There's plenty to do, and not that far away

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Now that Memorial Day is over, the summer vacation season is officially open.

If you haven't already made plans, or if the price of gasoline is causing you to rethink you plans, the governor has a suggestion for you, in the form of "More Vacation. Less Travel."

Unveiling the promotion earlier this month, Gov. Dave Heineman pointed out that travelers spent more than $3 billion in Nebraska last year, a record.

And that was a bargain, according to AAA, which says Nebraska is the least expensive state in which to travel for two years running. This year, a family of four will spend an estimated $191 a day on travel-related expenses.

Even so, tourism provides nearly 44,000 jobs to Nebraskans, the third leading industry in the state.

The average nonresident traveling party visiting Nebraska by highway during the summer is 2.4 persons who stay 2.2 nights and spend $400. More than a third of the nonresident traveling parties go to attractions or events, which translates into an additional half-day stay and another $92. Most of the visitors, in order, are from Kansas, Iowa, Colorado, Missouri, South Dakota, Illinois and Minnesota.

But there's no reason Nebraskans themselves have to leave the state to find a place for an enjoyable vacation in their home state. In fact, less money invested in the gasoline tank means that more money can be spent on enjoyment of our Nebraska destination.

The list of popular attractions is surprisingly long: Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park, Boys Town, Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park, Cabela's in Sidney, Carhenge, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Fort Robinson State Park, Great Plate River Road Archway Monument, Harold Warp's Pioneer Village, Hastings Museum/Lied IMAX Theatre, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, Homestead National Monument, Joselyn Art Museum, Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area, Platte River State Park, Ponca State Park, Scotts Bluff National Monument, State Capitol, Strategic Air and Space Museum, Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer and th University of Nebraska State Museum.

And those are only the "major" trips we might consider for this summer's vacation.

Thankfully, there are plenty of local attractions and events to take in on a single day off or a weekend.

For instance, there's this weekend's John Mullen Pro-Am event, starting with the horserace Friday night. Coming up in the next few weeks, there's the Buffalo Commons festival and a special event this year when McCook hosts the state fly-in.

And other community celebrations are in full swing, including last weekend's Medicine Creek Days in Cambridge, an Oberlin celebration this weekend and many others throughout the warm-weather season.

While we're at it, when is the last time you visited a museum or attraction in a local or nearby town? And, we're still blessed with nice lakes within an hour's drive.

There is plenty to do this summer, and not all that far away, if we just look around.

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