In Best of 2017 [part 1] we posted our picks for best attraction, show, new place, and people. Today, we’re back to share some of the best food, museums, views, and experiences from our year in travel.

Best food –

Chicken fried steak at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile (Pawhuska, Oklahoma)

Chicken fried steak is a dish we’ve never made for dinner at home but enjoy ordering when we’re out. It’s a splurge for sure and if you’re going to take in the calories, you want it to be worth every one of them. The first time we went to Pawhuska, Oklahoma, this summer, it was a given that we’d try Ree Drummond’s chicken fried steak and it did not disappoint. In fact, Steve has tried chicken fried steaks all over the country and says the one at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile is, by far, the best he’s ever had.  It was a fork-tender, thinly sliced ribeye, breaded and fried to perfection, served with a side of delicious mashed potatoes, all smothered in creamy country gravy and five months later, he’s still talking about it.

Chicken fried steak at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile

Honorable mentions: Sunday brunch at College of the Ozarks (Branson, Missouri);  mini chocolate chip cookies at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch; the fresh fish and clam chowder up and down the Oregon coast; soup and salad at Salad Bros. (Rochester, Minnesota); and the garlic bread and steaks at The Peppermill (Valentine, Nebraska).

Sunday brunch, College of the Ozarks, Branson, Missouri

The College of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri, serves an amazing Sunday Brunch that is prepared and served entirely by students who are working to pay their tuition.

Chocolate chip cookies, Vala's Pumpkin Patch, Gretna, Nebraska

These mini chocolate chip cookies at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch near Omaha were the perfect blend of crunchy, chewy and sweet. Ann had to make Steve count to 30 between cookies so they would last longer.

Clam chowder in Oregon

Ann and Carol tried the clam chowder everywhere we went in Oregon.

Salad Brothers wild rice soup, mixed greens, and ranch pasta salad, Rochester, Minnesota

Ann’s favorite lunch in Rochester, Minnesota comes from a restaurant called Salad Brothers. It’s a mixed green/ranch pasta salad, a cup of wild rice soup and one of their delicious parmesan bread sticks.

Peppermill garlic bread, Valentine, Nebraska

The garlic bread at the Peppermill comes au jus for dipping.

Best museum –

Art Institute of Chicago

We love museums and make a point to go to them when we travel. This year, we visited several museums we’d never seen near our home in Nebraska, including the Benne Museum (Crete), Lincoln County Historical Museum (North Platte), and Homestead National Monument (Beatrice). But the museum visit we enjoyed the most was the morning we spent at the Art Institute of Chicago.

One of the most impressive pieces of work at the museum is Marc Chagall’s American Windows. These stained glass windows have recently been restored and are as beautiful as they are impressive.

Marc Chagall’s American Windows was absolutely breathtaking to see in person.

We also loved seeing the Thorne Miniature Rooms. We couldn’t get over the detail packed into these tiny rooms! Parquet flooring, tiny newspapers left folded on the table and even fruit trees outside the windows of these rooms were just some of the amazing details that made these miniatures look just like an actual room.

Steve looks at one of the many Thorne Miniature Rooms. We couldn’t get over the detail packed into these tiny rooms!

Honorable mentions: Space Center Houston (Houston, Texas); Centennial Museum (Valentine, Nebraska); Columbia River Maritime Museum (Astoria, Oregon); Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City); Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum (Ashland, Nebraska); Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve (Bartlesville, Oklahoma).

Apollo Mission Control Space Center Houston

The Apollo Mission Control room at Space Center Houston helped make history again and again.

Centennial Hall, electric hair curler, Valentine, Nebraska

We had never seen a hair curling device quite like this one we found at Centennial Hall. A number of readers remember them, though.

We spent several hours at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City on our summer vacation with Meghan and some other college students

We spent several hours at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City on our summer vacation with Meghan and some other college students.

Columbia River Maritime Museum US Coast Guard lifeboat, Astoria Oregon

This US Coast Guard lifeboat is on display at the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Nearly impossible to sink, boats like this patrol the often dangerous Columbia River Bar and provide emergency assistance to boaters in need.

SAC Museum hangar, Ashland, Nebraska.

One of the hangars at the SAC Museum near Ashland, Nebraska. The museum allows visitors to walk right up the airplanes on display and even take a peek inside some of them providing a look into the history of military aviation.

Woolaroc Museum mosaic, Woolaroc, Oklahoma

Located near Bartlesville, Oklahoma, the Woolaroc museum is loaded with art and artifacts from the collection of Frank Phillips. Mosaics like this one show the high level of artistry you’ll find there.

Best view –

Off the stern of the Carnival Valor in the Gulf of Mexico

There is nothing more calm and relaxing that watching the wake (and the world) go by from the stern of a cruise ship. Let’s just say, this is Steve’s “happy place.” We’ve taken six cruises so far and one of our favorite things to do on each one is simply sit back, relax, and watch the water. The views are spectacular and the weight of the world just seems to drift away with every wave.

Wake of the Carnival Valor

Steve loved watching the wake of the Carnival Valor on our trip across the Gulf of Mexico.

Honorable mentions: The shoreline at DePoe Bay (Oregon); from the top of the lookout tower at Nebraska National Forest (Halsey, Nebraska); from the blind at Rowe Sanctuary during the annual Sandhill Crane Migration (Gibbon, Nebraska); from the air while flying into Key West (Florida); from the deck of the lodge at Drummond Ranch (Pawhuska, Oklahoma).

Oregon Coast, Depoe Bay, Oregon

We stood and watched whales in the Pacific Ocean in Depoe Bay, Oregon.

View from Scott Lookout Tower, Nebraska National Forest

The view from the top of the Scott Lookout Tower across the Sandhills at the Nebraska National Forest. You could see for miles.

We watched thousands of Sandhill Cranes gather at sunset on the Platte River near Gibbon, Nebraska.

Florida Keys from the air, near Key West, Florida

Passengers on flights into Key West get to see views like this as they approach the airport; views that tell them they made a good choice in going there.

Pioneer Woman's lodge view

The view from the lodge across the Drummond Ranch near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, is absolutely incredible.

Best experience –

Watching the total solar eclipse from our own back yard

Of the hundreds of new new things we did while traveling this year, none compares to experiencing our first total solar eclipse from our own yard. We spent the day with family, college students, old friends, and new people we met that day. We were all in awe as we watched the sun go behind the moon and for two minutes and thirty-six seconds, we experienced one of the rarest occurrences in the universe. It was absolutely spectacular.

Steve and his dad, John Teget, watch the total solar eclipse from our front yard in Crete, Nebraska.

Steve and his dad, John Teget, watch the total solar eclipse from our front yard in Crete, Nebraska.

Total solar eclipse photo by Ronald D. Koch of Crete, Nebraska.

Total solar eclipse photo by Ronald D. Koch of Crete, Nebraska.

Honorable mentions: Whale watching in the Pacific Northwest; judging the National Indian Taco Championships (Pawhuska, Oklahoma); tasting Pinot Noir while feeding llamas at the Rain Dance Winery (Newberg, Oregon); traveling with our parents (Nebraska, Key West, Oregon, Oklahoma, Kansas); swimming in a cenote in Mexico; and throwing our boys off a tube on Table Rock Lake (Branson, Missouri).

Whale watching, Depoe Bay, Oregon

Visitors to Depoe Bay, Oregon, can stand along this wall and watch whales breaching in the water below.

Indian Taco fry bread being cooked in oil at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Indian Taco fry bread being cooked in oil at the National Indian Taco Championships in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Rain Dance Vineyards, feeding a llama, Newberg, Oregon

Meghan sips Pinot Noir while feeding a llama at Rain Dance vineyards near Newberg, Oregon.

Smith Falls, Valentine, Nebraska

We had a wonderful trip around Nebraska with Steve’s mom and dad this summer. Here we are at Smith Falls near Valentine, Nebraska.

We had such a good time with Ann's mom, Carol, on a trip to Oregon to see the coast and watch the Nebraska Cornhusker football team play the Oregon Ducks.

We had such a good time with Ann’s tiny mom, Carol, on a trip to Oregon to see the coast and watch the Nebraska Cornhusker football team play the Oregon Ducks.

Meghan and Steve swam in this cenote (can you find them) on our family vacation in Mexico this summer.

Meghan and Steve swam in this cenote (can you find them) on our family vacation in Mexico this summer.

Tubing on Table Rock Lake, Branson, Missouri

Michael, Josiah, and Davron loved tubing on Table Rock Lake near Branson. Steve loved driving the boat and making them fly off the tube.


What were some of your “bests” of 2017? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

  • There is nothing quite like preparing a perfect dish in your own kitchen. Courtesy of @thechefandthedish, Ann prepared a traditional Spanish paella with Cyndi Kane, a.k.a. Ree Drummond's BFF Hyacinth. Sure, learning to make the dish was fun. Savoring the meal, and the friendship that went with it, was the best part of that great afternoon.
  • In the chilly, pre-dawn light of an early spring day on the Platte River in central Nebraska you can be sure of one thing: soon you'll witness one of nature's greatest spectacles, tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes taking to the air for a day of foraging for food. If you have never witnessed this incredible sight, you must make sure you @visitnebraska so you can experience this for yourself. @visitKearney
  • A good cocktail is an experience. Instead of just having a drink to throw back, we love savoring a well-crafted beverage. Something we love about @celebritycruise is that good cocktails are easy to find. We aren't huge drinkers. Instead, we are strong believers in quality over quantity.
  • Something that always impresses us is the sheer size of a cruise ship. The fact that something that large can move and float and provide great service never ceases to amaze. But one of our favorite views is when we're docked next to another ship, and walking down a pier suddenly feels like walking through a canyon.
  • Here's a bridal shower idea...we put bottles of flavored water, juices, and sparkling wine from @wholefoods and @traderjoes in a large drink bucket with ice. We then served the drinks in stemless flutes with a cute, colorful straw.
  • We've been to many different farms in our lives, but never to one quite like this. Our cruise ship excursion in Grand Cayman took us to an actual turtle farm. We had so much fun walking the grounds, looking at the various turtles and learning all about them. Have you ever been to a turtle farm?
  • We just love tea time on @celebritycruises. Every day there are new, delicious treats. Take this delectable morsel, for instance. One bite of pure deliciousness!
  • Who remembers begging your parents to buy you a bag of these when you were a kid? Well, at the Archway Monument in @visitkearney, you can buy them for yourself! We just love these smooth, colored rocks and all the great family travel memories seeing them brings back.

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