Almost “smack-dab in the middle” of the country you’ll find Nebraska, a state which has likewise been right in the middle of many of America’s great movements. Nebraska is filled with historical landmarks like Scotts Bluff, Chimney Rock, and the Buffalo Bill Ranch.
Nebraska might have a reputation for being the land of corn and cattle, but spend a few days in the state and your visions of cornfields and cowboys will fly out the window as you tour exciting sites like vintage cars artfully arranged to mimic the stars, one of the world’s leading zoos, a craftily re-created pioneer village, or the stunning fossils of now extinct animals frozen in ash.
This one-of-a-kind structure modeled after England’s Stonehenge draws tourists interested in wacky roadside attractions to the town of Alliance, Nebraska. Carhenge is formed out of vintage American cars, painted gray and arranged in a circle in varying positions. Some of the cars are welded to form arches and three cars are even buried underground and marked with gravestones. In addition to Carhenge, the site also features several other sculptures crafted from cars.
Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park
This state park, also known as Scout’s Rest Ranch or Cody Ranch, is a living history park named for the legendary Buffalo Bill. The park, located near North Platte, contains a former home of Buffalo Bill and other historical exhibits relating to him. Another interesting site at the park is a “Second Empire” style mansion that dates to 1886.
Omaha Children’s Museum
The Omaha Children’s Museum is a learning and exploration space for young people. The exhibits include the Creative Arts Center, which features a theater, Artist-in-Residence Studio, the “Charlie Campbell Science and Technology Center”, which houses the “Super Gravitron” and the “Science Showplace” where live science presentations.
Other features include the “Imagination Playground”, which is designed for young children; “Sandy’s Splish-Splash Garden”, which is an interactive fountain area outside where kids can cool off.
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is a public recreation area located on the Platte River east of Ashland, Nebraska. Park activities include picnicking areas and hiking trails, horseback trail rides, fishing, a marina with paddleboat rental, miniature golf and a driving range. Athletic facilities include an aquatic center, 18-hole disc golf course, tennis and basketball courts, softball fields and sand volleyball. A 70-foot observation tower overlooks the Platte River Valley.
Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
This nationally renowned zoo is known for its leadership in animal conservation and research. Some of the zoo’s most famous exhibits are its large cat exhibits which are considered the largest complex of large cats in North America. The zoo also houses the world’s largest nocturnal exhibits and indoor swamp. Other popular exhibits include the indoor rainforest, the desert dome, and the glazed geodesic dome. As Nebraska’s number one attraction, a stop at the zoo should be at the top of your list.
Top Things to Do in Nebraska
Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Rising almost 300 feet into the air, in western Nebraska is the unique Chimney Rock geological formation. The rock, which has been well-known throughout history as a landmark on the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail, is formed of clay, volcanic ash, and sandstone forming a sharp pillar that has been well-preserved since breaking away from the cliff line nearby. This National Historic Site is a popular attraction.
In Minden, Nebraska visitors can spend time at this museum complex which includes 28 buildings recreating and celebrating pioneer life. The museum has a collection of more than 50,000 items from 1830 to the present including cars, airplanes, tractors, farming equipment, art, and many examples of Americana. Favorites at the museum include the Pony Express Station and barn, and the Firehouse building.
Lauritzen Gardens Omaha’s Botanical Center
Lauritzen Gardens Omaha’s Botanical Center is a botanical gardens and an arboretum located in Nebraska. Since opening, new garden areas have been added each year. The garden also features a parking garden and arrival garden with annual and perennial flowers. The festival garden, with colorful annual plantings and open lawn expanses, the Victorian garden combines characteristics of both English and Victorian gardens. The arboretum and bird sanctuary contains seven regional plant communities and demonstrates how to attract and identify Midwestern birds.
Scotts Bluff National Monument
One of the most important landmarks relating to both the Oregon Trail and the Mormon Trail is Scotts Bluff National Monument a steep hilly rock formation which has played a significant role in several historical westward movements. In the past, the bluffs marked a point along routes for fur traders, missionaries, military expeditions, and emigrants, but today the bluffs are a popular destination for hiking and learning about the history of the Oregon Trail.
Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park
In northeastern Nebraska visitors can experience the rare preservation sites of Ashfall Fossil Beds where fossilized organisms have been extraordinarily preserved almost instantaneously in volcanic ash. The area is famous for its fossils of mammals from the middle Miocene geologic epoch including a large number of rhinos, one-toed horses, camels, and birds.
Things to Do in Nebraska
Nebraska’s is known for its rolling prairie lands that have given the state a reputation for being a flat expanse of farms and grasslands, but hidden in between those endless prairies visitors can find majestic scenery and secret spots that have played an essential role in American history waiting to be discovered.