It seems like a fitting time of year to write about a place we love to visit — Valentine, Nebraska. Meghan and I drove to Valentine for the first time on one of our annual Nebraska road trips when she was in middle school. We went to see Smith Falls, Nebraska’s largest waterfall, but ended up discovering so much more in this north central Nebraska town at the heart of Cherry County.

We loved the beautiful Nebraska Sandhills that led us there, the views of the Niobrara River and historic Cowboy Trail. Valentine was so much more than we ever expected, and our family always looks forward to returning to the Heart City. Here are a few of the many reasons we love Valentine.

Our stop at Smith Falls State Park last summer.

We can stand underneath a waterfall

We don’t see waterfalls in most parts of our state, so a visit Smith Falls is always a treat. Nebraska’s highest waterfall, Smith Falls, is located in the Niobrara River Valley and its spring-fed water falls almost 70 feet. The falls are part of Smith Falls State Park and admission only requires a state park permit. The short hike to the falls is not difficult but does include a steep flight of steps at the start. Before reaching the falls, you get to cross a historic truss bridge that spans the Niobrara River where you can watch people tubing (or tanking) below. There’s also a nature trail you can hike through a portion of the Niobrara River Valley known as the “biological crossroads of the Great Plains,” where six distinct biological systems meet.

Smith Falls near Valentine is the highest waterfall in Nebraska.

We love standing the base of the falls, dipping our feet in the water, and gazing up at one of Nebraska’s most beautiful views.

I could watch the prairie dogs at the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge for hours.

The prairie dogs are entertaining

I could drive around the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge for hours (just ask Steve). Just five miles east of Valentine on Highway 12, this refuge is home to bison, elk and hundreds of the most adorable prairie dogs you’ll ever see. Each time we’ve been there, we’ve been able to see and photograph all three.

A herd of bison at Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge.

A self-guided driving tour allows you to stop and go as you please and sit quietly and watch the wildlife. I just love watching the majestic bison roam the prairie and could lean out the car window watching the prairie dogs day long. To me, the ways they chase each other, dive in holes, and stand at attention on their mounds is just great entertainment.

Inside Neon Restaurant in Valentine.

We found the cleanest salt shakers in Nebraska there

We wrote a blog post a couple years ago about our stay at the Neon Bar and Grill at the Motel Raine in Valentine.

Neon, in Valentine was, by far, the cleanest restaurant in which we ate during our week-long trip across Nebraska. Even the salt and pepper shakers were clean! (photo by Ann Teget for www.postcardjar.com)

We loved this restaurant not only for its great food, but also because it continues to be the cleanest place we’ve ever eaten on a Nebraska road trip. We stayed at the Raine Motel again last summer and were delighted to see that the restaurant had grown a bit and now has outdoor seating, which was a great place to relax with a beer and some BBQ pulled pork nachos.

Owners Tim and Dana Colvin operate both the motel and the restaurant and are two of the most hospitable people we’ve met.

Another restaurant we love there is The Peppermill. We are still dreaming about the savory garlic bread, grilled with the steaks and served with beef au jus. Not only does The Peppermill have great food and service, owner Robert Joseph writes THE BEST manager responses we’ve ever read on Trip Advisor.

Peppermill garlic bread, Valentine, Nebraska

The garlic bread at the Peppermill comes au jus for dipping.

We can’t get enough of the Sandhills

Speaking of the Sandhills, this is probably what makes us love Valentine the most. To get there, you have to drive through the rolling sandhills of Nebraska with views like we’ve ever seen. This whole region is just so beautiful. The Sandhills, made up of mixed-grass prairie on grass-stabilized sand dunes cover about one fourth of our state and make for some of the most scenic drives in the Midwest.

The Nebraska Sandhills near Valentine.

 

We hope you’ll visit Valentine someday. Trust us, you’ll fall in love, too.


A few more things to love about the Valentine, Nebraska.

The Valentine Post Office stamps approximately 10,000 Valentine’s Day cards with their special cachet each year and then re-mails for people who want their valentines post marked from the Heart City.

Special events like the Nebraska Star Party, Bull Bash, Cowboy Fast-Draw competitions, Old West Days, and the Cherry County Fair.

Cowboy Trail – The Cowboy Trail rails to trails project converted the abandoned Chicago and Northwestern railroad into a crushed limestone trail with wooden decked bridges. One of the most spectacular parts of the trail is the old train trestle that crosses the Niobrara River just outside of Valentine. It is a quarter of a mile long and towers 150 feet above the river. The view is breathtaking!

Golfing at The Prairie Club – I’ve played this course a few times and it is amazing. Just 17 miles of south of Valentine, The Prairie Club offers two world class golf courses plus a challenging par 3 course. The Dunes course has wide fairways, huge sand traps, and natural grasses of the hills for the rough.

The beautiful Niobrara River attracts thousands of visitors every year. Designated as a National Scenic River by Congress in 1991, it’s also part of the National Parks family. The river winds through deep canyons with high cliffs, around pine-topped hills, and past many waterfalls. Trips down the river can be made by canoe, tube, kayak, and even stock tank!

For more information about Valentine, go to www.visitvalentine.org.  

  • Late breakfast, early lunch. Time got away from us this morning so we had a bit of a brunch. We have been on an oatmeal kick this year for several reasons. It's inexpensive, filling, tastes great, and is typically readily available at grocery stores and hotels that serve breakfast. ⁣
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One cup of oatmeal cooked in water is about 160 calories (and a "green" food on our @noom weight loss app). We like to add a teaspoon of brown sugar, a little cinnamon, and lots of fresh berries. Other options are: bananas, nuts, nutmeg, diced apple, flax seed, or dried fruits. ⁣
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What is your go-to breakfast these days?
  • See how we lost a combined 150 pounds in a year while traveling! It was one year ago this week that we began our healthy living journey. We are travel bloggers with a new post (just click on the handy dandy link in our bio) about what we've lost and gained in one year.
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See what we've learned about calorie density, exercise and ourselves in the process. We are so thankful for the resources that have helped us, including @noom and the @mayoclinic Healthy Living Program. (This is NOT a paid partnership) We feel like new people and hope our story will encourage someone else who wants to make a healthy lifestyle change. To stay up to date with our weight loss and healthy living journey, be sure to follow @PostcardJar on social media.
  • Our daffodils are in full bloom here in Nebraska and they just make us smile. We brought the  bulbs for these flowers from Ann's first house when we got married and moved here. Ann had dug them up from her grandma Rashleigh's home in Fremont, Nebraska, and her grandma had brought them to the U.S. from a trip that she took to England. ⁣
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Ann's grandma passed away several years ago. Each spring, these flowers bloom and remind Ann of her grandma and her beautiful soul.
  • We love to travel but we're staying home to flatten the curve. As travel bloggers, writers, and influencers, we all have canceled trips, postponed adventures, and rescheduled experiences. ⁣
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We know this is temporary and soon enough, we'll be traveling again. But for now, we are all staying safe at home and encourage you to do the same. And while you’re home, check out some of these influencers’ feeds for travel inspiration.
  • Last week, we had the pleasure of making handmade pasta (via the internet) with our friends, Deb and Massi, who were in their home kitchen in Italy. ⁣
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You can read all about it, and get the recipe, on our blog. Yep, you guessed it, the link is in our bio. ⁣
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We met Deb and Massi of @italyunfiltered a few years ago when they created an amazing food and wine itinerary for us. We've remained friends and it was so good to see them, even if they were a world away.
  • We were supposed to be in Rochester, Minnesota, this week for Ann to see a cardiac sarcoidosis specialist about some recent issues with her heart. Of course, we did not travel to Rochester for her scans and doctor visits because of the coronavirus outbreak.⁣
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Instead, her cardiologists called her from their homes and her scans and tests will likely be delayed until June or July. We'll keep in close touch with them if anything changes, as well. We are so grateful for all of the healthcare professionals who are continuing to work crazy hours from home as well as in our hospitals around the world.⁣
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This is such an unprecedented and stressful time for all of them. Words will never be enough to convey our gratitude for the roles they are playing in the battle against this deadly virus while caring for those with other diseases and illnesses at the same time. ⁣
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Every healthcare provider we've talked with in the last two weeks has had the same message for those of us who don't have to go to work at a hospital. ⁣
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Just. Stay. Home.
  • Yesterday was Day 16 of social isolation for us. Because of Ann's underlying heart condition and suppressed immune system, we've cooked all our meals at home (no takeout). We've starting to get more and more creative as time has gone by. ⁣
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Last night, we made chicken and shrimp vindaloo and learned online how to make homemade naan.⁣
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It wan't as good as our favorite Indian restaurant, The Oven, but it did satisfy the craving we've had for Indian food. ⁣
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What are you craving these days?
  • We moved our living room furniture around this week and put two swivel chairs near the sliding glass door. Each day, we take time to turn around, rest our minds, enjoy in the view, and just be. #webelieveinhome

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