Dining, shopping and walking tours beckon for west central Nebraskans who venture east from North Platte into the “Tri-Cities” of Dawson County and the South Loup River valley in southern Custer County.
The 2019 Nebraska Passport program includes three such attractions, which daytrippers can easily augment by choosing from previous Passport stops in Gothenburg, Cozad, Lexington and the Johnson Lake area near Elwood.
If motorists want to anchor their road trip on the South Loup, they can drive north on U.S. Highway 83 from North Platte to pick up Nebraska 92, head east to Arnold and then follow Nebraska 40 southeast to Callaway.
The town’s annual Kite Flight every Labor Day weekend offers the perfect excuse to try Shotgun Annie’s Bar & Grill, which plays on the region’s frontier heritage while offering burgers, steaks, chicken and more.
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Stay on Nebraska 40 to reach Oconto, where two notable tours await those willing to invest the time or the shoe leather.
The Oconto Barn Quilt Trail features about 70 sites in and near town where colorful quilt patterns are painted on wood blocks and hung on barns or other buildings. A map of quilt sites is available on the village’s website.
Before leaving town, check out the Charles Horn Sculpture Garden at South Railroad and Seventh streets. It’s the creation of Oconto resident Charles Horn, who started creating scrap-metal sculptures in the late 1990s.
South along U.S. 30 and Interstate 80 lies Rustic & Red, where Tammy Paulsen and Cathy Pflaster offer rural-themed gifts in their three-year-old building in the midst of downtown Cozad.
Their shop lies two blocks north of U.S. 30, the old Lincoln Highway, and two blocks west of the Robert Henri Museum. The latter features many artworks created by its namesake, an influential early 20th-century artist and the son of city founder John J. Cozad.