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2020 Nebraska Passport

DISCOVER NEBRASKA’S HIDDEN GEMS

The purpose of the Nebraska Passport is to help travelers discover Nebraska’s hidden gems. The Nebraska Passport is special because it offers a wide variety of travel adventures, including: museums, parks, restaurants, wineries, retail stores and more. The program runs from June 1 to October 31, 2020

Passports available at Passport Locations

Kearney Passport Stops:

  • Classic Car Collection – Now Open Friday-Sunday Noon-5:00pm
  • Nebraska Firefighters Museum – Opening June 1st
  • Baristas Daily Grind – 2nd Ave Location Open
  • Fort Kearny State Historical Park – Visitor Center Opening July 1st

Order Your Passport

See All Passport Stops

COVID-19 Information for the Kearney Area

The Kearney Visitors Bureau has been following the rapidly evolving news about Coronavirus (COVID-19) and we understand that our community and travelers may be concerned about COVID-19 and how it may affect them. Below we have compiled lists of openings and closings  and links to more information to try to help during this ever-changing time.

Attractions:

Kearney Archway – Open 7 days a week
Classic Car Collection – Open Friday-Sunday Noon-5:00pm
Fort Kearny State Historical Park & Rec Area – Park open for day use & Camping
Fort Kearny State Park Visitor Center –  Now Open
Fort Kearney Museum – Opening Soon – Date TBD
G.W. Frank Museum of History and Culture – CLOSED
Kearney Area Children’s Museum – Open for Camps & Timed Ticketing
Kearney Public Library – Open
Kearney Visitors Bureau – Open Monday-Friday 8:00am-5:00pm
Kearney Water Trail – Open (rentals available through Kearney Paddle Sports)
Museum of Nebraska Art – CLOSED
Nebraska Firefighters Museum & Education Center – Open
Rowe Sanctuary – Trails Open – Visitors Center Open 10 am-2 pm
Trails and Rails Museum (BuffaloCounty HistoricalSociety) – Open
Nebraska Wildlife Encounter-Zoozeum – Open for Camps
Kearney Cinema 8  – Open 7 days a week
Parks & Splash Pads – Open
Centennial & Harmon Pools – Open
Yanney Park and Cottonmill Marina – Will remain closed for further notice
Cottonmill Nature Barn – Open
Peterson Senior Activity Center – Open
The Big Apple – Open
Hilltop Mall – Open
The World Theater – Drive-In Theatre Open Thursday-Saturday at Buffalo County Fairgrounds

Non-Profits, Arts & Cultural Partners:

Information for Travelers:

Additional Information for Hotels and Restaurants:

Questions

We are recommending business owners that have questions to call

  • Odee Ingersoll
    Nebraska Business Development Center
    Ph: 308-865-8344
    Email: ingersoll@unk.edu
  • Leon Milobar
    Nebraska District Director, U.S. Small Business Administration
    Ph: 402-221-4691

Important Links/Resources

Restaurant Listings

Summer Bucket List

As you start filling your summer up with events save a spot for a stop in Kearney. Whether you come from hundreds of miles away or are looking for fun close to home, set your sites (and your GPS) on Kearney this summer.

Kearney delivers a variety of experiences, from outdoor recreation and sporting events to concerts and outdoor markets. With all those options decisions can be difficult, so we compiled a list of the 7 must-do events to add to your summer ‘Bucket List’.

Buffalo County Fair 2019 – July 24-29
  1. Buffalo County Fair – When you say summer, one of the first things that pops into my head is walking down the midway to get my ‘fair food’ fix. There is way more to the Buffalo County Fair than funnel cakes! But that is a personal highlight. Also topping that list, concerts are a big draw during fair time. This year you can take your pick from artists, Rodney Carrington, Rodney Atkins with Locash or the Midwestern rock band, Red Wanting Blue. Lastly, what fair is complete without a ride on the Ferris Wheel?! The carnival is open for six days for you and your kiddos to enjoy.
  2. Kearney Water Trail – One of the first of its kind in Nebraska, the Kearney Water Trail is 2.3 miles of easy and enjoyable float through town, with public access points at the northeast corner of Yanney Park off 11th Street and along Central Avenue behind Midway Auto. Bring your own kayak or rent one at from Kearney Paddle Sports. Just call ahead to make your reservation.
    UPDATE July 2019 – Due to recent flood the water trail is closed until further notice.
  3. An Outdoor Performance – I love it when the arts and outdoors come together! Bring a lawn chair and enjoy one of the many free concerts/performances we have this summer. The Rockin’ the Bricks concert series in Downtown Kearney brings great music, food and drinks, and lots of shopping and activities for the whole family. Or hit up the Concerts in the Park series, a summer tradition 40 years in the making, Sunday evenings at Harmon Park.

Lastly, your ‘bucket-list’ will not be complete without taking in the outdoor performances by the Crane River Theater Company. This year they will be performing ‘You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown’ at Yanney Park Amphitheater. It is sure to be fun for the whole family!

  1. Splash Pads – Hot days and splash pads, what a perfect combination! There are multiple locations around town to splash around! Cool off this summer at Yanney Heritage Park, Nina Hammer Park, East Brooke Park or Dryden Park.
  1. Cunningham’s on the Lake – Summer nights sitting on a patio with a cold beverage, looking out on the water…does it get any better than that?! If that sounds like your kind of fun, we have just the place. Cunningham’s Journal on the Lake opened last summer and has instantly became a local favorite. Kick back, relax and choose from over 45 different local and regional brews or craft cocktails. With great food and unique atmosphere, you definitely don’t want to miss this one!
    UPDATE July 2019 – Due to recent flood Cunningham’s on the Lake is closed until further notice. In the meantime, visit their downtown location for great food, outdoor garden and other events.
  1. Nebraska Firefighters Museum and Education Center – You can’t leave town without taking in some local history, and the Firefighters Museum is just the place. Their mission is to safeguard and preserve Nebraska’s proud firefighting heritage. Experience antique fire trucks and equipment, and enjoy hands-on with their fire prevention exhibits and activities.

This summer the Firefighters Museum will be celebrating their 10 year anniversary! (also Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday) Join the celebration, August 17th! There will be a Fire Truck Show & Shine, BBQ competition, kids games, entertainment, demonstrations and more.

  1. Kearney Night Market – Gather downtown “on the bricks” Thursday nights this summer for the Kearney Night Market. Celebrate local entrepreneurship while enjoying Kearney’s historic downtown. At the Night Market, you’ll find everything from a Beer Garden, fresh food, craft vendors, coffee, Sno Cones, BBQ, and much more!

Kearney Staycation Ideas

With summer quickly approaching it is time to start planning some family vacations. But what if you could take an awesome vacation and not spend hours in the car, or spend a bunch of money on airfare? Staycations have been on the rise over the past few years as families want to have a great weekend but don’t want to break the bank. It is also a wonderful way to  explore the attractions that make your city special and educate your family about the culture in your own backyard.

Here some summer Staycation ideas to help you make the most of your weekends in Kearney.

Staycation #1 – The Outdoor Adventurers


Bike Path – Grab your bikes and hit the trail, with over 25 miles of trails a nice ride is a great way to start your day.
Pack a Picnic – take a break from biking and stop at one of our great parks, Yanney Park is located along the trail and would make a perfect place for a picnic.
Frisbee Golf – it’s a activity the whole family can enjoy. Kearney has several course around town including Centennial Park, Cottomill, Horizon Middle School and Fort Kearny.
CampingFort Kearny is a great place to pitch your tent, with fishing, hiking, swimming and no-wake boating are available on adjoining Fort Kearny State Recreation Area . And don’t forget no camping trip is complete without s’mores!
Water Trail – Finish your weekend with an adventure down the Kearney Water Trail, a 2.3 mile float down the Kearney Canal. Public access points are at the northeast corner of Yanney Park and along Central Avenue behind Midway Auto.

Staycation #2 – History Hunters


Archway -tour the Archway and celebrate the American spirit of adventure!
Firefighter’s Museum – Your kids will be wide-eyed when they visit The Nebraska Firefighters Museum and Education Center, their mission is to safeguard and preserve Nebraska’s proud firefighting heritage.
Downtown – plenty of history ‘on the bricks’ it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat and talk about how we can preserve the history in our community.
Classic Car Collection– wake up and start the day with a trip down memory lane as you stroll through over 200 classic cars.
Frank Museum-wrap up your day by stopping at the Frank Museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 129-year-old mansion is a hidden treasure in this community.

Staycation#3-Kids Choice

Children’s Museum – start the day of exploring the exhibits at the Kearney Area Children’s Museum a place that inspires play, exploration and discovery through interactive experiences.
Big Apple Fun Center – kids of all ages will a good time at Big Apple enjoy some friendly competition with mini-golf, bowling, laser tag and more.
Holiday Inn – Stay at our of our local hotels for a night of swimming and water slides. Even the little ones can enjoy the water in the kiddie area.
Splash Pads – with several Splash Pads your kids can have fun in the sun at many of our parks including Yanney and Dryden Parks.
Movie – 
wrap up the weekend with popcorn and a movie at one of our 3 theaters, all of which offer a Sunday Matinee.

Inside the Tourism Industry – PT 3

Travel matters – tourism affects our whole community. Your vacation actually impacts more than you may realize, from supporting local jobs and attractions to bringing money into local businesses.

The Stagecoach is very familiar with the tourism industry and looks forward to travelers walking through their door each year. This summer is going to be extra exciting as they are one of the stops on the Nebraska Passport. When owners Gary and Susan found out they were selected as part of the Passport program they were thrilled! They were so excited they begin making engraved wooden ornaments to give as a keepsake to Passport visitors.

A little history, Stagecoach itself began in 1973 when Gary’s parents built a shop north of the I-80 corridor in Kearney Nebraska. At that time, there were few other businesses around them, just a gas station and a couple of hotels with hopes that Nebraska tourism would prosper. Today, Kearney has grown tremendously and they are surrounded by thriving hotels and restaurants. What a difference 40 years makes!

The exterior has that historic charm and inside you will find so many treasures! Along with many gifts and souvenirs, the Stagecoach has become the premier retailer in Nebraska for Native American Turquoise jewelry. Many of the pieces have been Nebraska-made by owner Gary, right here in Kearney. Stagecoach is also Kearney’s largest rock shop and has a wonderful selection of stones and minerals.

Susan showing me new feather earrings made by owner Gary

I interviewed owners Gary and Susan to find out just how much tourism impacts their business and what this industry mean to them and their business.

What role does tourism play in your job/business?
Tourism plays a big role in what we do here at Stagecoach. Because we are located near I-80 we get lots of travelers who are staying here overnight or just need a break from driving. These people are always looking for interesting things to see and do around town and shopping is often a top priority. We always try to think about products that travelers will enjoy and that represent our state well. Kearney has done a great job promoting the Sandhill Crane migration and we see a lot of visitors during that time period. This is something that seems to grow every year and we spend a significant amount of time preparing for it.

How many years have you been working as a business owner/in tourism?
This is our 46th year at the Stagecoach. My parents started the business in 1973 and I joined shortly after. Before that, my grandparents had a souvenir shop called “The Wigwam” in Atlanta, Nebraska. They ran that since the 1950’s. My son is planning to continue the business and will be the fourth generation in the tourism industry.

Stagecoach is creating custom gifts to their unique selection of products

What makes Kearney such a great destination to visit?
Kearney and the surrounding area have a wide range of attractions and events that appeal to a variety of different people. They include the Car Museum, Trails and Rails Museum, Pioneer Village, The Archway, MONA, and many others. There is always lots to see and do in this town. Furthermore, Kearney is a bright, clean community and is able to accommodate lots of travelers.

What do you like to do in Kearney when you aren’t working?
I really enjoy taking advantage of Kearney’s robust walking trail system. These trails, as well as the connecting parks, are varied and always clean. I see lots of people utilizing these trails around town.

What is your favorite summer activity?
Summer is a busy season for us at Stagecoach but when I do have time I like to walk and visit the parks. This year we are part of the Nebraska Passport program so I plan to spend some time exploring the other Passport stops around the area, like Andrew’s Garden and others.

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink in town?
The wide selection of restaurants that Kearney has to offer is another wonderful quality of our community. It’s difficult to name just one favorite restaurant but if I had to I would probably say Sozo. They always have a menu full of unique and fresh options. I’ve never had something that I did not enjoy there.

What is one thing you have to pack when you go on vacation?
The most important thing for me to pack is a comfortable pair of walking shoes. When we travel we like to pack as much into a day as possible. So having comfortable shoes is very important.

 

Inside the Tourism Industry – Pt 2

Follow along as we go inside the tourism industry in Buffalo County. Today we are taking a closer look inside our office here at the Kearney Visitors Bureau. Meet Sarah Focke, our Tourism & Convention Sales Manager (aka our local event planning expert). Did you know that Kearney hosts more than 1,350 events each year? That’s a lot of events and conventions and Sarah works hard behind the scenes making sure these events are a success!

Kearney is where the Heartland gathers, with more than 300,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, 11 hotels with 1,750+ rooms offering attendees a variety of options ranging from quaint limited-stay properties to full-service convention hotels. But it’s more than just facilities and amenities, Sarah and the staff of the Kearney Visitors Bureau are here to assist with whatever is needed to make the event a success. Now that is some good ‘ol Nebraska hospitality!

Sarah visiting Gerald Gentleman Station as part of her Leadership Nebraska program

Sarah has also worked on the Nebraska Lincoln Highway Historic Byway for over 10 years and was involved in the forming of the Lincoln Highway National Byway Alliance, an organization with representatives from the 13 states the route travels through. Its mission is to promote the national Lincoln Highway route.

Sarah is an Illinois native and has a BS in Travel &Tourism from the University of Nebraska Kearney.  Let’s learn more about Sarah and how local tourism impacts her role here at the Kearney Visitors Bureau.

How many years have you been working in the tourism industry?
23 years (17 of which have been here at Kearney Visitors Bureau)

Sarah with fellow Leadership Nebraska alum at an evening of Sandhill Crane viewing

What role does tourism play in your job?
I love being the destination experts for our community. Helping people make memories whether they are here for business or leisure is gratifying.

What makes Kearney such a great destination for events & conventions?
Our wonderful facilities and the awesome staff we have representing our hospitality partners.

 

What do you like to do in Kearney when you aren’t working?
I love running or biking our trails.

What is your favorite summer activity?
Camping in our state and kayaking down the Kearney Water Trail.

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink in town?
Suwannee (that’s Thai Cuisine for you non-locals)

What is one thing you have to pack when you go on vacation?
Business or leisure, my tennis shoes and headphones.

Inside the Tourism Industry – Pt 1

Located in the heart of Nebraska, Kearney’s central location and proximity to I-80 has made it a destination for travelers, family reunions and many events and conventions. Kearney is a great place full of attractions and history, but one of the best features is the people!

Tourism in Buffalo County helps our community in many ways, bringing people into our attractions and businesses as well as providing approximately 1,600 jobs in Buffalo County. Take a look inside the tourism industry as we introduce you to some of the people that are helping make tourism thrive in our community.

First up is Mark Foradori, the Marketing Coordinator at Kearney’s most visited attraction, the Archway. Let’s learn a little more about Mark and how tourism affects his work.

How many years have you been working in the tourism industry?
I have volunteered and been employed by non-profit organizations that help attract tourism to Kearney for about 20 years.

What role does tourism play in your job?
Tourism is absolutely vital to my current job as Marketing Coordinator at the Archway.  Between 50,000 and 60,000 people stop at the Archway every year and we welcome visitors from all over the world.  About 70% of the people who visit the Archway come from out of town and stop at the Archway to learn about our local history.  While they are here, we talk with them to find out where they are from, help them with their travel plans, and tell them about dining options, cultural events, and activities they might like in the Kearney area.

What makes Kearney such a great destination to visit?
Kearney is truly rich in history, culture, and creative activities for visitors of all ages.  From the Archway, to MONA, to the Classic Car Collection to the Trails and Rails Museum, and the Kearney Area Children’s Museum, to name only a few, Kearney has a tremendous range of activities to choose from.  Kearney residents generously support all these organizations and they attract visitors from all over the state and the country.  These organizations make Kearney a culturally vibrant community and, as an industry, make a significant contribution to our local economy.

Beyond the cultural organizations, Kearney has a wealth of great dining and nightlife opportunities.  We have smart coffee shops like Kitt’s and Barista’s; unique, locally owned lunch stops like Tru Café and the Food Truck Café, and a variety of dining options, from Thai cuisine at Suwanee, to the traditional Midwest menu at Alley Rose and the locally sourced, innovative selections at Sozo’s.  Visitors can enjoy live entertainment at Cunningham’s or Platte Valley Brewery.  See the films that the rest of the country is talking about at the World Theater or catch nationally renowned musical performers with the Kearney Concert Association at the Merryman Center.

Of course, Kearney’s hospitality community is second to none.  We have so many choices for hotel and motel accommodations.  The conference and convention accommodations are excellent.  The standards for customer service are exceptional.  And, Kearney’s location in the center of the state makes it the ideal meeting place for conferences and conventions from all over Nebraska.

Kearney already attracts a wide variety of sporting events. With the addition of Patriot Park, Kearney is poised to expand its role in playing host to these kinds of activities.

What do you like to do in Kearney when you aren’t working?
I enjoy being a “tourist” in our community.  My family likes to sample the newest brews at Thunderhead and McCue’s, catch the great local musicians at Cunninghams, see movies at The World, and enjoy a variety of restaurants.  We like to catch the performances at Crane River Theater and Kearney Community Theater.  For a city our size, Kearney sometimes has too many things to do.  It makes it difficult to choose.

What is your favorite summer activity?
I enjoy Kearney’s parks during the summer.  I like flying kites with my son at Yanney Park and, of course, everybody loves the Kearney Area Arts Council’s free summer concerts in Harmon Park.  The bike trails are pretty fabulous and my electric powered bike helps with the hilly sections.

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink in town?
That’s like naming a favorite child.  We always think we eat out more often than we should, but the variety of great places is too tempting to pass up.  We like some for the atmosphere, some for the food, sometimes we want something simple and quick and at other times we want to make dinner a special occasion.  The cool thing about Kearney is that we have so much variety and you can find exactly the right place for the type of meal you’re craving.

What is one thing you have to pack when you go on vacation?
My wife and I have a whole list of things I have to pack including my keys and some money.  They are kind of long stories, but I have set off on major vacations and forgotten each of those things at one time or another.  Somehow, we muddled through and still managed to have a great time.

Tourism Matters in Buffalo County

It’s National Travel and Tourism Week and Kearney, along with other communities across the country celebrate how travel matters to American jobs, economic growth and personal well-being. This year’s theme, “Travel Matters,” highlights the innumerable ways in which travel makes up our community culture and economy.

Tourism is Nebraska’s 3rd largest industry and supports over 36,000 jobs and generate $3 billion in annual spending. Buffalo County is the 4th largest convention location behind Omaha, Lincoln & Sarpy County. Kearney’s diversification depends on our vibrant and healthy tourism industry.  Tourism in Buffalo County supports over 1,600 jobs creating $115 million in annual tourism spending for Buffalo County.

“Tourism is seen every week in Kearney by way of people traveling here for sports tournaments, special events, conventions or to just visit,” stated Roger Jasnoch, Director of the Kearney Visitors Bureau.  Kearney is fortunate to be the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World, hosting 600,000 Sandhill Cranes each year during their migration and to be located on Interstate 80, one of the busiest interstates in America.

Kearney is home to 1,800 hotel rooms and nearly 300,000 square feet of convention and event space. We are excited to welcome construction of a new Holiday Inn with over 100,000 square feet of attached convention space. The convention business is the cornerstone of Kearney’s hospitality industry.  In addition, the sports market has exploded in recent years. This is a result of venues like, the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, UNK and area high schools increasing our ability to host larger and more frequent events.

Buffalo County has over a dozen attractions ranging from historical, cultural and family friendly, thanks to places such as Fort Kearny State Historical Park & Recreation Area, Museum of Nebraska Art, The Archway, Kearney Area Children’s Museum and the Classic Car Collection. In addition, Kearney has numerous sport and event venues; in fact, sporting events is one of the fastest growing markets in Kearney.  Kearney “IS” the epic center for travel and tourism in Central Nebraska.

The first full week of May is annually recognized as National Travel and Tourism Week, a tradition first celebrated in 1984. It was established as National Tourism Week when the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution in 1983 designating the week to be celebrated in May. In a White House ceremony, President Ronald Reagan signed a Presidential Proclamation urging citizens to observe the week. Localized events are presented in cities, states and travel businesses nationwide to champion the power of travel.