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State Spotlight: Nebraska

Touring Nebraska takes travelers through a pioneering past and into a present full of natural attractions and modern activities.

Situated between the heartland and the rugged West, Nebraska was at the crossroads of American expansion, and many of the traditions started by early settlers continue around the state today. They are complemented by the cities that have grown up around those early settlements and the exciting attractions they bring.

In Kearney, the Great Platte River Road Archway is a beautiful attraction that tells the stories of some of the half-million people that traveled west through the territory during the pioneer era. In Omaha, the Douglas County Historical Society has created experiences that allow groups to relive some of the highlights of the Nebraska frontier.

Historic experiences tie in to modern life in Nebraska as well. The North Platte Beef and Wine Tour shows visitors how the heritage of cattle ranching has evolved into a major industry. Lincoln’s Sheldon Museum of Art exhibits a 19th-century art collection that has been updated with modern pieces, and outfitters in Burwell offer ways for travelers to experience the timeless landscape in 21st-century style.


Archway Monument

During the pioneer era, untold thousands of travelers followed the Great Platte River Road through Nebraska on their way to establish new homes in the West. Today’s travelers can learn about their journey at the Great Platte River Road Archway in Kearney.

The Archway is something of a museum in the sky. Resembling a covered bridge, it spans 308 feet across Interstate 80, resting 30 feet above the surface of the road on two large towers. Visitors enter through one of the towers and then proceed up into the exhibit area above the roadway, where they learn about the Pony Express, telegraph wires, buffalo stampedes, railroads and the other developments that helped to connect the East to the West.

Groups touring the Archway can see a number of video presentations that detail the history of the area before seeing the artifacts and exhibits on display. The museum also has a gift shop and Chuckwagon Concessions, and the staff can arrange catering for group meals.


Behind the Beef

Cattle ranching became an important part of Nebraska as the state was settled, and it still plays a key role in the state’s economy. Groups visiting North Platte can learn about the modern business of beef on a tour of the University of Nebraska Extension Center.

Tours of the extension center take visitors to see the cattle pens where scientists conduct research to help ranchers produce top-quality beef. They also see a greenhouse and fields where researchers work on modern agriculture and irrigation innovations, and stop by the wind tunnel where engineers test technology used to apply pesticide to farms.

After seeing the extension center, groups can continue their agricultural tours at Feather River Vineyard. In addition to seeing the winery and learning about winemaking, the experience can include a beefsteak cooking demonstration and a full meal prepared by the vineyard’s chef and wine experts. 

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.