Region: Missouri Traverse

Visiting Eastern Nebraska: Family-Friendly Destinations Near the Missouri River

For all of you adventurous travelers with families out there: the Missouri River offers exciting year-round activities and events perfect for vacations with family and friends, or even a relaxing solo trip. In fact, the longest river in the United States provides excellent recreational opportunities such as canoeing, kayaking, fishing, boating, and more. And yet, have you ever considered visiting the communities and towns along the Missouri River? Consider visiting Eastern Nebraska, an area filled to the brim with must-see destinations that are also part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail for your next adventure! 

Not sure where to go? Along the Missouri River, visiting Eastern Nebraska features dozens of unique cities, towns, and villages with their own charming history. Consider visiting Eastern Nebraska, an area perfect for finding family-friendly activities! Visiting Eastern Nebraska today will offer you everything from outdoor recreation to exciting local festivals! Keep reading to find out more about the top 10 family-friendly locations that are worth visiting in Eastern Nebraska.

Visting Eastern Nebraska has an abundance of destinations for families with children to visit!
Visiting Eastern Nebraska has an abundance of destinations for families with children to visit!

1. Bellevue

Want to get away for the weekend near the Missouri River while visiting Eastern Nebraska? Well, you’re in luck, as Bellevue, Nebraska features scenic nature trails at Fontenelle Forest as well as the opportunity for hiking, biking, camping, and boating! Feeling a little braver? Make a reservation at TreeRush Adventures located in the Fontenelle Forest! Guests ages 4 to adult can spend a day climbing, ziplining, and swinging through the Fontenelle Forest.

2. Blair

Blair is a quaint community nestled on the banks of the Missouri River, with tons of outdoor recreation and local activities for the whole family. Visit the DeSoto Chute National Wildlife Refuge to witness how wildlife and history intersect! For a family-friendly attraction, visit Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch for exciting activities and events perfect for families with children.

3. Brownville

Looking for a quaint small town away from the hustle and bustle? Visit Brownville, Nebraska near the Missouri River for everything from Lewis & Clark State Recreation area and the great outdoors to the arts, museums, and the theater! Don’t forget to have a quick bite and satisfy your sweet tooth afterward by coming to Gospel Coffee & Ice Cream!

The view of Arbor Lodge Mansion from Lied Lodge & Conference Center.

4. Dakota City

Dakota City is considered to be one of Eastern Nebraska’s oldest communities with tons of history to be explored! Come to Sportsmen’s Preserve, Cottonwood Cove Park, and more for incredible views, camping opportunities, and a chance to learn about the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail (LCNHT)!

5. Fort Calhoun

Do you like learning about history and learning new historical facts? Fort Calhoun is a community with a history you have to learn about! Visit and witness historical re-enactments up close at Historic Fort Atkinson State Historical Park. Fort Calhoun is also home to the Washington County Museum and the Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge. After a long day, enjoy a hot meal at The Rustic!

6. Nebraska City

For family fun, Nebraska City offers educational programming and history re-enactments at the Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Visitor Center! With programming, events, and activities for all ages, this is a fun and creative way to learn about American history! For the rest of the day, spend it at the  Arbor Lodge State Historical Park and the Wildwood Historic House, Victorian Garden, and Gift Shop.

Board the Keelboat replica while visiting Eastern Nebraska. Photo Credit: Opal Spidell

7. Niobrara

This Eastern Nebraska community along the Missouri River features an incredible array of outdoor, educational, and cultural activities! Just looking to relax on your day off? Niobrara State Park offers scenic and breathtaking views with so many outdoor experiences that you’re sure to find something you like! The state park has everything from camping and horseback riding to wildlife-watching opportunities. Visit in the summer months to witness the park’s famous buffalo cookout season. Interested in learning more about Native American culture and history? Visit the Ponca Educational Trail and Earthlodge and the Ponca Tribal Museum!

8. Omaha

Looking for a city with just about any activity or attraction you can think of? Visit Omaha in Eastern Nebraska and you’ll never run out of exciting places to explore and activities to do! If you’re an American history buff, we recommend visiting the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail headquarters at the Lewis & Clark Visitor Center. For other family-friendly activities, consider taking a trip to the Joslyn Art Museum, Durham History Museum, and the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium! Hungry? Omaha has great eats for affordable prices, especially considering how Omaha is where the Reuben sandwich was originally created! We personally recommend the Coneflower Creamery

9. Plattsmouth

As one of Eastern Nebraska’s oldest cities with a founding date of 1854, there’s never a boring, uneventful day in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. With tons of historical, cultural, and family-friendly activities, there’s never been a better time to visit! Come in the fall to participate in the annual Plattsmouth Harvest Festival or stop by the Schilling Wildlife Management Area for hiking, hunting, fishing, and picnicking opportunities! 

10. South Sioux City

South Sioux City is a charming small town in Eastern Nebraska that is home to unique attractions, including being a town where Meriwether Lewis and William

Clark passed through in 1804. The city features the Lewis and Clark Scenic Byway and the Outlaw Trail, a perfect destination for a family outing. Learn more about American history, visit state recreation areas, go fishing, and even witness the state’s tallest waterfall! Also, consider visiting Woodland Trails at the Winnebago Village Center to support local Native American businesses. This city also offers recreational activities year-round, such as fishing, golfing, hiking, and more!

Autumn River View Boardwalk Trail in Eastern Nebraska

Now that you’ve gotten a chance to learn more about what Eastern Nebraska has to offer, consider visiting Eastern Nebraska for your next vacation or when you are near the Missouri River. As a reminder, remember to support local businesses and shop local when you have the opportunity. They are counting on your support as visitors, so don’t delay a trip!

Consider visiting Eastern Nebraska and its plethora of great family-friendly destinations today!

For more information about the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, be sure to check out our website, and read our other blogs for more trip inspiration!  

Visiting Lexington, Missouri: Where the Civil War Struck Twice

Along the southern banks of the Missouri River, about forty miles outside of Kansas City, sits a small town with a rich history. At first glance, you may not guess that it was once the largest city west of St. Louis. The city of Lexington, Missouri, celebrates its bicentennial this year, and in those 200 years, it has seen some of the most fascinating pieces of Missouri history and remains a welcoming town for visitors to stop and become enriched by its unique story. In this blog, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about visiting Lexington, Missouri!

When you hear the Battle of Lexington, you may jump to the battles of Lexington and Concord that kickstarted the American Revolutionary War. In fact, Lexington, Missouri, was named after that very same battle. Yet it would also become the site of a historic battlefield, 86 years later, during the Civil War. Read on to learn more about the story of Lexington, Missouri, the museums that commemorate it, and how the town is celebrating its 200th birthday.

History of Lexington

The Lewis and Clark Trail in Missouri, with missouri river seen when visiting Lexington MissouriFounded in 1822, the city of Lexington grew rapidly as the seat of Lafayette County. This was thanks in large part to its strategic position along the Missouri River. It was a hub for trade in the 19th century, as merchants set up shop in Lexington. They mostly aimed to serve travelers heading westward. The parent company of the famous Pony Express had its headquarters on Lexington’s Main Street.

As technology advanced and steamboats entered popular usage in the United States, Lexington’s spot along the river became even more of a boon. The steamboats were bolstered by nearby coal mines. These would provide fuel for them as they went across the Missouri.

Although the town was not yet founded during the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the party passed through the land that would later become the site of Lexington’s foundation.

Civil War Battles

First Battle

Lexington’s position as a successful commercial hub put it in the sights of both the Union and the Confederacy upon the outbreak of the Civil War in the 1860s. The state of Missouri was already a flashpoint for tensions during this era. It was a slave state that officially remained in the Union, despite claims from the Confederacy. Union forces hoped to establish control over Lexington due to its riverside position and pre-war status as a trade center. They headquartered in the local Masonic College, but were soon recalled to St. Louis.

However, Confederate sympathizers struck in August 1861, and surrounded the Union soldiers. They arrested many Union figures, including former Missouri governor Austin A. King. Hearing of the situation in Lexington, federal reinforcements went to take command, setting the stage for battle.

The First Battle of Lexington lasted for less than a week in September 1861. It is also known as the Siege of Lexington or the Battle of the Hemp Bales. Union Colonel James Mulligan faced off against Major General Sterling Price of the Missouri State Guard, which was in support of the Confederacy. The defending Confederate forces greatly outnumbered the Union soldiers by over a 5:1 ratio.

The battle was best remembered for the Missouri State Guard’s use of hemp bales as part of their fortifications. This is the origin of the name the Battle of the Hemp Bales. Hemp, used in rope manufacturing, had been a major product in Lexington. Bales were taken from a local warehouse to create a line of defenses against Union forces. By the end of the week, the outmanned Union forces under Colonel Mulligan surrendered to Price’s men. This signified a major Confederate victory. However, it was not to last for the Confederates, as their strength in Missouri waned by the end of the year. The Union regained total control over the state by 1862.

Second Battle

The failed siege was not the only time Lexington would be the site of skirmishes during the Civil War. By September 1864, Sterling Price was fully folded into the Confederate Army. He began a campaign of raids in Missouri in an attempt to recapture the state. That October, two Union brigades under the leadership of Major General James Blunt staged a position near Lexington to confront Price and his men.

The Second Battle of Lexington came to a head on October 19, and once again, the Union forces were hopelessly outnumbered by the Confederates. Nevertheless, Blunt and his men fought valiantly against Price’s army, and forced the Confederates to use their most valuable artillery. However, by the end of the fighting, the Union forces had to retreat. Yet the Second Battle of Lexington was even more of a pointless victory for the Confederacy. Just four days later, Price was decisively defeated at the Battle of Westport. This marked the beginning of the end for Price’s campaign.

Lexington Today

The Anderson House in Lexington Missouri

Although Lexington is no longer as busy as it was before the Civil War, the city still holds its history with great reverence and is the site of many great historical centers and shopping and travel opportunities. Today, Lexington markets itself as “offbeat and original, but not off the beaten path.” Continue reading to see what opportunities are available when visiting Lexington, Missouri.

Visiting Lexington, Missouri: Historical Sites

The Battle of Lexington State Historic Site, established in 1958, preserves the battleground of the First Battle of Lexington. It is located on the north side of town, and encompasses the Anderson House, a mansion that was caught in the middle of the fighting. Bullet holes and cannon shots remain in the walls of the house. Tours of the battlefield and walking trails are provided over its 94 acres. The site’s visitor center, to which admission is free, acts as a museum that has fascinated visitors since it was built in 1991. It features exhibits about the Anderson House, the battle itself, and Missouri’s role in the Civil War as a whole.

The Anderson House is not the only place in Lexington that wears its battle scars with pride. The Lafayette County Courthouse was struck with a cannonball during the First Battle of Lexington. That same cannonball remains lodged in a pillar on the left side of the courthouse. This has brought considerable attention to the Classical Revival courthouse. It is also the oldest courthouse in continuous use west of the Mississippi River, having been built in 1847.Battlefield image with artillery 

The Lexington Historical Museum, located on South 13th Street, features a wide range of preserved historic items and memorabilia, including the sword that Colonel Mulligan gave up during his surrender during the First Battle of Lexington. It also includes exhibits regarding the 19th-century steamboat trade in Lexington, as well as the river bluff coal mines in the area, the Pony Express and Osage Nation Native American tribe.

Lexington was once the home of the Wentworth Military Academy, a U.S. military junior college that operated from 1880 to 2017. The grounds of the academy were sold at auction after its closure. However, downtown Lexington now has a museum dedicated to the academy’s history. The Wentworth Military Academy Museum on Main Street proudly displays exhibits from the college. This includes the stained-glass windows once featured in its chapel. 

Visiting Lexington, Missouri in 2022: Celebrating the Bicentennial

2022 marks 200 years since the founding of Lexington by ferry operator Gilead Rupe. Lexington has celebrated its history with a Bicentennial Week, held from June 19-25, 2022. Juneteenth celebrations were featured early on in the week, as well as several local festival events, such as a tractor show and live music. The Bicentennial Week was rounded out with a 5K run and parade on June 25. A time capsule from 1972 was even opened after the conclusion of the parade.

Outside of the Bicentennial Week, Lexington has also looked back at its history with a Civil War reenactment of the First Battle of Lexington. These reenactments are held annually on the anniversary of the battle from September 18-20.
Sunset on the Missouri River, which can be seen when visiting Lexington Missouri
For more information about visiting Lexington, Missouri, as well as the city’s history, check out their tourism website which has more information on its historical sites, shopping opportunities, and places to eat. Also make sure to follow and like Lewis and Clark Travel’s social media pages on platforms like Facebook and Instagram for regular updates. Want more trip inspiration? Check out our other blogs.

Le Mars, Iowa: The Little Known Ice Cream Capital of the World

About Le Mars, Iowa

Old LeMars railroad

The city of Le Mars is located in the Floyd River in Plymouth County, Iowa. With a population of 10,571, it is the estimated 38th largest city in the state. It was in 1869 that the city was officially founded with the Sioux City and St. Paul Railroad Company purchasing. The name Le Mars comes from the acronym for the names of seven women that accompanied railroad builders who purchased the land, John I. Blair. While its origins lie in the Sioux City and St. Paul Railroad, modern day Le Mars is known by a more unique and grand title: The Ice Cream Capital of the World. 

How did Le Mars become the Ice Cream Capital of the World?

The city of Le Mars became synonymous with ice cream when Fred H. Wells and his sons Harold, Mike, Roy, and Fay opened an ice cream manufacturing plant in the city in 1925. After selling their first plant in 1928, Wells and his family sought to get back into the ice cream business in 1935. Having sold their name, a contest was held to decide the name of their new ice cream company, with the winning name being Blue Bunny. The company remained primarily local until the 1980s and 90s, where the company, then in the hands of Fred’s sons and Wells’ Dairy Inc., began to see significant growth. The brand expanded nationally, and has continued to expand to this day, with their frozen deserts now a main staple of American freezers. 

It was in 1994 with the help of Wells’ Dairy that Le Mars gained its title of Ice Cream Capital of the World, having the most ice cream produced by one manufacturer in one location globally. To celebrate the title, Wells’ Dairy enlisted local artists and sculptors to create 55 ice cream sculptures, which you can find today scattered throughout Le Mars. The ice cream plant that started it all still stands today, producing an estimated 150 million gallons of frozen treats annually. While it is not possible to tour the ice cream plant, there are still plenty of ways for you to experience great ice cream and more in Le Mars.

The Best Ice Cream Spot

Wells Visitor Center– 115 Central Ave NW, Le Mars, IA 51031

Wells Visitor Center in Ice Cream Capital of the World
Photo courtesy of

An ice cream parlor unlike any other, the Wells Visitor Center combines delicious ice cream with a history lesson on the Wells family and their ice cream journey. The parlor touts dozens of flavors of ice cream, sherbets, sorbets, and a number of other frozen treats. Just above the ice cream counter is an interactive museum that details how the ice cream is made and transported to the center. Along with the interactive exhibit, the center holds a theater which shows a film about the history of Blue Bunny company. The walls are covered with old Blue Bunny signage and old pictures from the Wells Ice Cream Plant, which sources the center with ice cream and is only a few miles away. The Wells Ice Cream Center is a must visit in Le Mars, showing that the title of Ice Cream Capital of the World is well deserved.

Le Mars is More Than Just the Ice Cream Capital of the World

While the city of Le Mars is best known for ice cream, the city has a lot more to offer. Here are some of the best restaurants and experiences to make your visit a truly special one.


Archie’s Waeside224 4th Ave NE, Le Mars, IA 51031 

Archie's Waeside steak in Ice Cream Capital of the World
Facebook/ Archie’s Waeside


For a high quality steak in Le Mars, Archie’s Waeside is the place to go. The restaurant offers top of the line dry aged steaks along with seafood, a wine menu with over fifty options and a number of other dishes and beverages, ensuring that  there’s something for everyone. For steak lovers or for anyone looking for a great sit down dining experience, Archie’s Waeside is the way to go.

Iowa Barbecue Company100 Plymouth St W, Le Mars, IA 51031

Iowa BBQ Company in Ice Cream Capital of the World
Facebook/ Iowa Barbecue Company

From sandwiches to sausages, the Iowa Barbecue Company is a dining destination all will love. Along with all kinds of barbecued meats like chicken and brisket, the restaurant has amazing made in house sides, like macaroni and cheese, cornbread, and others that make a barbecue complete. The Iowa Barbecue company gives tastes of the region all in one place. 

Bob’s Drive Inn 23 5th Ave SW, Le Mars, IA 51031

Bob's Drive Inn in Ice Cream Capital of the World
Facebook/ Bob’s Drive Inn

Displaying the old school exterior it’s had since it was built in 1949, Bob’s Drive Inn is a Le Mars staple that should be at the top of anyone’s list. Now on the third generation of its family ownership, the restaurant has all the charm you could ask for in a local business.Bob’s Drive Inn has all the staples of a classic diner, serving sandwiches, salads, and even hand made shakes and malts. At a very reasonable price, Bob’s Drive Inn is the perfect place for a quick and easy meal in Le Mars.  

Experiences in Le Mars

Plymouth County Fair500 4th Ave NE, Le Mars, IA 51031

The self-titled “Five Best Days of Summer”, the Plymouth County Fair is filled with festivities. In the last days of July, you can enjoy a talent show, a pioneer village, motocross, and so much more. It’s only around a few days a year, so make sure you visit while it’s there.

Willow Creek Campground445 Park Ln, Le Mars, IA 51031

Willow Creek Campground in Ice Cream Capital of the World
Facebook/ Willow Creek Campground

Have a love for the outdoors? Then the Willow Creek Campground is the place for you. With tons of amenities like a pickle ball court, a picnic area, a bike trail and more, the Willow Creek Campground is the perfect location for a vacation with family, friends, or just about anyone. If you’re in the area and looking for a unique experience, the Willow Creek Campground is worth a stay.

Willow Creek Golf Course- 935 Park Ln, Le Mars, IA 51031

For any regular golfer, regular or beginner, the Willow Creek golf course is ready for your play. There are three nine-hole courses in total, each varying in difficulty meaning that you can enjoy the course regardless of your skill or experience. 

Visit Le Mars, Iowa: the Ice Cream Capital of the World and Much More

With a title like “Ice Cream Capital of the World”, Le Mars is sure to draw your attention, but it’s what you find that’ll make you stay. A small city spirit with a rich history, a visit to Le Mars is a trip worth taking while traveling the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Exploring Southern Illinois: Top 10 Things to do in Saline County

Looking for a unique way to explore Southern Illinois? Curious to visit a place where you can take a rodeo lesson, catch a drag race, and wander through twelve acres of peonies all in one day? You might be surprised to learn that nestled in Southern Illinois along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is a little area called Saline County. With six towns and a population of around 23,000, this midwestern county has a little something for everyone. Exploring Southern Illinois has never been easier! 

Maybe you’re more into sports. Stop by the Shawnee Hills Country Club and play a round of golf. Are you a history buff? Check out the O’Gara Mine Tipple to marvel at this abandoned structure. Get hangry (hungry and angry) when there’s no good food around? Grab a warm homemade bread pudding topped with whipped cream from The Bar-B-Q Barn. Exploring Southern Illinois is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in midwestern culture. No matter what you’re into, Southern Illinois has a bit of everything!

When writing this blog, it was all too easy to find 10 amazing ways to spend your day in Southern Illinois. Saline County is a hidden gem in the midst of this state. Here are 10 ways to spend your day while exploring Southern Illinois.

1- Darnell Performance Horses

It’s time to channel your inner cowboy by visiting Darnell Performance Horses This top-of-the-line ranch boasts an impressive resume, having trained champions in numerous rodeo events. Stop by to take a barrel racing or calf roping lesson. Not in the competitive mood? No problem! This ranch also provides western pleasure riding lessons for beginners. 

Experience midwestern culture and treat yourself to a rodeo.

2- Shawnee Hills Antique Mall

In search of hidden treasures? Look no further than the Shawnee Hills Antique Mall Uncover vintage dolls, tea sets, or unique sculptures. Want even more options? This small business hosts flea markets throughout the year! Vendors’ items can range anywhere from baked goods to jewelry and everything in between. Not only is there a great selection of goods, but many booths offer reduced prices. The mall itself provides refreshments and gives guests the opportunity to win door prizes! 

3- Harrisburg Food Tour

Are you the ultimate foodie? Southern Illinois has you covered! Start off your day at The Bar-B-Q Barn for the ultimate mid-western experience. Located in a barn, this restaurant has a little something for everyone, from eggs with smoked sausage to a delectable platter of apple pancakes, this restaurant has it all! For all you sweets lovers, check out Angi’s Eats and Sweets Stop in for a bite of pumpkin or raspberry cheesecake. The shop even sells gluten-free no-bake cookies! After a long day of exploring Southern Illinois, unwind at Morello’s Restaurant & Catering. This restaurant boasts a variety of alcoholic drinks as well as one of the most diverse menus around! Morello’s Restaurant & Catering is perfect for picky eaters. Try lasagna or a steak. Not satisfied? How about taco salad or barbeque nachos? There is certainly food for everyone while exploring Southern Illinois.

4- Shawnee Hills Country Club

Put your golf skills to the test at the Shawnee Hills Country Club. Not much of a player? Gaze at a sprawling grass course. If you’re exploring Southern Illinois in the fall, marvel at the green, amber, orange, and red leaves. This beautiful country club is open for spring, summer, and fall.  

5- Peony Hill Farm

For nature lovers, there is no better place to visit than Peony Hill Farm. Visitors are encouraged to stroll around the twelve acres of peony-covered land. Take pictures or buy cut peonies during the blooming season. To say this experience is relaxing is an understatement. The perfect way to explore Southern Illinois, this farm is great for all ages.

Take in the beauty of twelve acres worth of peonies.

6- O’Gara Mine Tipple

History buffs will be delighted to marvel at the O’Gara Mine Tipple. Located roughly five minutes from Harrisburg, this abandoned mine tipple serves as a reminder of what once was. This building was said to have halted operation after the Ohio River flooded in 1937. An architectural wonder, visitors can gaze in awe at this impressive sight. 

7- Saline County Fair

Planning your trip to explore Southern Illinois right now? Consider stopping by during the last week oJuly and you’ll be just in time for the Saline County Fair. This event is the perfect way to get a taste of Southern Illinois culture! Guests get the chance to watch a motocross race or a tractor and pull. Maybe even stay for the demolition derby. These ticketed events are reasonably priced, with each event costing $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Not sure what either of those are? Visit now and learn for yourself!

8- Shawnee National Forest

Explore Southern Illinois by hiking through the Shawnee National Forest.

Discover the natural beauty of Illinois at the Shawnee National Forest. Between hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and fishing, there is truly something for everyone in this beautiful forest. Try a hike in the Garden of Gods area featuring unbelievably unique natural rock sculptures. Since the Shawnee National Forest is a large, sprawling piece of land, hunters from around the country flock to this hidden gem. Ditch the commercial hotels for locally owned, cozy cabin lodges, and visit now!

9- Sloan Harrisburg Raceway

Spend an exciting evening at Sloan Harrisburg Raceway Come out to watch a bracket race for only $10 for adults and free admission for kids under 12! But sometimes watching is boring. That’s why you can participate in a Test and Tune event. These events allow drivers to test their vehicle on a racetrack just for fun! What can be better than driving down a racetrack on a beautiful day?

Watch a motocross race at the Saline County Fair in Southern Illinois.

10- Saline County Area Museum 

Experience the culture of Southern Illinois even more at the Saline County Area Museum. The first building was created in 1964. This was just the beginning, and now an impressive eleven buildings tell the story of Saline County’s people. The best part? Admission is completely free. Stop by on select days from 1-4 pm to learn more about this fascinating area.

Places to Explore!

Those are just some of the amazing events and activities you can attend while exploring Southern Illinois. For more ways to enjoy Illinois, visit our website. Learn more about the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail here. Want more trip inspiration? Check out our other blogs.