A lot of people think that the midwest is filled with flyover states. Just squares on the map that connect the east coast to the west coast. But that’s not true. I’m here to tell you that the Midwest is far from boring, especially Nebraska. So I’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Nebraska based on my lifetime of exploring this great state.
This list is constantly updated, so make sure that you bookmark this page for future reference.
When is the Best Time to Visit Nebraska?
The best time to visit really depends on the type of explorer you are. Do you like to be outdoors, do you prefer history & museums, do you love football? These are just a few factors that go into planning your trip to The Good Life. The easiest way to explain what it is like here, and to recommend when you should visit, is to break it down by season.
The midwest during springtime is filled with anticipation. The earth is starting to turn green and you can start to see the first blooms of the year. You might even see those fresh blooms covered in snow because, well, Nebraska weather.
But the real attraction to Nebraska in the springtime is the Sandhill Crane Migration. Over a quarter of a million birds stopover along the Platte River between February and April, returning from their winter in the Florida region. Watching the Sandhill Cranes migrate home is something that everyone needs to see at least once in their lifetime. It is truly a magnificent experience.
Something else that you will see if you visit in late spring is all of the farmers planting their crops. You can witness firsthand the food being planted that will help feed the world. It is a beautiful sight that makes you appreciate all of their hard work just a little more!
Summertime is for all of the outdoor lovers. I have one word for you, tanking! What is tanking, you ask? It’s where you put a picnic table in a cattle tank, then put the tank in the river, and you float down the river with all of your friends and drinks of choice. This is a Nebraska staple and it’s a must do during the summer.
Other options for summer fun while visiting are horseback riding, canoeing/kayaking down the Niobrara, college baseball games, hiking, and so much more that we will get into below.
One of the best things about traveling is experiencing food that will blow your taste buds away. I have compiled a list of the best restaurants in Nebraska so you have some help deciding where to eat next!
If you want the ultimate Nebraska experience, then I recommend coming in the Fall. The weather is still warm enough in early fall to enjoy the summertime activities, but the icing on the cake is attending a Husker football game. It doesn’t matter if you don’t enjoy football, or if the Huskers aren’t your team. You will not find a nicer crowd of fans that are just there to watch a good game and have a great time. The energy and excitement at Memorial Stadium is one of a kind.
If you’re visiting during wintertime then touring one of Nebraska’s excellent museums or discovering a great local brewery is what I recommend. Catch a broadway show at the Orpheum in Omaha after a day filled with shopping. Then end the evening with a nightcap at a quaint local bar.
What are the Best Things to do in Nebraska?
Nebraska has a lot to offer when it comes to quality attractions, unique stops and overall good times! I’ve broken down the best things to do by region to help you plan your visit to our great state.
Southeast Nebraska Region
We are going to kick this list off in Omaha, Nebraska’s largest city. Omaha, and its surrounding areas, has the most attractions to explore during your visit to Nebraska.
Henry Doorly Zoo
The Henry Doorly Zoo is one of the world’s top zoos and features the world’s largest indoor desert and the largest aquarium in a zoo. There is no age restriction on the fun you will have here! Spend an entire day exploring, learning and having a great time.
You can learn more about the Henry Doorly Zoo on their website.
Photo courtesy of the Henry Doorly Zoo.
Step back in time the instant you enter the Durham Museum, which used to be the old Union Station, and learn all about the history of Nebraska. From the 1898 world’s fair to the infamous Omaha Stock yards, you will be surprised at how much history comes out of Nebraska.
Don’t forget to stop at the Soda Fountain and Candy Shop for an old fashioned ice cream soda.
Visit the Durham Museum website for more information.
Photo courtesy of the Durham Museum’s Facebook page.
Omaha’s Old Market is like taking a stroll through history. The large red brick buildings were saved from condemnation by visionary Samuel Mercer and repurposed into the vibrant storefronts and restaurants that we love today. You will love spending your weekend in Omaha’s Old Market!
Visit the Old Market website for more information.
Photo courtesy of visitomaha.org.
If you love learning about the place you’re visiting then a guided tour is exactly what you need. Explore the history, art and culinary world of Omaha with a variety of specialized tours offered.
You can choose from walking, chauffeured, or self-guided tours.
Visit the Nebraska Tour Company website for more information.
Photo courtesy of nebraskatourcompany.com
TD Ameritrade Park & the College World Series
It doesn’t matter where you are, summer is complete without catching a live baseball game. Bonus points if you can make it during the College World Series and really see TD Ameritrade Park at its peak.
Visit the TD Ameritrade Park website for more information.
Visit the College World Series website for more information.
Photo courtesy of hdrinc.com
For over 90 years, patrons of the arts have been flocking to Omaha’s Orpheum Theater to enjoy broadway performances, musicals, and concerts. Watching a performance here is the perfect way to spend an evening in Omaha.
Visit the Orpheum Theater website for more information.
Photo of courtesy of Omaha.com
Holland Performing Arts Center
Another staple in Omaha’s art scene is the Holland Center. Here you can catch concerts and symphonies for all ages.
Visit the Holland Center website for more information.
Photo courtesy of visitomaha.com
Joslyn Art Museum
The Joslyn Art Museum offers over 11,000 works of art representing artists and cultures from antiquity to the present. Their permanent and temporary exhibitions are expertly curated and the sculpture gardens are absolutely breathtaking.
Visit the Joslyn Art Museum website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Omaha.com.
The Joslyn Castle, built in 1903, serves as a reminder of the philanthropic contributions to Omaha by original residents, George & Sarah Joslyn. You can tour 3 of the 4 levels of the castle or just enjoy the grounds and gardens that are free to the public.
The Joslyn Castle is also available for private events.
Visit the Joslyn Castle website for more information.
Photo courtesy of theblackstonedistrict.com.
Omaha Children’s Museum
The Omaha Children’s Museum has been engaging children’s imaginations since 1976. Spend an afternoon here with your kids and watch their excitement about learning explode!
Visit the Omaha Children’s Museum website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Omaha Children’s Museum.
Looking to escape the city scene and get a little more nature in your life? The Lauritzen Gardens provide plant displays that will have you forgetting you’re in Nebraska. Enjoy the beauty and tranquility that these gardens have to offer.
Visit the Lauritzen Gardens website for more information.
Photo courtesy of nebraskatravelerguide.com
St. Cecilia Cathedral & Cultural Center
Built in 1907, this cathedral is a creative masterpiece. With nearly 80 foot ceilings in the cathedral, a museum and art gallery, there is so much to see and more than meets the eye!
Visit the St. Cecilia website for more information.
Photo courtesy of stcecialcathedral.org
World’s Largest Ball of Stamps
If you love to see the “weird” tourist attractions in each state, then you have to see the World’s Largest Ball of Stamps in Boys Town. While you’re there, you can learn more about the history of Boys Town through their village and tours.
Visit the Leon Myers Stamp Center website for more information.
Photo courtesy of findyourstampsvalue.com
Ashland is just a short 25 mile drive from Omaha and features three of Nebraska’s most popular places to visit.
Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum
With over 300,000 square feet of exhibit space, the SAC Museum tells the story of how the Strategic Air Command played a critical role in preserving peace during the Cold War. Their state-of-the-art facility also creates a space for aircraft restoration and preservation, and also houses historical artifacts that are a must see.
Visit the SAC Museum website for more information.
Photo courtesy of sacmuseum.org
Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari
Nebraska’s Safari Park was named one of the Top 10 Safari Parks in the country by USA Today! This stop is a must for all of the outdoor lovers.
Visit the Nebraska Wildlife Safari website for more information.
Photo courtesy of the Nebraska Wildlife Safari Facebook page.
Mahoney State Park
You can enjoy Mahoney State Park all year long with their endless list of activities and places to stay. A few activities include golfing, hiking, swimming in the aquatic center, horseback trail rides, sledding, ice skating, and so much more.
Visit the Mahoney State Park website for more information.
Photo courtesy of outdoornebraska.gov
Lincoln offers so much more than Husker football games. There is an energy in Lincoln that makes you feel excited to be there and welcome all at the same time.
If you are looking for more things to do in Lincoln, check out this complete guide!
The Sunken Gardens are built on what used to be a 1.5 acre dump site in the middle of Lincoln. The land was donated, the city paid a group of unemployed men to do the work and the outcome was beautiful. These gardens are a testament to philanthropy, kindness and a love of nature.
For more information visit the Lincoln Parks Foundation website.
Photo courtesy of visitnebraska.org.
Morrill Hall Museum at UNL
Morrill Hall is home to the world’s largest fully mounted and composite Colombian mammoth fossil. This natural history museum features four floors of interactive activities and exhibits for all ages to enjoy. Visiting Morrill Hall is a must on your Nebraska bucket list.
Visit Morrill Hall’s website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Lincoln Children’s Museum
Let your children play to the hearts content in the Lincoln Children’s Museum. Offering three floors of hands-on exhibits and imaginative programs, the museum hopes to spark joy and creativity in your child.
Visit the Lincoln Children’s Museum website for more information.
Photo courtesy of nebraskamuseums.org.
Spend an afternoon strolling through Lincoln’s Haymarket district. Do some shopping, eat some great food, or grab a drink at one of the many establishments located in the heart of Lincoln. If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t forget about their amazing farmer’s market available on Saturday.
Visit the Lincoln Haymarket website for more information.
Photo courtesy of chiefdevelopment.build
Connected to the Haymarket, the Railyard is filled with great places to eat, drink and have a great time. The Railyard hosts events all year long, including an ice skating rink in the winter. You can even watch major sporting events, like Husker Football, on their larger than life big screen.
Visite the Railyard’s website for more information.
Photo courtesy of the Downtown Lincoln Association.
Husker Football Game
You have not experienced all Nebraska has to offer if you have not attended a Husker football game. Get lost in the sea of red and take in all of the energy that emanates from Memorial Stadium.
Visit the Husker football website for more information.
Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Journal Star.
Lincoln Children’s Zoo
The Lincoln Children’s Zoo was created as a place for families to spend a day getting to be closer to nature and animals. Home to over 350 animals, your children will have plenty to explore and enjoy at this family friendly zoo.
Visit the Lincoln Children’s Zoo website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Zoo With Us.
The remaining attractions on this list are located in various communities in Nebraska.
Indian Cave State Park
Located in Shubert, Indian Cave State Park is named for its large sandstone cave. With over 3,000 acres, there is plenty of room for hiking, biking and camping. Enjoy your time here taking in nature, watching the wildlife and viewing the park’s living history. They also offer seasonal events for all ages.
Visit the Indian Cave State Park website for more information.
Photo courtesy of outdoornebraska.gov.
Homestead National Monument
Located in Beatrice, Homestead National Monument is a dedication to all of the homesteaders who made their way west and settled in Nebraska as part of the Homestead Act of 1862.
Visit the Homestead National Monument website for more information.
Photo courtesy of GWWO Architects.
Arbor Day Farm
Located in Nebraska City, Arbor Day Farm sits on 260 acres filled with activities and education for everyone. Explore the history of Arbor Day and enjoy a day in nature.
Visit the Arbor Day Farm website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Arbor Day Farm.
Wessels Living History Farm
Located in York, Wessels Living History Farm is the place to stop if you have always wondered what it was like to spend the day on a real farm. Wanting to preserve the “simple life of a farmer”, Dave Wessels created this place so that everyone could experience the joy of being outside, tending your animals and crops and seeing the fruits of your labor.
Visit the Wessels Living History Farm website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Wessels Living History Farm.
Northeast Nebraska Region
Ashfall Fossil Beds
Located in Royal, the Ashfall Fossil Beds are an extension of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 1991, the skeleton of a rhinoceros was unearthed, and for the following 9 years, more skeletons emerged. During the summer months, you can see the fossils that were discovered and talk with the paleontologists on staff.
Visit the Ashfall Fossil Beds’ website for more information.
Photo courtesy of outdoornebraska.gov
The Cowboy Trail
Spanning 321 miles from Norfolk to Chadron (only the 192 miles between Norfolk and Valentine is paved with a limestone surface), the Cowboy Trail is the largest Rails-to-Trails project in the country. Open to walkers, bikers and horseback riders, the trail is a scenic stroll through Nebraska. Don’t worry, you can get off at any time!
Visit the Cowboy Trail website or Outdoor Nebraska for more information.
Photo courtesy of visitvalentine.org.
Neligh Mill State Historic Site
Located in Neligh, this is the only mill in Nebraska that still has all of its original equipment intact from the 1880s. Enjoy a guided tour of the mill and learn about its original uses and how it was a vital part of the Neligh community.
Visit the Neligh Mill website for more information.
Photo courtesy of nebraska.gov.
Central Nebraska Region
Spanning 76 miles, the Niobrara River is one of very few US rivers designated under the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. Float down the river in your tank, canoe, kayak or tube and enjoy the bluffs, waterfalls, wildlife and scenery!
Visit the Niobrara River’s website for more information.
Photo courtesy of americanrivers.org.
Smith Falls State Park
Just off the Niobrara River is Smith Falls, Nebraska’s highest waterfall. Located in the state park where you can enjoy camping, hiking and other outdoor activities. It may not be the largest waterfall that you will ever see in your life, but it is still beautiful.
Visit the Smith Falls State Park website for more information.
Photo courtesy of outdoornebraska.gov.
Valentine National Wildlife Refuge
Enjoy hunting, fishing, bird watching, hiking and environmental education while visiting the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.
Visit the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.
Nebraska Star Party
Do you love astronomy? Or maybe you just want to spend an evening under the stars? The Nebraska Star Party is a week long even filled with fun activities during the day & night. Perfect for astronomers of all ages and experience levels.
Visit the Nebraska Star Party website for more information.
Photo courtesy of The Evening Show.
Scenic Drive through the Sandhills
Explore the natural wonder of Nebraska, the sandhills. Take a scenic drive from Grand Island to Alliance and discover the beauty of these sand dunes. Make it a road trip and discover what the small towns of Nebraska have to offer.
Visit the Visit Nebraska website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Visit Nebraska.
South Central Nebraska Region
Located in Hastings, this natural & cultural history museum also features a planetarium and theater. Spend a few hours learning more about the history of Nebraska, specifically Kool-Aid which was started in Hastings!
Visit the Hastings Museum website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Nebraska Museums Association.
Located in Kearney, The Archway was built to commemorate the original adventurers who traveled along the Great Platte River Road through Nebraska exploring America’s wild west. Here you’ll learn about the Oregon Trail, the Pony Express and so more.
Visit the Archway’s website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Visit Nebraska.
Sandhills Crane Migration
Over a quarter of a million birds stopover along the Platte River between February and April, returning from their winter in the Florida region. Watching the Sandhill Cranes migrate home is something that everyone needs to see at least once in their lifetime. It is truly a magnificent experience.
You can read more about the Sandhills Crane Migration here.
Photo courtesy of audubon.org.
West Central Nebraska Region
North Platte is filled with Nebraska history, and history of the old west. Below are a few must see attractions, but make sure to visit North Platte’s website for more information and activities.
Golden Spike Tower & Bailey Yard
Get a bird’s eye view of Union Pacific’s Bailey yard from the top of Golden Spike Tower. Bailey Yard is the largest railroad classification yard in the world. Spend some time here learning about the trains that “keep America moving.”
Visit the Golden Spike Tower website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Nebraska Traveler.
Buffalo Bill State Historical Park
The Buffalo Bill State Historical Park is the original 4,000 acre home of “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the famed Pony Express Rider, Union Scout and showman. His “mansion on the prairie” has been restored and filled with pieces that reflect how Cody would have had it furnished. Learn about the adventurous life of Buffalo Bill and his impact on the area.
Visit the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Nebraska Traveler.
Located in Alliance, Carhenge was created by Jim Reinders after a visit to the historic Stonehenge in England. Named a Travelers’ Choice Winner in 2020, Carhenge is just one of those things that you need to see once in your life.
Visit Carhenge’s website for more information.
Photo courtesy of NPR.
Scotts Bluff National Monument
Located near Gering, Scotts Bluff has served as a landmark for travelers dating from the original Native Americans who lived on this land, to emigrants traveling on the Oregon trail, to modern day travelers. There is a lot to see,discover and appreciate on this 3,000 acre National Monument site.
Visit the Scotts Bluff National Monument website for more information.
Photo courtesy of nps.gov.
Toadstool Geological Park
Located near Harrison, Toadstool Geological Park is a great place to go enjoy hiking, camping or just learning about the natural rock formations.
Visit the Toadstool Geological Park website for more information.
Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
Nebraska National Forest
Located near Halsey, the Nebraska National Forest is the largest man-made forest in North America. The forest is over 90,000 acres, with more than 22,000 of those acres containing hand-planted trees. Enjoy a weekend of camping, hiking, exploring and more at this forest on the sandhills!
Visit the Nebraska National Forest website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Crossroads of the Sandhills.
Located near Crawford, this 22,000 acre historical site is filled with history from the Old West to World War II. Enjoy about any outdoor activity under the sun during your stay at Fort Robinson, and learn more about the history that shaped our future.
Visit Fort Robinson’s website for more information.
Photo courtesy of nebraska.gov.
Located near Bayard, Chimney Rock was another landmark used by travelers making their way west on the Oregon, California and Mormon trails. Much like Carhenge, you need to see Chimney Rock at least once in your life while traveling through Nebraska.
Visit the Chimney Rock website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
I hope you now feel inspired to explore more of Nebraska and what our great state has to offer. Don’t let anybody ever tell you the Midwest is boring! And keep this page bookmarked as I am constantly updating it to make sure that the information is relevant!
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