The Rosy Wanderer

Wandering with a purpose

Category: Travel (page 1 of 2)

Austin: Tips for Visiting during SXSW

My brother lived in Austin for a number of years. I asked him to share advice with my best friend for her trip to Austin during South by Southwest (SXSW), the large music/technology conference that is hosted annually downtown. I thought his advice was so good, I wanted to share it.

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First off, have fun! The city will be crazy busy so expect lines everywhere.  I also typically left the city for SXSW so I am not too familiar with it so some of what I say may be wrong.
*Important Note: Uber and Lyft are not in Austin.  They have ride-sharing apps, but I do not know anything about them.
 
Lady Bird Trail is very nice.  I used to run it every weekend and it was very enjoyable.  Zilker Park is the start of it and it just goes east for 5 miles.  Very enjoyable.  I’m not sure if Zilker has events going on for SXSW though.
Food
  • Tacos: Torchy’s Top notch tacos and local chain. Pretty close to where you are staying
  • Barbecue: Franklins is the most well known and will be extremely busy.  My personal favorite is La Barbecue.  These are lunch spots you have to show up early too for food.  The lines will be long but I highly recommend going.
  • Brunch: Taverna is my favorite.  $2 mimosas and really good Eggs Benedict
  • Others: Those the pretty much the two staples of Texas but if you want something else SoCo (South Congress) has a lot of really good places.  Hopdoddy is gourmet burgers and Home Slice has great pizza.  Gourdoughs also has amazing donuts and food.Food will be talked about in the Bar/Going Out Section too.
Bar/Going Out
  • With it being SXSW you can go anywhere to see a show but below are some of the main areas of Austin.
  • Dirty 6th: This is the place most people think about with Austin.  It has a large college crowd and a large older crowd.  Tons of bars will have bands here and will get pretty trashy pretty quick.  I do recommend going here at least for an hour.  My favorite bars are Midnight Cowboy (reservation required) and Firsehouse Lounge.  These are both speakeasies so they will be tough to find.
  • West 6th: This is more of a young professional crowd and fancier.  I really went out here so I don’t know a lot but I have had some good food here.  Not sure where though.
  • East 6th: This is on the other side of 35.  I haven’t been in this area a lot but this is more of a hipster area and like every where else will have live music.
  • Rainey: A lot of outside bars with a lot of live music.  Bangers and Craft Pride are my favorite stops.  Bangers is a German sausage house with good food and beer.  They do have a huge outside stage too.  Craft Pride is only local Texas beers and I am a big fan.  There is also a pizza food track called Via 313 with really good pizza.
  • South Congress: As mentioned above this place has a lot of good food and interesting shopping.  There are some bars but I haven’t been to them.
  • Domain/Rock Rose: This is the only place of interest not downtown.  It is an upscale shopping area like Easton and Rock Rose is a street with a bunch of bars.  It is brand new and this should be its first SXSW.  You will have a wealthy older crowd here  There is a train station stop (more below) pretty close to here if you want to venture this way.  Top Golf is also located in this area.
Transportation
In my opinion transportation in Austin is terrible and SXSW just makes it 10x worse.  With staying by 2nd and Congress you shouldn’t really have to deal with it too much but here are some things to note. Leaving the city the train could have long lines.  I had to wait over an hour to get on the last one one year and not everyone was able to get on.  If you are planning on using it plan accordingly.  Taxis are terrible.  I wouldn’t bother.

Top 6 US Travel Runs

Running is a great way to see a city. Traveling also makes running more fun because you get to see new things. Below are my top favorite travel runs here in the States:

1. Central Park, New York, NY

I ran a little bit before moving to NYC, but I didn’t get into running until I lived here and ran in Central Park. I would argue this is one of the best running locations in the world. Everyone from beginners to world-class runners run here. You have a variety of terrains, scenery, and can run any distance. I love running Central Park and cannot wait for my next opportunity to do it again!

Central Park LakeRunning Views in Central Park

2. National Mall, Washington, DC 

Running on the Mall never gets old. In the morning it is quiet; vendors are setting up their goods or carts. By the end of the run, tourists from across the country and around the world are coming out to see our National Capitol. I find this the most motivational city – there is something about the energy of where our government (tries) to do work and the history that has happened here.

Washington Monument DC travel run Arlington over the bridge

3. Lady Bird Park, Colorado River, Austin, TX

I ran here with my brother. The path was full and the other runners and walkers provided great motivation. We were able to run 7 miles and could have gone further. Afterward, we rented paddleboards and hung out on the river – made for a great Saturday!

4. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

You have a chance to run through one of the birthplaces of our country and be surrounded by where some of our country’s best minds were educated. The Charles River provides views of Boston and crew teams. Lots to see and to watch.

5. The Battery, Charleston, SC

Southern Charm, large trees, views of Fort Sumter – Charleston is my favorite city for a reason and a great one for running! Not only are the views fantastic, but after a good run, you can eat all of the delicious food in the city without feeling guilty.

6. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL (haven’t actually run this one, but I REALLY want to)

Having lived in the Chicago suburbs, there is something special about Chicago and the beauty of Lakeshore Dr. I love going down here to see the skyline and the blue of Lake Michigan. Now that I’m into running, running here and through Grant and Millennium Parks will be a MUST.

Rosy Wanderings! (and happy running!)

Have a Magical Day

Yesterday I ran 13.1 miles to finally earn my Donald Duck medal. I couldn’t write about my “magical” trip to Disney World until I could say I finished the race. A group of friends and I made the decision LAST February to run the half marathon. Then, Friday night, Disney made the difficult decision to cancel the half marathon because of possible lightning.

We drove down from Charlotte on Thursday doing a midway stop in Savannah. Disney was just 4 short hours away from there. I went to Disney World as a kid and once in college, but going back as an adult was quite different.

  1. You can drink in the parks – who knew? (not that we did this, but having the option is cool)
  2. The Park Hopper pass lets you travel around the parks. Much easier to do in small groups
  3. It is still a magical experience even though you’re no longer a kid

 

Our Itinerary

  • Thursday: drive to Orlando with a stop in Savannah. Dinner at Disney Springs (you don’t need a ticket) and checking into the hotel – All Star Music.
  • Friday: breakfast in Orlando, picked up a friend at the airport, lunch at the Yacht Club with friends, wandered around The Art of Animation. This is a great hotel and wonderful for taking pictures. Once we all arrived, we checked in at the race expo. We were going to have an early bedtime for the race but…
  • Saturday: should have been race day (2:30 am wake up), but we slept in instead! After walking around Music and Movies for coffee, we left for Hollywood Studios. It would have been a great day, but we had to go to World of Sports to trade in our half marathon bibs. It took FOREVER! Afterwards, we had dinner with friends at Trail’s End, which was an area of Disney I never knew existed. It’s a buffet and on a lake – you have to take a boat to the Magic Kingdom. That’s where we ended the day and saw the most magical fireworks show over the castle.
  • Sunday: Marathon Day! My friend ran the marathon instead, so we went out to cheer him on around mile 16. After seeing him, the rest of us went to Animal Kingdom. That was my first time there, and it was awesome! Because our schedule got off on Saturday, we had a lot to fit in. We did the highlights of Animal Kingdom but then rushed to the Magic Kingdom. We tried to fit in as much as we could, but we could have spent hours more. Around sunset, we took the monorail to Epcot. We watched the fireworks show there after doing rides, walking around the world, and eating dinner.

My overall takeaways are everyone should go to Disney, no matter your age. It’s very expensive, but there a ways to watch what you spend. Run Disney puts on a great event, but I hope/think this is the LAST time they don’t have a rain plan. They canceled the race for close to 30,000. I am going to go again next year because this is a race I really, really want to do!

#tbt – “Home on the Range” in South Dakota

Two years ago (wow, I can’t believe it was that long ago!) my travel buddy, Irene, and I went on a long weekend to see North and South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. It was our first time to that area of the country, and I couldn’t be more excited. There is something about the apprehension of a trip when you have no expectations. I mean, one of the best feelings! This trip surpassed anything I could have imagined.

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  • Stay: The Bullock Hotel, Deadwood, SD. The Wild West come to life!
  • Saturday: Fly into Rapid City. Explored South Dakota’s Black Hills and Deadwood
  • Sunday: Roadtrip through the Badlands to Medora, ND, for lunch before heading over to Makoshika State Park in MT to look for dinosaurs
  • Monday: Visit Devil’s Tower in WY before heading back to the airport in Rapid City

A Closer Look Into South Dakota

Even upon arriving at the airport, the landscape was breathtaking. The world was open, the air was fresh, and adventure was calling. We rented a car, which was a 10-15 minutes shuttle ride away.

An interesting tip is that all car rentals from Rapid City have a fee for additional miles. You can’t rent for a flat rate in that area because there is so much space to cover. Pay attention to this for costs!

img_2897Our first planned stop was to visit Mt. Rushmore and see a buffalo. For my SD experience, I really wanted to see both of these things. I truly believe in my travel philosophy; you have to have a plan when you travel. You have to know what you want to accomplish, but you cannot be too strict. You’ll never know what could come up! Case in point, as we were driving from the airport, we saw a sign for “Red Ass Wine.” I mean, a winery in South Dakota! 1. Who would have thought and 2. how can you say no?!

The winery (Prairie Berry) was a fun stop. Red Ass Wine was a rhubarb wine. I knew of rhubarb, but I had never had it. The wine at this winery was made from a variety of berries and fruit; it wasn’t traditional grape wine. We really enjoyed it and spent a good amount of time drinking another glass with lunch. The trip was already a success.

Mt. Rushmore

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving to Mt. Rushmore. img_2894We saw img_2892buffalo and order rhubarb pie from Purple Pie Place on the way. (Road Food recommended them on one of my favorite podcasts Travel with Rick Steves). Seeing buffalo was amazing! I can’t imagine what it was like to be a pioneer or cowboy moving West in the mid-1800s when buffalo numbered about 35 million. Today’s number is closer to 400,000. We drove around forever trying to find them. We gave up and decided to make our way to Mt. Rushmore – that’s when we saw them! One even walked right by our car.

buffalo for miles

Look at all of them! And we weren’t even at a zoo!

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He got so close…and yes, I was scared he was going to ram into the car.

We finally arrived shortly before the sunset, and it was even more awesome than I expected that it would be! Mount Rushmore is an enormous sculpture made during the Great Depression. It features faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. As a history fanatic, it was overwhelming to see something in person I had dreamed of seeing since I was a kid. We were there through dark so we got to see it lit up, as well.

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There it is! Such an amazing feeling to actually be there.

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Irene and I with the NY state monument. We had both recently moved from the Big Apple.

Goodnight from Deadwood

img_2948Next stop was to check into the historic Bullock Hotel in Deadwood. What a cool place to stay! Gambling is legal (brothels didn’t close until the 1980s), so there is a small casino downstairs. We were exhausted after such a long day, so it was time to find some food. Based on Yelp ratings, we went to dinner at a close hotel. Let’s just put it this way,  you can’t expect much from a culinary perspective in Deadwood. After that, we decided to call it a night. We had an early morning for our Badlands road trip in the morning and prayed we wouldn’t be woken by a ghost…

More to come on the next #tbt post! Until then, rosy wanderings!

#tbt – Fall into Apple Picking

Three years ago today, I escaped the bustle of NYC to have a girls’ weekend with my friend at her New Jersey home. I got off the train near Rutgers in a breath of fresh air. I love New York, but there is something about getting away and being in a more open space. Traveling from NYC is so easy. After grabbing a coffee, we were off to Princeton for apple picking at Terhune Orchards!

img_0886There is nothing more iconic of fall to me than apple picking. I may have gone as a kid, but this was the first time that I remember…and it was awesome! It is such a relaxing activity where you can literally enjoy the fruits of your labors. We had a great time, got a TON of apples, and went home to cook dinner.

I haven’t gone back since, but I am tempted to go this weekend. I’d love to do some “apple” baking. I’m getting into the fall spirit, and I need to embrace it! It is now time for apple crisp, pumpkin spice lattes, watching football, and enjoying the cooler air. Nothing is better than fall!

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#tbt – Labor Day

With Labor Day weekend upon us, I figured I should highlight a Labor Day outing for this week’s Travel Back Thursday (#tbt). This year, I’m heading to a wedding in Cincinnati, OH, for a high school friend. Labor Day the last several years has been consumed with weddings, which doesn’t make for a great #tbt tip. I mean, everyone’s been to a wedding. The last good Labor Day weekend was spent at Topsail Beach.

THE WEEKEND

My college friends rented a large house on the inter-coastal across the street from the beach on Topsil. It was basically a weekend of hanging out, playing, and drinking adult beverages. We did this the first two years out of college, and to this day, they top the list. We all lived in different cities, so it was a chance to all hang-out and pretend we were back at school. There were about 20 of us in one 3-story house.

TIPS for PLANNING

If you haven’t done a large group trip with your friends, then put that on your must do list and plan immediately! There is nothing better than just relaxing and having fun with your friends. Topsail Island is off the coast of NC. There is a small town with a few restaurants, but we didn’t go to them. It’s more fun to just stay at home. When doing a group trip, keep the following in mind:

  • Rent with a reputable company and make sure to pay attention to: security deposits, cleaning fees, check in/out times, and what is required for you to do at checkout. Keep in mind you are renting someone’s home. Keep it nice and make sure to clean up after yourself or expect to pay a hefty fee!
  • Everyone likes different things. Keep it open and fun. Keep planned activities to a minimum so you can take in the day and the weather.
  • Bring footballs, beach chairs, books, and other fun items. Board games are fun for any age and can always be adapted to increase competition or even a drinking game!
  • Depending on your kind of trip, meals can be important, but they may not be the most important. When my friends and I beached it, it was more about having fun and spending time with each other. We had dinner, but it was always easy so clean up was minimal and it didn’t take hours to prep. Assign meals to people to everyone has responsibility. Don’t forget to ask anyone in the party about their dietary restrictions! Coming from a “simple” eater – nothing is worse than being hungry. At least give a heads up to people of what dinner will be. I don’t want people to adapt to my eating habits, but I would want to bring my own food on hamburger night!
  • That being said, experience the local. On a different beach trip, we visited a local seafood market then came home and cooked up a feast! It was amazing – everything from crab to fish to shrimp. Best of all, it was FRESH!

BOTTOM LINE

Have fun! You’re on vacation – the most important thing to do is to relax and not take things too seriously. Pack your fun hat and leave the drama at home!

Happy Wanderings and Happy Labor Day!

Wanna Get Away?

Have you ever just wanted to get away? I know it’s #tbt, but this Thursday I am going to dream forward. Maybe it’s because I haven’t traveled recently, I had to cancel my trip to Chicago this weekend, or I am simply in the mood to relax and take in life, but I am itching to go somewhere. Unfortunately, because of prior commitments and work, I am unable to get to a beach and just be. That doesn’t help sooth the soul.

What to do instead? Looks like I will need to recreate a vacation experience at home. I feel pretty confident I have the recipe for what makes a good beach weekend…

  1. Sunshine. Get outside. It may be close to 100 degrees this weekend, but that doesn’t mean you should stay inside. I have a few runs planned to help soak up vitamin D; I also plan on dining al fresco. It’s summer so live like it is – no matter where you are!
  2. Music. I love Kenny Chesney. Something about his music helps me to relax, so blast the speakers! Everyone has their thing and Kenny is mine!
  3. Read a book. When I go to the beach, I read. Even when you’re on vacation, reading can take you to another place. A chance to experience someone else’s life, so it’s the ultimate vacation on a vacation. Well, I will continue “reading” my audiobooks while I run, but I am going to find some type of fiction to read. Any suggestions, let me know! I need something light and funny.
  4. Break a sweat. Nothing releases stress like exercise. I just started back up at Pure Barre, so I’ll be there a few times this weekend, in addition to running. Wearing your body out is good for your mind.
  5. A good drink. My friend and I are going to Le Meridien’s rooftop bar on Saturday to try their popular popsicle drinks and watch the sunset. #winning

Well, that’s my plan this weekend. Hopefully, I’ll fool myself into thinking I’m away. Maybe I’ll purchase a baby pool for the patio while I’m at it…Happy Wanderings!

PS – In the spirit on #tbt, I’ll post some of my favorite beach pictures from my previous travels. Dreaming this is where I was today!

The Bahamas

The Bahamas

Emerald Isle, NC

Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman

Mexico

Mexico

Ocean Sunset

Cruise Stop

Grand Cayman again

Badin Lake

Badin Lake – Home Sweet Home

 

#tbt – Oklahoma City

Sorry it has been so long since I last posted! I wasn’t well last week, and this week completely got away from me. I’m excited to conclude my three day jaunt to middle America with you today. Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 7.16.47 AMFrom my start in Kansas City to Omaha and Abilene, I finished my trip in Oklahoma City. I didn’t do much research for this stop at all. Several people that I met on my journeys mentioned that the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial was one of the best executed memorials, so that was on the agenda, but not much else. My brother drove up from his home in Austin to meet me, so at the least, I would get to see him. I figured it was a big city, there should be something to do. I was pleasantly surprised.

It was a good ride from Abilene to Oklahoma City. The rolling hills of Kansas started to flatten and get dry. Then I saw something weird in the distance, but I couldn’t quite make it out. Then, it hit me. I think that’s an oil pump! IMG_2809I had never seen one in real life, and it made me excited! There were many of these throughout the rest of my drive into Oklahoma, and I continued to see them on my other trips out West. I didn’t even think to research the rise of oil and oil tycoons. One sign mentioned there were mansions for oil tycoons that you could visit as historical sites. That has done so much to affect their economy and culture, I bet it would have been really cool to see.

Once I got to OKC, I met my brother at our hotel downtown and we went to the state capitol. I love to visit state capitols when I have a chance. To think that is the center of the state’s government and all of the things that happen there. Funny enough, I still haven’t been to the North Carolina capitol, and I lived in Raleigh for almost 6 years. The curse of not visiting your hometown…this will change in the future. Oklahoma’s capitol was very impressive. Since it was a weekend, we weren’t able to go inside or take a tour, but we did get a good luck of the outside of the building. We had an absolutely PERFECT fall day. There were Carolina blue skies way out there in OK!IMG_2815

After visiting the capitol, we decided to explore the city. There was an Ohio State football game on, so my brother found a local OSU bar so we could watch. Following that, we walked around and “discovered” this fantastic riverwalk area of the city. I believe it was relatively new, but it was a great find! The area around it is called Bricktown. I can’t believe that wasn’t one of the first areas mentioned in sites where I researched. Since I have visited, I see it more, but for whatever reason it wasn’t readily apparent to me. Basically, a small, man-made river (creek?) was created through the city, and it was lined with bars and restaurants. It doesn’t go anywhere; it just is in the city. I believe they fill it up manually when it gets low. IMG_2823 IMG_2821OKC has done a lot of revitalization efforts over the past few decades. One of my favorite podcasts is Travel with Rick Steves, and I heard an interview about OKC many months ago. I think it’s wonderful to see these improvements! They have done an amazing job making OKC what it is, and it now rivals Tulsa in offerings and coolness. After dinner and drinks, we went to bed.

The next morning we each needed to leave early to get home, but we took a morning walk to the other side of the city where the memorial is. OKC is very walkable. The city has a hip and shiny part of the city and an older part with sandstone colored exteriors. The Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial was as well done as people say it is. The memorial was created to remember the 168 people who were killed in 1995. I remember this happening as a kid. We planted a dogwood tree in our backyard, which President Clinton suggested families do as a memorial. The whole scene was still, somber, and peaceful. I think the pictures tell the rest, but I would highly recommend a visit.

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Oklahoma City isn’t somewhere most people think about visiting, but I think it should be. I believe there is a lot more to explore in the city and the surrounding area. Whether it is native Americans, ranching, or oil, that area has a rich history that we are not usually exposed to if you’re from either coast.

Overall, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma may not be as sexy as dog sledding in Alaska, partying on South Beach, or eating lobster in Maine, but it was a huge treat and provided more appreciation for this great country. Flyover states have their own unique charms and are home to millions of Americans. Even though it was hard to recruit someone to meet me, I suggest you have an open mind if you’re present with an opportunity to visit. Happy wanderings!

#tbt – I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!

Last week’s Travel Back Thursday (#tbt) was so  fun thinking about, I decided I should continue the details of my trip for this week’s post. After my night in Omaha, NE, I work up very, very early (4:30 am, I believe, for a 3.5 hour trip) and drove to Abilene, KS. It was dark when I left, so I didn’t get to see a lot of the countryside. When I passed Lincoln, the sun was starting to rise, so I could see a light silhouette of the skyline. I wish I could have had a picture of this because I remember it vividly.

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Snapshot from Google Maps of my trip’s second leg to Abilene, KS. The terrain was gorgeous once the sun came out.

I’m sure you’re thinking two things: 1. What did you do in Kansas? and 2. What on earth is Abilene?  When brainstorming what to do in Kansas, nothing readily came to mind. I don’t know enough about that area of the country, but then I started my research. When researching a new place, I start in two places: Google and Facebook. I post to my Facebook friends if anyone has any suggestions (no one did for Kansas) then start Googling what the destination is known for and brainstorming what historical events happened.

I love history. I find it fascinating to read biographies of people who have major accomplishments and have impacted the world. English and American history are my favorites. For the last few years, I’ve been reading biographies of each American president in the order of their presidency (currently am at Taft). I can tell more about that later. When researching, if I notice a Presidential Library or birthplace, I go for it! Abilene, KS, is the birthplace of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was the 34th president of the United States from 1953-1961 and Supreme General of the army in Europe during WWII. He led a remarkable life, and it all started in the small, humble town of Abilene. His childhood home is now a historic site and the site of his presidential library.

My first impression of Kansas was absolutely not what I expected. In fact, it was one of the few states that was polar opposite of what I thought. Before arriving, all I could associate with Kansas was 1930s dust bowl (sorry Kansans!) I pictured it to be flat, flat with tumbleweed blowing in the wind. I have no reason to have this image; I assume it is something I came up with as a kid and have had no reason to change it. Kansas was beautiful! Contrary to my former thoughts, it was lush green with rolling hills! Who would have known!

Green grass and blue skies!

Green grass and blue skies!

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I thought this was really funny. There were a few of these horseback riders around.

I thought this was really funny. There were a few of these horseback riders around. I think they were advertising the Pony Express historical site..

It just goes forever!

It just goes forever!

I arrived to Abilene around opening time for the museum and jumped on a tour to see the General’s house. IMG_2768What a remarkable way to grow up – in the heart of America and a small town. He was able to play outside and meet friends, but joined the Army to get out and serve his country. Eisenhower was proud of our country and what it stands for. In my opinion, he was a great president who led America during a time of prosperity. Many presidents who do not serve during crisis are forgotten. We know Eisenhower the President of the United States and accomplished general, but this house knows Eisenhower the person. What a neat way to see someone’s background and understand where they came from. You can’t understand a person until you see this.

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At home with Dwight

IMG_2793Abilene itself didn’t have a lot to offer. There weren’t any unique, local restaurants, so after my tour and visiting the library, I headed off for Oklahoma. I know this doesn’t sound like the most exciting trip for a lot of people, but it was for me. I truly enjoyed this stop and visit in Kansas, but that is what rosy wandering is. Appreciating something for what it is and seeing the uniqueness in the opportunity.

Stay tuned for next week’s #tbt! Happy wandering!

#tbt The Unexpectedly Neat City – Omaha, NE

In my quest to visit all 50 states, I researched interesting places and (a lot of times) had to narrow down which area or city I wanted to visit in each state. Other states were harder, and I couldn’t convince anyone to travel with me. As any American can probably imagine, many of these states were in the middle of the US. Therefore, I grouped three states together for one long-weekend road trip – Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. These three are probably not on your travel list, but I can hopefully persuade you to consider otherwise. Today, we’ll focus on Nebraska.

Omaha is located on the Nebraska/Iowa border and is about a 2.5 hour drive from Kansas City. For my trip, I flew in and out of Kansas City for financial reasons. During my 50-state exploration, I didn’t mind driving distances. You can actually fly into Omaha to save time. Omaha is a growing and expanding city. There is a Western uniqueness that they are trying to keep, but the downtown area is being revitalized. This is the home of Warren Buffett, many major companies, and the College World Series for baseball.

I love zoos and animals. When I travel, I really like to visit zoos. Maybe some of it is because I grew up in Columbus, OH, and that is one of the best zoos in the country (I mean, it’s Jack Hanna!). When I asked people about Omaha, the zoo was highly recommended by everyone. It was absolutely as cool as they said it would be. When you walk in, you see the “Desert Dome.” This is the focal point of the zoo and allows them to keep warm-climate animals during the winter. Upstairs (as the picture shows), it is bright, warm, and expansive. Downstairs, the exhibits are set for nocturnal animals. None of my pictures turned out well (no flashes allowed). You can only take my word for how close to an American Beaver I was! It was a bit nerve racking!

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There is also a Prairie Dog row at the zoo. This was my first time seeing a Prairie Dog in real life – I became obsessed! Luckily, I saw them many times on my other western trips. If you’re around them a lot, I hear they are pests. I don’t understand because they are so cute. I love how they stand up to bark! This little guy actually touched my shoe!

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After a long day at the zoo, I set in to go downtown. I love cities, eating at good restaurants and having a drink. When I got there, it was too early for dinner, so I got a manicure at a local spa. It was a locally-owned establishment right in the heart of downtown. The technician gave me a lot of insight about the city and mentioned there was a new pedestrian bridge that will take you to Iowa. What?! If you know me, this is COMPLETELY the type of activity that makes me excited. I could walk to Iowa. Yes, I think I shall.

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The beautiful pedestrian bridge. This is near where Lewis and Clark cross the Missouri River.

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I made it. Two states at the same time!

I love taking walks and the views of the Missouri were beautiful. It’s really interesting to think about explorers first coming to the area, then to think about what it was like at the turn of the century. Nebraska is well-known for its stock yards and cattle ranches. They aren’t there today, but that’s where it was founded. I don’t eat beef, but I felt like I should have a steak for dinner. I’ll pretend that I did and tell you it was devious (in reality, I had fish. Not what you should think of in Nebraska).

After my walk I went to Berry & Rye, a mixology-type bar. I was so impressed with the drinks here. They are all handcrafted drinks, where they worry about everything from the ingredients to the ice! Highly recommended. Unfortunately, I could only have one since they were quite strong and my rule is to avoid drinking when I travel alone.

For dinner, I went around the corner to Jackson St. Tavern, where they had live music and great food. Right in the heart of downtown near the riverwalk, it was a prime location. (The steak was delicious! haha). After dinner, I came out and the whole city was alive! It was the perfect temperature, and everyone was out. From young professionals to families, there was something for everyone. Street musicians were playing and merchants were out selling. I had to turn in, but I would have loved to stay out and explore some more. Hopefully on my next trip! I had an early morning to start my next trip to Abilene, KS…

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