Girls Day: Council Bluffs/Omaha Edition

This post is about four months over due, but it contains some bright pops of color and a beautiful blue sky (that we had to fight through some rain showers to find), which, if you’re where I am currently (stuck inside during a white-out blizzard), then this post being four months late will be a blessing for your eyes.

During October, my camera-wielding sidekick and good friend, Jo, and I set set out on a day trip to the Council Bluffs/Omaha area to tour the Squirrel Cage Jail and poke around Omaha’s Old Market.

We started our morning driving in a thunderstorm, hoping that by the time we got to Council Bluffs we would run out of the rain. Sure enough, just as we were pulling into the parking lot for the Squirrel Cage Jail, the clouds so kindly began to part and the rain reduced to sprinkles. We were a bit early to tour the jail, so we walked down the street to Bayliss Park.

Bayliss Park, considered to be the focal point of the historic downtown Council Bluffs area, has a beautiful fountain and is surrounded by six playful black squirrel statues striking several different poses. I wish the sun would have peaked out a bit, but I need practice shooting on rainy days. This park was a challenge for me to shoot. Being in the heart of Council Bluffs, there were parked cars, trash cans, and other items I didn’t want in my shots. End the end, I picked the angles that were least objectionable. There were also other elements in this park that I wanted to showcase, but couldn’t quite come up with an angle or focal point that I was happy with. Being relatively new to this type of photography (cityscapes), this park left me wanting to do more but not knowing how. I may have to swing by this park on another trip to try it again.

Bayliss Park trio

Our next stop was the Squirrel Cage Jail. If you’re wondering, why a jail? Well, it was October and we wanted something “spooky” to photograph. We looked into several asylums in the state, but decided that it would likely be difficult to get permission to shoot anything other than the grounds on such short notice. While doing some research, Jo came across the Squirrel Cage Jail. The jail was built in 1885 and used until 1969. The Jail is one-of-a-kind, shaped like a cylinder, it was one of only 18 revolving jails ever built and the only three-story jail of its kind. The tour costs $7 for adults and is mostly self-guided. We were given a brief overview/history of the jail by the museum staff person as well as a document that provided more detail about each part of the jail so we could tour at our own pace. We learned that the jail housed some infamous criminals (the most notable being Jake Bird), in addition to women and juveniles. It was considered maximum security, however, we were told that a few did indeed escape. Each cell is pie-shaped and the doors only open when the crank was turned, rotating the cells. Writings cover the wall from floor to ceiling; some carved, others written in smoke.

Rooms in Squirrel Cage Jailwritings on the jail wall aphrodite watermarked

While the jail is supposedly haunted (four known deaths occurred in the jail: a hanging, a man who fell three stories while trying to scribe his name in the ceiling, a heart attack, and an officer who accidentally shot himself while trying to fortify the jail from an angry mob), the only thing to scare the pants off of me was the dummy they had sitting around a corner in one of the rooms. Yes, I jumped and screamed. Twice.

There were a lot of items on display including old weapons, jailer uniforms, photographs, newspaper articles, logs books, the jailer’s quarters, and a kitchen.

letters and log bookJail Day Book watermarked

And, if you’re wondering what it’s like to be booked into the Squirrel Cage Jail, you can grab the sign, step inside the cell, and find out. It’s possible we had more fun in jail than we should have!


Jo (Left) and Talya (Right, photo by Jo) at the Squirrel Cage Jail.

To learn more about the Squirrel Cage Jail, visit the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County’s website or their Facebook page.

From here we headed to Omaha’s Old Market for lunch at Blue Sushi Sake Grill, where I finally got to try sushi for the first time. I had the fried calamari (that dipping sauce was to die for), a South Pacific roll (my favorite–eel tempura, cream cheese, pineapple, scallion, eel sauce), and a Crunchy Blue roll (spicy crab, cilantro, crispy panko, eel sauce). While I didn’t fall in love with sushi, I’m glad I tried it and thought I don’t see myself craving it, I’ll likely eat it again.

Blue Sushi1 watermarked

Then it was off to browse through funky shops and try my hand at some street photography. The Old Market is everything from eclectic to fancy and everything in between.

Old Market architecture trioOld Market architecture trio 2Old Market Blues

The day wouldn’t have been complete without stopping at Ted and Wally’s for some fantastic homemade ice cream before we headed out of town. At this fun ice cream shop, the old fashioned homemade ice cream mixer sits in the front of the shop for all to watch while you devour one of their many flavor options. I ended up settling on their strawberry rhubarb pie flavor and it was unbelievably delicious. I couldn’t think of a better way to cap off such a fun girls day!

Ted and Wally's ice cream duo

Ted and Wally's strawberry rhubarb pie ice cream watermarked


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