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.
Good ol’ Nebraska. It’s my home state, I’m pretty protective of it. Fly over it if you must, but you’re missing out. There’s a lot to do Nebraska. I’ve gathered all the things I still need to explore in the state to create this ultimate Nebraska Bucket List.
UPDATED: This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated in November 2019. To help keep this post current, please let me know if anything needs additional updates!This post may contain affiliate links.
1. See Nebraska’s Ultimate Landmark. Chimney Rock is Nebraska’ ultimate icon, our claim-to-fame in pioneer history. It’s probably time I see it in real life.
3. Stay at a ranch, maybe do some ranch things. I’m not sure what that would be – probably ride a horse and herd cattle. I should watch “City Slickers” again to refresh my memory.
Here are a few guest ranches that I could see myself channeling my inner cowgirl: Ponderosa Ranch and Rowse’s 1 Plus 1 Ranch. And by channel, I mean, I do about 10 minutes of hard work and then relax the rest of my stay.
4. See a Native American pow wow. Long ago, I was an exchange student in Spain and my host family thought it was all pow wows in Nebraska. Not so much. But, I feel like I owe it to my host sister and her obsession with Native Americans and go to one of these finally.
Fort Robinson is known for a big one, the Intertribal Gathering and Pow Wow, in June. There’s one in north Omaha held each September, the Fort Omaha Intertribal Powow, on the same grounds here Ponca Chief Standing Bear was once imprisoned.
5. Walk along strange land. Ever since I saw a picture of Toadstool Geologic Park (the Oglala National Grassland), I’ve been fascinated by the strange rock formations.
People say they look like toadstool mushrooms or the lunar surface.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Ashfalls is a working dig site in Nebraska.
7. See Nebraska’s archaeological hidden gem. Toadstool isn’t too far from the Hudson-Meng Research and Education Center where there’s an excavation of a 10,000-year-old bison bone bed going on.
8. Take an airboat tour. I’ve seen airboats glide along the Platte River and it just looks fun.
I’ve seen that river countless time from a car and the lookout tower at Mahoney State Park, so I want to see it from a different view now.
9. See the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island. I haven’t been to the state fair since I was child – back when it was in Lincoln. I don’t even remember it. It’s probably time I go back.
And I suppose I ought to bring the kids.
10. See the Scottsbluffs National Monument. This part of Nebraska is iconic, but not exactly easy to get to from Omaha, so I’ve never made the trip.
The Nebraska Tourism Commision released a list of 10 of the state’s top attractions and events and this was one of two I haven’t been to (see #1 on this list for the other). So I must go there. I’m a completist.
11. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo, Omaha style. South Omaha has a large celebration every year, and every year I think I ought to check it out (former exchange student sense of duty).
12. Enjoy a dinner paired with the right wine at the Boiler Room in Omaha’s Old Market. While this isn’t the new darling on the Omaha dining scene anymore, it’s one of those restaurants that I’ve been meaning to check out and never do. I’ve heard the wine list is divine.
13. See one of the College World Series championship games in its new home, TD Ameritrade Park. I’ve been to many CWS games at Rosenblatt Stadium, never one of the championship ones, though.
Your turn: What’s on your Nebraska bucket list? And what’s missing from this list?
More things to do in Nebraska
So now you know the bucket list of things I want to do and see in my home state, Nebraska. I’ve already seen and done a lot in the state, so here are some of my top picks for you to consider for your own Nebraska Bucket List:
If you’re a hiker, you likely have a favorite nearby spot to see the changing leaves. If you’re not, I’ve got you covered.
Maybe you don’t want to take a hike; maybe you’ve been on Pinterest too much lately and you’ve found a bunch of leaf projects to do with your kid. Maybe you just want to take pictures of your cute kid.
Whatever your reason, here are a few suggestions for all thing leafy in the Omaha area:
For a less rugged hike, you can’t beat the boardwalk at Fontenelle (though you can hit trails there, too). I’m pretty sure, though, that leaf collecting is discouraged there, so look but no touchy. There’s a lot to see and do at Fontenelle in addition to immersing yourself in nature. There’s a fun play area that kids adore, and there’s the temporary exhibit Green Evolution you’ll want to see before it leaves.
Cost: $8 per person; children 2 and younger are admitted free.
Hitchcock Nature Center
It’s no secret my family loves afternoons at Hitchcock. This time of year is great to go since you’re not sweating profusely as soon as you get out of the car. Stop by the visitors center to check out a kids backpack full of fun “tools” to the hike and then grab a map and hit the trails (some are more strenuous than others so pick the right path for your family’s ability… unless you like hauling a 28-pound toddler up a steep incline).
Cost: Park admission per car is $2; annual permit is $10; backpacks are free to check out.
Was summer camp ’87 the last time you ventured to Hummel Park in northeast Omaha? It’s time to come back. Time your visit right and you might catch a fun activity on a Saturday afternoon.
Gretchen over at Odyssey Through Nebraska gets around. The state, that is. She travels a lot with her family and likes to share her findings with readers. She just wrote some great tips for getting around Lincoln, such has where to find cheap Husker game day parking and details on the parking situation near the new Pinnacle Arena. I added my two cents with regards to Omaha parking. Leave it to me to have committed to memory where all the free parking spots are in downtown Omaha.
If you are a history buff or you like your family outings to have some educational value to them, Odyssey Through Nebraska is a blog to follow. She likes exploring our state’s past and present, as well as its heritage.
This weekend, my family will be decked out in green, celebrating all things Irish. Yeah, that’s right, we half-way to St. Patrick’s Day.
Greeley, Neb., is the only town in the state I know of that throws a huge half-way to St. Patrick’s Day party. The annual Greeley Irish Festival is this Saturday, and people have been getting prepped for it since, well, probably March 18. The all-day celebration draws a lot – and I do mean A LOT – of Irish and wanna-be Irish (last year, people came from about 40 counties). I think the town at least triples in size this one day a year.
Kid-friendly and yet beer-drinker friendly, there’s live music, dancing, kids’ arts and crafts, storytellers, and green, lots of green. I can’t say I’m an expert on what goes on at the event – we’ve only made the three-hour trek to the festival just few times – but it is a highly anticipated event for those who’ve been before, and once you’ve been to the party, you’re hooked. Fun, not sloppy, that’s kinda how the day is.
We’re heading up to Greeley this year after taking a few years off. It’s a good chance to catch up with Mr. Wonderful’s extended family since many are from the area. This will be Farley’s second festival (though he was too young to remember the first), and it will be Mooch’s first. They’ll both likely lose their minds, dancing, running around and eating junk food. I might do the same, that’s sounds fun.
I know what you’re thinking. You don’t have family in middle Nebraska, why would you go to this small town? If you’re the type to go all out in celebration on March 17, then you should go at least once (bring some friends). The whole town and its hundreds of visitors get into the party spirit. It’s like being at the biggest beer tent in Omaha on St. Patrick’s Day, only people are much friendlier and there are kids there.
Things to know if you go:
Bring lawn chairs, sunscreen and warm clothes for the evening
The Husker game will be on TVs there, they have a tent dedicated to it
Cost is $20, kids 12 and younger are admitted free (it’s a little cheaper to buy tickets ahead of time, so next year, plan ahead and buy early)
There are no hotels in Greeley. You can camp, or opt for lodging elsewhere. Grand Island isn’t terribly far and makes for a good option; between the cities lies St. Paul for another option.
I might have overdone it this summer bringing my family to so many events that were packed with people. It’s easy to find something that’s free and family-friendly every weekend in Omaha, but you have to keep in mind that 5,000 of your neighbors are headed there too.
So, recently, my family decided to get out of Dodge, so to speak. Just for a few hours. One Saturday we ventured to a family-favorite, Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa. It’s about a 20-minute drive northeast of Omaha. Another weekend, we visited Schramm Park State Recreation Area, which is about 6 miles south of west Omaha. It had been a very long time since our last visit.
Our visits couldn’t be more different. I could go on a rant about how funding makes all the difference (Hitchcock wins), but I’ll just try to focus on what we liked at each.
The Hidden Gem: Hitchcock Nature Center
We visit here most seasons, it’s so easy to get to. What’s to love about this place? A lot.
The visitor’s center is a great place to start off your visit. There are interactive displays that my children love, from making animal footprints to touching pelts and trying to run off with stuffed animals. You can learn what animals and tracks to look for on your hikes. If you have youngsters, be sure to check out one of the free Adventure Packs. It’s a backpack with fun things to help your hikes, my son’s favorite was the magnifying glass.
Next to the visitor’s center is a lookout tower, popular among raptor watchers (in fact, they have Hawk Watch you can take part in). Take in the view, then get on your way exploring.
The trails are clearly marked with difficulty levels. Some spots along the trail will have a Trailcast sign, these are Hitchcock specific podcasts designed to enhance your visit, they change with the season).
Even with its proximity to Omaha, Hitchcock feels like an undiscovered gem. The trails are not packed. Offerings that will interest your children, besides that cool visitor’s center, include a playground, archery, geocaching and earthcaching, and an abundance of educational offerings. Camping is available, and there are a few cabins.
The Forgotten Park: Schramm Park State Recreation Area
Our trip to Schramm Park State Recreation Area was impromptu. I’d read some friends’ Facebook posts on hiking there and when the time came one weekend to decide what we should do, I remembered Schramm.
I’m not too familiar with the park since it’s been a few years and given the spontaneous trip, I hadn’t looked into what we could do there. I figured we’d have a picnic and let the adventure unfold on its own. That always works out well with kids, the not-planning thing.
We parked near the fish hatcheries and decided that we’d picnic before our hike. The manmade ponds weren’t necessarily the most scenic of views, but we did find beauty there.
Once filled with fuel, we set off on a hike. We passed a trailhead on our quick tour of the park in our car, but decided that from the hatcheries, we’d surely hit a trail. Not so much.
We walked a board walk along the hatcheries for a ways, quickly stumbled onto a playground (that was too hot to play on that day), and then continued trying to locate a trailhead.
We should’ve just packed the kids back in the car and drove to the trailhead we knew existed, but Mooch has been putting up epic fights whenever I have to strap her into her carseat and I just wasn’t up for that.
So we gave up the search and walked down the road to take in the view of the Platte River. On the way, we stopped at the Geological Display.
Farley liked this area of the park the most, I think, even if there wasn’t much to it. We spotted some fossils in the rocks and picked up some trash, then continued on to the river.
The Platte is a very sandy, shallow river and people were wading out into it that day, but one we weren’t about to venture into just yet. The view is nice, though, so I’m glad we took a minute to check it out.
Schramm is known for its Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium, which we didn’t visit (Right after our visit, it was announced that admission was now free). I think there must be another entrance to Schramm, another section of the park, that we missed. Where we were, all we saw was the closed museum that was once the state’s first fish hatchery in 1882. I have this suspicion that there is a “New Schramm Park” out there that my friends all love.
There were many visitors at Schramm on the day we visited, proving it is a destination. My kids ultimately ended up getting the most joy picking up sticks and driving me insane by running around with the biggest, pointiest ones they could find.
I guess you don’t need modern facilities to capture a child’s imagination. Still, I’d love to see this park get some TLC.
A Treat After Your Park Visit
We stopped for ice cream after visiting each of these parks. After a visit to Hitchcock, we like to drive south on Old Lincoln Highway, where you’ll come across a Council Bluffs’ favorite, Christy Cream, on the north end of Council Bluffs. They’re known for the special sherbet flavor of the day, but I’m a chocolate kind of girl.
After Schramm, we went into nearby Louisville, Neb. Head down the main street and you’ll find two ice cream options. Every stinking time we go to Louisville, I’m determined to check out the old fashion soda fountain at Blake’s Pharmacy, and every time it’s closed (Sundays, man). This trip, we all enjoyed cheap twist cones at Dari Crème.