It’s time to head for Nebraska for your next vacation, just in time for a harvest festival celebrating an important crop other than the state’s corn or wheat.
The 2007 AppleJack Festival is coming up on Sept. 15-16 at Nebraska City, sitting on a bend in the Missouri River in the southeast corner of Nebraska. It’s barely an hour’s drive south of Omaha, a little more than two hours from Des Moines and Kansas City. Yes, there’s an apple recipe contest, in case you need new ideas for your pies. But they also hold a waffle feed, an AppleJack Car Show, and an AppleJam Fest with rides and games for the kids. And, of course, a Miss AppleJack Pageant.
But they do more in Nebraska City than grow apples.
Look for more information about the town in the menu on the upper left by clicking on “Things to Do” and “Visitor Information.” Besides orchards and farms — Arbor Day Farm grows heirloom apples including an “oversized” Wolf River apple — the town boasts wineries.
The local historic attractions include the Mayhew Cabin part of the National Park Services Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, and the Missouri River Basin Lewis &Clark Center.
Along with orchards, Nebraska City is the home of Arbor Day, started by J. Sterling Morton. His 52-room mansion, Arbor Lodge, is now a Nebraska state historical park, with 72 acres of trees. Once you’ve see those trees, the National Arbor Day Foundation might give you some ideas for your own estate.
Get some tips for expanding your explorations in the neighborhood by visiting the South Nebraska Tourism Council stretching along the Missouri River and westward onto the Plains. This is pioneer country, where attractions include an 1856 log cabin in Pawnee County, and gatherings reflect immigrant populations such as the Wilber Czech Festival in Saline County.
Follow that Web site’s links to Gage County, where you can learn about the movement that settled the Midwest. The Homestead National Monument, outside Beatrice, honors the waves of settlers who moved to the open prairie with the promise of free land. While you’re there, try out some of the county’s hunting and fishing.
If you head north from Nebraska City toward Omaha, Cass County has a decidedly 20th-century attraction, the Strategic Air and Space Museum, which moved to its present site from its beginnings at Offutt Air Force Base. Try Cass County’s “Attractions” for local historical museums.
Nebraska’s largest city, Omaha, is the perfect place to shake the prairie dust off your shoes with art museums, nightlife and shopping, including the Saturday Omaha Farmers Market, running into October. The market is held in the city’s Old Market area, which also holds clubs, galleries and shops.
And you could take your kids to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, where two Malaysian tiger cubs were born in late July.
Nebraska’s official tourism Web home also has suggestions for road trips, vacation packages and ideas just for the kids. And the state Game and Parks Commission has what you need to know about hunting, fishing and camping.
Roger Petterson, Associated Press