Visit Lincoln History In 5 Quick Stops

Plaza in the Haymarket of Lincoln

One of my friends is a wealth of Nebraska knowledge. So, when Gretchen told me she’d written a new book, “A History Lover’s Guide to Lincoln,” I knew it would be something packed with information…and maybe, travel inspiration. I’ve been to Lincoln many times, but it’s always good to have a new reason to visit.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I received a complimentary copy of “A History Lover’s Guide to Lincoln” in order to write this review.

About the book

Gretchen Garrison published  “A History Lover’s Guide to Lincoln” in 2020. It’s divided into sections that explore the history of dozens of buildings in the city, including the areas most visitors are familiar with: Downtown Lincoln, the Haymarket, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"A History Lover's Guide To Lincoln" book

I thought it was interesting to read how some of my favorite places, like Rococo Theater, got their start. Rococco was originally Lyric Theater, which presented vaudeville before closing in 1929.

Tip: Gretchen points out that you can see an artifact from the old Lyric Theater – the painted curtain – at Barrymore’s next-door.

The Appendix in the book is full of more ways to explore Lincoln. If you want to see works by Lincoln artists, Gretchen shares where to see public sculptures, galleries and other displays of known Lincoln artists. She also has a section for Lincoln architects.

A Mini Lincoln History Tour

Want to do a mini history tour of Lincoln? Here are a few of my favorite Lincoln attractions, each with their own bit of history shared in the book. These buildings are fairly close to each other, making it a manageable walking or driving experience.

Morrill Hall

Where: 645 N. 14th St.

Dad and kids standing by Archie the Mammoth, located in front of Morrill Hall in Lincoln, Neb.

Why: This is Nebraska’s wonderful natural history museum located on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. The photo opp with Archie the Mammoth in front of the building is just the start. Venture inside too see the unique collection of mammoth bones and native Nebraska species.

If you’re visiting Lincoln with kids, don’t skip the children’s area in Morrill Hall. There is an admission fee to Morrill Hall.

Tip: If have time, make plans to visit the Nebraska History Museum or the Lincoln Children’s Museum near campus.

Related post: Best Things To do With Kids In Lincoln

Kimball’s Administration Building

Where: 12th and R streets

Why: This building is now home to the remarkable contemporary art museum, Sheldon Art Gallery. The gallery is FREE to visit.

Beatrice Creamery Building

Where: 701 P St.

Why: This grand building in the Haymarket is home to two of my favorite must-visit places in Lincoln: Ivanna Cone, a cute ice cream shop, and Indigo Bridge Books, a wonderful, independent bookstore.

Tip: The alleyway next to the building is Art Alley, an impressive block of murals and artwork. Visit at night for the full affect.

H.P. Lau Coffee & Spice Annex Telesis Inc.

Where: 729 Q St.

Why: This awesome warehouse is now home to Lazlo’s and Empyrean Brewing. I love the food here, plus the beer is top notch. It’s family-friendly, as well.

Exterior of Lazlo's and Empyrean Brewing Co. in the Haymarket of Lincoln.

FYI: Lazlo’s was Nebraska’s first brewpub, which opened in 1991 at a nearby site. 

Hotel Lincoln

Where: 141 N. Ninth St.

Reception desk at the Graduate Hotel in Lincoln. The building was originally the Hotel Lincoln.

Why: This grand, seven-story building has gone through a few hotel iterations, starting first in 1890 as Hotel Lincoln. For a time, it was also a Holiday Inn. Today, it’s the chic Graduate Lincoln Hotel.

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A unique way to visit Lincoln, Nebraska: Exploring its history! Here's a mini history tour of Lincoln inspired by a new book called "A History Lover's Guide to Lincoln."

New Family-Friendly Hotel In Lincoln’s Haymarket

When I look for hotels in Lincoln, Neb., I tend to stick to the Haymarket area. I love the cool shops and great restaurants within walking distance from a hotel, and the Haymarket is super close to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus and places like the Lincoln Children’s Museum. There’s a family-friendly hotel in Lincoln’s Haymarket – Graduate Hotel.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary stay in order to write this review. I was not compensated to write this post. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Visiting Lincoln, Nebraska with kids? Here's a family-friendly hotel located in the popular Haymarket district - The Lincoln Graduate. Read about how my family spent a weekend there! #familytravel #lincoln #Nebraska

If you’ve been to Lincoln, you may recognize the Graduate Hotel has replaced the Holiday Inn that was in the Haymarket. The restaurant inside Graduate Hotel, John J’s Chow Hall, replaces the Red Onion.

What families like about Graduate Hotel

There are few things that stand out for the Graduate Hotel, as far as family-friendly amenities, and a few that work if your kids are older. Let’s start with a pool, which is about No. 1 on any traveling family’s list. There is a pool… but there is a caveat. It’s deep.

The pool at Graduate Lincoln is deeper than typical hotel pools. The pool deck had a foosball table and ping pong, plus access to some rooftop decks for lounging.

The shallowest it gets is still deeper than 4 feet. It’s great for confident swimmers, but not so much for little ones.

There are a few FREE game options that my family took advantage of, particularly the free arcade games in the lobby. Those were a blast from my past and my oldest, in particular, enjoyed playing them. They’re a little challenging for younger kids, though.

The pool area also has foosball and ping pong tables.

I think the older your kids are, the more they’re going to like staying at the Graduate in Lincoln.

What makes this Lincoln hotel uniquely Nebraskan

Graduate Hotels is a chain that finds locations in college towns across the U.S., and then curates a look and atmosphere that reflects the community each hotel is in.

For Lincoln, there’s a blend of Instagram-worthy designs, especially in the lobby, that’s paired with touches inspired by Nebraska’s landscape. There’s vintage-inspired corn print fabric and wallpaper, art inspired by the state’s national history, and more than a few Husker touches.

Simple touches in the room and lobby of Graduate Lincoln made it clear that thought went into the decor and tying things to Nebraska history and pop culture.

There is even an homage to Johnny Carson, native of Nebraska. The rooms all have nightstands that look like old-fashioned TVs.

The hotel’s restaurant, John J’s Chow Hall, is in tribute to John J. Pershing, a World War I general with Nebraska ties.

What’s near Graduate Hotel Lincoln

Hotel in Lincoln's Haymarket - Graduate Lincoln
Photo courtesy Graduate Hotels

You can’t beat the location of Graduate Lincoln! While the Haymarket is appealing for couples or friends on a group getaway, it also has some kid-friendly places.

Kids area in the locally-owned Indigo Bridge Books & Cafe in Lincoln, Nebraska

Indigo Bridge Books & Cafe about a block away from the hotel and has a darling children’s section. The building it’s located in, The Creamery, is also home to a great little ice cream shop called Ivanna Cone.

Art Alley is also nearby, and is possibly my favorite spot in all of Lincoln.

Art Alley in Lincoln, Nebraska By day, it's a simple alley with some sculptures and murals on walls and doors. At night, it transforms with light adding new dimensions.

For kid-friendly restaurants, I recommend Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill, which has an excellent kids’ menu (all entrees include ice cream for dessert). There are some chains that are kid-pleasers, as well, like Old Chicago, Mellow Mushroom, and Hurts Donut.

Hurts Donuts is known for having unique toppings and flavor combinations - from cereal and candy to bacon and maple. For simpler tastes, there's always cake donuts with sprinkles and long johns.

There isn’t a playground nearby, though there is a small courtyard with a engine. You’re not far from Haymarket Park, for baseball games, or Pinnacle Bank Arena for a mix of sporting events and concerts.

In the winter, there is an ice skating rink at the Railyard and in the spring through fall, you’ll find the Lincoln Farmer’s Market is steps away from the hotel.

Lost in Play jumping pillow

During this 24-hour visit, we went to Morrill Hall at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Lincoln Children’s Museum and Lost at Play. The first two are very near the hotel.

Lost at Play is out of the way, for sure, but it is a unique space for a ton of active play. My kids loved it, and I thought the cost was reasonable (if you can stay away from the arcade).

Shopping in Lincoln, NE - The stairs inside A Novel Idea used bookstore

One last place to recommend: A Novel Idea, a used bookstore near UNL campus and Lincoln Children’s Museum. I passed time there while the kids and Mr. Wonderful were at the children’s museum.

If you go

Graduate Hotel

Where: 141 N. Ninth St., Lincoln, Neb.


Plan a Lincoln, Nebraska getaway

Inside the Lincoln Children's Museum in Nebraska

You have a hotel recommendation, now you need an itinerary. Start with this 24-hour Lincoln itinerary! There’s a lot packed in there, but it’s all kid-friendly.

By far, my kids’ favorite place to visit in Lincoln is the Lincoln Children’s Museum. If you go, here are some things to do near the museum to round out your day. Another great place for families is the Lincoln Children’s Zoo.

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Nebraska Bloggers Series – Hannah Christensen

I’ve had a lot of fun learning about fellow Omaha bloggers, so I thought it’d be interesting to expand that circle and tell you about some Nebraska bloggers. Today is the first installment of this occasional series!

Lovely Little Lives

Nebraska blogger at Lovely Little Lives

Name: Hannah Christensen

Blog: Lovely Little Lives

Find her on: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter 

Home base: Lincoln, Neb.

Describe your blog in five words. Motherhood, Loveliness, Family, Faith, Blessings

What are the two most popular posts on your blog? The most popular post is: “To My Little One” where I poured out my grief and my love into a letter the week after I lost my third child to an ectopic pregnancy. I think it resonates with readers because so many people have either lost a baby or experienced grief and because it is a completely raw and genuine letter where I spill my heart on the page.


The second most popular post is “One Boot Print at a Time” where I reflect on my younger brother’s wedding and the beautiful cycle of romance, marriage and children. The descriptive imagery and the heartfelt display of family emotions really come out in the post and I think that touches readers and perhaps reminds them of their own wedding or parental experiences.

What social media channel are you on the most and why? Instagram. I found it’s much easier to post little snippets of my story on there than to try to do multiple blog posts a week. I have daily moments of encouragement I share on Instagram and my Facebook page if you want to check that out.


If friends visit from out of town, what three places would you take them to? The Farmers Market on Saturday mornings in Lincoln’s Historic Haymarket.The brand new gorgeous Cathedral that was built for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln students. Any one of the three main college sport complexes for football, basketball and baseball but particularly Memorial Stadium, home of Nebraska Huskers Football. This link shows all the impressive Nebraska Lincoln complexes.

What’s your favorite free thing to do in your city? Visit the lovely Pioneers Park. We have spent memorable summer evenings there grilling out, playing on the playground and playing yard games with friends. There also is a beautiful wooded hiking trails, a great little nature center designed for kids and a children’s ABC garden.

More about Hannah

Hannah and her family
Hannah and her family

Hannah Christensen and her husband, David, have been married for five years and have two lively little girls. A stay-at-home mom and medical biller, Hannah loves morning coffee, scrap-booking, themed parties, date nights, play groups, mom friends, creative writing, Husker sports, and all things organized. She manages a personal blog where she explores the little lovely moments of everyday family life:

Want to be a featured Nebraska blogger? Email me at ohmyomaha (at) gmail (dot) com to find out how!

What’s New In Downtown Lincoln

Have you been to downtown Lincoln, Neb., lately? There are a few new things to see if it’s been awhile:

– Lincoln Children’s Museum new additions

– Nebraska History Museum re-opens

– Centennial Mall’s redesign

I visited with my 6-year-old during a recent day of Spring Break to check things out.

This post was first written in 2016 so these new additions are no longer new! However, I have updated this post in August 2019 to reflect new changes at these locations.

What’s inside Lincoln Children’s Museum

Exterior of Lincoln Children's Museum

It’s been two years since we last visited Lincoln Children’s Museum, but two of the biggest updates have only happened at the end of last year: Cuckoo Construction and The Grow Zone. The museum gave my family complimentary admission so I could tell you all about them.

You can’t miss Cuckoo Construction, literally. The three-story exhibit catches your kid’s attention right when you walk in.

The view of Cuckoo Construction from the museum's lowest level.

Farley made a beeline for it even before I could get us into the museum.

Cuckoo Construction, presented by Hausmann Construction, is a clock tower kids can climb, but the fun part is all the construction they can do.

Cuckoo Construction tower at Lincoln Children's Museum

Kids rush to build walls, sending them up a conveyor belt or moving them with a mini wheelbarrow.  Every 15 minutes, the cuckoo comes out and cues the walls of bricks to come tumbling down.

Kids love it and for a second, I thought my son wasn’t ever going to leave that exhibit.

The Grow Zone at Lincoln Children's Museum is an area for children 3 and younger.

Farley was too old for the new Grow Zone and determined to play elsewhere, so I only got a peek at it from the outside. This area is separated from the big kids stuff and looks like a little garden.

It’s a calm play zone for children younger than 3. It’s a huge upgrade from what was in its place before.

What’s at the Nebraska History Museum

The Nebraska History Museum - "Inside Out" is the name of the artwork on the walls, showing pedestrian and passing cars a hint of what's inside.

Confession: I’ve never been to the Nebraska History Museum until last week when it was about to reopen. It’s been around for decades. Anyway, I can’t offer any thoughts on the improvements. But from what I gathered on the preview tour of the museum, the updates were sorely needed and the museum is ready for bigger and better things.

Artifacts on the second floor of the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln

On two floors, the museum tells Nebraska’s story through displays, photography and audio/visuals. My 6-year-old tagged along on the tour, but I think this is the kind of place that would be enjoyed by multi-generations together. I think it would’ve been fun to have my dad along with us.

The first floor features a quilt display, which signage explaining who made each, why, and where they were made.

Quilts at Nebraska History Museum

There’s also a photography exhibit by Barbara and Ralph Fox, which my son enjoyed, especially the photos of a blizzard, flood and the Nebraska State Fair (not in that order), and a gift shop.

Photos in the exhibit "American Dreams in the Cold War: Photos by Barbara and Ralph Fox" at Nebraska History Museum

The second floor had the really good stuff and will be where most families will spend the most time. For kids, there’s a corner with hands-on activities, clothes for dress up and a teepee to climb in.

Things kids can do at Nebraska History Museum - Learn history through hands-on activities like pretending to churn butter

The majority of the floor is “Nebraska Unwrapped: Selections from the Collections,” and it takes us through the state’s history via displays of artifacts from colorful beaded sneakers and ball gowns to audio recordings, books and so much more. Some items were more than 1,000 years old. 

Beaded sneakers at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln Nebraska

There’s also a photography exhibit on that floor called “Photographers and the Plains Indians.” The tour guide had some pretty interesting stories explaining some of the portraits.

An exhibit at Nebraska History Museum

The nice thing about this museum is that admission is FREE (donations accepted). They have a free tour every day at 2 p.m. and on the weekends this april, they’ll offer arts and crafts.

The Nebraska History Museum is super close to the children’s museum, and you can easily visit both in a visit. I recommend going to the history museum first, because it’s a struggle to get kids out of a children’s museum.

What’s at the Centennial Mall in Lincoln

Lincoln State Capitol building

Centennial Mall is undergoing a redesign and it’s going to be a pretty cool thing to check out once it’s all finished – especially the area by the Lincoln Children’s Museum and the Nebraska History Museum.

The mall stretches from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus to the State Capitol Building, from K Street to R Street. Each block will have its own theme.

The plaza by the children’s museum will be “Sparking the Good Life – Imagination to Innovation” (P to R streets), and the highlight will undoubtedly be the sprayground (they call it a “kinetic water feature” but we all know what that means). It will also have an art alcove and an amphitheater-type seating area.

County tiles found on the Centennial Mall in downtown Lincoln, Neb.

Other themes include:

“We the People” (K to L streets) – There will be a formal, ceremonial plaza with a fountain, and it will recognize “Watchful citizens” and state leaders.

“Our Home Nebraska” (L to M streets) – The hope for this block is that students and visitors will congregate there to learn more about Nebraska. The state’s natural resources will be highlighted here, with a block-wide outline of the state with rivers and eco-regions featured.

“Mosaic of Nebraskans” (M to P streets) – This three-block area highlights the people, cultures, and organizations that have come together over time to create a social quilt of Nebraskans.

If you go

Lincoln Children’s Museum

Where: 1420 P St., Lincoln, Neb.

When: Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m.; closed Mondays and some major holidays

Cost: $10.95 (18 months to 15 years), $9 (62+), $9.95 (16+), FREE (under 18 months)


Nebraska History Museum

Where: 131 Centennial Mall North, Lincoln, Neb.

When: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 4:30 p.m.

Cost: FREE (suggested donation is $2)


Current exhibits

Nebraska’s Centennial Mall

Where: Extends north from the State Capitol seven blocks on what would be 15th Street


Fun Things To Do Near Lincoln Children’s Zoo

This is the last installment of a series about visiting Lincoln, Neb., with children. We took a whirlwind trip to the city recently – read the recap here.

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is a fun addition to a trip to Lincoln, but if you’re looking for a few extra ideas on what to do after you check out the zoo, I have a few suggestions.

Visiting the Lincoln Children's Zoo in Nebraska? Here are a few nearby kid-friendly destinations that are free. Add these to your trip to the zoo to have a full day of fun! #Lincoln #Nebrsaka #familytravel #USA

Sunken Gardens

I was pleasantly surprised by our visit to the Sunken Gardens, which is so close to the zoo, you could throw a rock at it, kinda. OK, not really, but it’s really close.

Taking a break to look over the Sunken Gardens in Lincoln.

The free public gardens are simply gorgeous. If you’re camera-happy, you’ll be in your element here.

A short, shaded trail in the Sunken Gardens in Lincoln, Neb.

My kids enjoyed the water features, like the waterfall and the two man-made ponds.

Places to visit near Lincoln's zoo - Sunken Gardens

I was fascinated by all the plants that I had no idea could easily grow in Nebraska.

For parents of young kids, you’ll be happy to know there are public bathrooms there. Always plan for emergencies, amiright?

Across busy 27th Street, and even closer to the zoo, you’ll find smaller gardens and a large water feature. The signs say “don’t play in the water” but the whole things screams “PLAY IN ME!” I had a hard time keeping my kids out, especially with the handful of kids splashing away in there.

Small garden area near the Sunken Gardens in Lincoln, Nebraska

The smaller gardens were reminiscent of French-style gardens (on a much smaller scale).

Another great find for our family was Antelope Park. We were leaving the zoo and the kids were still wired. All hopes for them napping on the way home were pinned to finding another outlet for them to run around and let out energy.

Then we saw it. A massive playground.

Antelope Park

Antelope Park is located near the Lincoln Children's Zoo.

Antelope Park is the biggest playground I’ve ever seen. The kid inside me was jealous of my kids.

I counted 12 slides! The park was also wheelchair accessible, and it had a separate area for children under 5. And there was a sandbox off to the side that is easy to block from your kid’s view.

Find the two places mentioned in this post:

Your turn: What’s near the Lincoln Children’s Zoo that your family loves – restaurants, outdoor areas, shops, etc?

More stories about Lincoln, Nebraska

Want to plan a Lincoln getaway for your family? Here are some posts that will help you figure out where to go and what to do!

24 Hours Of Fun In Lincoln With Kids

Lincoln Children’s Museum

Things To Do Near Lincoln Children’s Museum

Lincoln Children’s Zoo

Lincoln Graduate – A Family-Friendly Hotel In Lincoln’s Haymarket

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Fun things to do at Lincoln Children’s Zoo

No trip to Lincoln with young kids is complete without a stop to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. The lines between petting zoo and full-blown zoo are blurred here, making a child’s experience all the better.

Update: This post was first written in 2014 and was updated in August 2019 to reflect new year-round hours and prices. Read about all the zoo updates that opened in 2019!

No trip to Lincoln, Nebraska with young kids is complete without a visit to Lincoln Children's Museum! I shared some of my family's favorite things to do at the zoo in this post. #zoo #guide #Nebraska #USA

During our whirlwind 24-hour trip to the city, we decided to visit one early Sunday morning. It’s a small enough zoo to plan a morning visit and finish in time for a kid’s nap time… if that’s a factor in planning trips.

Favorite parts of the Lincoln Children’s Zoo

My favorite aspect of this zoo is the pretty meandering path from exhibit to exhibit. Trees and landscaping made it difficult to see what was around the bend, making each turn an adventure for my kids.

Flamingos at the Lincoln Children's Zoo

It’s really a nice place to stroll – and you can really get up close to the animals.

Child and monkey at Lincoln Children's Zoo

The zoo’s strengths are its hands-on activities, particularly the animal encounters. Mooch loved touching all the animals.

The Critter Outpost is a booth with young volunteers showing some fuzzy, feathery creatures.

The only drawback to these hands-on activities, were that the encounters were a little too close. Farley – being our bouncy, vibrating-with-energy, Farley – accidentally stepped backward onto one of the lizards on the floor. I was about ready to resign from zoo visits.

Kids petting a guinea pig at Lincoln Children's Zoo

Kids can have the opportunity to feed goats and other critters (like a camel), for a small fee, and they can also pay to ride ponies.

Feeding a goat a Lincoln Children's Zoo

Near the petting zoo was the pony rides (for an additional fee). We didn’t do them the first time we visited but when we returned a few years later, we couldn’t resist.

The rides were a hit. The smiles were well worth the few extra dollars spent.

Favorite things to do at Lincoln Children's Zoo - pony rides

There are also small play areas for children scattered throughout the zoo. Sometimes kids just need to climb around like one of the animals, right?

Climbing structures at Lincoln Children's Zoo

As for the rest of the zoo, a lot of the exhibits were designed to get youngsters as close as possible to animals. There are also regularly scheduled activities with animals, so during our morning visit, we got to watch the penguins dine on fish.

Keeper feeding the penguins at Lincoln's zoo.

The penguin feeding was fun. Each penguin has a name and she kept track of all of them! The crowd had fun trying to keep track of the names, too.

There is a train to ride at the zoo, but I was disappointed in its route. It circled the outside of the zoo, barely giving you a chance to see animals from a different view.

Family selfie on the train at Lincoln Children's Zoo

Regardless, the kids loved it, and the tunnel the train goes through seemed to be exciting for them.

This is largely an outdoor zoo – so it’s only open from early spring to late fall. And if you visit during less-than-wonderful weather, you have just a handful options for indoor hideouts (Animal Kingdom being your best bet). We were there during a rainstorm and you just have to make do.

There is a place to buy food and enjoy it outside near a playground and a large dinosaur dig pit (yay for sand! – not). Like most zoos, you’re not going to find a ton of health foods, but there were fruit and vegetable options.

If you go

Where: 1222 S. 27th, Lincoln, Neb.

When: Open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. including holidays, and open until 8 p.m. every Wednesday in June, July and August.

Admission: Adults, 13-61, $13.95; children 2-12 and seniors, 62+, $9.95; children 1 and younger, FREE.

Tip for Omaha zoo members: Your zoo membership gets you 50% off admission at the Lincoln zoo! Take advantage of it. Learn more about reciprocal memberships here.

Lincoln Zoo 3

More stories about Lincoln, Nebraska

Looking for more things to do in Lincoln? Here are some posts I’ve written about the city!

24 Hours Of Fun In Lincoln With Kids

Lincoln Children’s Museum

Things To Do Near Lincoln Children’s Museum

Things to Do Near Lincoln’s Zoo (Sunken Gardens, Antelope Park)

Get Travel Inspiration

Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.