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 Lauritzen Gardens’ natural landscaping, and the Model Railroad Garden, a miniature Omaha, becomes a work of art.
The other areas of Lauritzen Gardens are beautiful, too. When you enter, you first pass through the atrium, where café tables are set up amidst tropical plants.
For the holidays the tables are replaced with poinsettia plants stacked into the shape of a giant Christmas tree. When we visited in 2014, a new, larger atrium was under construction.
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Outside, I walked with Lisa Trudell of the The Walking Tourists down the paths from garden to garden. We enjoyed strolling among bright flowers and flitting monarch butterflies on the beautiful summer morning.
With Lisa’s familiarity with Lauritzen Gardens, she was able to point out all the don’t-miss spots. The Hitchcock-Kountze Victorian Garden was especially elegant, with its bright flowers set against a red-brick fence with black wrought iron gates.
So was the Japanese Sunpu Garden Gate, a gift from sister city Shizuoka. The gate is the start of what will be a six-acre Japanese garden.
Lisa also pointed out the art work …
… and the cascading Woodland Waterfall.
The highlight for me, however, was the Model Railroad Garden. I snapped photo after photo and then stood and watched the trains go around and around the layout until Lisa reminded me we were running short on time.
Railroad fans will also want to stop at Kenefick Park, across the parking lot from Lauritzen Gardens. Two great Union Pacific Railroad locomotives are located in the park. You will have noticed the locomotives from I-80 if you came into Omaha from the west. The Centennial No. 6900 is the largest and most powerful diesel-electric locomotive ever built. Big Boy No. 4023 is the world’s largest steam locomotive.
If you visit Lauritzen Gardens
Lauritzen Gardens, located just north of I-80 and south of Omaha’s Old Market district, is open year-round. Check the web site for hours and admission rates.
Disclosures: My visit to Lauritzen Gardens was hosted by the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Lauritzen Gardens, but any opinions expressed in this post are my own.\
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