails Art and Learning Center
  • Nebraska State Capitol

Family Fun Tour

Traveling with children, or grandchildren, brings its own joy and its own challenges! The Family Fun tour is designed to slow down the pace, ratchet up the fun and provide plenty of wonderment. Kids like to do things, so take this opportunity to become part of the museum, pet the animals and climb a tree. Rediscover the Old West in a historic cowboy town, step into a 1890s living-history village or park the car under the stars at one of the country’s last drive-in theaters. These stops will bring out the kid in everyone; however, children are not required.

Stops

  • Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure
  • Fort Robinson State Park
  • TK Drive-In
  • Front Street and Cowboy Museum
  • Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer
  • Omaha Children’s Museum
  • Calamus Fish Hatchery
  • Lincoln Children’s Zoo

Festivals Tour

Nothing says summer like a local celebration, and this tour highlights some of the best festivals Nebraska offers. Some of the events occurred in June, but there are plenty of memorable festivals throughout the remainder of the summer. What makes a great celebration? Parades, rodeos, rides, music, food and fun. There will be kraut, dumplings and kolaches in Wilber; gallons and gallons of Kool-Aid in Hastings; buffalo chip tosses, chuck wagon races, swimming, gymnastics, horseshoe pitching, mall walking and chess. And apples—lots and lots of apples. Don’t miss any of these great events.

Stops

  • NEBRASKAland Days
  • Nebraska’s Big Rodeo and Garfield County Frontier Fair
  • Kool-Aid Days
  • Cornhusker State Games
  • AppleJack Festival
  • Fur Trade Days
  • Summer Arts Festival
  • 51st Annual Wilber Czech Fest

Golf Tour

Rich soil and expansive vistas have long made Nebraska ideal for golfers. Discover why firsthand on this tour. Eight quality courses were carefully selected to provide even the most experienced golfers with a challenge, from wide fairways and large greens to the ball-eating rough known as gorse. You’ll also be treated to spectacular views of the towering Scotts Bluff National Monument, the shores of Lake McConaughy and the heart of Nebraska’s Sandhills. So round up your foursome and start scheduling your tee times. You’re never too far from the perfect round.

Stops

  • Monument Shadows Golf Course
  • Heritage Hills
  • Lake Maloney Golf Club
  • Beatrice Country Club
  • Wilderness Ridge Golf Club
  • The Prairie Club
  • Cross Creek Golf Links
  • Bayside Golf Club

GROW Nebraska Tour

Here’s your chance to sample the things that truly make Nebraska special. All the stops on this tour are members of GROW Nebraska, a nonprofit organization that provides marketing support and opportunities to small businesses. Embark on this tour and you’ll find yourself browsing bookstore shelves, tasting fresh bakery treats, strolling through organic gardens and visiting charming shops that feature specialty cheeses, luscious chocolates and perfumed candles. If you’re all about local experiences and unique souvenirs, this is the tour for you.

Stops

  • Nebraska Prairie Museum
  • Dudek’s Christian Bookshelf and June’s Corn Bread
  • Branched Oak Farm Dairy & Cheese
  • Master’s Hand Candle Company and Serendipity Chocolate Factory
  • Ricky and Lucy’s Country Greenhouse
  • Sehnert’s Bakery & Bieroc Café
  • Heritage Falls Candles
  • GROW Nebraska Kearney Store

Parks Tour

Nothing is quite as invigorating as time spent in the great outdoors, and the Parks Tour makes it easy to get out and explore the natural beauty of the state. These eight parks offer something for everyone: hiking, biking, trail rides, naturalist programs, swimming, fishing, wildlife viewing and even the grand mansion of a former statesman. Rent a cabin, bring your RV or stay in a teepee. Picnic in the largest hand-planted forest in the world, uncover the secrets of the site where 600 bison perished 10,000 years ago, hone your archery skills or try out a new indoor pellet gun range.

Stops

  • Bader Memorial Park
  • Lake McConaughy Visitor/Water Interpretive Center
  • Nebraska National Forest (Bessey Ranger District)
  • Hudson-Meng Research and Education Center
  • Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area
  • Platte River State Park
  • Niobrara State Park
  • Arbor Lodge State Historical Park

Unique Accommodations Tour

If you’re doing it right, traveling includes spending the night away from home. While you’re roving around the state, let your Passport help you find a place to rest your head. You can stay in an Old West cow town cabin, be lulled to sleep by the waters of the Missouri River in a riverboat inn, go glamour camping on a vineyard estate or relax in a cozy bed-and-breakfast. The only thing better than the enchanting accommodations will be the genuine hospitality you’ll encounter.

Stops

  • High Plains Homestead
  • Slattery Vintage Estates
  • Arrow Hotel & Suites
  • The Historic Argo Hotel
  • Burchell’s White Hill Farmhouse Inn
  • Hotel Wilber
  • The Balcony House Bed and Breakfast
  • River Inn Resort

Water Adventure Tour

Although we’re nowhere near a coast, there is no shortage of water in Nebraska. The state is overflowing with rivers, lakes and water parks. Adventurous types can hit the rivers on an airboat, canoe, raft or kayak. Looking for a tamer experience? Hit the water parks or try tanking: pile the family into a livestock tank and float down a peaceful waterway. Popular lakes are ideal for boating, swimming or fishing. So pack your towels and sunscreen for this tour of aquatic delights.

Stops

  • Hastings Aquacourt Water Park
  • Rocky Ford Camp & Outfitters
  • 2 The Ends Of The Earth’s “Nyobrafting”®
  • Bryson’s Airboat Tours
  • Patterson Harbor Marina & Resort
  • Pawnee Plunge Water Park
  • Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area
  • Sandhills Motel & Glidden Canoe Rental

Wineries Tour

It’s no surprise that a state with a knack for growing things is becoming known as a hot spot for wineries. Wine connoisseurs and novices alike will relish the opportunity to savor the flavors of this award-winning industry. And visiting a vineyard or winery isn’t necessarily for adults only, as many host family-friendly events and grape-growing lessons. Participants on this tour only need to visit seven stops to earn a T-shirt. (The Prairie Vine Winery in Mitchell has closed).

Stops

  • James Arthur Vineyards
  • Silver Hills Vineyards & Winery
  • SchillingBridge Winery & Microbrewery
  • Whiskey Run Creek Vineyard & Winery
  • Mac’s Creek Winery & Vineyards
  • Sage Hill Vineyard & Winery
  • Superior Estates Winery

 

Download a complete list of all the tours on one map at www.nebraskapassport.com/tours.

 

How the Passport Works

Pick up a Passport at participating attractions. Collect stamps at Passport stops between now and Sept. 30. There are two places for stamps—one next to the attraction name in the passport itself (that’s for you to keep) and one on the prize-entry sheet tucked in the back (that’s what you’ll redeem for prizes).

After your travels are completed and you’ve collected your stamps, claim your prize(s). Mail the prize-entry sheet to

Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism
ATTN: 2012 Nebraska Passport
P.O. Box 98907
Lincoln, NE 68509

Prizes

Each completed tour: 2012 Nebraska Passport T-shirt
25 stamps: $25 GROW Nebraska gift card
40 stamps: Canon Powershot digital camera

A grand-prize drawing for an Apple iPad valued at $800 will take place in October 2012. Your name will be entered into the drawing once at each prize level and once more if you share your experience online at NebraskaPassport.com.

Note: The Prairie Vine Winery in Mitchell has closed and is no longer a part of the 2012 Passport program. All participants submitting a prize-entry sheet will receive credit for the Prairie Vine stamp.

Be sure to check NebraskaPassport.com for hours and stop updates.

 

Immigration in Nebraska