Midwest Itinerary: We’re All Seeing Cranes!
The Itinerary at a Glance
Welcome to the Central Nebraska Flyway where you’ll experience the majestic sound of more than 500,000 Sandhill cranes as they rest before continuing on their migration. It’s an amazing spectacle you’ll remember for years. Central Nebraska also has thousands of acres of farmland making it the “breadbasket to the world.” Taste some of the delicious foods prepared using fresh, locally grown ingredients and be sure to experience the many varieties of microbrews that’ll leave you wanting more.
4 Unique Experience on This Trip
- Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center
- Nebraska Mushroom
- Nebraska Firefighters Museum
- Museum of Nebraska Art
Duration: 4 Days
This Itinerary is Ideal For: All
We begin in Grand Island with a delicious lunch at The Chocolate Bar. Afterward, we’ll spend a leisurely afternoon exploring historic downtown Grand Island and its many specialty shops and boutiques, art galleries, coffee houses and antique stores. Next stop is our hotel where we’ll freshen up for the evening’s event. We start the evening off with an introductory Sandhill cranes program given by an experienced guide at the historic 1937 Art-Deco Grand Theatre followed by a tour of this historic building. Afterward, we’ll indulge in an exceptional dinner in one of Grand Island’s many fine restaurants before returning to our hotel for an early morning departure to view the Sandhill cranes.
Today starts off with an early morning departure and a hearty “to go” breakfast to our first stop, a sunrise guided tour at Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center where a trained guide will accompany us to a prime viewing area along the Platte River. We’ll also learn more about the Sandhill cranes and the Crane Trust’s programs to protect and study these and other migratory birds. Afterward, we’ll return to the visitor center to explore its art gallery and gift shop before heading outside to explore the viewing tower and river bridge. Make sure not to miss the bison herd. We return to Grand Island where our first stop will be Fonner Park and one of Grand Island’s newest exhibits, “Raising Nebraska.” This 25,000-sq.-ft. museum connects consumers with the farmers who raise their food by explaining the necessary steps to go from “farm to fork.” The interactive displays feature a virtual combine harvest experience, a full-sized pivot irrigation system, grain bin video theater, a 50-foot-long interactive floor map of Nebraska, interactive dinner table and more.
After lunch we head to north Grand Island to visit Nebraska Mushroom, a locally owned business that specializes in gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. Learn more about the benefits of mushrooms and the grower’s sustainable farm practices. A short drive north of town is Moonlight Ridge Vineyard where a delicious glass of Nebraska wine awaits. Our last stop in Grand Island is Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. Noted as one of the top 10 living history museums in the country, this museum complex transports us back to the early pioneer and settlement days of Nebraska. While there, don’t miss the Wings over the Platte Art Show or the Fonner Rotunda, which houses one of the state’s finest collections of cowboy and Native American art and artifacts. The museum’s Stuhr Building is a significant architectural example of the work of Edward Durell Stone, a 20th century American architect and an early proponent of modern architecture. We depart Grand Island for Hastings where we’ll check into our hotel before enjoying a freshly prepared dinner in one of Hasting’s many restaurants.
We start off our morning at the Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History, a three-floor museum featuring excellent displays and interactive exhibits highlighting the state’s natural and cultural history. Meet the Kool-Aid Man and learn about this famous soft drink’s Nebraska roots before exploring the vastness of the universe in the museum’s full dome Planetarium. The newest exhibit, Nature Nook, lets us explore Nebraska’s many environments and learn more about them from experienced presenters.
We’ll leave the museum with an authentically costumed guide who will regale us with stories of Hastings’ past as we make our way to the historic downtown district. The Fountain to Fountain tour includes 27 historic sites along Lincoln Avenue from Alexander Park to Highland Park. We’ll enjoy a private lunch and demonstration at the Back Alley Bakery. The bakery uses only natural and organic ingredients from local producers and suppliers in preparing its delicious creations. Afterwards, learn more about the bakery and its products and baking processes in a fascinating demonstration and behind-the-scenes tour. After lunch, we’ll visit WineStyles where we’ll taste an array of wines and craft beers offered by an experienced wine connoisseur. No visit to Hastings is complete without a stop (and a smell) at Eileen’s Colossal Cookies where the only difficult part will be deciding which cookies you want to try first! Before heading out of Hastings, we’ll make one final stop at First Street Brewing Company to taste locally made craft beers.
We depart Hastings and head to Rowe Sanctuary and Iain Nicolson Audubon Center for a light snack and guided tour of the grounds before preparing for our sunset crane viewing along the Platte River. Our evening viewing will give us an entirely different perspective of the Sandhill crane migration than we had at the morning viewing at Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center. Afterward, we’ll head to Kearney for a later dinner and to check into our hotel for the night.
After breakfast, our first stop is Classic Car Collection. This impressive collection includes more than 140 vintage automobiles from the early 1900s to the 1980s and has been called the “best public car attraction between Chicago and Denver.” No birding or outdoor tour is complete without a stop at Cabela’s, the World’s Foremost Outfitter for some gear. Make sure you buy some delicious fudge there to satisfy your sweet tooth for the rest of the day. The Nebraska Firefighters Museum is dedicated to the history and heritage of Nebraska’s fire service and to educating kids (and kids-at-heart) about fire prevention and fire safety. Our next stop is The Archway, an impressive, three-story, interactive museum that commemorates the nation’s westward expansion (it also is the only tourist attraction in the country to span a federal interstate highway).
Our first stop after lunch is the Museum of Nebraska Art, where we explore works of art by Nebraska artists. We continue the “grain” part of our tour by visiting two local breweries, Thunderhead Brewing Company and Platte Valley Brewery. We’ll learn more about the beer-making process before tasting a variety of locally produced beers.