Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple was the first temple to be built in Nebraska. This area is a significant and special place dedicated to the many pioneers that lost their lives while waiting out the winter so they could travel on to the Salt Lake City, UT valley to escape prosecution and practice religion freely. We can only imagine the immense suffering and heartache that was experienced here and how difficult the deaths of family and friends must have been on these dedicated pioneers.
The Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail begins in Nauvoo, Illinois and continues through five states (IL, IA, NE, WY, UT) ending in Salt Lake City, Utah. Winter Quarters, Nebraska was the main campsite en-route to Utah where the pioneers were to stay for the winter of 1846-47 Because of significant disease and minimal shelters and food, hundreds of faithful saints lost their lives trying to protect their religious freedoms. Another spot along the historic trail was Mt. Pisgah, another camp in Thayer, Iowa. It was meant to be a way station for weary travelers. This is where the US Army requested volunteers to serve in the Mexican-American War. These soldiers became known as the Mormon Battalion. The motif of the flowers of each of the five states the pioneers passed through is represented inside the temple in the windows and sculptured carpeting.
While in Omaha, the pioneers were active building and planting crops. One of the buildings that was constructed, under Brigham Youngs supervision, was the Mormon Mill or Florence Mill. The Mill was used to grind wheat and corn. The Mill was active for more than 100 years. The building is now used as a museum and art gallery.
Although the temple follows a traditional design similar to many other temples there are some distinct differences. The temple is built into a hill. It's two-stories. There are many design elements that are special to this particular temple. The grapes and leaves design on the front door and the 18 stained-glass art windows depicting the pioneer gathering of Zion. This is a truly a unique and special temple.
There is plenty of LDS history here to keep you busy. The Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters and the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery are on-site and a good starting point. Take time in this area to see all the church sites and experiene what is was like to be a pioneer. Once you're ready to leave the area and head more into the downtown area, visit the Omaha Children's Museum and the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium to keep the kids entertained. The Durham Museum is also a fantastic place to visit.
If you're spending some time at the temple site and need a bite to eat, Tussey's Casual Grill and Amsterdamn Falafel & Kabob are both good places for a quick, casual meal. If you'd rather branch out and go a little more upscale, Lo Sole Mio Ristorante is excellent for authentic Italian and Wave Bistro mixes it up with Asian-Fusion offerings. The absolute best place for ice cream is Ted & Wally's. Fantastic on a hot day.