4 Affordable Things to Do in Omaha on a Sunday

Have a free Sunday and need something to do? Visit Omaha. If you are lucky enough to call Omaha your home, get out and visit, or re-visit, these sites and participate these activities.

We recently did these 4 things in 4 hours on a Sunday. Click on the bold links to find more information while planning your Omaha outing or a weekend trip to Omaha.

Omaha Farmer’s Market at Aksarben Village

9am-1pm Every Sunday May 7-October 15, 2017

Tips for a Great Outing

  • Go early for free street and garage parking.
  • Find a list of vendors on the Market’s website-link in bold green above.
  • Patience required. Be prepared to dodge dogs and strollers.
  • Bring your own bags for produce (recycled grocery store bags, etc.) and a bag to put all merchandise into.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. After shopping, walk the trails or stroll through the College of St. Mary.
  • Tip the musician(s).
  • Take dollar bills so vendors don’t run out of change.
  • Bring sanitizing hand wipes. Napkins provided, but these wipes are useful for post-restroom and after eating sticky pastries.
  • Don’t eat samples without real intent to buy.
  • Be open to trying new things, especially vegetables you’ve never tasted.

Enhanced the Market by

  • Vendors hand out recipes-how to use items being sold, especially unique vegetables.
  • More vendors preparing & selling food for consumption on-site.
  • Healthier prepared food options; heavy on pastries.
  • Cooking demonstrations-how to use kohlrabi, okra, etc.
  • Multiple entertainers throughout the market.
  • Fee based pony rides for children.
  • Petting zoo.
  • Hoola-Hoop contests, etc. to engage crowd.

Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens

Little Known Facts about 38th President of USA

  • Born July 14, 1913 at 3202 Woolworth Avenue, Omaha, NE.
  • Named Leslie King, Jr. at birth.
  • Parents divorced and mother moved to her parent’s Grand Rapids, Michigan home.
  • Renamed Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. when adopted by stepfather in 1916, at age 3.
  • Most commonly known as being from Michigan.

Property Facts

  • 3202 Woolworth Avenue was 3-stories and 14 rooms
  • 1971 home burned
  • In 1974, James M. Paxson, prominent Omaha businessman, purchased it with intent to build memorial.
  • Kiosk has 4 historical narrations available.
  • Site dedicated in 1977
  • Rose garden added in 1978
  • Maintained by Omaha Parks and Rec Department
  • Free entrance
  • A Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center sits adjacent to birthplace
  • The Gerald Ford exhibit is open to the public Monday thru Friday, by appointment only. Call 402-595-1180 or email grfcc@nebraska.gov.
  • The conservation labs are not open for public tours.
  • The Ford birth site gardens are available for rent by calling 402-444-5900
  • Hanscom Park is across the street and has a pavilion available for rent

Gene Leahy Pedestrian Mall

1302 Farnam Street, downtown Omaha

Located just to the north of the Old Market in the downtown area. The park sits between the Heartland of America Park on its eastern edge and the W. Dale Clark Library to the West. It is sandwiched between historical buildings and contemporary design, making the surroundings visually interesting.

Interesting Tidbits

  • Also known as Central Park or The Mall
  • Named after former Omaha Mayor Eugene A. Leahy
  • 6 acres
  • Open 5am-11pm
  • Free entrance
  • Playground with steel slides-bring cardboard to go faster
  • Walking paths
  • Lagoon with waterfowl
  • Sculpture art
  • Picnic areas
  • Visit during holiday season when lit up for the season
  • Homeless citizens do occupy the area

Café 110

1299 Farnam Street, Suite 110, corner of 13th and Farnam, near Gene Leahy Mall entrance

Hours: Monday-Friday: 8am-2pm; Closed Saturday; Sunday: 9am-12pm

  • One of best, most affordable breakfasts in Omaha.
  • Known for coffee, tea, Espresso,  smoothies, in-house made soups, sandwiches and salads along with a salad bar, fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Space is energetic and  creative. There is a loft upstairs for reading, etc.
  • Service friendly and efficient.
  • Opened in March 2012 by owner Allan Zeeck. He previously owned Benson Grind.
  • Offers off-site catering and live music.
  • Space can be rented for private parties and events, especially popular during Christmas holiday when Gene Leahy Mall is lit. Reserve early.

Omaha offers a lot of variety for residents. Find your favorite things to do.

LIKE & SHARE this post, making an Omaha outing or Omaha visit easy to plan.

©Copyright. August 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

 

 

 

Downtown Seattle-A Review of 7 Attractions

Seattle, Washington was the hub for our two nation vacation. What follows are observations, reviews and recommendations for your visit to Seattle.

Downtown Seattle: Acceptance & Tolerance

acceptance collageIf the Seattle Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) is seeking a motto or tagline, I recommend “Acceptance & Tolerance.” One 40-minute ride on the very clean, efficient Link Light Rail from the Seattle-Tacoma airport to Westlake Station downtown provided plenty of examples to support this nomination.

Time after time, during our four-day stay, we remarked about how “anything goes here.” We don’t mean vagrancy and crime are tolerated but expression of oneself is-in clothing, in word and behavior. No one seemed to be too bothered by what sociologists call counterculture. Every color and length of hair, dress and expression were seen. Stepping into the daylight from the downtown light rail station, a busker, surrounded by curious seekers of all ages and races, entertained to applause. Those offended moved on without comment or gesture. Nice.

Barrier-Free Curbs in Downtown Seattle

Wheeling our luggage to the Warwick Hotel, one quickly notices barrier-free city sidewalks marked with curb ramps, making it easy for pedestrians, especially those in wheelchairs or with visual impairments, to navigate. Later, walking downhill to Pike Place Market, individuals in wheelchairs and others walking with canes were seen. Seattle gets major applause for creating spaces for citizens of all abilities to move around and enjoy the city.

Downtown Lodging & Attractions

The Warwick was our ‘home’ for four days-two on the front end and two on the back-end of our seven-day Pacific Northwest adventure. The location is ideal, particularly for visitors wanting to see popular destinations like Pike Place Market, Chihuly Gardens and Glass, The Space Needle, and the Seattle Center.

It’s also very convenient to the Seattle Great Wheel, the original Starbucks,  and the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room.

clipperIt is a short 10 to 12-minute walk to Pier 69 where we boarded the Victoria Clipper for a 3-day stay in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Plenty of restaurants surround the hotel, in addition to the many at Pike Place Market. Our favorite was Cantina Lena. The Cinerama-a Seattle moviegoers favorite since 1963-is literally across the street from the hotel’s front door. If convenience and short walking distances matter to you, the Warwick is ideally located.

Reviews & Recommendations

Warwick Seattle Hotel

We stayed in a 9th floor Space Needle facing room with two queen beds on the front end of our trip. It was spacious and had a small balcony, safe, refrigerator, and coffee station. The beds were comfortable. Wi-Fi was inconsistent. We ran the fan overnight to cover up the street noise. Mother’s Day housekeeping was slow: We left the room by 9:00 am and returned after 3 pm to find the room still unmade. A parking garage is available (daily fee) and a pool is on the lower level. On the back-end of our trip we requested a room on the city side to reduce street noise. Unfortunately, our neighbor played loud music late into the night. A call to the front desk ended that. The doorman at this hotel is excellent. He knew his guests and went out of his way to accommodate. The front desk staff hospitality was spotty. We never dined here or used the bar. The lobby is quite compact. We would consider a return visit, simply for location reasons, if the nightly rate was competitive.

Space Needle

needle collageNo one was in line when we arrived here shortly after opening. We had a complimentary family photo taken before riding the elevator 520 feet to the top. We headed directly for the observation deck. It was a cloudy, cool day, yet we had terrific views of the city, including many Color Run participants in the park below.

The interior exhibits were highly interactive. Guests can view their family photos on a touch screen as well as add their home location to a map. A reasonably priced snack shop is available and the SkyCity restaurant is quite popular, though we did not dine here. The Space Needle is a city landmark designed for the 1962 World’s Fair and all should step on the observation deck once during their visit to Seattle.

Chihuly Gardens and Glass

Chihuly collageLocated directly beside the Space Needle, this is hands down one of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen. Prior to going, several friends shared this was their favorite Seattle attraction, mine too. I remain in awe of the talent behind the 8 galleries, the garden and glasshouse. I’d recommend visitors watch the short videos in the theater first. The information offers great insight into the artist and art form. A restaurant is on site as is a bookstore/gift shop. If you’re a big art and garden fan, time your visit when crowds are less so you can spend more time in each gallery. We literally turned around at the end and walked through the space a second time, this time with greater visitor traffic. As we left, a line was forming outside the door. Visitors can purchase tickets at a kiosk outside to speed their entrance.

Seattle Center

billThis 74-acre urban park with 40-acres of open space sits right behind the Space Needle and Chihuily Gardens. We found it while seeking a lunch spot. Luckily we found a food court to satisfy all.

Unbeknownst to us, Seattle Center is the 4th largest visitor destination in the USA and home to 30 of the region’s top cultural, arts, educational and sports organizations. Once a Native American gathering place and pioneer prairie, and more recently home to the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, Seattle Center also offers gardens, art pieces, and water features, including the International Fountain. While strolling the grounds, we happened upon the annual library book sale. Many were arriving for a symphony performance as well as a theatrical production. Had we known of this Center’s existence, we’d have purchased tickets for a Mother’s Day performance. We did walk to the Bill & Melinda Gate’s Foundation Visitor’s Center (free admission)  only to find it closed on Sundays and Mondays. One could literally spend a day in this general area with advance planning.

Pike Place Market

market collageThis bustling 9-acre historical district created a century ago to connect citizens to farmers overlooks Elliott Bay. It welcomes over 10 million visitors annually. The Market consists of a multitude of restaurants and take out counters, small owner-operated businesses, including 225 craftspeople, and a farmer’s market (fresh fish, meat, dairy and produce). The flower booths immediately draw one’s attention and were bustling with activity the Saturday before Mother’s Day. I took fresh fruit back to the hotel daily as well as baked goods and meat on a stick. We dined at several restaurants and visited the original Starbucks here on a Thursday afternoon; remarkably there was no line out the door-very atypical. Restrooms, benches and grassy areas to sit are plentiful. It’s a great place to mingle with locals, be entertained by a variety of buskers and view the Bay. We visited every day we were in Seattle, and would do again.

Seattle Great Wheel

wheel The Seattle Great Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel at Pier 57 on Elliott Bay, is found just below Pike’s Market. The 175-foot-tall wheel is located next to the Seattle Aquarium, which we did not visit. We were seated in a climate-controlled gondola that could easily fit four adults (It is licensed for 8 per gondola.) for a 15-minute ride that had 3 full revolutions with impressive views of the city. Take a camera to capture the views, including the Space Needle. The wheel is lit up at night and draws more riders. We had difficulty locating restrooms in the general area. Riders used a restaurant bathroom with only one stall, making the line quite long.

Starbucks

coffee collageThe original Starbucks at the entrance to Pike Place Market is a must-see for coffee enthusiasts. Dozens waited in line on our first visit to the Market Saturday. The following Thursday there was no line, though the store interior was packed, making it impossible to see the original interior elements. Dare I reveal my coffee was not made correctly? I ordered a decaf latte and it was caffeinated.  We also walked 9 blocks up the hill from Pikes Market to visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room per a recommendation from a fellow Victoria Clipper passenger. Here one sees the roasting process and can even visit with master roasters about their work. Seeing the roasting process is fascinating and the space quite aromatic. A restaurant is on site, though we did not dine there.

Cantina Lena

This Mexican eatery at 5th and Lenora-right across the street from The Warwick Hotel-offers great Happy Hour specials and memorable food. Equally impressive is how well-trained the staff is not only on their respective jobs but also the company’s mission and brand. Our bartender shared the history of the restaurant and parent company with ease and flair. We wished we’d discovered this earlier in our stay; we’d have been repeat diners, for sure.

24 hours, a week or more…Seattle is a great place to visit. Have you been? What should I not miss on my return trip? Comment below.

If you visit any of these attractions on your upcoming trip, check back in and let me know about your experience.

Share with those considering or planning to Visit Seattle. www.visitseattle.org

©Copyright. June 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

12 New Ways to Experience Las Vegas

nostalgia

 

 

 

 

Step Outside the Casino.

Las Vegas Is No Longer Just for Gambling.

If your vision of Las Vegas, Nevada matches the nostalgic image here, you  need to revisit soon. It’s  no longer just a playground for adults gambling and leaving their secrets behind. No. Las Vegas has strategically matured into a family friendly entertainment center. One you need to visit multiple times to experience all it offers.

Need some help planning, log onto the Convention and Visitors Authority Site for some great information to get you started.

Here’s 12 new ways to enjoy Las Vegas outside of casinos.

  1.  Get Mesmerized by the Fountains of Bellagio

    fountainsMonday – Friday 3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. show every 1/2 hour 8:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. show every 15 minutes

    Saturdays & Holidays 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. show every 1/2 hour 8:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. show every 15 minutes

    Sundays 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. show every 1/2 hour 7:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. show every 15 minutes

    2. Get in the Spirit. holiday decorLove holiday decor? Spend time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s roaming hotel and resort lobbies. The color, the scent, the music and the outstanding design work are sure to boost your holiday spirit.

3. Get Married.

Las Vegas continues to work on being a hip placeweddings to get married. If this is your ideal location for a wonderful wedding, check out the requirements and availability of locations here.

 

 

 

4. Get High.
No, not like that. Rather get a ticket for the world’s tallest observation wheel-The High Roller-at the LINQ’s outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment promenade. Prefer a roller coaster ride? Hop aboard the Big Apple Coaster at New York-New York. coasterhigh roller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Get political.  Democratic and Republican parties hosted debates in Las Vegas in 2015. The political year was not lost on billboards and even on visitor vehicles in parking lots around the city. politics Political messages were everywhere, including on hired vehicles driving up and down The Strip.

 

6. Get peaceful.

gardenWho knew there were gardens and prayer centers on The Strip? Well, there are. Roam  Caesars Palace’s  massive grounds and find a number of places to sit in peace and even offer prayer.

prayer

 

 

 

 

 

7. Get entertained.

boyzOften referred to as the live “entertainment capital of the world”, there is a show for every taste and budget in Las Vegas, including one by the American R&B vocal group, BoyzIIMen.

Prefer to be entertained outdoors, take a gondola ride at The Venetian.

gondola

 

 

 

8. Get Artsy. If art is your thing, you can visit a multitude of galleries. Be sure to check individual websites: some charge admission.

gallery

 

 

 

9. Get Your Game On In the Arcade. Perfect rainy day activity. Call ahead to confirm it hasn’t been eliminated for another service, especially if you’re walking a long distance. Prefer watching sporting games on TV, find a Sportsbook to cheer on your favorite team on the big screens.arcades

 

 

 

 

sports

 

 

 

 

10. Get Sweetened. Those loving chocolate and other sweets have plenty of outlets along the strip, including the M&M’s World, Hershey’s Chocolate World and world’s largest chocolate fountain inside the Bellagio.chocolate

 

 

 

 

mnm

 

 

 

 

 

11. Look Up. There is so much visual stimulation on the Las Vegas Strip that one can forget to stop and look up. Trust me on this. Step aside. Look Up. The architecture is perfection. The lights thrilling and ceilings breathtaking. Ride the outdoor escalators for non-street-level views. Just…look up!

architecture

 

glass

12. Get Fashionable. If you love to shop, you will love shopping in Las Vegas. Every style. Every budget. Every environment-boutiques to malls.

shopping

5 Tips to Make Your Visit Spectacular:

  • Pack comfortable walking shoes. Sure, you can take a cab, bus or the light rail. But, walking The Strip allows you to easily go in and out of hotels, shops and restaurants along the way.
  • Food is pricey. Like most entertainment centers, food is expensive. Know this before you go. However, the choices are abundant. Want a greasy hamburger, find a fast food restaurant along The Strip. There are also food courts in most hotels and, of course, if you like fine dining, there’s certainly plenty of that to keep you well fed.
  • This is not a smoke free city. Even smoke free lodging doesn’t necessarily guarantee a smoke free environment. If this is a health concern for you, be sure to contact your hotel and make that known in advance.
  • Las Vegas attracts global visitors. Be open to interacting with those who sound and look different from you. It will enrich your visit.
  • A vehicle is not necessary. If you’re flying into Las Vegas, take a cab to your lodging. The Strip is often clogged; sometimes you can reach your dinner or entertainment destination quicker by walking.

What’s your favorite non-casino activity in Las Vegas?

Comment. Share.

©Copyright. January 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.