9 Reasons Madison County Iowa is Worth Visiting

Madison County’s Abundant Appeal

Community Visit Exceeds Expectations

Background

I’m excited before each community visit/study I do.

I’ve completed dozens of these, mostly undercover, in conjunction with organizations like Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVB), economic development groups, Chamber of Commerce’s, etc.

Yet, I still get butterflies as I drive into the city limits for the first time. Never fails. Happens each visit.

Before leaving, I research attractions, events, and historical facts and map out and schedule my time. Hard work ensues to put variety into my agendas: Culture, art, history, parks and recreation, lodging, dining, retail and more.

I develop a perspective from online information about what makes the community tick.

Afterall, what a community shares online becomes that community’s brand. The marketing affects perception.

Once there, I test these pre-conceived notions and hypotheses.
Most of the time, I’m pretty spot on.

I’m delighted when a community wildly exceeds my expectations. And, I’m truly disappointed for communities that aren’t living up to their potential. Madison County Iowa exceeds all expectations, including mine.

PLAN a visit. ENJOY all it offers.

Winterset, Iowa

Population 5000+-Madison County’s County Seat.

Winterset is approximately
• 37 miles from Des Moines, Iowa
• 125 miles from Omaha, Nebraska
• 180 miles from Kansas City, Kansas
• 270 miles from Sioux Falls, South Dakota

The Bridges of Madison County

Hogback Covered Bridge
Holliwell Covered Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been wanting to visit Madison County, Iowa since watching the 1995 “Bridges of Madison County” movie starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. (Available on Amazon Prime Video.)

What I learned during my 30-hour visit is that Madison County is a whole lot more than covered bridges, though these are spectacular and are worth the trip alone.

Bridge Names (Pick up a map in the Welcome Center)

  1. Roseman Covered Bridge-featured in movie + most popular bridge; gift shop on site
  2. Cedar Covered Bridge– on novel cover + arsonist destroyed it in 2017
  3. Holliwell Covered Bridge-featured in movie + longest of 6 remaining bridges
  4. Imes Covered Bridge (1870)-oldest and in St. Charles, Iowa
  5. Hogback Covered Bridge (1884)-spans 97 feet over the North River
  6. Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge (1870)located in Winterset’s City Park

Madison County is well prepared for the many who visit this area. It’s true. Most come because of the Bridges and John Wayne. Once there, however, visitors discover the depth of offerings and attractions in the County and stay longer or plan a return visit.

I traveled throughout Madison County during my 30 hour stay. I didn’t see everything. Though I saw a lot. It was a beautiful late summer day filled with plentiful sunshine.

I visited each attraction and location below.

Let me know what else to see and do after you visit.

SHARE this with your travel companions to Madison County, Iowa.

9 Reasons Why You Deserve to Visit Madison County, Iowa

1. Chamber & Welcome Center Information

Log on to the Chambers website www.madisoncounty.com  for self-guided ½ day and full day itineraries, along with photos, links and other helpful information.

Call the Center. 515.462.1185. A friendly voice and a well-informed person will answer your questions, every time.

Their website is so well done. It should serve as a benchmark for other similar organizations.

The Welcome Center itself is a destination for tourists.

Location:73 Jefferson Street on the Courthouse Square. [Courthouse open during the week. Built in 1876 and is a designated historic district by the National Park Service.]

Pick up maps and brochures. Restrooms and retail items are available. Be sure to place a pin on their map of your hometown.

2. Community Pride

When every person one meets in a new community speaks to you in a manner that shows pride in their community and appreciation for your visit (I don’t identify I’m doing a study/story on the area.), you know you’ve found a place you want to return to or maybe even call home. But it’s more than that. The sense of Madison County community pride shows up in other ways too, like:

• Well maintained streets and roads
• Bountiful flower baskets hanging from street poles
• Interaction of citizens-people greeting 1 another by name + being good neighbors and citizens
• Residences and yards well-kept
• Lack of litter and graffiti
• Well-marked services provided (Fire, police, hospital, schools, pools, recreational fields, etc.)

While some take this list for granted, these are hallmarks of community pride. It shows citizens working and cooperating to make their hometown shine not only for visitors but also for themselves.

3.  Ease of Getting Around

Visiting Madison County attractions is done with great ease. Signs are put in all the right places. Some might think this happens everywhere.

It doesn’t.

I’ve been to those places where finding major attractions is more like a scavenger hunt than a nice drive on a scenic byway.

I’d researched addresses and picked up a map at the Welcome Center but I found the road signs were so abundant that I didn’t need to rely on my GPS or any other tools to get around.

Great signage makes driving on gravel county roads and in unfamiliar places so much more enjoyable. It is a stress-free experience.

For a unique experience, follow the recently designated 82-mile-plus Covered Bridges Scenic Byway featuring the iconic and internationally known covered bridges along with scenic natural areas, historical sites, Winterset’s Courthouse Square and Commercial district, the John Wayne Museum and Birthplace, and many other unique destinations.

4. Appreciation of History & Ancestry

$ The Madison County Historical Complex

www.historyonthehill.com

Location: 815 South 2nd Avenue Winterset, Iowa is one of the finest museums I’ve visited in the Midwest.

It has 14 buildings on 18 acres on the south edge of Winterset.
Each building is filled with mostly donated items in outstanding condition. A genealogy research library is also on site. Picnic at one of the shaded tables. Restrooms are inside the Museum building.
Buildings include a law office, several school houses, a post office, a mercantile, a blacksmith shop, a 3-hole privy, an agricultural building, and more. Collections include early farm machinery and tools, barbed wire, quilts, Native American artifacts, and so much more.

Plan accordingly. I could’ve spent at least ½ of a day there taking time to fully appreciate the items and the meticulously kept grounds.

Be sure to take a guided tour of the 1856 Bevington-Kaser House restored and furnished in Victorian richness.

Appreciate the quality of the woodwork and the finishes. There are no roped off areas, allowing visitors to get up close to all items.

$ John Wayne Museum

www.johnwaynebirthplace.museuem

Location: 205 South John Wayne Drive Winterset, Iowa
13-pound Marion Robert Morrison (today known as John Wayne) was born in Winterset, Iowa on May 26, 1907.
Visit his birthplace-a modest 4- room home & the 6100 square foot John Wayne Birthplace Museum next door. It is the only museum in the world dedicated to this Hollywood legend.

 

The Museum contains a movie theatre as well as a collection of artifacts and memorabilia from John Wayne’s career.

A well-appointed gift shop and restrooms are inside the Museum.

George Washington Carver Memorial Park

Location: Narrow green space west of the fire station on Court Avenue in Winterset, Iowa. It is across the street from Monumental Park-a tribute to fallen soldiers and those who fought in the Civil War.

Mr. Carver, a world-famous scientist, artist and humanitarian, lived in Madison County in the 1800s. He once worked at a hotel that stood on the spot of today’s memorial.

$ Iowa Quilt Museum

www.iowaquiltmuseum.org

Location: 68 East Court Avenue Winterset, Iowa
• Opened May 2016
• Offers 3-4 changing exhibits per year
• Official home to the Quilts of Valor Project
• Retail items are available for sale in the lobby
• Vote for your favorite quilt

$ Iowa Theater

Location: 121 North John Wayne Drive Winterset, Iowa
Built in approximately 1899, the historic Iowa Theater was re-opened in May 2017 after undergoing a complete renovation. It is owned and operated by a mother/daughter team with years of entrepreneurial and creative experiences.
It shows “second run” movies-movies shown 4 to 6 weeks after they hit theaters in big cities. The concession counter has the traditional theater treats like buttered popcorn, soda and candy but it also offers locally produced wines, craft beer and locally roasted coffee. Notice the hardwood staircases on each side leading to the reopened balcony.
It is home to The Winterset Stage, which produces 3 live stage productions each year.
Keeping with the historical theme, The Theater presents classic American films on Wednesday nights. Check the website for shows and times.

Red Delicious Apple

A monument to the Delicious Apple is seen in Winterset’s City Park. Jesse Hiatt, a farmer in East Peru, discovered an unusual seedling in his apple orchard in 1872. He nurtured the tree and originally named its first fruit, “Hawkeye.”

When judged in the 1893 Missouri State Fair, a judge proclaimed it “delicious” and the name stuck.

A poster of it hangs in The Bakery Unlimited (established in 1984) located at 119 John Wayne Drive in Winterset-known for their apple fritters made exclusively with Delicious Apples.

Clark Tower 

Location: In City Park at the corner of 9th and South Street in Winterset.

The tower is accessible by car or foot (no RVs or buses). Follow signs in park-two mile round trip.
• Built in 1926 to honor the county’s first pioneer family
• Constructed from limestone
• 25-feet high
• Stunning views of the Middle River Valley

5. Green Spaces

Madison County is blessed with abundant green spaces including densely wooded river valleys, majestic limestone bluffs and gently rolling grasslands. It has 4 unique river systems that meander through the County from west to east – North River, Middle River, Grand River and Clanton Creek.

Fishing, hunting and biking opportunities are plentiful in Madison County. Here are two I visited.


City Park

Location: SE edge of Winterset at the corner of 9th & South Street
• 76 acres
• English hedge maze-find the hidden sundial
• Rotary bocce court
• Home to the Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge
• Hike or walk to Clark Tower
• Camping, picnic areas and playgrounds

Pammel State Park

Location: 4 miles SW of Winterset. From Winterset go West on State Highway 92 for 1 mile, turn South on County Highway P68 for 3 miles
• 351 acres
• Canoe access +  Hiking trails +  Nature Center
• Campsites, yurts and a lodge

6. Wineries

Several wineries craft fine wines in Madison County using Iowa grapes.

I was invited to watch grapes being harvested (September 2018) at the Covered Bridge vineyard. Volunteers assist in the harvest and are treated to a cookout and wine tasting afterwards. Again showing the sense of community pride and cooperation in Madison County.

Covered Bridges Winery www.coveredbridgeswinery.com planted their first vineyard in 2004. Their production facility and tasting room is located off Highway 169 at 2207 170th Trail north of Winterset.
Visit this website for more information on Madison County Wineries and a Cidery. http://www.madisoncounty.com/wineries-spirits/

7. Repurposing

Repurposing is more than a trendy fad in Madison County. Along with retail stores like Angel Wings and CT you will find a church that’s been converted into bed and breakfast and a county jail converted into a handcrafted artisan market.

Heavenly Habitat B&B

www.heavenlyhabitat.net

Located at 218 South 2nd Avenue in Winterset
• Established in 2009 and built in a former church and fellowship hall

It has  3 spacious guest rooms with private bathrooms

  •  Free WiFi and common area access with a great room, deck, shared kitchen and dining room

1st Avenue Collective

www.1stavenuecollective.com

Location: 220 North 1st Avenue in Winterset
• Inside former Madison County Jail
• Original features and fixtures of the jail have been preserved, adding to the unique style of the store
• Filled with handcrafted artisan products made by local and regional artists-unique gifts for all occasions
• Offers nice selection of local Iowa wines
• Jewelry making classes available

8. Events

Winterset is known for annual events and festivals.

Visit the Madison County Chamber website for a complete list. http://www.madisoncounty.com
The day I visited (Sept. 8, 2018) there was a morning Farmer’s Market and an evening Classic Car Show.

 

 

Their most popular event is the Madison County Covered Bridge Festival
• Held 2nd full weekend each October
• Celebrating the County’s history, heritage and culture, and its world-famous covered bridges
• Guided bridge tours are available through the local Rotary club
• Civil War reenactors tell the stories of Madison County from the 1800s and early 1900s, including tales of the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, George Washington Carver, Susan B. Anthony, and others
Visit www.madisoncounty.com/covered-bridge-festival for complete information

9. Food

Winterset businesses and residents are well prepared for visitors, including with their dining options.
One of the most popular choices is the Northside Café where Clint Eastwood had lunch in “The Bridges of Madison County.” In fact, the stool where he sat is marked.

In addition to being known for this, Northside Café is legendary for its pork tenderloin and hot roast beef sandwiches along with their desserts.

Visit www.madisoncounty.com/dining for more options.

PLAN a visit to Madison County, Iowa. Let the merchants and B&B owners know you used this post to plan.

SHARE this post with others you’d like to meet for a great weekend in Madison County.

This visit was completed with the cooperation of the Madison County, Iowa Chamber & Welcome Center.

©Copyright. September 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images on this site. All are copyright protected and available for sale.

A special thank you to my husband, Ken, who did all the driving, as usual, for this visit.

More images are found on my Facebook and Instagram pages.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact.
Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form.

20 Free Natural Attractions in Charleston, South Carolina

Planning to Visit Charleston, South Carolina?

Read & Share with Fellow Travelers

Charleston has plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with nature.

Here’s a list of 20 locations to explore. Keep in mind this list is not all inclusive. It contains some of my favorite views/places in the Lowcountry.

I lived and worked in Charleston for over two decades and visit often, including each of these locations, again in July 2018.

Charleston Peninsula

Brittlebank Park
LOCATION
185 Lockwood Drive, Charleston, SC 29403
Family-friendly park along the Ashley River near the Charleston Riverdogs Baseball Stadium and The Citadel. It’s a great place to relax, watch the sunset and/or fish. There is plenty of free parking (Paid parking, if a baseball game scheduled.) and park benches inviting one to sit and enjoy the surroundings. Stroll out on the fishing pier. Take in the surroundings and scents.

The Citadel The Military College of South Carolina 
LOCATION
171 Moultrie Street Charleston, SC 29409
The Citadel welcomes tour groups and offers cadet-led tours for groups of ten or more after 2 p.m. on most weekdays. The campus is open all year; however, no cadet-led tours are available on big weekends or during exams, holidays or breaks.
While on campus, visit the Summerall Chapel. Drive around the neighborhood, especially the area between The Citadel and Lowndes Grove Plantation.

Hampton Park
LOCATION
30 Mary Murray Drive Charleston, SC 29403 (next to The Citadel)
Restrooms and on-site parking. Great for picnics (tables scattered throughout the park-many under large oak trees), running, walking/strolling, dog walking. Use the physical fitness trail. The horticulture and landscaping make this a great park for events, including weddings.

 

Colonial Lake 

LOCATION
0 Rutledge Boulevard, Charleston, SC 29401
Colonial Lake is a tidal pond in Charleston, South Carolina with wide walkways around it. The area is used as a park. For many years the lake was known as the Rutledge Street Pond; some residents still call it “The Pond.” It acquired the name Colonial Lake in 1881, in honor of the “Colonial Commons” established in 1768. Great for walking, jogging or strolling.

Washington Square

LOCATION
80 Broad Street Charleston, SC 29401 (Corner of Broad and Meeting Streets)
Washington Square is a greenspace in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. It is located behind city hall at the corner of Meeting Street and Broad Street in the Charleston Historic District. It was known as City Hall Park until October 10, 1881, when it was renamed in honor of George Washington. Stop in to view the monuments, florals, benches and ironwork while getting some much-needed shade.

Joe Riley Waterfront Park
LOCATION
1 Vendue Range Concord Street Charleston, SC 29401
Provides visitors with picturesque harbor views, great breezes, wide sidewalks for strolling, wooden swings and plenty of space to walk out and watch water vessels. Children often splash in the fountains. Great place to rest after walking downtown Charleston.

 

Battery & White Point Garden

LOCATION
2 Murray Boulevard, Charleston, SC 29401
Ideal for history and horticulture buffs alike. Park. Get out and walk. Take in the architectural and water views, including Fort Sumter. Pause by the monuments and Civil War cannons to absorb the depth of history. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a wedding ceremony in the gazebo.

Folly Beach

Morris Island Lighthouse
LOCATION
The Morris Island Lighthouse can best be seen from the northeast end of Folly Beach. Take East Ashley Street until it ends. There is a parking lot there and then it is about a 1/4 mile walk to the beach.
Built in 1767 at the southern entrance to Charleston, the original tower was destroyed during the Civil War. The new tower, built in 1876, stands 161 ft. with 201 steps leading to its top. The beacon was extinguished in 1962.

The red and white striped tower is visible from James Island as well as Folly Beach.

The lighthouse was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.The lighthouse is unusual in that it now stands several hundred feet offshore.

West of the Ashley (River)

Ripley’s Marina
LOCATION
56 Ashley Point Drive, Charleston, SC 29407
Ripley Light Marina Drystack is located just across the Ashley River from Downtown Charleston and has been in operation since 1988. The marina is situated on Hwy 61, adjacent to the California Dreaming restaurant and just blocks from the James Island Connector.
Park. Walk toward California Dreaming. Take in the views.

Old St. Andrew’s Parish Church Historic Highway 61
LOCATION
2604 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414
Read the history of the Church here before visiting. The grounds are immaculate. The graveyard was founded in 1706. The Tea Room is open annually in March; timed in conjunction with Azalea blooms.

 

 

West Ashley Park
LOCATION
3601 Mary Ader Drive, Charleston, SC 29414
The park has a variety of sports facilities, plus a few hiking and boardwalks through the surrounding woods and wetlands. Several ponds can be seen along the way. One can play disc golf here and participate in, or watch, a multitude of city sponsored sporting events at this location. Children enjoy the playground equipment. Restrooms available.

$ Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
LOCATION
3550 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414
Founded in 1676, this is America’s last large-scale romantic-style garden. The garden has been owned by the same family for more than three centuries.

 

HINTS

  •  Wear closed toe shoes to safely and comfortably walk all the trails.
  •  Summer months can be painfully hot. Drink plenty of fluids.
  • View the video near the entrance prior to walking the property.
  • Take the Nature Train tour  to see the entire property. Start the day early. Take breaks. There are plenty of benches to rest and enjoy the views. Beverages are for sale in the gift shop and at the concession stand.
  • Block out at least 4 hours or take advantage of the next day free admission to explore the Plantation fully.
  • Check Groupon for admission tickets.
  • If able, climb to the top of the tower for priceless views. Take binoculars.
  • Be quiet. Hear nature’s sounds.
  • Obey the rules. There are alligators on the property-their property.

$ Drayton Hall and $ Middleton Place are also nearby on scenic, historical byway Highway 61 (Ashley River Road) and worth exploring.

John’s Island

Bohicket Marina & Marketplace https://bohicket.com/
LOCATION
1880 Andell Bluff Boulevard John’s Island, SC 29455
Nestled between the sea islands of Kiawah and Seabrook, this marina is home to 200 wet slips, 90 dry storage slips, and a quaint market with restaurants, shops, and offices.

One can leisurely stroll the boardwalk, watch boats come and go and quietly view wetlands and nature without noisy crowds.

The drive out on the oak-tree canopied-two-lane Main Road is picturesque and quaint.

Angel Oak Tree
LOCATION
3688 Angel Oak Road, John’s Island, SC 29455
Estimated to be between 300-400 years old, the tree towers 65 feet high and has a circumference of 25.5 feet. Its area of shade is 17,000 square feet and its largest limb has a circumference of 11.5 feet, and a length of 89 feet.
A gift shop, restrooms and picnic tables are on-site. Access is on a dirt road. Often crowded during peak tourist season, somewhat obstructing impact of tree’s magnitude.

Connecting Charleston and Mt. Pleasant

Arthur Ravenel Bridge
The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge over the Cooper River, connecting downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant. The eight-lane bridge satisfied the capacity of U.S. Route 17 when it opened in 2005 to replace two obsolete cantilever truss bridges: Grace and Pearman.
The bridge has a main span of 1,546 feet, the third longest among cable-stayed bridges in the Western Hemisphere. It was built using the design-build method and was designed by Parsons Brinckerhoff.
You can walk or run the 2.5-mile pedestrian path.  Parking is available both on the Mt. Pleasant and the Charleston sides. View the sunset from the Bridge. Stop and look for dolphins from Charleston’s highest peak.

Check out the annual Cooper River Bridge Run here. www.bridgerun.com

Sullivan’s Island

Waterway Behind Fort Moultrie Visitor’s Center

LOCATION
1214 Middle Street Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482
Visit the Fort and Center but don’t leave the parking lot without walking back to the dock to check out the waterway and bridge views. If you’re lucky you’ll see wildlife, kayakers and other natural wonders.

 

 

Station 22 or 26 on Sullivan’s Island Beach

One of the least crowded Lowcountry beaches. Please review City rules before packing up your family and pet to spend a day on Sullivan’s Island. If you do, prime beach front locations exist between Stations 22 and 26.

While on Sullivan’s Island, be sure to pause in your day and visit Stella Maris Catholic Church at 1204 Middle Street on the Island.

North Charleston

Greater Charleston Navy Base Memorial at Riverfront Park
LOCATION
1001 Everglades Avenue North Charleston, SC 29405
Riverfront Park is located on the former Charleston Naval Base-accessible from I-526 and I-26. Enter the Base by the McMillan Avenue gate or the Virginia Avenue gate and turn on to Hobson Avenue. Ample parking. Indoor restrooms. Shaded areas. Seating benches. Fishing docks. Well-kept paths.
Enjoy views of the Cooper River, Noisette Creek and a meadow. The park is adjacent to historic homes once occupied by Naval base officers. It is home to the Greater Charleston Navy Base Memorial and the North Charleston Annual Sculpture Competition and Exhibition.

 

Butterfly Garden in Historic Park Circle
LOCATION
4800 Park Circle, North Charleston, SC 29405
Next to the Felix C. Davis Community Center
Sit and enjoy nature, especially in the spring and fall when butterflies are plentiful. A disc golf course is also on the grounds as is a playground.

Ready to plan your trip to Charleston? Start here.

SHARE with others planning a Charleston excursion.

What questions do you have? Ask below.

©Copyright. August 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.

You will most often find her outdoors enjoying natural settings, wherever she’s at.

Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form.

The Life of Jewelry Designer Lucy Lowe

Meet Jewelry Designer, Lucy Lowe

Photo Credit: Meg Simpson

Lucy Lowe is a woman who welds and measures millimeters by eye. Commanding skills in a jewelry design studio.

Officially she’s a goldsmith and jewelry designer.

What inspires this former North Dakotan, now living and designing in Traverse City, Michigan, are the magic of transformational materials and the beauty of creating an end product vastly different from the state in which it began.

She first saw this exciting transformative process as a 6-year-old, watching glass blowers creating goblets while she and her family were visiting Haleiwa, Hawaii.

This memorable experience set her on a jewelry design journey.

 Art of Being an Artist

Lucy says the challenge of being an artist is daring to begin. “I’ve heard stories of would-be artists and designers who never gave themselves a chance to start.” They feared the unlikelihood of achieving wild success or widespread recognition. However, “those who do undertake the path of art or design rarely seem to leave it because the powerful drive to create has fully awoken in them.”

Being an artist and designer requires a great amount of conviction and flexibility. “One has to be prompt in seizing opportunity to succeed. Unduly holding back out of caution or fear, simply slows progress and breeds doubt.”

She openly admits this is still a work-in-progress for her. She keeps working on reaching out of her comfort zones to new growth experiences.

 Work & Life Values

The daughter of retired educators, Lucy is thoughtful in her approach to both business and life. Integrity, honesty and kindness lead her.

“In order to live with integrity, I must know what I believe and value on a core level.”

Honesty requires her to be open and vulnerable. It helps establish true and lasting connections with others.

“Kindness is the best gift I can practice for myself and others.”

Like many, Lucy has found herself being unkind to herself by undervaluing her worth. “I have worked demanding jobs for pay registering below the poverty line in business with high earnings. I thought that was okay because I assumed I mustn’t be worth a fair living wage.”

Today, she realizes the value she brings and understands she’s worthy of fair compensation.

Giving Brings Joy

Lucy’s greatest joy comes from helping others. This could be by creating a piece of jewelry commemorating a meaningful experience, listening to a  friend transform pain into growth, or spending time with her niece while she learns letters.

She enjoys being in outdoor, natural settings and drinking coffee. And, she volunteers for fun community events and donates to causes that align with her values.

Especially close to her heart is the non-profit Women Who Weld. This organization offers training to underemployed women to aid them in entering a relatively stable and in-demand profession.

Influencers

Lucy is fortunate to have outstanding role models for every aspect of her life. Her paternal grandparents deeply influenced her life. They encouraged and enabled her to experience things they valued, like international travel, classical music and higher education.

She is inspired and moved by the words and message of the 14th Dalai Lama.

She loves the Danish silversmiths of the 1900s.

Her design role model is Art Smith. “His work was so playful, yet considered. It’s a beautiful characterful minimalism. It endlessly inspires me.”

Work/Life Balance

Lucy is a work/life balance advocate.

“We are somewhat programmed for a certain kind of success in this culture, which can mean high pay, recognition, and progressive promotions.” This may be the right path for some, but not all.

“I’ve noticed many instances of young professionals stepping away from this idea of success because they see the detrimental impact it has on their lives. Work/life balance is a personal formula that people can only determine for themselves.”

Personal

Helping balance Lucy’s life is her husband of seven years, Cory, a physical therapist. Cory is a creative-minded woodworker. He helps build and design displays and make studio modifications.

Lucy trusts him to offer honest, clear-sighted and logical feedback-each critically important as she grows more connected to the Traverse City community and explores greater opportunity.

Days Ahead

Currently, Lucy’s designing a really functional studio. She’s going to keep taking brave design and business leaps to set her heart racing. She’s learning to trust the process along the way.

Join her.

Visit a gallery displaying her work. Purchase a piece online. Buy direct from an artist, like Lucy.

Purchase Lucy’s Designs 

  • Higher Art Gallery in Traverse City, MI Link www.higherartgallery.com 
  • Gold and Jaye Jewelry in Traverse City, MI www.facebook.com/goldandjaye
  • 3rd Ward Gallery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin http://3rdwardjewelry.com/
  • Purloin Studio Purloin Studio in Menomonee Falls, WI. https://purloinstudio.com/
  • Pieces can also be purchased at http://squareup.com/store/lucylowejewelry
  • Instagram @lucylowejewelry. Instagram link.

SHARE this post.

Let’s spread the word about Lucy’s talent and art pieces available for purchase.

©Copyright. July 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form .

What to See & Do in Kansas Flint Hills

Links + Tips for Exploring the Kansas Flint Hills

We had two May 2018 days off. Where to go? How about south of Omaha. But where?
We’d heard about the Kansas Flint Hills, but literally knew nothing about this east-central region, so off we went.

No Interstate travel allowed. Wow! Endless visual stimulation. Every shade of green. The air filled with dust behind farm equipment tilling spring soil. Trees bursting with blooms. Puffy clouds in blue skies. Friendly, warm-hearted people. Wind. Lots of wind. Rolling hills. Tall grass prairie. Deafening silence. Disc golf courses everywhere. Highly talented artists of every type. Live folk music on a Friday night. New American food in a Strong City-a town of 455 people (2016).

Can’t Miss Stops on Kansas Flint Hills Visit

Tecumseh, Nebraska

Traveling south from Omaha, stop at the historical Johnson County Courthouse in Tecumseh, Nebraska.
Walk around the square. Read the historical markers and take in the Romanesque style courthouse architecture. Simply stunning.

Council Grove, Kansas

This historical district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Council Grove is an old trail town at the crossroads of the Santa Fe Trail and the Flint Hills Scenic Byway.

 

Park downtown. Get out and walk.

Make time to visit with the store owners and museum volunteers. Stroll along the well-maintained river walk.

Trees of the Santa Fe Trail era are marked throughout the city with plaques as Council Grove is designated as a “Tree City USA.”

  • Stop in at the Post Office Oak Museum owned by the Morris County Historical Society.
    Lunch at the Historic Hays House
  • View the artwork at Rockfish Gallery and chat with owner, Chris Carlin. https://www.facebook.com/Rock-Fish-Gallery-2265381846821340/
  • Drive out to the Reservoir and around City Lake

Tallgrass Prairie Preserve

2480 Kansas Highway 177 Strong City, KS 66869
The Preserve is a public/private partnership dedicated to preserving and enhancing the tallgrass prairie ecosystem.
Call ahead 620.273.8494 (hit 0) to reserve a seat on the free bus tour, guided by a park ranger.
No admission fee. Check website for pet policy.
The Information center has a video to view. Best to watch before going out on the trails or into the historical buildings (house, barn and school).

Educational kiosks, well-appointed and clean, modern restrooms and a small gift shop are also in the Information Center. There are additional modern restrooms near the barn.

Helpful Tips
• Wear closed toe shoes.
• Fill your water bottle at the Information Center prior to boarding the bus.
• The road the bus travels on is bumpy. Keep this in mind if you have back or spine issues.
• Binoculars will enhance the experience.
• Understand this is not a zoo. Animals (cattle + buffalo) and wildlife roam freely, often near, or on, the hiking trails. Use extreme caution and pay attention to not only what is in front of you but also what is behind you.
• You may picnic on the grounds near the house and/or Information Center.

Lodging

Bunk house on hill

Clover Cliff Ranch
826 A US Highway 50
Elmdale, Kansas 66850
11 miles west of Strong City

Like nearly everything in the Flint Hills, this Bed and Breakfast greatly exceeded all expectations.

In addition to guest rooms in the later-Victorian, Empire-style stone main house, 3 freestanding lodging options are available. We stayed in the Bunk House. The decor is modern and fitting for a ranch location.

The kitchen is furnished with all but an oven (a crock pot is available as are a multi-burner cooktop and microwave).

Tips to Enhance Your Stay

• Bathrobes are furnished
• Foldable outdoor chairs are available
• Bring ear plugs or background noise apps if a light sleeper; a train frequently passes by on the other side of a somewhat busy highway
• A challenging disc golf course is on the property; bring your discs
• Walk the course, even if you don’t play it. Bug spray and sunscreen may be necessary
• Breakfast is hearty. Confirm your dining time for the next day after each breakfast is completed.
• Get the Wi-Fi code/password at check-in

• Make time for a short history tour of the home/property
• Filtered water is provided
• Breakfast is served on an enclosed veranda

Other lodging options are found on the Chase County Chamber of Commerce link here.

Strong City, Kansas

Strong City’s population is less than 500.
Points of Interest

  Chuck Wagon CAFE

521 East 7th Street

  • Pork loin and Patty Melt sandwiches are excellent, as is the service.

 

Pork loin

 

 

 

 

 

Ad Astra Restaurant

318 Cottonwood Street
620.273.8440

  • New American restaurant with a full bar, including regional craft beers, gluten-free and vegan options, and locally sourced produce and meats, including buffalo and beef.
  • Reservations suggested. Open Thursday night for dinner. Lunch and dinner served Friday through Sunday.
  • Food prep and quality far surpassed expectations as did interior design and vibe

Cottonwood Falls, Kansas https://cwfks.org/

The largest city in and the county seat of Chase County, Cottonwood Falls boasts a population of under 1000 (2010) and is about one mile from Strong City.

Points of Interest
Chase County Courthouse https://cwfks.org/chase-county-courthouse/

  • Oldest Kansas courthouse still in use; employees work there.
  • It was completed in 1873 and was built in the French Renaissance style from walnut and limestone. Today it is immaculately maintained.
  • Self-guided tours are available M-F 8 AM to 5 PM. Guided tours are available from 1-4 PM, by appointment by calling 620.273.8469.
  • The historic jail on the 2nd floor is worth seeing as is the view of Broadway from the recessed oval window on the 3rd floor.
  • Note the maple wood floors and many historical photographs hung on walls. Stop in the Commissioners Chambers.
  • Run your hands along the smooth walnut railings of the impressive three floor spiral north staircase (without center support). The craftsmanship is exquisite.
  • Walk the south wing staircase on the second floor. Imagine the many feet over time that have walked before you.

Prairie PastTimes https://prairiepasttimes.org/
2201/2 Broadway
620.273.6003

 

  • Open Tuesday through Sunday 11AM-5 PM and when the flag is out.
  • A cooperative of Flint Hills artists and artisans selling items made in the Kansas Flint Hills.
  • Impressive works: wool and Alpaca textiles, photography, stained glass, woodwork, ceramics, ironwork, and more.
  • Support art. Purchase a remembrance of your visit from one of these talented artists and artisans.

Emma Chase Friday Night Music www.facebook.com/EmmaChaseMusic
620.273.6003 or 620.273.8301

Emma Chase is not a current musician. Rather she is a fictionalized character. However, at one time, there was an Emma Chase Café, which is now closed.

  • Musicians and audiences gather around 7:30 PM near Cottonwood Falls’ Main Street to jam. Sessions end at 10:00 PM.
  • Weather permitting all congregate outside on the street by the Courthouse-331 Broadway-or if not, and every 4th Friday, at Prairie PastTimes-220 1/2 Broadway.
  • Admission is free. Donations are greatly valued.
  • Bring a lawn chair.
  • Audience members are welcome to join in
  • Guests can view the artwork in the gallery behind the musicians.
  • Restrooms are in the gallery
  • 1st Friday: Acoustic Gospel Music
  • 2nd Friday: Acoustic Bluegrass Music
  • 3rd Friday: Acoustic Country, Folk and Bluegrass Music
  • 4th: Friday: Electric & Acoustic Old Time Rock-n-Roll and Vintage Country Music

History
In September of 1999, Sue Smith and friend Charley Klamm were discussing the possibility of a music session at the cafe. Charley said, “For two bits, I’d hang a paper at the barbershop to see if anybody was interested.” Sue reached into her pocket, handed Charley the quarter, gave him a sheet of paper and said, “Go ahead.” So, on the first Friday night in October, 1999, twelve musicians with instruments in hand showed up at the Emma and a couple dozen listeners followed close behind. Most believe this is the longest continuous jam session, and perhaps the first, in Kansas. Taken from www.kansassampler.org

Cottonwood Falls Parks

Cottonwood River Bridge and Waterfall-located on the north side of Cottonwood Falls next to Bates Grove Park, which has tent camping available.

 

Walking Trail between Strong City and Cottonwood Falls. It’s paved.

Swope Park-1715 210 Road-located on the southeast corner of Highway 177/210 Road This impressive multi-purpose park includes a dignified Veteran’s Memorial, 4-H barns and an arena, a campground with RV pads, disc golf course, a playground and swimming pool, picnic areas with two covered shelter houses, and baseball and softball fields.

When walking downtown, be sure to stop and read the placard about the Bill North Courtyard “Beagle Run.”

Chase State Fishing Lake https://cwfks.org/chase-state-fishing-lake/ west of Cottonwood Falls off Lake Road
Take a drive out here. Observe wildlife. Appreciate the wonder and stillness of nature.

Bonus Links + Information

Manhattan, Kansas

KSU Botanical Center http://www.k-state.edu/gardens/
Tallgrass Brewery Tap House http://tallgrasstaphouse.com/
Chase County Chamber of Commerce Excellent source for additional information and links on lodging, recreation, shopping, dining, etc.
Symphony in the Hills http://www.symphonyintheflinthills.org/

Disc golf https://cwfks.org/chase-disc-golf/

 

 

 

 

Additional photographs & information on my Twitter and Instagram. Click links above or/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/lindaleierthomason/and Twitter https://twitter.com/LindaLThomason

Want your attraction/community/property or restaurant reviewed and featured?

Contact me

©Copyright. May 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.
Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete form above.

Natural Setting 25 Miles North of Omaha at DeSoto

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge

Overview

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge’s primary purpose is to serve as a stop-over for migrating ducks and geese. Most years, large amounts of waterfowl and other migratory birds use the refuge as a resting and feeding area during their fall and spring migrations between the northern nesting grounds and the southern wintering areas.

Peak populations of 50,000 or more ducks, mostly mallards, are common on the refuge during the fall migration.

Late October through early December are the months of peak waterfowl use, with smaller concentrations of ducks and geese returning in March and early April

Address

1434 316th Lane
Missouri Valley, IA 51555

Directions

25 miles north of Omaha, NE. From Omaha take Interstate 29 north to U.S. Highway 30, Exit 75 at Missouri Valley, continue west on US Hwy 30 for 5 miles to the refuge entrance. Or take US Hwy 75 North to Hwy 30, going east 5 miles to the refuge entrance on DeSoto Avenue.

Phone Number

712.388.4800

Fee

$3.00 per vehicle

Hours

Refuge Open 1/2 hour before sunrise and closes 1/2 hour after sunset

Visitor Center  9:00AM-4:30PM daily

Closed  Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Note

The migration  season is October 15-April 14, limiting access to ceretain areas on the Refuge.

Museum Display

Things To Do at DeSoto

  • Hike the Trails
  • Take Bicycling or Driving Tour
  • Fish (April 15th-October 14th)
  • Bird Watch (Bring Binoculars)
  • Photography
  • Ice Fishing (January 2-end of February, annually, conditions permitting)
  • Gather Mushrooms
  • Hunting (Check website for details)
  • Observe Wildlife (Shhh! Silence attracts more wildlife)

    Bob Starr Wildlife Overlook
  • Visit the Bertrand Discovery Site
  • Picnic
  • Boat
  • Watch Video and See Museum Displays in Visitor Center, including thousands of cargo items excavated from the Bertrand Steamboat, which sunk in 1865 and was discovered a century later.

Prohibited

  • Firearms
  • Open Fires
  • Camping

Bring on Your Visit to DeSoto

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect Repellant
  • Water
  • Binoculars
  • Cash for gift shop
  • Picnic lunch/food
  • Walking Stick
  • Hat
  • Closed Toe Walking Shoes

Visited late April 2018 after Spring migration. Trails extremely well maintained. Very cool breeze. Few visitors at sunrise. Museum well worth visiting. Educational. Architecture of building alone worth the visit. Indoor restrooms available. Make time to view the short film . Gift shop.

©Copyright. May 2018. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

 

10 Free Iowa Attractions for a Day trip from Omaha

Western Iowa Has Plenty of Attractions to Please All

Need a day trip get-away?  Things to see and do within 60 minutes of Omaha?
Kids need some summertime entertainment?
Load up and head east on I-80.

Visit these family friendly attractions in Western, Iowa.
Be sure to click on links for additional attractions and information.

Shelby, Iowa

1. Agri-Symbol Park with the World’s Largest Corn Stalk
Address: 12 East Street Shelby, Iowa
Exit 34 off I-80 East-NW side of highway, next to gas station
76-foot structure (Agricultural symbol) represents corn, beef and pork produced in this area. You will also find a paved Old Stone Arch Nature walking trail around a lake, sitting benches, a picnic table, gazebo and a must-visit Corn Crib Restaurant/convenience store filled with antiques.

Avoca, Iowa

Town named after Avoca in Ireland. Known for turret architecture.

Visit:

Farmall-Land USA $
Address: 2101 North Lavista Heights Road Avoca, Iowa
International Harvester (IH) collection of retired dealer.

April through October. Museum hours are Tuesday–Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday Noon-5 pm. The museum is closed on Monday. From November through early April, the museum operates on winter hours with tours available by appointment only. Admission fee is $10 for adults, $5 for ages 13-18, $3 for ages 5-12 and free for under age 5.

2. Spider Bug
Address: Intersection of South Chestnut and West Washington in Avoca, IA
Visit and take photos, keeping in mind this attraction is on private property.

 

Danish Villages

The two largest Danish rural settlements in the USA are in Elkhorn & Kimballton, Iowa. Elkhorn is off Interstate 80, Exit 54-6 miles north.

3. Danish Windmill

Address:  4038 Main Street Elkhorn, Iowa

This windmill is the only authentically operating Danish Windmill in the USA.

There is a $3 fee to watch 15-minute video and tour the 60-foot working mill where you can climb to the top to see the grinding stones and watch the sails (being repaired early May 2018).

There is no fee to visit the Danish import retail shop and see the 4. Tiny Morning Star Chapel built by a Danish immigrant to Iowa or the scale replica of the village of Ebeltoft, Denmark.
Electric car charging stations are available.
The Tivoli Fest is held each Memorial Day Weekend while the Julefest happens on Thanksgiving Weekend.
Call ahead for Elk Horn restaurant hours. Most closed on early May Monday.

Old Danish Workshop $
Gene Thomsen’s incredible woodworking talent is on display at his shop across the parking lot from the Windmill. Stop in. Visit. Purchase a piece of his work.
For an appointment, call Gene at 712.249.5983.

Kimballton, Iowa

5. The Little Mermaid and Hans Christen Andersen Park
Address: 310 North Main Steet Kimballton, Iowa
East side of north Main Street south of Highway 44, Three miles from Elk Horn.
This park honors Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” fairytale with a replica of the famous Little Mermaid statue of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Troy Muller, Art Director of New Century Art Guild in Kimballton, designed and created eight sculptures based on short stories written by Hans Christian Andersen.
To hear a 3-minute summary of each fairytale, you can call 712-773-4267 (HANS).
The Little Mermaid Park also includes the Audubon County Freedom Rock.

Hamlin, Iowa

Darrell’s Place Restaurant $
Address: 4010 First Street Hamlin, Iowa
Family owned business since 1980
Voted #1 Breaded Pork Tenderloin by the Iowa Pork Producers
Homemade pies and ice cream sandwiches, the best!

Audubon, Iowa

Address: I-80, Exit 60 North on Highway 71 for 16 miles
Half-way point between Omaha, NE and Des Moines, IA.

6. T-Bone Trail is 20 plus miles of trail suitable for walking, biking and hiking.
This Trail is a portion of the route of the CROSS–USA “American Discovery Trail,” a proposed biking and hiking route from Delaware to Oregon.
The Trail head in Audubon is at 7“Albert the Bull” Park.
Address: East Division Street-seen from Highway 71 on your right coming into town from the south.
Albert, a Hereford bull, is a tribute to the nation’s beef industry, standing 30 feet tall and weighing 45 tons.
The Park includes a water park, playground, camping and picnic areas.

8. John James Audubon (City Square)
This picturesque park includes a John James Audubon statue, stage, picnic areas, and bird mosaic tiles.

9. Plow in the Oak Roadside Park

Address: US Highway 71, Exira, Iowa
I-80 Exit 60, North on Highway 71 for 6 miles. On West side of road (Easy to miss)
This attraction sits along the highway in front of multi-story log style home.
There is a picnic table by the attraction. Outdoor restrooms are present.

Different tales have been told as to how the plow got in the burr oak tree.

10. Scenic Overlook of Two States

Climb 72 steps to the top of this wooden tower, providing fabulous vistas of both Iowa and Nebraska. Accessible only I-680 Westbound near Honey Creek, Iowa. Two miles east of I-29.

 

 

 

 

Bonus Links

Visit Western Iowa
Audubon County, Iowa

Audubon County, Iowa Tourism

Museum of Danish America in Elkhorn, Iowa

Genealogy Center in Elkhorn, Iowa

High Trestle Trail Bridge near Madrid, IA [More than a 60 minute drive from Omaha.]

 

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. May 2018. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

7 Insider Tips for Millennial Home Buying

Millennial Home Buying Tips to Save Time & Money

Are you getting tired of paying rent? Do you think you’re wasting money? Do you want to build equity in your own home?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, you are like most Americans. You want to own your own home.

But, are you financially ready for that next big step?

Read through these 7 tips to buying your first home.

1. Assess the Timing

Did you just land your first post-college job? Are you planning to stay with this employer? Will you be relocated? Do you plan on getting married anytime soon? Is there money saved  for a down payment? Are student loans taking a big chunk of your paycheck? If so, start a “home” fund and start saving for your dream. You need to do an honest assessment of the timing to buy a home to ensure it’s a good fit in your life at the moment. Chat with a local lender who will be able to best assess your current financial situation.

2. Check Your Credit Score and Cash Flow

Don’t waste your or an agent’s time if you haven’t first checked your credit score and know your debt-to-earnings ratio. (Avoid taking on new debt while in the process of buying a home.) Click here for more information on getting your FICO score. The better your credit score, most likely, the better your mortgage rate. (Always pay your bills on time and pay down your credit cards.)

When your credit score is worthy and you have the cash flow and a sizable deposit saved, talk to a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage loan.

Before contacting a lender, organize your paperwork. The lender will likely have a checklist of required paperwork including, tax statements, W-2s, bank statements, a list of debt, including any student loans, credit cards, etc.

Most sellers won’t even allow prospective buyers into their homes without first knowing the buyer is pre-approved for a mortgage loan.

Keep in mind it’s not just the down payment money you will need but also cash for real estate taxes, a home inspection and an appraisal, closing costs (If the seller doesn’t pay all of them.) possibly mortgage insurance, utilities, furnishings, maintenance, home owner’s association monthly fees, etc.

Always keep a 3-6-month cash reserve fund in case an unexpected emergency arises, like loss of a job or an injury that keeps you from working and earning an income.

3. Research 1st Time Home Buyer Lender Programs

The general rule has been that one should have 20 percent of the home’s value as a down payment when buying a home. But, that applies only if you don’t want to pay PMI-private mortgage insurance. Lenders require PMI to cover the loan if you default on it. If you are required to get PMI, shop around for the best rates just like you would for home or auto insurance.

Consult with your real estate agent and look for programs assisting first time home buyers.

Check with your lender about special lending programs. For instance, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans let you put just 3.5% down. Click FHA for more information on FHA loans.

VA offers home buying loans to veterans and active military members. Click VA for more information.

4. Get the Right Help

The expression, “Don’t put the cart before the horse,” definitely applies in home buying. Before looking at neighborhoods and homes online, there are a number of necessary pre-steps. After ensuring the timing is right to buy a home, find a real estate agent who specializes in the type of home you are seeking and neighborhood in which you’d ideally like to live. If you’re a buyer, you don’t pay a real estate fee.

Remember agents at open houses work for the seller. Agents at new home construction sites work for the builder. Get an agent that works for you-the buyer.

Your agent’s expertise will likely save you not only money but also a lot of stress and heartache in the buying process. A great agent will guide you every step of the process, including helping you secure a lending agent just right for you.

5. Decide Where You Want to Live

Be realistic. Don’t frustrate yourself by looking at homes and neighborhoods outside of your budget. Attend open houses. Evaluate what appeals to you regarding style (older home or contemporary home with modern amenities), size (square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms), location (family friendly, retirees, urban), neighborhood traffic patterns (Is it a cut-through street? Is it on a cul-de-sac?) etc. Does the home need to be move-in-ready, or are you willing to buy a fixer-upper? Research re-sale values in the areas you’re highly considering.

Attempt to prioritize the general area of town and type of home you are seeking before working with an agent. If you can’t, have a list of what matters most to you: closeness to work, certain schools for your children, number of bedrooms, room for a growing family, recreation opportunities for children, etc. so that your agent can guide you to the best location and help you find an ideal home in that neighborhood. Keep in mind that your lifestyle preferences may change in the next few years, especially if you add children to your family.

6. Know the Rules

Many neighborhoods now have Home Owner Associations (HOAs). Request a written copy of the rules before buying. Can you abide by the rules and restrictions? Can you afford the monthly fees? Ask to see the Association’s finances. Is it well run? Will they be able to continue the services offered without taking a rate increase?

7. Be Decisive

If you’ve done your homework and aligned yourself with a great agent, making an offer on your dream home will be easy. Don’t delay your decision making, or you’re likely to lose the home to another buyer.

Ready to buy or sell? Connect with Megan.
Megan Owens, Realtor
Owens Real Estate Group
“Delivering extraordinary care for extraordinary clients.”
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate
Phone | 402-689- 4984 Email | MeganOwensRE@gmail.com

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. March 2018. Linda Leier Thomason.
All Rights Reserved.

The Best & Worst of Traveling to the Dominican Republic

Christopher Columbus discovered this oldest country of the Americas in 1492. I explored the Punta Cana region in February 2018.

This Caribbean country shares its land boundary with Haiti on the west. Together they were referred to as Hispaniola-one island shared by two countries. The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern 2/3 while the western 1/3 is occupied by Haiti. Cuba is the only Caribbean country larger in both land mass and population than the Dominican Republic (approximately 11 million people). Dominican Republic’s land mass is about twice the size of New Hampshire.
The country is often plagued by both drought and hurricanes.

Arrival at Punta Cana Airport

Planes land and passengers disembark onto the tarmac. TIP: Limit your carry-on items as you have to carry them down the flight of stairs.
Once loaded onto a shuttle bus, passengers are driven to the terminal. Be prepared for long, slow-moving lines. Visitors need a Tourist Card prior to clearing customs. These can be purchased online in advance.

Click http://dgii.gov.do/tarjetaTuristica/EN/about/Paginas/default.aspx for more information.
Click here to purchase a tourist card.  TIP: The citizens of Argentina, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, South Korea, Israel and Japan are exempt from purchasing the tourist card. TIP: Be prepared to be hustled. Porters with wheelchairs will urge you to allow them to move you to the front of the line, charging you $10 for the Tourist Card and pocketing $10 for the privilege.

There are well-stocked, modern, clean toilets in the Customs Area.

Click here for more practical information on traveling to the Dominican Republic.

12 Facts about the Dominican Republic

I spent half of a day touring the rural area of Punta Cana with AndrewCountry Adventures outstanding tour guide. I have taken similar tours in Antigua, Oahu and Kauai in the past year. This tour was superior on every level. I’d highly recommend booking a tour and asking for him as your guide. Full and half day adventures are offered.

1. Catholicism is the most prevalent religion. Roman Catholic weddings are the only religious marriage ceremonies legally recognized by the government; civil unions are legal too. Abortion is illegal.
2. The Bible must be read in public schools according to a 2000 law, though private schools do not have to follow this law.
3. Students must attend school from ages 7-14. After age 14, students may choose whether or not to remain in school. Families must pay for school; tuition is a significant chunk of a family budget. School is in session from September through June.
4. Tourism (service sector) is the country’s #1 employer. In fact, the Dominican Republic is the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean.
5. After Cuba, the Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean producer of sugarcane, the nation’s most important crop. Other main crops are tobacco, cocoa and coffee.
6. A quarter of the country’s coastal shores and land are preserved as national parks, reserves and sanctuaries. The country is considered a leader in sustainable tourism.
7. Three beverages are stand-outs: Presidente Beer is brewed in Santo Domingo and is the most popular beer; it’s served in nearly every establishment. Mama Juana combines rum, red wine, honey, herbs and tree bark. It tastes somewhat like port wine. The Dominican Republic is also known for producing excellent rum.
8. The official Independence Day (from Haiti) is February 27, 1844. The government is a representative democracy and members of the police and armed forces cannot vote.
9. Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta was born in Santo Domingo in 1932.
10. Baseball is the most popular sport. Many US greats hail from the Dominican Republic, including Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Albert Pujols, and Juan Marichal.
11. The country’s flag has a white cross with the national coat of arms in the center. Blue and red rectangular boxes are in either corner. Blue stands for liberty, white for salvation and red for the blood of heroes. The Dominican Republic flag is the only one with a Bible on it.

12.Spanish is the official language

Begging

The tour stopped outside a school. Barbed wire was above cinder blocks. Sadly, this is to keep children in school. It was a Saturday. School was not in session. Yet children ran alongside the bus begging for hand-outs. Prior to the tour departing we were told we could not give children anything in an effort to dissuade begging.

Beaches

Peddlers of all types appear on Dominican Republic beaches. One can buy everything from trinkets to cigars while soaking up the sun. Petting a monkey, having a parrot sit on your shoulder or allowing a snake to wrap around your neck are common offers. Be prepared to say, “No thank you” quite often. If you prefer a less intrusive sunning experience, find a chair at one of the pools at your resort. Peddlers are not allowed into the resorts.

Hard Rock Resort and Casino Punta Cana

This all-inclusive resort is 18 miles Northwest of the Punta Cana airport. It boasts 13 pools, 9 restaurants, a spa, golf course and endless music memorabilia.

 

 

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best resort I’ve stayed in on a Caribbean island, I’d award this property a 7.

Here’s why.

Size. The resort is 121 acres along Macao Beach. A very efficient shuttle tram service is available. More signage would be helpful for perpetually lost guests. Building names that matched the instrument painted on it would also be helpful.
All-Inclusive. It is all-inclusive but not adult only, though there is an adult-only pool (Eden) that was often quite crowded. Unsupervised pre-teens thought it hilarious to throw shampoo, etc. from the balcony onto unsuspecting guests. Younger children supervised by parents were not bothersome.
Multi-Level Guest Room. The guest room was large with two levels-one with the bed and bathroom and a step-down level with a Jacuzzi tub (for two), writing desk and chair. A spacious balcony overlooked a construction crew working on a waterscape area. One awakened to the sound of construction on all days, but Sunday. The view was quite unsatisfactory. Once construction is completed, this annoyance will disappear.
Room Amenities. Two bathrobes, two pairs of slippers, a safe, shelving and plenty of hangers were in the closet. The bathroom appeared to be as large as the living area. It had a walk-in shower with two heads and plenty of amenities that smelled like male fragrances. The dual vanity, dressing area and separate toilet area were appreciated.
The best part of the room was that it was mold and mildew free-what one often experiences with beachfront locations.
A stocked mini-fridge and liquor dispenser were behind a cabinet. The beverage cart attendant came often and was quite pleasant.
Food. None of the food at the 9 restaurants stood out as excellent. The variety was great (Mediterranean/Italian/Asian/Steak/Mexican, etc.) but the quality was average, or in some cases, below average. The ice cream stations were popular as was the food offered poolside.
Entertainment. The Michael Jackson tribute show on the lower level of the Casino was well attended. It was extremely well done by some incredibly talented performers. Andre Bocelli happened to also be performing on location during our visit. Unfortunately, we could not secure tickets. The Casino seemed popular at night. The bars were not open during the daytime when we watched basketball in the Sports Book area. We never turned on the television during our stay. More publicity for nighttime entertainment would be helpful to guests-post in pool areas, post in dining locations, ask housekeeping to leave a schedule in guest rooms, perhaps.
Housekeeping. Our service was excellent. Spotless, in fact. The chocolates were appreciated. TIP: Workers at all-inclusive resorts can be tipped. Take an envelope of $1 bills and tip where service is outstanding. It is much appreciated.
Athletics. The athletic facilities here are great but not regularly used. The mini golf course is well-designed. With resort credit it was $6 per guest for 18 holes. The basketball court and ping-pong tables in the Teen area were outstanding. The tennis courts were well maintained and the lap pool was pristine and much quieter than the adult pool. The water aerobics class was well attended daily.
Hospitality. Workers seemed happy but honestly none stood out as superior. To this day I recall resort staff names from other countries like Antigua and Jamaica. It was very disappointing to us to learn on our second day from another guest that the color of our wristband meant we had resort credits to use. We were not informed of this at check-in. It’s worth noting that we traveled here with a group. Guests were housed throughout the property and not placed in nearby rooms. TIP: If close proximity of your group is important, request this when booking. TIP: Make sure your reservation and any extra privileges are explained and understood when checking in.
Excursions. We booked a ½ day excursion through a tour company located in the Convention Center, not through the resort’s staff. TIP: This tour can be booked online prior to your arrival. Country Adventures ranks as the best tour company we’ve used in either Hawaii or any Caribbean country we’ve visited. The staff was knowledgeable, courteous and friendly. The vehicle and driver, safe. The tour was priced right. The locations were prepared for our visit and the information shared was excellent. We returned to our Resort knowing this portion of our vacation would be the most memorable.

Departure from Punta Cana Airport

• Follow the instructions given by your airline and arrive at least two hours prior to your departure time. There is a US $20 departure tax, usually built into your airline ticket.
TSA Pre-Check does not apply here. All passengers must follow their departure instructions, including, but not limited to, 3-ounce fluids in zip locked bag, removal of shoes, electronics, etc. Each guest is also patted down by a same sex agent. Drug sniffing dogs roam all areas of the airport.

• Agriculture products and produce are not allowed to leave the country.
• A very modern food court, with restaurants familiar to all Americans, with plenty of seating is available.
• Duty free shops are abundant.
• A musical trio was performing as we waited to walk on the tarmac to board our plane.

The Dominican Republic is a country worth exploring. Be informed before you go. Get off the resort. Meet the people. Soak in the culture. Expand your knowledge of the world. Travel.

 

Fashion art products created from photographic images taken in Dominican Republic can be found at the “Linda’s Store” tab above under Vida Design Studio. Thank you for supporting my small business shop.

 

 

 

 

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

©Copyright. March 2018. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

One to Watch: Newly Elected 22-Year-Old Harry Griffin

Youngest City Council Member Ever Elected in Charleston, South Carolina

Harry Griffin is living proof that dreams do come true, even if in a down-scaled sort of way.

Full disclosure. Harry was a classmate and friend of our son, Alex. He played tag football in our Charleston, South Carolina yard and basketball on our driveway. Harry ate at our table and celebrated birthdays on our screened porch. He was part of a group of West Ashley young men. Yet, he was different. He stood out as a leader and made no apologies for it, even as a child.

As one who’s career included two stints on Capitol Hill, I kept an eye on him. I especially took interest when, as a 3rd grade student, he announced on a local TV station that he’d one day run for President of the USA. I knew he could, and should. He had leadership talent. Family, teachers and friends all noticed and fostered it.

At age 22, Harry Griffin is the youngest Charleston City Council member in modern history. He was elected in a District 10 run-off in November 2017. He smiles every day for the honor to serve his community. Harry knows he’s lucky and he gives all glory to God and thanks to his family, who, according to his mom, Susie Podiak, will always be in the front row cheering him on.

Maritime Industry

The second oldest of four boys, this 2016 Citadel graduate is a Project Manager at Neal Brothers Charleston, Inc.-a 100-year-old international export packing company led by his father, Darryl Griffin, Sr. A man Harry calls “a very strong leader who’s always been my hero and mentor.”
Harry grew up exposed to the business and enjoyment of one of Charleston’s most important industries-the Maritime industry. He’s foresees himself as an experienced leader one day at Neal Brothers. And, he projects a political career, fighting for “civil liberties of all Charlestonians.”

Getting Elected

Although Harry’s election at age 22 is novel in the City of Charleston, he doesn’t think youth is as important as it once was. He does acknowledge, however, that his age did help him stand out and gain additional coverage. He claims his positivity and work ethic were equally important to the historic victory. Familiarity and ease of using social media to communicate his platforms and message to a broad range of voters in rapid time were also key victory indicators.

Harry never doubted he could win. He was ready to make a positive, direct impact on the lives of his friends, family and neighbors. He sought out campaign advice from two-term council member, Marvin Wagner. Wagner was also the first to congratulate Harry on his win and told him to get ready to work. “The easy part was over.”

Getting to Work

Harry hit the ground running. His District notoriously floods, so he’s working with companies and various government entities toward flood mitigation and infrastructure improvements. He keeps his constituents updated with regular social media posts. He spends weekends meeting with residents and doing civic projects. Harry is an active member of the St. Andrew’s Rotary group and the South Carolina Maritime Association.

He’s learning while he’s going. He dissects bimonthly agendas to gain an understanding of key issues before casting a vote. He’s eager to learn more about public transit. “It’s so important to Charleston’s future and we haven’t used it to the full potential.”

Harry is working hard to stay true to the Citadel motto: Honor, Duty and Respect. His actions and decisions are about his constituents and putting their needs first.

National Politics

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) is Harry’s national political role model. “Senator Scott is a strong leader who is truly admirable. He not only fights for Republican values but also South Carolinian rights and values.”

He opines that politics on a national level has great intentions but subpar results. Given an opportunity to appoint a President and Vice-President, he’d appoint the current office holders. “We needed something different because the same old political practices were not working.”

Not surprisingly given his upbringing and career interest, on a national level, Harry cares most about the nation’s infrastructure and Commerce regulations.

Harry Griffin Gets Personal

Harry looks forward to one day being a husband and father. For now, he’s content to spend time with his four-year-old brother, Timber, and to watch his brother, Buster, march in step at Citadel parades.

He writes his own music and sings Karaoke.

Harry dreams of a trip to Hawaii where he can turn off his phone and lay on the beach for a week.

He seeks out and admires those with humility, perseverance and generosity.

You’ve done well, Harry Griffin.
The future is bright. You’re one to watch. I’m watching.

 

 

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

© Copyright. March 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All rights reserved.

12 Fun Things to Do in Omaha

Get Out and Explore All Omaha Has to Offer

Omaha is Nebraska’s largest city.

It offers plenty of entertainment and attractions for all ages and interests.

Check out 12 places to explore and find bonus links below.

Have fun exploring Omaha!

12 places to Explore in Omaha

1. OPPD Arboretum
LOCATION: 108TH and Blondo, adjacent to an OPPD substation
This is an ideal place to visit if you are planning to upgrade your yard with shrubs and plants. It contains groupings of native Nebraska trees, a conifer collection and lowland/wetland plantings ideal for the Omaha region. Explanations of each plant and how to plant these trees and shrubs around power lines are provided.
The arboretum is open to the public from dawn till dusk. A paved walking trail and wood chip trail are available as well as restrooms.

2. Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
LOCATION: 3710 South 10th Street
One of Nebraska’s most popular tourist destinations. Check the website for hours and admission fees. Also look for paid Animal Encounters and Backstage Experiences. Plan on spending a full day. Going in summer months, pack patience. It can get busy and hot.

3. St. Cecilia Cathedral
LOCATION: 701 North 40th Street
The twin bell towers of this lovely hillside cathedral are one of Omaha’s key landmarks. It was founded in 1905 and took over 50 years to complete. The Cathedral is a national landmark containing more than 3 million bricks. It is one of the most outstanding cathedrals in the USA.

4. Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge
LOCATION: 705 Riverfront Drive-just north of downtown Omaha
S-curved, cable-stayed 3000-foot pedestrian bridge connecting Iowa and Nebraska. A plaque marks the spot where the two states meet. Take a photo there. Bicycles are encouraged, as trails are on either side of the bridge. The Omaha landing features the Omaha Plaza, with bench seating, exhibits, a water jet spray fountain, a Fiber Wave Sculpture, play area, and a National Park Service Visitors Center. (Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters).

5. Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods
LOCATION: 1111 Bellevue Boulevard North Bellevue, NE Located off HWY 75 minutes from downtown Omaha
26 miles of maintained trails and 2,000 acres of upland and lowland forests, native prairies, wetlands, lakes and waterways. Go create a memorable adventure in the forest right here in Omaha, NE. Check the website for hours and admission fees.

6. Gene Leahy Mall
LOCATION: 1302 Farnam in downtown Omaha
This isn’t a traditional bricks and mortar shopping mall. This is a 10-acre outdoor green space in downtown Omaha near the Old Market District. Highlights include a lagoon and waterfalls, walking paths, gardens, playground, amphitheater and a sculpture garden. It connects to Heartland of America Park. Each winter it’s the centerpiece for the Annual Holiday Lights Festival. http://www.holidaylightsfestival.org/ Kids love the giant slide here. Pets enjoy the vast open outdoor areas.

7. Omaha Community Playhouse
LOCATION: 6915 Cass Street-near UNO Dodge campus
The Playhouse is the largest community playhouse in the USA. It houses two state-of-the-art performance spaces: Hawks Mainstage Theatre and Drew Theatre. Check the website for upcoming performances and ticket prices, including young professional and student tickets.

8. The Florence Mill
LOCATION: 9102 North 30th Street
Open May-October, the Mill is a National Register Historic site that once served as a grist mill. It was built under the supervision of Brigham Young. Today it serves as an art-loft gallery, museum, farmer’s market location and one of the sites on the North Hills Pottery Tour. http://www.omahanorthhillspotterytour.com/
Check the website for hours of each event.

9. Boys Town
LOCATION: 13628 Flanagan Blvd 137th and West Dodge Rd
Visit the Hall of History, Visitors Center and the Father Flanagan House in this National Historic Landmark District. Attend mass on campus. Get an up-close look at the world-famous Village established by Father Flanagan. Check out the World’s Largest Ball of Stamps and walk the lakeside path.

10. Kenefick Park
LOCATION: 100 Bancroft Street
Named after the former Union Pacific Chairman and CEO John C. Kenefick this park sits on the southwest corner of the Lauritzen Gardens property and is easily visible from I-80. Park in the Lauritzen Gardens lot and walk to the top of the hill to see the largest and most powerful diesel-electric locomotive ever built and the world’s largest steam locomotive.
Featuring several plazas, seating areas, a grand staircase, “canyon” stone walls, interpretive signage, sculpture and walkways, the park documents Union Pacific Railroad’s role in the development of Omaha and the West.

11. Lauritzen Gardens: Omaha’s Botanical Center
LOCATION: 100 Bancroft Street
A hidden sanctuary in the heart of Omaha, the Gardens are planted for visitors to enjoy all four seasons. In addition to the exquisitely maintained gardens, a visitor and education center features a floral display hall with seasonal flower shows, a unique gift shop, café, a horticulture resource library, banquet and meeting spaces and classrooms. Check the website for hours and admission fee.

12. Hot Shops Arts Center
LOCATION: 1301 Nicholas Street One block north of home plate at TD Ameritrade Park. Free parking located on 13th and Izard Streets
This center hosts over 80 studio artists and multiple gallery spaces, along with four anchor artists. Click on the website for classes, a list of artists and Open Houses, along with demonstration times.

Bonus Links

Website Link for City of Omaha Parks, Golf Courses and Pools https://parks.cityofomaha.org/

Omaha Visitors Center Link with List of Activities to Do https://www.visitomaha.com/things-to-do/

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

Ready to move to Omaha? Connect with Megan.
Megan Owens, Realtor
Owens Real Estate Group
“Delivering extraordinary care for extraordinary clients.”
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate
Phone | 402-689- 4984 Email | MeganOwensRE@gmail.com

©Copyright. February 2018. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.