On April 9, 2021 we heard about the Nebraska Passport Program from coordinator Madison Johnson at our Lincoln South Rotary Club meeting. She shared the program information and took us on a visual tour with "Nebraska Passport Program: Your guide to 70 unique adventures".
The Nebraska Passport Program is a fun, interactive travel program to give out of state visitors and Nebraska residents new ideas of places to visit. These are often places you would never go - as Madison stated they are “hidden gems”.
The program offers a variety of experiences and special deals only available to Passport participants. There is no program participation fee and many stops do not charge an entry fee. You collect stamps and can turn them into prizes.
This year is the 12th year for the program - many similar programs have died out over time. Every year the passport is different and the destinations are selected from applications with a goal of including a variety of experiences.
In 2020 - even with the pandemic - it was a record year. There were 1,185 participants that made it to all 70 stops. There were 154,755 stamps collected with an average of 23 stamps collected by each participant.
This is a program of the State of Nebraska - Nebraska Tourism with a goal of positively impacting Nebraska businesses. Participants don't just get a stamp - they purchase food, gifts, stay overnight and otherwise support the businesses and communities. The economic impact in 2020 was $23.7 million in traveler spending and $1.9 million in state and local tax revenue.
Madison challenged us to identify photos of some unique destinations to visit in Nebraska. Included were:
The Stuhr Museum of  the Prairie Pioneer - a museum surrounded by basically a moat. Outside of the museum on the grounds is a railroad town, a farm machinery building and other buildings. There are numerous educational programs offered through the museum.
Next was the Smith Falls State Park which includes the highest waterfall in Nebraska. It is popular for those wanting to experience the Niobrara River.
Finally she asked us to identify what we learned was the Meridian Bridge. This bridge connects Yankton, South Dakota to rural Cedar County (near Crofton) in Nebraska. This double deck bridge has been converted to a walk/bike trail but originally the top carried traffic into South Dakota from Nebraska and the lower level carried traffic into Nebraska from South Dakota. Madison indicated that there are plans in place to hold special events on the Nebraska side of the bridge.
Madison shared some stories that were sent to them about participant experiences. She said that participants have ranged in age from 6 months to 94 years. Her favorite story was a couple who spent their honeymoon visiting every stop from Niobrara to Arnold and all stops to the west.
The passport program consists of a variety of themed tours. In 2021, the tours they have lined up:
- - Grub & Cuisine
- - Aroma Therapy
- - Childish Things
- - Now Hear This
- - Parking Spots
- - Visual Treats
- - Shoptimum Values
- - Branching Out
- - Growth Opportunities
- - Time Travel
Now Hear This is a fun sounds tour. It will take you to places like Screamers Diner & Caberet, a popcorn store where this is the constant sound of corn popping, and a record store.
Aroma Therapy includes stops as a candle shop as well as Spiel Bound to enjoy the scents of coffee and fresh baked goods.
The Branching Out tour is very special as we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day. But it isn't just about seeing trees - it will include the Cedar Room (note the tree name) in North Platte.
The Growth Opportunities tour will take you to places supporting agriculture - including wineries and Wenninghoff's in Omaha - Farmers Market.
For additional information:


adison serves as the Passport Program Coordinator where she focuses on participation, program development and implementation, as well as training and educating selected program applicants regarding the benefits of the program. She compiles and analyzes data to prepare reports in regards to program statistics, impact, and participation. Madison also builds partnerships with state and local officials, visitor bureau staff and managers, civic and tourism industry leaders.

Madison received her bachelor's degree in Hospitality, Restaurant, and Tourism Management with minors in Business, Leadership and Entrepreneurship from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Originally from Fairbury, Nebraska, Madison grew up on an acreage outside of town and has a passion for Nebraska and rural communities.