As you have probably noticed, Steve and I are very excited for next week’s total solar eclipse! We are really fortunate that Crete, Nebraska, (where we live) is in the path of totality and because of that, we’re expecting lots of visitors to begin arriving here in the next few days.
We’ve encouraged people to come to Crete early, enjoy all of the eclipse activities our city has planned and see what else this rural Nebraska town has to offer.
As we’ve been making recommendations of things for visitors to see and do in Crete, I was curious about what contributors to Trip Advisor listed as their favorite activities. Sadly, a search for “things to do” in Crete produced zero results. Zero!
So, we decided to come up with our own list for people, whether you’re visiting our town for the first time or have lived here all your life.
Here are more than 70 things to see and do in Crete, Nebraska (along with some fun pictures of Steve doing them).
1. Eat a Runza
This warm, fresh-baked bread is filled with ground beef seasoned with a top-secret blend of spices and mixed with cabbage and onions. It is one of our favorite foods and a Midwestern tradition. Pick one up at our local Runza Restaurant as you come into town on Highway 33.
2. Learn a new language
Crete Public Schools offers English as a second language classes for all ages and you can learn Spanish online through resources at our public library. With many languages spoken here, there’s always someone wanting to learn and finding a conversation partner is a great way to connect to others in the community.
3. Gather with friends at The Brew House
This is one of our favorite places in Crete! The Brew House is a coffee shop by day and a beer and wine bar at night. They serve coffee from The Mill in the morning and feature mostly Nebraska beers and wines during their evening hours along with some great food (try the pretzel bites and pulled pork sliders) and entertainment. The Brew House has quickly become a favorite meeting place and venue for special events.
4. Take a stroll around the Doane University campus
Doane University is undoubtedly one of the most scenic college campuses in the Midwest. This liberal arts university was established more than 140 years ago and is a beautiful place to take a walk and enjoy nature when you’re in Crete.
5. Visit the one-room school house
The Saline County District 1 Star School depicts the 1910-1915 era of schools in this area and is very well preserved. Renovated in part by a few dedicated retired school teachers, this schoolhouse is open for special occasions or by appointment by calling Larry Shestak at (402) 826-0182 or Deb Prokop at (402) 826-4249.
6. Sidle up to the taco truck
Rico’s Tacos, usually located just across the street from City Hall near 13th and Linden, is a food truck associated with and in the parking lot of Carnicería San Fernando. There they serve some great food including a variety of authentic tacos made with asada (steak), adobada (pork), cachete (cheek), buche (stomach), tripa (tripe) and pollo, (chicken). We aren’t as adventurous as some, but we do love the steak quesadilla.
7. Admire the trees
In 1978, just two years after the new Crete Junior/Senior high opened, teachers Mildred Conkling and Mike Coe established the Crete Public School Arboretum at 1500 E. 15th St. For years, they had students collect recyclables to sell and the profits were used to purchase trees for the arboretum. The building near the arboretum has changed a lot over the years and is now a middle school. However, many of the trees remain the same. Come admire the trees and see how the arboretum has grown over the past 40 years.
8. Jump out of a plane
Skydive Crete is located at the Crete Municipal Airport (yes, we have an airport). They are a student orientated dropzone and their mission is to make your skydive a safe, successful, and fun experience. Skydive Crete has been around since 1983 and we often see their parachutes gliding through the air from our house.
9. Try a pastry at Crystal’s Bakery
A variety of fresh pastries and baked goods are available daily at this Main Street corner shop. Stop in and load up a tray of baked good to share with family and friends. Our favorites include the flaky oreja, peanut butter cookies, guava pastries, and colorful conchas. Crystal’s also carries other grocery items and has a wide variety of fresh produce.
10. Take a class at Gold Star Martial Arts
This local studio offers classes for ages four and up, including Traditional Taekwondo, ATA Tigers, Karate for Kids, Leadership and Legacy Training, Xtreme Martial Arts, and Hyper Martial Arts Athlete Training. Students of all ages learn respect, honor, integrity, courtesy, goal-setting, and other important leadership life skills at Gold Star Martial Arts.
11. Plant something
Crete has a great community garden hidden away just off of 10th Street and Thornwood Ave. Residents can apply for a lot and grow their own healthy food at a very low cost. The community garden is also a wonderful place to share growing and cooking techniques with others.
12. Tour a historic home
The Jesse Bickel house, also known locally as “The Maples,” is considered to be the first house in Crete. The home sits on the southwest corner of a 20-acre tract near Tuxedo Park. A museum today, it is filled with period furniture and provides a look back in time to when Crete was a new town. Looking at the house today you’d never believe it started out as a log cabin or served as the town’s first post office. It is open for special occasions, or by appointment by calling Scott Kuncl at (402) 826-9461.
13. Check out a book (or a cake pan)
The Crete Public Library provides access to more than 27,000 print and audio visual resources, including books, audiobooks, DVDs and videos, large print books, newspapers, and magazines. The library also provides access to eBooks and audios through OverDrive. You can also borrow other things like LEGOs, games, and even specialty cake pans!
14. Get a mani/pedi
There are several places to get a great mani/pedi in Crete and my favorite is Le’s Nail Spa on Main Street. Pick a color and relax in a massaging chair while the professionals pamper you. Le Nails offers great prices on manicures and pedicures as well gel and acrylic nail options. I appreciate the nice women who work there and the fact that they keep a special box with my name on it with supplies used just on me.
15. See why ACE is the place
Yes, Crete’s ACE Hardware can meet all your hardware needs, but they also have complimentary popcorn and friendliest staff in town. Stop by Dan and Val Papik’s store in downtown Crete and see what makes this place so special. We love their products and the customer service is second to none (they often carry things out to our car for us). We especially like that they keep a file with the paint colors we’ve used in every room of our house in case we forget.
16. Impress your guests with a custom cookie
Hands down — best custom cookies we’ve ever seen. The owner of Crete Custom Cookies does amazing work that is customized just for you or your special event. Need a cookie shaped like an octopus? Crete Custom Cookies can do it! They bake tasty cut-out sugar cookies and frost them with royal icing before decorating them with the most exquisite details you can imagine. Speciality orders available for pick-up or delivery 24/7 by appointment by calling (402) 461-4410.
17. Read the paper
Founded on May 5, 1871, as the Saline County Post shortly before the first train pulled into town on fresh tracks, The Crete News continues the legacy of publishing a community newspaper every week. Read all about local news and sports and remember what happened decades ago in the Days Gone By section. We love that our small-town paper still includes engagement and wedding notices and you can see who got a speeding ticket in the weekly record.
18. Have breakfast at 9th Street Grill
The breakfast at 9th Street Grill is just what you want in a small-town cafe: fast, delicious, and inexpensive. The bacon and eggs are always on point, and the sides are good, as well. If you’re hungry, try the big boy breakfast: hash browns, sausage, onions, peppers and diced ham topped with swiss cheese, served with two eggs, toast and a cup of sausage gravy. Stop by for lunch or dinner and enjoy a burger or steak from beef raised on the owner’s farm. On Wednesday evenings, burgers are just $3.00 and place is packed.
19. Camp at Tuxedo Park
Tuxedo Park is a 96-acre facility in northwest Crete, west of the Blue River and is the largest park in Crete. The park has restroom and shower facilities, 20 RV camping sites and dump station, picnic areas and playground, ski trail and a hiking trail.
20. Watch the game at Elle’s on Main
Elle’s on Main is a great sports bar and restaurant. On Thursday nights after 8 p.m., stop by for a $1 street taco. Or six. Once you bite into one of these tasty treats, you’ll just want to keep munching away. Elle’s also offers a variety of sandwiches and sides for a reasonable price to go along with your favorite frosty beverage. We really like the cuban sandwich and the fact we can get tater-tots as a side. They seem to taste even better when we’re watching the Huskers on one of the big screen TVs there.
21. Support a sport
Crete is home to the Crete Cardinals, the Doane Tigers, and several active youth sports programs all with quality athletic traditions. This means there is always some type of competition happening somewhere in town. From Tuxedo Park to the campus of Doane University to the middle and high school gymnasiums, fields, and tennis courts, Crete has excellent facilities capable of hosting sports contests year round. Crete Schools offers free athletic passes to those 65 and older.
22. Savor the alambre platter at Cristina’s
Cristina’s is one of our favorite (of many) Mexican restaurants in Crete. It has been a local favorite for years and the service is just fantastic. Using fresh ingredients, they serve up some of the best chips, salsa and guacamole in town. And when you’re really hungry, try the alambre platter. It’s a pile of delicious meat (steak or pork), onions and peppers topped with melted, toasty cheese and served with corn or flour tortillas. Try it. You’ll be glad you did.
23. Search for a Geocache
Geocaching is an activity that can be done almost anywhere, and Crete is no exception. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here for a description. In any event, some clever people have hidden caches throughout our town. Ann and I have spent afternoons searching — see if you can find a cache that lists Postcard Jar — our name is out there.
24. Watch a high school musical
In January of 2016, Crete opened its new high school, which includes a 650-seat auditorium perfect for theatrical and music performances. During the school year this facility is used for choir and band concerts, musicals, and plays. Many of the performances are free although there is a small fee for the high school musical in the spring.
25. Admire the “Goddess of Liberty”
In 1915, the Bohemian Park Club donated a statue of the “Goddess of Liberty” (a replica of a statue in Myers Park on Long Island) to the City of Crete. The statue stood in Crete for nearly 100 years until vandals knocked it over in early 2014, breaking it into about 50 pieces. City workers picked up the pieces and had the fountain restored, rededicating it in the summer of 2015. Today, it again stands atop a fountain in City Park and has become an iconic centerpiece for the community.
26. Have a beer at Red Dog Tavern
Owner and Crete native Tyler Lothrop spent several years in Nashville before returning to his hometown to open Red Dog Tavern on Main Street. A popular establishment with locals (espeically the college crowd), Red Dog Tavern is a great place to kick back and relax with a brew, shoot some pool, play Jenga, try a pickle shot, and visit with friends. They also periodically have live music and karaoke.
27. Play frisbee golf
Doane University has a nice disc golf course near the parking lots at Hanson Leadership Hall. Bring your own discs and see if you can land yours in the baskets.
28. Stop by the Farmer’s Market
Every Thursday afternoon in the summer months, locals bring their fresh produce and baked goods to the Farmer’s Market in downtown Crete. Located in the Shopko parking lot at the corner of 9th and Main, you can find fresh produce, jams, jellies and crafts. You can also buy cookies, breads, cinnamon rolls (the peanut butter ones are our favorites), and amazing kolaces. Speaking of kolaces…
29. Try a kolace
Kolaces are a Czech tradition and another favorite around these parts. Kolace is a type of buttery pastry, shaped in a circle with a dollop of fruit in the middle. My favorite is cherry, but apricot, poppyseed, and cream cheese are also among the most popular, it seems.
30. Climb a caboose
Until we wrote this blog post, we didn’t really know much about the Burlington Northern caboose that is situated on the Doane campus near the golf course on Iris Avenue. Thankfully, several people wrote to tell us about its significance. The caboose at Doane was given to the university by Burlington Northern Railroad Company as a symbol of the historical connection between the college and the railroad. It stands at the center of a tract that was donated by the Burlington Missouri River Railroad Company to the trustees of Doane College in 1871 for a Congregational college campus. The tracks were completed through Crete that same year. Thomas Doane was a chief civil engineer for the railroad and was also instrumental in establishing the college. With the assistance of Harold Jones and David Osterhout, the caboose was placed in Crete in 1996 in recognition of the original Burlington land gift.
31. Catch a movie
The ISIS theater, which has had its name since 1926 (way longer than any group in the Middle East), was recently updated to the latest digital video and sound technology. It also offers some of the cheapest concessions you’ll ever find in a movie theater — and you can even stop in during its business hours to get popcorn to go. I bought this box of popcorn for $1. Believe it.
32. Dip up some creamy queso
La Carreta serves up a creamy warm white cheese queso dip that always pleases. Order a bowl to go with your chips and salsa as you wait for your meal. A word of caution – it’s addictive.
33. Take a picture by the mural
Locals often take this iconic mural for granted, as we drive by it all the time. Find a parking spot (they’re all free here) near the mural at 13th and Norman and snap a photo of this mural of downtown Crete in the early days. And while you’re at it, turn 90 degrees to your left and you’ll have a great view of one of Crete’s longest running businesses, The Crete Mills, owned by Bunge.
34. Appreciate architecture
Take a drive around the College Hill Historic District, bounded by Juniper, 15th, Boswell, and 9th streets. Most of the homes in this area were built by founders and supporters of then Doane College and Crete’s business district. Many of these homes remain single family dwellings and are an excellent representation of 19th and early 20th century residential architecture.
35. Hit the links
College Heights Country Club is a semi-private 9-hole course that offers something for beginners as well as scratch golfers. The short tree-lined fairways, not-so-subtle greens, and curvy par-fives offer a great challenge. A round of golf is only $15 on weekdays. I grew up on this course and especially love trying to stick a shot on the hilly green on #3 and hitting over the big tree in the middle of the fairway on #6.
36. Make a run to De’Leons at 1 a.m.
Do you like Mexican food? Do you really like it at 1 a.m.? De’Leon’s has Mexican food for reasonable prices and they are open late. Try the superfries. You can thank us later.
37. Play in a park
Crete has nine City-managed parks that have a variety of playground equipment, green space, ball fields, and more. They include:
- City Park – 12th & Kingwood
- Tuxedo Park – 13th & Tuxedo Road
- Wildwood Park – 4th & Grove
- Rotary Park – 9th & Kingwood
- Gus Stoll Park – 7th & Pine
- Armory Park – 515 E. 1st
- Old Mill – 3rd & Norman
- Northward Park – 20th & Main
- Westwood Park – Heather Drive
38. Visit a church
One of the things we love most about our hometown is our church family. We attend Crete Berean Church just east of town on Hwy. 33 and help lead the college ministry there. There are also lots of other great churches in town offered in both English and Spanish languages. Crete Berean offers a worship service Sunday mornings at 10:30 a.m. as well as adult and children’s activities and studies throughout the week. The church is especially active on Wednesday nights with AWANA (for kids pre-K through 6th grade), TREK (middle school youth group), and OASIS (high school youth group).
39. Bump, set, spike
Crete has two lighted sand volleyball courts at Tuxedo Park as well as additional courts on the Doane University campus. Gather your friends and practice your serves, sets, and spikes!
40. Find a bargain
New Beginnings is one my favorite places to go thrift-store shopping. This second-hand store has lots of home goods, dishware, clothing, and books. There is also a pretty extensive Christmas and holiday section on the third floor. New Beginnings is also a great place to donate items you don’t need anymore, as all of the proceeds benefit Crete Cares.
41. Sip a cup of Starbucks coffee
Yes, you can get a Starbucks coffee in Crete! The coffee shop in lower level of the Campus Center at Doane University now serves Starbucks coffee!
42. Stop and smell the roses
We love to drive around town and look at all the pretty flowers and landscapes, including the lovely rose garden in City Park. You can also purchase fresh flowers and arrangements from local florists, Crete Floral, which also carries some of our postcards, and Abloom.
43. Check out our tank
I remember playing on this Sherman tank as a kid and it still is one of Crete’s iconic structures. For several years, it was caged behind a fence, but was recently moved, repainted, and freed from the barriers. Today, it is displayed in a corner of City Park but visitors are asked to NOT climb on it.
44. Show your team spirit
Our local sporting goods store, Heath Sports and Tees, is right in the middle of downtown Crete and offers a variety of activewear and t-shirts featuring all our favorite teams. Stop by for a Crete Cardinal tee or a Doane Tiger jacket. They can also do custom logos and embroidery.
45. Ignite your taste buds
Mahlon Kohl’s beef jerky at Blue River Meats is a local favorite and a great treat for those passing through town. The Firehouse jerky (slightly sweet with medium heat) is a favorite of ours, but you’re sure to enjoy the Honey Bee and Holy Habanero flavors, as well. We also like to buy fresh-cut steaks for our out-of-town guests at the full-service meat counter and finish off a great meal with fresh-baked Village Pie Maker pie that we pick up from the freezer there.
46. Take a walk
There are lots of great places to walk in Crete whether you want lots of hills or a flat surface. One of our favorites is the walking trail just west of the Crete Area Medical Center. This 5-foot wide cement trail is just a half a mile around (so you can make a few laps), but it is quiet, picturesque and surrounded by nature. It loops around a wooded area that is shaded by trees in the summer and is a great place to unwind and get a little exercise.
47. Try a new food
We have lots of speciality grocery stores that offer unique foods from a variety of countries. Try some Mexican candy or add a new sauce to your stir fry from our Asian market. We’ve found these stores to be very welcoming and the staff are happy to make recommendations.
48. Chow down on chow mein
Just about everyone I know loves Chinese food, and Crete has two options for your dining pleasure. First is King Buffet, which, in addition to an a’la carte menu, offers a vast all-you-can-eat buffet for less than $10. The other is Great Wall on the west side of town which serves up a great plate of orange chicken.
49. Kick a soccer ball
There are many soccer enthusiasts in Crete and it isn’t terribly difficult to get a pickup game going. There are fields available through the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, as well as facilities at the public schools and university in town (but check with them first for scheduling).
50. Watch the birds
Crete’s Youth in Governance group installed several blue bird boxes at the Riverside Park Cemetery years ago and they’ve attracted quite a few blue birds. Take a walk or drive through this scenic resting place and see if you can spot a colorful blue bird.
51. Peek inside an octagonal barn
Located in Tuxedo Park is octagonal building was originally the ticket office and information booth during assemblies at was then called Chautauqua Park. This eight-sided building is the last remnant of the Nebraska Chautauqua.
52. Go boating at Bluestem Lake
This state park is just a few miles outside of Crete on Sprague Road (go east out of town on 13th Street). Bluestem is 325 acres in size with six miles of shoreline and provides places for boating, picnicking, and primitive camping with over 200 campsites to choose from. There is also a swim beach and playground. A state park permit is required for entry.
53. Remember those who served
Doane was one of 131 colleges and universities in the United States selected to participate in the V-5 and V-12 program during World War II. This vital wartime program trained more than 60,000 Navy and Marine Corps officers and a total of 787 men received training conducted at Doane between 1942 and 1945. An anchor now serves as a centerpiece at the Navy Memorial Plaza that was installed on the university campus in Crete in 2002.
54. Learn about the prairie
Located between Crete and Denton is the Spring Creek Audubon Society tallgrass prairie. You can take a walk along the trails of this 850-acre preserve and witness native tallgrass prairie ecology firsthand. This also makes a great venue for special events and family gatherings.
55. Shout, “pull!” at Izaak Walton
Located on the back side of Tuxedo Park, the Izaak Walton lodge hosts some fierce trapshooting competitions. If you’re a sport shooter, head down and test your skills.
56. Go stargazing
Built in 1883, the Boswell Obesrvatory on the campus of Doane University is one of the more unique buildings in town. It still houses its original, eight-inch equatorial telescope. Now restored, the telescope continues to be used for sky viewing during special events. The observatory, which used to house a museum and the Doane Family Association archives, is the now the office of the president of the university.
57. Treat yourself to ice cream
Dairy Queen ice cream treats are a favorite in the Midwest (owned by Omahan Warren Buffet’s Bershire Hathaway). Crete has a new DQ Grill & Chill as you drive into town on Hwy. 33 and the Dilly Bars and Blizzards seem to be popular items. Also, there’s a great ice cream cone next door at Runza Restaurants that typically sells for about $1. We like to order in the drive through — “One vanilla cone and one twist cone, please.”
58. See a show
We’d lived in Crete for more than a decade before either one of us attended a Doane University theater production and boy were we missing out. Doane has a fantastic theater arts department and everything we’ve been to has been just terrific. Tickets to shows are also reasonably priced.
59. Take your dog to the dog park
Crete has a fantastic dog park located just east of town on Sprague Road and County Road 2400. Created through a partnership of Nestlé Purina and the City, there are grassy areas for both large and small dogs to run and play and plenty of tables and benches for people to sit and visit with other dog lovers.
60. Learn to dance
Crete has several dance studios, including one called POYDS, which stands for put on your dancing shoes! POYDS started in 2013 when a student at Doane University decided to do her senior religious studies capstone on an interpretive dance of the first three chapters of the book of Genesis. Owner (and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director) Kayleigh Schadwinkel, encourages dancers of all dancing backgrounds to always put on their dancing shoes, to learn life lessons of confidence, hope and much more while learning to love and appreciate the wonderful art of dance.
61. Buy sweet corn from the back of a truck
Every summer, our friends from Behrens Family Sweet Corn park their pickup truck at the filling station at 13th and Linden and sell the best sweet corn we’ve ever had for $6 a dozen. There is nothing like husking fresh corn on a hot summer day, boiling it, and then covering it in butter, salt and pepper and eating it for dinner. It’s a must when you live in the Cornhusker state.
62. Take a swim
Offering a zero-entry area, water slides, diving boards, space for laps, and a play area where water pours over the kids as they dodge sprays of water, our pool offers something for everyone and is a happening place in the summer months. Private and group swimming lessons are also offered, as well as an adult water exercise class. The last day of the season is typically reserved for dogs.
63. Explore nature
If you have young children, they will love the outdoor classroom at Doane! We just discovered it while writing this blog post and we were so impressed with what we found there. The Nature Explore Classroom is located just across the parking lot from Hansen Hall on the Doane University campus and is full of all kinds of fun learning stations. You can stack pieces of wood, read a book, play instruments, and even crawl through hollow logs.
64. Go sledding
During the winter months, there’s often enough snow for sledding here and the hilly fairways on #7 and #9 at Crete’s golf course make College Heights Country Club a great place to sled.
65. Order a pizza
There are several options for pizza in Crete and we like them all. You can never go wrong with a made-to-order pizza from Pizza Hut (and throw in a few wings while you’re at it). Or try a Valentino’s original special with hamburger, sausage, ham, pepperoni and mushrooms, or a taco pizza from one of our two Casey’s convenience stores.
66. Enter something in the Saline County Fair
For over 120 years, the Saline County Fair has brought together young and old to showcase their talents in a variety of venues. We love going through and watching the 4-H kids show their hogs and cattle and always enjoy perusing the exhibit hall where you’ll find everything from homemade pickles and pies to sewing projects and photography.
67. Join a service club or organization
Crete has a Rotary Club, Lions Club and a Sertoma Club along with other service organizations, and all do many great things in and for our community.
There are also plenty of opportunities to volunteer in Crete. Help out with the CPS Backpack Program, be a TeamMates mentor, or help distribute food at the mobile food bank once a month.
69. Watch a sunset
I know we’re biased, but we think Crete (and really much of Nebraska) has some of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve ever seen. Take a drive, find a hill, and watch the sky turn into the most amazing colors right before your very eyes.
70. Pick out a pumpkin
Crete’s Great Pumpkin Festival happens each October and is quickly becoming one of the area’s most popular festivals. Visit downtown Crete for all kinds of food and fun for the whole family and pick out your favorite pumpkin. The 2017 Great Pumpkin Festival is planned for Sunday, Oct. 8. We’re planning to be there again this year as sponsors of the photo booth.
71. Drive across the new bridge
I get it. If you’re visiting Crete for the first time, this may not be for you. But for locals who feared driving across an old rickety bridge and then waited more than two years while the new one was built, this is a BIG DEAL.
Which things are your favorites to do in Crete and what we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments sections below. We’d love to hear from you!
As always, thanks for sharing!