City of Bedford
City chic or country charm? You’ll feel at home either way in Bedford because this city of 214,000 nestled somewhere in the Midwest offers a bustling urban center within a thirty-minute drive of peaceful forests and beautiful bluffs.
According to local historians, the area was originally frequented only by hunters and campers until Ridley Wellington, the youngest member of one of Boston’s wealthiest families, embarked on a cross-country sabbatical upon his return from France in World War II. Young Wellington found peace and solitude camping along the western shore of the lake near Paradise Mountain, but when his father took ill, his older brother, Nigel, tracked him down to encourage him to return to Boston. Where Ridley saw only beauty and tranquility, Nigel saw opportunity. He arranged the purchase of the land on the western lakeshore, built a resort, and marketed rustic getaways to wealthy residents of Chicago, Milwaukee, and other Midwestern cities. Those who stayed all summer longed for the fine dining and cultural distractions of home, prompting Nigel and his friends to develop the east side of what became Lake Wellington, and Bedford was born. Each year, a two-day festival commemorates Bedford’s incorporation on August 13, 1948, a year after the wide release of It’s a Wonderful Life. Though Nigel Wellington campaigned for the city to take his family’s name, founders chose Bedford because they envisioned it would offer the same sense of family, community, and hope depicted in Frank Capra’s Christmas classic.
If you’re a foodie, you’ll find ample fine dining choices in Bedford, but menus at many restaurants lean toward the comfort food residents love. Thin crust pizza is king, but it’s cut in squares rather than the large, foldable slices you’d find in New York. And locals also love hot dogs, but unlike Chicago, it’s not a sin to use ketchup in Bedford.
Downtown Bedford is home to many cultural attractions, including the Museum of Art, the Civic Opera, and the Bedford Symphony. For a quieter distraction, Veterans Memorial Park features a fountain, botanic garden, aquarium, and planetarium. The Riverview District boasts upscale boutiques, fine dining, luxury hotels, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and a river walk. There is also an amusement park and indoor water park.
Ideally located along the shores of beautiful Lake Wellington, Bedford has several sand beaches, as well as paved paths for walking, jogging, or biking. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy biking, boating, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, sailing, and swimming. Autumn brings lush colors for leaf peepers, and though they can’t rival the Rockies, the bluffs of Paradise Mountain are high enough for skiing, snowboarding, and sledding in winter.
Getting around town is a breeze thanks to Bedford’s Regional Alternative Transportation system. Though the acronym is unfortunate, the RAT is extremely efficient, and offers train and bus service to all major attractions, including Lincoln International Airport, which is served by several major airlines.