When it comes to things to do in Nebraska, the Cornhusker State just doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Ok, Ok, so we don’t have mountains thrusting up into the sky to hike on in the summer and ski down in the winter, but don’t be so quick to dismiss hiking in Nebraska just yet.
And no, there isn’t that dreamy instagram picture of bungalows floating atop the most perfect blue, green ocean, but what if I told you that there are white sandy beaches?
I get it. As a native born and raised Nebraskan, we like to get out of the state when it comes to big vacations but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some absolutely state of the art exploration to be had right here in our own backyard!
One of those ways to REALLY see Nebraska’s beauty (not just it’s cornfields and boring roadside museums) is in our State Parks. Whether it be climbing the tower at Mahoney State Park, staying at one of the Ponca State Park Cabins or if your looking for some peaceful nearby camping in Nebraska, the Nebraska State Parks really have so much to offer.
Here are just a few of my favorite reasons why I like to stay close to home and just head to a state park rather than plan huge, elaborate trips.
1) It Costs WAY Less Than a National Park Pass
It is currently only $31.00 dollars for an annual Nebraska State Parks Permit (or $6.00 for Daily) where it’s over double that at $80 for an annual America the Beautiful pass AND they are talking about increasing the national park pass and/or implementing additional peak season entrance fees.
2) Support Local Tourism
It seems like the “hip” thing to do now-a-days but really, it is a fantastic thing to support local businesses, including tourism. Did you know that over $3.6 Million are spent in Nebraska on tourism alone? That is a lot of taxable cash as well as money right into the local systems, parks and nature as well as local businesses near the parks!
3) Discover Parts of Nebraska You Didn’t Realize Were AMAZING
- Did you know that Nebraska has the largest man-made forest?
- Did you know that there are CANYONS in Wildcat Hills State Recreational Park!?
Not going to lie- neither did I! But why not? We need to get into our own back yards and see all the amazing, natural and beautiful things to do in Nebraska!
4) To Try a New Hobby
I’ve never been snowshoeing or even cross country skiing, but I sure would love to! And guess where you can try them out?
Yup, Nebraska State Parks!
Or what about bird watching, hiking or even learning to do some arts of crafts? It is easy to find a new hobby to try out at any of the State Parks.
While you’ll need an official Nebraska fishing licence, there is nothing like watching your young child catch a fish for the first time!
5) To Have a Fun Day Trip
A huge complaint from many Nebraskans is that we often get stuck in a day to day monotonous lifestyle.
Wake up… Get ready for work… Take the kids to school… Come home… Eat Dinner (go to sporting events, etc)… Put everyone to bed.
Rinse and Repeat
Do you ever find yourself doing the same things day in and day out? Why not play hookie for a day or on a beautiful spring weekend, take a day trip to a State Park, Historical Site or Recreational Area? They are ALL over Nebraska and no matter where you live, there is one within a day trip. For example, Mahoney State Park is only about 30 minutes away from both Omaha and Lincoln! Kearney is still less than a 3 hour drive to Lake McConaughy! And Alliance can be to amazing Chadron and Fort Robinson in just over an hour!
BONUS: You don’t have to pack and you don’t have to pay for flights and hotels! It’s like a mini getaway!
6) To Learn Something New
There is actually SO much history waiting to be learned in Nebraska. Many of the Nebraska State Parks are now named in honor of the various tribes (Ponca, Ogallala and more) that once inhabited the state.
And of course there is the Pioneer history that makes so much of Nebraska what it is today. Places like Ash Hallow and Chimney Rock provide reminders of the difficult journey the pioneers took while providing modern day amenities and activities at the same time.
Or, go to a prehistoric fossil bed and learn what mammals, giants and dinos roamed the EXACT ground you are standing on.
The options are endless!
7) To Help Protect Valuable Wildlife (many of which are only found in NE)
We may not have lions, tigers and bears and sure, maybe a lot of the species that we do have here may not even be that unique inside the Midwest, BUT did you know, that scientists have called Nebraska’s biodiversity so unique and precious (ooooh my precious!) that it’s been compared to the Amazon rainforest? By supporting State Parks, money and research can be put into protecting the amazing wildlife and fauna that helps keep the circle of life ‘a tickin’
8) To Getaway From Gadgets, Screen Time and Stress
If you are like me, you are probably on your phone and laptop waaaay too much. And if you have kids, chances are, they’ve watched one too many episodes of Doc McStuffins today alone or have now been playing video games for 4 hours straight. Am I right?
What better way than to unplug and recharge you AND the whole family? It sounds corny, but it is amazing what even ONE day of no screen time can do for the soul (let alone, brain!)
9) Get Outdoors
It’s a given that the Nebraska’s State Parks gets you outside. Whether you are wanting to go fishing, hiking or camping in Nebraska, State Parks are typically my go-to for these activities. Shoot, we have even gotten into Glamping in Nebraska with our new-to-us Pop Up camper! My (now grown) Eagle Scout husband LOVES teaching our son about the outdoors, our kiddo loves exploring new places and I love any excuse to sit by a campfire with a beer in hand, so it’s a win-win for all!
But even if you don’t have a camper or RV and your not the tenting kind of person, there are so many cabins in Nebraska at the parks, that it’s easy to still get a bit of nature with the comfort of a real bed!
Many people, even us Nebraskan’s forget that there is so much beauty right here in our own backyard! Whether you are just looking to get out of the house for the day or are wanting to try something new, have you considered visiting a State Park?
As a WellTravelledNebraskan yourself, share your favorite Nebraska State Park so that I can put it on my bucket list and head there soon!