Summer Vacation 2023: Weekend on the Missouri River

On the second weekend of my vacation this summer, my best friend Rebecca and I drove down Highway 75. Our destination? Brownville, NE, to spend the night on an old riverboat turned into a small floating hotel. Union Orchard is on the route so, of course, we had to stop for a wine tasting.

I've posted about Union Orchard on this blog a handful of times so I won't go into great detail. Still, it's a family farm store that sells their produce (in particular, apple-related products) and the wine they make as well as wine from other Nebraska vintners.

Rebecca is getting ready to sit down with her glass of wine and a slice of homemade rhubarb pie.

After our pleasant stop at the orchard, we headed into Brownville. The town is one of the oldest in the state and has many historic buildings. We stopped at the Lyceum which was a public hall in its prime but is now a restaurant known for breakfast.

Just down the street away sits the historic Carson House. Built in 1860 by Richard Brown, the founder of Brownville, it was sold in 1864 to John Carson, a prominent early banker in Nebraska.

An Italianate-style home, an addition was added by Carson who furnished the home with exquisite pieces.

A view into the basement kitchen. Kitchens were typically built as separate buildings or in cooler places like basements. Before the days of air conditioning, this was how people kept the heat from cooking from entering their living spaces.

After we visited the Carson home, we made a brief pit stop at The Trading Post. It's a small shop that sells things like dream catchers, incense, soap, homemade jewelry, mystical books, et al. 

The next stop was the Flatwater Folk Art Museum. Confession: I took this picture on my last day trip to Brownville when most everything was closed for the day/season. This old church was bought and moved to this location by George and Eva Neubert. George was a director of several prominent art museums, and he lovingly restored this building to showcase American Folk Art.

Everything we visited that day was located on the same street, so why not conclude at the end of the street at Whiskey Run Creek Winery? This gave us something to do while we waited for check-in time at the hotel.

And here she is, the River Inn Resort. Once an operational riverboat, she now sits permanently docked on the banks of the Missouri River. Containing only 18 staterooms, it's a small hotel. On the right, you can see a smaller riverboat, the Spirit of Brownville docked behind the Inn. While the River Inn Resort doesn't move, the Spirit of Brownville has a nightly dinner cruise. 

Of course, we purchased tickets for the dinner cruise when we reserved the room because who wouldn't want to take a dinner cruise down the mighty Missouri River? You could choose to sit inside or outside on the second floor. There was a bar so we got some adult refreshments while we waited for food and for the cruise to start.

A view out the window from our table. That large bridge in the background spans the river and connects Nebraska to Iowa. Dinner was served buffet style and included dessert.

After we ate, we walked around the outside to take in the views and check out the boat. We started at the stern, and it was cool to see the paddles of this old paddleboat churning the dirty water of the river.

We then made our way to the second floor and to the bow. Look at that view!

Here's where we would have had dinner had we chosen to sit up top. Since it was in the 90s that day, sitting inside the air conditioning sounded nicer.

We saw some interesting sights during the hour-and-a-half cruise, including the old Captain Meriwether Lewis Dredge. I stopped here with my family several years ago on one of our day trips, where we ate a picnic lunch on the grounds.

A view of the River Inn as we conclude the dinner cruise.

We were unable to get a room that faced the river (rather we had to face the banks) but there were Adirondack chairs all along the river-facing side, so we spent a bit of time sitting in the shade and having a cold drink.

We wandered up to the top deck where they have it covered with old astroturf from Memorial Stadium. Interesting.

From the stern, you can look down at the Spirit of Brownville for a better look at it in its entirety.

The rooms are nice and clean, albeit small, the food was decent, and the hosts/owners are amazing people but this place is run-down and dirty on the outside. So visibly so, that I think it wouldn't hurt for them to hose down the decks and sweep off the cobwebs that cover every bit of the outside. Other than that, it was a pleasant and enjoyable stay.

The next morning, after we checked out, we drove the 16 miles to Indian Cave State Park. While I've been here many times, Rebecca never had so we stopped at the scenic overlook to get that expansive river valley view.

They finally rebuilt the old, worn-down boardwalk platform that led up to the cave. They built the new one far back from the cave as years of people touching the old Native American cave drawings (as well as graffiti) have rendered the ancient drawings unable to be seen. Unfortunate, but that's what happens when people just don't care.

In true me fashion, I packed picnic food for the trip, so we stopped at a shady picnic table after this to eat lunch before heading home.

This was a fun overnight trip with my bestie. Over the 20 years I've lived here, I've really gotten to know my adopted state through exploration. It's good to get out and explore and try something different - which is exactly what I did on this leg of my vacation.

Until next time, friends.



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