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Travels in the Heartland: Explore Nebraska with the 2023 Nebraska Passport

The Old Poor Farm
Posted at 1:01 PM, May 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-05 14:01:36-04

It's time again to brush off the old traveling shoes and head out to explore our beautiful state. Visit Nebraska's 14th annual Nebraska Passport program encourages people to visit up to 70 locations in 56 communities around the state.

From Omaha to Ogallala, Nebraska City to Norfolk, and a whole lot of other places in-between, the Nebraska Tourism highlights unique businesses, restaurants and attractions that people can visit and have their passports physically or digitally stamped through Sept. 30. Physical passports can be picked up at any of the stops and the digital version can be downloaded from iPhone's Apple Store or Google Play on Android phones. Prizes are awarded based on the number of stamps received.

Walking into ReMain in Springfield, you may hear classic rock music playing on a stereo from 1970s, unless someone just purchased it. The Sarpy County store - a first-year participant in the passport program - specializes in vintage furniture and wares, as well as items that can be repurposed. It's easy for childhood memories to flow checking out the items at the store, as I found mixing bowls and bakeware similar to what my mom used during the 1960s and '70s. ReMain, which opened in 2022, also sells goods made by locals. ReMain is one of four antique stores and boutiques on Main Street. It's open Wednesday-Saturday.

Dundee Candle Company
Dundee Candle Company in Omaha offers both custom-made and premade candles, lotions and soap. Photo by Tim Trudell

Omaha's Dundee neighborhood is the perfect spot for theDundee Candle Company. The boutique specializes in creating personalized candles, lotions and soaps. Creating your own candle involves combining favorite fragrances - or even trying new ones - and owner Jeanne Nielsen or her team can help you find the perfect combination.

Once you've chosen the preferred fragrance and candleholder, the oil is poured into jiggers. The team then pours hot wax - at 165 degrees - into the candleholder. You add the scented oil and a wick. It takes up to 90 minutes for the candle to set, so you may want to explore the Dundee historical area or grab a bite to eat at places such as Jaipur, Pitch or Dundee Dell. Treat yourself to a unique ice cream treat at eCreamery. Dundee Candle Company is open Tuesday-Sunday.

Other Omaha-area stops include Big Mama's Kitchen and Catering,Hay Jay Coffee, Shop Five Nine, Diana's Tea Shop and Room, Fontenelle Forest and Scatter Joy Acres animal sanctuary in Murray.

Day trips and weekend adventures add to the fun of the Nebraska Passport program, so exploring stops around the state provides a look into its history, culture even a few tasty visits.

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Nostalgia is the name of the game at 4th Street Sweets in Norfolk. Photo by Tim Trudell

Opening about a year ago, 4th Street Sweets in Norfolk takes visitors back to their childhood through candy. Whether it's Chik-o-Stick or Sprees, nostalgic candy is the theme of the day at the downtown shop. Freeze-dried candy and freshly-made chocolates can also be found at the sweet shop. 4th Street Sweets is open Tuesday-Saturday.

The Old Poor Farm animal sanctuary in Nickerson combines Dodge County history with animal rescue. Once home to 400 people in need, the Old Poor Farm opened in 1872. Today, it's home to animals in need, ones deemed unadoptable. The Old Poor Farm is home to a miniature horse, cow, sheep, goats, pigs and other animals. The sanctuary is open Wednesday-Sunday.

Producing beer with local- and state-specific names, such as Lincoln Street and Whooping Crane, Hastings' First Street Brewing embraces its Nebraska roots. Located in downtown Hastings, First Street Brewing features its own brewery as well as tasting room. Order a favorite drink or try a flight of drinks for a little variety. The brewery is open Tuesday-Sunday.

Explore the hometown of a Pulitzer Prize-winning author by bike in Red Cloud. Back Alley Bicycles and Outfitters rent bicycles for people to traverse the small town. Enjoy a self-guided tour of 25 local attractions which inspired Willa Cather to create characters for her novels, such as “O Pioneers.” A ride around town is about three miles. Back Alley, located inside a historic downtown building, also sells gear for outdoor activities. Back Alley is open Tuesday-Saturday.

Known for his inventions involving photography, sonar and more, Dr. Harold Edgerton grew up in Aurora. The city honors the scientist with the Edgerton Explorit Center, encouraging people of all ages to engage their scientific side with about 35 interactive exhibits. Open daily, the science center combines learning with playing, as visitors learn about STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Rescue Bar and Grill
Rescue Bar and Grill in Sargent serves burgers and salads, as well as offers families games to play. Photo by Lisa Trudell

Enjoy small-town cooking at Rescue Bar and Grill in Sargent. The restaurant serves juicy burgers and salads. Enjoy an appetizer of corn nuggets or sweet potato fries. The Rescue offers a dinner menu with steak and more. Wednesday night is pizza night. The Rescue is open Monday-Saturday.

You may not be able to decide what is more fun, exploring the classic Great Depression-era grain bins full of vintage wares or the view of the canyons south of North Platte. Beginning as an idea for an extra room to sit and enjoy a drink while soaking in the panoramic beauty of valleys and rolling hills, the first antique grain bin grew into 20 classic structures, becoming Grain Bin Antique Town. Each bin contains antiques and other vintage items, from signs to tableware and clothing. Connected by a boardwalk leading to a large barn, Grain Bin Antique Town presents a fun shopping experience in Lincoln County. The antique town is open Wednesday-Saturday.

Dinosaurs have never been discovered in Nebraska, but plenty of prehistoric mammals one roamed the region's savanna-like grasslands. At Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park, you'll find fossils of miniature horses, camels and rhinoceroses, and more. About 12 million years ago, a volcanic explosion in Utah blew ash over the jet stream, blanketing the area near Royal in northeast Nebraska. Animals eventually succumbed to the lack of food and oxygen. Today, you'll find paleontologists and interns digging in a 17,500-sq. foot barn housing hundreds of fossils discovered over the years. The state park, open through Oct. 8, charges admission and a state park permit - daily or annual - is required for entry. Since days and hours that the park is open may vary during the season, always check its website when planning your visit.

Our final passport stop will either challenge your taste buds or your artistic eye. Maybe both. Lulubee Artisanal Chocolates in Lincoln hand crafts each chocolate treat, polishing molds and painting each piece of chocolate, filling them with caramel and jellies, as well as other delicious flavors. This may be the most-decadent Passport stop. Lulubee is open Monday-Saturday.

Other Lincoln attractions participating in the Nebraska Passport program this year are The Loft, Rachel's Boutique, Lincoln Children's Zoo, Dear Myra Boutique and Kiechel Fine Art.

As you grab your passport and travel our beautiful state, it doesn't matter if you get a dozen stamps or all 70 - we accomplished that for the first time last year - the Nebraska Passport is a fun way of exploring The Good Life state.

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