The city of Omaha, largest in Nebraska is only an hour east of Lincoln so it was easy to get to for a few day trips. I was looking forward to visiting the Henry Doorly Zoo, considered one of the best zoos in the nation. We went on a Monday and luckily there were few other visitors. This zoo has some interesting features including a huge dome housing the world’s largest indoor desert with plant and animal life from around the world. Above is a picture from inside the dome. The largest aquarium in a zoo is also located here and features a shark tunnel where large fish swim above and around you. I especially loved seeing the penguin exhibit with 80 active penguins swimming and hanging out.
The zoo has a Madagascar exhibit with several kinds of lemurs and Baobab trees. I couldn’t help but think about my son Matt and daughter-in-law Emma while looking at the beautifully colored lemurs like the Red Ruffed one pictured below. They lived on the island of Madagascar for six months while volunteering on the Mercy Ship and really enjoyed seeing lemurs in the wild.
Anorther delightful area of the zoo was the huge outdoor aviary with birds like roseate spoonbills and ibises flying from tree to tree. A boardwalk takes you on a path around the enclosure.
After our all day zoo adventure we drove to the town of Bellevue near Omaha where Mark visited a game store. (Finding a great game store is always a bonus for Mark on our travels). We had dinner at a great restaurant called Quick Bites Soul Food. Turned out to be fun and delicious as the owner was a real character and he served some great food. While taking our order he asked us if we wanted an appetizer. I mentioned the fried pickles but he said he was out of those but could fix us up some fried green tomatoes. We agreed and several minutes later he came from out back with green tomatoes in his hand. He said that he had a garden and was growing greens and cabbage as well. When he asked Mark if he wanted his pork chops smothered and Mark looked puzzled, he teased him and said, “Don’t you know that means covered with gravy?” We ordered fried chicken and pork chops with sides of fried okra, macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes. We also tried coconut cake and peach cobbler for dessert.
We drove down the road from the restaurant to find the Missouri River. An old truss bridge still collects a toll and carries drivers over to Iowa. We walked a paved path along the river near a city park and I discovered a sign noting the Lewis and Clark expedition had landed in this area in 1804. It was the expedition’s first stop in Nebraska and they took a five day break from their difficult trek up the river.
A fun discovery at this park was an Interpretive art wall commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition. School children in the 10 states visited by the explorers made drawings depicting events from the expedition. The drawings were then made into tiles and placed on both sides of the wall along with a timeline description of the expedition’s journey.
Our second day trip to Omaha began with a stop at Boys Town, founded by Father Flanagan in 1917. The story of how this remarkable man founded the town is quite amazing. He believed that boys had the right to be valued, to have the basic necessities of life and have protection. His saying: “There are no bad boys, there is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking,” summed up his reason for starting the home. He began in a large house in the city of Omaha with five boys assigned to his care by the court.
He was eventually able to move outside of the city in 1921 and purchase a farm which continues as the location for Boys Town today. The town is self sufficient and assists children and teens that have special needs and behaviors by providing care in specialized homes as well as counseling and community support. We drove around the town and the homes, schools, community centers and churches are beautiful brick buildings in a park like setting. We were able to visit the museum with informational displays on the history of Boys Town, the church where Father Flanagan is buried and the historic home where Father Flanagan first lived. Below is a picture of the Flanagan home:
After Boys Town we headed to the Durham Museum located in the Union train station in downtown Omaha. The building was completed as a station in 1931 and the last train departed from the station in 1971 when the station closed its doors. The restored building is magnificent inside, especially the Great Hall or main waiting room featuring a 60 foot high ceiling.
Throughout the station are 12 life size figures representing passengers from the 1930’s time period. When you get close to them a recording plays as if the figure is speaking.
The building houses the museum downstairs and is full of historical displays regarding the city. I never realized what a busy place Omaha was – livestock industry (Omaha steaks), banking, an International Exposition in 1898, breweries, railroads, pioneers getting outfitted to head out west, steamboats and many other things. There are furnished train cars, train engines, a trolley car, recreated businesses and homes. There was so much to see that it took me awhile to finish the exhibits. You might recall from a previous post that Mark is often waiting on benches for me. Here is how I found him on this day:
A great ending to the museum is a treat at the soda fountain which was in existence when the train opened in 1931. The soda fountain looks pretty much the same and has the original counters, stools, cabinets as it did back then. In the picture below I am waiting for a root beer float.
We walked from the Durham to the Old Market neighborhood, Omaha’s most historic with cobblestone streets, shops and restaurants. My favorite part of the market was this old alley called “The Old Market Passageway.” If I had a shop or restaurant, I would love for it to be in here.
Thanks for spending the time checking out this post. Next time I plan to talk about how I choose RV sites while traveling.