Adventure Awaits When You Take A Self-Guided Tour along Nebraska’s Heritage Highway

The communities along Nebraska’s Heritage Highway have so many fun and unique things to offer visitors, but do you know what’s in your own backyard?

Heritage Highway Tours are a great way to get to know your neighbors, make new friends and learn about the wonderful opportunities for fun along Nebraska’s Heritage Highway!


Your adventure begins in Falls City with a tour of the Richardson County Museum and ends in Johnson County at Ramsey’s Family fountain where you can get a green river. Click here a sample itinerary

Spend the day in Pawnee County!
Your adventure begins in Burchard with a silent movie and the Harold Lloyd Museum and ends at an Amish farm.

Pawnee County Self-Guided Tour

8:30 a.m. See a silent movie and memorabilia  at the Harold Lloyd Museum in  Burchard, Nebraska  (call 402-865-4665 in advance)
9:45 a.m. Leave for  Pawnee City and tour the Peddle Clinic (call 402-852-2655 in advance) This has over 500 peddle cars and tractors in a renovated church
10:45 a.m. If you like to quilt Heavenly Treasurers quilt shop has over 5000 bolts of fabric. In a 1905 church building. Located at 700 9th St. in Pawnee City
11:30 a.m. Stop at the post office and see the mural on the wall painted in 1941 of “The Auction.” This was the last mural painted by Kenneth Evett.
12:00 a.m. Dine at Parkside Café in Pawnee city or pick up a meal at Nider’s grocery deli and go to one of two parks, or stop at Subway
1:00 a.m. Tour the Pawnee city Historical Society & Museum of 22 buildings. Everything from Larry the Cable Guy’s barn to a home built airplane. Open every day but Monday from 9-4  April through Oct. 15.
2:30 p.m. Enjoy Nebraska-made wines and craft beer at Schilling Bridge Winery and Microbrewery located on west edge of Pawnee City.
4:00 p.m. Go to an Amish  farm that has a Kuntry Store and greenhouse located at 71524 622 blvd. Open everyday except Thursday & Sunday.
Your journey begins near Beatrice where you will explore history, fashion, industry and the arts. Culinary delights, fine wine and shopping all come together to create a unique experience that is sure to be one you’ll want to repeat! Click here for a sample itinerary

Beatrice Area – Historical Markers Walking Tour

Click Here For Printable PDF Homestead National Monument of America, located west of Beatrice on Hwy 4. Homestead National Monument tells the story of the homesteading movement and the signing of the Homestead Act via interactive displays. When you arrive you are able to view a short 15 minute video and then can tour the 2 buildings that house this interesting information. Admission is free, but there are several gift shops where purchases can be made. Go to www.nps.gov/home for further information. Contact Homestead National Monument at 402-223-3514.

Beatrice Bakery, located in downtown Beatrice. Home of Grandma’s Fruitcakes as featured on the Food Network’s “Unwrapped” show, enjoy free samples and purchase cakes in the shop.  A short talk along with a video about the Bakery will be given. View www.beatricebakery.com for additional information. Contact 402-223-2358 for more information.

Yesterday’s Lady, located in downtown Beatrice. Sue McClain, owner and collector of vintage fashions, apparel and accessories, has a vintage fashions shop located in a historic building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She displays vintage clothing and gives a short talk on fashion and its history. There is a tea room in the back of the store where she serves iced tea and a light dessert for an added cost. A favorite with the ladies! Visit www.yesterdayslady.com for more details.

Ratigan-Schottler Manufacturing, located in downtown Beatrice. This facility produces church alters, pews, chancels, etc and ships to locations all around the world. They offer free tours of their production facility. www.ratiganschottler.com gives more background information. Contact Denise Schlake at 402-223-3220.

Cedar Creek Pottery, located east of Beatrice, just off of Hwy 136. Owned by artist and potter Ervin Dixon, a former Miami (FL) professor. Dixon’s shop is a creative and special haven housed in an old converted Lutheran church building in the country. Dixon features a vast array of functional pottery, all handmade. Free demonstrations to small groups by arrangement. Contact Erv at 402-228-0138.

Veterans Memorial Park, south Hwy 77 in Beatrice. A guided free tour is available by arrangement of this memorial to the military men and women of the U.S. who served or are currently serving our country. Go to www.beatricevmp.com to find out more. Contact Verdella Vetrovsky at 402-223-4041.

Gage County Historical Society, located on Court Street (Hwy 136) Beatrice. The former train depot, turned museum houses displays and information about Gage County history.  Contact Lesa Arterburn at 402-228-1679.

Great Plains Welsh Heritage Centre, located in Wymore about 10 miles south of Beatrice on Hwy 77. The Welsh Heritage Centre tells the story of early Welsh settlers on the prairies of North America through interactive displays, artifacts and oral histories. A tour will be given. $50.00 donation is appreciated for larger groups. Visit www.welshheritageproject.org for further information. Contact Berwyn Jones at 402-421-8192.

For more information about additional tours of the Beatrice area including church architecture, ag-related tours including a dairy farm or no-till wheat farm operations, contact Abby Schademann, Gage County Tourism Director at aschademann@visitbeatrice.com or 402-205-3292. Find us on Facebook and Twitter!

Beatrice Area

Choose from 4 different tour itineraries, one full-day, 3 half-day options and explore the byway’s only National Monument, buildings, grounds, exhibits and interpretive centers.

Full Day Itinerary
  • 9:00 am Arrive at the Homestead Heritage Center
    Welcome to Homestead National Monument of America
  • 9:15 am Legacy the Homestead Act
    Talk with a Park Ranger 10:00 am Land of Dreams ~ Homesteading America
    Feature Film
  • 10:30 am Tour the Homestead Heritage Center
    Roam the interactive exhibits
    Visit the bookstore and gift shop
    Visit a homesteader cabin
    Hike the tall-grass prairie trails
    Special tour of the museum collection
  • 12:00 pm Enjoy Lunch
    at the Monument’s picnic area or
    at one of the many restaurants in Beatrice
  • 1:30 pm Tour the Homestead Education Center
    Explore the Farm Implement Room
    Special demonstration – cornhusking, soap making…
  • 2:30 pm Visit the 1872 Freeman School
    With a Park Ranger
  • 3:00 pm Depart
Half Day #1 Itinerary
  • 9:00 am Arrive at the Homestead Heritage Center
    Welcome to Homestead National Monument of America
  • 9:15 am Legacy the Homestead Act
    Talk with a Park Ranger
  • 10:00 am Land of Dreams ~ Homesteading America
    Feature Film
  • 10:30 am Tour the Homestead Heritage Center
    Roam the interactive exhibits
    Visit the bookstore and gift shop
    Visit a homesteader cabin
    Hike the tallgrass prairie trails
    Special Demonstration – cornhusking…
    Special tour of the museum collection
  • 12:00 pm Depart
Half Day #2 Itinerary
  • 9:00 am Arrive at the Homestead Heritage Center
    Welcome to Homestead National Monument of America
  • 9:15 am Legacy the Homestead Act
    Talk with a Park Ranger
  • 9:30 am Land of Dreams ~ Homesteading America
    Feature Film
  • 10:00 am Tour the Homestead Heritage Center
    Roam the interactive exhibits
    Visit the bookstore and gift shop
    Visit a homesteader cabin
    Hike the tallgrass prairie trails
    11:00 am Tour the Homestead Education Center
    Explore the Farm Implement Room
    View special exhibitions 12:00 pm Depart
Half Day #3 Itinerary
  • 9:00 am Arrive at the Homestead Heritage Center
    Welcome to Homestead National Monument of America
  • 9:15 am Legacy the Homestead Act
    Talk with a Park Ranger
  • 9:30 am Land of Dreams ~ Homesteading America
    Feature Film
  • 10:00 am Tour the Homestead Heritage Center
    Roam the interactive exhibits
    Visit the bookstore and gift shop
    Visit a homesteader cabin
    Hike the tallgrass prairie trails
    10:45 am Tour the Homestead Education Center
    Explore the Farm Implement Room
    View special exhibitions
  • 11:30 am Visit the 1872 Freeman School
    With a Park Ranger
  • 12:00 pm Depart

Stop by either the Heritage Center or the Education Center at Homestead National Monument of America and pick up a free Quilt Discovery Experience booklet.  Enjoy roaming the trails across the prairie and through the woods, discovering the 120 years of quilt patterns history along the way.
Click Here to download the Quilt Discovery Experience booklet (pdf).

Fairbury Area
Make plans to visit Fairbury on the First Friday of the month for a getaway that features history, art, music, shopping and fun!

Click here for a printable sample itinerary

Friday9:00 – 9:45

Stagecoach Mall Antiques & Tasting Room
Coffee & Shopping
510 E Street, Fairbury, NE 68352; (402) 613-206310:00 – 10:15

Depart Downtown Fairbury to Endicott
(6 miles SE of Fairbury on Hwy 8)10:15 – 11:15

Endicott Clay Products Tour – call ahead for tour
Tour plant, grounds & artists’ studio
57120 707th Rd Endicott, NE 68350; (402) 729-331511:15 – 11:30

Depart Endicott to Rock Creek Station
57426 710th Rd Fairbury, NE 68352; (402) 729-577711:30 – 12:15

Tour Rock Creek Station State Historical Park
Interpretive Center, Road Ranches, Hiking12:15 – 12:30

Depart Rock Creek Station to Fairbury12:30 – 1:45

Lunch at Rowdy’s Steakhouse
321 F St Fairbury, NE 68352;

(402) 729-5083 2:00 – 3:00
Tour Historic Rock Island Depot – call ahead for tour
910 Bacon Rd , Fairbury, NE 68352; (402) 729-5131
4:00 – 5:00
Explore the historic downtown square
Play the Architectural Elements Contest
Fairbury Chamber of Commerce
518 E St Fairbury, NE 68352; (402) 729-3000
5:00 – 8:00
Fairbury Art Walk – Visit the galleries
Visit www.FairburyFirstFriday.com for details
6:00 – 9:00Wine Tasting/Live Music in The Tasting Room
508 E Street, Fairbury, NE 68352
Visit www.Fairbury.com for tickets

Spend the night at Fairbury Executive Suites
506 E Street, Fairbury Call 402.613.2063 for reservations
www.FairburyExecutiveSuites.com

Saturday
9:00Breakfast at Griffey’s on the square
400 4th St  Fairbury, NE 68352; (402) 729-9951

10:00

Spa time at Pure Sérénité Spa – call ahead for app’t
411 5th Street, Fairbury, Ne 68352; (402) 729-2262And/or

Golf at Fairbury Country Club – call ahead for tee times
56881 709th Rd  Fairbury, NE 68352; (402) 729-2080

Hebron
Home of the World’s Largest Porch Swing!
Hebron is a small rural community with hidden gems throughout town. From the Hebron Post Office Mural to our Arrowhead Gardens Arboretum and our historic courthouse, be sure to check out all Hebron has to offer!
Click here for a sample itinerary

Fairmont to Pawnee City
12 towns, 4 counties, 2 days!
Do you have an appetite for Southeast Nebraska history, Midwest culture, and small-town food treats? “Git Your Fill” with this two-day tour, which starts at Fairmont and takes you to 12 communities in four counties before ending in Pawnee City.

For a complete itinerary, courtesy of the Southeast Nebraska Tourism Council, click here

Weeping Water to Bellevue
Join us on a unique adventure as tourists take in the best of our past while exploring our present and future! This diversified tour includes stops along unique agriculture sites, several museums, and, you guessed it……. Old fashioned soda fountains! There is something for everyone-call today!

For a complete itinerary, courtesy of the Southeast Nebraska Tourism Council, click here

Wilber to Beatrice
Visit the Czech business district, find out more about the first rural mail delivery in Tecumseh, tour the Johnson County Courthouse, enjoy an Amish lunch and end your day in Beatrice!

For a complete itinerary, courtesy of the Southeast Nebraska Tourism Council, click here

Falls City to Nebraska City
This tour starts at Falls City, Nebraska located near the Missouri River and follows the river most of the way. As you go along you will see lots of trees and rolling hills. You go to towns that are the oldest in Nebraska. Brownville was founded in 1854. Otoe county has apple orchards, vineyards and untamed woods. Come on this journey and experience all of this.

For a complete itinerary, courtesy of the Southeast Nebraska Tourism Council, click here

Fairmont to Fairbury
This is sure to be a new tour for you to investigate and enjoy. Southeast Nebraska Tourism Council is promoting places that most people have probably never been to. Your total mileage from Fairmont to Fairbury is 38 miles without the side roads to Belvidere and Strang.

For a complete itinerary, courtesy of the Southeast Nebraska Tourism Council, click here

For More Information on Southeast Nebraska, visit www.visitsoutheastnebraska.org

Red Cloud Area

Click here for a printable sample itinerary

Your adventure begins at the historic Red Cloud Opera House and ends with a restful night in the Cather Second Home guest house. Contact the Willa Cather Foundation for more information: 866-731-7304

Time Event Location
10:30am Begin your tour with a 17 minute educational video about famed author Willa Cather’s life and work

 

Red Cloud Opera House
413 N. Webster
11:00am 7 building tour of Willa Cather Historic Sites Depart from the Red Cloud Opera House to locations throughout the town
12:30pm Lunch The Palace Lounge
125 W. 4th Ave.  Alternative Options: Red Brick Café, Subway, Casey’s Pizza, South Bar & Grill
1:45pm Explore the rich heritage of early settlers in Webster County Webster Country Historical Museum
721 W. 4th
3:00pm Shopping on the bricks at Cather Books & Gifts, Shades West, Twisted Sisters, Village Pharmacy, Meadow Creek, and Antiques & Others Downtown Red Cloud
4:30pm Hiking and bird watching in an authentic prairie setting. Willa Cather Memorial Prairie
5 miles south of Red Cloud on Hwy 281
  View wildlife species ranging from eagles and turkeys to deer and bobcats. Scenic chalk cliffs adorn the valley and are a naturally occurring geological feature created by the action of the river. Republican River
1 mile south of Red Cloud on Hwy 281
6pm Located about 5 miles east of Red Cloud, the Starke Round Barn is one of the largest round barns in the world. Make sure to turn south when you get to the railroad tracks! Starke Round Barn
1639 Hwy 136
www.starkeroundbarn.com
Evening Drive to your next stop, return home, or spend a relaxing evening in the Cather Second Home guest house. You will need to call the Willa Cather Foundation at 866-731-7304 to make arrangements to stay at the house. Please call ahead. Cather Second Home
541 N. Seward St.  

If you want to spend another afternoon in Red Cloud, consider contacting the Willa Cather Foundation to setup a Country Tour. The Country Tour will take a little while, but you will get to see numerous sites associated with various Cather novels that are located between Red Cloud and Bladen. Maps are available for a self-guided tour at the Red Cloud Opera House. The map costs $2. Contact the Willa Cather Foundation at 866-731-7304 for more information.

Republican River Wildlife Tour – Red Cloud, Republican City, Alma
Your adventure begins on the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, 5 miles south of Red Cloud and takes you along Highway 136 to Republican City and Alma. Bring your camera and see abundant wildlife in their natural habitat, including many species of birds and mammals including prairie dogs. Enjoy beautiful scenery and rare, beautiful flora and fauna.

Click here for a printable sample itinerary

The Republican River & Harlan County Reservoir Wildlife Tour – www.ChickenDanceTrail.com Some 400 bird species regularly stop over in the state of Nebraska. The birds are here, why aren’t you?

The birds are here, spring is popping, and viewing is easy. May is an ideal time to witness the annual migration of millions of birds passing through central Nebraska, the funnel, on their flight north to their nesting grounds. Live the wildlife viewer’s fantasy! Walk a native prairie in the springtime, photograph wildlife from the vantage point of the historic bridges that span the recently restored Republican River, meander the many trails and habitat niches surrounding the Harlan County Reservoir.

When: April, May, June
Time: 2 day
How: self-guided

Habitat and Wildlife to See:
The Republican River Adventure offers abundant viewing opportunities for riparian, wetland, open water and prairie wildlife. See the mating rituals of the wild turkeys that stalk the prairies, orioles, lark buntings, migrating sparrows, swallows, yellow-headed blackbirds, a heron rookery, hawks, pelicans, egrets, and many more.

About the Physical Requirements & Pace:
The tour is self-guided, and you, the wildlife viewer set the pace. Wear sturdy shoes, dress in layers and bring a wind jacket, an umbrella, and a hat. Weather in Nebraska is unpredictable!

Description of the Viewing Areas:
The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, Indian Creek Pond and State Wildlife Management Area, The Narrows Wildlife Management Area, Republican River Access south of Red Cloud, Alma’s Pheasant Ridge Walking/Biking Trail, River’s Edge Nature Trail, Alma Hiking/Biking Trail, and Prairie Dog Drive

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, 5 miles south of Red Cloud

Experience 608 acres of “never-been plowed” native prairie. The Willa Cather Foundation is returning this land to its pre-1900 conditions, a time before overgrazing and the encroachment of man and foreign plant species. Nearly two miles of walking and hiking trials are now cut and open to the public. Feel free to pass through the gates and enter the prairie! Nature lovers can enjoy areas of tall grass, short grass, warm season flowers, and resident wildlife. Visit www.willacather.org/cather-prairie for information on types of forbs, wildflowers, prairie grasses, and birds a visitor is likely to see

Red Cloud Opera House
Visitors to the Red Cloud Opera House can gather information about the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie and acclaimed author Willa Cather. Cather is one of the most eloquent writers about the beauty—even majesty—of the Nebraska prairie. Schedule a guided tour of the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie or learn facts about the prairie if you are birder whom would prefer a self-guided tour. Contact the Willa Cather Foundation at 866-731-7304 for more information.

Harlan County Reservoir
The scenic Harlan County Reservoir covers 31,000 acres, with 13,250 acres of water surface. The reservoir is 9 miles long and has 75 miles of shoreline. The reservoir is managed by the U.S. Corp. of Engineers. The Corps maintains six established campgrounds, with the entire project open to public access. Visit www.harlanlake.com for more information. Listed as one of the top 10 tourism attractions in the state!

ITINERARY

Day 1 – Red Cloud, NE Area

The Willa Cather Prairie Walk
Located 5 miles south of Red Cloud on Hwy 281

The following description of the prairie walk was taken from the Willa Cather Foundation website at www.willcather.org:

The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie is a botanical treasure consisting of 608 acres of never-been-plowed native prairie. The Willa Cather Foundation is returning the land to its pre-1900 conditions, a time before overgrazing and the encroachment of man and foreign plant species. The area is classified as loess, mixed-grass prairie, which marks several transition points that bring together species at the southern edge of their range as well as those at the northern edge of their range. Biologists estimate the existence of 250 reliant plant species, including the rare Fremont’s evening primrose and Fendler’s aster—both potential candidates for “threatened” status by the Nebraska Natural Heritage Program. Also, this transitional location affects the species of the birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians as well as invertebrates: included on this list are the rare narrow mouth toad and smooth green snake.

Indian Creek State Wildlife Management Area
Located 1 mile south of Red Cloud on Highway 281

Explore Indian Creek WMA, a deep pond on city property south of Red Cloud. Old growth trees rim the pond, and the surrounding natural landscape attracts a variety of birds and mammals. A resident kingfisher shows his stuff throughout the day and warblers, orioles, and migrating sparrows may be seen foraging for food and nesting materials. Listen for owls in the evening and early morning. The pond is stocked regularly, and the fishing is excellent. Bass, blue gill, and crappie populate the pond.

Republican River Access
Located 1 mile south of Red Cloud on Highway 281

Picnic in the shade of century old cottonwood trees at the Republican River access, just south of Red Cloud. The Republican River, a sandy bottomed stream, winds west to east along the southern edge of Nebraska. Pause here and sit awhile. See migrating warblers, orioles, thrashers, mockingbirds, ovenbirds, grosbeaks, and maybe a lazuli bunting.

Narrows Wildlife Management Area
Located 4 miles west of Red Cloud, near Road 800

The Narrows WMA offers a rich and varied habitat of creek and prairie where visitors may spot lark buntings, migrating sparrows, nesting quail and turkey, as well as migrating warblers, orioles, grosbeaks, buntings, and more.

Day 2  – Scenic Highway 136, Republican City & Alma Areas

Travel the scenic Republican River Road, Nebraska’s Heritage Highway 136. Pause to walk the historic bridges and natural grasslands, photograph the scenery and the birds, and see wildlife!

Prairie Dog Town
Drive south through Republican City and stop at the north end of the dam to check in with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ visitor center to see maps of the region and information about wildlife in the vicinity and interesting facts about the reservoir. Watch the antics of prairie dogs at the prairie dog town situated near the Army Corps of Engineers visitors center. Learn more about prairie dog habits and habitat at the following website: www.deltatech.com/rv/praredog.html.

Pheasant Ridge Trail in Alma
The winding, paved trail extends for three miles along the north shore of Harlan County Reservoir, through trees and parks from the picnic area and gazebo at the west end to the boat ramp.

River’s Edge Nature Trail
Walk a nature trail east of the dam to see a heron rookery and explore trails on the south side of the reservoir and along the scenic Republican River. Experience a handmade corduroy road on the nature trail. Offering beautiful vistas, the trail is also a great place to see pheasants, owls, wild turkeys, migrating warblers, blue and evening grosbeaks, orioles. Other passerines and red bellied woodpeckers are flying, singing and within sighting range.

More Fun Things To Do

Red Cloud

Visit the Red Cloud Opera House to learn more about the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie. See early photos of the region and learn interesting facts and stories about Willa Cather. Go next door to see progress on the $7 million restoration of the Moon Block, which will house the Willa Cather National Archives.

Visit the Divide and other sites associated with the Willa Cather Country Tour. See locations that inspired Cather’s My Ántonia, One of Ours, A Lost Lady, O Pioneers! and others. Sites include the The Miner Ranch, Clay Shelving Draws, Suicide Grave, the New Virginia Church, original homestead sites, the Catherton Cemetery, Bladen Cemetery, Cloverton Cemetery, and the Pavelka Farm where Annie Pavelka (aka Ántonia) lived. Contact the Willa Cather Foundation at 866-731-7304 to set up a tour or give yourself a self-guided one by purchasing a $2 map at the Red Cloud Opera House.

Visit the Starke Round Barn, pasture, and Elm Creek located about 5 miles east of Red Cloud on Highway 136. The Starke Barn is the state’s largest and one of the largest in the world. This extraordinary barn was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in April 1972. The Starke Barn was built in 1902-03 by the four Starke Brothers—Conrad, Ernest, Bill, and Chris—who came to Nebraska from Milwaukee. The massive structure measures 130 feet in diameter. The center silo has a diameter of 28 feet and a height of 65 feet. The barn itself is three stories tall, the bottom level for animals, the second for machinery, and the third (or loft) for hay. The construction method combines balloon framing and heavy timber supports. The massive 12×12 timbers are held together by balanced tensions and stress rather than by nails or pegs.

Alma

Photographers: Before sunset, drive across the dam, turn right at first opportunity and find yourself at a high point on the south side of the dam, focus your camera and prepare to photograph the shimmering, jewel tones of a Nebraska sunset.

Sip fragrant coffees at Joe Camera’s Coffee in Alma. Talk photography with Jo, see professional photographs of the region and wildlife.

Swim, boat, fish, play golf, listen to stories about life in Harlan County and fishing at Tall Tales in Republican City

Drive the back roads to see pheasants, turkeys, deer, fox, coyotes, raccoons, possums, return to a favorite niche and set up your camera, watch another splendid Nebraska sunset.

For more information, visit www.ChickenDanceTrail.com