Let’s all face the truth about interstate highways. They offer the convenience of shuttling us from big city to big city. While this helps us shorten our travel time, it also forces us to bypass an untold number of opportunities. We will be the first to admit that these superhighways are advantageous. There is value in getting off of the interstate and exploring some of the smaller venues. This can turn a standard day trip into a truly cultural experience. It offers a chance to sample small-town tastes and hang out with the locals. That is exactly what we found when we dropped into Brownville, Nebraska.
The town of Brownville had escaped our discovery for years. Even as we were rolling up I-29 toward Omaha, we never seemed to spot their exit. Once we finally had it, I was able to do some research. What I discovered was a village filled with history and charm. We made our plans for a visit, but COVID put a halt to them. When the spring of 2021 arrived, we felt that it was time. Knowing the town had already gone through the vaccinations helped add a layer of safety. Rolling into town, we found Main Street to be a great place to begin our exploring.
After meeting up with Steve Worth, our guide for the day, we decided that lunch would be needed. Not only would it offer us small-town tastes, but we could lay out the plan for the rest of our visit. Right in the heart of Main Street is The Lyceum. Housed in one of the many historic buildings in Brownville, this local eatery serves up simple dishes made with care. The three of us decided to make this a quick meal, so sandwiches were our choices. Dining at The Lyceum, you can feel the history in the very foundation of the building. It always amazes us when we find that the past has been so carefully preserved.
Small Town Tastes
With our hunger managed, it was time to enact our plans. The first step was to investigate some of the historic sites and museums found in Brownville, Nebraska. Being that the real tourism season doesn’t kick in until mid-may, we felt like we almost had the town to ourselves. With so many of the stops being concentrated in just a few square blocks, we decided to begin our excursion on foot. Later, we would drive around town as Steve pointed out some of the historic homes that make up the village.
After or walk through history, it was time to check out some of the boutique-style shops that dot the main road. Once again, we found ourselves in awe of the historic buildings that they have preserved and repurposed for today’s use. Just seeing it from the outside, we could imagine an old hotel and saloon serving customers just arriving on a nearby riverboat. Stepping indoors, we found that they have created a space filled with all of the conveniences of the modern age.
Although the time for our morning coffee had passed, we still popped in the local coffee shop for a look-see. We were ecstatic to discover that it doubles as an ice cream shop. A steady stream of locals was buying up cups of java and scoops of creamy delight. This gave us an opportunity to chat with some of the regulars and learn more about their hometown. While time limitations prevented us from getting ice cream, for now, you know we made a mental note of their closing time.
Continuing on our walk, we came to another row of small local businesses. The name Saltwater Taffy intrigued us, as did the promising sign outside. Popping in for a look, we found it to be another boutique shop for Crystal to peruse. While she checked out all of the goodies, I examined the aromatic candies that lined one wall. The two of us were really enjoying the small-town tastes that we found at every turn.
After exploring the other nearby downtown stores, we bid our farewell to our guide. He directed us down the road to Whiskey Run Creek Winery. The 100-year old barn that the winery operates out of is not native to Brownville. It was moved here to add immediate charm to the operation. It certainly does the trick. Approaching the building, it looks like something out of a postcard of yesteryear.
Something for Later
We couldn’t wait to see it up close. Inside, we found other visitors sampling the various wines produced at Whiskey Run. We took our turn at sampling and picked a bottle of our favorite to enjoy during a summer picnic. Before leaving, we had to take in the view of the manmade creek that flows from the hillside. This would be a perfect setting for an evening of wine and relaxing on their deck.
Getting Our Just Desserts
Our time in Brownville was drawing to a close, but we hadn’t forgotten about Gospel Ice Cream. We hightailed it back downtown, but missed closing time by a couple of minutes. The owner caught sight of us and opened back up for us to get our cones. (One of the many good reasons to love small towns!) In fact, he even asked us if we would like to meet his dog Gospel, for whom the shop is named. You know we just had to and we even got a selfie to memorialize the event. We were so happy they saw us because we were loving our cones, but it appears that Gospel was wishing he had one for himself. Oh well, we are sure he gets plenty of love and treats, as well.
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