Filling our 2017 bucket list on ‘National Plan for Vacation Day’

St. Louis is on our 2017 bucket list.

Welcome to “National Plan for Vacation Day.” Jan. 31 has been designated as the day to help people plan their time off for the year. Project Time Off says that people who plan their vacations early in the year actually take time off from work for some recreation.

It’s vital that people plan to take time off from our busy schedules and hectic lifestyles. Project Time Off says that Americans leave 658 million vacation days on the books annually. Compared to European countries, the US could use some lessons. Our friends in Europe are encouraged to take vacations and relax.

So, with that said, Lisa and I discussed our thoughts about where we want to visit during 2017. Our travel bucket list may be longer than some, but we love to target as many places as possible. If we visit 50-75 percent of the destinations, we consider it a success. We plan for as many Midwestern trips as possible, so we can take advantage of weekends and three-day weekends. Otherwise, we do enjoy planning a few weeklong adventures.

We are targeting 11 states to visit in 2017. Nine of the states are in the Midwest. Two are in the Pacific Northwest. We also want to visit Manitoba, Canada. Last year, we visited nine of the 12 Midwestern states, as well as Washington and Florida.

Buckle up. Here’s our travel bucket 2017:


We plan to spend more time in the Cornhusker State this year. We want to check out as many celebrations and festivals as possible in connection with the state’s 150th birthday. Nebraska celebrates its sesquicentennial March 1.

The Dream Trio pays respect to Omaha’s jazz era in the Dreamland Plaza

The Nebraska Passport program offers a chance to visit 80 attractions and businesses. We plan to take advantage of the program a lot this year. Two years ago, we reached more than half of the stops. Last year, not so much.

Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” stage is part of the exhibits at Norfolk’s Elkhorn Valley Museum.

We are planning a visit to western Nebraska. We want to visit Toadstool National Monument, Scotts Bluff and the Jail and Courthouse Rocks.

We will make our annual trip to central Nebraska to check out the spring migration of the Sandhill cranes. They are majestic birds who have made the annual trip through the region for thousands of years.

Nebraska’s annual Sandhill crane migration.


We love Iowa! The fact that the state has so many tourist attractions that call out to us is impressive. Plus, it helps that most places are 4-6-hour drives from home.

Among the Hawkeye State’s destinations for us is Decorah. Lisa visited there in 2014. We are planning a late July trip to take in the annual Nordic Festival.


Lisa is visiting Dubuque in April with our friend Sara from Travel with Sara. They are stopping in for a quick visit on their way to Indiana.

Cedar Rapids caught our attention last summer during a quick stop. We plan to return for a full weekend and take in the attractions, including a veterans memorial and the National Czech and Slovak Museum.

Cedar Rapids is the hometown of Grant Wood, who created the painting “American Gothic.”

Other Iowa destinations include: The Great River Road along the Mississippi River, Quad Cities, Waterloo, Des Moines, Amana Colonies and our neighbor Council Bluffs.


Minnesota has some new destinations for us. In April, we are spending a weekend in New Ulm. The southwest Minnesota community has a strong German influence and we are excited to learn more about the city and its history.

Minnesota has new destinations on the horizon for us.

A trip to Mankato will cap a personal journey for me. The city is the site of the mass hangings of 38 Dakota (Santee) Native Americans. It was the largest mass execution in American history. My ancestors were among the natives imprisoned at Fort Snelling in St. Paul. The executions were related to the Dakota War of 1862. Today, a reconciliation monument recognizes the executions.

We’ll also take tours along the sculpture and poetry walks, as well as the veterans memorial tour. Mankato has more to offer and we’re excited to check out the attractions.

The Minnesota State Fair beckons us this year. We plan to use Roseville as our base since the city is only a few minutes from the fairgrounds. In addition, we hope to finally land a tour of the Minnesota Vikings stadium in Minneapolis, as well as tour the state capitol in St. Paul.

Roseville’s lakes and parks are part of the city’s attractions.

South Dakota

We want to make at least two trips to our northern neighbor. The first involves a visit to Pierre, home of the state capitol. We love visiting state capitols and checking off each state is on our overall travel bucket list.

We are interested in checking out the state’s history involving dinosaurs. The Black Hills and Badlands are perfect spots to check out this chapter of the state’s history.

The Black Hills are sacred for the Sioux Nation. They also house South Dakota’s dinosaur history.


Oh, the Sunflower State has a few things we’d like to check out this year. First off, we are interested in visiting Manhattan, aka The Little Apple. Manhattan offers a chance to take in some of the Flint Hills attractions.

Lawrence is home to some of the greatest history in basketball. Dr. James Naismith – the inventor of basketball – coached a Kansas University.

Overland Park’s American Museum of Natural History is a must visit.

Overland Park and Kansas City (KCK) are on our radar for return trips. And, of course, Lisa has been chopping at the bit to see fields of sunflowers in bloom.


Where should we go in the Show Me State? We’ll make an annual pilgrimage to Kansas City. We love the city and its surrounding area.

Kansas City has a beautiful and historic downtown.

St. Louis is tugging at us, too. We need to visit and check out the renovations at the Jefferson National Park area that includes the Old Courthouse and Arch. A statue commemorating the return of the Lewis and Clark expedition is located in St. Louis.

Hannibal was the hometown of Mark Twain and the unsinkable Molly Brown. We’ve visited before, but need to spend more time there. It’s also part of the Genius Highway, which runs between St. Joseph and Hannibal. Five cities along the highway were the hometowns to some of the greatest minds or accomplishments in American history – the Pony Express, JC Penney, General John J. Pershing, Walt Disney and Twain.

Hannibal is the hometown of Mark Twain.

Jefferson City is the state capital. We have long wanted to visit the capitol building, as well as take a tour of the abandoned (and haunted?) prison.


Casey is home to eight of the world’s largest attractions. You know that if there are quirky attractions like that, we’ll find a way to check them out.


Lisa and Sara are visiting Hamilton County (east of Indianapolis) as part of their April road trip. The county is known for attractions, such as Conner Prairie Interactive Park – a historic park.

A return trip to Hendricks County may be on the itinerary in late summer. We had a great visit last year and are excited about a possible visit this year.

A Top Fuel dragster at Hendricks County’s race strip..


Kenosha and Milwaukee beckon Lisa and Sara. The duo plan a visit to Kenosha on their way to the Women in Travel Summit (WITS) conference in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee’s art museum resembles a sail boat and lies along the shore of Lake Michigan.

We visited Kenosha last year and fell in love with the area. I’m a bit jealous that they are taking this trip, but someone has to stay back at the fort and entertain the cats.

Kenosha’s marina. We watched several boats leave the area for Lake Michigan.

Pacific Northwest

The last two states on the bucket list are Oregon and Washington. My best friend Mark and I are planning a “Guy’s Weekend” in Oregon in September. The plan is to spend a few days in the Portland and Eugene areas, and take in the Nebraska-Oregon football game. When the Huskers play on the west coast, we try to ensure we get together, since it’s a perfect spot for him to come down from Anchorage, Alaska, and me from Omaha.

A now-annual trip to the Seattle area is on the itinerary. Since daughter Mallory moved there in late 2015, Lisa and I have made an annual trip together, and I have had made a few additional visits. We always have a great time visiting Mallory and our grandpup Magpie.

The view of Seattle’s Space Needle is always beautiful.

Ok, so, that sums up our plans for “National Plan a Vacation Day.” We hope to achieve as much as possible on the bucket list. As we plan our travels, we strongly encourage you to plan at least one getaway. Everyone needs time off to relax and recharge their batteries.

Enjoy your travels.