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. There’s so much to do in Lincoln, Nebraska, you’ll need the whole weekend!
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (Note: the museum will be temporarily closed in the fall of 2023)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re visiting Lincoln during the holiday season, you must check out this article featuring the city’s can’t-miss holiday events!
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:
What are some things to do this weekend in Lincoln?
Lincoln is a busy place on the weekends, but it depends on your interests. If you like fresh food and live music, the Farmers Market held on Saturdays in the Haymarket is a good bet for entertainment from early May to mid-October. Fantastic touring performances come to Lincoln from rock to Broadway, so a few places to check for weekend show dates include Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lied Center For Performing Arts, and Rococo Theatre.
What are some popular annual events and festivals in Lincoln?
Lincoln, Nebraska, has a lot of annual events to look forward to. In the spring, a few favorites include Lincoln Earth Day in April and the Lincoln Marathon in early May. Lincoln Calling, an art & music festival, is also in early May. Football fans also look forward to the Husker Spring Game.
In the summer, the city celebrates the Fourth of July with several events and one of the great, free celebrations is the Uncle Sam Jam at Oak Lake Park. In late August 2023, the city also brought back the very popular Lincoln Air Show.
Fall is a great time for pumpkin patches, and a nearby favorite is Roca Berry Farm’s Fall Festival in October. Roca isn’t too far from Lincoln. Lincoln Children’s Zoo holds Boo at the Zoo in late October, and it’s a blast for kids to trick or treat through the zoo.
The Lincoln zoo’s Zoo Lights is an annual highlight in the winter. It features one of the region’s largest lighting displays.
What are the local dining and restaurant options in Lincoln?
Some of our favorite restaurants are in Lincoln! For breakfast, I recommend Cultiva or Good Evans. And for brunch, the must-visit place is The Green Gateau. For breakfast pastries and great coffee, there’s nothing better than The Mill Coffee and Tea in the Haymarket.
For lunch, try a burger at Honest Abe’s Burgers & Freedom (there are a few locations) or go to Yia Yia’s for pizza. For dinner, good casual options include Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill, Blue Sushi Grill & Sake, Copal Progressive Mexican Cuisine. For a date night, try dinner at The Oven, which has some of the state’s best Indian dishes, or Dish, whose chef has been a James Beard nominee.
What are the best places to get ice cream in Lincoln?
This is one of our favorite questions to research! A classic ice cream shop in the Haymarket is Ivanna Cone. And, if you’re willing to drive away from all the city’s main attractions, go to UNL’s Dairy Store on the university’s East Campus. The handmade ice cream there is delicious!