Last question - do public universities open their scopes up to the public on scheduled nights? Thought that might be fun with her... Thanks again everyone for your help!!
I'm glad things are going better for you, Adam. I'm someone who really loves a red dot (or reticle) finder. I use it in addition to the standard finderscope. With the red dot (which also must be aligned with the telescope, just like the finder), it's easy and intuitive to just point it at the place you want to look. And in order to find the objects you want to look at, it's super-important to learn the constellations and their locations in your night sky. You don't have to learn all of them at once, but start with the more prominent ones. Then, you can look at a star chart, see what objects you might like to see that are near that constellation, and use its stars to point the way for you.
As to your question above, it would be helpful if you would include your location in your user profile. People who live nearby can then recommend some places you could go or clubs close to you. Most clubs have some kind of regular public viewing nights where many members would be set up with many different kinds of scopes you could look through.
Finally, yes, an 8" Dob would open up a lot more as far as what you can see. If it's within your budget, the Orion Intelliscope has a push-to feature that makes it easy to find objects. It's not a motorized go-to telescope, but it does have a computerized handset that tells you which way to push, up, down, left, right, to find an object.