03/19/12

Nebraska off the beaten path

Nebraska is the perfect place for travelers to relive special memories of road trips past. Traditionalists may want to stick to tried-and-true tourist destinations. But, for those who’ve already experienced the view from the Nebraska State Capitol or spent an afternoon at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, there’s plenty to see and do off the beaten path.

Automotive Homage
The Panhandle is the perfect place for a rustic retreat set against rugged badlands and star-saturated night skies. Just outside of Alliance, travelers will find something surprising—Carhenge, a tribute to England’s Stonehenge built to scale with 38 vintage cars.

Food and Fossils
Travelers headed to Ogallala’s Big Mac for a day on the water can spend their downtime finding history at the Petrified Wood Gallery in Ogallala and down-home flavors at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse in Paxton. The Petrified Wood Gallery showcases ancient woods, fossils and American Indian arrowheads. Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse is a worldwide safari and small-town eatery wrapped into one, as diners enjoy comfort food like chicken fried steak surrounded by hunting trophies, including a full-size polar bear.

Diatomic Rock
The Sandhills, known for lazy, winding rivers and a relaxed lifestyle, has an unexpected geologic feature. In the 1850s, a U.S. Army explorer found a cave of strange, lightweight rock. The diatomic “chalk” was initially used as building material before being mined for other purposes, including use as paint filler. Now, visitors can explore more than 6,000 feet of honeycombed caverns on guided tours through the Happy Jack Peak and Chalk Mine near Scotia.

New Looks
Classic cars and modern technology collide at the Classic Car Collection in Kearney. The nation’s newest automobile attraction houses 130 vehicles from the 1900s to the present. The exhibit goes interactive with iPads that allow travelers to find details about the cars’ inner workings and stories behind the models. In nearby Minden, travelers can find quiet country charm at Burchell’s White Hill Farmhouse Inn. The historic farmhouse is outfitted with modern conveniences, and the on-site restaurant serves up home-style fare, including a nightly Tin Plate Special.

Coloful Collectibles
Southeast Nebraska offers travelers a glimpse of pioneer life. But those seeking something more obscure can visit Lee’s Legendary Marbles and Collectibles in York. Lee Batterton has always been fascinated by the unique colors and patterns of marbles. His favorites are the gold-filled Lutz marbles, while history buffs will appreciate the rare pre-World War I marbles filled with uranium. Travelers who are crazy for collectibles may lose their marbles at Lee’s.

Trout Tour
In northeast Nebraska lies some of the state’s most picturesque landscapes and attractions to bait anyone’s interest. One such attraction is the Grove Lake Trout Rearing Station, about 1 ½ miles west of Royal. Operated by the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, the site rears approximately 130,000 rainbow trout hatchlings each year until their weight reaches a half pound. The trout are then stocked in lakes and streams across Nebraska. Visitors can stop by to learn about the rearing process, take a walk on the well-kept grounds or feed the fish from dispensers around the ponds.

Great Skates
In Lincoln, Nebraska’s capital city, the National Museum of Roller Skating is an unusual find among the more common history and art museums. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of roller skating memorabilia. One unique item in the museum’s collection is a pair of jetpack skates from 1956. The skates can be propelled up to 40 miles per hour by a 16-pound gas engine worn like a backpack. Find more off-the-beaten-path places to play and stay at VisitNebraska.gov.  

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