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.

 

  • This is our Airbnb, Postcard Place. It's located right in Pawhuska, just a two and a half minute drive from the Pioneer Woman's Mercantile. It even has its own Instagram account, @postcardplce. ⁣
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Postcard Place can accommodate up to six people. With comfy bedding (including clean duvets for each new guest), USB ports by every bed, make-up remover wipes, comfy blankets for tv viewing, complimentary coffee/tea, creamer, full kitchen, soap, shampoo, hand lotion, and even a luggage scale, we've tried to think of everything you might want when spending a night away from home. Of course, we also provide stamped Pawhuska postcards so you can send greetings to those who couldn't come along on the trip.⁣
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Find Postcard Place on Airbnb and book it for your next trip to Pawhuska and come @visittheosage.
  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.

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