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.

 

  • A chic, swanky boutique hotel, located in a renovated Middle School, @hotelgrinnell offers guests comfortable accommodations as well as great food and drink options. With a full auditorium, and a ballroom in the former gym, this hotel is perfect for anything from a weekend getaway to a major event. We had the opportunity to stay in the hotel on a hosted visit, and wrote a blog post about our stay. See the link in our bio.
  • On the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, there is a point where you round a bend and see this view, with the Atlantic Ocean on the left, and the Caribbean Sea on the right. ⁣
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Ann took this photo several years ago when we visited St. Kitts for a day while on a cruise in the Caribbean. ⁣
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We met our friend, Mikey Tross, on the island and with the help of a local driver and guide, we toured the entire island in a day. ⁣
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We climbed to the top of Brimstone Hills, saw the beaches, at at Fredo's (a local restaurant) and toured Caribelle  Batik at Romney Manor. ⁣
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St. Kitts is a beautiful island and the people there are incredibly generous. If you haven't already been there, add St. Kitts to your bucket list.
  • The Grinnell, Iowa, Chamber of Commerce offices are located in a former bank designed by famed architect, Louis Sullivan. The architect built a series of "Jewel Box" banks, called that because they resemble jewel boxes.⁣
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These buildings are intricate in detail and rich in their finishes. The next time you pass near Grinnell, it is definitely worth the stop to step into American architectural history.
  • In downtown Kearney, Nebraska, you'll find @mccuesnebraskataproom, home to all sorts of Nebraska libations. When you visit, you can choose from a large selection of beers, wines, and even liquors all made in Nebraska. It's a fun environment where regulars welcome visitors, and fun is had by all. We look forward to going back one day and know that a visit to McCue's will be a part of our visits to Kearney in the future. ⁣
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@visitnebraska @visitkearney
  • A rite of passage...⁣
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The Swinging Bridge in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, has thrilled residents and visitors alike for decades. When it was originally built in 1929, it was the only way to cross from one side of Bird Creek to the other. Today, there are other bridges, but the beloved swinging bridge still spans the creek and dares folks to cross.⁣
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Long-time residents will tell stories of rieding their bikes across it when they were kids--and it should be noted that back then it didn't have the chain link side guards.⁣
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No visit to Pawhuska is complete until you've tried The Pioneer Woman's chicken fried steak AND crossed the swinging bridge. Go ahead and try...we dare you!⁣
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@TravelOK @VisitTheOsage
  • While looking for a coffee shop in @visitkearney, we stumbled into a really cool store. @elevate.people is a locally owned business specializing in both leather goods and in helping people around the world build better lives for themselves. ⁣
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All of the leather goods for sale here are handmade by people in third world countries. Elevate, it turns out, is a non-profit that gives local artisans small, low interest loans to get started in the leather making business. When loans are repaid, the money is loaned out to another craftsperson so they can get started. Meanwhile, Elevate provides access to a market to sell the goods produced so the worker continues to be supported. They also have an online store.⁣
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We have purchased several items from Elevate, and have loved all of them.⁣
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@visitnebraska
  • After a day of tests and appointments at the Mayo Clinic, this was a perfect place to relax and unwind.⁣
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We were treated to a complimentary stay at the brand new Hilton in downtown @minnesotas_rochester. Located near the Mayo Clinic, it's an incredibly beautiful hotel with nothing but the best amenities and top-notch service. One of our favorite places in the hotel is the hot tub in the pool area. How can it not be? Look at this place. And yes, it's as relaxing as it looks, especially at sunset. ⁣
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The room in this new luxury hotel are just as nice. We enjoyed it so much that we changed our travel plans and booked a second night on our own dime. It's our new go-to hotel in Rochester, Minnesota.⁣
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@minnesotas_rochester @exploreminnesota @hiltonhotels
  • Our hosted food tour in @visitkansascityks began with a bar-b-que spread from several local restaurants. Needless to say, we had to sample a little bit of everything because it was for science. We enjoyed ribs, smoked sausage, brisket, pulled pork, smoked turkey, burnt ends, rice, beans, and even warm potato casserole. ⁣
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If you love bar-b-que, head to KCK. Trust us, you'll love it. Just wear your stretchy pants.

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