Sioux City Stinks: That’s What You Think

 4 Hours Changed My Opinion

snarkyCan I be snarky?
Since relocating to the Midwest seven years ago and commuting regularly between our first home in Sioux Falls, SD and our new home in Omaha, NE, we’ve skirted by Sioux City, Iowa on I-29 endless times. It was hard to do more than just get through there. Roadway construction is ever-present. It used to smell. Then it flooded. More recently the city decided to pick a fight with SD about using speed cameras to capture South Dakotans in a hurry to get past Sioux City. It was hard to love Sioux City, almost impossible to stop.
That all changed recently when our son, who’s attending USD in Vermillion, SD, suggested we meet in Sioux City rather than drive the additional 40 miles to his doorstep. If you read my January post (Parenting tab) “I Spent New Year’s Eve with a New Man”, you’d understand his suggestion. I’m no dummy. I knew it was more about protecting his personal space than saving us an additional 80 miles. But, that’s okay. We were gathering as a family, and that was the point.
Our meeting was decided rather quickly. None of us relished sitting in a chain restaurant looking at one another for half a day, so I did what I do for most family outings. I logged on to the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) website. If you’re unfamiliar with CVBs, you’re missing out on the best local information in any community-large or small. And, much to my surprise, Sioux City appeared rather diverse and quite appealing, at least as portrayed on the CVB website. I was a bit stunned. I was curious.
I went through the “What to Do” and “Attractions” tabs and felt a bit of remorse for neglecting Sioux City all these years, and let’s be quite honest, for also saying some less than flattering things about it. I take it all back. Every single word, well, except the part about the city bullying SD for speeder revenue.

We had a half day to enjoy one another’s company in Sioux City.

Here’s what we did.
4 Hours + 4 Attractions
1.  Trinity Heights
maryThe city was hosting the NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball tournament, thus we avoided the more familiar attractions along I-29. And because it’s Lenten season, we started our day at Trinity Heights, which opens at 9am.
Breathtakingly peaceful is the best descriptor of this place. We were the only visitors, except for flocks of returning birds who serenaded us on this crisp, cool Saturday morning. Though Catholic in theology, this location clearly appeals to all. The grounds are immaculate, the statues massive and outdoor Cathedral areas inviting. Surprisingly, many Sioux City residents we met were unfamiliar with this peaceful place. Admission is free and donations accepted. There also is an adoration chapel onsite.
2. Billy Boy Drive Thru
Billy BoyThis much beloved local hamburger joint did not disappoint. Filled with character and what appeared to be a recent remodel, the half-century old restaurant offers great food at a very fair price. What did not go unnoticed was the Dairy Queen right next door to this locally owned place that had a line of cars in the drive thru all during the lunch hour. There’s a reason it’s been around for over 50 years. Try it out.  Get in line. You’ll be able to read the menu choices easily from the massive menu board. Inside dining is available. Check out the wash basin in the restroom. Super cool!
3.Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center
musicCommuning with nature is my idea of perfection; this despite severe allergies to most insects and plants. So severe indeed that I carry an EpiPen® and visit emergency rooms regularly for allergic reactions. Undeterred by warnings, I never miss visiting natural settings in new locations. And, I’d never miss the chance to stop here again. All of their well-designed marketing materials feature children interacting with the exhibits and enjoying the grounds. We all are considered legal adults yet each of us maximized every moment here. The interactive exhibits are the best I’ve seen. They’re well-designed and constructed and educate in a fun way. We swung on the wooden swing, tried to assemble the tree trunk puzzle, studied turtle anatomy, peered through binoculars and learned much about Loess Hills. We even presented a wind song chimes concert in the play area out back. Admission is free. Go. Be a kid again. Commune with nature. Learn something new.
4. Riverside Park
gameWe passed this park on the way to lunch and decided to stop in after the Nature Center and before leaving town. On such a beautiful early March Saturday, it was well used, but we still found enough space to enjoy a competitive game of Bocce . We also threw football and Frisbee and ended our day with the traditional UNO match, despite the impending rainstorm and increasing winds. Admission is free. This park is easily accessible from I-29.

We’re likely to visit these attractions during our next gathering in Sioux City:

Sioux City Arts Center
Latham Park
Sioux City Public Museum
Sioux City Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center

Fourth Street Historic District

Log on to The Sioux City Convention & Visitors Bureau site. Plan your day or weekend there. Share what you did by listing it in the box below. I’ll add it to our next visit.

Share this article with anyone planning a trip, especially a day trip from South Dakota, Iowa or Nebraska. They will thank you, as do I.

©Copyright. March 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

Explore Door County Wisconsin

Hamptons of the Midwest-Door County, Wisconsin

signageI wish I could take credit for discovering this gem but that goes to friends, Marty and Ray Johnson. Referred to as the “Cape Cod” or “Hamptons of the Midwest,” I’m still amazed  most people we meet have never heard of Door County. Part of me wants to keep the location secret so hoards of visitors don’t flock to this pristine area but another part urges me to share this paradise with others craving natural beauty.

Door County-Wisconsin’s largest county by total area-is 2370 square miles with 80% of it water. The peninsula boasts 298 miles of shoreline along Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Nearly 30,000 people call Door County home; however, between Memorial and Labor Days the area swells to about 250,000 with tourists, primarily from Wisconsin, Illinois and Minneapolis coming to see cherry orchards, explore the 10 lighthouses, sip at wineries and enjoy fish boils.fish

We’ve participated in each of these activities and have traversed the entire county on multiple trips. This list will help you plan a visit to Door County, Wisconsin.

Planning Tips & Resources

  1. Order the official visitor’s guide or look at it online.
  2. Decide what activities you’d like to prioritize. There is so much to do that one can feel overwhelmed without advance planning. Under the “Experience & Discover” tabs the Visitor Bureau has provided categories with information-filled links, ranging from arts & culture to orchards & farms to scenic tours. Check each of them out.
  3. Book lodging early and understand the pet policy.
  4. Arrange for a guided tour. On our first visit, we hopped on Door County Trolley Tour. It was an outstanding way to see and learn about the island. We noted places we’d explore further on our own. On our second visit we were a bit more adventurous and drove aboard the Washington Island Ferry and spent half of a day exploring this barrier island in our own vehicle.ferry
  5. Understand each village or town has retail and restaurant establishments, along with natural scenery. Our interests tend to lean heavily to natural settings, but we still explore all of it. Small business prevails in Door County. Support it.
  6. Don’t be afraid of two-lane highways and county roads. Some of the most barnmagical views are found on these byways. The Wisconsin Barn Quilt maps provide another way to explore the rural areas of the Door County.
  7. Pack an empty cooler and leave the state with cherished memories and some excellent farm products like Wisconsin cheese curds, cherry products and bottles of locally grown wine.food

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. November 2015. Linda Leier Thomason

All  Rights Reserved.

Do you want your local community reviewed and promoted? Contact me to get a visit scheduled.

 

An Open Affair With Vermillion

Vermillion, South Dakota you’ve been holding out on me!

You finally revealed the depth & beauty of your soul on my third Family Weekend visit. Had I known the secrets you were keeping, I’d have spent much more time with you. You secretive, sly one! These past two years I’ve only seen your dorm rooms, your downtown and your DakotaDome. This year the depth of your character and the beauty of your surroundings were disclosed. You let slip the history of your beginnings and plans for your future. Know I crave more of you and desperately long for our next meeting.

Let’s be open about our affair. The past two years we’ve visited a student. This year we toured with the same student-now a university employee. Together we awed over your Shakespeare Garden, the time capsule and the National Music Museum-all new and exciting parts of your university-only drawing us closer. We drove by the president’s house, saw the burgeoning athletic fields and experienced a football team win with an energy-filled fan base, unlike past years. We traversed your southern bluffs and succumbed to your Missouri River sunset. There was a freshness and a real excitement in our connection this time. So much so that I want to openly hold hands with you in public and announce my joy with each visit. I’ve been enriched getting to know you and want to share all you offer.

Here’s Why-

architecture usdHistory & Architecture

USD was founded in 1862. Campus architecture and well-maintained grounds reveal pride in this rich history as the first post-secondary institution in the Dakotas.

I equally enjoy old and new. Your perfect blend of historical and contemporary buildings delights me.beacom

 

 

National Music Museum

music usdWho’d think a city of 10,000+ would boast a National Music Museum? This hidden gem is fully accredited by the American Association of Museums in Washington, D.C., and is recognized as a “Landmark of American Music” by the National Music Council. Its collections contain more than 15,000 instruments from all cultures and historical periods.

Music moves my soul and this place cements me in the history of music.

Restaurants With Characterwhimps

Just a short drive from Vermillion is the unincorporated Burbank, South Dakota-home of Whimps. Nothing fancy here- just fast, signefficient and friendly service in a nondescript hole-in-the wall building with an overflowing parking lot. Locals know where to eat, and now I do too.

Priceless Views

moonA dead-end gravel road framed in golden fall colors won me over. How dare you have kept this from me for two years? I’m totally smitten with your bluff views and your sandy beaches-all seen with you on a night when the moon was full.

You knew my history of coastal living, yet withheld this natural beauty until you were sure of my commitment. Your mystery intrigues me.

Your academic buildings on a historical campus. Your national museum. Your manicured grounds. Your character-filled eateries. Your picturesque surroundings. Oh, the many layers and textures of your existence.

How can I let you go & leave you behind?sandMy devotion is real.

I will return to you Vermillion, South Dakota.

Surely there is much more to you, yet to be revealed.

The affair continues. Openly.

If you are a Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) staffer or tourism official and you’d like to have your community reviewed and promoted, please contact me at llthomason60@gmail.com.

Copyright. October 2015. Linda Leier Thomason.

All Rights Reserved.

 

Are You Listening?

Waking Early To the Amazing Sights & Sounds of Nature 

Awakened by a symphony of birds in the backyard.
Even the wind chimes remained motionless not to disturb the bird songs.
Wind chimes remained motionless so as not to disturb the music.
The setting was brilliant in the early morning sunrise.
Brilliant setting in morning sunrise.
The fountain provided background music.
The fountain provided background sounds.
Apparently I wasn't the only one listening.
All welcome to listen.
Even inanimate objects seemed magical.
Even inanimate objects seemed magical.
All were drawn to the sounds.
The diverse audience amused me.
Soloist.
Soloist in the spotlight.
Robin duet was extra special.
Eager to join the group.

 

I was just going to open the screen door and allow some fresh, crisp, early morning, fall air into the house as I  pushed through my morning routine. Instead, I was drawn to a symphony performed by a mix of birds and an equally diverse audience. I grabbed my camera to capture the event, now wishing I’d have turned on the recorder and captured the sounds. It was a great lesson in pausing to listen. Had I not been so drawn to the variety of bird sounds, I’d have missed the event and all the surrounding activity and beauty.

What else is missed when not pausing to listen?

Pause. Look. Listen.

Life passes by too quickly not to appreciate magical moments.

Looking for more images like these, check out “Linda’s Store”. Any of these photographs can be placed on products to use yourself or gift to others. As a small business owner, I appreciate your support.

 Copyright October 2015 Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Get off the Road: Explore Nebraska

Our family relocated from Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Omaha, Nebraska Saturday, May 30, 2015 and three days later I was riding shotgun as my husband Ken drove 4 hours west on I-80 to North Platte, Nebraska for business.  I’m no fan of interstate travel, but in this case expediency trumped curiosity. While riding, I logged onto the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website to find attractions to visit upon arrival and to explore on Wednesday while he was working. Our first stop was at The Archway, which is a 310 foot museum over I-80 near Kearney, NE. Once inside, we learned a fee is charged for a self-guided museum tour and we hadn’t allotted time for this. Instead, we toured the sod house and outside grounds before making a joint commitment to come back and explore the entire Kearney area later this summer. North Platte NE June 2015 025 North Platte NE June 2015 012Back on I-80, we continued west and took Exit 177, or Highway 83 North, to North Platte. The first thing I noticed was the sheer volume of traffic for a town this size. It appears it’s a stopping point for many travelers as evidenced by the number of popular hotel chains near the interstate. The Golden Spike Tower caught our attention and was phenomenal. Get off Interstate 8o and see this, even if you’re not a train fanatic. North Platte NE June 2015 028You pay an admission fee and watch a short video before  taking an elevator to the outdoor 7th floor to get a panoramic view of Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard-the world’s largest train yard. Ken and I were the only visitors on the deck at this late hour and I literally could have stayed there until the 7pm closing time. There is so much activity and the view alone is breathtaking.We then ventured up to the 8th floor and were greeted by 3 Union Pacific retirees who eagerly shared their industry knowledge and answered all questions, and I had a lot of them. I am not going to post images of what you see. Doing so is the equivalent of revealing the end of movie or book. Trust me on this. It is worth the entrance fee and time!North Platte NE June 2015 062

By  7pm we were hungry. Yet again, I relied on other traveler’s advice on several websites and convinced Ken to drive further west to the little town of Hershey, NE to dine at North Platte NE June 2015 078Butch’s Lounge and Steakhouse. Ken will testify that the 15-ounce steak was right up there with some of the best beef he’s had in the Midwest. It’s not fancy and it certainly is a community gathering place-a group of middle-aged women were playing a card game at the 60″ round table next to us, while passing an infant boy between the players. The joint was full of travelers and locals-a hallmark of a great dining spot.

After a good night’s rest and getting Ken to his work site, I started on my North Platte adventures list. The first stop was right next door to our hotel: Ft. Cody Trading Post. North Platte NE June 2015 001I looked past the retail section and headed straight to the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show in miniature that runs every 30 minutes. The wood carvings are intricate and the story itself is fascinating, as is the display of a double-headed calf in the building. The backyard certainly appeals to children more than adults. Admission is free and the staff very helpful in guiding visitors to other interesting sites in and around the area. North Platte NE June 2015 004 I was strongly encouraged to visit Cody Park on Highway 83 North on the outskirts of town. Wow! A park custom designed for my taste. I drove to the back and visited the Railroad Museum (free admission), hopping on and off the trains and delighting in the freedom to wander through the various cars and read the informational placards throughout. North Platte NE June 2015 010Several citizens had told me the concession stand here has the most affordable food in town and the best ice cream in the state. So, I drove past the baseball diamonds, swimming pool and tennis courts, all being used by day campers and counselors, and ordered some lunch. The cheeseburger was yummy! And, because I’m lactose intolerant, I just observed dozens of others licking their cones, while craving a twisted cone myself. Courtney, a concession stand worker, shared that the amusement rides are open from 5-10pm North Platte NE June 2015 044and that the weekends are so busy they have multiple orders backed up in the kitchen. I sat on a park bench and observed fowl seeking their own lunch in the puddles from the overnight rain. No matter what direction I looked, I saw markers and Memorial Day flowers, so I got up and walked to the nearest tree to discover citizens donate trees and park benches in honor of deceased loved ones. It seems a fitting way to memorialize someone who grew up enjoying the natural setting of the park. I headed to the zoo portion of the park. By this time the sun warmed the area past 80 degrees and most animals were resting or under shelter. I, however, was fortunate enough to capture some great imagesNorth Platte NE June 2015 057 and to see multiple peacocks spread their feathers, revealing stunning colors. I wandered off to the river and visited with grandparents having a picnic lunch with a toddler grandson and then headed back near the park entrance to view the Wild West Memorial before bidding Cody Park farewell after nearly three hours. My final stop in North Platte was the Arts and Gift Gallery. It is a fine art co-op gallery with plenty of stunning work and a friendly, helpful volunteer greeting you upon arrival. Sadly my time in North Platte was too short. I will return. Perhaps for the annual Rail Fest held the 3rd week in September or the NEBRASKAland Days held annually the 3rd week in June.

Get off the road.

Explore.

Discover.

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. June 2015. Linda Leier Thomason.