Any trip through western Nebraska should include a stop at Chimney Rock National Historic Site and the Scottsbluff National Monument in the Scottsbluff/Gering area.  I say this, because these are beautiful places with cool history.  These monuments are located along the Oregon Trail and were key landmarks for pioneers as they headed west seeking a better life.  Today, each has a modern visitors’ center (complete with restrooms) so you can learn the geologic history of the site.  We’ve combined them in this post because they are close to each other (in fact, you can see them from each other) and were geologically formed in the same way.  We include them at #7 on the “Nebraska’s Nicest” list because we loved the vistas, and we really enjoyed our visit.

At the Chimney Rock visitors’ center, we went through the museum, and then stepped out back to take in a view of the rock.  It is an incredible formation–I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  And that’s about all there is to do there.  Standing there, I felt kind of like Chevy Chase in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” when he looked at the Grand Canyon.  I looked at it, and then I’d seen it.  Still, it’s worth the stop…plus, in the museum you can learn lots of fun facts like the somewhat inappropriate name given the formation by Native Americans (Elk Penis) before any pioneers appeared on the horizon.  I guess those jokes work in all times, places and cultures–which I think is awesome though I’m not sure Ann agrees.

View from the top of the Scottsbluff Monument (Photo by Ann Teget)

View from the top of the Scottsbluff Monument (Photo by Ann Teget)

At the Scottsbluff Monument, we hurried to drive to the top so we could be in front of 4 massive RVs that pulled in right behind us. At the top, we had the place to ourselves and took some time to walk along the short path to take in a view looking off to the south and east.  It was an incredible view.  As I stood there, I could imagine a wagon train lumbering along the ground below–and no, I couldn’t even see the RVs at that point.

Taken at the overlook at the top of Scottsbluff Monument (Photo by Ann Teget)

Taken at the overlook at the top of Scottsbluff Monument (Photo by Ann Teget)

Both sites have a small admission charge.  At Scottsbluff monument you can do like we did and drive your car to the top and back down.   (There is NO shame in doing this.)  If you’re feeling more energetic, there is a hiking trail that leads to the top.  Workers told us that most folks plan on about 1.5 hours for the climb and 45 minutes for the descent.  Finally, there is a service that will drive you to the top so you can walk back down to your car.  (If you’re planning to hike any of these trails, take note of the signs warning of rattlesnakes–there have been some reported this year.  Just be sure you stick to the trail and watch your step.)

Trail at the top of Scottsbluff Monument (Photo by Ann Teget)

Trail at the top of Scottsbluff Monument (Photo by Ann Teget)

Finally, there are some unique gifts you can pick up in the gift shops–for instance, we picked up a blue bonnet for our daughter.  I mean, how often do you find a bonnet these days that would fit a junior in college?

  • This is our Airbnb, Postcard Place. It's located right in Pawhuska, just a two and a half minute drive from the Pioneer Woman's Mercantile. It even has its own Instagram account, @postcardplce. ⁣
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Postcard Place can accommodate up to six people. With comfy bedding (including clean duvets for each new guest), USB ports by every bed, make-up remover wipes, comfy blankets for tv viewing, complimentary coffee/tea, creamer, full kitchen, soap, shampoo, hand lotion, and even a luggage scale, we've tried to think of everything you might want when spending a night away from home. Of course, we also provide stamped Pawhuska postcards so you can send greetings to those who couldn't come along on the trip.⁣
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Find Postcard Place on Airbnb and book it for your next trip to Pawhuska and come @visittheosage.
  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.

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