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Eugene T. Mahoney State Park Guide — Activity Center, Theater, and More

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Keri Stooksbury

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Eugene T. Mahoney State Park offers various visitor activities, including campgrounds, an aquatic center, a ropes course, fishing, horseback riding, and golfing. Regardless of your preferences, there is something for everyone here. Approximately a million visitors witness the breathtaking landscapes every year and take advantage of the park’s various adventure opportunities.

How To Get to Eugene T. Mahoney State Park

Where Is Eugene T. Mahoney State Park?

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is a beautiful and expansive park in Ashland, Nebraska. This stunning park stretches over 690 acres along the Platte River and is conveniently located between the 2 largest cities in Nebraska: Lincoln and Omaha.

Opening Seasons and Hours

The park is open year-round, every day, including holidays. However, the operating hours of some facilities may vary depending on the season.

To avoid any inconvenience, call ahead and confirm the hours of the facilities you plan to visit before arriving at the park. This way, you can ensure you can do everything on your list without any unexpected closures.

Nearest Airports

When visiting Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, travelers have 2 major airport options. Both options are around 30 minutes away from the park.

Eppley Airfield (OMA)

Eppley Airfield is located in Omaha, Nebraska, and is approximately 35 miles away from the park. The airport provides numerous flights to and from U.S. cities, such as Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Las Vegas, and New York.

Airlines like Allegiant, American, Delta, Southwest, and United operate from this airport. You can choose from several car rental options to complete your journey to the park.

Lincoln Airport (LNK)

Lincoln Airport is approximately 30 miles away from the park. It provides daily flights to various U.S. cities, including Chicago, Denver, and Houston. United is the only airline that operates in this airport.

Once you arrive, you can easily rent a car or arrange a ride-sharing service to reach the park. As the closest airport to the park, flying into Lincoln Airport will help you maximize your travel time.

Driving to Eugene T. Mahoney State Park

Getting to this state park is quite simple — those coming from Lincoln head east on I-80 until exit 426. Turn left onto Highway 66, and you’ll find the park entrance on your right. Visitors driving in from Omaha, head west on I-80 until you reach exit 426. Take a right turn onto Highway 66 and continue driving until you see the park on your right side.

Visitors from the Ashland area should take Highway 66 south for 3 miles, and the park will be on the left side of the road.

Taking the Train

The park has no direct train service, but Amtrak offers some lines that can take you quite close. There are stations in both Omaha and Lincoln, which are around 30 minutes away from the park.

Taking the Bus

For those planning to visit the park and want to take the bus, it’s worth noting that there are no direct bus lines to the park. Greyhound offers a line that takes you to Omaha, which is about 30 minutes away from the park. Once you arrive at the station, you can arrange a ride service or rental car to get you to the park.

Getting Around Eugene T. Mahoney State Park

To fully experience all the state park has to offer, explore the park by driving and parking in different lots. This way, you can easily reach various areas of the park and enjoy the scenic views along the way.

Cycling is another great way to immerse yourself in the park’s natural beauty. With several bike-friendly trails, you can pedal through the park’s winding paths and take in the breathtaking sights at your own pace. The park offers a printable map to help you plan your trip.

What To See and Do

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park offers endless adventure opportunities. While many people associate state parks with hiking, fishing, and wildlife walks, this park offers much more. In addition to these activities, visitors can enjoy indoor rock climbing, an aquatic center, golfing, and a ropes course. It’s safe to say that this is not your average state park.

Activity Center

The Activity Center is a must-visit location for guests looking for a fun-filled day with family and friends. The center is located within the state park and offers a large indoor playground perfect for children of all ages.

The playground is fully equipped with various exciting features, including tubes, slides, net bridges, and a ball pit, all designed to provide hours of entertainment and exercise. The playground is open year-round, so no matter what the weather is like outside, you can always enjoy a fun-filled day of play.

An on-site concessionaire where you can purchase snacks and drinks while enjoying your playtime is available for your convenience.

Aquatic Center

Aquatic Center
Image Credit: Nebraskaland Magazine via Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

The Family Aquatic Center is an excellent destination for anyone who loves water activities. The center features a large, inviting swimming pool with 2 exciting water slides that will provide hours of fun. The facility also offers a diving area for those looking to show off their diving skills.

For those who prefer something a little more relaxing, the zero-entry wave pool is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy the soothing waves. Kids will love the water playground area, which is equipped with various water features that are safe and fun to play with.

To top it all off, there’s a spacious sun deck where visitors can lounge and soak up the sun and a well-stocked concession area where you can grab a snack or drink whenever you need a break.

Arts and Crafts Center

The Arts and Crafts Center is a wonderful place for children to unleash their creativity and imagination. Kids can immerse themselves in various art projects at the Owen Marina convenience store, such as painting ceramics and creating beautiful wood crafts. In addition to these fun activities, children can also learn valuable skills such as leather tooling.

Golf

This park boasts a fantastic driving range for those looking to perfect their swing and a delightful 18-hole miniature golf course for those seeking family fun. Whether a seasoned golfer or a novice, you’ll appreciate the well-maintained facilities and picturesque surroundings.

The miniature golf course is perfect for all ages and skill levels, with challenging obstacles and beautiful landscaping that will transport you to a delightful world of fun and adventure.

Horseback Riding

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is great for visitors of all ages to enjoy horseback riding. From May to Labor Day, the park offers horse trail rides that begin at the John Wayne Stables. These scenic trails are perfect for riders aged 6 and above.

The park also offers pony rides for visitors with younger children aged 3 to 9. These rides are a great way to introduce your little ones to the joys of horseback riding. To purchase horse trail or pony ride tickets, visit the Administration Office.

Ice Skating

The ice-skating pavilion right next to the Activity Center is a great place to enjoy the winter season. It provides a fun-filled activity to engage in with your family and friends. The pavilion is open from mid-November through the winter.

Skating on the ice is a great way to spend time with loved ones. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, the pavilion welcomes everyone. It is maintained regularly to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Ropes Course

Go Ape Ropes Course
Image Credit: Nebraskaland Magazine via Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

The Go Ape Ropes Course is a thrilling outdoor experience that offers a variety of zip lines and suspended obstacles that will take you soaring through the forest canopy. As you navigate the course, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding forest, leaving you feeling invigorated and inspired.

Whether you’re a seasoned thrill-seeker or trying something new, the Go Ape Ropes Course has something for everyone. This 2 to 3-hour activity is perfect for families, groups of friends, or solo adventurers looking to experience something truly unique.

Bottom Line:

With courses available for guests of all ages, you can rest assured that everyone in your party will have a blast.

Theater

The Denman and Mary Mallory Kountze Memorial Theater is open all year round and hosts live melodrama performances and magic shows. These productions are perfect for families who want to enjoy quality time together. The performances encourage audience participation and interactive experiences, making them fun and memorable for all who attend.

Venture Climb

Venture Climb is a new attraction at this park. It’s an addition to the Activity Center and features a 42-foot climbing wall. Climbers who make it to the top are rewarded with breathtaking views of the park through the facility’s floor-to-ceiling windows. This activity is suitable for both beginners and experienced climbers.

Best Times To Visit

Regardless of your preferred season, you can expect an unforgettable experience. However, certain times of the year may be better than others, particularly for those interested in participating in a specific event or activity.

Best Time To Visit in Winter

Visit Eugene T Mahoney State Parkin Winter
Image Credit: Nebraskaland Magazine via Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Should your vacation fall during the winter season, March is the best month to visit. During this time, the temperatures rise and typically range from the upper 20s to the low 50s. There is a chance of precipitation for an average of 5 days this month, so pack your rain gear just to be safe.

Best Time To Visit To Avoid the Crowds

Many travelers prefer planning a visit to the park to avoid the peak season’s hustle and bustle. If this appeals to you, November is the perfect time for a trip. This time of year offers a more relaxed atmosphere where you can explore the park without feeling overwhelmed by large crowds of people. November is the best month to visit the park for a peaceful, enjoyable, and memorable experience.

Best Time To Visit for Ideal Weather

Considering the weather is always a good idea when planning a trip, as it can significantly impact your experience. September is the best month to go, as it usually offers ideal weather conditions. This month, the temperatures range from the low 50s to the upper 70s, making it neither hot nor cold.

However, there’s a chance of precipitation approximately 5 days throughout the month, so it would be wise to pack a rain jacket in case you get caught in a shower.

Cheapest Time To Visit

Traveling is a hobby that can be quite expensive, but with some research and planning, you can have an amazing experience and save money at the same time. The best time to visit this park and save money is early to mid-September.

During this time, flight rates and accommodations are at their lowest throughout the year, meaning a September visit can save you hundreds of dollars in travel expenses.

Annual Events

The park organizes various events throughout the year, including birdwatching, winter adventure, and hiking. Locals and tourists eagerly anticipate some annual events each year.

First Day Hike

Every year, on January 1, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park visitors can join a guided hike throughout the park. The First Day Hike offers a chance to explore the park’s natural attractions, including the nature center, the conservatory, scenic vistas, and wildlife.

The hike culminates in a gathering around a campfire, where participants can enjoy complimentary s’mores. This event is an excellent way to enjoy the park and get some physical exercise simultaneously.

SIP Nebraska

SIP Nebraska is a highly anticipated event held each May at the picturesque Eugene T. Mahoney State Park. It is a must-attend for locals and tourists passionate about local wine, craft beer, and spirits.

During the event, attendees can indulge in various activities such as live music performances, wine tastings, craft beer tastings, captivating demonstrations, mouth-watering food, and a showcase of local craft vendors.

Bottom Line:

Whether you are a wine connoisseur, a beer enthusiast, or simply looking for a fun-filled day out, SIP Nebraska is the perfect event to enjoy the best of Nebraska’s wine, beer, and spirits.

Where To Stay

Making accommodations arrangements is a top priority when planning a trip. Fortunately, finding a place to stay is not difficult when visiting this state park.

Inside the Park

Various accommodations are available within the park’s boundaries. You can camp under the stars, stay in a luxurious cabin, or stay at the park’s lodge. No matter what you’re looking for in terms of accommodation, this park has you covered.

Cabins

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park Cabin
Image Credit: Nebraskaland Magazine via Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

This park has 60 cabins in the secluded ridgetops of the park’s woods, perfect for families, couples, or groups. These cabins have 2 to 6 bedrooms and modern amenities like air conditioning, heating, kitchenettes, televisions, fireplaces, outdoor grills, and decks.

The cabins offer a perfect blend of modern comforts and rustic charm, ideal for those seeking to explore the park’s hiking trails and fishing spots or relax amidst nature.

Camping

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities, including camping. Lakeside Campground and Little Creek Campground are 2 developed campgrounds in the park, which provide 148 campsites for visitors to enjoy.

Lakeside Campground is near the serene Baright Lake and Owen Marina, offering stunning water views. Little Creek Campground is located near a playground, laundry facility, and basketball court, making it an excellent option for families with children. Each campground has full hookups with electricity and water, modern restrooms, and dump and fill stations. 

The serene surroundings, modern amenities, and ample recreation opportunities make these campsites an excellent choice for anyone looking to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy a peaceful getaway.

Peter Kiewit Lodge

The Peter Kiewit Lodge is a beautiful lodging option that provides visitors with a traditional experience within the park. It is located within the park’s boundaries and offers a peaceful and serene environment. The lodge offers 40 rooms with modern amenities such as air conditioning, heating systems, Wi-Fi, and televisions.

Each Peter Kiewit Lodge room has a private bathroom, ensuring guests have their own private space. The lodge offers many rooms with sleeping lofts that feature electric fireplaces and walkout decks. This lodge is an excellent choice for visitors who want to experience the beauty of Mahoney State Park while staying in a comfortable and charming environment.

Towns Near Eugene T. Mahoney State Park

Several nearby towns make excellent home bases for visitors who want to stay near the park. Whether you prefer a lively city or a quiet town, there’s something to suit your needs near the park.

Ashland, Nebraska

The charming town of Ashland is home to the park. Luckily, the city offers many accommodations, dining, and recreation options. Whether you’re looking for a cozy bed and breakfast or a luxurious hotel, you will find something that meets your needs.

Additionally, the city boasts several fantastic restaurants where you can enjoy a delicious meal after a day of exploring the park. The city has plenty of recreational activities to keep you entertained, such as hiking, biking, and fishing.

La Vista, Nebraska

La Vista could be the perfect place for guests seeking accommodations near the park. This beautiful city, situated only 25 minutes from the park, offers a range of options for lodging, dining, and recreation. There are plenty of hotels, motels, and vacation rentals, with something to suit every budget and preference.

When it comes to dining, you’ll be spoiled for choice, with various restaurants and cafes serving delicious food and drink. For recreation, there are plenty of fun activities to keep you busy, from hiking and biking to fishing and boating.

Bottom Line:

La Vista is an incredible place to make a home away from home when visiting Eugene T. Mahoney State Park.

Where To Eat

Currently, no restaurants are within the boundaries of Eugene T. Mahoney State Park. Luckily, the park is close to many restaurants, so you won’t have to look too long for something to eat when hunger strikes.

Parker’s Smokehouse

Parker’s Smokehouse, a top-rated restaurant in Ashland, is located just 5 miles away from Eugene T. Mahoney State Park. This restaurant is known for its delicious barbecue specialties and is open for lunch and dinner all 7 days of the week.

With various smoked dishes and exceptional hospitality, you wouldn’t want to miss the chance to dine at Parker’s Smokehouse when visiting this state park.

Round the Bend Steakhouse

Round the Bend Steakhouse is the highest-rated restaurant in Ashland. It is only 3 minutes from the park and serves lunch and dinner every day except Sunday. It offers classic favorites, draft beer, and excellent customer service. It is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day of exploring the park.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park Facts

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park Ice Skating
Image Credit: Nebraskaland Magazine via Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

1. A New State Park Established

This state park was established in 1991 to provide year-round outdoor recreational activities for the public and families.

2. National Register of Historic Places

This park was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in April 1945 after being restored by the Kenilworth Council of Garden Clubs and the Kenilworth Beautification Committee.

3. Wildflower Preserve and Bird Sanctuary

Mary Mahoney gifted the state park in the 1930s. She worked with an architect to develop it as a wildflower preserve and bird sanctuary.

4. What’s in a Name?

This state park was named after a former state senator who led the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

5. Prehistoric Burial Site

There is a prehistoric burial site within the park that marks the location where the prehistoric Indian farmers would bury their people once they passed away.

Final Thoughts

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re into ice skating, rock wall climbing, golfing, or horseback riding, you’ll find something to do at this truly unique and one-of-a-kind park. With over a million visitors yearly, it’s a must-visit destination in Nebraska.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to enter Eugene T. Mahoney State Park?

Visitors must purchase a daily permit to enter the park. Non-Nebraska licensed vehicle passes cost $14 daily, while Nebraska licensed vehicles are $7 daily.

How much time should I spend at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park?

Spending 3 to 4 days at this park is recommended to experience all the activities offered fully.

What are some attractions near Eugene T. Mahoney State Park?

Several must-see places are near this state park. Some popular places to explore nearby include Platte River State Park and the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum.

Can I bring my dog to Eugene T. Mahoney State Park?

Dogs are permitted in various areas within the park, but they must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet, and their waste should be picked up and disposed of properly. For visitors who stay overnight in a cabin, a one-time fee of $15 is required for bringing your pet.

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About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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