Lincoln is one of those Nebraska cities that makes a great day trip visit no matter the season. If you have a little extra time, though, you can make a weekend of it going to fantastic restaurants, world-class shows, and enjoying the great outdoors.
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Things to do in Lincoln
Stop and smell the flowers
Rarely does the public get to enjoy such beautiful botanical gardens for free, but Sunken Gardens are just that. While it’s not a huge place to explore, it’s worth a stop to stroll and admire all the work volunteers put into it. Sunken Gardens are part of a much larger park called Antelope Park.
- Sunken Gardens, southwest corner of 27th Street and Capital Parkway
- Hamann Rose Garden and Strolling Garden, 27th and C streets
Walk through Robber's Cave
For more than a century, Robber's Cave has been used as a hideout, brewery storage, concert venue, daycare, and the ulitmate college party spot. Now, you can reserve a tour and learn about its fascinating history.
- 925 Robbers Cave Road
Lincoln Children's Museum
Three stories of fun, that’s what Lincoln Children’s Museum is. Play in the treehouse, splash at the water table, and explore the imaginative kid-size world. My kids loved the nutty cuckoo clock area when they were little.
- Lincoln Children’s Museum, 1420 P St.
Active family fun
Doesn’t matter your age, you will be tired after spending a few hours jumping, climbing and playing indoors at Lost in Fun! or Urban Air Adventure. But if you see more thrills, check out the city’s putt-putt golf centers, laser tag facilities, and paintball park.
- Lost in Fun!, 8531 Cody Drive
- Urban Air Adventure, 2840 S. 70th St.
- Adventure Golf Center, 5901 S. 56th St.
- Lincoln Laser Tag, 6600 N. 27th St.
- CJ’s Paintball Park, 16500 SW 14th St., Mortell, Neb.
Lincoln Children's Zoo
A fun afternoon at the zoo is in order. See more than 400 animals, a lot of them you can see up close. This zoo has a good amount of annimal interactions from a pettting zoo to feeding a giraffe.
- Lincoln Children’s Zoo, 1222 S. 27th St.
Brick roads and revitalized warehouses filled with local shops and restaurants are quintessential Haymarket. You’ll find some pretty unique places to hang out, either to watch a Husker game on TV or enjoy a drink before a show.
Cheer on the Huskers
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has several great Division I teams, but none can compare to the women's volleyball team. Home games are played at the Devaney Center. The Devaney Center is home to games and matches for Husker wrestling, men's and women's gymnastics, women's swimming and diving, and track and field, as well.
Football, many will argue, is also a must-see. Be a part of the Sea of Red on game day at Memorial Stadium.
- Devaney Center. 1600 Court St.
- Memorial Stadium, 1 Memorial Stadium Driv
Immerse yourself in state history
The University of Nebraska State Museum – most commonly referred to as Morrill Hall – is the state’s best natural history museum filled with fossils and interactive exhibits. The Hall of Mammoths is something to be behold. This is also where you’ll find Ralph Mueller Planetarium.
- Morrill Hall, UNL campus, 14th and Vine streets
- Nebraska History Museum, 131 Centennial Mall North
Nebraska State Capitol
It’s a rite of passage for most Nebraska fourth graders, but you can tour the Nebraska State Capitol no matter what age you are. Tours point out the mosaics and sculptures throughout the building, as well as details the uniqueness of being the nation’s first truly vernacular state capitol.
- Nebraska State Capitol, 1445 K St.
See a live concert
Being a college town, major touring acts plan tour stops in Lincoln. My favorite venues are the Rococo Theatre and Pinewood Bowl, but if you want an arena experience, get tickets to a show at Pinnacle Arena.
- The Rococo Theatre, 140 N. 13th St.
- Pinewood Bowl Amphitheater, 3201 S. Coddington Ave.
- Pinnacle Bank Arena, 400 Pinnacle Arena Drive
- The Bourbon Theatre, 1415 O St.
Watch an arthouse flick
Some of the best independent and foreign films are shown on the two screens at The Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center. I’ve seen a few thought-provoking documentaries at the theater.
- The Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center, UNL campus, 313 N. 13th St.
Eat all the food
I’ve been visiting Lincoln for years, first because of family and now because I love some restaurants there. Here are a few favorites.
- The Green Gateau, 330 S. 10th St. (downtown)
- The Oven, 201 N. Eighth St., suite 201 and 101 Pioneer Woods Drive, suite 110
- Honest Abe’s Burgers & Freedom (several locations, but my favorite is 126 N. 14th St.)
- Ivanna Cone, 701 P St., suite 101 (Haymarket)
- UNL Dairy Store, UNL East Campus, 1625 Arbor Drive (North Lincoln)
- 9 South CharGrill, 844 S. St. (South Lincoln)
- Copal Progressive Mexican Cuisine, 4747 Pioneers Blvd., suite 300 (South Lincoln)
Go ice skating
For the better part of the year, public ice skating is available indoors at Breslow Ice Hockey Center and The Ice Box. Seasonally, outdoor rinks are at Holmes Lake and Oak Lake Park.
- John Breslow Ice Hockey Center, 433 V St.
- The Ice Box, 1880 Transformation Drive (home of the Lincoln Stars)
- Holmes Lake, 70th Street and Normal Boulevard
- Oak Lake Park, Charleston Street and Sun Valley Boulevard
Watch live theater
Lincoln’s theater scene is a mix of excellent community theater productions, professional regional theatre, as well as Broadway tours. For marquee titles, keep an eye on the upcoming season at Lied Center for Performing Arts.
- Lied Center for Performing Arts, UNL campus, 301 N. 12th St.
- Lincoln Community Playhouse, 2500 S. 56th St.
- Nebraska Repertory Theatre, UNL campus, 215 Temple Building, 12th and R streets
- TADA Theatre, 701 P St.
Pose in front of murals
The results of a 2021 mural project, Emerge LNK, can be seen throughout University Place. They’re so colorful, you’ll want to snap a selfie.
- 2601 N. 48th St.
- 2621 N. 48th St.
- 2633 N. 48th St.
- 2723 N.48th St.
- 2700 N. 48th St.
- 2626 N. 48th St.
- North 50th Street and Huntington Avenue
- 2431 N. 48th St.
- 3100 N. 38th St.
- 6102 Havelock Ave.
Shop your heart out
I’m a sucker for locally-owned shops, so I love dropping by Indigo Bridge for a new book or browsing one of the boutiques in the Haymarket when I get the chance. Here are a few shops I recommend you check out.
- Indigo Bridge, 1245 S. 14th St.
- From Nebraska Gift Shop, 803 Q St.
- KD Designs, 151 N. Eighth St., suite 110
- Licorice International, 230 N. Seventh St. and 4725 Prescott Ave.
Breweries and cideries
In 1990, the state of Nebraska had one brewery, Empyrean Brewing Co., and it was in Lincoln.. That brewery has evolved into Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill, and thtey still servee Empyrean.
Nowawadays, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a brewery in Lincoln (I don’t recommend trying). Try a taste of local beer or ciders at one of these.
- Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill, 210 N. Seventh St., next door to Empyrean Brewing Co., 729 Q St.
- Backswing Brewing Co., 500 W. South St., suite 8
- Boiler Brewing Co., 129 N. 10th St., suite 8, and 5800 Hidcote Drive, suite 100
- Catalyst Brewing Co. & Taproom, 5730 Hidcote Drive
- Code Beer Co., 200 S. Antelope Valley Parkway
- Corn Coast Brewing Co., 1433 Dahlberg Drive, suite A
- Cosmic Eye Brewing, 6800 P St., suite 300
- Kinkaider Brewing Co. Taproom, 201 N. Seventh St.
- Saro Cider, 1746 N. St.
- Schillingbridge Cork & Tap House, 575 Fallbrook Blvd., suite 109
- White Elm Brewing Co., 2717 S. Eighth St., suite 1 and 801 R St.
- Zipline Brewing Co., 2100 Magnum Circle, suite 1, and 5740 Hidcote Drive.
Free things to do
A few places have been mentioned already, like Pioneers Park Nature Center and Sunken Gardens. A few other great, free places to visit include Gallery Alley in the Haymarket (especially lit up at night) and Centennial Mall in downtotwn.
- Pioneers Park Nature Center, 3201 S. Coddington Ave.
- Sunken Gardens, southwest corner of 27th Street and Capital Parkway
- Gallery Alley, 719 P St.
- Centennial Mall, seven blocks in downtown Lincoln
Go to a park
The city has its own herd of bison and elk and you can find them at Pioneers Park. It’s also a great space for hiking through prairie and wetlands. There are about 8 miles of hiking trails. Don’t skip the nature center.
- Pioneers Park, 3201 S. Coddington Ave.
- Antelope Park, 23rd & N Streets and Sheridan Boulevard (largest playground in the city that’s ADA accessible)
- Prairie Pines Nature Preserve, 3100 N. 112th St.
- Wilderness Park, First and Van Dorn streets (the city’s largest park with 22 miles of trails)
It’s not just for university students! Outdoor Adventures featuring rock climbing walls, a challenge course, and workshops. You can also rent equipment for paddling, cross country skiing, hiking, camping and more.
- UNL Outdoor Adventures, 930 N. 14th St.
- Lincoln Paddle Co., book online and they will meet you at the lake shore with rental kayaks or SUPS
Sheldon Museum of Art is a gorgeous modern art museum located on the campus of UNL. Browse the grounds nearby – there are more than 30 sculptures from the museum’s collection on exhibit.
- Sheldon Museum of Art, UNL campus, 12th and R streets
- Great Plains Art Museum, 115 Q St.
- International Quilt Museum, UNL campus, 1523N. 33rd St.
Where to stay in Lincoln, Nebraska
Even with Lincoln being a short drive from Omaha, I’ve stayed overnight in the city several times. Usually, I prefer staying in the Haymarket area since restaurants, attractions and stores are all within walking distance. The downside to Haymarket, though, as well as many downtown Lincoln hotels, is that parking is extra, typically.
Here are a few of the hotels I recommend for families:
- The Graduate Hotel (read my review…got kids? It has a pool)
- Hyatt Place Haymarket (also has a pool)
No kids? Stay at some place a little more special:
- https://tidd.ly/3Nt7eICThe Scarlet Lincoln
- The Rogers House Inn B&B