17 Essential Nebraska Bucket List Activities + Food

Updated

The Nebraska Tourism Commission made headlines when they changed their slogan to “Visit Nebraska. Honestly, It’s Not for Everyone.” The website further explains the motto with the following statement: “No one ever said we were trying to appeal to everyone. Just to certain independent-thinking someones who dare to be different. Someone like you.”

Jump ahead to these sections:

As a Midwesterner, I appreciate and understand this message. Unfortunately, most Americans consider middle America as “fly-over country.” However, if you are free-thinking enough to appreciate the beautiful subtlety of a vast open prairie or are interested in the history of the people of the plains, Nebraska needs to be added to your travel bucket list

Where should you go when you visit Nebraska? Here are some of the most popular Nebraska attractions, according to many travel websites. While we divided our list into different categories, please look through all of our suggestions. After all, many of our bucket list suggestions could fall into several of our categories. 

Nebraska Bucket List Destinations

Are you new to creating a travel bucket list? Most suggest that your list includes destinations that will be easy to reach, while also a few others that will stretch you outside your comfort zones. 

As you check off the states in middle America, here are some stops to consider while visiting Nebraska. 

1. Chimney Rock National Historic Site

Chimney Rock is a rock formation that resembles the shape of a chimney. It’s notable because of its height—480 feet tall. While 480 feet may not sound awe-inspiring for people living in mountainous areas, this formation is easily visible on the flat plains of Nebraska. 

This site appeals to rock and nature lovers, but it has a historical significance as well. Chimney Rock was one of the most famous landmarks on the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails. Imagine what it would have been like for pioneers going across the open prairie in their covered wagons when visiting this historic site. 

2. Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Zoo lovers need to add the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium to their travel bucket list. This zoo, located in Omaha, is one of the finest in the country.

The Henry Doorly Zoo features the world’s largest indoor rainforest jungle, largest indoor desert, and largest nocturnal exhibit. Walk through the 70-foot shark tunnel in the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium, the world’s largest zoo aquarium.

There’s a ton to see and do at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. Arrive early so you are sure to see all the exhibits before closing time.

Outdoor Bucket List Ideas in Nebraska

There are a lot of opportunities for outdoor recreation in Nebraska. Here are just a few ideas of places to camp and hike while enjoying the beauty of the American Heartland. 

3. Smith Falls State Park

Smith Falls is the highest waterfall in the state and a beautiful place to visit. Hiking trails allow visitors access to the 63-foot falls, located on the Niobrara River. 

Are you looking for a great place to camp? Smith Falls State Park is a popular destination for campers and those who enjoy canoeing, kayaking, and floating. 

4. Scotts Bluff National Monument

Similar to Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Scotts Bluff was also a landmark for Native Americans and immigrants on the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails. This National Monument is located on 3,000 acres near Gering, Nebraska. 

Scotts Bluff is a sandstone rock formation that towers 800 feet. Visitors can enjoy hiking trails that offer amazing views of the surrounding prairie. 

5. Indian Cave State Park

Indian Cave State Park features a cave with prehistoric Native American petroglyphs of unknown date and origin. The petroglyphs can be viewed from a wooden boardwalk that extends the length of the cave wall. While this is the main feature of the park, the park itself covers over 3,000 acres. Visitors can hike trails, camp, picnic, and bike. This park is particularly popular each autumn when the leaves change colors. 

Family-Friendly Bucket List Ideas in Nebraska

All of the items on our list so far are family-friendly things to do in Nebraska. In fact, that is one thing that is great about the Cornhusker State—it’s a great place to travel with kids. 

6. The Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center

Do you have a train enthusiast in your family? The Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center is a must-do for those who are excited about trains. Located in North Platte, Nebraska, The Golden Spike Tower is where the eastern and western portions of the Union Pacific’s rail line met to open up railway travel to the west. 

7. Carhenge

Are you worried that you’ll be unable to check Stonehenge off your bucket list because of the expense of traveling to Europe? Instead, consider traveling to Carhenge. This site was designed by artist Jim Reindeers and is open to the public for free. Reindeers’ design, which can best be described as 39 cars stacked on top of each other to replicate Stonehenge, is located on his father’s farm. There’s a gift shop on site. 

8. The Archway

We have discussed pioneers and westward expansion several times so far in this list of things to do in Nebraska. To learn more about western migration, stop at The Archway, a museum that spans I-80 at exit 275 near Kearney, Nebraska. Visitors can tour a sod house, learn more about the history of Nebraska, and view models of the Platte River Valley. 

Couples’ Bucket List Ideas in Nebraska

Granted, you probably don’t think of Nebraska as a romantic place for a couple’s getaway. However, maybe you should. If you want to go to an area where you can be alone with your honey, what better place is there than Nebraska?

Here are a couple of ideas of places to go with your partner. 

9. Cowboy Trail

Do you dream of having a quiet getaway with your love? Then, enjoy hiking, biking, or horseback riding along the Cowboy Trail. This 195-mile trail follows the old Chicago and Northwestern railway line. However, you won’t be walking along railroad tracks. Instead, this flat, gravel trail is the perfect place to see the beauty of the American prairie. 

10. Bed and breakfasts

There are a lot of quaint bed and breakfast locations scattered all over the state. Whether you choose one in Nebraska City or Bennington, you are assured of a quiet getaway in a beautiful setting. Fall and spring are great times to visit the Midwest. 

Popular Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Nebraska

People get irritated if their favorite food or restaurant doesn’t show up on food bucket list articles. We’ve done our best to choose restaurants that appear on several “best of Nebraska” lists. However, our list is woefully incomplete. 

11. Joe Tess Place

Joe Tess Place has been an Omaha institution since the 1930s. Their most famous offering is their Famous Fish Sandwich, originally fried carp portions that were served in a cookie jar. To guarantee that the carp is as fresh as possible, the owners transport their own fish used in the restaurant.

12. Hi-Way Diner

Will you be in Lincoln for a University of Nebraska football game? Then, make sure you stop at the Hi-Way Diner for breakfast any time of day. This restaurant has served the community for more than 30 years and is known for burgers, chicken fried steak, and other midwestern comfort food.

13. Boiler Room

We don’t want you to get the impression that there’s no fine dining in Nebraska. For example, consider the Boiler Room in Omaha. The menu changes daily based on what local growers and foragers provide, and their cocktail list includes perfectly-prepared classics and their own unique offerings. 

Omaha Bucket List Ideas

Omaha is the largest city in Nebraska and includes many surrounding suburbs. While the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium appears at the top of the list of things to do in this Midwestern city, there are other must-visit places. 

14. Joslyn Art Museum

Art lovers living in Nebraska are sure to have visited the Joslyn Art Museum. It opened in 1931 and features works by Renoir and Bouguereau.

15. Durham Museum

Located in Omaha’s former Union Station, the Durham Museum tells the story of the region’s history and offers a wide range of traveling exhibits. It has ties to the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress.

Make sure you visit the Durham Museum during the holidays to enjoy the decorations and lights. 

16. Fontenelle Forest 

Bellevue is a suburb of Omaha. Within its borders is a 1,400-acre forest that features hiking trails, a nature center, and picnic facilities. The forest is listed as a National Natural Landmark and a National Historic District and includes hardwood deciduous forests, extensive floodplains, and marshlands.

17. Old Market

Shop, dine, or stroll through the Old Market in Omaha. The cobbled streets provide the perfect backdrop for a relaxing fall afternoon. This is also an excellent location for a couples trip to Nebraska. 

More Ideas of Things to Do in Nebraska 

We’ve given you ideas on places to visit in Nebraska, but there are a lot of spots that didn’t make it on our list. For example, why not attend a University of Nebraska football game in Lincoln? Or look for bison at Panorama Point, near where Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado meet? Or you could visit Boys Town, Nebraska, to look at the largest ball of stamps. 

Are you excited to travel to Nebraska? We hope so! It may not be for everyone, but it may be for you.

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