Nebraska’s Nicest Nine

Nebraska’s Nicest Nine

A couple years ago, Steve and I took off on a 6-day journey to find out for ourselves if our home state lives up to its then new slogan, “Nebraska Nice.”

We wrote about some of the nicest things we saw — calling them  our 2014 “Nebraska’s Nicest Nine.”  The list was compiled from the places we traveled that summer 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 that particular trip off the beaten path–a place definitely worth going.

Our Nebraska’s Nicest Nine:

#9 – Cody Park –  This unique park in North Platte was filled with a wide variety of animals (including white peacocks), a carousel, ice cream shop, and lots of smiling faces.

#8- Wildflowers and prairie grasses We were stunned (and so were our sinuses) by the incredible displays of purple and gold wildflowers and the prairie grasses throughout the state.

#7 – Chimney Rock and Scottsbluff Monument No list of Nebraska’s best would be complete without these two historic landmarks. They never disappoint.

postcardjar.com#6 – A kiss on the butte – Long and empty roads, rolling Sandhills, and an absence of cell phone coverage brought on the romance, and yes, a kiss on the butte.

#5 – Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park  Sadly, one of the least known attractions in Nebraska. This place is amazing and unlike any other fossil bed site in the world.

#4 – Circle C in Cody Students in this small town (that refuses to die) built a a straw-bale building and now run a supermarket – the first here in more than a decade.

#3 – Neon Bar and Grill – Perfectly seasoned and grilled steaks and excellent service earned this restaraunt a place in our Top 9. The fact that it was (by far) the cleanest restaurant in which we ate on our trip, moved it all the way up to #3.

#2 – Toadstool Geologic Park – There’s nothing like Toadstool anywhere else in Nebraska (or likely the world). It is located 19 miles from Crawford in the far northwest part of the state — but feels like you’re on the moon.

#1 – Innkeeper Jeanne Goetzinger –  We saw a lot of great attractions on our trip. But honestly, nothing compared to the people we met along the way. We found that it is people like Jeanne, that make Nebraska especially “nice.”

Nebraska’s Nicest Honorable Mention:

Concert at Wild West Rodeo Arena in North Platte; Photo by Ann Teget for postcardjar.comFront Street in Ogallala; Golden Spike Tower and visitor center in North Platte; Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron; Higgins Memorial in Columbus; Lake McConaughy; Motel Raine in Valentine; North Platte Hampton Inn; Ole’s Big Game Bar and Grill in Paxton; The Sand Bar and Grill in Norfolk; Smith Falls; Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge near Valentine.

Not so nice? You be the judge. Carhenge. We spent about 15 minutes at this Stonehenge replica made of old cars near Alliance. On our way back to the car, I asked Steve what he thought. He said, “It was everything I imagined and less. Much less.” Personally, I thought it was pretty cool.

What do you think? What are the nicest things you’ve seen in Nebraska or your home state? Let us know in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.

Nebraska’s Nicest Nine Recap

Nebraska’s Nicest Nine Recap

Earlier this summer, Steve and I took off on a 6-day journey to find out for ourselves if our home state lives up to its new slogan, “Nebraska Nice.”

We wrote about some of the nicest things we saw — calling them  our 2014 “Nebraska’s Nicest Nine.”  The list was compiled from the places we traveled this summer 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.

Our 2014 Nebraska’s Nicest Nine:

#9 – Cody Park –  This unique park in North Platte was filled with a wide variety of animals (including white peacocks), a carousel, ice cream shop, and lots of smiling faces.

#8- Wildflowers and prairie grasses We were stunned (and so were our sinuses) by the incredible displays of purple and gold wildflowers and the prairie grasses throughout the state.

#7 – Chimney Rock and Scottsbluff Monument No list of Nebraska’s best would be complete without these two historic landmarks. They never disappoint.

postcardjar.com#6 – A kiss on the butte – Long and empty roads, rolling Sandhills, and an absence of cell phone coverage brought on the romance, and yes, a kiss on the butte.

#5 – Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park  Sadly, one of the least known attractions in Nebraska. This place is amazing and unlike any other fossil bed site in the world.

#4 – Circle C in Cody Students in this small town (that refuses to die) built a a straw-bale building and now run a supermarket – the first here in more than a decade.

#3 – Neon Bar and Grill – Perfectly seasoned and grilled steaks and excellent service earned this restaraunt a place in our Top 9. The fact that it was (by far) the cleanest restaurant in which we ate on our trip, moved it all the way up to #3.

#2 – Toadstool Geologic Park – There’s nothing like Toadstool anywhere else in Nebraska (or likely the world). It is located 19 miles from Crawford in the far northwest part of the state — but feels like you’re on the moon.

#1 – Innkeeper Jeanne Goetzinger –  We saw a lot of great attractions on our trip. But honestly, nothing compared to the people we met along the way. We found that it is people like Jeanne, that make Nebraska especially “nice.”

 

2014 Nebraska’s Nicest Honorable Mention:

Concert at Wild West Rodeo Arena in North Platte; Photo by Ann Teget for postcardjar.comFront Street in Ogallala; Golden Spike Tower and visitor center in North Platte; Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron; Higgins Memorial in Columbus; Lake McConaughy; Motel Raine in Valentine; North Platte Hampton Inn; Ole’s Big Game Bar and Grill in Paxton; The Sand Bar and Grill in Norfolk; Smith Falls; Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge near Valentine.

Not so nice? You be the judge. Carhenge. We spent about 15 minutes at this Stonehenge replica made of old cars near Alliance. On our way back to the car, I asked Steve what he thought. He said, “It was everything I imagined and less. Much less.” Personally, I thought it was pretty cool.

What do you think? What are the nicest things you’ve seen in Nebraska or your home state? Let us know in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.

Nebraska’s Nicest #4 – Circle C in Cody

Nebraska’s Nicest #4 – Circle C in Cody

After driving past more than a dozen small towns in rural Nebraska, we knew there was something out of the ordinary when we approached Cody, population 155. Many of the towns we had passed on our week-long journey through the Sandhills and prairie seemed practically abadoned and struggling to survive. Not Cody. As we approached this north central Nebraska town on the scenic Bridges to Buttes Byway otherwise known as Hwy. 20, we knew something was different here. And the sign that welcomed passersby made it clear. It read, “Cody welcomes you. A town too tough to die.”

Cody, NE

And they weren’t kidding. As we drove past the town, we saw a newer building near the highway with a big “C” on the front. I had remembered seeing an advertisement in a tourism magazine about the Circle C Market and our curiosity got the best of us so we decided to stop. As we went inside, we were greeted by a young man and were pleasantly surprised to see neatly shelved groceries, fresh produce, and even locally produced vinegars — all things we hadn’t seen in the other small towns in which we’d stopped. This was refreshing, to say the least, and honestly, quite inspiring.

The young man and two other teenage girls who were there were kind enough to tell us little bit about the Circle C and explained how students from Cody-Kilgore school saw a need in their community and constructed a building to house the grocery store. The worker we spoke to said residents from Cody had been traveling  nearly 80 miles round trip to Valentine or Gordon for more than a decade to get groceries. The students wanted to change that. And they did.

These kids were no strangers to manual labor. Many came from farms and ranches and they were used to getting up early and working hard. With the help of their parents, teachers, administrators and some grant funding, they built the area’s first straw bale grocery store.

They call this glassed in view of the actual straw bales the "truth window."

They call this glassed in view of the actual straw bales the “truth window.”

McKean Jenkins, 17, was one of the students who helped construct the straw-bale building and this summer, he is one of six or seven local teenagers who works at the market. “Since it opened in May of 2013, I’ve learned how to do the ordering, run the register, and close out the books at night,” he said. “I’ve learned how to do a lot of things I didn’t know how to do before, like keeping books and running my own business.” The Circle C Market has inspired McKean (and presumably others) to become an entrepreneur himself. He said he’d like to manage his own construction company some day.

When we stopped in Cody, we already had a cooler full of drinks and food supplies. But we did purchase some snacks for the road and a bottle of locally-produced balsamic vinegar sold there. McKean said the store’s top sellers are understandably bananas, bread, and milk.

We left with a lot more than a sack of groceries that day. We left with an abundance of hope. Hope in a small Nebraska town. Hope in hard working kids and tough people who are determined to not let their town die. And for McKean and the others who have been a part of this entrepreneurial venture, the Circle C has given them hope, too. McKean told us that it has been a real honor for him to help with this project and meet all of the people in town and those traveling through.

Respectfully, McKean, the honor was all ours.