Nebraska is nicknamed the “Cornhusker State,” but people who have never been to the state will get a pleasant surprise. It’s far from being just flat ground, as you might assume. In fact, it has a very diverse landscape that houses many Nebraska attractions that you’ll find in nature and the cities.
There are many things to do in Nebraska that will make it one of your most exciting trips yet. You’ll get a chance to discover Nebraska’s rich history as a pioneer state with landmarks such as Scotts Bluff and several history museums.
You’ll also get to check out the scenic urban parks, fun places to go, and even weird attractions like the world’s largest stamp ball.
Nebraska has a lot in store for all who visit. So get ready for a fun adventure by checking out some of these popular attractions in Nebraska.
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Visit Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium for a two-for-one experience. The combination of the zoo and the aquarium makes it one of the best zoos in the US. And with over two million visitors every year, it’s a popular destination while visiting Nebraska.
With over 130 acres, you’ll need to plan for an entire day at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium to see just a fraction of the exciting things that it has in store. It’s home to nearly 1,000 species from around the world. The animals are exhibited in designated areas that create an immersive viewing experience.
Two popular exhibits are the Lied Jungle, the largest indoor rainforest in the US, and the Desert Dome, the largest indoor desert in the world. A few species found in the zoo and aquarium are lions, gorillas, elephants, giraffes, stingrays, and jellyfish.
Address: 3701 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68107
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Omaha
Do you enjoy learning about history? The Strategic Air and Space Museum holds one of the country’s best collections of Cold War aircraft. The museum is dedicated to air and space, with many artifacts preserved from the US Air Force history.
Exploring the exhibitions in the Strategic Air and Space Museum is like walking through time. A stunning glass atrium welcomes visitors before entering into two airplane hangars that house most aircraft.
The exhibits display air and spacecraft, rockets, nuclear missiles, and more. Many of the artifacts are restored to their original appearance.
The Strategic Air and Space Museum is a fun place to visit in Nebraska for all ages. It features an interactive gallery for kids. Other museum facilities include a planetarium and a theater.
Address: 28210 W Park Hwy, Ashland, NE 68003
Also Read: Top 10 Space and Aviation Museums in the USA
Nebraska is a landlocked state, but you'll actually discover an impressive beach if you know where to look. Lake McConaughy is the largest lake in Nebraska, surrounded by soft white sands that make you feel like you're in an exotic location. It's one of the top favorite beach vacation spots in Nebraska.
Nicknamed Lake Mac, it covers over 30,000 acres – 20-miles long and four miles wide. It’s an artificial reservoir formed by a dam on the North Platte River. It’s situated at the foot of the Nebraska Sandhills that create the perfect conditions for a beach.
Lake Mac is a beach vacation destination where you can enjoy lots of activities with family and friends. When the weather is nice, you’ll see lots of people hanging out sunbathing on the beach or flying kites. The lake is open to the public to swim, fish, and boating.
Address: 1475 Highway 61 N, Ogallala, Nebraska
Also Read: 25 Most Beautiful Lakes in the USA
It’s incredible to know that today’s visitors to Chimney Rock get the exact awe-inspired moment that early pioneers got while traveling west during the 1800s. Chimney Rock is one of the most recognized landmarks in Nebraska and has always served as an iconic symbol.
Chimney Rock is a rock formation resembling a chimney rising above the North Plate River Valley. It towers 480-ft above the ground, making it highly visible as you approach the valley.
It was first documented by pioneers traveling West on the Oregon Trail and other routes to symbolize that they were heading in the right direction towards the Great Plains.
Later, the site and surrounding area were designated as a historical site for preservation. The Chimney Rock Museum was also opened onsite, providing exhibitions about pioneer life and its geology.
Address: Chimney Rock Trail, Bayard, NE 69334
Just a short drive outside of Ponca, and you’ll arrive at the beautiful Ponca State Park. It’s a scenic forested area along the riverbanks of the Missouri River that offers incredible views and recreational activities.
Ponca State Park covers over 2,000 acres along the river bluff. Most of the landscape is wooded, but it also has areas of unique rock formations. It has an overlook to see three states simultaneously – one of the rarest sights to see in Nebraska.
If you love the outdoors, you’ll have a fantastic time in Ponca State Park. There are tons of trails designated for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Other land activities include an archery range and a golf course. Visitors can also enjoy the lake by swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Be sure to visit the nature center.
Address: 88090 State Spur 26E, Ponca, NE 68770
Also Read: 25 Best State Parks in the United States
Harold Warp did a fantastic job developing Pioneer Village to recreate a town from the early 19th century. The village is an artificial historical complex designed to show how life was like for pioneers.
Pioneer Village is located near Minden and is an entire community developed for tourism. It consists of 28 buildings – Warp purchased many of the buildings from his hometown and relocated them here. It includes a schoolhouse, church, gas station, and several exhibition halls.
Visitors can walk through the exhibition halls to see more than 50,000 artifacts collected from the pioneer era. It showcases antique cars, planes, farm equipment, and art. You can also see recreations of daily life from the field to homelife depicted by statues.
Harold Warp was a self-made millionaire from the era who left the attraction behind as part of his legacy.
Address: 138 E US Hwy 6, Minden, NE 68959
Omaha’s former Union Station is a fitting location to house the Durham Museum. The museum is dedicated to highlighting the rich history of Nebraska and the western region of the US. The building is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and well-preserved in its original state.
The Durham Museum holds a vast collection of artifacts and archives that provide a detailed look at the region’s history. You’ll be amazed by the building in Art Deco style, which is a piece of history in itself. Many of the exhibition halls cover themes like history, science, industrial progress, and culture.
Head down to the track level to enter the Trish and Dick Davidson Gallery. It’s one of the most comprehensive exhibits featuring vintage trains and replica storefronts. The museum also houses a photo archive with more than one million photos.
Address: 801 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68108
Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Omaha, Nebraska
If you’re wondering what to do in Nebraska with kids, the number one choice is the Papio Fun Park. It’s a popular place for celebrating birthdays or just a fun day out while traveling in Nebraska. You’ll have hours of fun!
Papio Fun Park is located in Papillion, NE. It’s an amusement park with plenty of activities to have an entire day’s worth of fun.
A few activities include go-kart racing, mini-golf, laser tag, arcade games, batting cages, and a water park. Park wristbands give you access to all of the activities, so your fun is unlimited.
If you need a break from the fun and games, grab a seat and order food and drinks for your group. It’s a great way to recharge before heading back out to play. Papio Fun Park is open year-round – outdoor go-karting is seasonal.
Address: 210 E Lincoln St, Papillion, NE 68046
The Niobrara National Scenic River is one of the hidden gems of Nebraska. Many locals will tell you that it’s one of the best places for water activities, especially during the summer.
The Niobrara River flows for approximately 300-miles before merging into the Missouri River. A 76-mile section of it is designated as a national park for the preservation efforts of the environment. The park is open to the public to enjoy many outdoor activities.
The gentle currents of the river are ideal for going for a float down the river. Tubing is one of the top activities, and several local companies provide tube rentals to take out for the day.
Boating is another favorite pastime on the river. You’ll see lots of people kayaking and canoeing. Plan an overnight stay with camping right on the riverbanks.
Address: Springview, NE 68778
Treat yourself to a peaceful walk around the Lauritzen Gardens. It’s a popular attraction to check out in Omaha, full of flora, including many plants native to the region.
If you need a place to relax during your trip to Nebraska, Lauritzen Gardens is the place to visit. It opened in 1982 with 100 acres of manicured grounds and themed gardens.
There are tons of plant species found within the garden. It’s modeled after Victorian-style gardens with sections dedicated to a rose garden, a Japanese Garden, and a greenhouse. Each garden gives a different ambiance and features appropriate decorations for a serene environment.
The Lauritzen Gardens visitor center is a helpful resource in learning about the attraction. It has lots of educational materials and exhibits about all the flowers planted in the garden.
Plan your visit during one of three floral festivals or holiday decorations for an impressive display of creativity.
Address: 100 Bancroft St, Omaha, NE 68108
Explore the fine art collection housed inside of the Joslyn Art Museum. Located in Omaha, it’s one of the most prominent museums in the state, boasting art from ancient times to the modern-day.
The Joslyn Art Museum has one of the most extensive art collections in Nebraska. It opened in 1931 and has become a favorite tourist destination in Nebraska, with over 100,000 visitors every year.
Visitors can browse the museum space, which holds permanent and temporary exhibits. It has works from American artists, European masters, and modern contemporary pieces. Chihuly, Renoir, and Matisse are just a few of the biggest names you’ll see in the galleries.
What sets the Joslyn Art Museum apart from others is its collections of Native American and Western artwork. You can see lots of work depicting the region while learning about its history.
Be sure to check out the outdoor sculpture garden during your visit.
Address: 2200 Dodge St, Omaha, NE 68102
In case you can’t take a trip to England to see the legendary Stonehenge, Nebraska has the next best option. Carhenge is a modern interpretation of the landmark that uses vintage cars instead of stones.
Lots of mystery surrounds the real Stonehenge, but not so much Carhenge, one of the favorite Nebraska attractions to visit. It was built by Jim Reinders, a local artist who created the installation as a memorial to his father. It’s located on his father’s farmland but open to the public to enjoy.
Carhenge is made from 38 cars, some of them stacked on top of each other, to form the same layout as Stonehenge. Once a hidden gem, it’s grown into one of the popular roadside attractions in the US while driving through Nebraska.
Visitors are welcome to take photos, touch the cars, and even a gift shop located onsite.
Address: 2151 Co Rd 59, Alliance, NE 69301
Buffalo Bill has a successful career making a name for himself in the Wild West. And now, his legacy is preserved as the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park. The park is established in his former home, where visitors can learn all about him.
The Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park covers his legacy from his childhood to his career. Visitors can take a self-guided tour through his home to see preserved artifacts and details about his life. Who would’ve known that a child in this historic home would grow to become one of the most famous showmen of the West?
The park includes several other buildings on its 25-acres, including a barn house and log cabin. There are hiking trails nearby, and camping is permitted on the grounds. The main house is now designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Address: 2921 Scouts Rest Ranch Rd, North Platte, NE 69101
The North Platte Valley is full of unique rock formations that marked progress west for pioneers and Native Americans living in the region.
Scotts Bluff National Monument is one of the most prominent landmarks that towers 800-ft above the valley. Seeing the landmark signaled that you’re even closer to exploring the Great plains.
Scotts Bluff National Monument has long been an important landmark and is now designated as a national monument for preservation. It’s one of the top things to do in Nebraska.
The main monument is a sandstone rock formation emerging high above the valley. The site also extends to cover the grounds surrounding the bluff.
Stop by the visitor center to see exhibitions and a documentary film about Scotts Bluff. There are also interactive activities for children. When you’re finished inside, set out on the hiking trails near the bluff. You’ll have over one of the best views in Nebraska and can even see Chimney Rock in the distance.
Address: 190276 Old Oregon Trail, Gering, NE 69341
Did you know that Nebraska is home to the largest railroad classification yard in the world? Baileys Rail Yard sorts through more than 10,000 railcars every day. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of the process from atop the Golden Spike Tower.
The Golden Spike Tower provides the best view in town to see the elaborate process of sorting rail cars. Today, much of the process is done digitally, but it was once a manual job.
The tower’s observation deck is an open-air viewing experience from the 7th floor, where you’ll have panoramic views of the rail yard.
The vast views of the site reveal hundreds of tracks with trains constantly moving between them. You’ll be accompanied by retired engineers who now serve as volunteer guides providing exciting stories about the yard.
Check out the gift shop on the way out for souvenirs.
Address: 1249 N Homestead Rd, North Platte, NE 69101
Experience the great outdoors when you visit Indian Cave State Park. The name derives from the numerous caves that Native Americans once inhabited. It’s one of the best things to do in Nebraska to explore many of the park’s historical sites or recreational areas.
Indian Cave State Park is established on 3,400 acres near the Missouri River. It holds lots of evidence of Native American life on the land in the past and early pioneers who settled the region.
It was established as a state park to preserve its history, including the Native American caves full of petroglyphs and log cabins.
Visitors can enjoy several outdoor activities in the park – hiking trails to the sandstone caves, nature walks in the woodland areas, backpacking in the wilderness, and horseback riding. In addition, there are a few designated campgrounds in the park for overnight stays.
Address: 65296 720 Rd, Shubert, NE 68437
Learn about Nebraska’s history and Western migration from the 19th century at the immersive exhibits inside the Archway.
Located outside of Kearney, The Archway is one of the best Nebraska attractions to learn everything there is to know about the Great Platte River Road.
Drive along Interstate 80, and you’ll soon see the monumental Archway expanding over the highway. It’s not just a bridge extending but is a museum attraction holding lots of history.
Go inside to see well-designed exhibits about Nebraska and the Platte River Valley. It features several scale models of life during the pioneer era – you’ll see wagons, cars, animals, and more.
A few must-see exhibits include a recreation of America's Main Street that features storefronts from the period, the Golden Spike that joined the transcontinental railroads and learning about the people who built America.
Address: 3060 E 1st St, Kearney, NE 68847
Fossils formed 12 million years ago were discovered in the northeast region of Nebraska in 1971. A couple of decades later, the site was designated as the Ashfall Fossil Beds Historical Park and a National Natural Landmark. It’s open to the public to see real-life fossils of mammals that once roamed the area.
Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is one of the most remarkable attractions in Nebraska. It has some of the best-preserved fossils in the US, thanks to protection by a layer of volcanic ash.
It’s currently an active dig site where researchers have already uncovered ancient relatives to rhinos and horses.
The attraction recently built the Hubbard Rhino Barn to provide visitors an excellent viewing experience of the site and process.
It has a walking path to see live digging and cleaning. You can even learn about the work from onsite researchers.
Address: 86930 517th Ave, Royal, NE 68773
Spending a couple of days at Chadron State Park will reveal one of the most beautiful Nebraska destinations. The large park is open year-round to enjoy outdoor activities with friends and family that are welcome to stay overnight.
Chadron Park is a recreational park located inside of the Nebraska National Forest. Most of the landscape is dominated by Ponderosa Pine trees, but you’ll also see rolling hills and waterways like Chadron Creek.
It’s great to take time to take in the picturesque sights of the park. There are several trails extending for miles around the park designated for hiking and cycling.
It will take you through the forest area and Pine Ridge for incredible views. Keep your eyes up to see what kind of wildlife you’ll encounter on the journey.
Hang out at Chadron Creek to enjoy fun water activities, including fishing, swimming, and paddle boats.
Address: 15951 Gold Rush Byway, Chadron, NE 69337
Also Read: 25 Best State Parks in the United States
The Cowboy Trail is a National Recreational Trail in Nebraska that people use for exercise and leisure. It’s the longest trail in the state, with more than 195-miles that runs between Valentine and Norfolk.
Looking for Nebraska tourist attractions to take you around the state’s beautiful landscape? Go on a trek along the Cowboy Trail.
The trail was established from a former old rail route operated by the Chicago and Northwestern Railway. The tracks are removed and replaced with mainly gravel trails that cross the northern region.
Whether you’re planning on going the entire route or just a short bit of it, there’s plenty of things to see and do on the Cowboy Trail. It passes by many scenic landscapes, farmlands, and prairies.
There are several communities set up along the route to stop by, and you’ll also cross over a 148-ft high bridge over the Niobrara River.
The route is designed for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Address: Valentine, NE
It’s hard to imagine that the site of the Sunken Gardens was once a dumpsite. Yet, after redevelopment in 1930, it’s one of the beautiful attractions in Nebraska to emerge from the Great Depression.
The Sunken Gardens was a beautification project that completely transformed the site. It's now a place that attracts many visitors to delight in what's considered one of the best public gardens in the country.
Visitors can enter the garden for free and enjoy a peaceful setting in Lincoln. It’s 1.5-acres of stunning landscaped ground. There are colorful flowerbeds full of fresh flowers and manicured lawns to enjoy a picnic.
Take a stroll around the garden to see all of the decorative features like sculptures and lily ponds filled with koi fish.
The best time to visit the Sunken Gardens is during the Spring when the flowers are in full bloom.
Address: 2600 D St, Lincoln, NE 68502
You’ll get to add one more state capitol visit during your trip across America when you visit Lincoln. It’s the state capital and where you’ll find the Nebraska State Capitol building. It ranks among the top tourist spots in Nebraska. Plan some time to tour inside of it.
Nebraska State Capitol is one of the most prominent buildings in downtown Lincoln. It was completed in 1932, with the main tower reaching a height of nearly 400-ft.
If you’re impressed by the exterior design, wait until you see what’s inside. It features many elaborate decorations and designs – massive archways, mosaic-designed ceilings, marble floors, and artwork decorating the walls.
The Nebraska State Capitol offers guided tours to learn more about the building and Nebraska’s government. You’ll get to peek inside halls, offices, see the courtyard, and even go up to the observation deck for the best view in Lincoln.
Address: 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508
Kids will have a blast when you visit the Lincoln Children’s Zoo – it will surely be one of their highlight places to visit in Nebraska. The zoo is specifically designed for kids to have hours of fun and get up close to their favorite animals.
The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is home to more than 400 animals. You’ll see many different species, such as tigers, cheetahs, seals, camels, and spider monkeys, the smallest monkeys in the world. You’ll even see endangered species of penguins, kangaroos, and snow leopards.
There are tons of fun activities to keep kids entertained during your visit. If you enjoy seeing the animals fed by zookeepers, now is your chance to feed them.
The zoo offers feeding stations for giraffes and camels to eat out the palm of your hand. There are also multiple play areas for kids to run around and play.
The zoo is open seasonally from April to October.
Address: 1222 S 27th St, Lincoln, NE 68502
Early pioneers were instrumental in developing what’s now known as Nebraska. The Pioneer Courage Park is one of the top things to see in Nebraska for a park honoring those pioneers who ventured into the unknown lands and settled the region.
Pioneer Courage Park is located in Downtown Omaha. It has over 100 sculptures making it the largest sculpture park in the US, filled with bronze sculptures and stainless steel art.
The sculptures in the park are true works of art showing lots of details for the figures they depict. It has life-sized figures showing the hardships of pioneer life, Native Americans, animals, and more.
The urban park is nearby many office buildings, so it’s a frequent place for locals to visit to have lunch or relax. It’s always open and free to walk around and explore the art that tells the story of Nebraska’s past.
Address: 1601 Dodge St, Omaha, NE 68102
The Morton family is a prominent family from Nebraska known for founding the famous Salt brand. Now, their 19th-century mansion is one of the popular places to visit in Nebraska to learn the history of the park grounds.
Arbor Lodge State Historical Park is named after J. Sterling Morton founded Arbor Day. Trees have always been a significant part of his life and home as his property has 270 different kinds of trees.
His love of trees sparked interest in the tree-planting holiday and is essential to the mansion grounds.
The mansion is the centerpiece of the grounds. Visitors can take a self-guided tour inside to see preserved decor, artifacts collected by the Morton Family and explore a bit of history about Nebraska.
After exploring the mansion, walk the grounds to see prized trees, gardens, an arboretum, and several hiking trails.
Address: 2600 Arbor Ave, Nebraska City, NE 68410
One of the favorite places to go in Nebraska is the Omaha Old Market neighborhood. It’s the oldest part of town and designated as a Historic District that experienced a recent revival to make it a popular place to go in town.
Omaha Old Market was once an industrial area with warehouses and offices, but not it’s transformed into a bustling entertainment district.
It’s one of the go-to places for shipping, restaurants, art galleries, and nightlife in Omaha. Locals and tourists can enjoy walking around the district, which has a lively atmosphere – there are even street performers and vendors.
You’ll still get a sense of the district’s history while exploring the Omaha Old Market. It stretched a few city blocks, most known for the distinct brick buildings. Many of the buildings are well-preserved and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Address: Omaha, NE
You could easily spend a day at Cody Park, an urban park located in North Platte. The park has fun things to do for all ages, and you'll definitely have a great time.
It's one of the excellent Nebraska tourist attractions to bring the entire family or enjoy with friends to take part in the numerous outdoor activities.
Cody Park is an outdoor complex with various facilities for visitors to have fun during their visit. Y
ou’ll find multiple sports facilities with everything from softball fields to tennis courts to a swimming pool. Kids get special treatment with designated playgrounds for running and playing.
One of the unique features of the park is a mini-zoo. It holds various animals, including buffalo, deer, donkeys, geese, and peacocks. Another highlight is the train exhibit and display. It has a museum set up inside of the railcars.
Cody Park is an excellent place for a picnic and camping.
Address: 1601 N Jeffers St, North Platte, NE 69101
There are many quirky attractions to see across the United States. Nebraska contributes to the list with the world’s largest stamp ball. It’s one of the weirdest things to see in Nebraska but also something you don’t want to miss.
The World’s largest stamp ball is located inside the Leon Myers Stamp Center of Boys Town. It was started back in 1953 as a project by the Boys Town Stamp collecting Club.
The solid ball now measures 32-in in diameter and weighs approximately 600 pounds. Can you believe that it’s made entirely of stamps? It has over 4.6-million stamps total.
Stamps haven't been added to the stamp ball in decades and have been a record holder for its size for nearly 60 years. It was featured in Ripley's Believe It Or Not, which skyrocketed its popularity.
See if you can find rare stamps on it.
Address: 13628 Flanagan BlvdBoys Town, Nebraska, 68010
When the Homestead Act of 1862 passed, everyone ruched to claim the free land. It was one of the most impactful acts passed by the government, which created a new America with farmlands, community settlements, and more.
The Homestead National Historical Park is dedicated to the monumental act that shaped this region of the country.
Homestead National Historical Park covers over 100-acres on a site of land given away by the act. It receives over 100,000 visitors who arrive seeking to learn more about the act, its impact and see the remaining buildings preserved on the site.
When you arrive, check out the Education and Heritage Center. It has exhibits about the act inside, and the staff helps provide resources for your visit. You can hike the trails to see historic cabins, a schoolhouse or explore the tallgrass prairie.
Address: 8523 W State Highway 4, Beatrice, NE 68310
The unique rock formations covering the Toadstool Geological Park make it look otherworldly. Nebraska has several places with incredible landscapes, but this is one of the most interesting to explore.
Toadstool Geological Park is located in the Oglala National Grassland, dominated by badlands and rock formations that look like toadstools.
Climb on top of the ridge and hop from one stone to the next for a thrilling hiking experience. Keep an eye out because you might even encounter fossils.
Hiking is one of the most popular ways to explore the park. It has trails with various difficulties, so be sure to check the routes before heading out. The longest is up to five miles long.
The Toadstool Geological Park is an excellent place to relax for a picnic or stay overnight in the campgrounds.
Address: Harrison, NE 69346
Nebraska is one of the hidden gems in the US that will genuinely amaze you. Ask anyone who’s traveled through the state, and they’ll have plenty of good things to say about the Nebraska attractions and landscapes.
It’s a monumental state that had a significant impact on the US and continues to symbolize the country’s progress.
These are just a few of the fun things to do in Nebraska that are worth checking out during your trip. Let us know in the comments which of these activities surprise you the most about Nebraska.