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?

  • 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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