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.
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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How does one even begin to list all the unique annual festivals and events in Nebraska? Well, you can’t. Nebraska has a ton of festivals. So, I created this post to include the best festivals that I think are worth the drive or are so quirky, you have to go to it at least once.
This post is divided into sections to help you narrow down your list. First, I included the biggies, the festivals that are incredibly popular that I think should be on your radar. Then, I’ve got categories for quirky Nebraska festivals, ethnic festivals and other random themes I came up with.
Finally, at the end of the post, I wrote about which part of Nebraska all these festivals are, in case you’re not sure where some towns are located on a map.
If you think there’s a Nebraska festival that should be on this list, leave me a comment or send me an email!
5 Nebraska festivals you should go to at least once
AppleJack Festival – Every September, 60,000 to 80,000 people flock to Nebraska City for a weekend of, well, apples. Think apple cider donuts, candy apples, apple pie…you get the idea. The AppleJack Festival also a craft fair, parade, carnival. and more.
MAHA Music Festival – MAHA Music Festival is Omaha’s largest multi-day music festival. Some of the biggest names currently touring play on the MAHA stages each August.
NE SciFest – For most of April each year, locations around Nebraska hold special events as part of Nebraska Science Festival. Some of geared toward kids, like Lil’ Scientist Day, some are for adults (usually involving chemistry and booze), but overall, most events are for the entire family.
NEBRASKAland Days – NEBRASKAland Days is part music festival, part rodeo. Held each June in North Platte, the weekend is packed with the usual fair events like a parade, as well as big name music acts and the Buffalo Bill Rodeo.
Railroad Days – Railroad Days celebrates the Omaha metro’s connection to the railroad (Ground Zero started across the river in Council Bluffs, Iowa). Several cultural venues and museums plan activities to celebrate, including music, mini train rides and the chance to tour each location and get up close to trains. I update the events each year on the blog.
Quirky Nebraska festivals and annual events
Avoca Duck Races – On the last Saturday in January, the town of Avoca holds the annual Avoca Duck Races as a fundraiser for the volunteer fire department. Being January in Nebraska, the race is on ice. That’s right, real ducks race across ice.
Wayne Chicken Show – The Wayne Chicken Show is held on the second weekend of July in Wayne, Neb. The theme is always chickens, and from that, all things are planned (with a lot of humor). There’s an unusual egg judging contest, the world’s largest chicken dance, and the Wayne Chicken Show National Cluck-Off…to name just a few things planned. It’s an entire weekend of festivities.
Kool-Aid Days – Since Kool-Aid was invented in Nebraska, it makes sense that we’d celebrate it each year. Kool-Aid Days is held the second full weekend of August each year in Hastings, Neb., and it features an assortment of fun events and games like a Kool-Aid drinking contest, rides, and the world’s largest Kool-Aid stand.
Nebraska Prairie Chicken Festival – Male prairie chickens are known to do a pretty interesting dance to attract a mate. So, obviously, there needs to be a weekend dedicated to it. The festival takes place every April in Burwell, and as you can imagine, involves quite a bit of bird-watching.
Testicle Festival – Held every Father’s Day weekend at the Ashland restaurant, Around The Bend, the Testicle Festival is a big event. Featuring live music and a beer garden like any decent festival, with the real draw being a chance to try fried bull testicles. For the daring, you can take part in the ball eating contest.
Experience the world at Nebraska ethnic festivals
Wilbur has a festival called Czech Days in August. It’s self-proclaimed the Czech Capital of the U.S.A. Another “capital” is the Danish Capital of Nebraska, Dennebrog, where they celebrate the town’s heritage one weekend in June during Grundlovsfest.
For more than 90 years, Bridgeport has held an annual Greek Festival every August. In Omaha, St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church puts on a Greek festival for three days every August.
There are a lot of Irish in Nebraska, so you can bet there are big Irish celebrations. What can you expect from the Irish Capital of Nebraska, O’Neill? O’Neill has a huge St. Patrick’s Day festival with the claim to fame of having the world’s largest shamrock and their own 13,410-pound O’Neill Blarney Stone. Nearby Greeley, also celebrates St. Patrick’s Day…six months in advance. The town has the Half-Way to St. Patrick’s Day Festival every September and it’s so popular, the population nearly quadruples for the day.
There’s just one festival to keep in mind if you want to experience Mexico: South Omaha’s Cinco de Mayo festival. This huge event the first weekend in May is popular and includes a very popular parade and carnival.
Two towns have festivals celebrating the Czech and Slovak dessert, kolache or kolach. There’s the Kolache Shoot-Out in Elba every February and the Kolach Days each June in Verdigre.
There’s a unique festival celebrating Sister Cities, rather than a single country. Each year on two Sundays in August, families can visit Omaha’s Sister Cities from Ireland, Mexico, Lithuania, Japan, China and Germany. The WorldFest is held at Omaha Children’s Museum.
Top festivals in Omaha
Holiday Lights Festival – Christmas lasts six weeks in Omaha. The Holiday Lights Festival kicks off on Thanksgiving night with a tree lighting ceremony in downtown Omaha and a free concert at the Holland Performing Arts Center. Then events and activities are held around downtown Omaha, including outdoor ice skating, a free family festival on the first weekend of December and fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
Note: Due to construction in downtown Omaha, the tree lighting will be held in the Old Market in 2019.
Omaha Summer Arts Festival – It’s not summer without this arts festival. Held during a weekend in June in downtown Omaha, the Omaha Summer Arts Festival includes juried art displays, live music, a children’s fair, and plenty of food options.
Omaha Restaurant Week – Every September, Omaha’s best restaurants participate in Omaha Restaurant Week. Restaurants offer a pre fixe menu making it very affordable to try some of the best in the Omaha food scene. As a bonus, a portion of Omaha Restaurant Week proceeds will go to Food Bank for the Heartland.
O Comic Con – Celebrate pop culture and comics with fellow fans at O Comic Con. Enjoy meet and greets, demonstrations, children’s activities, and more during this two-day event. Originally, the annual event in June was held in Omaha but now it’s just across the river in Council Bluffs (but it still counts as an Omaha festival, right?).
Omaha Film Festival – Since 2005, Omaha has had its own film festival. It’s grown so much, Omaha Film Festival been named one of MovieMaker Magazine’s 2019 “50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.” The festival is held every March.
Taste of Omaha – A festival celebrating the food scene in Omaha, Taste of Omaha is a June outdoor event with vendors, live music, and demonstrations. It’s not unusual for it to take on a carnival atmosphere, as there are typically some rides, as well.
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Communities across Nebraska celebrate the Fourth of July with parades, concerts and, of course, fireworks. Some cities begin patriotic festivities up to a week before July 4. From Lincoln to Norfolk and Hooper, here are the best 2019 Fourth of July events in Nebraska! You’ll find all of the big Omaha fireworks displays and Fourth of July events on this list, too.
If you have an event you’d like to see added to this list, please email me – firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m going to divide this up into two sections: One for Omaha Fourth of July events (and Omaha fireworks) and the rest of Nebraska. There’s just a lot going on in Omaha!
Omaha Fourth of July Events
City of Omaha Celebrates America Free Concert & Fireworks Show
When: June 28, 6 p.m. (fireworks at 10 p.m.)
Where: Memorial Park in Omaha
What: A live concert by co-headliners Little Steven (Steven Van Zandt) and Chris Isaak followed by the fireworks finale.
Autism Friendly Independence Day Celebration
When: June 29, 6 to 10 p.m.
Where: Autism Center of Nebraska in Omaha
What: Autism Society of Nebraska hosts the family-friendly event includes indoor and outdoor activities, and ends with a fireworks display. To accommodate noise sensitivities, ASN will provide earplugs or bring your own headphones.
College Home Run Derby & OWH Independence Day Fireworks
When: June 29, 7 p.m.
Where: TD Ameritrade Park, 1200 Mike Fahey St. in Omaha
What: The top men’s NCAA baseball players participate in a home run derby followed by fireworks.
Cost: Tickets start at $10
Lake Manawa Fireworks
When: June 29, 10 p.m.
Where: Lake Manawa State Park, 1100 S. Shore Drive in Council Bluffs, Iowa
What: Free fireworks show in a state park setting.
Cost: FREE for Iowa residents; $5 entry fee for non-Iowa residents
Monday Night At The Movies “Independence Day”
When: July 1; park opens at 5 p.m. and move starts at dusk
Where: Turner Park at Midtown Crossing in Omaha
What: Enjoy a free movie in the park. Bring blankets and chairs.
Ralston Independence Day Celebration
When: July 3 and 4
Where: Ralston, Neb.
What: An annual event that includes a family street dance, fire department water fights, Picnic In The Park, and a parade.
When: July 4, 8 to 11 a.m.
Where: Baxter Arena, Omaha, Neb.
What: This Fourth of July-themed running event is for families and includes a 5k and 10k option.
Cost: $32 if registered before June 16. 2019; kids’ fun run is FREE.
Boys Town Fireworks
When: July 4, at around 10 p.m.
Where: Fireworks shot from the football field at Boys Town in Omaha.
What: A long-time tradition, the fireworks display at Boys Town is large.
Omaha Storm Chasers Game & Fireworks
When: July 4 and 5, game starts at 7:05 p.m. with fireworks following
Where: Werner Park, Papillion, Neb.
What: Enjoy fireworks following the Storm Chasers’ games against the Nashville Sounds.
Cost: $8 for berm seating on up to $25
Red, White & Zoo!
When: July 4-7, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St.
What: Go on a self-guided tour in search of red, white and blue animals. The first 500 people to walk through the gates on Wednesday, July 4 will receive a free patriotic gift
Cost: Included with regular zoo admission
Nebraska Fourth of July Celebrations
47th Annual Platte Center Fourth of July celebration
When: June 28-28 and July 4
Where: Platte Center, Neb.
What: Several events are planned including a mud volleyball tournament and Red, White & Blessed Fun Run on June 29, and a parade at 10:30 a.m. on July 4.
Cost: FREE (fun run and volleyball tournament have admission fees)
Red, White, & Brass featuring the Plymouth Brass
When: June 30, 4 p.m.
Where: First-Plymouth Church, 2000 D St., Lincoln, Neb.
What: It’s a concert featuring patriotic music performed by a brass band.
Cost: $20, adults; $15, seniors; and $10, students
Independence Day Celebration
When: June 30 through July 6
Where: Nebraska City
What: A small-town celebration of freedom with a weeklong carnival and an hour-long fireworks extravaganza. Some events planned include yoga, a fun run and an ice cream social.
Cost: FREE (carnival wristbands and some tournaments and events are additional fees)
Seward Fourth of July
When: July 1-4
Where: Seward, Neb.
What: Seward, recognized as “America’s Small Town Fourth of July City,” hosts an old‑fashioned family celebration each year that lasts several days.
When: July 3, 4 to 10 p.m.; live music starts at 6 p.m. and fireworks will go off at 10 p.m.
Where: Oak Lake Park, First and Charleston streets, Lincoln, Neb.
What: A family-friendly community celebration with games, canoeing and live music by Soul Dawg. Fireworks end the night. Food vendors will be there.
Annual Hooper Fourth of July Fun Run
When: July 4, 8 a.m.
Where: Begins and finishes at Hooper Park in Hooper, Neb.
What: There are two races – a 10k and a 2-mile run/walk. The course is flat and will be run through the residential area of Hooper.
Cost: Entry fee is $20 with a T-shirt if received by June 23, 2019. As of June 24, entry to the race will be $25 and participants will not be guaranteed a race shirt. Day of entries will be accepted at $30 and will not be guaranteed a shirt.
Madison Fourth Of July Parade
When: July 4, 10 a.m.
Where: Main Street in Madison, Neb.
What: Madison’s annual parade to celebrate the Fourth of July.
Stanton Fourth Of July Parade
When: July 4, 10 a.m.
Where: Stanton, Neb.
What: Stanton’s annual parade to celebrate the Fourth of July.
Norfolk Fourth Of July Parade
When: July 4, 10 a.m.
Where: Norfolk Avenue in downtown Norfolk, Neb.
What: Norfolk’s annual parade to celebrate the Fourth of July.
1899 Independence Day Celebration
When: July 4
Where: Stuhr Museum of the Pioneer Prairie in Grand Island, Neb.
What: This summer tradition includes a parade through our 1890s Railroad Town, a concert by the Silver Cornet Band, historic patriotic program, pie eating contests, games on the green and more.
What: The inflatable midway and food vendors start at 1 p.m. Live music begins at 5 p.m. and fireworks start at 10 p.m.
Cost: There is a fee for the wristbands for the midway.
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Nebraska Tourism has this slogan, perhaps you’ve heard of it: “Nebraska, it’s not for everyone.” It got some good chuckles when it was announced. If you take the time to explore the state, though, I believe you’ll find something for you. Summer is a great time to travel through Nebraska, so, I created a list to inspire some summertime fun. Here are 10 thing to do in Nebraska that are unforgettable.
Nebraska has more miles of water than any other state, so you bet there are some opportunities to canoe. One of the most scenic and popular waterways is the Niobrara River in north central Nebraska.
The scenic section of the river I’m most familiar with takes about three hours to a half-day to canoe (depending how much you stop) and ends at Rocky Ford. That section takes you right by Smith Falls State Park, where you can park your canoe and walk up to the falls. The outfitter my group has always used is Rocky Ford Camp & Outfitters.
College World Series
The best show on dirt, as they call it, occurs every June in Omaha. The NCAA Division I Men’s College World Series takes place at TD AmeriTrade Park in north downtown. The biggest crowds (and parties) occur that first weekend.
I never thought I’d be zooming around cliffs in Nebraska, but I had the opportunity to ride in an off-road jeep tour at Fort Robinson State Park. My kids were pretty young at the time, and they enjoyed the thrill. It’s a bit of a rocky experience, but you can’t beat the views of the buttes.
I have a love affair with the idea of chuckwagon dinners or cowboy cookouts. Truth be told, though, I’ve never been to one. It sounds like the best kind of cookouts, one with a little entertainment with the fresh air.
At Fort Robinson State Park, they offer hayrack breakfast rides as well as buffalo stew and steak cookouts. At Niobrara State Park in the summer, they hold buffalo cookouts with entertainment such as cowboy poets and storytellers.
Why canoe or kayak along a river when you can tank it? Tanking involves cruising in style in a water tank originally intended to keep cattle hydrated. Pack snacks and bring a cooler, and enjoy the quintessential Nebraskan ride.
Re-live Nebraska history
Learn about Nebraska history by actors taking on the roles of the very people who lived it. One of the closest places to Omaha to see living history is Fort Atkinson Historical State Park, which has historical re-enactments on the first weekend of the month in the summer.
One of the most popular weekends is the one near the Fourth of July. Be sure to cover your ears if you happen to catch them firing a cannon!
Other places to catch living history in Nebraska 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.
You can also enjoy interacting with costumed actors at Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island.
The thrills and edge-of-your-seat action are all a part of rodeos in Nebraska. You can catch a weekly rodeo held at Fort Robinson State Park or plan on attending on at NEBRASKALand Days in North Platte or the Pony Express Rodeo in Gothenburg. You can even catch the rodeo in Omaha during AKSARBEN Stock Show & Rodeo.
If you ask which I prefer, I’d pick Platte River’s trail.
For a more rugged experience, head west. Trail rides are offered at state parks in western Nebraska including Fort Robinson and Chadron.
Nebraska’s Fourth of July town is Seward, where the celebration is spread out over more than one day. Other summer festivals you might want to see include NEBRASKAland Days in North Platte, Oregon Trail Days in Gering, and the celebration of a fried delicacy…the Testicle Festival in Ashland.
Wildlife safari drive-thru
Ever have a bison walk by your passenger window? How about a herd? The Nebraska Wildlife Safari is located half-way between Lincoln and Omaha in eastern Nebraska. See native Nebraska animals up close, including elk, cranes and those bison, as well as wolves, eagles and more.
Midway through, there’s a point where you can park and get out on short trails to see more animals, including some cute goats at the petting zoo.
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