There’s More to Nebraska than Corn: 17 Top Things to Do

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Farm in Blair Nebraska
Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

Nebraska is a state rich in history, beauty and adventure. Located in the heart of the Great Plains, the “Cornhusker State” is filled with unique attractions, natural wonders and world-class museums. Explore the state’s national parks, try your hand at fishing and boating on the Missouri River or take a hike in one of Nebraska’s many nature preserves.

For those who prefer the city life, this Midwest state has much to offer. Tour the state’s many museums, explore the unique shops and restaurants of Omaha and Lincoln. Enjoy a day at the Henry Doorly Zoo or explore the Old Market in Lincoln.

To help you plan your next trip, here are the top attractions in Nebraska.

Gorilla at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha Nebraska
The gorilla exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo is one of its most popular attractions. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

1. Explore the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

3701 S 10th St.

At Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, visitors can explore exciting exhibits, catch educational shows and ride on an animal-themed carousel. Spread across 160 acres, the zoo features animals from all over the world. Check out exhibits such as the Asian Highlands, the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium and the Hubbarb Orangutan Forest.

One of the most popular exhibits is the Desert Dome, the world’s largest indoor desert. It features animals and plants from deserts in southern Africa, Australia and the southwest United States. The zoo is also home to a screen theater and a stingray beach. Those tired of walking can take a train, a tram or a skifari.

2. Stroll through the Old Market

Downtown Omaha

The Old Market in downtown Omaha, Nebraska is a vibrant, historic district filled with unique shops, restaurants and galleries. Here you can find a variety of unique items including antiques, locally made crafts, jewelry, clothing and souvenirs. There are also a variety of restaurants and cafés to choose from.

Visitors can take a self-guided tour or join a guided tour to learn more about the history of this 19th century district. More about the area’s historic buildings can be found here. If you don’t know where to start, head to the Omaha Visitor Center and chat with some city experts.

3. Hike in Scotts Bluff National Monument

190276 Old Oregon Trail
Gering, Nebraska

Scotts Bluff National Monument is a stunning 3,000-acre national park in western Nebraska. Located on bluffs overlooking the North Platte River Valley, the monument offers spectacular views of the surrounding plains.

The area also has a rich history. It has served Native Americans as well as travelers on the Oregon and Mormon trail. To see some of the original routes these travelers took, explore the Oregon Trail Pathway starting at the Scotts Bluff Visitor Center. The park also has a variety of other trails and two summit overlooks.

4. Visit the Durham Museum

801 S 10th St.
Omaha, Nebraska

The Durham Museum is an old Union Station that has been converted into a museum. The museum is known for its collection of artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of the city and its people. The museum’s permanent exhibits include train cars from the 40s and 50s, model trains and a replica of a 1915 grocery store.

The museum also has a variety of special events, including concerts and drop-in activities. Check out the museum’s calendar to see what’s happening during your visit. Museum tickets are $13 for adults and youth and $7 for kids 12 and under.

5. Explore Toadstool Geological Park

Crawford, Nebraska

Toadstool Geological Park is a geological wonder located in the Oglala National Grasslands of northwestern Nebraska. Also known as the Nebraska Badlands, the area features bizarre mushroom-shaped rock formations.

The park is a great destination for nature lovers, photographers and geologists alike. Visitors can explore the unique rock formations, take in the stunning views of the surrounding hills and valleys, and enjoy the tranquility of the park. There are also opportunities for camping.

6. See the Archway

Kearney, Nebraska

The Archway in Nebraska is an interactive museum and monument that commemorates the historic route of the Oregon, California and Mormon trails and stretches across Interstate 80.

Through interactive exhibits, visitors can learn about the history of the trails and the pioneers who traveled them. Visitors can also explore interactive kiosks and multimedia displays.

Kearney also is on the Experience One of the Earth’s Greatest Migrations

Every year from mid/late February to mid April, one million Sandhill Cranes migrate on the Platte River Valley in order to ‘fuel up’ before resuming their northward migration. Read on to learn more.

7. Check out Carhenge

Alliance, Nebraska

Carhenge is a replica of Stonehenge made out of 39 vintage cars. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state. Visitors can explore the monument and take pictures with the unique structure.

In addition to Carhenge itself, there are a variety of other car art sculptures on display.

8. Visit the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum

28210 W Park Hwy
Ashland, Nebraska

The Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the United States Air Force. The museum covers more than 300,000 square feet and features an extensive collection of aircraft and artifacts, primarily from the Cold War era.

The museum also features a flight simulator, a museum store and a lunch café.

The Nebraska State Capitol building. Photo courtesy of the Nebraska State Tourism Commission.

9. Check out the Nebraska State Capitol

1445 K St
Lincoln, Nebraska

The Nebraska State Capitol is the center of state government in Lincoln. The capitol building is known for its grand architecture, which includes a 400-foot tall tower, impressive dome and the 19-foot bronze sculpture that sits atop the building. The inside of the building is decorated with mosaics, murals, statues and lots of other art.

There are free guided tours of the building and a gift shop in the south hall. For some panoramic views of the city, head up to the 14th-floor observation deck.

10. Explore the Niobrara State Park

89261 522 Ave
Niobrara, Nebraska

The Niobrara State Park is one of many awesome Nebraska state parks and a great destination for outdoor lovers. Located along the Niobrara river, the park offers 14 miles of hiking trails and is a great place to go camping, fishing, swimming and horseback riding.

There are also plenty of opportunities to observe wildlife, including deer, beavers, muskrats and wild turkeys. In the summer, the park hosts Buffalo cookouts, complete with cowboy poets, storytellers and other types of entertainment.

11. Climb up the Golden Spike Tower

1249 N Homestead Road
North Platte, Nebraska

The Golden Spike Tower is a must-see attraction for train lovers. Located in North Platte, the tower draws about 30,000 visitors each year. This attraction highlights the Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard, the world’s largest railroad classification yard.

Visitors can explore one of two observation decks, which provide a bird’s eye view of the yard. There are also a variety of interactive displays and exhibits on the railroad’s history in addition to a gift shop with lots of train-themed souvenirs.

Nebraska road sign
One million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day in 1872. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

12. Relax in the Lauritzen Gardens

100 Bancroft St
Omaha, Nebraska

This stunning botanical oasis offers visitors a unique and peaceful escape. It features a variety of plants and flowers that are worth seeing all year round. Visitors can explore the gardens and take a narrated tram between April and October.

The gardens also boast educational programs and a calendar with shows, live music and more. There is an onsite gift shop and a café for those looking to grab a quick bite to eat.

13. Explore Indian Cave State Park

65296 720 Rd
Shubert, Nebraska

Indian Cave State Park is a public recreation area covering 3,052 acres. The park is known for its sandstone formations and its scenic trails. One of the park’s most famous landmarks is the Indian Cave, which bears Native American petroglyphs.

Bordering the Missouri River, the park is a popular destination for biking, fishing and hiking. There are also campgrounds, making it a great overnight destination. And don’t forget to pack your camera to capture the park’s diverse wildlife, which includes deer, beavers, raccoons and many species of birds.

14. Visit the Lincoln Children’s Zoo

1222 S 27th St
Lincoln, Nebraska

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is dedicated to conservation and providing an immersive, educational experience for all its visitors. It is home to more than 400 animals from around the world, including crocodiles, cheetahs, penguins and camels.

Visitors can feed giraffes and watch live animal shows. There are also plenty of opportunities to rest and have a bite to eat.

15. Take Pictures at Chimney Rock National Historic Site

9822 County Road 75
Bayard, Nebraska

Chimney Rock National Historic Site is located in central Nebraska and is one of the most iconic landmarks in the state. The site contains a unique geological formation – a 325-foot rock spire – that was a popular landmark for settlers crossing the prairie in the 19th century.

Visitors can photograph the rock formation and learn about the history of the Native Americans who lived in the area. The nearby visitors center has exhibits about the area’s early history, as well as information about the local wildlife.

16. The Cowboy Trail

Norfolk to Valentine, Nebraska

The 195-mile Cowboy Trail in Nebraska connects Norfolk in the east to Valentine in the west. The route follows the old Chicago and Northwestern Railway corridor, but is primarily used for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

17. Watch the Sandhill Crane Migration

Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary
44450 Elm Island Rd
Gibbon, Nebraska

Each year from mid February through mid April, one million Sandhill Cranes stop in the Platte River Valley to fuel up on their migration north for the summer.

You can watch the great migration from one of the public viewing areas or book a tour through the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary beginning at 9am CST on Jan. 4, 2023. Reservations may be made online or by calling 308-468-5282.

Adina Keeling is a freelance travel writer from San Diego, CA. She worked in local news for a year until her wanderlust drew her to Costa Rica, where she is now based while freelancing and traveling the world. She has lived in three different countries and traveled to 27. An avid solo traveler, Adina wants to empower other women to safely travel alone.
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