With more than 42 Nebraska Passport stops completed, the Frahm family of Gretna is determined to visit 28 more destinations before September 30 to finish the popular statewide tourism challenge.
The Frahms (Shane and Lexie and their two children) have joined more than 47,000 other travelers participating in the 2018 Nebraska Passport challenge, which encourages travelers to visit predetermined restaurants, museums and other popular attractions across the state. All of the destinations are outlined in the Nebraska Passport book and on the Nebraska Passport app. The program is free to anyone who wants to participate and features some cool prizes, such as free Runzas meals for a year!
The Passport program, created by the Nebraska Tourism Commission, serves as a mini vacation guide for the Frahms and other seeking adventure and unique and fun destinations in Nebraska. The Frahms have used the Passport book and app to create fun family memories and explore places across the state that they would never have known about or visited but are so glad they did.
Lexie’s interest in the program began in 2016 when she first noticed someone participating in the Nebraska Passport program at a local attraction. She picked up a Passport book, and they visited a few attractions that summer.
The next summer, Lexie ordered a Passport book at the beginning of the season (it starts May 1), and the Frahms (Lexie and Shane and their children; son Soren, who was 7 at the time; and daughter Stella, who was 5) began their journey.
Lexie planned a four-day vacation to hit the stops in Grand Island, Valentine, Chadron and Scottsbluff with their only entertainment being the Nebraska Passport stops.
“My husband was unsure about making the passport stops the focus of our summer family vacation,” Lexie said.
But, the adventure across the state turned out to be just what the family needed.
“The kids told us it was their best vacation ever,” Lexie said. “We had the best time. The kids literally kept saying, when are we going to do that again?”
Even Shane agreed that the vacation turned out to be a fun family adventure.
In fact, in the spring of 2018, Shane informed Lexie that he had marked off several days for vacation in early July so they could take another Nebraska Passport vacation.
Soren and Stella, who are now 8 and 6, like to be the “navigators” for their Passport adventures by giving the directions listed in the Nebraska Passport app. The app guides participants to Passport stops and allows them to obtain “digital stamps” for being in the vicinity of a Passport location even if it’s closed for the day.
In addition to their official Nebraska Passport vacation, Soren and Stella enjoy several day trips with Lexie throughout the summer.
Some of the Frahm family’s favorite stops this year have been The Durham Museum in Omaha, Chadron State Park, the Plainsmen Museum in Aurora, Wave Pizza Co. in Grand Island, and Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park.
“I’ve always wanted to ride a paddleboat, so we rented a paddleboat for 30 minutes,” Lexie said. “The fact that we could do that for $10 on our family vacay was great to me,” she said. “You don’t have to leave the state to have fun, and you get to see all of these little towns.”
The Frahms 2018 Nebraska vacation was another big hit.
“The kids loved it,” Lexie said. “I just love it more than going on vacation and doing commercial stuff.”
Pals Brewery & Lasso Expresso — Unique Discoveries Close to Home
My own family has been participating in the Passport program this year. Although my teenage children are a little less enthusiastic about the stops than Lexie’s young children, they would never pass up a chance to eat at Wave Pizza or enjoy ice cream at the UNL Dairy Store.
When my sister came to town this summer (her family is participating, too), we took time to visit the Nebraska Prairie Museum, which is a sprawling museum in our hometown that I hadn’t visited in a while. The museum features an interactive German POW exhibit and will be hosting hosting a Smithsonian Waterways Exhibit this fall.
A trip to North Platte to a concert gave us a chance to stop at two more Passport destinations. We met friends at the new Pals Brewing Co. in North Platte and were pleasantly surprised to discover this new large brewery with delicious pizza, amazing strawberry rhubarb beer, a live band and an outdoor play area (Lexie said her kids had a blast playing the games at Pals while she and Shane enjoyed a beer and pizza). And although we have been to Gothenburg hundreds of times in our lives, we had never stopped at the cute coffee shop right off the Interstate, Lasso Expresso. This is a great new discovery with a full menu of teas, coffees and snacks.
Participating in the Passport program gave me another reason to stop at one of my favorite bakeries again, the Dragonfly Desserts in Alma. If you haven’t tried Cheryl’s cinnamon rolls, you are seriously missing out!
We are also looking forward to an upcoming trip to one of our favorite Nebraska destinations, Nebraska City, where we visit an old favorite – the Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure – and a new one – Wildwood Historic Center.
Some of the stops also include special deals (noted in the Passport book), such as discounts on meals or products.
Completing the Nebraska Passport
Lexie said her family is striving to reach all 70 stops this summer. They have yet to venture to northeast Nebraska, which may include a stop at the Barnstormers Family Bar & Grill in Norfolk (another favorite Passport stop.) This restaurant is located at the Norfolk airport, and diners can watch planes take off and land while they enjoy their meals.
Last year, Lexie and her family enjoyed the mugs and t-shirts they received for participating in the Passport program. The prizes for completing all stops this year include “Passport Champion” apparel, a Nebraska poster booklet, a Nebraska Tourism calendar, a Passport car decal and $15 in lottery coupons.
Every Passport participant who completes at least one stop is entered into a drawing for a year of Bakers Candies Chocolate (one pound a month) and a year of Runza meals (one combo meal a week for a year). The grand prize drawing (for everyone who reaches 70 stops) is an Omaha Steaks Quarter of beef and a free chest freezer or 300 in $1 Nebraska Lottery Scratch Tickets plus several other prizes donated by Passport businesses, including ice cream for a year at the UNL Dairy Store and pizza for a year at Wave Pizza.
Official Passport Stats
According to the Nebraska Department of Tourism, the most popular stops on the 2018 tour as of July 11 (according to digital stamp counts) were:
- The Rabbit Hole Bakery, Lincoln
- UNL Dairy Store, Lincoln
- Piezano’s, Lincoln
- Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Ashland
- Zio’s Pizza, Omaha
- The Archway, Kearney
Officials at the tourism department reported that in the first two months of the 2018 program, 25 travelers had already visited all 70 stops. They have distributed more than 47,500 Passport booklets to travelers in 45 states and 415 Nebraska communities. This is the ninth year for the Passport program, and participation grows each year.
Passport booklets are available at all 70 participating stops, or you can request to have Passport books mailed to you. The Passport app can be downloaded for free in the Apple App Store and Google Play — simply search for “NE Passport 2018.”
To learn more about this year’s prizes and to read travelers’ stories, visit NebraskaPassport.com.