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Midwestern road trip - Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa


Jul 7th, 2012, 06:05 PM
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Midwestern road trip - Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa

There’s not much information on the board about these destinations so I thought someone might find this helpful. Travelers were DH and I, both in our fifties.

Departure day
We left Detroit around 11:00 and headed to St. Louis. The drive was uneventful. Our hotel for the night was the Doubletree in Collinsville, IL.

Day 1
It was about a 20 minute drive downtown to the Arch. We got there shortly after 9:00. There is convenient underground parking. I had pre-purchased a package with tickets to go up, a riverboat ride, and parking. Our pre-reserved time to go up was 10:00 but we were easily able to change it to 9:20 since they weren’t busy that early. There were 2 gift shops there to kill time while we waited. If you are claustrophobic you may not like the ride up. You are assigned a pod to sit in and each pod holds 5 people. It’s a little cramped and the ride up takes about 4 minutes. Thankfully it was air conditioned. Once you are at the top you can look out the windows on either side. We only spent about 10 minutes up there. After that we checked out the museum while waiting for our riverboat ride. We weren’t crazy about the museum; there was lots of information but it didn’t seem that well organized. We had time to walk around the grounds as well; the arch is surrounded by a very nice park. The riverboat ride was pleasant and was nicely narrated by a National Park Service ranger. There is food and drink for purchase near the boat and on board but we skipped it. After that it was time for lunch. It was extremely hot so we weren’t willing to walk very far. We ate at Caleco’s and were well pleased with it. Service was very good and the food was hot and tasty. On the way back to our car we walked through the Old Courthouse which was interesting.

Next stop was Kansas City. Our hotel for the night was Hotel Philips which we got for half price on hotels.com. We got a pleasant and spacious corner room. Although we're not into nightlife, it’s a great location if you are. Lots of bars and restaurants are nearby. Parking was very reasonable at $18 for the night for valet parking. We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant and it was quite good. I would stay here again if I returned to Kansas City.

Day 2
First stop today was the National World War I museum. This museum was extremely well done. Get the audio guide; it really adds a lot to the experience. The cafeteria is much better than many museum cafeterias. After that we went to the Nelson-Atkins Museum which we also really enjoyed. Then it was off to Topeka for the night where we stayed at Hampton Inn. Typical Hampton Inn located near a lot of chain restaurants and a little noisy because our room faced the freeway. Dinner was at Boss Hawg’s, a local barbecue place. Ribs weren't as fall off the bone tender as I would have liked. The waitress got both our orders wrong although it was quickly corrected. Prices are high for what you get. I probably wouldn't return.

Day 3
We had booked a tour of the Kansas state capitol for 10:00. Since we had booked the tour time had changed to 9:00 and nobody let us know but they took us on a 10:00 tour anyway. There is free parking under the building which was great given the heat. The place is under massive construction so getting in and out is a bit challenging. We were the only ones on the tour and it was quite interesting. When our tour guide, a women about 70 years old, told us that her mother was born in Kansas in a sod house it really brought home how recently this part of the country was settled. After the capitol tour we stopped in to see the Tiffany windows at the First Presbyterian Church right across the street. They were totally fabulous and shouldn’t be missed! Our next stop was the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. This place was a bit odd. Seemingly they are still figuring out how to present things here and they had just opened a new visitor center so everything was in a state of flux. It was intensely hot again so we were fortunate that they were running a bus tour at 3:00 that we were able to take. The tour was very well done. On a cooler day it would have been pleasant to do some hiking. Our next stop was Beatrice, Nebraska where we stayed at New Victorian Inn & Suites which was cheap but I don’t recommend it. Not awful but it could have been cleaner and the bed was rock hard. Since it was Monday and the two recommended restaurants were closed, we took a chance on a sports bar called Risky’s that we saw on the way into town. This was a pleasant surprise, basic food but everything was nicely cooked and fresh and the steak I had was excellent.

Day 4
The reason for our stop here was the visit the Homestead National Monument. We enjoyed this place a lot. The day we were there they were harvesting a small field of wheat using equipment from the 1930s which DH found fascinating. We took advantage of being out in the slightly cooler early part of the day to do a little hiking. There is tallgrass prairie here to walk through. On our way to Lincoln we detoured to Nebraska City where we visited Arbor Lodge and the Wyuka Cemetery where there were some interesting gravestones. Our hotel for the next 2 nights was the Embassy Suites in Lincoln. We had a very nice stay here, great location near the Haymarket area where there were lots of restaurants.

Day 5
Our stops in Lincoln were the Quilt Museum and the State Capitol. The Quilt Museum was wonderful. We caught the second half of an excellent tour and then wandered around for some time on our own. There were both antique and modern quilts on display. Our state capitol tour was also great, our tour guide Gloria was a wonderful ambassador for her state.

Day 6
We visited the Strategic Air and Space Museum between Lincoln and Omaha. There was an amazing number of planes to see here, all inside two large hangars. There was also a planetarium show which was an extra cost and not really worth it as it consisted mostly of a movie inside an inflatable dome where seating was on the floor. We arrived in Omaha earlier than we expected, so we visited the Joslyn Art Museum. The sculpture garden is very nice and the building itself is beautiful. The museum isn’t huge but we enjoyed the collection. Our hotel for the night was a Hampton in the suburbs because we couldn't get anything in the city due to the Olympic swimming trials.

Day 7
Spent the day in Omaha where we saw the Henry Doorly Zoo and the Durham Museum both of which we enjoyed. In between we visited the Old Market area for lunch. It was a pleasant area to walk around, with a number of shops and restaurants. The Durham Museum is inside the old Union Station and the building itself is beautiful. Make sure to stop by the sculptures of train travelers on the main level, most of them have audio that activates if you stand near them. The museum exhibits are mainly on the lower level and include a model train layout as well as some train cars and various history exhibits.

Day 8
Visited the Farmer’s Market in Des Moines which was excellent and then on to the Iowa State Capitol which was definitely the most beautiful of the 3 state capitols we visited. Next stop was Cedar Rapids to have dinner with my nephew. He took us to a place in Iowa City called Atlas World Grill. The menu wasn’t huge but had some nice selections and both food service were excellent.

Overall, it was a great trip and I enjoyed seeing this part of the country which I hadn’t visited before.
Pat_in_Mich is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2012, 06:26 PM
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Thank you for that report!! As someone who lives in this part of the USA (downstate Illinois) I read every word you wrote. I've been to St. Louis a number of times and I have been on the trip to the top of the arch. My impression was the ride felt somewhat like a clothes dryer drum! I also travel to KC a couple of times a year but have not visited museums! I go there to visit friends, not sight-see.

I appreciate all the places you mentioned that I've never visited. I drive through some of the cities you mentioned, but have never take the time to stop and enjoy them. I must take time to stop and smell the roses next time I'm travelling through!

simpsonc510 is offline  
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Jul 7th, 2012, 07:25 PM
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Thank you for sharing midwestern sites. We recently drove to Lincoln to visit U of N and made a stop at the capital. We didn't take the tour, but enjoyed the view from the upper story.
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Jul 8th, 2012, 06:27 AM
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Thank you for your trip report! You are correct, the areas you covered do not get a lot of attention here. I must say, having lived in this part of the country my entire life, you planned an excellent trip that covered many of the highlights. Thanks for visiting--perhaps your trip report will inspire others to come by also!
musicfan is offline  
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Jul 8th, 2012, 08:22 AM
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Don't do it! LOL
niamhmurphy is offline  
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Jul 8th, 2012, 08:24 AM
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Oh... ya did it... I'm sorry. trying to get away from here for vacation!
niamhmurphy is offline  
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Jul 9th, 2012, 09:41 AM
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Thanks so much for the report!
Keith is offline  
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Jul 9th, 2012, 09:38 PM
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Hi, Pat. Nice report. Thanks!

The Arch's Museum of Westward Expansion is organized, but in an unusual way: in concentric circles arranged by decades in the 19th century. You have to look up at the ceiling to see where you are in time.
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Jul 10th, 2012, 06:11 AM
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Enjoyed your report very much!! I've been to many of the sites you visited but not all. Great info!
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