Beating the winter doldrums: Taking a day trip

Downtown mural in St. Joseph, MO

As winter nears its end, I think a lot of us are starting to have that cooped up feeling. You know it – we basically go from home to work or the store and back home. You want to get out and see some of the world. We’re ready for some fun time. But, we always have to keep the winter weather in the back of our mind when thinking of things to do or places to go.

Well, I have that solution. Take a day road trip from Omaha. Just get out, hit the road and check out something new. But, it’s still a bit cold out, you say. We can still get out of the house without having to feel we’re in the Iditarod.

St. Joseph, MO

A short two-hour drive south of Omaha on Interstate 29 sits St. Joseph, Missouri. This city is the perfect day trip – or overnighter, if you prefer. St. Joe has several interesting museums to visit. You will enjoy yourself and learn some things along the way.

The Museum Complex offers visitors a 4-in-1 stop. The anchor museum is the Glore Psychiatric Museum. The Glore examines mental illness and treatments through time. You’ll see exhibits about issues people suffered through, such as a patient who kept eating pieces of metal. She ate nails, safety pins, anything she could find. The patient eventually died, but items she ate are on display.

Exhibit at the Glore in St. Joe. A patient ate these items.

Another patient used an old television set to hide about 500 letters and notes, until staff members realized what was being done. Some of the correspondence is displayed on a wall near the TV.

Treatments for mental illness have varied through the centuries. For people suspected of witchcraft, the solution was to burn them at the stake. Other treatments have included cold baths, heat boxes and lobotomies.

Lobotomy exhibit

The museum – located on the grounds of the old state mental hospital – is a must-see when in town.

The other museums at the complex include the Civil War, Black Archives and Native Americans. A doll exhibit can also be seen.

Civil War battlefield hospital exhibit at the St. Joseph museum complex

If you are a fan of western history, the Patee House may be right up your alley. The former hotel houses a museum full of so many interesting pieces. You can learn about the Civil War and Pony Express days. The collections of paintings and other items make the Patee a great place to visit.

Stagecoach at the Patee House in downtown St. Joe

The museum has a full-sized train engine and a working carousel on site. The carousel has interesting handmade characters to ride, including a hummingbird.

Carousel at the Patee House

Jesse James’ house is next door. This is the home he occupied when he was shot and killed by Robert Ford.

Spot where the bullet entered the wall after Jesse James was shot in his home

Missouri Western State University is home to a small museum honoring native son Walter Cronkite. Cronkite was considered the most “trustworthy” man in America during his tenure as anchor of the CBS Evening News.

Walter Cronkite museum

Not to be left out, a visit to the Pony Express National Museum offers a look at the city’s role in the development and life of the Pony Express.

Pony Express museum at St. Joe

St. Joe is home to Tobiason Studio. The owners specialize in creating stain glass windows. The studio’s gallery is worth checking out. You may even get a tour of the work area. The studio is open daily, except for Sunday.

Tobiason-created stain glass window art

The Albrecht-Kemper art museum is a nice place to view some fabulous art. It combines western art with a variety of classical art. The museum also hosts special exhibits.

St. Joe art museum

Lincoln, NE

You can stay in Nebraska, but still get away for the day. Lincoln is home to the state’s capitol. Take a tour of one of only four skyscrapers used as state capitols. You can check out the legislative chamber. Nebraska has a unicameral form of legislature – only one house. The 49 state senators must pass a bill three times before it will be sent to the governor for approval into law or vetoed.

Nebraska state capitol

The capitol is home to the state’s Hall of Fame, which includes historical figures such as Willa Cather, William Jennings Bryant, J. Sterling Morton, Gen. John J. Pershing and Chief Standing Bear.

Standing Bear

Morrill Hall – on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln – takes a look at our state’s prehistoric creatures. It houses the world’s biggest woolly mammoth, as the fossils of a giant camel.

Fossil of the largest woolly mammoth

The International Quilt Museum offers visitors an opportunity to check out several types of quilts. It’s located on the school’s east campus.

International Quilt Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Burt County, NE

A short 45 minutes northeast of Omaha is a look back at one of our rural county’s history. The Burt County Museum looks at life through the years in Tekamah and surrounding communities. The architecture of the old Houston House is worth the visit. You can check out some interesting interior designs.

EC Houston House in Tekamah – home of the Burt County Museum

Plus, you may learn a few things. I learned that at one time people poured gasoline or kerosene into irons warm them up. I imagine a few people suffered from them not working as they should.

Antique irons on display

No Tekamah visit is complete without a stop at Master’s Hand Candles and Gift Shop. The boutique offers a variety of merchandise, including handmade candles and seasonal novelties. The store is decorated for each season or holiday event.

Beautiful roses at Master’s Hand boutique

You must check out the chocolates from its Serendipity Chocolate section. Our family loves the treats made on site.

Valentine’s Day treats

About a 15-minute drive west from Tekamah is home to one of the best Scandinavian museums in the area. The Oakland Swedish Heritage Center provides a look back at the early days of Oakland and its Swedish immigrant residents. I lived in Oakland for about five years as a kid. I appreciated visiting the center a little more than a year ago.

Oakland is proud of its Swedish heritage

Located in an old church on the main highway through town, the museum has an interesting collection of clothes, furniture and other artifacts that will impress visitors. One room has old Swedish wedding dresses worn by residents for their ceremonies.

The Swedish Heritage Center

Many items on display came from Sweden when people immigrated to the United States. The center has the symbols of each of Sweden’s provinces.

Outfits on display

So, as the walls inside your home start feeling like they’re closing in on you, grab the family and head out to one of the many attractions within a few hours of Omaha. You’ll feel better getting out and about. Plus, you may learn something (not a requirement). Enjoy, and safe travels.

For more information on these attractions and possible others, please check out these sites: