Crossing the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

Crossing the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

When you walk across a state line with camera in hand, and the line is clearly marked in paint, aren’t you required to stop and take a photo with a foot in each state? Okay, maybe not required, but certainly hard to resist. Thus, the photo below, in which we are half in Iowa and half in Nebraska on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, referred to more commonly as the Footbridge. Read more

12 Fun Facts You May Not Know about the Midwest

12 Fun Facts You May Not Know about the Midwest

One fun part of travel is learning interesting facts about the places you visit. Following are bits of trivia I’ve picked up about each of the Midwest states: Read more

New Year’s Eve in the Midwest for $25 or Less

New Year’s Eve in the Midwest for $25 or Less

You don’t have to spend a fortune to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Here are 12 events throughout the Midwest that won’t break the budget before the New Year even begins: Read more

Golden Spike Tower: Visiting the World’s Largest Rail Yard

Golden Spike Tower: Visiting the World’s Largest Rail Yard

From the eight-story Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, Nebraska, visitors to Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard, the world’s largest rail yard, watch all the action. Rail buffs can spend hours watching the trains from the seventh-floor open-air observation deck, a perfect place to take photos, or from the enclosed eighth-floor observation deck, where someone is always on hand to answer questions. Trains come into the yard where the cars are reclassified, hooked to a train and sent on their way. To give you an idea of how large the Bailey Yard operation is, here is a breakdown of the numbers: Read more

Top 2014 Midwest Wanderer Travel Experiences

Top 2014 Midwest Wanderer Travel Experiences

As another year comes to a close, we reflect on all that we’ve accomplished over the past twelve months and plan new goals for the coming year. For me, 2014 brought lots of opportunities to explore the Midwest, discovering more attractions, events and restaurants to share with you. It’s always amazing how much there is to do right here in the Midwest, from the Great Lakes to the Black Hills, from small towns to big cities. Today I’m sharing with you some of my personal “firsts” and also my top ten blog posts of the year, the ones most popular with you, my readers.

2014 New Experiences:

In March I discovered that anyone can paint—even no-artistic-talent me. At the Art Party Studio in Champaign, Illinois, bring your own wine, if you’d like, follow the step-by-step painting instructions, and every painting turns out well. If, on the slim chance it doesn’t, you can always blame it on the wine.

Art_Party_StudioI tried my hand at glassblowing for the first time at The Glass Park in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Okay, so my turn lasted only a minute or so, since I was on a group tour and we just had a sampling. It would be fun to go back and create a “work of art” of my own.

The_Glass_ParkI joined the Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau dragon boat team in the Kenosha Area Dragon Boat Festival in July. As hard as our team tried, we came in last place, but we had a great time.

Dragon_Boat_RacesTwo new states were added to my list this year, Nebraska and South Dakota. I spent a couple of days exploring Omaha, including gardens, museums and shop. If you like zoos, you have to see Henry Doorly Zoo, my favorite zoo of all I’ve ever been to.

Henry Doorly ZooBesides the national monuments, national parks and so many other things western South Dakota has to offer, I took my first helicopter ride with the Black Hills Aerial Adventures, where I saw the Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments at eye level and the Needles Highway from a bird’s eye view.

Mount Rushmore from HelicopterAs great as everything else was in South Dakota, the highlight was the Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park, where I bumped along in the back of a pickup truck right in the midst of the cowboys and cowgirls on horseback rounding up around 1,100 head of bison for their annual vaccines and pregnancy tests.

Buffalo RoundupThe year concluded with my second helicopter tour, this time in the evening with Chicago Helicopter Experience, along the Chicago lakeshore, with a great view of the Lincoln Park Zoo and Michigan Avenue Christmas lights.

Chicago Helicopter Experience
Top 10 Posts of 2014

  1. Haunted DeSoto House Hotel, Galena IL was published in 2013 but continued to be the most popular throughout 2014.
  2. Ghost stories are apparently popular. Bowers Harbor Inn, Traverse City: Two Restaurants and a Ghost created quite a controversy among Traverse City locals, some believing the legend and others not.
  3. I don’t know whether it’s because of the location on Route 66 or if people are interested in car museums, but the Number 3 most popular post was Pontiac Oakland Museum, Pontiac, Illinois: Auto Nostalgia along Route 66.
  4. Frank Lloyd Wright architecture is always popular, so I’m not surprised that Historic Park Inn: Last Remaining Frank Lloyd Wright Hotel made the list.
  5. Billed as the biggest biker destination in Illinois and along the Great River Road, Poopy’s Pub n’ Grub, Savanna IL; Popular Even with Non-bikers, came in at Number 5.
  6. Downtown shops in towns in southwest Michigan resort towns are always fun to explore, and Traverse City foodie fans especially liked Traverse City Shops: A Culinary Delight.
  7. Green County, Wisconsin, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Cheese Days in 2014. In June I attended a press preview of the big September event and wrote about it in Cheese Days 100th Anniversary Preview, Monroe, Wisc. The event is held every two years, so plan ahead to attend in 2016.
  8. Published just in time for Halloween, another Traverse City supposedly haunted location came in at Number 8, Tour a Former Asylum at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, Traverse City.
  9. Eating at a tiny ten-seat diner is fun, especially when the delicious food is served by a magician, like it is at the Suzie Q Café, Mason City Iowa: A Meal with a Dash of Magic.
  10. Old lighthouses are fun to explore. The stories behind them are always fascinating. Another Traverse City attraction, Tour Mission Point Lighthouse, Traverse City, Michigan made the list at Number 10.

I’m looking forward to sharing more fun and interesting attractions, events and restaurants in Midwest destinations throughout 2015. If you have suggestions on Midwest places to see and things to do, don’t hesitate to share them at info@midwestwanderer.com, and I’ll help spread the word.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie


 

Exploring the Durham Museum in Omaha’s Old Union Station

Exploring the Durham Museum in Omaha’s Old Union Station

Omaha’s Union Station, the first art-deco style train terminal in the country, was completed in 1931. After Amtrak took over all passenger rail service in 1971, the train station closed. It was almost demolished but was donated to the City of Omaha instead. Today the building is home to the Durham Museum with permanent exhibits that highlight Omaha area history, as well as temporary, traveling exhibits from sources like the Smithsonian. Read more

Exploring Omaha’s Old Market District

Exploring Omaha’s Old Market District

Historic districts are always fun to explore, especially when cobblestone streets are lined with old brick buildings filled with unique shops, art galleries and interesting pubs and restaurants. That describes to a T Omaha’s Old Market District, a former warehousing area developed in the 1880s. Omaha resident and fellow travel blogger Lisa Trudell, half of The Walking Tourists, introduced my husband and me to the area this past summer. Read more

Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha: A Zoo Lover Must-See

Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha: A Zoo Lover Must-See

Trip Advisor readers rank Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo as the best zoo in the world. Other rankings and polls consistently rank the zoo at the top or among the top. Of all of the zoos I have visited, I have to agree that Henry Doorly Zoo is the best, taking into consideration mainly the animal exhibits but also other zoo attractions, as well. Read more

Lauritzen Gardens: Blending Nature with Omaha’s Railroad Heritage

Lauritzen Gardens: Blending Nature with Omaha’s Railroad Heritage

The Union Pacific train rolls through a tunnel cut out of a tree trunk, past Omaha Central High School and several other historic Omaha buildings. You become mesmerized as you watch it exit the covered bridge that spans a flowing river. Then you spot another train cross an overhead steel bridge and travel back into the woods. There is something fascinating about model railroad layouts, especially miniature versions of real existing structures and trains. Add natural landscaping, the landscaping of the beautiful Lauritzen Gardens, and the Model Railroad Garden, a miniature Omaha, becomes a work of art. Read more

Sample Craft Beer at Omaha Breweries

Sample Craft Beer at Omaha Breweries

If you live outside of the Omaha, Nebraska, metro area but plan to visit in the next year and you like beer, you’re in luck. Eight Omaha craft breweries want you to taste their beer—so they will each give you one on the house. Not a little taste, but a full-size beer.

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Here’s how it works:

  1. Request your Craft Brew Explorer’s Journal at the Visit Omaha web site. You will receive your Journal in the mail.
  2. Take your journal to each of the eight breweries for a complimentary beer. Present the appropriate coupon from the back of the book and have them stamp the corresponding journal page. There is space in the Journal for tasting notes.
  3. Although not required, you can rate the brew at OmahaCraftBrew.com and share on social media. You can also map your tour at this site.
  4. If you visit all eight breweries, present your journal at the Omaha Visitor Center to receive a complimentary Omaha Craft Brewery Tour pint glass.

On our recent trip to Omaha we visited three of the eight craft breweries.

Lisa Trudell of The Walking Tourists joined Skip and me for lunch at the Upstream Brewing Company, which is housed in a former fire station in the Old Market area of Omaha. Skip had the Scotch Ale, brewed with chinook hops. I’m not a huge beer drinker, so I ordered the hand-crafted root beer. (Lisa stuck with a diet cola.)

Upstream beverages

Upstream Brewing Company has delicious food options, too. Skip and I both had Mac & Cheese. Mine was the regular menu version made with a smoked cheese cream sauce and chock full of ham cubes. Skip ordered the special with shrimp and bleu cheese. Lisa had the BBQ Chicken Pizza.

Upstream mac n cheese

Upstream pizza

Later that evening, Skip and I went to the Borgata Brewery & Distillery, also in the Old Market district. Borgata doesn’t serve food but has an inviting atmosphere and was one of Omaha’s first craft breweries since Prohibition. I asked for their lightest beer, which was the Borgata Pilsner, and Skip had the Oatmeal Cream Stout.

Borgata

Borgata Brew Tanks

The next night we had a beer at the Benson Brewery, about a 15 minute drive from downtown Omaha. More of a neighborhood brew-pub housed in a remodeled 1910s movie theater, we enjoyed our beer in the al-fresco seating, a nice atmosphere on a warm summer evening. Once again, I asked for the lightest beer, which was the Dirty Blonde, and Skip ordered one of the darker brews. I’m finding I am beginning to enjoy a nice quality light beer.

Benson Brewery

We didn’t order food at Benson since we had already eaten, but a quick look at the menu, and I wish I would have at least ordered the Brew Fries with tarragon and sea salt, listed on the Late Night menu. Had we been there earlier, I would have ordered the Slider Trio: beef, bison meatloaf and pork belly, served with onion straws.

I’ll hang onto our Explorer’s Journals, since they’re good through July 2015. If we make it back to Omaha before then, perhaps we’ll get our remaining stamps and the complimentary pint glasses.

Disclosure: The Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau provided us with media early-bird Omaha Craft Brewery Tour Explorer’s Journals, but opinions in this article are my own.

Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm.   – Connie