4 fun day trip ideas from Omaha

Road trips
Iowa state capitol

As the summer travel season winds down, you may still have the itch to get out of town, but not want to drop a lot of green to do it. What’s a person to do? How about checking cities and attractions within a tank of gas from Omaha? Day trips can be fun and economical.

We have lots of smaller communities with individual attractions, such as Tekamah, Oakland and Blair in Nebraska. How about Elk Horn or Missouri Valley in Iowa?

If you want to GET out of town, check out some possibilities 1-3 hours from home. You can go early in the morning, spend the day and be home in time to unwind before bedtime.

Des Moines, IA

Des Moines is about a 2-hour drive east from Omaha. The Iowa capital has a lot to offer visitors. You can tour the state capitol building grounds.

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Iowa state capitol

Take a guided tour of the capitol. You get a behind-the-scenes look at rooms, including the law library. The staircase in the library is beautiful.

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Iowa state law library

A statue of President Lincoln reading to one of his sons is one of my favorite statues anywhere. I should advise that I am a fan of Lincoln. He was a great president, so anytime I can see sometime involving him, I’ll do it.

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Statue of President Lincoln reading to his son Tad

Des Moines has a decent zoo for a city its size. As we’ve learned, each zoo has its unique attractions. Here, you may encounter a wallaby hopping by as it roams the Australia section of the Blank Park Zoo. Or check out some prairie dogs.

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Prairie dog at Des Moines zoo

The zoo also has a fun sea lion show to watch.

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Sea lion show

If history interests you, check out the Living History Farms complex in suburban Urbandale. Visitors can take a look at farms throughout our history, dating back to the 1700s.

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Urbandale living history farm

You can tour a western town, too. Reenactors will discuss what life was like for their character during their life, as well as additional information.

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Old time town

Des Moines has an attractive downtown area, highlighted by the Center Street Bridge. The river walk allows visitors a chance to take in the beauty of flowers and plants, as well as buildings, such as a pagoda.

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Botanical garden

The city has a small domed botanical garden that wouldn’t be a bad thing to check out.

Finally, take a stroll through the Pappajohn Sculpture Park. The artwork here is breathtaking and original.

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Sculpture park

We recommend Zombie Burger to everyone who asks about Des Moines dining. The food is good and the environment is chilling. It’s like you could be in a scene from “The Walking Dead.”

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Zombie Burger

St. Joseph, MO

St. Joseph, in northwest Missouri has grown into one of our favorite cities to take a quick trip to. It is the birthplace of the Pony Express. The National Pony Express Museum is located here.

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St. Joe’s Pony Express museum

But, St. Joe has more to offer. The city is home to several museums and restaurants.

The museum complex is definitely worth checking out. You can visit four museums in one visit – the Glore, Black Archives, Civil War and Native Americans.

The Glore is a “favorite” of ours, if you can call a museum about a mental institution a favorite. The museum takes a look at the old Missouri state mental hospital and mental illness “treatments” through history.

The Glore has four floors examining treatments from burning people at the stake for being witches to performing lobotomies.

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Glore museum traces history of psychiatric care

The museum has a quote from the late actor Robin Williams on a staircase. Williams suffered from mental issues.

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Quote from Robin Williams featured in stairwell display

However, not all St. Joe attractions are museum-related.

The Remington Nature Center allows visitors an opportunity to learn about the Show Me state’s natural resources. A walk along the Missouri River is a great way to add to the trip.

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Remington Nature Center

Tobiason Studio is a great place to visit downtown. The owners create stained-glass art. Check out the work in the gallery/store. They may take you on a tour of the facility.

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Tobiason stained glass gallery

Downtown offers some excellent sculpture and mural viewing. The city has been working hard at improving the downtown area, and it’s paying off.

St. Joe offers you a choice of great dining options, with Il Lazzarone being the state’s first true Neapolitan pizza restaurant. The oven was imported from Italy. The flour and tomatoes are brought in from Italy. The chef was trained in Italy. The food is amazing!

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Neapolitan pizza in St. Joe

Great Cajun food can be had at Boudreaux. The atmosphere is New Orleans north. I enjoyed the jambalaya. Lisa is an etouffe person.

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Cajun food

If you want some great homemade food, make a reservation for lunch or dinner at the JC Wyatt House. We’ve dined here a couple of times. The food is perfect. The New York-trained chef will prepare a great meal. The meal is preplanned, so when you make your reservation, you’ll advise them which dish you want.

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JC Wyatt House – home of great upscale food at a great price

The Victorian-era house is decorated to match the season. Halloween and Christmas are big decoration times for the guys.

Grand Island, NE

Grand Island is worth taking the two-hour drive west on Interstate 80. The hometown of actor Henry Fonda will gladly welcome you.

Stuhr Museum gives visitors a look at Native American life on the plains and the pioneer life. The museum has a living history farm that is open during the spring-fall seasons.

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Grand Island’s Stuhr Museum

The campus makes for a beautiful stroll.

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Stuhr Museum

Downtown Grand Island offers some history viewing with older buildings. Check out the antique stores for deals.

Food is as diverse as the community. There is a Hispanic feel to restaurants. We dined at a Cuban eatery – La Miliagrosa. The pulled pork was delicious.

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Grand Island is home to great diverse food, including Cuban

Italian can be found at Napoli’s. The food is amazing. The bread they serve was so good, I asked for more and felt disappointed in not being able to eat any more of it.

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Delicious Italian meal at Napoli’s

Lincoln, NE

Lastly on our day trip tour, maybe a trip 45 minutes west is more to your liking. Lincoln can give visitors a look into history and offer some great nature choices.

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Nebraska state capitol

The state capitol building would be worth a visit. It’s not as decorative as other states’ capitols, but I feel like that represents Nebraska values. We don’t go for extravagance when basic will do. Mind you, it’s an attractive building. The artwork is appealing. You just don’t see a lot of gold trim on the dome or along the trim.

You can take a step back in time at Morrill Hall. The world’s largest mammoth fossils are display. You can also see the largest camel fossil in the world. Camels once roamed the Nebraska plains.

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World’s largest mammoth on display in Lincoln

Outstanding art work is on display at the International Quilt Museum.

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International Quilt Museum

Pioneers Park and Holmes Lake offer nature within the city. Pioneers Park has wild animals roaming the grounds (behind fences) bison and elk. The park has a lot of trails to walk.

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Pioneers Park wildlife refuge

Pioneers Park has one of my favorite Native American statues on display.

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One of my favorite statues

Holmes Lake is a nice lake to walk around. Lisa’s family has an annual reunion picnic there.

Lincoln has a great entertainment and dining district – Haymarket and the Railyard. The Railyard, only a few years old, is an addition the Haymarket area and sits across from the new city arena.

Our favorite restaurant in Lincoln is there – Mellow Mushroom. Our daughters got us liking the place, and now it’s one of the places I want to eat at when in the state capital.

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Railyard district near the new arena

Of course, there many more cities within 1-3 hours from Omaha – Atchison, Kansas, Sioux City, Iowa, Sioux Falls, SD, just to name a few. Each is worth a visit.

So, as you decide to jump in the car and head out for the day, have fun in making your own journey. Have a safe and fun trip.

For more information on the attractions listed in the story, please check the following sites: