OMAHA, Neb. (The Walking Tourists) — The annual Nebraska Passport program kicked off on May 1, but it is far from over, allowing Nebraskans the opportunity to explore their state. Whether you're a history buff or curious about the state's best breweries, there's plenty in the program to experience. The following list highlights eastern Nebraska locations within the 2022 Passport Program, but a complete list of stamp destinations, rules and prizes can be found here.
In the mid-1800s, the Ho Chunk (Winnebago) were a people without a home. Forcibly removed from their ancestral homeland of Wisconsin, a section of land was carved out for them near the Omaha reservation in northeast Nebraska. In return, Chief Little Priest had to lead a team of scouts for the US Army. While he was unhappy working against other Indigenous nations, Little Priest knew his people needed a permanent home.
More than 150 years later, Little Priest and the Winnebago tribal history is celebrated at the Angel DeCora Museum and Research Center in Winnebago. A visit at the Angel DeCora Museum makes for a good day trip, combined with the tribe's Twelve Clans Sculpture Garden.
The museum in northeast Nebraska, about a 75-minute drive from Omaha, is one of the first-year stops on the 2022 Visit Nebraska Passport. The passport contains 70 places around the state, and is one of the country's most-popular tourism programs. More than 195,000 stamps were collected in 2021. Stops attracted people from 399 Nebraska communities and 37 states. More than 1,300 people visited all 70 attractions, an increase of about 200 from 2020.
On your way to Winnebago, plan a stop at Master's Hand, a boutique in Tekamah. The passport attraction is a popular destination year-round, with seasonal offerings, including handmade candles, home decor and clothing accessories. Master's Hand is also home to a small restaurant and coffee shop. With milk chocolates, dark chocolates, and chocolate-covered everything, you'll be challenged not to leave with a bag full of sweets at the Serendipity Chocolate area of the boutique.
The Omaha area is home to seven passport stops this year, ranging from history to food and drink.
Great Plains Black History Museum
The Great Plains Black History Museum, in the historic 24th and Lake district, offers a look at Omaha’s African American stories. An exhibit about racial hate includes stories about local leaders, as well as a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood, a vivid reminder of the hate that permeates some people's minds.
Another exhibit highlights world-famous athletes who grew up in Omaha during the early struggles for civil rights. Among items on display is a Heisman Trophy awarded to Johnny Rodgers and a Gold Glove won by Bob Gibson, who is considered by many to be the best pitcher in Major League Baseball history.
Lewis and Clark Trail National Headquarters
Located along the Missouri Riverfront a few steps south of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, the Lewis and Clark Trail National Headquarters visitors center provides a look at the history of the expedition up the river and along the Columbia River to the confluence at the Pacific Ocean in northwest Oregon. The Omaha attraction includes maps, artifacts, animal pelts and photos of current attractions and people. Flags of Native American nations fly above, representing more than 40 Indigenous groups the Corps of Discovery met during its expedition. Catch a 25-minute movie about the expedition, which includes a former Omahan (and my brother) John Trudell.
Four Sisters Boutique
Head to Rockbrook Village to visit Four Sisters Boutique. Inspired by her grandmother and three great-aunts, Sarah Spooner opened Four Sisters Boutique in 2015. The "Four Sisters" were known for their fashion sense and lit up any room they entered. The contemporary women's clothing store offers a style the sisters would be proud to wear. Along with humorous coffee mugs, beautiful accessories and hats, you may leave with more than a stamp on your Nebraska Passport.
The Benson Brewery
One of Omaha's most-popular spots to enjoy a beer, The Benson Brewery has called the Benson neighborhood home for nine years. The microbrewery is known for its small-batch beers, along with a tasty dining menu. Whether it's for a night out with friends or maybe a date with that special someone, The Benson Brewery offers a fun, enjoyable experience. Stop in for a drink and meal or maybe order a flight of beer to sample, and you'll be planning a return visit.
Two Rivers State Recreation Area
Consider reserving a weekend stay at Two Rivers State Recreation Area just to spend a night sleeping in a caboose. The state rec area has 10 rail cabooses that have been renovated as cabins. Or, take a stroll through the area to get a look at them. Two Rivers, about a 30-minute drive from Omaha near Waterloo, offers excellent trout fishing, swimming and non-motorized boating. Whether it's a day visit or weekend excursion, spending time in nature is always fun. A state park permit is required for entry, and can be purchased on-site.
Open for about a year, Ellsworth Crossing, a farm-to-fork market, features regional products. You'll find plenty of Nebraska - and a couple of Iowa — products, including a variety of bison from Central Nebraska Buffalo, such as brisket, roast, steak and burgers. Plum Creek Farms chicken is available, along with Nebraska-raised wagyu beef and farm-fresh eggs. Regional coffee, pickles and more are available at Ellsworth Crossing.
505 Brewing Company
Nebraska's newest brewery calls Fremont home. Downtown's 505 Brewing Company opened in March, produces seven beers, each named for local attractions or events, and offer offers flights to sample, including Glacial Till cider.
Nebraska Quilt Company
The largest of its kind in the state with about 10,000 bolts of fabric, Nebraska Quilt Company is located in Fremont's historic downtown. Taking over the former Country Traditions' store, Nebraska Quilt Company quickly became one of the region's must-visit quilt stores. With a variety of kits, accessories and equipment, it's easy to spend hours in the store. Nebraska Quilt also hosts tours of other quilt outlets around the Midwest.
Lincoln has five stops on the passport: Robbers Cave Tours, Hub Cafe, Paint Yourself Silly, LUX Center for the Arts and Adventure Golf Center.
Other day trip cities with passport stops include Nebraska City, Norfolk, Beatrice, Newman Grove and Brownville. You may want to plan a weekend trip to north-central Nebraska to visit the Niobrara National Scenic River near Valentine, including Smith Falls (tallest waterfall in Nebraska).
While in Valentine, get your passport stamped at Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area and Old Mill Bulk Foods.
For fans of the quirky, head to Alliance for a close encounter with Carhenge. A replica of internationally-recognized Stonehenge in England, Carhenge was created using old cars, painted gray.
Whether you love food, history, shopping or just spending time exploring the state, Visit Nebraska's Passport program is an added bonus for a summer of fun. Running through the end of September, participants are encouraged to mail in their passports afterward to receive prizes.