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?

  • Sometimes you find things in your own backyard.⁣
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Just up the road from our home in Crete, Nebraska, we found the National Museum of Roller Skating. Our curiosity piqued, we stopped in and took a look around. There we found the world's largest collection of historical roller skates, costumes, and memorabilia. ⁣
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It took us back to our childhood and spending time at the roller skating rink (do kids even skate anymore?). We remembered crossing over on the turns for the first time and bending at the knees for "Downtown" by Petula Clark. So many great memories. ⁣
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Sometimes, we focus so much on getting away that we forget that we have some really interesting places close to home, as well. The next time you feel a hankering to go somewhere, maybe try going down the street. You never know what treasure you might find and what memories it evoke.
  • This was our Valentine’s Day dessert last year. Chef Kurtess Mortensen at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile created this memorable dish he called “Fat Elvis.” It was a chocolate bread pudding, served alongside banana brûlée and caramelized peanuts then topped with marshmallow cream, homemade peanut butter ice cream, and a candied bacon garnish. We are giddy with anticipation to see what he comes up with tonight! We are budgeting our calories accordingly. 😉
  • “Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.”
– Lewis Carroll
  • It's been a long winter. I need to see flowers again! Are you with me?Let's talk about these flowers. ⁣
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We are often asked about our favorite place we've ever visited. While that question is hard to answer, we almost always mention Tallinn, Estonia, as a contender.⁣
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Estonia has an interesting history. Conquered in 1227 by Denmark, it never again enjoyed independence until  1920. That freedom was short lived, however, as the Soviet Union occupied the country in 1940. Finally, in 1991, Estonia regained its independence and has remained free ever since. The country joined NATO in 2004. ⁣
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Visiting Estonia, we could see the remnants of Soviet control. Large block buildings dominate the landscape. They are of Soviet Communist design: utilitarian in nature with no thought given to design. They look just like the buildings you've seen in movies about the Soviet Union. ⁣
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Now free, Estonians have done what they can to erase the gray days of Soviet control. The Soviet-style buildings are painted bright colors, and flowers abound in the streets. The people are warm, cheerful, friendly, and welcoming. ⁣
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Yes, Estonia is a wonderful country, and we can't wait to return.
  • Each year from late February to early April, hundreds of thousands of Sandhills Cranes migrate through Nebraska on their way north to their breeding grounds. It's considered one of the greatest spectacles in nature, so thousands of people come to experience this incredible time.⁣
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We traveled to Kearney, Nebraska, one of the best cities for crane viewing, last year. Because the best times to view the cranes is sunrise and sunset, we found ourselves with some free time during the day. It turns out that Kearney has a lot to offer in terms of things to do.⁣
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Scroll across our highlights on Instagram, and you'll find the stories highlights we made during our time there. On our blog (link in bio) you'll also find a post we wrote with ideas for 20 things to do in Kearney while you wait on the cranes. ⁣
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Put crane viewing on your bucket list. It really is one of the most amazing experiences we've ever had in nature. And don't worry about being bored between sunrise and sunset--Kearney has too much to offer.
  • Sometimes, you find great cocktails where you least expect...⁣
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In the Mason City, Iowa, airport, (about halfway between Mason City and Clear Lake) we found a wonderful little restaurant called CAVU-American Kitchen and Coctail Lounge. It's different from any other airport restaurant and bar in the world because it is place so good, the airport becomes the destination.⁣
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While there last fall, we sampled a couple of their specialty cocktails. On the left a refreshing take on a margarita, on the right, a cocktail featuring St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur. Both were fantastic and worth a trip to the airport, even if you're not flying anywhere.
  • Learn how to avoid being labeled "that annoying guy" on a cruise ship in a new post on our blog that Steve wrote this weekend. ⁣
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You should know that 99% of the people we meet on cruises are nice people and fun to be around. However, it seems like there's always that one guy or gal who just gets under your skin. ⁣
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Click on the link to our blog in our bio and see what made of our list of things to do to avoid being "that guy" on a cruise ship. ⁣
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Are there some things we missed? Let us know - we'd love to hear from you.
  • The Sandhill Crane migration will be starting very soon, and @visitkearney, Nebraska, is the perfect place to go to witness this amazing sight. ⁣
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Because the cranes are best viewed at sunrise and sunset, a good cup of coffee is a necessity. ⁣
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During our hosted visit to town last year, we re-caffinated at a couple different coffee shops, including @baristasdailygrind. ⁣
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Ann loved the way her coffee was served, with a barista's kiss--a chocolate covered espresso bean sitting in a little cloud of whipped cream. Talk about a great good morning kiss!

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