Charles Kuralt, the late host of CBS’ Sunday Morning
program, called Nebraska Highway 2, that runs east and
west, “…one of America’s most beautiful highways.”
With an endorsement like that, it’s time for you
to rev up your engine and head to the Cornhusker State.
10. Sandhills Journey
Scenic Byway (http://www.sandhillsjourney.com
Driving along Nebraska Highway 2 takes you through the
Sandhills, a unique land mass of undulating sand dunes created
around 8,000 years ago. Mixed prairie grass maintains the
19.000-square miles, and provides bountiful grazing for cattle
Stop by the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Visitors Center for
information and advice to enhance your trip.
about the Sandhills.
9. Young’s Western Ware
The place to shed your “dude” clothing and start blending in is
at Young’s Western Wear in Valentine. Pick up Stetson-style
hats, cowboy boots and shirts for men, women and children. The
large store also sells Western-related merchandise, such as
toys, games, jewelry, household items and more. Sorry, but the
buffalo heads and other display items are not for sale.
|Merchandise at Young's Western
8. Pony Express Station
The Pony Express had a short tenure (only 19 months during 1860
and 1861), but is long on legend. Young men, who were orphans
and 18 years or younger, rode on horseback from St. Joseph, MO
to Sacramento, CA. Their mission was to deliver mail from coast
to coast in ten days. At every 10 to 12 miles, they would reach
a relay station to change mounts.
In Gothenburg, a log cabin that’s been relocated, once served as
a station. A docent there will reveal interesting facts, such as
Buffalo Bill Cody having been a Pony Express rider.
More Pony Express
|An original Pony Express Station
7. North Platte Canteen
at Lincoln County Historical Museum
The highlight of a visit to this museum is the North Platte
Canteen (http://www.visitnorthplatte.com) exhibition. Starting on December
17, 1941 (10 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor), whenever a
US troop train stopped in North Platte for servicing, the men
and women onboard could enter the station for a free meal of
fried chicken, sandwiches, deviled eggs, fresh fruit, angel food
cake, pie, coffee, ice tea, milk and more – all in 10 minutes!
The food came for the farms of 125 nearby communities, except
for the coffee, sugar and fruit which couldn’t be produced
locally. Twenty thousand volunteers fed over six million
soldiers – black and white.
Displays include military uniforms, old photographs, a 1040’s
kitchen, newspaper clippings, interactive models and personal
Step outside to tour the Western Heritage Village. More than a
dozen structures illustrate life in the 19th century.
Enter homes furnished with period furniture, businesses, a
schoolhouse, a church and others. An audio tour is available for
6. Fresh air fun
Trek miles of nature trails or ride 60 miles of ATV trails
through the Nebraska National Forest
(http://www.crossroadsofthesandhills.com), the largest hand-planted woods
in the Northern Hemisphere. Climb the 70-foot high Scott Tower
for a stunning vista of the surrounding area.
|The tower at Nebraska National
Forest offers spectacular views.
Tee off at the posh Prairie Club (http://www.thePrairieClub.com). Two
18-hole courses and one 10-hole course are designed by renowned
golf architects, and are ranked as one of the “Top 50 Most Fun
Courses in America” by Golf Digest magazine. Reserve an elegant
guestroom or stay in a private cabin. Dine on fine cuisine in
one of three distinctive restaurants, all with beautiful views
of the courses.
Glidden Canoe Rentals (http://www.sandhillsmotel.com) supplies canoes,
kayaks and stock tanks for drifting down the peaceful Middle
Loup River. The trip takes about two hours, and is a great
Another river excursion is on the Niobrara River. Brewer’s
Canoers and Tubers (http://www.brewerscanoers.com) will rent canoes, kayaks
and rafts to paddle down the upper section of the river. The
lazy river will float you pass little waterfalls, cliffs and
quacking geese as you search for other birds and wildlife on the
shore. When you disembark at Smith Falls State Park, stroll
across the river on a footbridge that leads to lovely Smith
Falls. The easy walk is also handicapped-assessable.
fun on Nebraska's rivers
|Paddling down the Niobrara
5. Fort Cody Trading
Don’t be fooled by the replica of a frontier fort -- it’s only a
fašade. Inside is where the action is. It’s Nebraska’s largest
western gift shop, or, according to them, a “tourist trap.”
Travel and Leisure magazine dubbed it the “Kitschiest Roadside
Attraction in America.” Even if you’re not in the market for
souvenirs, the stop is worth it if only to enjoy a miniature
version of the former Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. The 20,000
pieces, all carved by Ernie and Virginia Palmquist, reproduce
the excitement of the world-famous spectacle. You’ll see the
tiny figures perform feats of bronco-busting, Indian battles,
animal acts and much more – many with moving action.
|The exterior of Fort Cody.
Nate Bell, Cody Schmick and brew master Dan Hodges banded
together to form a micro-brewery that they named Kinkaider
Brewing Company (http://www.kinkaiderbrewing.com). The name refers to the
settlers who homesteaded the Sandhills in the mid-1860s. The
owners constructed a tavern and brewing area in Broken Bow. On
weekends, locals flock in to sample their custom beers. They
imbibe the Belgian Triple Ale, amber ale, India pale ale,
Oatmeal Stout, to name just a few.
|Co-owner Cody Schmick at
Feather River Vineyards (http://www.feather-river.com) were planted in
2001. The first production of wine appeared in 2007. Owners Jeff
and Connie Brittan and Kurt and Jeanne Pieper grow a variety of
grapes over 37 acres with 18,000 plants, making it the largest
vineyard in Nebraska. While in their tasting room, ask for Sara
Bonde which is processed in the European style and uses
Frontenac grapes. Other grape varieties include Edelweiss, St.
Croix, Riesling and Marguette. Jeff says, “We’re proud that our
wines are unique.”
3. Solomon Butcher
The Custer County Historical Society
(http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~necuster) in Broken Bow owns a
collection of Solomon Butcher’s exceptional photographs of
Nebraska’s pioneer families. Many of the pictures portray the
sod houses where the people lived. They give a hint of the
hardships that the settlers endured. Within the gallery are
artifacts that were found on the land, including portions of
actual sod homes.
|Solomon Butcher photographed pioneer families.
2. Buffalo Bill Ranch
State Historical Park (http://www.visitnorthplatte.com)
One of America’s best-known Wild West icons, Buffalo Bill Cody,
had tried numerous jobs, like Pony Express rider, US Army scout,
buffalo hunter, actor, hotelier and stagecoach driver before
finally settling on a career of showmanship. In 1883, he began
touring nationally and internationally with a troupe of cowboys
and Indians who performed different glorified aspects of western
|Buffalo Bill poses with his
Needing a place to house his family and entertain friends and
business associates, he build a magnificent home, called Scout’s
Rest, on his ranch in North Platte in 1886. Visitors can roam
throughout the furnished mansion, viewing Cody memorabilia and
possessions. A video about his life and career is shown in a
room on the second floor. Then visit the barn for photos,
posters, items from the Wild West show and 19th-century
vehicles. The 233 acres of the property are also open to the
More Buffalo Bill.
|Scout's Rest is the former home
of Buffalo Bill Cody.
And the number one
tip for a Nebraska road trip:
For two weeks in June, North Platte hosts Nebraskaland Days
rootin’-tootin’ event that celebrates the best of Nebraska’s
western culture. Kids and adults each play a big part in the
festival. The happenings include the Buffalo Bill Rodeo, live
music, lots of food, a horsemanship competition for Miss Rodeo
Nebraska, golf, tennis, an art exhibit, a kids’ costume parade