When I travel, I look forward to staying in unique hotels, etc. and not the “same-old, same-old.” The Lied Lodge and Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City fit my bill. The structure and outbuildings sit on 260 acres of wooded and cultivated land. Vineyards and orchards encircle the enormous lodge that consists of 144 guestrooms, meeting spaces, a restaurant, an indoor pool, an exercise room, a spa and many other amenities.
The lush forest is the brilliant result of the obsession of J. Sterling Morton and his wife, Caroline. As a young married couple, the Mortons relocated to the Nebraska Territory in 1854 to claim 160 acres of unsurveyed federal land. In order to comply with the rules, they built a simple dwelling (which, over the years, has grown into a magnificent mansion). Coming from the East, they were appalled by the lack of trees on the vast grassy prairie.
J. Sterling became the editor of the Nebraska City News, and then developed a political career that led all the way to becoming US Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland. But his passion was planting trees. In the beginning, he lobbied the state of Nebraska to set aside a day each year to plant trees. In 1874, the Nebraska Legislature proclaimed April 22 (Morton’s birthday) to be an annual event – the first Arbor Day. According to J. Sterling, 25 billion trees had been planted across the nation the first 30 years of Arbor Days.
So Lied Lodge is all about trees. Even in my guestroom, a log served as a column. Although apple trees are the primary crop, hazelnut and peach trees are grown, too, and soon there will be cherry trees.
While at Lied Lodge, be sure to visit Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure pavilion to enjoy the exhibits and interactive displays. When there, don’t miss the film, “Trees in the Movies” that features the trees’ role in dozens of films. Experience the outdoors by hiking the trails or perch in one of many tree houses. Explore Arbor Day Farm on the Discovery Ride through the Vineyard Tour, the Twilight Tour, the Preservation Orchard Tour and other excursions. Walking tours include a stop at a fuel wood biomass heating and cooling system and a windbreak arboretum, where you can exit with a gift of a tree. Grab a light bite, taste wine and purchase scrumptious apple pies and other fresh products at the Apple House and Pie Garden Café.
I grew up appreciating trees. As a schoolchild, I had to memorize the poem, “Trees,” written by Joyce Kilmer, and I spent my young years climbing and swinging from trees. But, after my recent years of gathering up (and cursing) fallen leaves, it was good to be reintroduced to The Tree. That was the joy of staying at Lied Lodge.