Southeast Nebraska is my go-to for day trips since I’m based in Omaha. There are so many towns and cities in the region where you’ll stumble upon cute shops, amazing restaurants and scenic views. I’ve made a list, though, of my favorites and well-known destinations so you don’t have to stumble… you can plan your day trip or weekend accordingly.
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- Shop for swoon-worthy stationary, paper products, and books at Postscript, 1434 Silver St., Ashland.
- Spend an entire weekend exploring Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, 28500 W. Park Highway, Ashland. Seasonal activities include a large aquatic center and horseback riding in the summer, and sledding and outdoor ice skating in the winter. Year-round fun provided by the indoor activity center, with a large climbing wall area.
- One of the nation’s top-ranked drive-through safaris, Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park, 16406 N. 292 St., Ashland, gets you up close to bison, elk and Sandhill cranes, among other native animals of the region.
- Grab a table on the patio of Cellar 426 Winery, 1402 S. Ninth St., Ashland, and enjoy a flight of wine and the peaceful scenery.
- I love a good cider and the best of the best is served at Glacial Till Tasting Room, 1419 Silver St., Ashland. There’s also a great menu of food served there.
- Splurge on gorgeous modern farmhouse decor at Salt Creek Mercantile, 1502 Silver St., Ashland.
- See air and spacecraft exhibits from various eras up close at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, 28210 W. Park Highway, Ashland. If you have kids, don’t skip the hands-on science space.
It’s worth pointing out that businesses along Silver Street are all walkable from each other. Also, Mahoney, the wildlife safari and the SAC Museum are pretty near each other.
- Take the kids to Edgerton Explorit Center, 208 16th St., Aurora, for hands-on science activities.
- Browse and shop various styles of art at the city’s downtown artist co-op, Cottonwood Gallery & Arts, 1214 L St., Aurora.
- See a sod house and log cabin among the artifacts of the central Nebraska plains settlers at Plainsman Museum, 210 16th St., Aurora.
- Enjoy an impressive meal at the region’s popular restaurant The Black Crow, 405 Court St., Beatrice.
- Shop the small-batch, handmade soaps and scrubs at Clean Slate Soap, 813 Court St., Beatrice.
- Homestead National Historic Park, 8523 NE-4, Beatrice, preserves the original homestead of Daniel Freeman, a Union Army scout who was the first claimant of free federal land made available under the Homestead Act of 1862. There’s a visitors center and trails to explore.
- It might look a little odd on the street corner, but Traubel’s Popcorn Stand, 101 N. Fifth St., Beatrice, is the legit replica of a little popcorn stand that used to sell popcorn on that street for 50 years starting in 1937.
- Sample and sip wine and beer made throughout Nebraska at Tall Tree Tastings, 122 N. Fifth St., Beatrice.
- Fontenelle Forest, Bellevue, has a great raptor refuge and an abundance of nature trails, including accessible trails. Add to your adventure at the forest and get tickets for the on-site ropes course, TreeRush Adventures.
- Don’t let the unassuming exterior fool you, Umami Asian Cuisine, 1504 Galvin Road S, Bellevue, is one of the state’s best sushi restaurants. Its chef trained at Michelin-starred eatery Kayonama.
- For artisanal chocolate and afternoon tea, head to Chocolat Abeille, 555 Cornhusker Road Suite 210, Bellevue.
- Sip wine inside the 100-year-old barn at Whiskey Run Creek Winery & Distillery, 702 Main St., Brownville, or outdoors on the lovely patio.
- Shop for books along Main Street at the shops The Lyceum, 228 Main St.; Buckaroo Bookstore, 224 Main St.; and The Bird’s Nest Trading Post, 309 Main St.
- Shop chic decor and locally-made items at Sugar Shack Home Décor, 707 Fifth St., Edgar.
- Several resident artists have their work on display — and for sale — at Main Street Studios & Gallery, 2610 N. Main St., Elkhorn.
- Shop for unique gifts and food from Norway, Sweden and their neighbors at Little Scandinavia, 2619 N. Main St., Elkhorn.
- Beware of the ice cream headache if you try to get one of the giant cones (called “Towers”) at Dairy Chef, 3223 N. 204th St., Elkhorn.
- Visit the place where James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok began his bloody career as a gunfighter after he killed David McCanles. Rock Creek Station State Historical Park, 57426 710th Road, Fairbury, also served as important stop along the Oregon-California Trail. Now it’s a park managed by Nebraska Game and Parks, and if you time your summer visit well, you may see living history demonstrations.
- The beautifully restored Rock Island Railroad Depot Museum, 910 Bacon Road, Fairbury is one of two remaining brick Rock Island Railroad Depots in Nebraska. The museum is only open for a few hours on Sundays, but if you visit on the first weekend in June for Rock Island Rail Days and a Christmas event in December.
- World-renowned illustrator is a hometown hero in Falls City, and his work — including more than 100 Saturday Evening Post magazine covers — are on display to celebrate his work at John Philip Falter Museum, 1622 Stone St., Falls City. Look for the red door and you’ll know you found the museum.
- The Falls City Hot Air Balloon Festival creates an enchanting evening in Falls City every June, with a balloon glow and balloon launch, as well as live music.
- Bakers Candies, 831 S Baker St., Greenwood is known for their delicious chocolate meltways, but a visit to their giant shop reveals that they sell a whole lot more than shiny wrapped chocolates. And it is a giant shop – the largest candy outlet in the state.
- Browse countless antiques at the Platte Valley Antique Mall, 13017 238th St., Greenwood.
- Before exploring the trails and digging for fossils at the geological display at Schramm Park, plan to spend a lot of time indoors learning about the area in the highly interactive Schramm Education Center, 20874-21146 NE Highway 31, Gretna. Once on the trails, be sure to seek out the suspension bridge.
- I always say Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Orchard is like the Disney World of pumpkin patches. It’s huge — and still expanding with a new Apple Orchard & Cider Mill Area in 2022 — with a days-worth of attractions, performances, rides, and great food.
- Holy Family Shrine, 23132 Pflug Road, Gretna, is part religion and part art. The glass-enclosed chapel allows visitors an opportunity to spend time praying, meditating, or just admiring its beauty.
- Have a seat and try to capture the whole swing in one photo. Good luck, because this particular covered porch swing is one of the world’s largest. Fifth Street and Jefferson Avenue, Hebron.
- Henderson Mennonite Heritage Museum & Park, 720 Road B, Henderson, is a living history farm with a replica of the original Immigrant home built by the railroad to house the first Mennonite settlers who immigrated from Russia.
- Beyond Golf – Bar + Kitchen, 12040 McDermott Plaza, La Vista, Neb., is one of the Metro Omaha’s best indoor golf simulators, plus you can get a great meal and drinks while there.
- Book a brewery tour or just grab a stool at the bar and sample some great Nebraska-made beers at Nebraska Brewing Co. Tap Room & Brewery, 6950 S. 108th St., La Vista. My favorite is Brunette Nut Brown.
There is so much to see and do in Lincoln, I’ve written a post all about the best things to do in Nebraska’s capitol city. However, if you are limited on time, here are a few of the more unique options of things to see in Lincoln:
- Head to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s east campus and visit UNL Dairy Store, 114 Food Industry Complex, Lincoln. Try the homemade ice cream and get some cheese to take home.
- Morrill Hall is iconic in the state. It’s actually called the University of Nebraska State Museum, 645 N. 14th St., Lincoln. A highlight are the massive mammoth fossils, but there is a lot to see throughout the four floors of the museum. It has several exhibits that are particularly great for kids.
- Robber’s Cave, 925 Robbers Cave Road, Lincoln, is a bit out of the way from the rest of the city’s attractions, but it’s totally worth seeking out. Tours of the cave must be made in advance, and that’s the only way you’ll get to see this fascinating chunk of Nebraska history. If you’re of age, you can order a beer at the bar before the tour starts.
- It’s hard to pick just one restaurant or cafe to recommend in the Haymarket, but one of the more memorable eateries is The Rabbit Hole Bakery, 800 Q St., Lincoln, with its “Alice and Wonderland” theme sprinkled throughout.
- There are several trails at Platte River State Park, 14421 346th St., Louisville, including an easy (and popular) one leading to a small waterfall. The park also offers horseback riding and naturalist-led activities, as well as a fantastic playground.
- Camp or glamp at Louisville State Recreation Area, 15810 NE Highway 50, Louisville, and bring a swimsuit for a little beach time at the lake. The kids are going to love the park’s floating inflatable obstacle course. Four other sandpit lakes are there for fishing.
- Shop for gifts and gardening decor in the quirky shop Coop de Ville and Feathers, 107 W. 2nd St., Lousiville.
- A family-owned shop for groceries, Main Street Market, 102 N. Walnut Ave., Milford, is also a nostalgic experience browsing old-fashioned items and home-style canned goods.
- Plan to spend at least a half-day at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure, 2611 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City. Trails, apple picking, and the outdoor classroom are great, but the real hit is the Treetop Village. It’s within walking distance to Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, too.
- Take time to explore Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard, 5995 G Road, Nebraska City, though you may find yourself never wanting to leave the shop and wine tasting area. There’s a fabulous pollinators playground that kids will love, and of course, apple picking. Don’t miss the apple cider donuts.
- Lewis & Clark Interpretive Trail and Visitor Center, 100 Valmont Drive, Nebraska City, wows you with the life-size keelboat at its entrance, but venture inside for hands-on exhibits related to Lewis & Clark history.
- The Keeping Room, 717 Central Ave., Nebraska City, is both a restaurant and a boutique of home decor and antiques.
- It’s a tough call whether I like the wood-fire pizza, wine and live music on the weekends at Slattery Vintage Estates, 8925 Adams St., Nehawka, or the glamping. Better just plan accordingly so you can do both.
- Lazy Horse Brewing & Winery, 211 Road 20, Ohiowa, serves both microbrews and wines, but the real kicker is this country winery has an impressive food menu too.
There’s so many! Start with this post highlighting the top things to do in Omaha. If you want just a few recommendations, beyond our famous zoo, here you go:
- Gene Leahy Mall, between Farnam and Douglas streets from 13th Street and heading east, reopened in 2022 after a lengthy renovation and it’s impressive. It features a large green space and amphitheater, sculpture garden, playground and “The Slides,” as well as water features, hammocks, dog park, and regular events.
- Made In Omaha is a local shop with several locations, each selling apparel, wall art, and so much more that is all made in…Omaha or made by Omahans. Each location is in a neighborhood with other great, locally-owned shops and restaurants so be sure to explore while there. Locations are: Old Market, 1012 Howard St.; Countryside Village, 8722 Pacific St.; and Shops of Legacy, 16901 Wright Plaza suite 163.
- You’ll find Gathering Grounds Coffee House, 411 Hawkeye St., Osceola, in the town square, bringing life to a renovated late-1800s building. Have a cup of coffee and admire the architecture.
- You’ve got to see Main Street in Plattsmouth. It’s a charming block of old buildings. While you’re there, get your coffee fix at Herban Coffee & Blooms, 527 Main St., Plattsmouth.
- Daily Grind Boutique, 316 N. Madison Ave., Plymouth, is part-clothing boutique and part-coffee shop, making two good reasons to check it out.
- Go to Branched Oak State Recreation Area, 12000 W. Branched Oak Road, Raymond, for a day on the lake or a longer stay a campsite, and be sure to pack a swimsuit. The sandy beach will have you feeling like you’ve traveled out of Nebraska.
- James Arthur Vineyard, 2001 W. Raymond Road, Raymond, is the state’s largest winery. If the weather’s nice, enjoy your wine on the patio overlooking the prairie grasslands.
- Sip some wine in the tasting room of Capitol View Winery & Vineyards, 2361 Wittstruck Road, Roca, or if you plan in advance, learn all about the vineyard on a guided tour.
- Roca Berry Farm, 16531 S. 38th St., Roca, is the place to be each fall for pumpkin picking and fun activities in the daytime. If you like a good scare, visit in the evening for Roca Scary Farm.
- Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room, 514 Seward St., Seward, serves up Nebraska wines and beers in a space filled with art by Nebraskans. Old-fashioned sodas are also available.
- Stay overnight in a restored barn.
- Head to downtown Seward and have a round of local craft beer at Bottle Rocket Brewing Co., 230 S. Fifth St., Seward. Every Friday evening is Food Truck Friday.
- Independent bookstores are a favorite of mine, and if you’re the same, go browse the shelves at Chapters Books & Gifts, 548 Seward St. suite 2008, Seward.
- Liberty House Antiques and B&B, 441 N. Fifth St., Seward, isn’t just a bed & breakfast with a shop. The owner also offers Tall Grass Tours around Seward County.
- Hiking and horseback riding are the things to do at Indian Cave State Park, 65296 720 Road, Shubert, though you’ll also want to make a quick stop at the park’s namesake, Indian Cave.
- Springfield Drug & Old Fashioned Soda Fountain, 205 Main St., Springfield, is a favorite ice cream stop of my family’s after a day spent at Louisville State Recreation Area or Platte River State Park.
- Shop for charming home decor and gifts made of repurposed items at Robin’s Nest, 101 W Main St., Springfield.
- Sip award-winning wines at Soaring Wings Vineyard & Brewery, 17111 S. 138th St., Springfield, while admiring the view. Soaring Wings has annual events that are quite popular, including the Blues & Balloons Festival in June and the Harvest Festival in September.
- The Fiber Mill, 214 E. Third St., Suite B, Stromsburg, is Nebraska’s first custom wool mill with a retail shop in front of the mill. It is open for tours, when scheduled in advance).
- Come for the wine at Superior Estates Winery, 200 W. 15th St., Superior, but stay for the pizza served on Fridays and Saturdays.
- A fairly quick stop, Johnson County Museum, 289 Clay St., Tecumseh, showcases the county’s history through interesting displays.
- More than 100 motorcycles are on display at Montz Motorcycle Museum, 432 Clay St., Tecumseh, Nebraska’s only motorcycle museum.
- Choose a memorable overnight stay at the nearby Corn Crib Cottage or The Covey Log Cabin.
- Housed in a refurbished building with the original tin ceiling and wood floors, Old Cottonwood Antique Store, 400 First St., Utica, is a junker’s dream of a shop. Items are a mix of farmhouse and industrial.
- Our Corner Cottage Gifts, 1265 County Road 20, Wahoo, is a cute country store full of home decor and gifts.
- Shop local produce and meats as well as Nebraska-made products at Ellsworth Crossing Farm to Fork Market, 26902 W. Center Road, Waterloo.
- People usually think of two things when they think of Two Rivers State Recreation Area, 27702 F St., Waterloo: Fishing and overnight stays in a refurbished caboose.
- If you can’t make it to Wilber in August for the annual Czech Festival, plan a visit any other time of year to learn more about the region’s roots at the Wilber Czech Museum, 102 W. Third St., Wilber.
- Good luck choosing just one flavor of gourmet popcorn at GoodyPop, 111 E. Sixth St., York. I had to pick two.
- Wessels Living History Farm, 5520 S. Lincoln Ave., York, offers visitors a glimpse into the life of a 1920s farm, featuring a timber frame barn, granary, machine shed, garage, chicken coop and a windmill.
- Lee’s Legendary Marbles and Collectibles, 3120 S. Lincoln Ave., York, is described as a whimsical place to visit. Marvel at the million marbles, or perhaps, purchase some of your own for souvenirs.
- Chances “R” Restaurant & Lounge, 124 W. Fifth St., York, has a long history of feeding locals and tour groups, who enjoy the lavish decor as much as the food.
Map of southeastern Nebraska
I’ve plotted out a map of the towns and cities mentioned above. This should help with any southeastern Nebraska road trip you might be considering.