Our time in Nebraska during our 30 day road trip! And tips for making long drives easier with kids, and some fun places to camp in Nebraska!
In case you are just joining us, here’s the scoop: I packed my kids in my mini-van, along with my sister, and headed out for a 30 day road trip. We have an action packed itinerary, and our first stop was in Colorado.
After leaving Colorado we had to drive through Nebraska in order to continue on our way, and we decided to break up the drive and spend a few days in various parts. Our first day we drove from Fort Collins to a little town called Cozad, NE, where we camped in a great little camp called Muny Park. It was $10 for the night, and had bathrooms. It was also right next to the public pool, and the city recreation fields, which made it pretty fun. It is $10 for RV’s too, with full hook-ups. So our tent site had running water and electricity. Which was really nice.
For us this was just a way to break up the drive. When road tripping with kids, you have to decide what the maximum amount of time you want to spend in the car is. For us, we start to get really antsy after 3-4 hours. So, I tried to make each leg only a few hours. But obviously my kids are really young, so with older people you could probably do longer.
The drawbacks of Cozad were that there is a train track right by the campground, so you get loud trains ALL night. There is also a municipal airport. So it is noisy. There was also a stray cat, that fell in love with my kids, and basically sat outside our tent meowing all night begging to be let in. Haha. Needless to say, I did not sleep well that night, so we headed out early for Omaha.
On the way we came across Fort Kearny. It was not a planned stop, but my little one needed a break, so I pulled over, and we visited the Archway. It is a museum that spans the highway, and covers the westward expansion of the nation. It was really cool, and I LOVED it. Way more than my kids did. Haha.
Basically it covers things like the Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, Goldrush (49ers), the Lincoln Highway, and more. It is a progressive look at how the West was settled, and includes the Pony Express, and Telegraph, and more. It was really neat to walk through, and hear the stories of those who actually lived it. You wear headphones, and different stories play to correspond with the exhibits.
I always love learning about history, and loved being able to have my kids learn in such an interactive way. Worth the stop, especially if you are getting sick of being in the car. Additionally it was kind of fun because we are basically taking the same route of all those people, only backwards. The kids loved that!
When we got to Omaha we camped as well. I did not think about the humidity or the heat, so it was rather uncomfortable, though it did cool down at night. We camped at Glenn Cunningham Lake, which was a great location. It is right on the lake, so perfect if you want to do some fishing. The campground had a great big playground, tons of space, lots of shade, and of course bathrooms and shower houses. It did not have electricity at the tent spots, but the RV spots did. It was again $10 for the night, which rocked!
Our neighboring camper caught fish, and told my kids they could have them. I politely declined as I had nothing to clean them with, and didn’t want my car to smell like fish.
But my kids had a great time checking out the whiskers on the cat fish. We played at the campground, roasted s’mores, and cooked a Dream Dinner I had brought with me. In case you don’t know what that is, it is basically a really yummy freezer meal that is all put together and ready to cook. I took 7 with me on this trip to use along the way. It made it so easy to plan the food, and so little work for me!
After a night at the campground, we cleaned up and headed over to see “Winter Quarters” which is significant in our religion, and in the history of the expansion out west. Basically it was where the Mormon Pioneers stayed for the winter before continuing on their journey West. Next to it is the LDS temple, and a cemetery for many of those pioneers.
The tour at Winter Quarters is free, and the kids really loved it. They got to learn about what the pioneers carried in their wagons, how they survived and helped each other, and even got to try their hand at pulling a handcart (sorry the pictures suck, iPhones in weird light, don’t worry, in Chicago I finally pull out my “real” camera and the pictures in these posts get a lot better!).
When we got done there we decided to leave Nebraska a day early and hit the road. Since I was tired of humidity and heat, we booked a hotel along the way and set off.
We stayed at the Lexington Inn and Suites in Ottumwa, and while I had not originally planned on mentioning it, I had to because of how much fun they made our stay for my kids. The hotel has a pool, and an awesome breakfast in the morning. But in addition to that, the staff was so nice. They even gave each of my kids a little container of treats, and let them raid the breakfast bar (milk, juice, hot cocoa, yogurts, etc.) the night before when they wanted a late night snack. If you find yourself in Ottumwa, check it out!
As for my tips, break the drive up. Bring electronics, but also bring things to do that aren’t electronics. I bought the kids some colored pencils and paper and that kept them occupied for a long time. We also brought board books for CC and she loved “reading” them to all of us along the way. However, one of the most successful ways of keeping the kids entertained in the car was telling them stories about our family, our history/past, and silly tales from my youth.
Check back tomorrow for our details on our next stop!