By Kathleen Somers
When your group is just aching to pull back, relax, and rejuvenate, there is nothing like getting back to nature. And I know the perfect place! Surrounding your group in luxury, peace, trees (a vital component for such an experience) and the perfect balance of quiet activity, outdoor fun, and education will make you a winner every time. Where is this haven of food for the soul? It’s in Nebraska. I know, I know; you thought Nebraska was for exploring majestic prairie lands and watching cranes, birds and sunsets. But it’s so much more. Your group will thank you when you bring them up close and personal to Arbor Day Farm and Lied Lodge & Conference Center—an inspiring place, a nurturing place, a place to celebrate trees.
The story really begins back in 1855 when a young J. Sterling Morton and his wife Caroline came to Nebraska City from Michigan. Morton came to edit the local newspaper, but he brought with him his love of nature and an enthusiasm for modern agriculture techniques, as well as forestry. He also had an interest in politics, which eventually led to his appointment as United States Secretary of Agriculture by President Cleveland (1893-1897). Morton made some wonderful contributions in this role, but his most significant achievement is considered to be the founding of Arbor Day, the tree planter’s holiday, back in 1872.
Since Nebraska City is home of Arbor Day (America) as well as residence to J. Sterling Morton, it only makes sense that you point your motorcoach in that direction when ready to inspire and rejuvenate your group. Specifically, head to Lied Lodge (pronounced leed) for an experience that will transcend the ordinary in a natural setting of 260 acres. Begin by gathering your people for a welcome presentation near the fireplace in the impressive lobby with its Douglas fir timbers open ceiling. Get an overview of the delightful combination of nature and luxury that is Lied Lodge. Learn about the special fair trade, shade-grown coffee served at the lodge and other environmentally responsible practices that make this place more than just special, but memorable.
Built in 1993 by the Arbor Day Foundation, a nonprofit conservation and education organization, as a gathering place to discuss trees, conservation, and environmental stewardship, the Lodge today attracts all manner of visitors who can’t help but fall in love with this one-of-a-kind destination. After a $10 million renovation in 2015, Lied Lodge is even more popular than ever. With 140 nature-inspired rooms, luxurious bedding, and 260 wooded acres to explore, you can practically hear a collective sigh as your group begins to let go and relax. But there’s more!
There’s an Olympic-sized indoor pool to splash around in, or swim some serious laps if you prefer. Or maybe a relaxing soak in the Jacuzzi is more your style. Perhaps steaming away stress in the red cedar sauna meets your needs after a good workout in the fitness room. At Lied Lodge, they say, “Treat yourself the way nature intended” and the spa is a great way to relax and rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit. Choose from a traditional full-body Swedish massage designed to increase circulation, relieve muscle tension, and reduce stress leaving you relaxed and creating a mood to “let go” and enjoy the moment. Or maybe you would like to try the Heated Lava Shell massage, where shells are heated and used to encourage deep relaxation of muscles, leaving the body refreshed and re-energized. Or perhaps the Heated Himalayan Salt Stone massage is more your style. They use hand-carved massage stones to gently soothe away stress and tension for a massage you won’t soon forget! There’s a sugar scrub that leaves your skin super soft, or a mud therapy Body Mask that leaves your skin feeling like satin. These are just some of the many options to choose from at the Lied Lodge Spa and all are guaranteed to leave you feeling stress and tension free. For a full menu, check out the website at www.liedlodge.org.
Dining at the Lodge continues the theme of healthy living and loving one’s self as the Timber Dining Room offers nature-inspired cuisine made with locally grown ingredients. From Nebraska steaks, to Arbor Day Farm wines, to decadent desserts, the menu reflects what’s fresh for the season. Served under soaring timbers, meals include a sweeping view of Arbor Day Farm.
Arbor Day Farm is situated on the same 260 beautiful wooded acres as Lied Lodge & Conference Center and Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. Under the umbrella of the Arbor Day Foundation, a million-member nonprofit organization, Arbor Day Farm is where the Foundation’s mission to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees comes to life! Here you can climb a 50-foot tall tree house, hike miles of forested trails, journey deep into the woods aboard the Discovery Ride for a guided tour of the orchards and forest. There’s a state-of-the-art greenhouse where many thousand of tree seedlings are grown. Or maybe plan your time there around the weekend wine tasting from grapes grown right on the property. Within walking distance of Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure and Lied Lodge is the Apple House Market where you can shop the Farm’s freshest seasonal fruits and vegetables, gifts, signature wines, fudge, fresh baked pies and more. Pie Garden Café is the perfect place to break for lunch. Other activities to consider for your group include a canvas painting session, a Gnome Hunt (always a group favorite), a guided tour of the Farm, Tree Sleuth, Sunset & S’mores in the summer time, or maybe a good old fashioned murder mystery at the mansion.
Arbor Day Farm is incredible with so much to do and see. The trails are set up to be an easy walk with lots of places to sit along the way and just relax, rest, and enjoy nature. Signage identifies types of trees. Even foot markings on the trail tell you what type of critter made that mark. You’ll leave with a tree seedling to plant at home.
Arbor Lodge is the original estate of J. Sterling Morton. His 4-room home eventually became a 30-room mansion. Then his son Joy (of Morton Salt fame) added on making it a 52-room mansion that’s a White House look-alike!
Your group can step back in time and tour the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. This beautiful mansion is perfectly decorated with priceless family artifacts and mementos from J. Sterling Morton’s life and legacy. Watch the video in the sunroom where you will also find a stunning Tiffany window with a grape trellis design. Next take a self-guided tour. And don’t overlook the carriage house with its many early carriages.
However you spend your time at Lied Lodge, be sure to give your group time to linger and shake away the hustle and bustle of everyday life. If you do, I’m sure you will agree with me that Lied is the perfect way to relax, unwind and self care.