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We’ve traveled. A LOT.
And regardless of how the following conversation goes, when you ask any Nebraskan where they are from, there is a strange sense of pride in their answer. We love our state, but often when asked why, we somehow struggle to answer the question. I mean, we don’t have HUGE cities that have countless tourist attractions. We don’t have mountains or the ocean. But yet, ask any Nebraskan where they are from, and it goes a little something like this.
Traveling Stranger: So where are you from?
Me: Nebraska (If international, I add a “It’s smack dab in the middle!”)
Stranger: Aw, the Cornuskers!
Me: (Internally rolls my eyes) Yup
Stranger: So where is the closest big city to do anything
Stranger: Oh, so like, do you live on a farm?
And after over 40 countries visited of having to explain that while yes, from my hometown of Omaha, it takes a good 8 hours in any direction to get to places major, like Denver or Chicago but that, C’mon, you still gotta give Nebraska some credit for being a great place!
But then they start to question me.
Stranger: Ok, so then what IS in Nebraska to visit and see?
And my response to this is often truthfully quite bumpy. I’d stumble over my words because there often aren’t huge and obvious attractions like some of the super cities of America. We have no Statue of Liberty to boast about and sure or world famous landmarks.
So what makes Nebraska unique? Why should someone from Chicago, New York or hell, Germany come and explore here? Are there actually things to do in Nebraska besides farming? Is there such a thing as a “Nebraska Tourist Attraction??”
Well, there are some of the obvious ones, like the historical pioneer site, Chimney Rock, or the quirky Carhenge (that actually MIGHT be more fun than the actual Stonehenge…no joke!) But what about things to do in Nebraska that even NEBRASKANS aren’t always aware of?
So next time you are asked if all we do is “cow tip” or if we are all farmers, then here are just a few of the AMAZING things to do in Nebraska that you can’t find anywhere else that should make all Nebraskans proud and could help convince any world wide traveler to visit Nebraska
Hmmm. A little biased here am I? Woops. And yes, I am well aware that you have already thought of this one. But C’mon. Omaha is the largest driving Nebraska tourism force and for good reason. A a native Omahan, I can vouch that there are so many things to do in Omaha Nebraska.
- Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo: We have The World’s #1 (well, sometimes #2, but we are coming for you year after year #1!) Here are just a few expert tips to get the most of it
- Almost every weekend (shoot, almost every DAY) in the summer there are free events, concerts and outings throughout the city and suburbs.
- It is the perfect place for hipsters and millennials alike with a local brewery popping up on every corner it seems like.
- We’ve got an amazing music scene thanks to Saddle Creek Records, based here in town.
- It is a a wonderland for family friendly activities.
- We aren’t just all about red meat (although c’mon…are you really going to be in Nebraska and NOT have the most delicious steak ever?). We have some seriously amazing ethnic foods. Head down to 24th street for the best Mexican food North of the border. No need to travel to Italy for perfectly wood fired pizzas. And what about the FAMOUS Runza sandwiches!? Omaha is a shocking culinary delight!
While I will admit that Omaha public transportation isn’t exactly the best (er, in existence) the good news is that it only takes about 30 minutes give or take to get just about anywhere….with not a ton of traffic!
Kearney Nebraska and the Sandhill Cranes
Forget The Great Migration in Africa. Nebraska’s home to another spectacular, magical, and one could argue, ancient migration event when over 80% of the WORLD’S sand-hill cranes take a pit stop in a few select locations of Nebraska (like Kearney and Grand Island….) When the crane species that is over 34 MILLION years old flies into the Sandhills, expect a view that you’ve never seen before or expected from “boring” Nebraska.
Chadron State Park
Step out of Nebraska (or at least think you have) because gone are the endless plains, prairies and cornfields that one typically envisions with Nebraska. Instead, you’ll think you are in the rolling hills of the German Black Forest or at the foothills of the Swiss Alps. Stretching forests and towering rock formations will have you forgetting about the last Cornhusker loss and instead be focused on a land that surely needs more credit for being in Nebraska.
Toadstool Geological Park
Ok, let’s forget thinking we are walking around in some beautiful Alpine or foreign land. Let’s shift gears here and feel like we are walking on another freaking planet, or moon! What an amazing place to hike and even camp at!
Let’s be honest, there are simply too many amazing state parks in Nebraska to consider. Did you know that Nebraska has canyons, forests and rock cliffs? Most of the Nebraska State Parks have camping and cabins available and ALL have nature and scenery to explore. Take places like Ponca and Indian State Park for example and you’ll see why even Nebraskan’s need to get out into their State Parks more!
Things to Do In Nebraska
Waterfalls in Nebraska? Betcha didn’t see that one coming! I mean, you need elevated land that drops off unexpectedly to form such a beautiful geological feature and since Nebraska is ONLY flat, boring cornfields, surely there are no beautiful waterfalls in Nebraska!
Fort & Smith Falls and Snake River are just a few of the waterfalls that are beautiful in Nebraska.
“DON’T PLAY ON THE RAILROAD TRACKS!” As a child of a Union Pacific Railroad worker, this was drilled into my head as a youth! But, the Cowboy Trail is the one track you are encouraged to play (and hike, and bike, go for a run on, or even horseback ride on!!) since the old rail line is now converted to a trail open to the public for complete recreational use!
Uuuuuuh wait. WHAT!? We are a LAND LOCKED state, sure you think I’ve completely gone mad (probably with Mad Cow Disease, right?) But if you look around the state enough, you’ll find that Nebraska is actually home to some pretty stellar beaches. Lake McConaughy may actually fool you into thinking you are sitting on the white, sandy beaches of an ocean, considering there are over 100 miles of white shoreline. Lewis and Clark Lake comes in second for size in the state of Nebraska but some might argue is even more beautiful, considering the greenery and beautiful cliffs lingering on the edges of the water. And then there is Linoma (halfway between Lincoln and Omaha…get it?) which is basically a sandy water playground for kids of all ages. All just to name a few of the many lakes around Nebraska that provide some really great beaches for summertime enjoyment.
Are you or your little ones a little geeked out about dinosaurs? Well considering in the MILLIONS of years of Nebraska existence that it has been an ocean, a prairie and a jungle, it’s not hard to believe that there are some pretty fascinating fossils just waiting to be seen and discovered. At the Agate Fossilbeds you can actually walk in the footsteps of the dinosaurs before us.
That’s just a small taste at what there is to do in Nebraska. The nightlife in Omaha, the camping in Nebraska or the DIY Brewery Tours across the state are just a few of the things that I personally love about my home state!
We try to not perpetuate stereotypes (cough: all Nebraskans are farmers) at WellTravelledNebraskan but there is one stereotype that is just simply too true to pass up.
You won’t find people like Nebraskans anywhere else!
While all mid-westerners tend to have a general sense of kindness, are down to earth and are hard working, Nebraskans always seem to kick it up on a notch. I have lived in and visited locations throughout the world where I was looked at like I had three heads because I simply smiled randomly at someone or said hello to a group of people in the room that I just walked into. I have no qualms in asking the lady in front of me in the coffee line if she has a favorite flavor of the day or asking a stranger for help in the grocery store as I drop all my produce as I chase after my toddler.
Nebraskans are simply….NICE.
I mean, so nice that someone even (not very creatively) made a new official state slogan to be “Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice” I’ll admit that the “Nebraska Nice” campaign wasn’t bringing tourists knocking down the doors, but at least the marketers were right. Everyone in Nebraska does seem to be unusually nice- although I’d argue that we are more exciting than just “nice.”
We have hippies, big-shot lawyers, hipsters, one of the highest millionaires per capita in the US, military personnel and so many other diverse walks of life in Nebraska that while yes, we have some pretty amazing farmers, that life in Nebraska isn’t all just about cornfields.
So the next time someone asks you what are some things to see in Nebraska or what makes Nebraska so great, or shoot, even UNIQUE. Don’t look so hard. Look in your own backyard, look at your own neighbors, look at your own city or nearest Nebraska State Park and you’ll have all the answers you need.