July 23, 2019

25+ Nebraska Festivals and Events Worth The Road Trip

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.

Unique and quirky, ethnic festivals and rodeos, here are 25+ Nebraska festivals. Some of the more unique annual events include the Wayne Chicken Show, Half-Way To St. Patrick's Day and NEBRASKAland Days, as well as many foodie festivals. Events on this list are in all seasons, so there's always something to see and things do in Nebraska.

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

Must-see Nebraska festivals - Railroad Days is held each year in July in Omaha and in nearby Council Bluffs

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 FestivalMAHA 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 DaysNEBRASKAland 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 DaysRailroad 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

Quirky Nebraska Festivals - Kool-Aid Days is held each August in Hastings, Nebraska
Photo courtesy of Kool-Aid Days

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

Ethnic festivals in Nebraska include the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration in South Omaha.
Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

†††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 a taste of Germany, Henderson is home to the German Smorgasbord every March. GermanFest is held in Syracuse in July. Okotoberfest is big in Omaha, and you can find celebrations at Crescent Moon and the German-American Society. Find other Oktoberfest celebrations in Norfolk.

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.

Nebraska has its fair share of Swedish descendants. Enjoy the Swedish Midsommar Festival in Strombsburg, Swedish Days in Holdrege or the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival in Omaha. June is the time for these Swedish festivals.

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

Top festivals in Omaha - Every June, the Omaha Summer Arts Festival is held in downtown Omaha. The Children's Fair at the festival includes the opportunity for kids to buy art.

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.

Explore Nebraska one festival at a time - From the Chicken Show and Kool-Aid Days to Avoca Duck Races, Nebraska has a variety of festivals and annual events for families and those seeking the quirkier side of the state. #Nebraska #festival #guide

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May 27, 2019

20+ Best Fourth Of July Events In Nebraska In 2019

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 – ohmyomaha@gmail.com.

Updated list of Fourth of July celebrations in Nebraska, including fireworks displays, fun runs, parades and free concerts. Family-friendly events in Nebraska | Things to do in Nebraska this summer | Things to do on the Fourth of July in Nebraska | Omaha Fourth of July #USA #Midwest #events

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.

Cost: FREE

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.

Cost: FREE

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.

Cost: FREE

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.

Cost: FREE

Firecracker Flight

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.

Cost: FREE

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.

Cost: Most events are FREE

Related post: The Seward celebration is on the list for the 10 Unforgettable Things To Do This Summer In Nebraska.

Uncle Sam Jam

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.

Cost: FREE

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.

Cost: FREE

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.

Cost: FREE

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.

Cost: FREE

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.

Cost: Adults, $10; children, $8; Stuhr members, FREE

Murdock Fourth of July Celebration

When: July 4

Where: Murdock, Neb.

What:  The town of Murdock has an all-day Fourth of July celebration.

Cost: FREE

July Fourth Flea Party

When: July 4

Where: Fairbury City Park, 421 City Park Road, Fairbury, Neb.

What: In addition to the flea market, the Fairbury Community Band performs at 10:30 a.m. and there is a fireworks display at dusk.

Cost: FREE

City of Hickman Fireworks Display

When: July 4, 10 p.m.

Where: Main Park in Hickman, Neb.

What: A long-running tradition, this fireworks display can be viewed from Main Park. Bring chairs.

Cost: FREE

Living History Fourth Of July Celebration

When: July 6 and 7, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Fort Atkinson in Fort Calhoun

What: See volunteers portray what life was like on a military fort in the 1820s. The theme for the weekend is the Fourth of July and activities will be based on the holiday celebration.

Cost: Included with valid Nebraska State Park permit

Related post: Living History At Fort Atkinson In Nebraska

Big Bang Boom

When: July 6, 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Where: Skyview Lake, Norfolk, Neb.

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.

Fourth of July is celebrated with parades, festivals, baseball games and more throughout Nebraska. Check out this list of things to do in Nebraska every 4th of July, including Omaha 4th of July events! List includes community-wide celebrations, concerts, fireworks displays and more. #familytime #fourthofjuly #USA #Nebraksa

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May 3, 2019

10 Unforgettable Things To Do This Summer In Nebraska

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.

Related post: My Nebraska Bucket List

Planning a trip to Nebraska this summer? Here are 10 unforgettable things to do in Nebraska, including Omaha, North Platte, Niobrara and more | Summer fun in Nebraska | Things to do outdoors in Nebraska | Kid-friendly things to do in Nebraska #familytravel #USA

Canoeing

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.

10 unforgettable Nebraska experiences - Canoeing the Niobrara River
Paddlers on the Niobrara River in Nebraska. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

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.

If you’ve never been, be sure to check out the Essential Guide To The College World Series.

10 unforgettable things to do in Nebraska this summer - attend a College World Series baseball game in Omaha
TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha is the home to the NCAA Men’s College World Series. Photo courtesy Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau

Off-road jeep ride

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.

10 unforgettable experiences in Nebraska - Off-road jeep ride through Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska
The Fort Robinson State Park off-road jeep excursion takes riders on dirt trails with outstanding views.

Chuckwagon dinner

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. 

Tanking

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!

10 unforgettable experiences in Nebraska - Watching historical re-enactors fire the cannon at Fort Robinson State Park
The cannon is prepped to be fired at Fort Atkinson.

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.

Rodeos

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.

Horseback riding

There are state parks with trail rides near major metropolitan cities like Omaha and Lincoln, including at Platte River State Park and Mahoney State Park. Those rides will be through wooded areas, mostly.

If you ask which I prefer, I’d pick Platte River’s trail.

10 unforgettable Nebraska experiences - horseback riding at Platte River State Park
Even young kids can enjoy the trail ride at Platte River State Park.

For a more rugged experience, head west. Trail rides are offered at state parks in western Nebraska including Fort Robinson and Chadron.

Summer festivals

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.

The road through the Nebraska Wildlife Safari takes you near herds of native Nebraskan animals, including bison.

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.

Best things to do in Nebraska in the summer, including big events & festivals, outdoor adventures like trail rides and canoeing, and unforgettable experiences like tanking and close encounters with bison. #Nebraska #USA #FamilyTravel

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March 28, 2019

Guide To Nebraska State Parks Cabins

If you love the idea of being immersed in nature but you don’t like sleeping on the ground, cabins are for you. In Nebraska, I always look at the state parks for cabin choices. I’ve stayed at a few that I could recommend, but there are even more in the state I’ve yet to visit. Here are all the state parks cabins in Nebraska (as well as a few other lodging options that don’t involve sleeping on the ground:

Kim’s note: In 2019, 75% of Nebraska countries were impacted by floods. Check the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission website to be sure the park you’d like to visit is unaffected.

Not all state parks in Nebraska have cabins and not all cabins are equal. Here's a guide to staying at state park cabins in Nebraska. Find out what's included in a cabin and what you can do nearby at each state park.

Chadron State Park

Where: Chadron in northwestern Nebraska

Hikers on a trail overlooking Chadron State Park in western Nebraska
A hiking trail at Chadron State Park, the oldest state park in Nebraska. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

About the cabins: Chadron State Park is Nebraska’s oldest state park. We stayed at one of the two-bedroom rustic cabins during a trip through western Nebraska and South Dakota. It was bare minimum and dated, but a pretty inexpensive lodging option. There are 22 such cabins available seasonally.

Exterior of a two-bedroom cabin at Chadron State Park in Nebraska
We stayed at this two-bedroom cabin at Chadron State Park.

Things to do at Chadron State Park: The park offers horseback trail rides, craft center and evening programs. We spent some time at Chadron State Park with the kids, and visited the pool, hiked, and did the paddle boats. The park lies in the Nebraska National Forest with bike and hike trails through the ponderosa pines. Elevation reaches 5,000 feet in the park.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park

Where: Ashland in southeastern Nebraska

About the cabins: Cabins at Mahoney State Park are notoriously hard to reserve for the summer, especially for weekend stays, so the sooner you pick a date, the better. Reservations may be made up to a year in advance, which is what you’ll need to do for the summer. Winter reservations are much easier to make and, also, cost less. Mahoney State Park has some of the newest cabins in the park system, and they usually are reserved first. I’ve stated at treetop cabins and would recommend them. They’re older, certainly, but pretty comfortable with a “treetop” living room.

Exterior of a cabin at Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Nebraska. Cabins reservations fill quickly. They are among the most popular state cabins in Nebraska.
Here’s an example of one of Mahoney State Park’s older cabins, which is still pretty nice. The newer cabins are even bigger. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

All cabins at Mahoney State Park are fully furnished, include a fireplace, satellite TV, and WiFi. There are 57 cabins, with more under construction. There are 49 two-bedroom cabins, three four-bedroom cabins, and five six-bedroom cabins.

The park also has Peter Kiewit Lodge, which has 40 guest rooms, some with sleeping lofts and electric fireplaces.

Things to do at Mahoney State Park: Summer is peak season at Mahoney. The park has a Family Aquatic Center with two waterslides, zero-depth wave pool and a water playground, plus a traditional pool. There is also a zip line course, horseback trail rides, putt putt golf, fishing, paddle boats, craft center, disc golf, and a live theater. Hiking isn’t the best here, but there are some trails. Don’t skip the conservatory and observation tower. Mahoney State Park has a lot of activities for families.

There’s also a great indoor play area with a climbing walls. In the winter, there is ice skating, sledding, and ice fishing. Here are more things to do at Mahoney State Park in the winter.

Fort Robinson State Park

Where: Crawford in northwestern Nebraska

Riders on horseback at Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford, Nebraska
A horseback trail ride at Fort Robinson, a Nebraska State Park that covers more than 22,000 acres. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

About the cabins: Rather than having individual cabins, this park makes use of the historic fort’s 1909 enlisted men’s barracks for accommodations. This is quite possibly the best park in Nebraska for large family reunions. Accommodations sleep between 2 to 60 people, with 35 different group lodging options to choose from. All options have kitchens, baths and bedrooms. Larger cabins have living rooms.

A historic building at Fort Robinson in Crawford, Neb. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Things to do at Fort Robinson State Park: This park is spread out over 22,000 acres with an abundance of things to do in the summer. Much of what there is to do and see is connected to the outpost’s history when it was in operation during the Indian Wars until after World War II. The park has an enclosed swimming pool; museums; horseback trail rides and pony rides; rides by jeep, stagecoach and hayrack; bike, kayak and tube rentals; hiking trails; and fishing. For food experiences, the park has buffalo stew and steak cookouts and hayrack breakfasts.

When we went to Fort Robinson with young kids, the highlight was definitely the off-road jeep rides (though the ponies were a close second).

Lewis & Clark Lake State Recreation Area

Where: Crofton, Neb.

About the cabins: Lewis & Clark has 10 newish modern lakeside cabins next to Nebraska’s second largest reservoir. All are two-bedroom cabins that sleep up to eight, plus they’re air conditioned. Each cabin has a porch with a picnic table, grill and a view of the lake.

Boater on the lake at Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area in Nebraska
Boating is a popular activity at Lewis & Clark State Recreation Area. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Things to do at Lewis & Clark SRA: This park has an unsupervised swimming beach. There are a total of five recreation areas on the lake that feature hiking trails, mountain biking, and lake access. This lake, as you can imagine, is popular with boaters.

Medicine Creek Reservoir State Recreation Area

Where: Cambridge, Neb.

About the cabins: Medicine Creek has four lakeside, two-bedroom cabins that are available to reserve from April to December. They’re fully furnished with an indoor bathroom and include a deck.

Things to do at Medicine Creek Reservoir SRA: Medicine Creek is among southwest reservoirs that offer quite a bit of water-based activities. This particular state recreation area has an unsupervised beach and boat ramp. Fish for walleye, white bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, wiper and crappie there. The other reservoirs nearby are Swanson Reservoir SRA, Enders Reservoir SRA, and Red Willow Reservoir SRA.

Niobrara State Park

Where: Niobrara, Neb.

About the cabins: Niobrara State Park has 20 modern cabins, with a mix of two-bedroom and three-bedroom options.

A cabin surrounded by trees at Niobrara State Park in northern Nebraska
Niobrara State Park is near both the Niobrara and Missouri rivers. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Things to do at Niobrara State Park: The park sits on the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers, so you can imagine access to the rivers are a draw for boaters. There are also horseback trail rides, buffalo cookouts, hiking trails and a pool (open mid-June to mid-August). There are two ponds at Niobrara State Park that are stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill and channel catfish. Go to pond 2 for rainbow trout fish in the fall and early spring.

The buffalo cookouts are popular and held on Saturdays throughout the summer. The cookouts include entertainment, which may be cowboy poets or storytellers. Reservations are required, and you’ll need to make them at the park admin office.

Platte River State Park

Where: Louisville, Neb.

About the cabins: Platte River State Park has quite possibly the widest range of accommodations, from absolute bare minimum to the ultimate in glamping. There are 20 modern cabins, including one four-bedroom cabin. Four of those modern cabins have a fireplace. In 2018, the park opened its glamping tents, ultramodern two-person digs that are pretty swanky. They also book very far in advance.

The exterior of a camper cabin at Platte River State Park in eastern Nebraska
The camper cabin at Platte River State Park offers beds with bedding, A/C, and a refrigerator like other modern cabins, but it lacks one biggie: Water. You’ll have to walk if you want to take a shower, use the restroom or wash your hands.

The park also has camper cabins. I’ve stayed at one of these and they’re bare bones, but super affordable. There is no running water and you must use the restrooms/shower facilities with other cabins. Most cabins have air conditioning. Most. There are also teepees at this park.

Things to do at Platte River State Park: Platte River State Park has some great hiking trails, including an easy, kid-friendly trail that passes a little waterfall. The park recently opened a large sprayground that replaces its pool. There are horseback trail rides, paddle boats, naturalist programs, Crawdad Creek, an observation tower and fishing opportunities. This is one of the few parks to have a shooting range for a variety of disciplines, including sling shot, tomahawk throw, rifle, pellet gun, and shot gun. We’ve been there when they’ve offered educational programs, where my kids learned some archery basics.

Ponca State Park

Where: Ponca, Neb.

About the cabins: Ponca State Park opened 10 gorgeous two-bedroom cabins in 2017, which adds to their 15 four-bedroom mini lodges, two two-bedroom “green” cabins, and rustic log cabins (two-bedroom and one-bedroom options). The new cabins are often all reserved early so plan accordingly.

Exterior of a mini lodge cabin at Ponca State Park in eastern Nebraska. The mini lodges at Ponca are among the most popular state cabins in Nebraska.
Here’s what a mini lodge looks like at Ponca State Park. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Things to do at Ponca State Park: I haven’t been to Ponca in years, but it’s a picturesque park situated on the Missouri River, and one of the most popular state park in Nebraska. There is a new aquatic center, as well as hiking and mountain bike trails, kayak programs, and horseback trail rides (Memorial Day to Labor Day). The park also has a nine-hole golf course and a shooting range.

Ponca State Park features one of the state’s most comprehensive outdoor and environmental education programs, with programs held daily Memorial Day through Labor Day and on weekends during the spring, fall and winter. 

Spring is a good time to visit for bird watching. In the fall, they have a popular haunted hayrack ride. There are winter activities, as well, including snowman building contests, sledding, ice fishing, and special events like Christmas in the Woods and Winterfest.

Two Rivers State Park Recreation Area

Where: Waterloo, Neb.

About the cabins: Two Rivers doesn’t actually have cabins. Instead, they call their “cabins” caboose cabins. They have a lot of amenities that you’d find in traditional cabins – air conditioning being one biggie. Each has a kitchen and restroom and sleep up to six people. It’s one of the more unique lodging options in Nebraska.

A row of caboose cabins at Two Rivers State Recreation Area near Omaha, Nebraska
Each caboose “cabin” at Two Rivers State Recreation Area sleeps up to six people. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Things to do at Two Rivers State Park: Two Rivers State Park has sandpit lakes that are popular for catch-and-release fishing. Catfish are stocked in Lakes 3 and 4; Lakes 1 and 2 are stocked annually with catchable channel catfish. Find largemouth bass at Lakes 1-4. Fee rainbow trout fishing is available at Lake 5, as is smallmouth bass. There is unsupervised swim beach, which we visited once. It’s rather small, but the kids liked it. This is not a park for hikers.

Victoria Springs State Recreation Area

Where: Anselmo, Neb.

About the cabins: Cabins are limited here – just two modern, two-bedroom. The cabins have a kitchen (with ranges, refrigerators, tableware, sink), double beds, linens, blankets, shower and toilet. The kitchenettes are furnished. The cabins are seasonal and are typically available from Memorial Day Weekend through mid-November.

Things to do at Victoria Springs SRA: Victoria Springs is one of the state’s oldest parks, and its waters were once renowned for its “healing” qualities back in the heyday of spas. Now it’s just a picturesque getaway in the Sandhills. Fishing is a draw, and the 5-acre pond is stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish. Boating is permitted and paddleboat are available to rent.

How to make reservations for Nebraska State Park cabins

There are two ways to reserve a cabin at a Nebraska State Park. You can reserve them online at OutdoorNebraska.org, which is my preferred method. You can also call 402-471-1414 (they have pretty traditional business hours, Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

Over-night stay minimums at Nebraska State Park cabins

There is a two-night minimum for reservations are required if you’re staying at peak season, and weekends. Otherwise, one-night stays are allowed during non-peak season from Sundays to Thursdays.

Want to stay in a yurt?

Nebraska doesn’t have yurts, yet. I stayed at the closest yurt to Nebraska one summer – you can find two yurts in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Looking for a cabin in Nebraska? Here's a list of all the state parks with cabins and what you can do in the park while you're there | Nebraska travel guide | Places to stay in Nebraska | Things to do in Nebraska

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February 8, 2019

10 Unique Places To Stay In Nebraska

Nebraska offers a wide variety of adventures for families, from stagecoach rides in the west, to canoeing in the north, and a world-class zoo in the east. And while you’re out venturing to each of those corners to the state, you’ll need a place to stay. I’ve been planning mini getaways for my family (checking off things on my Nebraska Bucket List), and I’ve started coming across some unique places to stay in Nebraska.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. At no cost to you, if you purchase something after clicking the link, I may receive a referral fee from it.

List of incredibly unique overnight experiences in Nebraska - From glamping to sleeping in a corn crib or teepee. If you're traveling through Nebraska and want to find a hotel or lodging that's truly unique, this is the list! #Nebraska #travel

My hope is to eventually spend at least one night in each of these. I’ll report back to you all with a review of the accommodations so you can decide if it’s right for you and your family. Take a look at some of the cool inns, B&Bs, and, well, quirky places you can stay in Nebraska:

The Corn Crib 

Where: Crab Orchard, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: You’re staying in a unique “cottage” that screams “Nebraska.” The Corn Crib is just that, a corn crib, but it’s been remodeled into a guest cottage, complete with a balcony overlooking a lake. It’s located on the estate grounds of Sheah Blue Vineyard.

Book it (Get $40 off your first AirBnB booking if you use this referral link!)

The Former Officers Quarters at Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska
Instead of individual cabins, Fort Robinson State Park lets guests stay overnight in former officers quarters. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Former Officers’ Quarters

Where: Fort Robinson State Park, Crawford, Neb.

Fits: 2 to 20 people

Why: This state park’s accommodations are pretty unique. You can stay in former officers quarters that date from 1874 to 1909. While they’re not cabins, They’re equipped like them: They have a kitchen and bathroom, and some of the larger ones have living rooms. And it’s full housekeeping, so they have linens and all the kitchen utensils you might need.

Book it

Glamping in Nebraska - The exterior of a glamping tent at Slattery Vintage Estates & Tasting Room in southwest Nebraska

Glamping At A Winery

Where: Slattery Vintage Estates & Tasting Room, Nehawka, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: Slattery was the first place that introduced the concept of glamping in Nebraska to me. Glamping tents are set up within walking distance to the tasting room (and of yeah, you can request wine and snacks to be waiting upon your arrival).

Note: This is one overnight you’ll want to leave the kids at home. Also note that, due to its location, you cannot bring outside alcohol with you when you’re glamping here.

Book it

Glamping cabins are available at Platte River State Park in eastern Nebraska
Glamping cabins opened at Platte River State Park in the summer of 2018. These cabins are part of the Outdoor Venture Park initiative. Photo courtesy NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Glamping At A State Park

Where: Platte River State Park, Louisville, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: The three glamping sites at Platte River State Park have been a hot item to reserve ever since they first opened in 2018. They’re modern and outfitted with all the amenities you’d want (namely air conditioning and a comfy bed). Snagging a weekend reservation is tough, though.

Note: This is one overnight you’ll want to leave the kids at home.

Book it

A teepee at Platte River State Park in eastern Nebraska
Teepee Village is located at Platte River State Park in eastern Nebreaska. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Teepee Village

Where: Platte River State Park, Louisville, Neb.

Fits: 8 people

Why: While we’re talking about Platte River State Park, let me tell you about the teepees there. The Pawnee TeePee Village at Platte River State Park consists of four teepees situated on top of platforms, so at least your not sleeping on a ground. It’s a step above camping, but not on par with even a yurt. I’m pretty sure the only reason why you’d want to stay in one of these is to say you’ve stayed in one.

Book it

Kottage Knechtion Treehouse

Where: South Sioux City, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: The Kottage Knechtion Treehouse is a B&B nestled between two cottonwood trees. It’s not far from downtown Sioux City, which I had fun exploring with my husband.

Book it (Get $40 off your first AirBnB booking if you use this referral link!)

One-Room School House

Where: Arnold, Neb.

Fits: 5 people

Why: Facebook fan Laura S. recommended Center School B&B and Museum, saying “We stayed there on the last night of our Sandhills trip. The apartment is clean and serviceable but the museum is AMAZING. Berni, the owner, is putting so much work into making it as authentic as possible and she has so many great stories to tell about the building and one room schoolhouses in general! As a teacher myself, I appreciated the care and detail in the museum so much!”

Note: This lodging does not have air conditioning, but the host notes that guests stay in the basement, which stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Book it (Get $40 off your first AirBnB booking if you use this referral link!)

River Inn Resort

Where: Brownville, Neb.

Fits: 2 people (possibly more)

Why: Here’s your chance to stay in a floating B&B! This 18-room floating inn is located on the Missouri River (and near one of my favorite towns in Nebraska).

Book it

Safari Tent Camp

Where: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Omaha, Neb.

Fits: 2 people

Why: While zoo offers a variety of camping options for the whole family, it was the Safari Tent Camp for adults-only that caught my eye – you stay in the safari tents near the African Grasslands. Tents include an electrical outlet, nightstand with lantern, area rug, dining table, two director chairs and oscillating fan. There are only a few nights offered each year, so you’ll have to plan ahead.

Book it

Cabooses at Two Rivers State Recreation Area in Waterloo, Nebraska
The cabooses at Two Rivers State Recreation Area in Waterloo, Neb., can accommodate up to six people. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

Vintage Caboose

Where: Two Rivers State Recreation Area, Waterloo, Neb.

Fits: 6 people

Why: Ever since we saw the cabooses on our first camping trip to Two Rivers SRA, I knew that one day, we’d have to stay there. First off, they’re REAL cabooses, outfitted with bunkbeds and two mattresses in the cupola. But more important, unlike camping in a tent, they have air conditioning.

Note: Two Rivers is catch-and-release fishing spot more than anything else, though there is a small beach at one of the lakes. If you’re looking for hiking, this ain’t your park.

Book it

Get some road trip inspiration for your trip through Nebraska. Follow the Nebraska Travel board by Oh My! Omaha on Pinterest.

Stay somewhere fun in the Cornhusker State! Here's a list of unique places to stay in Nebraska, from clamping to staying in a corn crib, one-room school house or teepee #Nebraska #travel

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January 5, 2019

Nebraska Bingo

Think you know Nebraska? I’ve explored the state from Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska to Indian Cave State Park in southeastern Nebraska, and I’ve decided that there’s so much more I’ve yet to see. With the idea that we should get out and explore more, I’ve created this Nebraska Bingo playing card.

How many landmarks can you check off on Nebraska Bingo? I've got more places to visit in this state! #Nebraska #Bingo #travel

I don’t have a Bingo on this card, yet, but it’s going to be my guide for exploring Nebraska from this point on.

Start Planning

There are a few on the list I have written about, so if you want to get some inspiration in order to complete a row in Nebraska Bingo, check out these posts:

Smith Falls – Read about canoeing the Niobrara River, which passes through Smith Falls State Park

Family walking on a trail at Toadstool Geological Park in western Nebraska
Nebraska’s own Badlands, AKA Toadstool Geological Park.

Toadstool Geological Park – An interesting stop during a western Nebraska and South Dakota road trip

Omaha Children’s Museum – I wrote this post about the perks of a family membership long before I started working at the museum, but it still stands. This museum is best for kids ages 8 and younger.

Indian Cave State Park – This scenic park is known for its trails. There is a cave, but it’s not the kind of cave you’re thinking.

Historical re-enactor dressed as a blacksmith at Fort Atkinson in Nebraska
Don’t miss the blacksmith during the re-enactment weekends at Fort Atkinson, located in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska. He may even make a little souvenir for your kid.

Fort Atkinson – The best time to visit is during the historical re-enactments. They’re held the first Saturday and Sunday of the month, May through October.

Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium – There are more detailed posts about recently opened exhibits like Asian Highlands and African Grasslands.

Boy looking out from a stagecoach at Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska.
When we went to Fort Robinson, the kids weren’t old enough for trail rides, so we settled for a stagecoach ride.

Fort Robinson State Park – This is a one-of-a-kind state park in Nebraska. You won’t find anything like it, with it’s jeep rides, stagecoach rides, trail rides, and unique buildings.

With any luck, I’ll add to this list in the next year or two! I’d love to hear where all you’ve been and if you can yell “BINGO” on the Nebraska Bingo card. Leave a comment!

How many Nebraska landmarks have you visited? #Nebraska #Bingo

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