If you’re scratching your head wondering what you would do on a visit to Nebraska, you're not alone. The state keeps its star attractions modestly tucked into the rolling countryside and friendly cities of Omaha and Lincoln. Don’t miss the outstanding zoo and aquarium in Omaha – it’s one of the nation’s finest. There are also several interesting living museums that showcase the atmosphere of the state during its pioneering heyday in the 1800s. Mixed in are eight excellent state parks offering a place to indulge in outdoor recreation in every corner of Nebraska.
Nebraska’s biggest city is also its most engaging. Omaha is the Midwest at its best: friendly, unpretentious and casual. There is a fantastic Old Market district that gives downtown much of its vibrancy, and miles of walking paths and parkland along the city’s meandering Missouri River. Check out the local wildlife in comfort via a drive through the animal park or explore Omaha’s top-ranked (and very unique) zoo. There is no shortage of great comfort food, fun local bars and interesting shops throughout downtown to ensure a few days well spent.
Address: Eastern Nebraska
Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Often touted as one of America’s best zoos, Henry Doorly is Nebraska’s top tourist attraction. Besides its free-roaming natural habitats outdoors, the zoo has some fascinating indoor enclosures. Explore the desert realm in the world’s largest geodesic dome or the Lied Jungle, the world’s largest indoor rainforest. The Hubbard Orangutan Forest is a wild outdoor environment for these creatures, while the Hubbard Gorilla Valley keeps the humans safe as the primates roam free. The Scott Aquarium is not to be missed either.
Address: 3701 S. 10th Street, Omaha, NE 68107
Arthur Bowring Sandhills Ranch State Historical Park
This truly unique site is an authentic living-history ranch that showcases the pioneering lifestyle of Nebraskans from the mid-1800s. Visitors can admire herds of Hereford cattle roaming and browse the informative museum that tells all about the frontier era through exhibits and artifacts.
Address: Nebraska Highway 61, Merriman, NE 69218
Chimney Rock National Historic Site
It’s hard to miss the towering rock formation known as Chimney Rock. It pokes out of the flat prairie so dramatically that the early American pioneers used it as one of the main markers on their odyssey west along the Oregon Trail. The visitor center provides all the historic and geological background needed to understand the area's significance and you can walk along a portion of the original Oregon Trail that follows the North Platte River.
Address: West Bayard, NE 69334
Nebraska’s oldest town is a gem to experience a taste of the region 150 years ago. The historic Olde Towne district is where you’ll spend most of your time, strolling the handful of streets and popping in little shops and cafés. Here you’ll find the oldest standing structure between the Missouri River and the Pacific Ocean: the 1830s log cabin. At night you can catch a performance at the historic Bellevue Little Theater, a lovely little venue. On the edge of town is the 1,300-acre Fontenelle Forest, a wonderful park of trees and vistas with 17 miles of trails to explore.
Address: Eastern Nebraska
Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer
One of the best places in Nebraska to get a feel for pioneer life in the 1800s is this huge museum on the outskirts of Grand Island. The highlight is the replicated 1800s plains town where visitors can interact with the exhibits and walk in the dozen or so authentic buildings. There is also a large traditional museum with displays detailing frontier life in Nebraska.
Address: 3133 West US Highway 34, Grand Island, NE 68801
The capital of Nebraska offers an urban alternative to Omaha just down the road. The state’s two main cities are friendly rivals, though Omaha may have more bragging rights. In Lincoln you can check out the 1931 Sunken Gardens, the main attraction, or browse the collection of American artwork in the Sheldon Museum. The Art Deco state capitol building is also worth checking out, while Lincoln’s main street is one of the longest in America, packed with fun, friendly bars and restaurants kept lively by the city’s big university population.
Address: Central Nebraska