No matter where you live, there are likely tourist attractions nearby that you’ve driven past for years. You have good intentions of visiting, but never actually take the time to stop.

At least once a month for more than 16 years, I’ve driven past a large, green sign on the interstate that says, “Wildlife Safari.” That sign has intrigued me just about every time I’ve gone by it. I mean, how does the idea of a safari in the middle of Nebraska cornfields not make somebody curious? But the curiosity I felt never pushed me to actually angle the car off the interstate and stop.

A few weeks ago, Ann and I took our friend Michael to Quarry Oaks golf course where we enjoyed a wonderful fall morning driving some Alzheimer’s residents around the golf course while basking in the beautiful views.

View of the Platte River from Quarry Oaks Golf Course.

View of the Platte River from Quarry Oaks Golf Course.

When we left the course, we found ourselves driving past the wildlife safari we’ve skipped so many times. But this time, we called an audible and pulled into the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari. We’re so glad we finally did.

After paying admission at a drive up window, we continued down a well-maintained gravel road, across a cattle guard and into the park. Soon, we saw some elk in the distance. The road continued to wind trough the park and we got closer and closer to the animals. This was obviously nothing new to them as they weren’t bothered in the least by the presence of cars.

Elk at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari.

Elk at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari.

Suddenly, we watched as one of the elk raised its head, opened its mouth and let out a sound unlike anything we were expecting. Now we know what bugling elk sound like.

The road continued across another cattle guard, a sign announcing that we were now in an area with white-tailed deer. They were tougher to find as their natural camouflage is pretty good. There are at least two in this photo, see if you can find them.

Deer at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari.

Can you find at least two deer in this picture from the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari.

The road meandered on, and we found ourselves at a place where we could get out of the car and look in a pond. A frog jumped into the water just before we snapped this photo.

We loved seeing all of the beautiful colors of nature at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari.

We loved seeing all of the beautiful colors of nature at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari.

On the pond were also some American white pelicans.

American white pelicans at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari.

American white pelicans at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari.

Next up, came the eagle aviary, home to some bald eagles that have been rescued. Michael tried to hold a tiny one on his finger.

Look how Mikey got this eagle to rest on his index finger!

Look how Mikey got this tiny eagle to rest on his index finger!

Near the aviary, there is a parking area with restrooms as well as a trail to enclosures that house bears and wolves. There are also some owls and other birds who live in trees along the path.

An owl nestled in a tree at American white pelicans at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari.

An owl nestled in a tree at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari.

We returned to our car and drove past some Sandhill Cranes and other waterfowl.

Sandhill crane at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari.

Sandhill cranes and other waterfowl at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari.

Then, we crossed another cattle guard and drove into the bison area. Sadly, while we could easily see the bison, they were too far away for good photos with the limited camera equipment we had with us. Still, it was fun to see them.

We drove across another cattle guard and found more elk, this time, females.

Elk at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari.

Elk at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari.

By this time, the winding road had taken us back to the visitors’ center. Time was running short and we had to get back to Crete so we left that for another day (I know, we’re awful!), but we were so glad that we’d finally found time to explore this treasure that had been right there for years. Sometimes, there really ARE incredible things to do near your home if you just take the time to do them.


Is there a place near your home you’ve been meaning to stop that might make for a fun weekend day of exploration? Tell us about it in the comments.

 

  • We've been having the best time in the Florida Keys visiting Steve's mom and dad this week. Today, it was cold for Floridians, but we loved the sunshine (and were thankful for awesome neighbors who were likely shoveling the snow from our driveway back home).⁣
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We are so thankful for a flexible schedule and opportunities like this one to share time with family. Life seems to pass us by so quickly the older we get and we're fortunate to be able to travel and share experiences with the people we love most. ⁣
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Feeling especially blessed tonight, in the beautiful Florida Keys.
  • We enjoyed a delicious dinner tonight at Hideaway Cafe on Grassy Key with Steve's mom and dad. We went early at 5 p.m. for the sunset dinner menu which has smaller portions and the most beautiful views of the sunset. ⁣
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The food was fresh and made-to-order and served by gracious and professional staff who made us feel right at home. ⁣
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Hideaway is a great restaurant choice for dinner if you're in the Florida Keys. Get a reservation ahead of time, as it fills up quickly, even at 5 p.m.
  • Need some inspiration for staying healthy while traveling? Good news! We are taking over the @noom Instagram stories this afternoon and hope you’ll all follow along as we share tips on how to make healthy living choices while on a cruise ship. We’ll take you inside the beautiful @celebritycruises Edge and show you how we stayed on track with our Noom goals while still enjoying a fantastic cruise vacation. Be sure to follow @noom! Our takeover has just begun. 😁
  • The Rooftop Garden is a unique space on the top deck of the @celebrityedge. There’s no water slide on this ship, no go-carts, and the’s no rock wall for climbing. Instead the Rooftop Garden provides a “living urban playscape inspired by childhood playgrounds and designed to waken the inner child in all of us,” according to the Celebrity Cruises website. There are live plants, comfortable outdoor seating, and unique art installations that set the space apart from anything else at sea. @cruisecelebrity
  • Blu is a restaurant on the Celebrity Edge that is dedicated to guests in Aqua Class.  It serves “clean, crisp flavors and inventive cuisine” in a gorgeous blue venue. To give you an example of the types of entrees served, for dinner tonight Blu is offering seared duck breast with wilted chard, farro risotto, and black cherry jus; a cracked pepper corn-crusted tuna salad, watercress, and dijon vinaigrette; and pumpkin gnocchi with sautéed arugula, sundries tomatoes, marinated artichokes, goat cheese and basil pesto. What would you order?
  • Yes, cruise ships are huge, but if you do a little exploring, you’ll find that the designers have included many small spots perfect for intimate conversation and watching the world go by. We found this nook in Eden, on deck 5 of the Celebrity Edge, near the stern.
  • Last Sunday we began the second half of our very first back-to-back cruise on the Celebrity Edge. We’ve had the best cruise vacation and have enjoyed every single minute of our vacation. The Edge  been an ideal place to relax, recharge, and prepare for a new year. We’ve also used this time to try new things and focus on a healthy lifestyle. Thank you all for coming along on our journey and sharing your sweet comments with us along the way. We are grateful for each of you.
  • We just love these guys!! These two characters were the bartenders on the Retreat Sundeck for our cruise aboard the Celebrity Edge. Johannes and Vince created a light, fun atmosphere and made you want to go to the pool every day. Their personalities helped make the Retreat a welcoming place with professional service. We shouldn’t be surprised, though. We found similar cheerfulness in crew around every corner of the Edge, under the command of @captainkatemccue.

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