Omaha, NE Part I: Downtown
We left the Freeborn County Fairgrounds in Minnesota and drove about 3 hours south on I-35 to Prairie Flower Corps of Engineers Campground on Saylorville Lake in Polk City, IA. Polk City is a little north of Des Moines. Prairie Flower has paved roads and gravel pads and patios. A few pads look like they had been recently paved, so they might be in the process of paving all of them. The sites are spacious, but some, like ours, weren't very level. Prairie Flower has only electric hookups (30/50-amp). The photo below shows our site at Prairie Flower.
From Prairie Flower, we backtracked toward the west a little to Eugene Mahoney State Park in Ashland, NE, which is a few miles southwest of Omaha. We had never been to Nebraska before, so we decided to at least see a little of the area around Omaha.
Eugene Mahoney State Park has paved roads and pads and nice, spacious, grassy sites. We again ran into many pads that weren't very level. Most of the sites have only electric hookups (30-amp), although there are five premium sites with full hookups and about a dozen sites with 50-amp electric. I-80 runs right past the state Park, so there is traffic noise that is noticeable, especially at night. There are also several railroad tracks within earshot of the campground, so we could also hear quite a few trains. The next photo shows our site at Eugene Mahoney State Park.
Eugene Mahoney State Park is yet another campground we have run across recently that has the dump station built on a hill. Although it isn't as steep as the one at Baker Park in Minnesota, we sometimes wonder what the designers were thinking.
Since we were going to a state park over a weekend, we had made advance reservations (with advance payment) online. We were surprised when we arrived to learn we owed an additional admission fee of $2 per day per vehicle ($4 for the motor home and toad). We ended up buying an annual pass to Nebraska state parks for $30 good for the remainder of the calendar year. The annual pass was an overall $2 savings over the daily rate. A few states charge an extra per-person or per-vehicle admission fee in addition to the camping fee, and we don't like it. You can't possibly camp without entering the state park, so we think the camping fee should be set at whatever level the state feels is necessary to include the admission of at least two people and/or an RV plus one other vehicle. What was frustrating is the reservation web site doesn't seem to mention the extra entry fee. It's not like it was that much money, it was just that it was unexpected.
We had no definite sightseeing in mind when we originally planned to go to Omaha, but we did see a restaurant called California Tacos several weeks ago on the Food Network program Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Since it was Saturday when we headed to downtown Omaha to check out the restaurant, the roads weren't crowded. So we decided to take a quick drive around town, and we stopped at Heartland of America Park. The park is located near the Missouri River in an area that was explored in 1804 by Lewis and Clark. The park was opened in 1990 after the controversial demolition of warehouses dating back to the 1870s in an area previously known as Jobbers Canyon.
The park is centered around a lagoon that contains a $1.5 million fountain that sends water up to 300 feet in the air.
Con-Agra Foods is located at the south end of the lagoon. We took advantage of the fact Con-Agra has recently opened the walkway at their end of the lagoon to the public, and we walked all the way around the lake.
At the north end of the lagoon, water tumbles down a stair-step waterfall.
The lagoon also has a fountain from the late 1800s that has been relocated from a railroad station in North Omaha.
World War II veterans are honored by a couple of memorials erected in the park in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.
From Heartland of America Park, we drove several blocks to California Tacos located at 3235 California Street. It was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
After placing our order at the counter, we found a table. All the food is cooked to order, so we had a wait of about 10 minutes. Their signature dish is the California taco which is made with a relatively thick, flour tortilla that is formed into a taco shape and deep fried. The shell, which is soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside, is then filled with your choice of beans, ground beef, chicken, or steak plus lettuce and plenty of cheese. We both had beef tacos and a side order of 'Taters (seasoned 'Tater Tots) and an order of tortilla chips with cheese and salsa to share. We opted for a mix of corn and flour chips, which were delicious. In the photo below, Margery is about to take her first bite of her taco.
After our late lunch, we headed back to the motor home. We have another bit of sightseeing in the Omaha area to tell you about next time.