I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled with Nebraska’s new tourism slogan, “Nebraska Nice” when it was introduced a few weeks ago.  I felt it lacked a certain something and didn’t capture all it could.  “Nice?”  Really?  I felt the tourism board could have said “Nebraska Swell” or “Nebraska Nifty,” or some other milquetoast word like that and captured the same idea.  But then we traveled the state.

At this point, I’m pretty sure you’re wondering why anyone would tour Nebraska.  Ann has had some health challenges recently, so we wanted to stay close to home should she need to get back quickly.  But we also wanted to take some time, get out of town, and relax.  A slow tour of our home state fit the bill perfectly.  We never did more than about three or four hours in the car in a day.  This slow pace over six days allowed us to do a variety of things, from touring the Golden Spike Tower in North Platte to wading in the water under Smith Falls; from attending a country music concert (Billy Currington!) in a rodeo arena to spending a night in the hotel General Nelson Miles used as his headquarters when he investigated the incident at Wounded Knee.  Throughout our trip one thing became clear: Nebraska has some exceptionally nice people, places and things; perhaps the slogan is more on-point than I first realized.

We decided to highlight some of Nebraska’s Nicest from our 2014 trip–nine things, to be exact.  We’re calling them “Nebraska’s Nicest Nine.”  Over the coming days and weeks, we’ll share those things, beginning with number nine, and working our way up to number one.   The list was compiled from the places we traveled this week on our 1,260-mile journey that took us west to North Platte, then off I-80 around Lake McConaughy to Alliance, then to Scottsbluff/Gering, up to Chadron, across Highway 20 to Valentine, and Norfolk, then down through Columbus to home.  These nine are the nicest sites, attractions, and people we found on this particular trip off the beaten path–a place definitely worth going.

 

  • 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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