Plan a Day Trip to Norfolk, Nebraska

Home of Johnny Carson


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. Norfolk Area of Nebraska Downtown Norfolk Economic Development Council Northeast Nebraska


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:


-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.


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.


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

Check them out at

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


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

323 East Main Street

Pierce, NE


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.

This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

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.

Do you have a story idea or interesting person who’d be a great feature? SHARE details below.

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.


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.

©Copyright. June 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.










5 Ways Kearney, NE Stole My Heart

I strolled downtown Kearney, Nebraska’s Central Avenue (The Bricks) under the moonlight of a chilly November Friday night feeling like I just happened upon a movie set. It was stunningly still and camera-ready perfect. Nearly all the angle parking spaces were full. Soft rock music streamed from mounted street corner speakers and store front windows were impressively designed-a lost art, but not here. friday night kearney collagePassersby hurried along as crisp leaves swirled over the clean sidewalks illuminated by business signs. The brick roadway made me momentarily listen for sounds of an approaching horse-drawn carriage from foregone days. I’d been told any community west of Omaha was like the “Old West.” Was it? Arriving still savoring the flavors and aromas of dinner at top-rated locally owned family Thai restaurantSuwanneeacross from the picturesque campus of the University of Nebraska-Kearney, I wasn’t expecting to be so captivated by this community of 30,000. But with each block walked, I began thinking, I could see myself stopping, playing and staying here. The housing alone, many with wrap-around front porches, made me homesick for the decades I lived between Georgia and South Carolina-the only thing missing was the moss draping off the expansive front yard maple trees fully swathed in golden-colored leaves.kearney house
Kearney isn’t the “Old West.” Rather it’s a progressive, growing community with offerings to satisfy all. More publicly known as the “Sandhill Crane Capital of the World,” its soul is so much larger and deeper, though that title, in itself, is quite honorable and everyone, once in their lifetime, should experience the migration of the sandhill cranes

5 Reasons I Lost My Heart to Kearney, NE

  1. Hospitality. Without exception, all employees were genuinely hospitable-welcoming me like a member of their extended family; a rare find in today’s service economy. From Brent at the front desk of the newly renovated Best Western Suites and Hotel to handlebar-moustached waiter, Austin, at Suwannee to Bryce, House Manager at The historic World Theatre, to Marilyn Hadley, assisting at the register during the Kaleidoscope of Art-a Benefit Gift Boutique for the Museum of Nebraska Art to Amy at Skeeter Barnes restauranteach was an outstanding ambassador for Kearney, Nebraska. I left desiring to know their life stories, as they lifted my experience at their respective establishments.
  2. Well-Blended. It’s true, having a college in a town adds a certain flavor to the community. But rarely have I seen college, the arts, business, parks and recreation; and new development blended theatre collageso well. After strolling downtown Kearney and enjoying a cocktail at Cunningham’s Journal, I watched 12 short films as part of the Local Filmmakers Showcase presented by Filmstreams in the 1927 historic Masonic Temple Building now housing The World Theatre. The surroundings alone awakened my senses and flashed me back to days in Charleston, South Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia enjoying similar outings. But, I was in Kearney, Nebraska. Having one’s expectations exceeded never tires.
  3. Education. Kearney has to be one of the best communities around for educating unsuspecting visitors. The college is obvious, but spend a couple of hours inside the uniquely engineered structure, The Archway, crossing over 308 feet and 30 feet above busy Interstate 80 and leave as a well-schooled student on the history of western edu collageexpansion in the United States. Exhibits are viewed with volume controlled headsets and include narrations on trailways, railways and highways. One can even glance at the fast-moving I-80 traffic below the archway. Nearby is the Nebraska Fire Fighter’s Museum & Education Center. Filled with firefighting heritage and history and ever-changing exhibits, this museum also honors all EMS and fire providers and memorializes those who made the ultimate sacrifice in a quiet, well-appointed location behind the museum. The value a community places on education is often seen in its library. On an early Saturday afternoon, the Kearney Library was filled with citizens of all ages: reading, working on computers or being assisted by friendly, capable librarians. Well done, Kearney. Well done.
  4. Appealing Green Spaces. Kearney boasts four beautiful golf courses and 14 parks. A drive around the city reveals meticulously well-maintained green spaces being enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels.park collage Yanney Park is a first-class donor driven park in southwest Kearney near the Kearney Regional Medical Center. With the mission of “developing the finest family park between Omaha and Denver,” Yanney Heritage Park includes a Tower, labyrinth, a splash and playground, a Garden, an Amphitheater, a Bridge, a Senior Activity Center and so much more. For a community of this size, Yanney Park is a major “Wow” factor-one to be greatly applauded.
  5. Hub and Spoke. Within a short drive of Kearney, one can easily visit fort collageother attractions and return to the hub city of Kearney for the night. Case in point: Fort Kearney State Historical Park & Fort Kearney State Recreational Area are six miles southeast of Kearney on Highway 50A.The Rowe Sanctuary & The Iain Nicolson Audubon Center is also nearby. All worth visits.

Like most cities, Kearney has plenty of excellent lodging, restaurants and shopping-much of it near I-80. It takes a bit of work to discover the soul of a community and lose your heart to it. I did in Kearney, Nebraska and I suspect you will as well on your next visit.

Stop. Play. Stay. ™

You will not be disappointed.

©Copyright. November 2015. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Done in cooperation with Kearney Visitors Bureau.

Nominate your community for a visit and review by contacting me.

Have you visited Kearney, NE? What sites were your favorite? Share. Comment.

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.