The neighborly cornhusker spirit is ample reason for a sojourn to Nebraska, but the Tree Planting State has so much more to offer. Nebraska has been a key migration corridor in America’s heartland throughout history, the eras of which all deserve exploration.
Scotts Bluff served for centuries as a natural landmark to passing tribes. Lewis and Clark would later navigate the Louisiana Purchase via Nebraska’s eastern border. Finally, the state became a central artery for adventurers bound for the West, with the first transcontinental railroad and the Lincoln Highway, America’s first coast-to-coast highway.
Welcome to Nebraska, where groups can contemplate the ever-changing world through myriad stops showcasing nature, history and innovation.
The Kearney Archway
If you’ve ever longed to take a spin in a time machine, the Kearney Archway is the ticket. Go back to 1848 and walk chronologically through larger-than-life exhibits. The highway-spanning interactive displays invite visitors to experience the danger and loneliness that met pioneers as they embarked for the West. Watch a rider change horses at the Pony Express, see Mormons escaping persecution and drive the Golden Spike to unite the transcontinental railroad. Whether you take the self-guided audio tour in an hour or spend the afternoon learning about the Oregon Trail, the must-do archway will transport you through time to bring Nebraska’s role in westward expansion to life.
The Durham Museum has made its home in Omaha’s 1931 grand Union Station, one of the first Art Deco stations in the country. Find restored train cars, 1940s storefronts and the Byron Reed collection, one of the world’s largest rare-coin collections on display. The Smithsonian affiliate institution is also home to a replica of Warren Buffet’s grandfather’s grocery, where the Oracle of Omaha earned his first nickel. Be sure to taste the past with an authentic phosphate or malt at the Durham Museum’s 1930s soda fountain and candy shop.
Speedway Motors Museum Of American Speed
Lincoln’s Museum of American Speed puts ingenuity on display with its boggling array of race cars, engines, parts, toys, memorabilia and more. Trace the history of racing from the 1900s to today, from throwing up dust on dirt tracks to burning rubber on the Indy 500. With its three floors packed with horsepower, the museum is a visual feast for any visitor, from the uninitiated to race car buffs alike.
Up and Coming
Lewis And Clark Visitor Center
Nature and outdoor lovers will have a heyday at the Lewis and Clark Visitor Center in Nebraska City. The interpretive center focuses on the flora and fauna found during the 1804 Corps of Discovery Expedition. Learn about the natural history of the area with interactive natural and riverine exhibits inside or head outdoors to the scenic trails for exploring and birding up close. In May, the center celebrated the construction of a brand new interactive replica keelboat, the river barge that transported Lewis and Clark from Pittsburgh to North Dakota.
Scotts Bluff National Monument
Rising out of the earth like a scene from a fantasy novel is Scotts Bluff National Monument. The 800-foot-tall natural rock formation has been a vital landmark for emigrants for centuries, from Native American peoples to those journeying westward in the 19th century. Today, groups can hike on its many scenic paths, walk remnants of the Oregon Trail or explore the summit for an indescribable view. The visitors center was completely remodeled in 2021, with two new wings, new interpretive exhibits and an expanded gift shop.
Stuhr Museum Of The Prairie Pioneer
Relive history at Stuhr Museum’s Railroad Town in Grand Island, Nebraska. Historians decked out in hoop skirts or forging tools at the blacksmith or spinning a yarn at the mercantile illustrate life in the 1890s. The living history experience aims to preserve the legacy of the prairie pioneer. Write a letter at the post office, pick up an authentic 10-cent newspaper or see how tin cups and horseshoes were made. New to this gem of the prairie is the Stuhr Bistro, serving made-to-order and catered meals.
Downtown Omaha’s business district is anchored by the 1930s Redick Tower, home to Hotel Deco. The opulent 92-year-old Art Deco building once housed FBI, IRS, Navy and other federal offices. The boutique hotel is just a stone’s throw away from some of Omaha’s most popular destinations. Groups can stroll to the Orpheum Theater, the Old Market District and the Heartland of America Park. This crackerjack example of architecture inspired by the machine age has been completely renovated with modern amenities, furnishings and contemporary style.
In the 1870s, newspaper editor and nature lover J. Morton Sterling’s dream came true: More than 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska in a single day. Since then, the nation has embraced Arbor Day. On 260 historic acres in Nebraska City, the Arbor Day Foundation runs the Lied Lodge, a grand, woodsy, sophisticated hotel. Guests can relax indoors at the spa, indoor swimming pool or Timber’s Restaurant. Thirsting for action? Head outside for Tree Adventure, then wind down with wine tastings and views of the forest. Staying at the Lied Lodge supports the foundation’s mission to plant, nurture and celebrate trees.
Ole’S Big Game Steakhouse And Lounge
Nebraska’s most famous restaurant is ready for guests to stampede in for juicy burgers surrounded by big game trophies. Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse has been a fixture for nearly a century. And Ole’s has remained true to its roots as a tavern while maturing into a family-friendly destination in Paxton. Through the decades, original owner and hunting enthusiast Ole Herstedt festooned his restaurant with more than 200 large-game trophies. On busy days, a hundred diners enjoy meals under the watchful eyes of the menagerie.
The Cedar Room
North Platte is brimming with landmarks paying homage to Buffalo Bill Cody, who would give his seal of approval to quality steaks only a cowboy would know, like those found at The Cedar Room. The Cedar Room is an American fusion restaurant located in the downtown Canteen District. Expect menu items like Angus beef filet mignon, natural duroc pork with salted caramel and steakburgers on brioche buns.