A Tale of Two Rivers: Part 2

First stop on our trip was for ice cream-on our way to dinner, nonetheless!

Welcome to Part 2 of our family’s river adventures! My last post chronicled our time in Dubuque, Iowa and the fun we found near the Mighty Mississippi River. As I indicated then, our summer was filled with many little trips canvasing one side of the state to the other. If you haven’t guessed it already, you are about to read about our time near another beautiful body of water: The Missouri River.

Although most of our trip near The Missouri was spent on the Nebraska side, it is close enough (in my mind anyway) to be featured on this site dedicated to Iowa. Here are the highlights:

Midtown Crossing:

This little one loved trying new foods. She still talks about her sushi ‘sharks’ and eating octopus tentacles!

We did a little something different on this family trip. We didn’t stay in a hotel. And we aren’t exactly the camping type if that’s what you are thinking. This time we used Airbnb to rent a unit in an apartment near Midtown Crossing, a vibrant neighborhood full of fun retail and restaurants. I’m fairly certain the girls would have been content never leaving the apartment. We had snacks, a Foosball table, and Netflix. What more could you ask for?

We had fun imagining life in the city. We walked to shops and found fun and different places to eat. We have a little foodie in the family, so this was the perfect place for her! There are many events planned at Turner Park in Midtown Crossing throughout the year. Our stay didn’t land on the right dates, but there was still plenty to see and do. Be sure to check out the events calendar when you head that direction!

The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium:

When you are at the zoo early in the morning, you get to see the animals have their breakfast! We loved these cuties!

No trip to Omaha is complete without a visit to the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. I’ve shared about this spot before, but it deserves a few more accolades. If you haven’t been to the zoo in awhile, you should (NEED) make time for it! The zoo is changing and evolving as we speak. Plan to spend an entire day exploring, playing, and enjoying all the zoo has to offer.

We were lucky enough to be in Omaha during the hottest week of summer. (There is a hint of sarcasm here). I melt in heat, and so do my children. The zoo opened an hour early due to the high temps, and we took advantage of it! We walked into the zoo just as the gates opened, scored front row parking, and had the zoo to ourselves for an hour.

Feeding the Budgies was the highlight of the girls’ day!

The lions were particularly active during our visit. We were mesmerized by these creatures and enjoyed watching them prowl and growl in their pride lands. We encountered elephants for the first time on this visit; they were just as amazing as we had hoped. The Children’s Adventure Trails is a definite must if you have kiddos with you. We had packed swim suits for the splash pad at the Alaskan Adventures Exhibit but ran out of time. There is so much to see and do at the zoo!

Old Market:

Timmy the Horse was our trusty guide during our carriage ride through Old Market.

My husband and I spent time in the Old Market area when we were dating and first married (pre-kids). We have fond memories of exploring the unique shops and interesting restaurants, so it only seemed fair to experience this quaint area with our girls.

We browsed extraordinary wares at several shops and galleries, and ate at the iconic Spaghetti Works restaurant, but the icing on the cake was the carriage ride. A horse named Timmy, and his human-counterpart, took us for a leisurely ride through the brick clad streets of this historic neighborhood. It was a special treat for all of us after a busy day in Omaha!

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge:

Bobbing and enjoying the morning over the Missouri River.

We experienced something completely new on this trip: Bobbing. What is ‘Bobbing,’ you ask? Well, its something quite fun. It’s standing in two states at once on the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge. The 3,000-foot long walkway stretches across the Missouri River, connecting Nebraska and Iowa.

The girls thought it was absolutely hilarious to have one foot in each state at the same time and were excited to visit the bridge. In fact, when I listed all the possibilities for our trip, this was a must-do for them! It may have something to do with me having an uncle named Bob, but whatever the reason, it was worth the stop! We had great views the Missouri River and our home state.

Lewis & Clark Visitor Center:

Before becoming Junior Park Rangers, the girls had to identify animal pelts among other tasks.

After walking across the bridge, we discovered a walking path and decided to meander along the river. Along the way, we stumbled upon the Lewis & Clark Visitor Center.  The center is actually the headquarters of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Mere blocks from the hustle and bustle of downtown Omaha, lies this hidden gem. Inside we were greeted by park rangers (I thought that was pretty neat). The building consists of many meeting rooms, but the front lobby was full of hands-on and interactive activities related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. But the coolest part was that the girls were able to become Junior Park Rangers! They had to complete challenges to earn a badge. It was a fun way for all of us to learn more about the Lewis and Clark Story. The girls felt super special as they were sworn in and given park ranger badges. And to think we stumbled upon this place by accident!

Pioneer Courage Park:

The statues told of the triumphs and tribulations of traveling by covered wagon!

No trip to Omaha is complete without experiencing art. Downtown Omaha just happens to be home to the United States’ largest installation of bronze and steel sculptures: Pioneer Courage Park. It is an impressive tribute to the pioneers who first settled the land. As we walked through the sculpture park it was hard not to imagine what it must have been like to travel this land by foot or covered wagon. I’ll admit my family was hot, tired, and thirsty after our morning of exploring, so we didn’t spend much time checking out the area. One day, I’ll be back to view more of Omaha’s great sculptures. Most likely in the morning!

Durham Museum:

Waiting for a train! Several interactive statues told the stories of Union Station passengers.

We had planned to spend most of our time in Omaha experiencing outdoor attractions, but we ended up needing air conditioned fun! Lucky for us, I had a ‘Plan B!’ Our trip ended with school shopping and time at the Durham Museum.

This massive museum was once filled with the hustle and bustle of train passengers. At it’s peak, Union Station in Omaha was one of the busiest in the nation with nearly 10,000 passengers a day. Today, its vast waiting room was full of fun facts, history, and hands on exploration. A functioning soda fountain is still housed there, so come ready for a fun treat!

The girls enjoyed the ‘real’ trains and buses on display at the Durham Museum.

My family had fun wondering through the many exhibits sharing the history of the area. The full-size trains on the lower level were our favorites. The girls scrambled to sit in the seats, and I tried to imagine sleeping in a train (with a family!), much less riding across the country in one!

We enjoyed our trip to the Omaha area and exploring a bit of the Missouri River. Our time in Omaha is far from over; my list of ‘must-sees’ continues to grow. And as much as we loved our moment of city living, we were ready to cross the river and head home to our little corner of Iowa. While our summer travels have come to an end, the adventures we had near two great rivers will be etched in our memories for years to come!

Good-bye, Nebraska! Thanks for the memories!

The Henry Doorly Zoo: Omaha Weekend Part II

The Dessert is one of the girls' favorite spots at the zoo. Of course, I could say that about 20 or more exhibits too!
The Dessert is one of the girls’ favorite spots at the zoo. Of course, I could say that about 20 or more exhibits too!

Now that spring is feeling more like spring and we have a glimpse of summer, I have to tell you more about our trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, NE. After enjoying a day at the Joslyn Art Museum (read more here) and playing in the hotel pool, we spent the second day of our annual spring trip at the zoo. If you haven’t visited this zoo, you are missing out! The Henry Doorly Zoo tops the list of best zoos (seriously)!

We have been to this zoo more than a handful of times with our girls, and every trip is a fun-filled adventure! The zoo is clean, the animals are amazing, and it is always changing, which is why we keep coming back. The girls consistently request a trip to the zoo, and it is hard to say ‘no’!

Here is a quick list of what we love about the Henry Doorly Zoo:

We had a view of the tree tops and an entertaining monkey family at the Durham TreeTops Restaurant.
We had a view of the tree tops and an entertaining monkey family at the Durham TreeTops Restaurant. And this little one got her favorite lunch, PB&J! Can’t get much better than that!

Food. We all need food, especially when we plan a whole day of walking and admiring animals. This zoo allows you to bring in your own snacks/lunch. There are several nice picnic areas, both indoor and out, that we have taken advantage of over the years. With small children, being able to pack a lunch and snacks is a major plus. Concession stands are available throughout the zoo as well. This year, we went an even different route. Now that we don’t need a stroller (which doubled as our lunch carrier), we decided to eat at the Durham TreeTops Restaurant.

The Lied Jungle is home to this happy sloth. The animals are so fun to watch!
The Lied Jungle is home to this happy sloth. The animals are so fun to watch!

My husband got a tip from a co-worker about this neat eating option, and we are so glad we tried it! It is a cafeteria-style restaurant that overlooks the Lied Jungle. We ate a late lunch which totally worked in our favor. We got prime seating right next to the window. While we ate and rested our tired feet, we watched a baby monkey (sorry, I’m not good with animal names so I can’t remember the exact kind of monkey, but it was definitely in the monkey family) play with its parents. This was hands down the best part of our zoo experience. The baby monkey was quite mischievous! I think all four of us could have spent the entire afternoon watching that little family!

The Aquarium is a nice reprieve from both the heat and the cold. The sea life is great to watch too!
The Aquarium is a nice reprieve from both the heat and the cold. The sea life is great to watch too!

Year-round fun. Although winters in the Midwest get bitterly cold, the zoo is open year round. And we have encountered this zoo in every season! It is just as beautiful when the sun shines as when there is snow on the ground. There are so many indoor attractions that the cold is manageable. And when it is hot out, the indoor attractions (Lied Jungle, Berniece Grewcock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion, Desert Dome, Kingdoms of the Night, Lozier IMAX Theater, Scott Aquarium, and more) are a nice reprieve from the hot sun! Many of our favorite animals are moved indoors during the winter too. The giraffe lover in our family loves to see those majestic animals up close in the barns!

This ornery orangutan wanted all the snacks he saw humans consume!
This ornery orangutan wanted all the snacks he saw humans consume!

Our family personally likes to visit the zoo during the ‘off-season.’ During our spring trip, we didn’t have to fight droves of people in the parking lot or in the zoo, we didn’t have to worry about sun screen, and we still got to see our favorite things! The downside to going during non-summer times means we might miss a few things like the Red Barn Yard, camel rides, and the Skyfari. We’ve managed to keep so busy that we’ve barely missed those things!

These majestic animals are indoors during cooler weather. We are excited to see the African Grasslands complete with elephants!
These majestic animals are indoors during cooler weather. We are excited to see the African Grasslands complete with elephants!

Always something new. Although we’ve been to the zoo many times, we always see something new. Sure, we’ve been to the aquarium, jungle, and dessert more times that I can count, but each time different animals catch our attention. We’ve watched an orangutan beg for food, a gorilla make funny faces, and watched baby lions grow up. We have a list of animals we must see (giraffes, zebras, lions, and monkeys), but we always seem to stumble upon a new animal or two we’ve never noticed before. Recently, the zoo added elephants, which we missed seeing by mere days. Alaskan Adventure, a splash park featuring over 75 bronze sculptures is also slated to open in 2016. I guess that means we’ll have to plan another trip to Omaha soon!

These two love reading maps and helping us navigate the zoo!
These two love reading maps and helping us navigate the zoo! This photo was from a trip last fall.

After a whole day at the zoo (you’ll want several hours to explore this wonderful place), we were ready to relax and enjoy the last night away from home. The Joslyn Art Museum and the Henry Doorly Zoo were perfect places to find adventure in Omaha. There were so many other great things we would have loved to do while in the big city (Wildlife Safari Park, The Old Market area, and The Rose Theater just to name a few), but we just ran out of time. Visit this website to plan your own trip to Iowa’s next door neighbor. You never know what fun awaits on the other side of the river!

We had fun on our spring trip to Omaha!
We can’t wait to see where our next trip takes us!