Top 15 Nebraska Attractions You Shouldn't Miss

Last Updated on January 19, 2024 by Nikki Jain

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.

Things To Do in Nebraska

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1: Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Flickr/DMR Studios

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

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Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Omaha

2: Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum

Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum

Do you enjoy learning about history? The Strategic Air Command & Aerospace 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 Command & Aerospace 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 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

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Also Read: Top 10 Space and Aviation Museums in the USA

3: Lake McConaughy

Lake McConaughy
Facebook/Lake McConaughy

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

4: Chimney Rock National Historic Site

Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Flickr/Larry Jacobsen

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

5: Ponca State Park

Ponca State Park

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

6: Harold Warp Pioneer Village

Harold Warp Pioneer Village

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

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7: The Durham Museum

The Durham Museum

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

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Also Read: Top Tourist Attractions in Omaha, Nebraska

8: Papio Fun Park

Papio Fun Park

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

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9: Niobrara National Scenic River

Niobrara National Scenic River
NPS Site

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

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10: Lauritzen Gardens

Lauritzen Gardens
Facebook/Lauritzen Gardens

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

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11: Joslyn Art Museum

Joslyn Art Museum
Flickr/Edward Stojakovic

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

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Also Read: 20 Best Art Museums in the USA

12: Carhenge

Dreamstime/Ermanno Iselle

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

13: Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park

Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park
Dreamstime/Evan Spiler

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

14: Scotts Bluff National Monument

Scotts Bluff National Monument
Dreamstime/Jay Beiler

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

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15: Golden Spike Tower

Golden Spike Tower
Dreamstime/Gloria P. Meyerle

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

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Plan your trip to these Nebraska attractions soon!

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.

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