Well, we’re here again. Instead of smashing the curve like we all hoped, much of the nation, is still dealing with high caseloads of COVID-19. Nebraska in particular is seeing daily caseloads about as high as the previous peak in the pandemic back in May. That’s all to say, don’t let up on social distancing, washing your hands and other protective health measures.
But Fall is a season that begs to be noticed.
The trees, the leaf-covered lawns and the early frosts. There’s bonfires with a cup of hot cider, pumpkin carving and nights spent under a blanket with a scary movie. Do we have your attention yet?
Here’s 25 things that you can do in the coming months to stave off your cabin fever and soak up as much of the outdoors before we seclude ourselves indoors through the winter months.
There are a plethora of orchards around Omaha with plenty of trees and space to get your fall fix of apples while maintaining social distancing. Ditmar’s Orchard in Council Bluffs, open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Super Bee in Washington County is open every day 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with no cost to enter and provided picking bags. The popular Kimmel Orchard in Nebraska City is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Dec. 23, however, they’re closed many fall weekends to keep the crowds down.
Hopefully you’ve been taking a chance over the last few months to get outside for a breath of fresh air along a nice hike. But if you’re looking for a reason to finally break out the boots or sneakers, the multi-colored leaves and crisp air of fall provides the perfect backdrop to enjoy Nebraska’s wilderness. Hitchcock Nature Center, Fontenelle Forest, Chalco Hills Recreation Area, Neale Woods Nature Center and more all offer a variety of trails and sights for the outdoors inclined.
It wouldn’t be fall in Nebraska without a trip to the pumpkin patch. Keeping social distancing in mind, plan an excursion when the crowds are lower to take in all that many of the state’s fall attractions have to offer. The Nebraska Tourism Commission has a handy webpage for finding a patch near you.
Plan A Golf Outing
If you’re inclined to spend some time on the links then you’ve probably been taking advantage of the wide open courses this summer. If not, or if you want to try giving it a swing (sorry for the pun), Nebraska has plenty of golf courses to try while you take in the crisp fall air and beautiful foliage.
While summer brought a good chance to garden and enjoy fresh produce, we all secretly look forward to fall and the menagerie of savory and sweet dishes it comes with. Whether it’s apple pie, a hearty chili or a spiked cider, it’s time to treat yourself to a soul affirming fall meal.
Just because we’re trying to keep our distance doesn’t mean we can’t dress up our homes still. That of course, starts with pumpkin carving. Hopefully you’ve got some experiencing gouging out these gruesome gourds, but if not there’s a host of designs online. This is a perfect activity with family and friends of all ages and also yields a good reason to make some roasted pumpkin seeds.
While you might watch your tomatoes and delicate flowers wilt in the coming cold, fall is also the perfect time to start planting for next year. There’s a variety of spring bulbs including daffodils, tulips, crocus and hyacinth that can keep you busy as you consider next year’s flower bed design.
While fall can bring a lot of fun outdoor activities, it also harkens winter and months spent inside. So if you’ve got down time, why not start a new hobby? Start knitting scarves and gloves for your family. Or maybe get on goodreads.com and join your friends in their mad dash to complete end-of-year book reading challenges.
It’s hard to debate that Halloween has the best movies (sorry Christmas). While there’s plenty of great themed movies—the aptly named Halloween, Hocus Pocus, Halloweentown, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown—you can also throw in any movie with zombies, ghosts or serial killers. And basically every movie directed by Tim Burton.
Why yes, it’s come time again to practice our most civic duty. If you’ve somehow missed all the signage online and in real life, there’s a host of resources online to help you figure out how to vote in Nebraska.
If you’re feeling an expedition to nature but want to observe from the comfort of your car there’s plenty of great fall drives you can take in the area and state. The Ponca Hills just north of Omaha promise great views of the Missouri River and a fiery explosion of color from the Cottonwood trees. The Lewis and Clark Scenic Byway also has 82 miles of riverfront and tree cover that turn beautiful in the fall.
Along with pumpkins, there’s several ways you can dress up your home for the fall. Buy some gourds at the grocery store or make a fall wreath with some of the fallen leaves in your yard. If you’re a Halloween fanatic there’s no better time to dust off your storage boxes to get your home looking spooky throughout October.
If you don’t mind a little chillier immersion into the wild (or you’re willing to wait for a temperate day) give camping a try. You can go simple and camp in your backyard, or you can drive out to Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park or Indian Cave State Park, just to name a few.
Take A Stroll through Lauritzen Gardens
For a walk through the wilderness that’s a little closer to home, there’s no better time to stroll through Lauritzen Gardens. The popular Omaha attraction does require guests reserve time slots and tickets before entering, as well as observe social distancing.
Enjoy the Omaha Zoo
The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is also open and offering a variety of fall activities. Including being open on Thanksgiving Day, there’s also trivia and adult nights on its calendar. The zoo is also open daily with some restrictions and limited capacity due to COVID-19.
Take in The Joslyn Art Museum
The Joslyn Art Museum has reopened with limited hours (Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) along with limited capacities and protective health measures. But with so much room between art work, exhibit goers can see a variety of installations and permanent collections.
Take a Fall Drive to Western Nebraska
If you’re not satisfied with a short drive, why not queue up a few of your favorite podcasts or a book on tape and set your sights westward. Go see the Nebraska Sandhills, Toadstool Geological Park and Campground, Nebraska’s section of the Badlands or the infamous Carhenge. You can also take a scenic route to many of these areas along Nebraska Highway 2 which traverses a beautiful swath of the state’s prairie.
Less than 30 minutes from Omaha, Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari is a four mile, drive-through North American wildlife experience. Get out of the car hike to one of the overlooks to view bears, wolves, elk, bison, pelicans and other waterfowl. Camp outs and educational programs are also offered. The Visitor Center is open to 25 guests at a time, and The Pawnee Creek food trailer is also open for snacks.
Mormon Trail Center and Pioneer Cemetery
The Mormon Pioneer Cemetery located at 3301 State Street is the burial site of hundreds of Mormon pioneers who lived in Winter Quarters, a temporary settlement that lasted from 1846 to 1848 as the settlers moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. It was designated a landmark by the City of Omaha in 1990. The cemetery grounds are open to the public. The Mormon Trail Center is currently closed due to restrictions from COVID-19, but If you are interested in taking a virtual tour, click here: www.calendly.com/trailcenterschedule
Cross the Bridge When You Come to It
The popular, sinuous 3,000-foot-long, 15-foot-wide Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge walkway connects Miller’s Landing in Omaha to the Iowa Riverfront Trail in Council Bluffs. Enjoy panoramic views of downtown Omaha, the rushing “Mighty Mo,” the impressive patterns of the suspension cables, grassy riverbanks and your fellow pedestrians. Extensive walking paths continue out from the bridge on both sides, so you can walk uninterrupted for miles and miles.
Birding Like a Boss
One of my most indelible childhood memories was when grandma wrapped up ham salad sandwiches and a thermos full of milk in our picnic basket, and we took off on a sunny fall day to DeSoto Bend to watch vast flocks of birds as they migrated. The Audobon Society has an extensive list of great areas to go birding near Omaha. It’s a great way to spend time together in nature
Rockets and Planes
The Strategic Air Command Space Museum in Ashland is a perfect place to spend an afternoon exploring their amazing collection of aircraft, rockets, missiles and other special and permanent exhibits. Don’t tell the kids, but it’s designed to be a rich learning environment designed for the budding scientist or engineer.
Plan a long bike ride
If you’re like most people, you either bought a new bike or rekindled your love of biking during the early months of quarantine. Now with leaves starting to turn and a nice bite to the air that’ll keep you peddling longer. Omaha has 85 paved trails for bikers that range from short connecting rides to long excursions. Take a look at this brochure on the metro area’s bike trails to plan your next trip.
Take a Walk down the Riverfront
In addition to the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge there’s plenty of places to walk along the banks of the Missouri River are fun any time of year. But as soon as the air gets colder and the water’s bookended by fiery explosions of fall color, it’s really one of the best times to experience the riverfront. Here’s a list of some activities and ideas from Omaha Tourism.
Check out Omaha Tourism’s Calendar of Events
For everything that doesn’t fall into one of these general categories, check out Omaha Tourism’s website for upcoming events. There you can find movies under the moonlight, art installations, walking tours and much more.