Thing to Do: Arts and Culture

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!  

From Vintage Cars to Iron Art: Top Things to Do and See in Dayton, Washington

From Vintage Cars to Iron Art: Top Things to Do and See in Dayton, Washington

Sitting in the Heart of the Columbia Basin Lies This Little Town with a Big Personality and Endless Things to Discover. Here are your top things to do and see in Dayton, Washington! 

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail or local to Washington and looking for a weekend getaway, the small town of Dayton, Washington has so much to discover and enjoy. Whether it be hiking, demolition derbies, rodeos, vintage car shows, or county fairs, this town has it all. This blog lists the top things to do and see in Dayton, Washington. Read on for local events, interesting spots, dining, and lodging!

Local Events & Festivals in Dayton, Washington

All Wheels Weekend
Held annually every Father’s Day weekend from June 17th to 19th, All Wheels Weekend isn’t your usual car show! Popular and well-attended, the event features a parade of vintage cars, drag racing, poker, and even a golf tournament! It also features a demolition derby. With live music, food vendors lining Main Street, and a children’s play-zone, everyone can join in the fun! 

Brix & Brew Benefit Auction
Taking place every March, Dayton’s Chamber of Commerce hosts its own benefit auction to fund local tourism projects. Visitors can bid on and taste various locally produced wines. Catering is provided by a sponsoring local vendor. Dine, make new friends, and bid on fine wines for a good cause!

Christmas Kickoff
Every Thanksgiving weekend from November 26th to 27th, Dayton welcomes the Christmas season with a real kickoff! The event features hayrides, a Christmas bazaar, a parade and tree lighting ceremony, and even an ‘Ugly Christmas Sweater’ 5K jog! Whether you want mead or hot cocoa to warm you up, local food & drink vendors have you covered. Want to pet a live reindeer and Santa’s beard in the same night? This is the Christmas event for you!

Columbia County Fair
Funnel cakes. Corn dogs. Waffle cones. Strawberry lemonade. Ah yes, you can already smell it, the Columbia County Fair! The Fair begins Fall from September 9th to the 11th. Popular to Southeast Washington, you can get a free single-day pass by donating 5 canned food items. Rodeos, eating contests, bouncy houses & rides, a craft market, and so much more can be found here.

Dayton Days
From May 27th to 28th, visitors can expect live music, beer tasting, and a wild time at the Dayton Days Parade and Rodeo! Art, food, and craft vendors cater to the public as marching bands and local dancers make their way down to the Fairgrounds. Dayton Days celebrates the city for everything it is!

Dayton’s Most Interesting Spots

Art & Museums
Dayton, Washington is unique as the home of the Palus Indian tribe, known for living in the Palouse Falls region. The Palus Artifacts and Veterans Museum allows visitors to learn about their culture and involvement in tribal conflicts and the Civil War. To learn about Dayton’s location in the Lewis and Clark expedition, visitors to the Patit Creek Campsite. Here, visitors can see dozens of iron statues that depict what life was like on the Trail. 

Historical Sites
Established in the 1860s, many of Dayton’s historical structures still stand. Dayton’s Historic Courthouse of 1886 and the Smith Hollow Schoolhouse of 1900 have both been restored to allow tours. Built in 1881, Dayton boasts the oldest surviving train station in Washington state; museum today, visitors can tour the Dayton Historic Depot.

Outdoors
Managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, visitors to Dayton have 7 hiking trails to choose from! The most famous routes include Palouse Falls, Oregon Butte Trail, and Middle Point to Bluewood. Maps and seasonal information for these trails and more are listed here. Touchet River and Tucannon Lakes offer a fantastic fishing experience in pristine waters. Bluewood mountain offers a skiing experience like no other with ski resorts dotting the region.

Shopping
Dayton offers many quaint, niche shops. For artisanal soaps, check out Biker B’s Bathworks. For something sweet, handmade candies from Mama Monacelli’s make the perfect souvenir gift! Local produce and meats can be found at the Blue Mountain Station and Dayton Mercantile. For local weavings and every trinket imaginable, make a stop in the city’s Main Street Marketplace!

Some of Washington’s Best Dining Experiences

Snacks
For a speedy food stop, stop by the town’s General Store for ice cream, dry foods, drinks, and more. Need something more filling but no time for a full meal? Blue Mountain Station’s soups, sandwiches, and sweets have you covered there!

Brunch & Bakery
Love cinnamon rolls but wish you could eat them on an antique sofa? Annie’s Attic and Cafe is the place for you with its eccentric but homey atmosphere. Locally Nourished is a great breakfast option for those seeking healthy, organic breakfast options. Offering all day lunch and breakfast options with baked bread, Moose Creek Cafe & Bakery is another great stop in historic Dayton.

Lunch & Dinner
If you need to feed and please the whole family, Snake River Grill offers great menu picks for both kids and adults right on the Snake River.
My Dad’s Place provides a warm Italian atmosphere in small-town Dayton, offering pizzas, calzones, salads, soups, and more!

Wineries & Pubs
Red Band Cellars offers a wide selection of its home-ripened, regional wines with tastings running from noon until 5:00 PM. It also offers a wide selection of cheeses, fruits, and hors d’oeuvres. Need something filling to go with a beer? Check out Chief Spring’s Fire and Irons Brew Pub for a pint and pizza or burgers!

Lodging: Feel Right at Home 

Hotels
Best Western Plus Dayton offers luxury accommodation with amenities like a swimming pool and a complimentary breakfast. Blue Mountain Motel is an affordable option conveniently located within walking distance of Downtown and Main Street. Weinhard Hotel is a fantastic lodging option for history buffs, with its Victorian design and classic decorating. Complete with period furniture, staying here is an experience itself!

Vacation Rentals & Cabins
Hiromi’s House is a cozy, fully furnished vacation rental home that sleeps 6 in Dayton’s historic district. For larger groups that value privacy, Stonewood can sleep +20 people in a beautiful wooden cabin, perfect for personal & company events.

Campgrounds & RV Parks
The Lewis and Clark Trail State Park offers beautiful views like no other, with 24 standard campsites and 5 RV campsites available. Note that you will need the Discover Pass to set up your campsite with some annual free days available to the public.
Looking to do campfire cooking near your RV or a cabin? Cabin rentals, picnic tables, and safely maintained fire pits can be found at Lyons Ferry Marina Koa

Dayton’s smallness and its passion for preserving its history are at the heart of its vibrant culture. This wholesome, creative community has opened its arms to the Nation by inviting you and I to gather in the fun of celebrating its unique personality. Whether you’re passing through on your travels or want to settle in for an extended holiday, Dayton showcases an array of interests to keep everyone wanting to come back for more. Whether you’re a fan of cars, hiking, rodeos, and more, this town delivers it. Don’t hesitate to add Dayton to your list of Destinations along the National Lewis and Clark 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.