Nov 19, 2013

Visiting Lincoln, Nebraska

As one might suspect Lincoln, the capital of Nebraska, was renamed
for the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.  Originally it was called Lancaster. The name change was controversial because there were citizens who felt the South should have won the Civil War. I toured the state capital which is known as the “Tower of the Plains” and, as the name suggests, it has a tower that is capped with a 15,000 pound bronze statue of a man sowing grain that is visible for miles around.  It is the second-tallest U.S. statehouse, surpassed only by the Louisiana Capitol and until 1969 it was the tallest building in Nebraska.  While the exterior is rather plain the interior has some wonderful architectural features.  
The mosaics on the floor and ceiling are beautiful.  There are murals that depict important events in Nebraska history.  I had trouble figuring out one of the murals which had a swath of white across it.  I should have guessed – it was snow – but I asked the guide about it. It recalls the Blizzard of 1888, and while, by Upstate New York standards, not much snow fell the wind reached 56 miles per hour and the temperature dropped to 36 below zero. And, it all happened quickly and unexpectedly.  There were many interesting features including the unicameral legislature and found it interesting that people running for a senate seat cannot advertise their political party affiliation nor is it indicated on the ballot.  Hum… not a bad idea. 

John and I found the city’s Haymarket District to be another revitalized Historic District, in part through the National Main Street Program. We took a walking tour of the area which at one time consisted mainly of warehouses.  Today is a vibrant area of trendy restaurants, hotels, condominium, retail shops with the new Pinnacle Bank Arena as an anchor.  We had a wonderful dinner at the JTK Restaurant located in the old railroad station. 

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is actually an adult-friendly zoo much to our liking.  It offers an interactive and a personal exposure to their critters. People can pet rabbits, turtles, frogs and have up-close animal experiences.  The zoo may not be large but it has a wonderful selection of animals including some of our favorites – red pandas (which are not really pandas but more like a raccoon), dromedary camels, llamas, ring tailed lemurs, Golden Lion Tamarin, and prairie dogs.  Much to the amusement of all of us one of the zoo staff had trained a flying squirrel.  She would place it on a branch and walk away.  The squirrel would glide to her and crawl into her pocket.  Feeding time for the Humboldt penguins was not only fun to watch but the accompanying talk was informative.  

A do-not-miss while in Lincoln are the Sunken Gardens.  The
gardens were established in 1930 as a Depression-era project on a former abandoned dumpsite. In 2003 the gardens got a new facelift. Called “Polish the Gem” the gardens are outstanding and were a blaze of color when we were there.  The gardens are beautiful and tranquil and the park is now handicap accessible plus the lily ponds and cascading water features were restored with new sculptures added.  

One night we had an awesome dinner at The Oven which has an incredible wine cellar. John and I had Mulligatawny Soup, and while it is a traditional dish of India the owner is from Bhutan where he had cooked for the royal family.