Nebraska Holiday Planning Guide
Situated in the heartland of America, Nebraska is home to a large number of small rural communities and masses of farmland. The state's two main cities, Omaha and Lincoln, buzz with youthful energy and cultural delights. Your Nebraska itinerary can include a trip to the cities' museums to learn about the state's past, or tours of the area's important pioneer and Native American sites. Nebraska's central location means that it has been crossed by many trails, but it was the California Gold Rush of 1848-1855 that originally brought large numbers of non-indigenous people to the area. Scenic river valleys offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor vacation activities, while Nebraska's agricultural towns charm visitors with their all-American spirit.
Places to Visit in NebraskaOmaha
: An economic hub for the state, Omaha is the state's biggest city and draws visitors for its historical areas, museums, dining, music scene, and entertainment. Lincoln
: The state's capital, Lincoln is a university and manufacturing town with a distinct enthusiasm in the air, often sought out for its popular sporting events. Kearney
: A former farming community, Kearney still embodies its humble beginnings and small-town charm. It boasts a buzzing main strip and nearby nature areas. Scottsbluff
: Get in touch with the wild on your Nebraska vacation with a trip to Scottsbluff, a scenic nature area off the beaten track. North Platte
: Brimming with history, North Platte has borne witness to several historic events, including fascinating stories about Buffalo Bill Cody and World War II. Grand Island
: Glittering and charming, Grand Island offers swanky horse racing, shopping, dining, and plenty of museums.
Things to Do in Nebraska
Popular Nebraska Tourist AttractionsOld Market
: Take a step back in time to the historical Old Market, where horse-drawn carriages saunter down cobblestone streets lined with shops of all kinds. The Durham Museum
: Learn more about the city of Omaha and the state itself with a trip to the Durham Museum, where interactive exhibits and displays recount history, culture, science, and industry--all housed in a fascinating Art Deco building. Nebraska State Capitol
: Get at the state's political heart with a trip to the Nebraska State Capitol, where you can admire the stunning architecture and artwork both inside and out. Great Platte River Road Archway
: Step back time to the days of the Oregon Trail and its pioneers by including Great Platte River Road Archway on your tour of Nebraska. The museum's collection commemorates and recounts the trials, tribulations, successes, and development of the Old West. Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.
: A stunning vantage point for the city skyline, Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spans the width of the Missouri River, connecting pedestrians and cyclists to the parks on either side. Lauritzen Gardens Omaha's Botanical Center
: Find yourself surrounded by stunning Victorian gardens at Lauritzen Gardens Omaha's Botanical Center, where more than a dozen types of landscaped areas are yours to explore. Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum
: Explore military airplanes, artifacts, and aircraft restoration at Strategic Air & Space Museum. This unique Nebraska attraction provides ample learning opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Joslyn Art Museum
: Joslyn Art Museum showcases the artwork of both local and international artists, modern and historical. Browse temporary and permanent exhibits, including a testament to the stories of the Midwest, and stroll through the beautiful, landscaped gardens. Carhenge
: Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Carhenge is a nod to the fascinating English monolithic structure. Here you'll find old cars carefully stacked on top of each other to resemble the original Stonehenge. Sunken Gardens
: As the name would suggest, Sunken Gardens is a beautiful collection of colorful, landscaped gardens. Constructed in 1930, they provided employment to those unemployed during the Depression.
Planning a Nebraska Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Nebraska with Kids
The "Cornhusker State" as it's affectionately known provides so much more than agriculture and farming attractions. The rich history here yields plenty of historical sites, providing visitors of all ages with a peek into frontier life and cowboy culture. The wide open plains also yield a great selection of kid-friendly outdoor Nebraska attractions.
Families on a Nebraska vacation won't want to miss Omaha
. This busy city has plenty of different attractions packed into one place, so you won't have to go far to keep youngsters busy and amused.
If your family enjoys sporting events, look to the university town of Lincoln
. Here you and your family can get into the Nebraska spirit by cheering on the local teams. The town also boasts several kid-friendly attractions and museums to ensure fun for the whole family.
Things to Do in Nebraska with Kids
Spark creativity with a trip to Joslyn Art Museum
on your family's Nebraska holiday. The museum offers a children's storytime to keep young visitors entertained and captivated. When they grow tired of the art gallery inside, they can release some energy in the gardens outside. Omaha Children's Museum
, which is entirely oriented towards young visitors, also presents traveling families with colorful and interactive activities. Animal lovers won't want to miss The Henry Doorly Zoo
, one of the highest-ranking Nebraska attractions, with fascinating collection of animals and wildlife bound to keep visitors of all ages entertained.
When in Lincoln, check out Lincoln Children's Zoo
and Lincoln Children's Museum
--both also catering to young travelers. Get into some good, old-fashioned fun with a trip to Memorial Stadium
, where you can cheer on the local team while munching on popcorn. Last but not least, don't forget to add University of Nebraska State Museum
to your Nebraska itinerary. Visitors can come face to face with mammoth skeletons while browsing exhibits that focus on fossils, ancient skeletons, and paleontology.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Nebraska
While you'll have no shortage of things to do and places to see in Nebraska, getting to and from each city can be a bit dull. Come prepared with plenty of car games to keep the family entertained for the long stretches on the interstate.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Nebraska
Cuisine of Nebraska
Nebraska's nickname "The Beef State" says it all: the cuisine here seldom strays from that of a hearty, home-cooked meal, meat-and-potatoes style. The booming agricultural business has a major role in shaping the cuisine, and an effort to support local and family-run farms is evident. Historically, immigrant populations have also influenced with their culinary traditions. In the northeast part of the state you'll find German and Scandinavian dishes, while in other parts Czech and Italian cuisine dominate. Regardless of where your Nebraska trip takes you, you're sure to encounter low-cost, high-quality meals that won't disappoint.
The state also prides itself on its many wineries, so do consider trying some local vintages when on holiday in Nebraska. If that doesn't quench your thirst, look to the city of Hastings
, where Kool-Aid was invented. Here you can tour a museum dedicated to the popular drink.
Shopping in Nebraska
If you're in for some retail therapy, look no further than Old Market
. This highly-ranked attraction offers some classic Nebraska sightseeing, with historical buildings, galleries, and museums set among shops and restaurants along cobblestone streets. Here you can buy anything from antiques, records, and fine arts to clothing, candy, and books. If you're looking for something distinctly Nebraskan, head to Stagecoach
, where you'll find a large collection of authentic souvenirs, such as rocks, minerals, jewelry, costumes, toys, and books. Bargain-hunters won't want to miss Nebraska Crossing Outlets
, an outdoor mall with a collection of premium outlets where there are bound to be great deals.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Nebraska
History of Nebraska
Nebraska was first inhabited by indigenous people, who called the state home thousands of years before French fur traders arrived in the state in the late 1600s. The arrival of these European settlers sparked Spain and France's interest; both sought to control the region. In the late 17th century and early 18th century both countries had established trade connections with the fur traders living in Nebraska.
Eventually warfare between the two countries resulted. In 1720, Spain dispatched an army to Nebraska, but the party was attacked and demolished by French allies, ridding Nebraska of Spanish exploration until the 18th century. To learn more about the fur trading history, check out Museum of the Fur Trade
while on your Nebraska trip.
In 1762, during the Seven Years' War, France ceded territory in the region to Spain. France's withdrawal left Spain and Britain competing for dominance in the area. Spain responded by dispatching two trading expeditions, yielding further settlements throughout Nebraska towards the end of the 18th century. It wasn't until the California Gold Rush that immigration to Nebraska really took off, with the population finally picking up towards the end of the 19th century.
In the 1860s the U.S. government forced many Native Americans to forfeit their lands and relocate to reserves, freeing wide swathes of farmland and initiating what soon became a thriving agricultural industry. The government also issued the Homestead Act, wherein settlers were given ownership of land for free. The act further encouraged immigration to Nebraska and population growth. Include attractions like Homestead National Monument of America
and Great Platte River Road Archway
on your Nebraska itinerary to explore the history of pioneers.
The end of the 19th century also saw an influx of African-American migrants from the South. For them, Omaha
was an attractive destination, offering plenty in the way of working-class job opportunities. Though they met with discrimination here as well, Nebraska's African-American population would go on to be a major factor in civil rights activism, which continues to this day. Likewise, Native American tribes in the state have in recent times pressed for sovereignty.
History buffs won't want to miss The Durham Museum
, where you can learn more about Nebraska's history and development.
Landscape of Nebraska
Landlocked and crisscrossed by rivers, Nebraska's landscape has a reputation for being flat and monotonous, but only because that's the view from Interstate 80. The state is split into two main regions (and likewise two time zones): the Dissected Till Plains in the east and the Great Plains in the west. The former was the result of Ice Age glacial scouring, leaving behind grassy, undulating hills that contradict the state's reputation. In the Great Plains you'll find greater changes in elevation, including the state's highest point. Scotts Bluff National Monument
makes a great addition to any Nebraska itinerary if you want to get outdoors. Here the landscape takes a wild and fascinating turn, and two scenic viewpoints provide panoramic vistas of the rock formations below. Another solid option is Platte River State Park
, where a rolling topography is coursed with tree-lined hiking trails passing by scenic waterfalls. Get really in touch with nature at Toadstool Campground
, where you can camp among the stunning rock formations that shape the skyline.
Holidays & Festivals in Nebraska
An abundance of interesting festivities lets you engage with the local culture during your Nebraska vacation. Arguably the state's most famed holiday is Arbor Day, a tree-planting holiday held every spring. The holiday is now celebrated worldwide, but Nebraska lays claim to hosting the first American Arbor Day in Nebraska City
in 1872, when an estimated one million trees were planted. Since then, the annual tradition has continued, a nod to the state's agricultural roots. Craft shows, a parade, free trees, and great food accompany the tree-planting; you can witness the fruits of that labor at Arbor Day Farm
. Nebraska City is also known for its annual AppleJack Festival, an apple-themed extravaganza complete with a carnival, parade, car show, and plenty of dancing.
If your Nebraska tour takes you through Omaha
in August, you might be able to check out the balloon and wine festival, featuring barbecued eats, pony rides, music, hot air balloon launches, local wines, and a strong sense of community. Omaha is also home to the annual Holiday Lights Festival every winter, a big Cinco de Mayo celebration, and an anime convention.
You can get a taste of Nebraska's cultural roots at events like the Big Rodeo, Oregon Trail Days, Nebraskaland Days, and Nebraska State Fair--all big summer festivals that draw crowds from far and wide. Alternatively, get into the great outdoors at Kearney's
Crane Watch (marking the beginning of the sandhill cranes' migration), or go star-gazing from the isolation of the Star Party held on the Merritt Reservoir.
Nebraska Travel Tips
Climate of Nebraska
The state's two distinct landscapes experience two distinct climates: the eastern half has a humid continental climate with significant amounts of precipitation, while the west has a semi-arid climate. Generally speaking, the state experiences hot summers and cold winters with even snowfall throughout. Chinook winds off the Rocky Mountains moderate the winter's chill. Nebraska is also located in Tornado Alley, meaning that in the spring and summer the state may experience violent thunderstorms and tornadoes, so plan your Nebraska trip accordingly.
Transportation in Nebraska
When traveling around on a Nebraska holiday, you'll find that the prevalent mode of transportation is undeniably by car, largely due to the efficient and scenic highways that traverse the state. Nebraska also boasts the headquarters for the Union Pacific Railroad and the transcontinental railroad route, so there are many train options to choose from to get around.