In the middle of grass and corn prairies, Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska. Creative and diverse elements are mixed in this city that is home to the University of Nebraska and an increasing population of immigrants. In the city center, century-old brick warehouses guard galleries of modern art and host festive Artwalks.
The very busy central region has been attracting more and more visitors thanks to the recent inaugurations of shops, restaurants, and bars. Bike paths, trails, and other open spaces are an additional invitation to practice sports or to take refuge in one of the many live music clubs.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Lincoln (NE)
1. Lincoln Children’s Zoo
Home to over 400 animals, Lincoln Children’s Zoo keeps the kids entertained by teaching them about animals’ eating habits, habitats, and more. Amongst its residents, there are 40 endangered species. So, you will get to meet the Sumatran tiger, Humboldt penguin, snow leopard, and Matchie’s tree kangaroo.
You can spend an hour or three exploring the zoo, as there are several opportunities to be interactive with exhibits with hands-on, visual, and play activities. Besides getting a pony ride, and feeding the giraffe, you can go on a train ride around the zoo.
2. Sunken Gardens
Constructed in 1930 in an abandoned neighborhood dumpsite, the Sunken Gardens feature sculptures, lawn space, and lily ponds amid lush landscaping. The park is not very big but offers various sights to see including small waterfalls, unique walk paths, and ponds with fish. And as a bonus, you can see rabbits and butterflies all around the garden.
The Sunken Gardens look great pretty much all year round, though it is at its best from spring through fall. Depending on the time of the year, you might also catch an art exhibition at the park.
3. Pioneers Park Nature Center
Covering 668 acres of prairie, forest, and wetlands, the Pioneers Park Nature Center is dedicated to environmental education and animal preservation. Not only do they have bison, but there are paths through either forest or prairie indigenous wildflowers. The sunflowers, milkweed seed pods, and turtles are also a big hit.
The park also features a playground area and picnic tables. So, go hiking on the numerous trails in the park, both paved and unpaved, and explore all of its hidden places. The place is also full of history with several pillars. There, you can read about them and how they were originally in Washington DC.
4. Lincoln Children’s Museum
The 3-level Lincoln Children’s Museum offers kids a fantastic place to learn and play through interactive and hands-on exhibits, educational activities, and day camps. The museum’s highlight is to show the kids all the different careers they can follow when they grow-up.
Some of the attractions include a pretend supermarket, an educational magnetic apple tree, doctor’s offices, stuffed animals, aerospace exhibits, and face painting. Also, make sure to check out the Cuckoo Clock and the Water Room. They also provide a seating area both indoors and outdoors and allow you to bring your own food and snacks.
5. Nebraska State Capitol
Completed in 1932, the Nebraska State Capitol Building is a beautiful architectural site to see and tour any time of the year. The building features a 400-ft domed limestone tower and courtyards. The rich history of the state is showcased very well throughout the grounds and building as well as the visitor center and museum.
During your tour, pay attention to the artwork and engravings spread throughout the capitol. Besides, the view from the observation level is amazing giving you a nice perspective of the entire city of Lincoln.
6. Pinnacle Bank Arena
Offering picturesque views of the State Capitol, Pinnacle Bank Arena is a multi-purpose arena with year-round entertainment. The arena features concerts, family shows, touring acts, school functions, and, of course, sporting events. Interestingly, they allow people to play sports and drive monster trucks inside the arena. Also, Pinnacle Bank Arena has 105 concession points of sale with snacks and drinks.
The building itself has a very unique architectural embodiment of aesthetics and modernity. It combines a concrete and metal panel facade with a spectacular open-air roof deck and a contemporary glass-encased entrance.
7. University of Nebraska State Museum – Morrill Hall
Founded in 1871, the University of Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall) is an incredible natural history museum exploring Nebraska’s biodiversity and culture. The museum features a very diverse collection of rare animals, dinosaurs, minerals, weapons, and more. Plus, the amazing “Elephant Hall” with life-sized skeletons from all kinds of mammoths and elephants is the highlight.
If you are lucky you might be able to check out the lab where they open casts of fossils on display. As a bonus, the museum also offers a planetarium. Just be sure to not go late in the day as you will not have enough time to see it all.
8. Holmes Lake Park
Originally built as a way to prevent floods, the Holmes Lake Park comprises open space and walking paths, plus a public golf course and an observatory. The elevated walking trail around the lake offers breathtaking views of the city! So, if you are looking for a place to exercise, relax, or take in the sunset, Holmes Lake is a great choice. Besides, you can spot a lot of wildlife, including river otters.
The lake itself is mostly used for kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing. However, swimming is not allowed, except during special events.
9. Bourbon Theater
The Bourbon Theater is a live-music venue in a renovated 1930s movie theater, with multiple bars mixing craft cocktails. The facilities are well-maintained, and the sound system is extremely good, adding up to the whole atmosphere and vibe.
Bourbon Theater provides a very intimate experience as you can get closer to the stage than an overly large venue, so the show is always great. They get a large variety of artists, which pleases everyone! And even though there is not a bad seat in the house, unless you get there early, you will not get a seat at all.
10. Museum of American Speed
The Museum of American Speed is an institution known for a vast collection of artifacts, toys, models, and exhibits on racing and car history. The museum focuses on racing history, rare and important vehicles as well as auto-related collections. For example, they display over 600 historically significant engines and over 150 rotating vehicles.
Besides the two floors of racing history and the third of memorabilia, the museum also displays items you would not expect to see there. For example, as you walk up the stairs you will see hanging on the wall a huge collection of antique lunch boxes.
11. Memorial Stadium
Considered as one of the “Cathedrals of College Football”, the Memorial Stadium is one of the most intimidating locations to play in all of the sports. It is the home field of Nebraska Cornhuskers holding over 85,000 football fans with a history dating to 1922. Interestingly, the stadium holds the sellout record showing how faithful the Huskers fans can be. It is not every day one gets to experience the electric atmosphere of a Huskers game. So, if you get the chance, soak it up all the way!
The building itself is also something to admire as it is one of the most high-tech stadiums in the US while maintaining its traditional charm.
12. Sheldon Museum of Art
Designed by Philip Johnson, the Sheldon Museum of Art was first built in Italy and then painstakingly reassembled at the University of Nebraska in 1963. The building itself has a unique architecture with the travertine marble building and gold leaf details on the ceiling.
The museum focuses on American works, including 19th-century landscapes and pop art, with a sculpture garden. Among the more than 12,000 works in its collection are “Bedroom in New York”, by Edward Hopper, and the effervescent “New York, Night”, by Georgia O’Keeffe. However, the exhibitions are constantly rotating and changing.
13. Historic Haymarket
With an artsy and alternative vibe, the Historic Haymarket is located in Downtown Lincoln. The area has a lot of unique restaurants and shops, as well as Lincoln’s Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. There, you will find all kinds of booths. From Arts & Crafts to food, and Fresh Produce. This is also where the Lincoln Visitor Center is located.
The main bars at Haymarket include Jack’s bar for the older crowd, Barry’s for the younger on a budget, and Gate 25 for after a formal event! And of course, during football season, this is the best place for a pre-game drink.
14. Nebraska History Museum
Well laid out and informative, the Nebraska History Museum tells the story of the different time periods in Nebraska. The exhibits cover 12,000 years of history with over 125,000 objects. This longtime state museum features cultural artifacts, history exhibits, tours, and a hands-on learning room.
There, you will learn about the people and cultures that have made Nebraska their home as well as its history before it became a state. With helpful explanatory texts, the collections display various artifacts without any unifying theme other than their Nebraska heritage. The museum also hosts a variety of educational programs for children and adults.
15. International Quilt Museum
Established in 1997, the International Quilt Museum features an outstanding representation of a wide variety of quilts from around the world. You can learn all about the cultural and artistic significance of quilts through traditional and contemporary quilts.
The arrangement of quilts by exhibit rooms allows the visitor to digest the intricate complexities of quilting by the global region. For example, you can admire the colorful Indian quilts, the two-sided Japanese quilts, and the Russian myths around the culture of quilts. The architecture of the building itself is beautiful and the museum is spacious and very elderly and handicapped friendly.
16. The Veterans Memorial Garden
Situated near a fantastic children’s playground and the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, the Veterans Memorial Garden is part of the Antelope Park. This respectful and thoughtful memorial for veterans shows the US patriotism from many angles. This is a great place to start teaching kids about the sacrifices so many Americans have made.
There are separate monuments for each war/conflict, with names of the fallen from the area. Besides, there is even a memorial for War Dogs! The memorial is also a great garden with beautiful flowers and a nice place to relax.
17. National Museum of Roller Skating
Established in 1980, the National Museum of Roller Skating captures the colorful history and the promising future of one of America’s greatest sports with the largest collection of roller skating artifacts and textual materials in the world. The Museum displays many one-of-a-kind artifacts, costumes, and memorabilia.
The museum’s exhibitions include the Inline Skating, the Artistic Skating, the Roller Hockey, the Speed Skating, and the Roller Derby. You can also do a guided tour of the museum and learn more about how people skated in the 1800s. And make sure to take a quarter or two for their old-style music box.
18. Mahoney Park
On the edge of Lincoln and with no traffic noise, Mahoney Park is a 77-acre peaceful green space. The park features a golf course, sports courts and fields, a playground, and hiking trails. This lovely park also has picnic tables under a shelter which you could reserve for birthdays and such.
The park is quite popular amongst dog owners. There is an area-specific for dogs where there are even water fountains for your four-legged friends. Overall, it is a beautiful park with lots of green and nature which is best seen during the summer months when all the trees are in full bloom!
19. Homestead National Monument of America
The Homestead National Monument of America honors the Act of 1862 which transformed the world by inviting millions of people to claim pieces of land. The 100-acre park of tallgrass prairie is also home to a museum that tells the story of how homesteaders created settlements and farms, drove industrial advancement, and built the idea of the “American Dream”.
The monument composes of three buildings. The main building tells the story of Homesteaders and the Homestead Act and has a homesteader’s house on site. The second building, just down the road, has a lot of farm equipment on display. And the third building is a one-room schoolhouse that is now used by the park rangers.
20. Star City Shores
The Star City Shores is not just a typical “public pool”, it is also a water park. The park features little-kiddie and big-kid/adult slides, fountains, splash park area, incline ramp, deep end side, and lifeguards. The music on the speakers is loud enough to make you feel on holidays but not over-powering.
This particular water park is great for the smaller kids and the ones not quite swimming yet as there is a large playset in the shallows giving them a lot of activity. There is also a nice, covered wading place to sit with your infant or toddler, which walks down, much like the beach so it is easy for anybody to get in and out of.
21. Hollywood Bowl
Without being flashy or fancy the Hollywood Bowl has all that is needed for the entire family to have fun bowling. The lanes and bowls are all in great condition and the snacks are very tasty. You usually rent the lane per hour and they offer special deals to include the shoe rental and family fun packs. They also have events every week as the Rock & Bowl and the Glo Zone.
There, you can find a bowling league for everyone. Check out the recreational, competitive, adult, youth, senior, mixed, and short-season leagues. Also, the Hollywood Bowl has another franchise in Lincoln, the Parkway Lanes.
22. Tierra Briarhurst Park
The 123-acre Tierra Briarhurst Park is a beautiful space with many activities and wildlife. While there, you might be able to spot deer, foxes, and squirrels. Also, the park features tennis courts, shelters, playgrounds, and a good-sized skate park which is perfect for beginners.
Besides the technical 9 hole disc golf course, the park is also a great destination for a walk or a jog. There are a few trails around the park but the main one is a 2.25 mile-long path with exercise stations along the way. Some of the trails lead you to a river and through a forest area.
23. Jayne Snyder Trails Center
Jayne Snyder Trails Center is located on the west side of Union Plaza along the Billy Wolff/Antelope Valley Trail. The trails are wide and well maintained, without a bump or filled holes. Besides the playground and several trails, the center also has fountains that kids can play in.
The center serves as host to the CHE & The Hub Cafe, as well as supporting some superb local visual art. If you walk or ride along the trails use the center as a hub for eating, breathing, or just enjoying the views and wildlife.
24. St Mary’s Catholic Church
Across the street from Nebraska State Capitol Building, St Mary’s Catholic Church is beautiful both inside and out. Also, it is comforting to feel the passion of the priests and service to the poor and ill of the Lincoln community.
The church is very welcoming to any Christian worship and all ages are welcomed in a happy atmosphere. The priest for each service changes so if you have a favorite or a specific approach you prefer, make sure to check the bulletin/website before visiting.
25. Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill – Haymarket
Established in 1991 in the Historic Haymarket, Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill was Nebraska’s first brewpub. Nowadays, it serves American comfort food and seasonal beers. The location is cool and in a certain area of the dining room, you can see the brewery next door which is really neat. The restaurant has plenty of seating in a building full of wood structures and decorations.
With fresh ingredients cooked in their custom-grill fueled solely by hickory wood, the food is exceptional. Their highlights include the prime rib, the beer cheese soup, and the peanut butter pie.