on location: midwest ❖
FRONTIER TRAILS our groups cruising through the heart of Nebraska don’t have to stray far from the superhighway to get a taste of early life on the prairie. In fact, one attraction actually bridges Interstate 80. Meandering 455 miles between Omaha and the Wyoming border, this transcontinental corridor follows the route taken by 19th century settlers in covered wagons as they trekked westward on the Oregon, California and Mormon trails. Pony Express riders, stagecoaches, steam locomotives and automobile drivers on the Lincoln Highway (America’s first cross-country road) also followed the path, much of it paralleling the Platte River. In the same pioneering spirit, today’s travelers can blaze their own trail across the Great Plains, sampling a number of historical places a short hop from I-80 exits.
A recreated 1880s street in Ogallala invites visions of the Wild West.
Nebraska DED Photos
JUST OFF INTERSTATE 80, GROUP-FRIENDLY ATTRACTIONS
Take a journey back in time at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (left) and Great Platte River Road Archway. 28 December 2010
Interstate 80 meets the Platte River at Grand Island, home of the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, a 200-acre living history complex. In Railroad Town, a village of 60 historical buildings, visitors explore shops, period homes and barns among townspeople demonstrating crafts and going about their daily lives. One home is the birthplace of actor Henry Fonda. See a multi-media presentation and exhibits about Nebraska history in the Stuhr Building, designed by noted
architect Edward Durell Stone. American Indian and Old West artifacts are displayed in Fonner Rotunda. The reconstructed Pawnee earth lodge offers a glimpse into Nebraska’s only indigenous tribe. Harold Warp’s Pioneer Village in Minden, southwest of Grand Island and 12 miles south of I-80, houses one of the world’s largest collections of Americana. With more than 50,000 antiques in 26 buildings, the attraction was started in 1953 by
Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island is one of the Midwest's most celebrated living history museums.
BRING ALIVE THE STATE’S COLORFUL PIONEERING PAST
Frontier days come into focus at the Stuhr Museum's hardware store and Fort Kearny State Historical Park. LeisureGroupTravel.com
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IN NEBRASKA, YOU CAN RECAPTURE THE MAGIC OF ROAD TRIPS PAST. With so many fun places to visit, it’s easy to let loose and relive the good times. So what are you waiting for?
888-444-1867, Dept. 1LGC Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s Travel and Tourism Division
on location: midwest ❖ Warp, the youngest of 12 children of Norwegian immigrants who grew up on the Nebraska prairie. He made his fortune as a plastics manufacturer. Buildings at Pioneer Village include a sod house, log cabin, Pawnee earth lodge, 1872 railway depot, original Pony Express station and a general store stocked with 19th century merchandise. Craftspeople demonstrate weaving, spinning and broom making. A collection of 350 antique cars, 20 airplanes and 100 tractors also sweeps visitors back to yesteryear, and they can see examples of seven generations of American kitchens since the 1830s. In the town of Minden, groups might be able to catch a show at the newly renovated 1891 Minden Opera House. Kearney (pronounced “CAR-nee”) is famous as the location of Great Platte River Road Archway, a monument to America’s pioneering spirit and freedom of mobility. A log bridge spanning I-80, it offers an entry movie and interactive exhibits about westward migration—in wagon trains, stagecoaches, cars and trains. Visitors experience a buffalo stampede, a “prairie schooner” journey and a frontier fort. The Lincoln Highway exhibit showcases a 1914 Model T Ford and 1927 Oldsmobile.
Scout's Rest Ranch in North Platte was the home of Buffalo Bill Cody.
Military history buffs like Fort Kearny State Historical Park, the site of a frontier outpost on the Oregon Trail that housed a Pony Express and stagecoach station. The recreated stockade has a sod blacksmith shop and powder magazine. The park is a good spot for viewing the sand hill crane migration in March and early April. Gothenburg, west of Kearney on I-80, is the “Pony Express Capital of Nebraska,” offering such attractions as the
Sod House Museum and an original Pony Express Station. Visions of the Old West captivate groups at Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park in North Platte. On 16 acres of the original ranch of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, visitors can tour the three-story Victorian home and a barn with faded promotional posters of Cody’s famous Wild West Show, which became an international phenomenon in the late 1800s. The ranch was a rest-
TOUR OPTIONS ABOUND IN NEBRASKA TOWNS LIKE
Early forms of transportation are displayed at Harold Warp's Pioneer Village (left) and Cody Park Railroad Museum. 32 December 2010
Check out the Pawnee earth lodge at Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer.
ing place for many of the performers and animals. Check out the park’s small herd of bison. Another 233 acres of the ranch is a state recreation area with picnicking, camping and hiking. Also in North Platte is Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center, an eight-story observation tower that overlooks Bailey Yard, the “world’s largest rail yard” and focal point of the Union Pacific Railroad system. Rail fans can peruse vintage equipment and
memorabilia at Cody Park Railroad Museum, located in a park along the North Platte River, a site where Bill Cody staged his first rodeos. North Platte Rail Fest, an annual event in September, made the American Bus Association’s Top 100 Events in North America list for 2011. North Platte’s Lincoln County Historical Museum has artifacts that relate to Native Americans and early settlers, and it documents the legendary North Platte
Canteen, a World War II hospitality center that served soldiers passing through town on the train. Fort Cody Trading Post, at the I-80/Highway 83 interchange, bills itself as “Nebraska’s largest souvenir and Western gift store. The Wild West lives on at Front Street and Cowboy Museum, a recreated 1880s street that recalls the rowdy past of Ogallala, a cowtown once nicknamed the “Gomorrah of the Plains.” On summer nights after watching a shootout on the street, tourists move indoors for the Crystal Palace Revue, a Western stage show. The attraction also has a restaurant, bar and gift shop. Other sights in Ogallala include Boot Hill Cemetery, where many cowboys were buried with their boots on, and Mansion on the Hill, one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in Nebraska. For modern-day trailblazers in the Cornhusker State, Western lore and good old-fashioned nostalgia await— just off the exit. LGT Obtain Nebraska visitor guides and itineraries – and contact groupfriendly suppliers directly – at leisuregrouptravel.com/instant-info
GRAND ISLAND, MINDEN, KEARNEY AND NORTH PLATTE
The Stuhr Museum's one-room schoolhouse and Great Platte River Road Archway provide peeks into Nebraska's past. LeisureGroupTravel.com
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