Nebraska Attractions You Have to Visit!
Nebraska, located in the Midwest of the US is well known for it’s vast rolling plains and cornfields. However, there is so much more to see than meets the eye. As you explore this wonderful state you’ll start to appreciate all the historical landmarks such as hundred year old bridges and gothic buildings. If the urban scene is more to your liking, the three major cities, Omaha, Lincoln, and Bellevue are known for their nightlife, excellent entertainment, restaurants, and sights.
Nebraska has always been an underrated state in the US to explore. However, it has just as many things to see and do as the other 49 states. As you plan your next adventure, take a look at all the amazing activities one can do in Nebraska and consider heading off to the cornhusker state.
Best Nebraska Attractions and Activities
Things To Do in Nebraska by City
An eclectic mix of city life, urban culture, and rural communities is ever-present. Whether you are looking for an adventure in the big city or want to become one with nature, here is a look at amazing things to do in Nebraska.
Chimney Rock is an unusual sandstone formation that stands at a colossal height of 300 feet. The towering pillar formation of igneous rock is hard to miss when visiting the North Platte Valley.
In addition to being an important landmark in Nebraska, Chimney Rock is held in high regard by the Native American population. You can climb the rock to take panoramic views of the state or walk thee many hiking trails that provide adventure regardless of skill level. Other activities include bird watching, close encounters with wildlife, or taking an elevator to the top.
Note that Chimney Rock and its surrounding areas are far removed from big box stores, chain restaurants, and towering resorts. The suburban community has a rural charm about them. Visiting Chimney Rock is all about connecting with nature and getting to see amazing views on various hike trails.
Cap your trip by shopping at unique stores to collect souvenirs and mementos of the place. Don’t forget to try the local cuisine and craft beer inside the towns’ first brewery. Whether you are looking for a family retreat, a romantic escape, or unplugging from city life, Chimney Rock is the ideal place for your getaway.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is one of Nebraska’s best places to visit. Children and grown-ups alike will enjoy their time at the zoo, exploring 160 acres of land filled with flora and fauna. This unique facility is a unique combination of the world’s largest indoor jungle, the largest nocturnal exhibit, and the world’s largest indoor desert.
A must-see aquarium lets you come up close and personal with stingrays and other aquatic species. Book a camel ride for a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
The Henry Doorly Zoo was founded in 1894, making it one of the oldest zoos in the world. Today, it is home to over 1000 animal species, including lions, monkeys, stingrays – you name it. This popular zoo also features the largest geodesic dome on the planet, which has become a landmark in its own right.
Once you’re done petting animals and riding camels, stop by the theater to watch movies and documentaries that give you a detour of the zoo. Visitors can also take a train to cover the zoo a little faster. Or you can book a ride on an open chairlift to take in sweeping views several feet in the air.
Old Market in Omaha
The Old Market in Omaha offers a perfect pit stop to history buffs who want to time travel several hundred years into the past to see what the city may have looked like in its formative years. Old Market is dotted with renovated old buildings and cobblestone streets from the 19th century, Old Market provides a unique experience for travelers.
There are several places to wine, dine, and shop at the Old Market. And if you visit the city in the warmer months, you’ll find the acclaimed farmer’s market. There’s more to the OLd Market than vintage restaurants though, you can check out art galleries and upscale shopping centers for souvenirs of the place.
We recommend checking out the Old Market by horse-drawn carriages that will take you from one establishment to the next.
Indian Cave State Park
Just along the Missouri River in southeast Nebraska sits this 3,400-acre park that offers stunning and intriguing rock formations. Centuries ago, these caves were occupied by Native Americans and pioneers during their travels. Also, the Native American caves are filled with log cabins and petroglyphs documenting the natural landscape and wildlife of the walls.
The petroglyphs are particularly intriguing because they contain a snapshot of Nebraska’s history. Moreover, the surrounding landscape lends well to adventurous trails that allow for camping and hiking.
There are nearly twenty-two miles of hiking trails catered to every skill level. Make sure to refer to the local map to cover trails that wind their way around major highlights of the park. You can also bring your RV here to rent campgrounds at any one of the 134 RV sites full of amenities and water. These campgrounds must be booked online.
Carhenge is the funkier side of Nebraska and serves as a parody of England’s Stonehenge, hence the term ‘carhenge’. 39 cars have been strategically arranged in different positions to perfectly reflect Stonehenge, such that the summer solstice happens here exactly like it does in England.
While Carhenge is the site’s main attraction, there are other examples of car art on the grounds. One intriguing artwork is a metal fish that is jutting from the ground. The best part about Carhenge is that it is a free attraction. Don’t forget to shop at the local gift store called the Pit Stop to buy all kinds of artifacts and memorabilia to remember this place.
Channel the inner cowboy in you by making your way across the 195 mail cowboy trail. It isn’t crowded, and you may have the entire trail and skies to yourself. The trail does see some activity.
It can be covered on foot, motorized vehicles, and even horseback. We recommend traveling from west to east to ensure strong winds are at your back. Make sure to check out the official website at bikecowboytrail.com to learn about the trail conditions before planning your trip.
Tucked in the Gold Coast Historic District of Omaha is the Scottish Baronial mansion called Joslyn Castle. It was constructed in 1903 for George Joslyn, a wealthy Omaha businessman. The towering mansion comprises four stories and has 35 rooms, complete with a carriage house tower. It is surrounded by five acres of formal gardens and greenhouses.
The gardens are filled with rare orchids, even though a fierce tornado ripped through them in 1913. This multi-level facility is now open to the public and has a reception hall, music room, library, and ballroom. The towering Joslyn Castle is a popular hall venue for weddings and other events.
Scotts Bluff National Monument
Scotts Bluff National Monument offers a variety of gear attractions and activities, including imposing rock formations, natural landmarks, and ancient fossils. It was inhabited by Native Americans and pioneers making their way west on the California trails.
A key attraction is the weekends when rangers dress in period costumes to roam various areas of the park, providing treasured stories from the past. This national monument was found in 1919 and covers over 3000 acres of land. Today, it has gone through countless renovations and improvements. Visitors can take a winding road and three tunnels that lead to higher elevations.
There are hiking trails of various skill levels that can be taken to explore nature. Less adventurous visitors can also book a ride on the summit shuttle to reach the top of the monument and walk on foot on their way back.
Strategic Air and Space Museum
Aviation enthusiasts should add this museum to their travel itinerary because there is much to explore. The museum contains one of the largest collections of aircraft and spacecraft in the state. It was first opened in 1959 and served as the Strategic Air Command and was turned into a museum in later years.
Some of the major highlights of the museum include the B-25N “Mitchell”, the MIG-215F “Fishbed-C” and the B-17G “Flying Fortress”. Outside the building are several imposing Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) that were designed for the specific purpose of delivering nuclear warheads. They have been decommissioned and haven’t been used once.
Stop by the onsite planetarium to check out astronomy exhibitions and book motion rides (for a fee). The motion rides stimulate what it feels like in a roller coaster and helicopter. You can visit the museum with friends, coworkers, a partner, or kids.
The museum is open every day to visitors.
Veterans Memorial Park
Veterans Memorial Park pays homage to the hundreds of men and women who died serving in the Armed Forces. It is free to visit by tourists throughout the year. It is filled with many bronze sculptures of soldiers around the park. It was designed by Fred Hoppe, a Nebraska native who wanted to celebrate the contributions of the brave soldiers in the army.
A major attraction is an iconic sculpture of a soldier on a bent knee. It was modeled after Ralph Groten, an airborne paratrooper from WWII. Groten and his three friends were separated during the D-Day invasion in 1944. Legend has it that Groten searched far and wide for his friend, often kneeling on one knee to check for their tags on the remains of bodies. He eventually learned that all three of his friends were killed in battle.
This and many other war stories are encapsulated across the dozens of sculptures and plaques throughout the park.
Sandhill Crane Migration
One of the most epic spectacles in Nebraska is getting the chance to witness the sandhill crane migration. It is the perfect spot for avian enthusiasts who flock to Central Nebraska to witness the migration.
Here’s how it goes. Every year, nearly 500,000 (or more) sandhill cranes (comprising 80% of all the cranes on the planet) congregate along the central Platte River in Nebraska to prepare for their journey to their nesting grounds in the Arctic. This migration serves as one of the world’s greatest wildlife experiences, very similar to the migrations of wildebeest.
But there are more than just sandhill cranes to see here. There are at least 257 different varieties of birds observed, with some of these being endangered (including bald eagles whooping cranes).
There are a few major spots for sandhill crane viewing. The most important of these is Kearney, also known as the Sandhill Crane Capital of the world. Experts agree that the vast majority of cranes will congregate here.
You can also see the cranes in places like North Platte and Grand Island.
Niobrara National Scenic River
The Niobrara National Scenic River is one of the best places for water activities throughout Nebraska. Tourists visit the river for its varied wildlife, fish, and recreational activities, including canoeing. You can spot all kinds of wildlife, including river otters, beavers, and deer.
The mellow water currents of the river are well suited to activities such as kayaking and canoeing. Tubing is a popular activity at the Niobrara River, and many companies have propped up to provide tube rentals to visitors.
If nothing else, you could rent a boat to enjoy the calm waters with your family.
Lauritzen Garden is a 100-acre facility with temperate and tropical gardens on display. It is dedicated to providing a place for florists from around the world to learn more about plants, gardening, and more. There are outdoor gardens and indoor gardens that cover nearly every plant species on the planet.
Visitors can stroll through romantic rose grades, fragrant Victorian gardens, a children’s garden, and a unique railroad garden. The conservatory will take you anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to fully explore on foot.
There are several exhibits to explore here, whether you are traveling with a group by yourself, or with children. But there’s more to Lauritzen Gardens than flowers. You can participate in tai chi, photography, and cooking activities. There is a scavenger hunt where you can identify insects, plants, and other mysteries in the garden. Lauritzen Gardens is the perfect place to bond with friends and family.
Lincoln’s Children’s Zoo
Lincoln’s Children’s Zoo is one of the most popular family attractions in Nebraska, receiving millions of visitors every year. The 10-acre zoo was originally opened in 1965 to protect endangered animal species. It is highly popular among children and has consistently been rated as the best zoo in the nation for children by Parent Magazine.
More than 400 different animals are showcased throughout the zoo, and they are placed within natural ecosystems that mimic their original habitats. Among the zoo’s most impressive exhibits include the tigers, cheetahs, anteaters, and elephants.
The zoo continues to add new animals every year. Other interactions include the Splash Stream, where children can play and create in a water area that is a few inches deep.
Although Nebraska is a landlocked state, it isn’t deprived of beaches. Visit Lake McConaughy for miles upon miles of white sand beaches and gives you an opportunity to take part in all kinds of water activities. Over the years, it has grown into one of the most popular vacation spots in Nebraska for beachgoers.
Locals lovingly refer to the beach as Lake Mac. It stretches 20 miles long and four miles wide. The lake is a man-made body of water and was formed by Kingsley Dam, which was constructed in 1941. The water to the lake comes from the North Platte River
It may be man-made, but the lake is a great destination for anyone who wants to enjoy activities with their friends and families. It can get very crowded on occasion and you will see many people hanging out at the beach. Anyone can visit the lake for free.
Papio Fun Park
Visit Papio Fun Park for some raw, unadulterated fun-filled activities – it’s in the name! It is one of the best places in Nebraska to explore with kids. Popular activities include laser tag, arcade games, go-kart racing, mini-golf, and a water park. Pricing for entry to the park starts at $10 and will give you access to various activities.
It is a great way to unwind and relax before heading back to nature. The park is open throughout the year, although certain activities, such as go-karting, may be seasonal.
Nebraska is full of beautiful landmarks, imposing mountains, delicious food, entertaining parks, and varied wildlife. Despite being landlocked, the state is home to a few beaches as well. There are plenty of state parks that provide a wide range of outdoor activities like kayaking, camping, biking, hiking, etc. Happy Exploring!