Plan a Day Trip to Norfolk, Nebraska

Home of Johnny Carson

Location

Norfolk is a city in Madison County, Nebraska, United States, 113 miles northwest of Omaha and 83 miles west of Sioux City at the intersection of U.S. Routes 81 and 275.

Plan Ahead

What do you enjoy doing?

  • Shopping
  • Outdoor Recreational Activities
  • Dining
  • Arts + Culture
  • Live Music
  • Other?

Decide how you want to spend your day and do some research.

Helpful planning websites.

https://visitnorfolkne.com/ Norfolk Area of Nebraska

https://www.theriverpoint.com/ Downtown Norfolk

https://www.norfolknow.org/ Economic Development Council

https://www.travelnenebraska.com/ Northeast Nebraska

Parks

We made our inaugural visit to Norfolk, Nebraska in late May 2020 during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Public parks were now open, but city park restrooms were not. Museums were closed. Shops were open. Masks were required to enter. Restaurants were open at 50 percent capacity.

Cowboy Trail Head in Ta-Ha-Zouka City Park

2201 S. 13th Street Norfolk, NE

Trailhead is accessible on the SW corner of the park.

Once part of the Chicago & North Western Railroad’s Cowboy Line, this limestone trail covers 321 miles from Norfolk to Chadron.

More Information on Cowboy Trail:

https://bikecowboytrail.com/

https://norfolkne.gov/government/departments/parks-and-recreation/parks/ta-ha-zouka-park/cowboy-trail.html

NOTES:

-We entered the trail shortly after 9AM on a May Saturday. It was well-kept with plenty of scenic resting areas. We walked about 75 minutes and saw four other walkers and one bicycler.

-The Elk Horn River and the birds provide great background music.

-Tree canopies provide lots of shade on the portion of the trail we walked.

-Depending on the length of your walk/ride, it may be helpful to carry:

  • Water
  • Light Snacks
  • Bug Spray
  • Sun Screen
  • Cellular Phone

City Parks

The Visitor Bureau’s website provides accurate descriptions of its parks.

Click: https://visitnorfolkne.com/portfolio-item/parks/

We visited Central Park and Skyview Lake.

Central Park

705 South 6th Street- across the street from Norfolk Junior High School

This park is home to the local WWII Memorial and athletic courts lit so citizens can play at night.

We were the only park visitors on a late Saturday morning.

Skyview Park

1900 West Maple Avenue in NW part of Norfolk

This park was busy with guests participating in all sorts of recreational activity while also practicing social distancing. They were kayaking, walking, running, eating picnic lunches and enjoying the picturesque views.

This park has a two-mile trail around the lake and offers Music in the Park on its bandstand.

It has a cross country course and well-manicured disc golf course: No one was playing golf during our visit.

NOTE: Help keep our parks clean. Remember to pick up your trash. There was a good bit of trash in the parking lot during our visit. Garbage containers are provided throughout the park.

Johnny Carson

Johnny was born on October 23, 1925 in Corning, Iowa. Although born in Iowa, Johnny moved to Norfolk, NE at age eight and always considered it his hometown.

Johnny is rightfully recognized as a national icon and hometown hero in Norfolk.

Johnny Carson Mural Downtown Norfolk, NE. Thank you to life-long citizen who left the coffee shop to take this photo for us. Super hospitality!

One can drive by his boyhood home at 306 S. 13th Street and visit a mural depicting his career milestones in downtown Norfolk at 3rd and Norfolk Avenue.

The Elkhorn Valley Museum featuring a Johnny Carson Gallery was closed due to the pandemic during our visit. https://elkhornvalleymuseum.org/

Dining

Norfolk has an abundance of outstanding dining options from family to elegant dining.

Check them out at https://visitnorfolkne.com/home/restaurants-nightlife/

After strolling the entire well-maintained and aesthetically-appointed downtown area, we chose lunch from the District Table & Tap. It’s located across the street from the Johnny Carson mural.

The patio was open. The décor alone is worth a visit. Look at the walls. Great design work. Clean, well-appointed restrooms.

We’d enjoy a return visit when live music is playing.

Side Trip to Pierce, Nebraska

Willow Creek State Recreation Area

54876 852 Road Pierce, NE

The recreation area is located on the 700-acre Willow Creek Reservoir, approximately 1.5 miles southwest of Pierce, or about 15 miles northwest of Norfolk.

As fans of state parks and recreation areas, we couldn’t leave the area without a visit here.

It did not disappoint. Guests were fishing, boating, bicycling, walking, riding horses and enjoying their campsites on our Saturday afternoon visit.

The scenery is beautiful and well worth a visit.

NOTE: Signage is small and limited. There is an entrance fee or a state park pass is needed to enter.

Wragge Dogs at Pierce Locker

117 North Brown Street, Suite 53 Pierce, NE

402.329.4365

On this trip we missed the opportunity to taste Wragge Dogs.

We could not find store hours anywhere online but packed a cooler and ice hopeful we’d bring some Wragge Dogs back to Omaha with us.

We were disappointed to find the Locker closed when we arrived around 2 PM Saturday.

We look forward to getting a taste of Wragge Dogs, one day soon.

J’s Place Ice Cream, Hamburgers & More

https://piercejsplace.com/

323 East Main Street

Pierce, NE

402.329.6797

What a great end to our day in the Norfolk Area.

A delicious ice cream treat served by friendly, efficient staff in a very clean environment with ample outdoor seating.

There’s a whole big world out there.

Just 2 hours north of Omaha, NE and we felt a world away.

SHARE this post with someone you want to explore the Norfolk, NE greater area with. Have fun.

Let me know what to see & experience on our return visits. Thanks.

©May 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved.

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Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

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