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Family Guide to the Missouri River Outdoor Expo

Did you know Ponca, Nebraska hosts the Midwest's biggest outdoor expo? This September you could be one of the 50k+ people who visit Siouxland's Ponca State Park to take part in the 90+ activities available!

silhouettes of two adults and a child are visible as they fish on a wooden dock at sunset. in foreground, the words "Missouri River Outdoor Expo Ponca, Nebraska"

When is the Missouri River Outdoor Expo?

The expo happens every September, usually the third weekend. Saturday and Sunday are open to the public, while Friday is dedicated to school field trips. The 2021 expo is on Saturday and Sunday September 18th and 19th, from 9am to 5pm, with school day happening Friday, September 17th, 2021. 

Where is the Missouri River Outdoor Expo?

The Missouri River Outdoor Expo takes place at Ponca State Park in Ponca, Nebraska. The park is about 25 miles or 32 minute drive from downtown Sioux City. There is ample free parking at Ponca State Park, and admission to the Expo itself is free, but like all Nebraska State Parks, a valid park entry pass is required and is not free. Daily passes ($6 per vehicle for NE residents and $8 per vehicle for visitors from other states) and annual passes ($31 per vehicle for NE residents and $46 per vehicle for visitors from other states) are available for purchase. There are also discounted passes available for second vehicles owned by passholders. Full details and online purchase options here, but they are also available in person in town. 

What to do at the Missouri River Outdoor Expo with Kids

  • Outdoor sports: Kids can go hiking, fishing, or kayaking, climb a rock wall, brave the ropes course, or learn how to shoot slingshots, pellet guns, an atlatl, and more
  • Live animals: Kids can watch or help tag monarch butterflies, learn about beekeeping, have opportunities to see raptors, snakes, observe the NGPC Semi Trailer sized aquarium, and explore in touch tanks full of Missouri River fish and turtles
  • Entertainment: Sit back and enjoy watching archery competitions, dog shows, a lumber jack show and more, or take a boat tour on the Missouri!
  • Annual Kids Cookoff: Kids ages 5-10 will compete in a BBQ Quesadilla Competition, held both Saturday and Sunday. Registration is at 10am, and at 10:15am, 10 kids' names will be drawn to compete. Then at 11am, kids aged 11-15 will compete to make stick pies! All ingredients will be provided and creations will be judged on taste, creativity, and cooking technique.
  • The Kids' Zone: The Kids Zone features live animals, furs and skulls, science experiments, a water table, sound wall, and more!
  • Cowboy Camp: In Cowboys Camp, kids can meet a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator, see real Teddy Roosevelt artifacts, and try their hand at branding!

What to bring to the Missouri River Outdoor Expo with Kids

For a day at the expo, I suggest bringing:
  • Diaper changing supplies including a changing mat
  • Clothes and shoes that you and your kids can feel comfortable being active and getting dirty in
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen & hats
  • Life jackets if you plan on boating
  • Cash for food trucks and other vendors
  • Camera!

More details about the Missouri River Outdoor Expo

For more information, check out The Missouri River Expo website and Facebook page. Have fun in Ponca!


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