How can you make driving across Nebraska fun?
That’s what we asked ourselves as we faced the better part of a day of driving across a state that we had found quite boring in the past.
We lived in Minnesota and liked to travel to western states, which often means driving across miles and miles of not-so-exciting scenery.
Since it was BC—Before Computers—I dug out my handy dandy AAA booklet on Nebraska and started looking for anything that might be interesting to a family with small children and a small budget.
Cabela’s on 80 near Sidney gave us a great variety of animal displays and interesting things to see.
- Since they are a retail store, there was no admission charge.
- If we were careful not to spend (too much) money on equipment for one of my husband’s many hobbies or our love of camping, we were ok.
- Plus, there is a lot of walking space so the children burned off energy and could get ready to sit again.
- For older children, especially those with an entrepreneurial spirit, the story of how they got started was a great history lesson and encouragement.
- Now, with computers, you could look it up before you arrive and read it to them or have them read it and be amazed at how far the founders have come since their early days.
A side note: My father-in-law remarried after he was widowed and his new wife grew up with the Cabela brothers. We all enjoyed hearing about that.
- We always looked for playgrounds and found that the small Nebraska towns had wonderful city parks where we could have a picnic and let the children play and work off some energy. We always carried balls, bubbles, frisbees, etc. along for just such times as these.
Provides some great ideas for unusual places in each state.
- The birthplace of Kool-Aide
- Has the largest city museum between Denver and Chicago displays important Kool-Aid historical artifacts, including the iconic Kool-Aid Man suit (before he became a digital fake).
- It doesn’t have the stigmas of Stonehenge and is made out of old cars rather than stones, and you and your children will find it amazing. And, it’s free.
- If you are ever in the Lincoln, NE area on the Fourth of July, don’t miss their fireworks.
- The year we were there the city canceled theirs because of rain. But it didn’t rain.
- Citizens can purchase aerial fireworks and put on their own shows.
- We sat in a church parking lot on a little hill and had a panoramic view of an hour or more of the best fireworks we’ve ever seen.
- It seems they compete with fireworks like Minnesotans do for the best and biggest Christmas decorations. Every year I say I want to go back.
South Dakota has some great places like the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore (or Rount Mushmore, as it is known in our family since I accidentally called it that). Mom’s mistakes are also great sources of entertainment. Between those big, exciting areas, the prairie can look quite dull.
Science Museum or Zoo Membership
We had either a science museum or zoo membership each year, so we were always on the lookout for places that reciprocate with the program.
- The Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls is just such a place.
- We stayed at a motel in the area and the next morning spent a couple of hours at the zoo before getting in the van for a long day of driving.
- It was free with our membership, so I didn’t feel we needed to spend the day there to get our money’s worth. It was a great start to our day and we had some very contented children for several hours.
- Another GREAT thing about South Dakota is something Travel South Dakota does. They have a mobile app that will allow you to explore each area and find out what is available. They also have audio tours for you to download.
- When we traveled they had sets of audios that you could pick up at rest stops.
- They gave you great descriptions of the history of the place you were traveling.
- You had to drop the audios off at another rest stop before you left the state or mail them back.
- We learned a great deal of South Dakota history in a very interesting way. I think the downloads will be much easier to use.
These are just a few of the things we discovered about these two states. While these states had long stretches of open road with not a lot of things to see and do, by being alert and intentional we found many great things they had to offer.
In our book, Purposeful Planning, I provide more travel tips.
A Secret to Enjoying the Journey
The final tip I would like to share is our travel bible verse and how we used it during our trip. Feel free to use it in your own family.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philipians 2:3-4 NIV
We would start memorizing this verse, or re-memorizing it, several weeks before any travel.
- We would talk about what it means.
- What it would look like in different situations.
- Have our children give examples.
When we stopped someplace, Dan would line them all up:
- He would ask them to put their hands in his and look into his eyes.
- They would recite the verse together.
- He would talk about where we were going and what we would do.
- Then he would tell them what we expected of them.
- He would end with a brief prayer.
This only took a few minutes, but it often made a huge difference.
All these tips can help you enjoy the journey to your destination.
Phyllis is an ordinary woman serving an extraordinary God. She has been the joyful wife of her best friend Daniel for 31 years and became a stay at home mom 27 years ago after retiring from a management position. She homeschooled their three children for 19 years and is now enjoying the fruits of her labors. She has published several books, including her favorite, Purposeful Planning. Visit her on her website at Phyllis-Sather.com
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