Nebraska, fondly known as the Cornhusker State, is a hidden gem of the American Midwest that is chock-full of charm and adventure. For those planning Nebraska family vacations, you’ll be amazed at the range of unique and exciting attractions on offer. From the majestic natural landscapes to the fascinating historic landmarks and thrilling amusement parks, there’s something for every family member to enjoy. Here’s our guide to a memorable Nebraska family vacation, with attractions grouped into various categories.
These landmarks could be associated with specific events, persons, or periods that have made a notable impact on the local, state, or national level.
- Chimney Rock National Historic Site: A significant landmark for pioneers on the Oregon Trail, this 300-foot tall natural formation has a museum where you can learn more about the early settlers.
- Scotts Bluff National Monument: A prominent geological site, this was another key landmark on the Oregon Trail. You can take in the panoramic views from the summit or visit the Oregon Trail Museum on site.
- Fort Robinson State Park: Once a military post, the park offers stagecoach rides, historical building tours, and even a Trailside Museum of Natural History.
- Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer: Experience a living history museum that showcases pioneer life with actors recreating scenes from the 1890s.
- Homestead National Monument of America: Celebrates the Homestead Act of 1862 and features a museum, hiking trails, and a reconstructed homesteader’s log cabin.
- Fort Atkinson State Historical Park: Once a vital outpost in the American West, the park features reenactments and exhibits highlighting the fort’s history.
- Nebraska State Capitol: The seat of government for the state is known for its beautiful architecture and murals. It offers guided tours.
- Boys Town: This village houses a famous child care organization and features historic sites such as the Hall of History, Dowd Memorial Chapel, and Father Flanagan’s House.
- Nebraska History Museum: Offers exhibits on Nebraska history dating back to the Native American tribes that first inhabited the area.
- Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park: A unique paleontological site where you can see well-preserved fossilized remains of ancient animals, including horses and rhinoceroses, visible in their death poses.
Here is some information about the variety of activities and opportunities that the state offers in its natural environment, which you could participate in for entertainment, exploration, physical activity, or adventure.
- Toadstool Geologic Park: Known as “Nebraska’s Badlands,” this park features lunar-like rock formations and hiking trails.
- Niobrara National Scenic River: Ideal for water sports like canoeing, kayaking, and tubing. A float trip can provide opportunities to spot local wildlife.
- Indian Cave State Park: Offers over 22 miles of trails, a large sandstone cave, and opportunities for horseback riding.
- Smith Falls State Park: Home to Nebraska’s highest waterfall, this park is perfect for hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.
- Platte River State Park: Enjoy fishing, hiking, and horseback riding in this park, which offers scenic views over the Platte River.
- Pioneers Park Nature Center: This 668-acre nature preserve offers trails through prairie, wetlands, and woodlands, and is a haven for birdwatchers.
- Eugene T. Mahoney State Park: This park offers a range of family-friendly activities including fishing, hiking, mini-golf, and even a water park.
- Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area: Known for its white sand beaches, this is Nebraska’s largest lake and a popular spot for fishing, boating, and camping.
- Cowboy Trail: This is the longest rail-to-trail conversion in the US. Ideal for biking or hiking, it offers a look at Nebraska’s scenic landscapes and charming small towns.
- Fontenelle Forest Nature Center: Offers 26 miles of hiking trails through forests and wetlands, an interactive nature center, and a raptor refuge.
Nebraska offers diverse landscapes, from grasslands to forests, rivers to wetlands, and a rich variety of wildlife.
- Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium: This world-class zoo features an indoor desert, a tropical rainforest, and the largest indoor swamp.
- Riverside Discovery Center: A zoo and splash park in Scottsbluff that houses various animals and interactive exhibits.
- Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center: The place to witness the migration of Sandhill Cranes in early spring, with interactive displays and guided tours.
- Lincoln Children’s Zoo: Specifically tailored for young children, with interactive exhibits and close encounters with animals.
- Lauritzen Gardens – Omaha’s Botanical Center: Offers four seasons of plant displays in a tranquil urban oasis, including a rose garden and a model railroad garden.
- Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari: A drive-through park where visitors can see native Nebraska wildlife including bison, elk, and wolves.
- Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center: A preserve of tallgrass prairie, offering nature trails and bird-watching opportunities.
- Alpine Pond Nature Trail: An easy trail at Scotts Bluff National Monument with opportunities to see a variety of wildlife and native plants.
- Raptor Woodland Refuge: Located at Fontenelle Forest Nature Center, it provides care for injured birds of prey and an opportunity for visitors to learn about these incredible predators.
- The Prairie Dog Town at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge: Here, visitors can watch a colony of prairie dogs at close quarters.
Amusement Parks and Family Fun
Learn about the various entertainment facilities available that are designed for enjoyment including traditional amusement parks, water parks, and family entertainment centers, offering rides, games, shows, and other attractions for people of all ages.
- Fun-Plex Waterpark & Rides: Nebraska’s largest water park, with a range of waterslides, a wave pool, a lazy river, and a kiddie pool.
- Pioneer Village: An open-air museum in Minden, featuring a wide collection of artifacts from America’s past, including antique vehicles and farm machinery.
- Cody Park Rides: Located in North Platte, it offers a carousel, train rides, mini-golf, and a small zoo.
- Amazing Pizza Machine: An entertainment complex in Omaha with a range of activities including go-karts, bumper cars, and mini-golf, plus an expansive buffet.
- Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Ranch: A farm offering seasonal activities including pumpkin picking, a haunted house, and hayrides.
- Lost In Fun!: An indoor playground in Lincoln, offering climbing walls, a ball pit, and a foam pit.
- Sky Zone Trampoline Park: A chain of indoor trampoline parks offering freestyle bouncing, fitness programs, and dodgeball.
- Jurassic Putt Mini Golf: A dinosaur-themed miniature golf course in Norfolk that’s fun for all ages.
- Go Ape Zipline & Adventure Park: Offers treetop adventure courses featuring rope ladders, zip lines, and Tarzan swings.
- Defy Gravity Indoor Trampoline Park: An indoor trampoline park in Omaha, with dodgeball courts, foam pits, and a ninja obstacle course.
Explore the opportunities and deeply engage with the history, traditions, and lifestyle of the people in Nebraska.
- Durham Museum: Housed in Omaha’s former Union Station, the museum features exhibits on regional history and has an impressive collection of train cars.
- Joslyn Art Museum: Nebraska’s largest art museum, featuring works from around the world, with a special emphasis on 19th- and 20th-century European and American art.
- Sheldon Museum of Art: Located in Lincoln, it has a noteworthy collection of American art and a sculpture garden.
- Museum of Nebraska Art: Located in Kearney, it houses artwork that celebrates the cultural heritage of Nebraska.
- Robert Henri Museum: Located in Cozad, this museum celebrates the work of Robert Henri, one of America’s leading artists in the early 20th century. The museum is situated in his childhood home, adding a personal touch to the experience.
- International Quilt Study Center & Museum: Housed in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, this museum boasts the largest publicly held quilt collection in the world. A must-see for art and textile enthusiasts.
- Museum of American Speed: A paradise for car lovers, this museum in Lincoln is home to a vast array of racing engines and vintage speed equipment.
- German-Russian Museum: Situated in Lincoln, this museum traces the history of the German-Russians who migrated to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It provides a compelling look at the unique culture and heritage of these settlers.
- Czech Heritage Museum: Located in Wilber, the “Czech Capital of the U.S.A.”, this museum offers fascinating insights into the Czech culture and traditions that have influenced the state. The museum’s exhibits include traditional Czech costumes, musical instruments, and historic photographs.
Nebraska has a rich sporting culture that includes both professional and collegiate sports, and also offers opportunities for outdoor recreational sports.
- Memorial Stadium, University of Nebraska: Home of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team, this stadium in Lincoln offers an electric atmosphere during game days. It’s a must-visit for sports fans.
- TD Ameritrade Park: Home to the College World Series, this stadium in Omaha offers a top-tier baseball experience.
- Pinnacle Bank Arena: An indoor arena in Lincoln that hosts basketball games, concerts, and other events, offering a variety of entertainment options.
- Werner Park: Located in Papillion, this minor league ballpark offers an intimate atmosphere for baseball fans and is home to the Omaha Storm Chasers.
- Baxter Arena: A multi-purpose arena in Omaha that hosts a variety of sports, including hockey, basketball, and volleyball.
- Hawks Field at Haymarket Park: The baseball stadium for the University of Nebraska’s team in Lincoln. A modern facility with a classic ballpark feel.
- Ag Park: A multi-purpose facility in Columbus, best known for horse racing but also hosts other events like trade shows and concerts.
- Fonner Park: A thoroughbred horse racing facility in Grand Island. Beyond racing, it also hosts the Nebraska State Fair and other events.
- Buffalo County Fairgrounds: Located in Kearney, it hosts the Buffalo County Fair, featuring rodeos, demolition derbies, and concerts.
- Antelope Park and Sunken Gardens: Found in Lincoln, this park features a range of sports facilities alongside beautiful gardens and a zoo. The Sunken Gardens, in particular, is a favorite spot for relaxation and picnics.
Nebraska is a captivating destination that offers a rich tapestry of experiences ideal for family vacations.
Whether your family revels in the thrill of sporting events, cherishes historical landmarks, adores the natural beauty of outdoor adventures, great cuisine for kids, immerses themselves in local culture, or simply enjoys the laughter and joy of amusement parks, Nebraska caters to all.
Amid the rolling sandhills, alongside its vibrant cities, and within its quaint, hospitable towns, the state carries the heartbeat of the Great Plains, waiting to be explored. Unforgettable wildlife encounters, inspiring museums, delectable local cuisine, and a lively arts scene further add to the allure of this family-friendly state.