The Picturesque Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Nebraska

Where can you find a picturesque state park, a drive-through safari and an enormous air museum — all at the same freeway exit? They're clustered at I-80's Exit 426, located between Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park offers family-friendly activities and beautiful scenery year-round. Its 70-foot observation tower offers a grand view of the Platte River Valley, or you can hike the trails that wind under the bluffs for a closer look.

In summer, visitors can rent a paddleboat, frolic in a water park area featuring 200-foot water slides and visit a butterfly garden. The park runs a full-service hotel with an excellent dining room and rents modern cabins and campsites.

Just down the road, the Strategic Air Command Museum houses 31 planes used from World War II through the Gulf War. You can watch restoration experts prepare more planes for exhibit, and there are numerous children's activities, too.

Next, head for Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari. The ever-changing wetlands, meadows, canyons and prairie provide habitat for bison, wolves, elk, pronghorn antelope, deer, sandhill cranes, herons, wild turkeys, trumpeter swans and pelicans. You tour the 360-acre park in your own vehicle or take a tram ride.

If you take State Highway 66 a few miles to the east, you'll find the small town of South Bend, home of the Fountain Creek General Store (located one block north of the highway at Nebraska and Spruce Streets).

This charming slice of Americana looks just as it did in 1872. Talking with co-owners Samantha Hoffman and Daniel Kurtenbach is like chatting with the curators of a museum!

To see all these attractions, you won't have to travel more than 5 miles once you arrive. Now that's an economical vacation!

Before You Visit

Exit 426 is about 20 miles southwest of Omaha in eastern Nebraska. Mahoney State Park is open year-round. For more information phone 1-402/-944-2523.

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