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O Pioneers!: Exploring Southeast Nebraska

Rejuvenate yourself in southeastern Nebraska and see why many pioneers considered this area of the Great Plains the Promised Land. The mighty Missouri River played a major role in shaping the history and settlement of this region, and today you can explore a variety of historical and cultural museums, outdoor recreation, shopping, fine dining and world-class wineries throughout this inviting part of the state. 

Day One

Begin your venture through southeast Nebraska at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, which offers many exciting activities, including America’s largest indoor rainforest and the Desert Dome. Enjoy a ride high above the zoo on the Skyfari. El Museo Latino highlights the important contribution that the Hispanic population has had on the history, culture and development of Omaha. The 100-acre Lauritzen Gardens includes an arboretum, bird sanctuary, rose and herb gardens, spring flower walk, Victorian and festival gardens and a woodland trail. The 5,000-square-foot visitor center offers year-round floral displays.

Enjoy lunch in the historic Old Market, an eclectic shopping and dining district with dozens of boutiques, nightclubs, bars, cafés and upscale restaurants. The Durham Museum is housed in a restored Art Deco train station and showcases the history of Omaha and the Union Pacific Railroad. Hot Shops Art Center houses 44 art studios, three art galleries, exhibition spaces and a café/coffee shop. Loves Jazz & Arts Center showcases the impact that African Americans have had on Omaha’s art scene. The Joslyn Art Museum is a world-class museum featuring exquisite works of art from antiquity to the present.

In Springfield, Soaring Wings Winery offers wine tastings, tours of the facility and a gift shop. You can also experience an eclectic two-acre sculpture garden at Weiss Studios and Gardens. Springfield Artworks is a working art studio where you can become an artist and make your own masterpiece.

Overnight: Bellevue

Day Two

Explore Nebraska City’s Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, home of J. Sterling Morton, the father of Arbor Day. The 260-acre Arbor Day Farm is a working farm orchard and forest. Visitors receive a tree seedling at the Lied Greenhouse. Experience Lewis and Clark’s journey at the Missouri River Basin Lewis & Clark Interpretive Trail & Visitor Center, an 80-acre facility overlooking the Missouri River. Afterward, load up on fresh fruits and vegetables at Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard.

Continue on to historic Brownville, where you can browse through the quaint downtown shops, enjoy a leisurely cruise down the Missouri River on the Spirit of Brownville or sip wine at Whiskey Run Creek Winery. Then enjoy a delicious meal and a good book at The Lyceum Bookstore & Café.

Overnight: Beatrice

Day Three

West of Beatrice, Homestead National Monument of America is a step back into time when this land was first settled by the early pioneers. The grounds include hiking trails through virgin prairie grasses and living history demonstrations, and the Homestead Heritage Center brings the homesteading story to life.

Continue to Lincoln and take a guided tour of the impressive State Capitol building, home of the nation’s only one-house legislative body. The historic Haymarket offers a wide variety of galleries, restaurants, antique stores, shops, bars and coffee houses in turn-of-the-century buildings. Designed by internationally acclaimed architect Philip Johnson, the Sheldon Museum of Art is an excellent modern art gallery housing twentieth-century American art. The International Quilt Study Center & Museum features more than 3,000 quilts from over 25 countries and across four centuries.

Ashland has a rich variety of shops, restaurants and galleries in a charming historic downtown. It’s also the gateway to three stellar attractions: Strategic Air & Space Museum, Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari, and Eugene T. Mahoney State Park.