The Surprising Midwestern Vacation Spot Every Family Should Visit

If a wholesome dose of old-fashioned, Midwestern Americana sounds like the perfect setting for your next family adventure, then exploring the state of Nebraska should be on your family travel bucket list. With so much more than cornfields and wheat crops to explore, families making their way through the state can tromp through orchards, play on farms, wander through gardens and indulge a stunning array of culinary delights. Read on to discover the surprising (and tasty) adventures and family vacation to Nebraska has to offer.

Exploring Nebraska
From Omaha to Lincoln to Nebraska City, the great state of Nebraska offers visiting families room to run, play and explore. Each of these cities has its own charm, plenty of shopping, unique family adventures, awesome places to dine, and cool places to stay. Extend your vacation hopping from one city to the next as you take in the best the state has to offer.

Launch your family vacation in Omaha, where there is so much fun for visiting families to have. Your first stop? Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium! This amazing spot is dedicated to saving species around the world. With 130 acres to explore kids can stretch their legs while wandering through the world’s largest indoor desert and the largest indoor rainforest in North America. Your kids will get a thrill from meeting animals from all over the world and going on adventures that include underground caves and treks across the globe.

Get to know the town of Omaha better when you explore the Old Market Area. Packed with awesome shopping opportunities, this is the place to pick up your souvenirs. This area has an abundance of art galleries,  gift shops and candy stores your kids won’t want to leave. Once they are good and sugared up, you can take them to the nearby Heartland of America Park and Fountain where they can run along a paved path and play in the grass while taking in the water works show.

If you’re visiting Omaha in the fall…don’t miss Vala’s Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard for a real Nebraska farm experience. Depending on when you visit, you cans spend your time plucking a variety of apples from trees or playing in the pumpkin patch and farm. Activities include a hay rack ride, barnyard adventure, haunted houses to wander through, a corn and pirate maze, a giant play area, a petting coral and so much more. It’s one of the most impressive farm experiences you are likely to have had.

Grab a tasty breakfast at the Saddle Creak breakfast Club where you can dine on traditional breakfasts with a modern twist. We suggest the Classic Biscuits and Gravy and the Ham and Eggs. Hit the Benson Brewery for lunch or dinner where you’ll find an elevated approach to pub food. We love the Bacon Blue Burger, but the Baked Mac & Cheese is our favorite dish for parents and kids alike. Best of all, this is the perfect spot for the vegan in your family, with options like Seitan Vegan wings. Forno offers visiting families another awesome lunch or dinner spot where you can grab a meal Italian style. The whole family will love their wood-fired pizza and selections of meats and cheeses. Take dessert to Ted & Wally’s where the whole family can enjoy locally-made ice cream, sundaes and soda fountain drinks.

The Courtyard Omaha La Vista is the perfect place to call home for your stay. The rooms are cozy and come in a variety of sizes and suites. Amenities include onsite dining and a fitness room so you can work off all of the food you’ll be eating.

Make Bakers Candies the first stop once you hit Lincoln, the capital of the great state of Nebraska. Known as the official home of Nebraska’s famous chocolate meltaways, this shop will absolutely thrill the kiddos and give you tons of treats to take home or enjoy on the road. Candies are made onsite. Think of this shop as the state’s very own Willy Wonka chocolate factory.

Grab some fresh air at the Sunken Gardens where you and the kids can wander for hours and marvel at the koi pond, water fountains and rock gardens. Don’t skip the Lincoln Children’s Museum where you’ll find 23,000 square feet of exhibit space to explore. While you are there, head to the Apple Orchard exhibit where your kids will recognize items they saw on the farm.

Of course, you have to hit the farm for a real Nebraska experience. So hop on over to Rocca Berry Farm, home to the oldest and largest pumpkin patch in Lancaster County. Here you can make your way through the corn maze or let the kids play for hours on their giant slides, go on a hay ride, or ride the rails. There are so many attractions at this farm, you’ll be hard pressed to get through all of them in one day. There’s one thing you can count on though…at the end of your stay, your kids will be completely worn out!

Grab a coffee and some breakfast at the Alice in Wonderland themed Rabbit Hole Bakery. This spot offers a variety of pastries, muffins, scones and cinnamon rolls, all of which are sure to delight every member of your family. For a more filling afternoon meal, head to the Dish for some elevated fare. Options like seared steak salad and the bacon grilled cheese satisfy the biggest appetite. This spot serves lunch and dinner. Another popular dinner options is the Venue, where you’ll find an incredible steak and seafood menu. Try their seared Ahi tuna or New York Strip. The kids will love their handmade pastas.

Lincoln has a brand new hotel that is sure to be a treat for your family. Bringing a little big city to this Nebraska town, The Kindler recently opened and offers travelers luxury accommodations and next-level hospitality. Located in downtown Lincoln, you can choose from a variety of suites that come with all the amenities you need for comfort, onsite dining, and a fitness room. Even furry family members are welcome at this elegant hotel.

Nebraska City
Your first stop in Nebraska City should be Arbor Day Farm! With 260 acres of stunning property and a treetop village to explore, this spot offers families a truly adventurous experience. While it’s famous for its apple picking opportunities, Arbor Day Farm gives visitors the opportunity to explore, play and soar through the treetops and gain a better understanding and appreciation for nature.

The three-acre treetop village allows children and adults to explore 11 tree houses without ever touching the ground. This attraction features the WonderNet, a trampoline suspended between trees, high above ground. You’ll be hard pressed to tear the kids away from this unique experience. Other opportunities for fun include the Discovery Ride and wine tasting for mom and dad.

Before you sack out for the night, hit Kimmel Orchard and head to their U-Pick barn or peruse their market for some tasty treats to bring home. This property features trails to wander along, hay rack rides, and the pollinator playground for the little ones’ enjoyment.

Your family is going to need a whole lot of fuel for all of the active fun this sweat city provides. Head to the Keeping Room for some of the best food in town. This cafe serves up classic comforts with a side of Nebraska style. We love their French dip and Turkey Panini. The kids will love the NY style cheesecake for dessert.

For some excellent Mexican fare, take your crew to El Portal where you can grab some traditional cuisine. From enchiladas to tamales to Tostadas, you’ll find all of your favorites in this family style eatery. Mom and dad will love their monster-sized margaritas after a day of swinging through trees.

Catch a home-cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner at Whispering Pines B&B, where you’ll also want to bunk for the night. The hostess makes delicious meals that will make grownups feel pampered and kids feel spoiled. Some beloved meals include Seasonal baked pancakes with homemade fruit topping and the egg fritatta.

The Whispering Pines B&B is the place to stay in Nebraska City. This beautiful historic 130 year-old home features modern comforts in a stunning old Victorian atmosphere. Sitting on six and a half acres, you’ll be surrounded by 100 year old pine trees, flower gardens, and a water garden with fountains. In the evening, you can sip a cocktail while soaking in a hot tub under the stars, or roast marshmallows over a fire.

—Annette Benedetti

Special thanks to Visit Nebraska for assistance with accommodations and entertainment. All opinions here expressed are the writer’s own. 

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