Discover places to go in Nebraska using this category, including itineraries for city visits, tips for kid-friendly destinations and restaurants to try. Learn about things to do in Nebraska State Parks and cities like Lincoln, Nebraska City, Chadron and more.
Nestled smack-dab in the middle of Nebraska, the city of Kearney is a fun option for a weekend trip with the family. Complete with museums of all kinds, surprising outdoor recreation options, plenty of arts and entertainment, and some really fantastic restaurants in Kearney, it’s a wonderful option for a memorable getaway that won’t break the bank.
Things to know about Kearney, Nebraska
Born from the westward push of the railroad after the civil war, Kearney has grown into a thriving college town, providing a home for the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK).
Its main claim to fame, however, is its status as the “Sandhill Crane Capital of the World.” Each year, over 600,000 Sandhill Cranes stop near Kearney to “fuel up” and rest during their migration north. Over 40,000 people — including famed anthropologist Jane Goodall — visit the Kearney area each year in March and early April.
Now, of course, all of this is interesting, but the BIG question remains: Where do all of these tourists eat when visiting Kearney, Nebraska?
Must-try (and family-friendly) restaurants in Kearney, Nebraska
Well, just stick with me, and we’ll focus on some locally-owned, family-friendly restaurants that add value and an all-round good time to your next family getaway!
A beloved Kearney tradition, Daylight Donuts has been churning out fresh, tasty, unbeatable donuts for as long as I can remember. With crunchy-sweet old fashioned donuts, bear claws as big as a toddler’s head, and satisfyingly-good coffee you don’t always find small donut shops, it really is the perfect way to start a day of exploring Kearney.
Like many classic donut shops, Daylight Donuts is open only in the morning — from 3 a.m. to noon, so it’s important to get there early for the best selection!
It’s important to note that they have a wide selection of non-coffee drinks like chocolate milk and juice for the kiddos. My favorite recommendation actually isn’t a sweet one — their “gravy wrap” is a decadent concoction of flaky dough and sausage gravy, and I’d probably eat one every day if I could!
Another well-loved, always-bustling breakfast option is Barista’s Daily Grind. A Kearney staple since the 90s, you can trust you’ll find a decadent drink, fresh-baked goodies, and even a few savory options to get you through your morning.
Across the street from UNK, this Kearney coffee shop is full of patrons from the university — both students and professors alike — and its constant traffic means it’s not the quietest place during peak caffeination hours. This means you can bring headphones if you need to get some work done, but it also means you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing you can take the kids there without feeling like you’re disturbing someone.
I highly recommend the dirty chai latte! It’s creamy, not too sweet, and served by some seriously friendly baristas.
A smaller south location can be found on Second Avenue — the “main drag” — and provides a slightly smaller selection of the offerings found at the main store.
Komal Mexican Taqueria
This Kearney restaurant is one of my favorite gems — ranging from options that satisfy picky kids who only eat beige-colored food, to incredibly flavorful, authentic Mexican fare that will feed your whole family quickly and affordably.
Tacos, burritos, nachos, tortas, quesadillas, some of the most delicious guacamole you’ll ever eat, and a fantastic salsa bar all come together to make everyone happy in a welcoming atmosphere. Though I’m not vegetarian, I love getting the nachos with guacamole instead of meat, and asking for the chips on the side.
With homemade agua fresca, horchata, and flan, it’s an all-around, honest-to-goodness meal that will keep even the pickiest eaters satisfied until dinner.
You’ll find that a lot of restaurants in Kearney serve up the delicious, deep-fried menu options you’d expect in a smaller city, but Cunninghams Journal manages to turn your typical “bar food” into something special.
Big, fat, juicy burgers, salty fries, and deep-fried pickles are well-made bar staples, but their menu of varying skewer baskets shine for people who are looking for something a little different (not to mention keto and gluten free-friendly, if that’s something you need). Tender chunks of sirloin steak and grilled shrimp are wrapped in bacon, served over grilled vegetables, and brought out with a unique “bistro sauce” to round it all out.
They also have pizza and wings on the menu, meaning my picky kids have options.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for a chicken nugget option, ask for boneless wings without sauce.
There are two locations: the original in downtown Kearney, and a newer one right off the interstate, going by the name “Cunninghams on the Lake.”
Kyoto is a relatively new restaurant in Kearney, and adds a local, friendly vibe to your typical hibachi experience.
What I love the most about Kyoto is that you can enjoy the spectacle of talented chefs tossing shrimp into peoples’ mouths and lighting onion volcanoes on fire, or you can simply dine in and order from the menu.
Or you can sit at the sushi bar and watch all of the sushi getting made.
Or you can enjoy a drink at the well-stocked bar and watch the game.
Or you can simply stop in to get a bowl of rolled ice cream without even having to stop for dinner.
The big bonus? They have a kids menu, so if you’re craving sushi and the kids need french fries, everyone can be happy.
Thunderhead Brewing Co.
Located “on the bricks” — a title that simply refers to the original downtown area with old-fashioned brick streets — Thunderhead Brewing sports a big, beautiful stone oven for pizzas, calzones, and soft pretzels, as well as super-melty mozzarella cheese bread.
While it is a bar, this Kearney brewpub is still a favorite local place for families to gather and enjoy some really awesome stone oven pizza. Little kids might get bored and antsy, but the pretzels come out fast enough to distract them while they wait for the rest of their meal.
The beers are brewed in a nearby town, and are time-tested and well-loved. In fact, Thunderhead has recently opened tap houses in downtown and west Omaha, if you’d like to give their craft brews a try. The only location that serves food, however, is in Kearney.
I practically insist that, if you’re not afraid of jalapeno peppers, you try the Thunder Pie. It’s a pizza with an alfredo sauce base, shredded chicken, bacon, and jalapenos. Ask for a side of ranch and you’re in pizza heaven!
Wondering about dessert in Kearney? Look no further than Ktown Cakery, another stop on the bricks. Decadent bars, cupcakes, cake balls, cookies, call-ahead full-sized cakes, and even ice cream from the UNL Dairy Store await you in this adorable little shop on Central Avenue.
The staff is friendly, and there are a couple of tables available to sit and enjoy your treats with the family.
Ktown Cakery supplies a handful of local businesses with sweet treats (you can find their cookies at the aforementioned Barista’s Daily Grind), so don’t be surprised if you see their goodies at multiple places!
The location is quite small, however, so if you’re traveling with a big group it might be a better idea to call ahead and order some treats to take to your hotel room or a nearby park.
Family fun and fantastic restaurants in Kearney, Nebraska
Kearney is certainly smaller than Lincoln or Omaha, but don’t let that scare you! With culture, history, recreation, and unforgettable food, this lively college town in the middle of the state might just surprise you!
Lauren Bonk, owner of the Curtain and Pen, hails from Kearney, Neb., where she works as a freelance copywriter for small businesses, startups, and even larger corporate entities in need of professionally-written marketing content for their businesses and organizations.
With a background in both Theatre and English, Lauren loves to help companies find a voice, fine-tune it, and authentically utilize it in written collateral like blog posts, website copy, and social media content.
You can typically find Lauren drinking coffee, listening to music that’s probably a little too loud, and daydreaming about drinking more coffee the next morning.
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I love Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, but I’m most familiar with the park in the summer. However, we’ve started visiting on unseasonably warm winter days and discovered a whole other side to the park. We enjoyed it so much, I decided to share my tips for visiting Mahoney State Park in the winter.
Turns out, it’s worth a visit during the winter, especially with kids.
Note: There is construction at Mahoney State Park right now that’s slated to last until fall 2020. The Walter Scott Jr. Observation Tower and surrounding trails at park are closed temporarily to accommodate the painting of the tower and Riverview Event Center construction project. The tower and trails will reopen at completion of the construction projects.
Where is Mahoney State Park?
Mahoney State Park is located in southeastern Nebraska along Interstate 80, about midway between the state’s two largest cities, Omaha and Lincoln. It’s roughly 30 miles from each city (give or take).
Take exit 426 off of Interstate 80 to get to the park. That exit happens to get you to a variety of fun family destinations in the winter. Two I recommend would be the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum and the indoor education center at Schramm Park.
Day trip or overnight trip to Mahoney?
Living in Omaha, Mahoney State Park is almost always a day trip for us. However, we have made whole weekends of a visit, and I recommend trying it at least once…but plan ahead.
Mahoney State Park has notoriously popular cabins, making it difficult to book a cabin on a summer weekend unless you plan a year in advance.
Booking a cabin in the winter is a different story. Non-peak season cabins are easier to come by, and cheaper too. Look for non-holiday weekends for your best (and discounted) options.
It’s worth noting that Mahoney State Park also has a lodge. The rooms at the lodge are much cheaper than a cabin. It’s similar to staying at a hotel, but staying at one without a pool.
Indoor winter activities at Mahoney
First, the indoor stuff. This is my favorite since I hate being cold. Luckily, Mahoney has a few very good indoor options for active families.
One must-visit place is the Activity Center. If you’ve never been, you’re going to won why you hadn’t been here sooner with the kids.
For $2 each (FREE for kids 2 and younger), you get endless play on their indoor playground. It’s pretty sweet, even for a grown up. Don’t be shy, put down your smart phone and get in there and play with your kids.
The Activity Center also has an outdoor ice rink, with a $3 skate rental fee. If it’s fairly warm, part of that rink melts (duh), as was the case on the day we visited.
We returned another month and managed to make our shaky way around the rink.
The newest addition my family has loved at the Activity Center is the indoor wall climbing. It’s a pretty affordable, all-day activity. Buy the wristbands and have access to climb for the entire day.
The cost is $11 for adults and and $10 for children ages 12 and younger.
There is food available for purchase at the Activity Center, like pizza, hot dogs and nachos. You’re not supposed to bring in outside food or drinks. *supposed to*
The Activity Center’s winter hours in 2019-2020 are from September to May. It’s open:
-Monday, Thursday & Friday: 4 to 8 p.m.
– Saturday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
– Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
– Tuesday & Wednesday: CLOSED
Mahoney State Park conservatory
Not a far walk from the Activity Center is the conservatory/greenhouse.
This is a great place for a quick warmup if it’s particularly freezing outdoors. It’s like 150 degrees in there. It’s small but there’s a lot to look at, including a fish pond.
In a separate room, there are a couple aquariums featuring native Nebraskan animals, like snakes and a turtle. The kids liked looking at them.
Two other indoor options I can’t vouch much for since we tend to do more active things while we’re there:
– The park has moved the arts and crafts center over to the marina. You can paint ceramics, work with leather, and do all sorts of other crafts for a nominal fee.
– The park offers live theater with family-friendly fare year-round. See which melodrama is playing and buy tickets here.
What to do outdoors at Mahoney State Park in the winter
A big outdoor draw at the park is the toboggan run. It has been relocated in the past year, so if you used to go here, know that the sledding hill is now by the Activity Center.
The toboggan run at Mahoney State Park is a pretty nice, long hill but not too steep. I like that it was far enough away from trees that I could relax.
This is a FREE activity, just bring your sleds.
Another FREE activity is hiking around the park. While I prefer my hikes when I can feel my fingers, trails are still open at Mahoney in the winter.
Just be warned, Mahoney isn’t the best place for hikes in this part of Nebraska. There aren’t a lot of trails at this park.
But, then again, it’s not like you want to hike very far with young children in the middle of a Nebraska winter.
Or do you?
My kids slept 12 hours straight after our visit to Mahoney in the winter. I’m sold on visiting parks in the winter now.
My kids loved the Activity Center so much, I’d even make the drive out to Mahoney just for that. I bet you will be driving home with some tired kiddos after visiting the Activity Center, too.
Special events at Mahoney
I recommend checking the Nebraska Game & Parks calendar before planning your visit. You may be able to time a winter visit to coincide with a memorable holiday event or family-friendly event.
One year, we visited the park when they had ice fishing for children. The park already made the holes in the ice and provided the fishing gear for the kids.
Every fall, my family joins thousands of others making the short trip to Nebraska City. In the past, this was a day trip for us, but this year, we planned a longer stay to see and do more things. Keep reading to find my list of favorite things to do in Nebraska City, especially in the fall!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Arbor Day Foundation. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
Where is Nebraska City?
Nebraska City is the county seat of Otoe County located in southeastern Nebraska. The population is less than 10,000.
Nebraska City is a two-lane highway drive from Omaha. It’s not far, and can be pretty scenic, if you like golden fields in the fall.
Here’s the drive distance to Nebraska City from several metro areas:
-Omaha to Nebraska City – 40 miles
-Lincoln to Nebraska City – 50 miles
-Topeka, Kan. to Nebraska City – 120 miles
-Kansas City, Mo. to Nebraska City – 140 miles
Timing a visit to Nebraska City
Very few people are going to argue this: Nebraska City’s prime time is autumn! Home to Arbor Day, trees are treasured in the city, so you can imagine how beautiful things get in the fall.
Nebraska City is home to popular apple orchards and pumpkin patches, which again, are best to visit in the fall. Apples are ripe for picking in mid-September and pumpkins are ready shortly after that.
Nebraska weather can be unpredictable in the fall, so if you plan a visit, pack in layers. Don’t forget an umbrella! We got caught in the rain on our recent visit.
My second favorite time to visit Nebraska City is in the summer, when the green trees provide ample shade. If you want to see sunflowers — and there is a sunflower field at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure — you’ll want to visit the last week in August.
Nebraska City hotel recommendations
There are not a lot of options for hotels in Nebraska City. You’ll find a range of motels and moderate-priced hotels, as well as my recommended accommodations: Lied Lodge & Conference Center.
My last stay at the lodge was about 15 years ago, and in the past five years, the Lied Lodge has undergone renovations. It’s gorgeous!
What I love about Lied Lodge is that it’s very family-friendly, focused on sustainability, and it’s within walking distance of our favorite Nebraska City destination: Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure.
Actually, the Tree Adventure and Lied Lodge are all part of the 260-acre Arbor Day Farm, managed by Arbor Day Foundation. Arbor Day Foundation is the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees.
Other notable features about the Lied Lodge:
-Indoor Olympic-size swimming pool, kiddie pool and hot tub.
-Two restaurants on site, Timbers and the Library Lounge. The Library Lounge is a cozy-looking bar setting with a limited menu.
-Kids eat FREE at Timber at Sunday brunch.
Oh My! Omaha readers save 10% if you book a package! Be sure to use promo code OHMYOMAHA. Visit LiedLodge.org for details.
Things to do in Nebraska City
Play in tree houses
Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure has had a 50-foot-tall tree house to explore for years, but Treetop Village is a new addition in 2019. It consists of 11 tree houses. I’ve been looking forward to taking the kids to see it!
The Treetop Village’s tree houses are connected by rope bridges. There are a few slides, including a net slide. The highlight is the WonderNet, the first net trampoline of its kind in North America.
Don’t skip the Treetop Village…but expect a possible wait if you go on a weekend. Due to the nature of the bridges, traffic is one-way, so they have to monitor how many people enter the village at a time.
And note that if you go down a slide or step through one of the exits, you have to go back to the start and wait in line again. The wait wasn’t long for us, luckily.
Shop for tree souvenirs
OK, maybe that’s just me. The gift shop at the Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure is packed with gifts and souvenirs inspired by nature, trees and camping. It’s the best place to shop for kid’s stuff.
Another good place to shop is the Apple House Market. It’s a cute decor shop, wine tasting room, and restaurant all in one building, and it’s within walking distance of the Arbor Day Farm Tree Tree Adventure.
Learn Arbor Day history
There are two places to learn more about the early days of Arbor Day and the Morton family. The Discovery Ride, which I mentioned above, as well as a visit to Arbor Lodge State Historical Park
The historic state park is the property where Arbor Day started. J. Sterling and his wife, Caroline, lived there when they initiated their vision and started challenging people to plant trees. On the first Arbor Day, April 10, 1872, they say nearly 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska.
You don’t need a park permit to enter the grounds of Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, but you will need to pay admission if you want to walk through the 52-room mansion.
In the mansion, you’ll find artifacts from the Morton family, and see beautiful rooms preserved as they once were.
The mansion is a little worn on the exterior, but signs indicated that a renovation is planned. I’m excited to see the mansion restored to its former glory.
Pick apples in Nebraska City
Apple picking is a seasonal activity in Nebraska City, with prime picking being in September (which is why the city holds the AppleJack Festival every year in mid-September!).
We picked a peck during our visit to the Tree Adventure, searching for the best apples among primarily Fuji and Jonagold trees. Your options may vary depending on when you time your visit.
My family also got to pick apples in the Preservation Orchard at the farm. You have to take the Discovery Ride to get to this special orchard. The apple trees in the Preservation Orchard are heirloom varieties you’ll never find in a grocery store.
It was an exciting chance to taste a Kandil Sinip, Winter Banana and Stern apple.
We didn’t get a chance to pick pumpkins on our recent weekend getaway, but we have picked pumpkins at the Tree Adventure in the past. It’s fun to ride the hayrack out to the pumpkin field and scour the patch for a good one!
Quite possibly the most memorable experience we had the entire weekend was climbing a tree. Both kids made it to the top!
Tree climbing is held on select weekend days at the Tree Adventure, and it’s included with admission. It can be popular, and we were lucky to get there early enough to not have much of a wait.
The folks helping with the tree climb were wonderful coaches for the kids. They were also pretty patient trying to help me figure it out. In case you were wondering, it’s ridiculously hard for an adult woman to try to climb a tree!
Take a Discovery Ride
This one-hour ride is a backwoods experience at the Tree Adventure. Part history lesson, part tour, the ride takes you to orchards you don’t usually get to see, including the Preservation Orchard.
I liked the opportunity to try the rare apples. My fourth grader loved hearing and about the history he’s beginning to learn this year. For younger kids, the most enjoyable part may have been the chance to touch animal pelts.
Tip: There are no restroom breaks on the Discovery Ride. My youngest learned this the hard way.
Attend a special event
Everyone and their grandma has heard of the annual AppleJack Festival in Nebraska City, but that’s only one September weekend. There’s plenty of special events happening on other weekends.
Here are a few events to look forward to this fall:
-Living History Weekends (Arbor Lodge Mansion, Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 27). On the weekend we visited, my kids loved talking with a man who made beaded pieces and they got a chance to throw a tomahawk.
-Harvest Celebration (Arbor Day Farm, through Oct. 31)
-Hayrack Ride, Storytelling & S’mores (Tree Adventure, Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 9; reservations are required)
-Halloween Pumpkin Party (Tree Adventure, Oct. 26)
Eat good food
For the best dining experience, I recommend Timbers inside the Lied Lodge & Conference Center. We tried dinner there as well as breakfast. Reservations are recommended for weekend dinners and Sunday brunch. I had no problem reserving meals the day before.
Outdoor seating is an option, and the view was wonderful.
Tip: When we were there, Timbers had a sign that advertised that kids eat FREE at Sunday brunch! The brunch is a buffet that starts at 11 a.m. We went before 11, so there was still a buffet, just not as large…and kids were $5 each.
If you’ve come for all-things-apple, Nebraska City is your place. Apple pie (with the works) is available at The Apple House Market, as are caramel apples and apple cider.
Looking for apple cider donuts? I didn’t find them at The Apple House Market, so your best bet is to head to Kimmel Orchard, where we got some that were still warm from the fryer.
Porters, a barbecue restaurant attached to The Apple Market House, is also a great option. It’s extremely popular, and I almost always saw a line. We tried brisket, smoked chicken and pulled pork. The baked beans were the best side, IMO.
If you’re wondering about restaurants in Nebraska City away from Arbor Day Farm, I asked around and got quite a few tips. Oh My! Omaha Twitter and Facebook followers shared these Nebraska City restaurant recommendations. Here were their tips: The Keeping Room, Buck Snort, Ladybug BBQ and Tacos El Pueblito.
We had the hardest time finding a place open after 7 p.m. on a Friday night! Our first pick was Tacos El Pueblito but we missed its closing time by 15 minutes. We ended up at El Portal, which had pretty good food. But being one of the few restaurants open after 7 p.m., there was quite a wait.
Sip Nebraska wines
Nebraska wines, like a lot of Midwestern wines, tend to be sweet. My personal preference is to stick to the white varieties. The reds just aren’t robust enough for my taste.
Arbor Day Farm offers two places to try wine tastings – daily at The Apple House Market and on Friday and Saturday evenings in the lobby of the Lied Lodge. FYI: Tastings are not free.
I recommend trying the Arbor Day Farm vignoles. If you like super sweet stuff, a lot of people in the tasting room when I visited loved the honey crisp wine.
Enjoy the trails
Our visits to the Tree Adventure almost always include an easy hike through the forest. You’ll find a play area, cute photo opps, and a fun look-and-find game. Be on the lookout for the fairy doors, too!
We had plans to bike the Steamboat Trace Bicycle Trail until we found out the crushed limestone trail had been flooded this year. We’ll return to explore it another (drier) year.
Play outdoors at the Tree Adventure
For my family, Nebraska City is about spending time together outside. The apples, the pumpkins, the hayrack rides…those are all a part of it. But’ nothing beats the pure joy of simply playing.
Among my kids’ favorite places to visit at the Tree Adventure are:
-The Nature Explore Classroom where they can play the marimba and build with blocks, and sit in colorful hammocks.
-The little zip line course, huge spider web, and larger-than-life tic tac toe game. They’re all group near each other.
-The Treetop Village is a new favorite.
Take a hayrack ride
There are two opportunities for hayrack rides at Arbor Day Farm. You can get a free one while you’re in the Tree Adventure, which will take you to the pumpkin patch and apple orchard.
If you plan ahead–like months ahead–you can reserve spots on the Hayrack Ride, Storytelling & S’mores. The rides are seasonal on Friday and Saturday nights. The ride was full on the one rain-free night we were there, unfortunately.
Save on your Nebraska City stay
If this post has inspired a future weekend getaway, you’re in luck!
I’m excited to announce that Oh My! Omaha readers can save 10% off their stay at the Lied Lodge & Conference Center in Nebraska City! Be sure to use promo code OHMYOMAHA.
Nebraska might not have an official donut trail like Ohio, but we have some excellent donut shops (or is it doughnut shops?). I created this post to feature donut shops throughout Nebraska, in large cities and small towns. And, because I’m inspired by that Ohio donut trail, I created my own version of a Nebraska Donut Trail at the end of the post. Enjoy!
Why some Nebraska donut shops didn’t make the list
The criteria to be on this Nebraska list included A) the donut shops needed to be locally-owned shops and B) they needed to sell donuts, obviously. In some cases, the bakeries were more famous for other pastries (and I’ll point those out later), but still, donuts have to be available at the bakery in order to be included.
In cities that had more than one locally-owned donut shop, I used two methods to decide on which to include.
For Omaha, I went with my favorite since I have compared the options (and there are a lot of great options). I’m more of a traditional donut fan, so cake donuts without a lot of frills are my favorite, and thus, Olsen Bake Shop was picked over something like, say, Bob’s Donuts.
In Lincoln, I looked at various review sites plus this story about Lincoln donut shops. Since websites kept ranking a chain as the top donut shop, I selected the highest ranking locally-owned shop.
Side note: I nearly included all the Daylight Donuts that popped up in a few Nebraska towns. But, it’s a chain, and not even a Nebraska chain, so please don’t point out that the lone donut shop in your town was left off this list if it’s a Daylight Donuts.
Where to find great donuts in Nebraska
Ready to explore the state one donut shop at a time? Here are some of the best places to find donuts in Nebraska! Whenever possible, I included fans’ feedback on the bakery.
So, if you are a fan and want to chime in about your favorite bakery, leave me a comment.
Where: 1520 Broadway, Scottsbluff
About: According to the Bluffs Bakery Facebook page, the Bluffs Bakery bakes its products from scratch and uses all fresh ingredients. “We make every item from scratch. We also try to buy as many local ingredients as we can. That includes Robinson Honey from the honey farm in Scottsbluff, NE.”
Bluffs Bakery is owned by Ron Ahlers, Sr., a master baker, and Chris Ahlers. The bakery’s Facebook page said Ron was one of the first 500 certified bakers in the United States. Two other bakeries on this list are connected with the Ahlers (Gering Bakery and Rolling Pin Bakery).
What readers say: Jessica H. said both Gering Bakery and Bluffs bakery both have cute cookies and an assortment of cakes and donuts but that Bluffs bakery has a larger assortment of cookies, bagels, and muffins, and so many donuts doughnuts. “Bluffs also had Italian sodas (not great) and other breakfast and lunch items.”
Where: 818 S. 13th St., Norfolk
About: To be honest, not much is out there about this bakery in Norfolk. From what I can see in photos, though, this donut shop sells giant donuts.
What readers say: According to Jill T. “I can’t be in Norfolk without stocking up on Delight donuts!!! Best donuts and most amazing owners! Definitely a Norfolk staple! Nothing beats seeing that pink box on the break room table.”
Where: 1446 10th St., Gering
About: Gering Bakery, along with Bluffs Bakery and Rolling Pin Bakery, is owned by Ron Ahlers, Sr., and Chris Ahlers.
What readers say: Amanda C. grew up in Gering and said “The Gering bakery has delicious donuts and cookies. They also make absolutely incredible cabbage burgers! 🤤 I miss that bakery!”
Katie M. puts it simply: “I love the Gering Bakery!”
Jessica H. said between Bluffs Bakery and Gering Bakery, she prefers Gering Bakery. “Gering Bakery and Bluffs bakery both have cute cookies and an assortment of cakes and doughnuts. Gering has a better and larger assortment of doughnuts and a little bit of bagels. Bluffs bakery has a larger assortment of cookies, bagels, and muffins, but not as large of an assortment of doughnuts. I like Gering’s cookies better.”
Jim And Connie’s Blair Bakery
Where: 132 S. 17th St., Blair
About: Located not too far from Omaha, Jim and Connie’s Blair Bakery has a lot of fans here. They sell more than donuts, including pfeffernusse at Christmas time.
What readers say: Jim R. has childhood memories at the Blair bakery and said they have the best glazed donuts. “I always recommend to friends and coworkers to stop by there and get a glazed donut when they are in the area.”
Susan L. and Annie R. is also fans of their glazed donuts. Annie mentioned something about being sure to get them when warm, because, yeah. “Jim and Connie’s Blair Bakery is the BEST. I drive from Omaha to get their glazed donuts.”
Kelli K. is a big fan, too. “Love love love Jim and Connie’s in Blair!!!! Get the donuts, long johns, bear claws, okay there isn’t any of their pastries that are not delicious. I’ve had co workers in Omaha offices specifically request jim and Connie’s donuts they are so good!! Get there early on Friday, though – it is Blair tradition the high school kids bring donuts to share in homeroom on Friday.”
And, the bakery’s donut holes gets a recommendation from Katie W. “Jim and Connie’s glazed donut holes are one in a million. My coworkers from Omaha request for me to stop quite often and they are never disappointed!”
Where: 124 S. Chestnut St., Kimball
About: Not much is out there about this small town bakery, other than they have the most unique of offerings (I’ve seen the picture): A glazed donut man.
What readers say: Jessica H. said her visit was rather disappointing at Kimball Bakery, but she did let me know they had a cute glazed man.
Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard
Where: 5995 G Road, Nebraska City
About: Kimmel Orchard has been around since 1925. Being an orchard, the draw is all-things-apples. So, obviously, you get the apple donut.
The apple donuts are made fresh every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (seasonally).
What readers say: Maureen Q. said “Best donuts ever!! It’s been too long since I’ve had them.”
Olsen Bake Shop
Where: 1708 S. 10th St., Omaha
About: It’s easy to miss this donut shop just south of the Old Market – it’s a true hidden gem. Olsen donuts are fresh and no frills, just great tasting. It’s near the zoo and botanical gardens if you want a place to walk off the donut calories.
What readers say: “I only eat Olsens bakery donuts. Best in town,” said Jephrey M.
Dan H. agreed, saying “They’re the best I’ve ever had, period. Try other donuts when I’m out of town and nothing ever compares.”
Randy’s Donut Shop
Where: 201 Capitol Beach Blvd., suite 5, Lincoln
About: Randy’s competes with a popular regional chain with Nebraska’s only location (ahem, Hurts Donuts). However, from the reviews I’ve read online, Randy’s has a following.
According to the Lincoln Journal Star “Another family-owned local establishment, Randy’s lauds freshness, hand-made quality and cost as indicators of its success. Staff member Amanda Ryan said that Randy’s price of 85 cents for a doughnut is the lowest in town. Options include the ever-popular original glazed raised doughnut as well as other raised options and multiple cake doughnut choices.”
Rolling Pin Bakery
Where: 2044 10th Ave., Sidney
About: The Rolling Pin Bakery is the third of the Ahlers’ great bakeries in Nebraska. Learn more about their approach to baking in the Bluffs Bakery “About” section.
Am I missing a hidden gem of a donut shop in Nebraska? Leave a comment and let me know!
Rosie’s Deli & Rolls
Where: 1519 M St., Ord
About: Rosie’s is more than only a donut shop – it’s a full deli. A lot of fan reviews online point out that not only is the food great, it’s all reasonably priced.
Sehnert’s Bakery and Bieroc Cafe
Where: 312 Norris Ave., McCook
About: Sehnert’s has been around since 1957 and run by the same family. While this is the place to go to try the famous bieroc of Nebraska, it’s included on this list because they also have tasty donuts.
It’s worth pointing out that this is the lone Nebraska bakery that can say they have a James Beard America’s Classic Award, which they earned in January 2019.
What readers say: Want donut recommendations? Stacy W. has a few. “Sehnert’s is an institution in my hometown. Anytime people come back to town this is a must stop. For donuts the sundae donut and apple fritters are a big draw. My personal favorite item are the peanut butter brownies.”
Monica J. pretty much convinced me that I need to try one of everything off their menu. Here’s what she said about Sehnert’s: “The buttercream frosting is the BEST! I remember my mom ordering cakes from there ever since I was little ❤️ I’ve found no buttercream that compares. With that being said, the chocolate Sundae is freaking the best ever. Also- the cream horns are to die for. Every Holiday season they also make Stollen bread- ridiculous. I can’t even explain the goodness that happens in your mouth after eating a piece of warm Stollen from the oven. I’ve never had anything like it. You can just taste all of the homemade goodness.
“Another item I’ve ordered since I was young is the Delaware Doughnut! It’s a cheese and sausage filled “doughnut”- no icing. 🤤🤤 And last- the bieroc (runza). I order dozens of these to take home. There’s just nothing like the homemade “bread” flavor. I personally LOVE the hamburger/cheese/sauerkraut. I can’t eat Runza’s runzas because I grew up on these and they’re that good.”
Where: 419 Court St., Beatrice
About: This long-time bakery celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017 – and it’s stayed in the family (current owner Clayton Replogle is the great-great-grandson of the original owner).
According to the Beatrice Daily Sun “The donuts, the bread, the cakes, the puddings and creams: everything but the fruit filling is made from scratch in the kitchen.”
What readers say: Samantha M. brought Sunrise Bakery to my attention. She said “My family loves their rolls and when we moved away whenever we visit our grandparents we stop in to get their buttered rolls and donuts!”
Amanda V. agreed, and said “Still trying to find a place in Omaha that even comes close to comparing!”
Where: 405 S. Main St., Verdigre
About: Verdigre, Neb., is billed as the kolache capital of the world. Soooo, here’s a bakery where you’re probably better off ordering what they’re famous for (kolaches).
What readers say: I didn’t get a lot of reader responses about donuts here because – big surprise – kolaches kept coming up.
Beth L. said “We love the kolaches at the Verdigre Bakery!!”
While kolaches are their specialty, Andrea N. said she prefers to order the rohliky there (and if you’re curious, Andrea said the kolaches made by the Methodist church in town during Kolache Days are the best). “Rohliky is the thing at Verdigre’s bakery. I get that every time I go back. … Donuts are good there too! But I nearly always just get rohliky.”
LeAnna B. is another one who has a preference to kolaches made elsewhere (her in-laws’ recipe). She was disappointed with the kolaches there. “I had much higher hopes than what we ate from the bakery.”
Where: 544 N. Linden St., Wahoo
About: Like any great Nebraska bakery, Wahoo Bakery sells cakes, cookiesand rolls in addition to donuts (and of course, kolaches).
Check ahead of time to see what their donut of the month is. They’ll sell the specialty flavor on Saturdays.
The Nebraska Donut Trail
Now that you’ve got a list of Nebraska donut shops, why not go visit them? Grab a map and loosen your belts, I created a donut trail for the state.
The Nebraska donut trail starts and finishes in Omaha. The round-trip nature of the trail allows for people to start at any point. The route I have mapped out is a little more than 1,200 miles.
Here are your stops:
Olsen Bake Shop, Omaha
Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard, Nebraska City
Sunrise Bakery, Beatrice
Randy’s Donut Shop, Lincoln
Wahoo Bakery, Wahoo
Bluffs Bakery, Scottsbluffs
Gering Bakery, Gering
Kimball Bakery, Kimball
Rolling Pin Bakery, Sidney
Sehnert’s Bakery and Bieroc Cafe, McCook
Rosie’s Deli & Rolls, Ord
Verdigre Bakery, Verdigre
Delight Donuts, Norfolk
Jim And Connie’s Blair Bakery, Blair
Many bakeries on this list are known for something other than donuts. It’s forgivable if you show up at one of them and buy something else to eat instead of a donut. I won’t tell anyone.
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Born and raised Nebraska girl here. I love my home state and want to encourage everyone to explore it. I’ve rounded up a huge list of things to do in Nebraska – a list for foodies, outdoor adventurers, fans of the weird, and animal lovers. Nebraska has something for everyone!
Did I miss something? Leave a comment and tell the world!
Outdoor adventures in Nebraska
Tanking down a river
This is cattle country, so you’re going to find a few things on this list influenced by, well, cows. Like tanking.
Close to Omaha, you can tank down the Elkhorn River with the aptly named outfitter Tank Down The Elkhorn. Experience taking in the Sandhills with outfitters Sandhills River Trips, taking tankers down the Middle Loup and Dismal rivers. Dusty Trails will take folks tanking in North Platte.
See bison up close (if you’re lucky)
Nebraska’s only drive-thru safari, Nebraska Wildlife Safari, includes a section through the Bison Plains. You’ll see a lot of North American animals during the 4-mile drive, actually.
Ride a horse
Several Nebraska state parks offer guided horseback rides, including Buffalo Bill State Historical Park in North Platte; Chadron State Park in Chadron; Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland; Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford; Indian Cave State Park in Shubert; Niobrara State Park in Niobrara; Platte River State Park in Louisville; and Ponca State Park in Ponca.
Go on an off-road jeep tour
Jeeps…it’s a bumpy ride, but you’ll love it. Try the off-road jeep tour at Fort Robinson State Park. The views can’t beat!
Sure, you can camp throughout the state in gorgeous park settings, but few places offer glamping. Glamping (or glam camping) is offered at Slattery Vintage Estates & Tasting Room in Nehawka and Platte River State Park in Louisville.
Due to limited glamping tents, reservations at both locations fill up quickly, especially weekend dates.
Zipline & rope courses
Zipline courses and rope courses are a starting to pop up, particularly in eastern Nebraska. The first to open up was Go Ape Zip Line & Treetop Adventure at Mahoney State Park in Ashland.
Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue recently opened TreeRush Adventures, which includes seven ziplines, suspended platforms, and ropes courses to navigate.
Pet an alpaca
Visit Alpacas of the Heartland in Fort Calhoun on National Alpaca Farm Day (held in September) and get your chance to pet an alpaca. At Butterfield Alpaca Ranch near Republican City, you can request a tour. And in case you’re wondering, they celebrate National Alpaca Farm Day, too.
See the “Disneyland” of pumpkin patches
A visit to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch in Gretna is an all-day affair (or at least a half-day). Sprawling, you’ll need a map to find everything and to keep track of all the shows.
The great thing is most activities are included with admission. Add-ons include pony rides, chucking apples, and that bucket of chocolate chip cookies you know you’re going to buy.
There are no mountains to climb in Nebraska, so we turn to walls. Try your luck at wall climbing in Ashland at Mahoney State Park (find the walls in the Activity Center) or in Omaha at Approach.
See the Sandhill crane migration
Every year, more than 600,000 Sandhill cranes stop along the Platte River valley during the migration. The prime time to see them is between late February to early April.
This 195-mile rails-to-trail takes cyclists from Norfolk in the east and westward to Valentine.
Go to a waterpark
Want water slides, wave pools or a lazy river? We have that in Nebraska. Island Oasis in Grand Island has all three, as does Fun Plex in Omaha.
In Ashland, Mahoney State Park has a wave pool and water slides. In Columbus, Pawnee Plunge Water Park has water slides, a lazy river, and Nebraska’s only FlowRider (simulates surfing with real water).
Yoga outside of a yoga studio
Ready for a change of scenery for your next yoga session? Head to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo to try yoga in the aquarium or go to Bellevue to try yoga at Fontenelle Forest.
In the spring/early summer, try a goat yoga session led by Prairie Arts Yoga Studio at Victory Hill Farm in Scottsbluff.
Canoe the Niobrara
Nebraska has the most miles of river than any other state, and my favorite water trail is Niobrara River. It’s a scenic, easy route to paddle or tube. On the weekends, it can get a little busy.
Big Mac is the popular name for Lake McConaughy located in Ogallala. Featuring more than 100 miles of shoreline, it’s a popular weekend getaway for boaters, windsurfers and beach campers.
See the Kites and Castles
Speaking of Big Mac, each July the annual event Kites and Castles is held at the lake. The competition includes teams and solo builders.
See Nebraska’s iconic landmark
Chimney Rock National Historic Site is quite possibly the state’s most recognizable landmarks. Find Chimney Rock in Morrill County in western Nebraska.
The land around Chimney Rock hasn’t changed much since pioneers on the the Oregon, California and Mormon trails passed by it (though now there is a visitor’s center). If you want to learn more about exploring the Oregon Trail in Nebraska, read this post on Her Heartland Soul!
Visit Nebraska’s “Badlands”
Toadstool Geologic Park (the Oglala National Grassland), has fascinating rock formations the look like another planet. It’s like a much smaller version of South Dakota’s Badlands. You can hike it in a short amount of time.
Take an airboat ride
It’s not the Everglades, but you can take an airboat down the Platte River. Bryson’s Airboat Tours is based out of Fremont.
Nebraska State Fair
Whether you’re there for the Midway rides, live music, or the animals, the Nebraska State Fair fairgrounds in Grand Island are a lively place to be for about 10 days each summer.
I recommend checking out the Nebraska Games and Parks exhibit, and obviously, getting some sort of food on a stick.
Scotts Bluff National Monument
Nebraska at its finest. That’s the area around Scott Bluff National Monument near Gering. The monument is a landmark many pioneers passed on their journeys along the Oregon, California and Mormon trails. If you’re lucky, you may even find old wagon ruts.
Catch a parade
Some of the most entertaining parades include the Cinco de Mayo parade in South Omaha the first Saturday in May and the AppleJack Festival parade in Nebraska City each September.
Bucking broncos or trick ropes sound interesting to you? Catch a rodeo at NEBRASKALand Days in North Platte every June. Or, on a smaller scale, see one of the weekly rodeos held at Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford.
Burwell is known as the Outdoor Rodeo Capital of Nebraska, and holds Nebraska’s Big Rodeo each July.
Ride in a covered wagon
Up near Niobrara State Park, you’ll find Kreycik Elk & Buffalo Ranch where guests ride a covered wagon to see the wild animals (and sometimes, you can feed the them).
Cross a suspension bridge
Find a small suspension bridge hidden in the forest at Schramm State Recreation Area in Gretna. The hike to it is just long enough hike to tire out little ones.
Stay overnight in a teepee
Platte River State Park in Louisville offers the unique experience in its Teepee Village. It’s fairly inexpensive, and just a notch above camping in a tent.
We don’t have many waterfalls, but we have some beauties. Head to Smith Falls State Park to dip your hand (or if you’re brave, your whole body) into the waterfall – it’s the state’s tallest waterfall.
It’s cold and pounds your body, so, yeah, perfect for a summer day.
Snake River Falls, the state’s biggest waterfall (by volume) is in the same county, and it’s worth the hike to see. However, you’re not permitted to actually wade near it.
Play in the Treetop Village
Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure in Nebraska City is home to the Treetop Village, a series of tree houses above the forest floor connected by rope bridges. There are slides, a net trampoline, and a lookout tower.
River City Star is an excursion boat offering public cruises along the Missouri River leaving from Omaha. These cruises range from an hour to 90 minutes, and some include food.
If you’re over 21, they also have themed party cruises.
Conquer the inflatable floating obstacle course
In a small(ish) state recreation area called Louisville SRA (in Louisville…go figure), you’ll find the state’s only floating inflatable obstacle course. It’s very popular and limited to the number of people per session.
Don’t just drop your kids off to do 90 minutes of slides, jumping and swimming. Do it with them! It’s a killer workout.
Hot air balloon festivals
The Old West Balloon Fest in Scotts Bluff County is a biggie, with about 90 balloons each year now that it incorporates the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship. It’s held in August each year.
Like wine with your hot air balloons? In Elkhorn, there’s the annual Nebraska Wine & Balloon Festival (also in August).
Food & drink in Nebraska
Try unique ice cream flavors
I’m absolutely biased, but Omaha has the best ice cream in the state with several locations offering unique, rotating flavors. My picks? Coneflower Creamery and Ted and Wally’s.
Coneflower even makes its own waffle cones, so there’s the extra temptation. If you’re lucky, they’ll have sweet corn ice cream.
You’ll also find tasty and quirky flavors at Ivanna Cone in the fun Haymarket District in Lincoln.
Eat a bieroc
Runzas are essentially a bieroc, beef and sauerkraut-stuffed bun. One of the most famous places to get it in Nebraska is at Sehnert’s Bakery & Bieroc Cafe in McCook. The bakery is a James Beard Foundation 2019 American Classics Award Winner.
Try a Runza sandwich
Runzas are essentially a bieroc, just produced on a much larger scale and sold in a regional fast food chain restaurant. You’ll find locations of this fast food restaurant throughout Nebraska.
People who grow up and leave Nebraska often complain about the lack of Runzas elsewhere in the world. It’s sad. And true.
Dine at a quirky restaurant
Nebraska is home to many quirky restaurants. Start with the some of the standouts like Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge in Paxton, home to stuffed wild game on display; Around the Bend Steakhouse in Ashland, Neb., which is known for its annual Testicle Festival; and Alpine Inn in Omaha, where diners watch raccoons through large windows as they dine on discarded chicken bones.
Dorothy Lynch is the salad dressing of my childhood. My grandparents had it on the dinner table at every Thanksgiving. The orange, sweet dressing originated in Nebraska. You’ll find it on the menu of many restaurants, particularly in more rural parts of the state.
Visit a Nebraska winery
Grab yourself a Nebraska Wine Passport and start visiting one of more than two-dozen wineries in the state. Most wineries are in central and eastern Nebraska.
James Arthur Vineyards, is in Raymond and one of the larger wineries to visit. It’s a scenic place to visit.
Like music and a view with your wine? Look up the live music schedule at Soaring Wings Vineyard in Springfield.
Remember the wineries I mentioned above? Some have fall festivals, and some venture into “I Love Lucy” territory and have grape stomps.
One to try is at Soaring Wings Vineyard in Springfield. You race against other teams to stomp grapes.
I tried it. All I can say is: Beware of the bees.
Visit a brewery
Nebraska has at least 40 craft breweries scattered throughout the state. A few favorites of mine that I’ve tasted include beers from Infusion Brewing Co. in Omaha, Nebraska Brewery Co. in LaVista, and White Elm in Lincoln.
There are chuckwagon dinners in the summer at two Nebrasksa State Parks. In western Nebraska at Fort Robinson State Park, you can buy tickets to buffalo stew and steak cookouts.
At Niobrara State Park, their chuckwagon dinners include cowboy poets and storytellers as entertainment along with their buffalo cookouts.
Compete at the Testicle Festival
I mean, you could just go to Round The Bend Steakhouse and order an appetizer of fried testicles any old day, but where’s the fun in that?
Every June, the restaurant in Ashland holds the popular Testicle Festival. During said festival and there is an eating competition to see how many you can eat in a set time limit.
Good luck with that.
Eat some steak
This is Nebraska, after all. The Blind Goose in Llewellyn is said to serve the best ribeye in the Panhandle of the state. Looking for hearty fare? I hear The Drifter Cookshack in Crawford is the place to go for it. Want steak a different way? Try the steak nachos at The Steel Grill in Gering.
Why stop at steak? You can find Nebraska restaurants that serve bison, including Sandstone Grill in Burwell.
Get a treat at an old-fashioned soda fountain
Springfield Drug and The Durham Museum are two I’m most familiar with since one’s in Omaha (Durham) and one’s nearby (in Springfield). Both are completely charming!
Head to Central Nebraska for the Atksinson soda fountain called R F Goeke Variety.
Drink in a speak-easy
Why go through a regular doorway to get to a bar when you can enter through a secret passageway behind a bookshelf? Omaha’s speak-easy is called The Wicked Rabbit and Lincoln has one, as well, called The Other Room.
Be in chocolate heaven
One of the state’s most well-known candy makers is called Bakers Candies, located in Greenwood. Want someplace with a lot of options? Want a variety? There’s The Chocolate Bar in Grand Island. How about artisanal? In Omaha, I’m partial to the works of (chocolate) art at Choclat Abeille and in Lincoln, try Lulubee Chocolates.
Eat where Reubens were invented
The state is pretty adamant that the Reuben sandwich was invented din Omaha. The city even has a Reuben Festival.
If you miss the festival, no biggie. You can always go to the neighborhood where it originated (The Blackstone) and order the class at Crescent Moon.
Things to do in Nebraska’s biggest cities
Attend a College World Series game (or at least tailgate for one)
The greatest show on dirt is the NCAA Men’s College World Series, held each June in Omaha at TD Ameritrade Park. It’s a spectacle in the ballpark and in the streets nearby.
I always tell friends that if their favorite band or musician has a concert booked for the Holland Performing Arts Center, they MUST go. The state-of-the-art concert hall is acoustically like no other in the state. Plus, it’s just stunning to see.
Find the Typewriter Poet
Omaha’s Old Market is home to many types of buskers, typically the musical kind. But there’s also Britny Cordera Doane, AKA, the Typewriter Poet.
I haven’d had the luck of finding her, yet. If you do, she’ll tap out a poem in about 10 minutes for you.
Make music on the stairs
The stairwell at Omaha Children’s Museum is musical. You’d be surprised how many times the adults are more amused by the stairs than their children.
Nebraska’s largest cities, Omaha and Lincoln, bring in Broadway touring productions each year. Catch them in the Orpheum Theater in Omaha and the Lied Performing Arts Center in Lincoln.
Visit the state capitol building
The Nebraska state capitol building is located in downtown Lincoln. You can take a guided tour or look around yourself. There are impressive paintings and murals to see, plus you can go to the observation deck on the 14th floor the building.
Attend a game at Memorial Stadium
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Huskers football team has had sold-out games for years and years, each time making the population at Memorial Stadium as large as the state’s third largest city. Being in that sea of red is an experience like no other.
Attend a Husker volleyball game
One of the most impressive sports team in all of Nebraska is the UNL Women’s Volleyball team. They’ve won national championships and continue to dominate NCAA Div. I competitions.
Catch a home game at the Devaney Center in Lincoln.
See Santa scuba dive with sharks
This is one of my favorite holiday traditions! Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo has scuba divers swim in the shark tank a few mornings each December. They’re dressed as Santa, elves, and other holiday characters.
It can get crowded in the tunnel to see the characters, so I recommend arriving early and securing a spot.
See Nebraska’s largest indoor Christmas tree
Every year, a ginormous REAL tree is placed inside The Durham Museum in downtown Omaha and decorated with ginormous ornaments and lights. It’s on display from Black Friday until early January.
For a real treat, attend the tree lighting ceremony held the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Look for Warren Buffett
Omaha’s most famous billionaire has been known to be spotted from time to time, often with celebrity friends. And come to think of it, often he’s spotted with ice cream. Most recently, he was with Bill Murray at Ted and Wally’s ice cream shop, and a few years ago, it was Paul McCartney at eCreamery.
Straddle the Nebraska-Iowa state line
The Bob, the popular name for the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spanning the Missouri River, has the quintessential photo opp waiting to happen. The state line between Nebraska and Iowa is painted on bridge. Find it in Omaha.
It’s not a long walk to get to it, either, so you need not fear breaking (much) of a sweat to reach it.
Catch a AAA baseball game
No, we don’t have a pro team, but we do have the Minor League Baseball team the Omaha Storm Chasers. The activities and promotions surrounding the game are almost more fun than watching it.
If you bring kids along with you, be sure to check out the Family Fun Zone. And be sure to read these Storm Chasers fans’ tips before you go.
See pro soccer
OK, the pro team isn’t up and running in Nebraska yet, but it will be! Omaha announced its own USL team in 2019, and it’s looking like they’ll play a league game some time in 2020.
Feed a giraffe
Why not, right? The state’s two largest zoos, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Lincoln Children’s Zoo, offer this add-on experience.
Be a ninja
You’ve seen “American Ninja” and thought, I could do that. Haven’t you?
See how you do on a ninja course. In Omaha, you’ll find a tough one at Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park. I tried this course and it made me re-evaluate my sense of strength.
In Lincoln, a miniature ninja course recently opened at the Lincoln Children’s Museum. Obviously, it’s geared toward a younger age set.
See a show at the largest community theater in the U.S.
Omaha Community Playhouse is, indeed, the nation’s largest community theater. With performances on two stages – ranging from musicals to dramas – there’s usually something for every taste each season.
The long-running “A Christmas Carol” is presented annually at the theater, and it’s one show you should see at least once there.
Things to do with Nebraska history & culture
Go to an art museum
One thing to love about Nebraska is that there are a lot of art museums that are free. Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha is large and has a lovely collection of Native American and Western Art (though I’m partial to the Impressionist gallery and my kids would tell you the Art Works play area and the fountain outside are the not-miss things).
Pick your mother land: Whether you descended from Irish, Czech, Greek, Swedish, Mexican or just wish you did, there’s a festival for you. Find about a dozen annual festivals that celebrate the heritage of our forefathers on this Nebraska Festivals post.
Observe working archeological dig sites
Visit Ashfalls Fossil Bed State Historical Park and watch paleontologists at work. Another spot you can watch an active dig is called Hudson-Meng Research and Education Center where there’s an excavation of a 10,000-year-old bison bone bed is on-going.
Find fossils of your own
My kids are a bit more hands-on when it comes to dig sites, so simply watching others do the digging just doesn’t cut it for them. I get it. It’s more fun to get your hands dirty.
Head to Schramm State Recreation Area in Gretna, where there’s a small fossil dig site. You can’t bring actual digging tools or anything like that, but if you spend just a little time looking closely at the surfaces of rocks, you may luck out and find a fossil to keep.
Visit the Nebraska’s Fourth of July City
Seward is home to one of the biggest Independence Day celebrations in the state. Over a period of a few days, more than 40,000 people attend the festivities.
Nebraska celebrates big, so see even more Nebraska Fourth of July events here.
Take a selfie with a woolly mammoth
OK, not a living mammoth, obviously. Find Wooly Mammoths in the Hall of Mammoths at Morrill Hall on campus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Officially, I believe the exhibit is called “Paleontology of Nebraska.”
This is also the best place in Nebraska to see fossils and impressive natural history displays.
Old time-y photo opps
It’s not done going back in time? Go to Winston to explore the Boardwalk Back in Time, featuring replicas of early storefronts and school. Or head to Ogalalla to see Front Street, which looks like a Old West town from the 1800s.
See living history reenactments
I’m most familiar with Fort Atkinson State Historical Park in Fort Calhoun, where actors reenact life in the 1800s on the first weekend of the month six months out of the year.
Other places to see living history include Rock Creek Station Historical Park in Fairbury; Fort Kearny State Historical Park in Kearney; Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park in Burwell; and Homestead National Monument of America Education Center in Beatrice, which holds unique events including Homestead Days and Living History Extravaganza.
To see what life was like on a farm, head to York to see re-enactments at Wessels Living History Farm.
I attended the Fort Omaha Intertribal Powwow, held in September at Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha Campus in North Omaha. Various tribes from Nebraska and the region include Ponca, Omaha, Santee Sioux and Winnebago.
Each July, Wayne is home to the Chicken Show. Over the course of a weekend, there is a general festival feel to things, but of course, there are a number of activities inspired by chickens. One you should participate in is the world’s largest chicken dance.
Of course, if you’re not a team player and would rather hog all the glory to yourself, they have competitions all weekend, too. I recommend doing the National Cluck-Off (there’s prize money to be had).
Peep petrified wood
What started as two brothers’ collection has grown to Petrified Wood Gallery in Ogallala. The collection contains ancient woods and fossils plus Native American artifacts.
Walk over Interstate 80…safely
The Archway in Kearney spans across Interstate 80, giving you a chance to not only learn about the history of the state, but to walk across the interstate (technically, over the interstate).
See all the trains
North Platte is home to the largest railroad yard in the world, Bailey Yard. Open 24 hours, seven days a week, about 14,000 rail cars are handled on the 17 receiving and 16 departure tracks.
See mini trains
If miniature trains are more of your speed, head to The Durham Museum in Omaha. On the lower level, find a fantastically large O-scale model train set.
Also in Omaha, the Model Train Garden at Lauritzen Gardens is a must-see for miniature train lovers. G-scale trains run through a gorgeous setting of naturally-constructed elements. Around the holidays, the trains are moved indoors and runs throughout the poinsettia display.
See a church built from baled straw
The appropriately named Strawbale Church was in Arthur was built in 1928 out of baled straw. Eventually, it was plastered inside and out and still stands today. I think it goes without saying that this thing is one of a kind in the U.S.
Visit to small’s courthouse ever built in U.S.
Guess what? Arthur is also home to the smallest courthouse. Not bad for a town with population a little more than 100 people.
See Boys Town
The National Historic Landmark Boys Town was started by Father Flanagan in 1921 for a few orphaned boys near Omaha. Today, you can visit the campus near Omaha, making stops at the Hall of History, Flanagan’s home and the Visitor’s Center, which happens to have the world’s largest ball of stamps.
Find a sanctuary
The Holy Family Shrine isn’t a church, though this little chapel overlooking Interstate 80 has a sacred feel to it. Visit for a little peace or if you’re a religious person, attend mass.
Religious or not, this building is just a marvel to see up close.
See the “floating cars”
If you happen to be in Grand Island, head down Fourth Street to look for G.I. Body Shop. The display of vehicles held high in the air is totally worth the side trip.
Go on a barn quilt tour
It’s the Midwest after all. Head to Dawson County to seek out these unique barn quilts. The scenic drive is off Interstate 80 and Highway 30. Get a map at CozadChamber.com.
See the national monument to Homesteaders
Homesteaders were the folks from around the world who sought the free land provided by the Homestead Act signed in 1862. In Beatrice, you’ll find Homestead National Monument of America. It’s at the site of Daniel Freeman’s property, who was thought to be the first homesteader to request a claim.
Swing on World’s Largest Porch Swing
I’ve been to Hebron to see this swing, and it’s ridiculously large. It seats more than 20 adults! Find it in the city park.
Learn about Nebraska authors
Nebraska is home to several notable authors. Find Willa Cather’s childhoodhome in Red Cloud. Learn about Mari Sandoz at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center in Chadron (located on the Chadron State College campus).
Watch an Old West shoot-out
The Crystal Palace Revue in Ogallala is a summer-time western theater production with songs and dance…and a nightly shoot-out.
Plus, if you really want to feel like you’re flying, the museum has a flyer simulator ride (for an additional fee).
Visit the Klown Doll Museum
More than 4,700 clown dolls are on display at the Klown Doll Museum in Plainview. It’s not for everyone.
Watch turtles race
Head to the Sandhills of Nebraska for this annual event held in August. The Starving Stallion Saloon hosts the Sandhills Turtle Races in Ericson.
See a sod house
Many pioneers in Nebraska built their homes out of sod, since trees weren’t abundant in this part of the country. You can see one still-standing sod house in Comstock – the Dowse Sod House.
Comstock was once considered the Sod House Capital of the World, FYI.
Shopping in Nebraska
Go on a junk hunt
Consider Junk Jaunt the largest neighborhood garage sale ever. For one weekend each September, people travel around more than 500 miles to find hundreds of garage sales along Loup River and Sandhills Journey scenic byways. In recent years, there have been between 300 and 400 vendors, or garage sales to peruse.
“Junk” is loosely used here. You’ll find antiques, collectibles and knick knacks.
Shop at the best roadside shop
It’s a guilty pleasure of mine to stop at Fort Cody Trading Post in North Platte. It’s kitschy, sure, but you can find great souvenirs (especially for kids). Plus, you’ve got to see the miniature Buffalo Bill Wild West Show.
Nebraska road trip ideas
The list above is just the beginning. Visit my Nebraska Pinterest board full of road trip ideas, city itineraries and outdoor destinations in the state.
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