If you’ve been to Mahoney State Park, you’ve been to Ashland, Nebraska. But there’s more to Ashland than the awesome park. I hope to show you the reasons to stay a little longer on your next visit. This charming town has something for everyone – from museums and outdoor fun to wineries. I’ll guide you through the my favorite things to do in Ashland, so you’ll have plenty of inspiration for your next weekend getaway.
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What’s so special about Ashland?
Located halfway between Omaha and Lincoln, Ashland is a small town of about 2,500 people. One of the most notable attractions in Ashland is the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, which is located near two popular outdoor attractions, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park and the Lee Simmons Wildlife Safari Park. Along Silver Street in Ashland, you’ll find cute local shops and my absolute favorite cider at Glacial Till Cider House & Tasting Room.
Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or family entertainment, Ashland has something to offer. From its beginnings as a railroad town to its current status as a popular outdoor destination, Ashland continues to charm visitors with its unique mix of culture, history, and outdoor recreation.
Family-friendly things to do in Ashland
You can easily spend a weekend exploring the family-friendly attractions in Ashland, especially in the summer. A must-see attraction in Ashland is Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, which is one of the most-visited state parks in Nebraska. In the summer, enjoy the epic aquatic center with a wave pool and water slides, as well as the Go Ape Zipline Course and horseback riding. On rainy days, the Activity Center is great to visit, since it has a huge indoor playground and climbing walls.
The park is nice in the winter, too. There’s an outdoor ice skating rink and a popular sledding hill. Plus the cabins at the park are up to 30% cheaper to reserve in the wintertime.
Tip: Mahoney State Park has a theater, and in the summer it hosts three different melodrama productions. I have the dates listed in this area theater guide!
Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum is a neighbor to Mahoney State Park. This museum boasts a unique collection of aircraft and artifacts from the Cold War era as well as space travel. A highlight of the aircraft collection is the SRA-71 Blackbird. There’s a fun, STEM-based exhibition space for kids with a ton of interactive activities. The museum hosts traveling exhibits and has special events throughout the year. Don’t miss the Santa Goes To Space event each December!
Tip: The current traveling exhibit at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum is called “Above and Beyond.”
From March to October, the Wildlife Safari Park is a fantastic attraction to visit. It’s a drive-through safari featuring bison, elk, Sandhill cranes, wolves, bears, bald eagles and more! There’s are a couple stopping point for families to get out of the car, walk a few trails, and visit the goats in the little petting zoo. My daughter loves the short hike to the frog pond. The safari park has a couple of play areas for kids, one located near the visitors center/gift shop and another outside of the bison enclosure.
Tip: The park currently has several animatronic dinosaurs throughout the park! The traveling exhibit is called “Jurassic Adventure.”
Stuff to do without the kids in Ashland
Ashland has a couple of my favorite Nebraska small businesses. Salt Creek Mercantile is a darling home decor store, and nearby, you’ll find the fabulous stationary store Postscript. Both businesses are located on Silver Street, which to me seems like the town’s Main Street with the most interesting things to see.
Silver Street is where you’ll find Glacial Till Cider House & Tasting Room. Sample a variety of their house-made ciders and enjoy food out on their rooftop patio. If you’re more of a wine drinker, Cellar 426 Winery is located a few miles away. The view from the winery’s deck is wonderful and they will occasionally have live music on the weekends.
Golfers have a few options if they want some tee time. There’s the public course Iron Horse Golf Club and the semi-private Ashland Golf Club. Quarry Oaks Golf Course is another popular public golf course but it’s closed for renovations for the 2023 season.
Good places to eat in Ashland
For as much as I enjoy visiting Ashland, I have to admit there is limited food choices there. It’s improving each year, at least. Here’s what you’ve got to choose from:
Breakfast: There are a few coffee shop places like like Cherio’s Coffee & Ice Cream Parlor and the delightful Fariner Bakery where you can get baked goods or something a little heartier for breakfast. There’s also Casey’s breakfast pizza (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it). Mahoney State Park has had a restaurant inside its lodge over the years that has served brunch on the weekend; however, they’re currently looking for new management.
Lunch & Dinner: I recommend Glacial Till Cider House & Tasting Room. Their menu is great. You can get burgers at places like BW’s Pub & Grill, which also has a kid’s menu (and kids eat free on Mondays). Breadeaux Pizza is a fine choice, though I admittedly prefer Casey’s Pizza to-go.
Snacks & Treats: You can’t go wrong with baked goods, so scope out Fariner Bakery (which also happens to be a wine market). If you want charcuterie type-stuff, Glacial Till has you covered, as does Cellar 426. Cherio’s has ice cream. And just a short distance away — maybe 7 miles — you can go to the amazing candy shop, Bakers Candy in Greenwood, Neb.
Fun annual events in Ashland
The city of Ashland as well as a few of the attractions in the area have annual events you may want to check out. One of the biggest ones, Stir-Up Days, is like a street festival and carnival over a weekend in July. There are also seasonal art walks, and holiday celebrations like a Memorial Day Parade, Fourth of July fireworks, and a Hometown Christmas event in December.
Popular annual events at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum include Classic Car Show held over Father’s Day Weekend and Santa Goes To Space in December. Mahoney State Park usually hosts a Halloween event and a Christmas event, as well as art shows and other family-friendly events.
2023 events in Ashland:
- May 29 – Memorial Day Parade
- June 16-17 – Classic Car Show at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum
- July 4 – Fireworks Celebration
- July 14-16 – Stir-Up Days
- Aug. 26 – Fall Art Walk
- Sept. 10 – Silver Street Flea Market
- Oct. 28 – Halloween Costume Parade on Silver
- Nov. 10-11 – Winter Downtown Open House
- Nov. 18 – Holiday Art Walk
- Nov. 24 – Small Business Saturday
- Dec. 9 – Hometown Christmas
Things to do near Ashland, Nebraska
There are a number of great towns and parks near Ashland with attractions to supplement any weekend getaway. I’m a fan of outdoorsy stuff, so I like going to Platte River State Park or Louisville State Recreation Area. Platte River State Park is good for hiking, a cool shooting range, plus it has a wonderful playground and sprayground. Louisville has an epic inflated water playground and small beach. There’s also the smaller Schramm Park, which has a nice trail to a suspension bridge, a great education center, and a fossil dig site.
Shoppers are going to love Nebraska Crossing Outlet Mall in Gretna. You can also find some good restaurants within the mall, besides fast food options. Gretna also has the Holy Family Shrine, which is a gorgeous building overlooking Interstate 80, and even for the non-religious types, it’s an interesting place to visit.
Springfield and Louisville are two towns I occasionally stop in for food. Springfield has an old-fashioned soda fountain inside the Springfield Drug that’s always fun to visit. The town also has a great winery called Soaring Wings that regularly has live music on the weekends. You can get some amazing burgers and enjoy a view of the Platte River at the Louisville restaurant, Heron Bay. All walks of life dine there.
One can’t write about this region in Nebraska without mentioning Round the Bend Steakhouse, which is a short drive from Ashland. It’s home to the Testicle Festival, for one thing. It’s also a fun place to watch a Husker football game.
Featured stories to help plan an Ashland trip
Curious about some of the places mentioned in this article? Learn more about them in the following blog posts: