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15 Best Things to Do in Lincoln, Nebraska

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Though Native Americans and immigrants have lived in the area for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until 1890 that Nebraska became part of the United States. Thanks to the Homestead Act, settlers had been coming to Lancaster long before the state was official. 

In honor of the former president, Lancaster became Lincoln in 1869, and since then, the population has grown from a small community of villagers to a whopping 287,000 Lincolnites.

Not only has the town grown, but there has also been an exciting development of businesses and commerce. When there are that many people who call a place home, there’s got to be plenty of things to do in Lincoln, Nebraska, to keep them entertained.

So, we come to you with a list that will keep the whole group busy, whether you’re a local or just visiting. From the Haymarket District to the botanical gardens and a lot in between, something goes on all year for all ages.

TL;DR

  • Most significant landmark – Nebraska State Capitol
  • Best park – Holmes Lake Park
  • Free activity – Sunken Gardens
  • Activity for kids – Lincoln Children’s Museum
  • Activity for adults – Robber’s Cave Tours
  • Place to eat – Kinkaider Brewing
  • Nightlife – Haymarket District
  • Place to stayRogers House Inn Bed and Breakfast

Things to Do in Lincoln, Nebraska

1. Hamann Rose Garden

Hamann Rose Garden
Image by John Carrel used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Address: S 27th St, Lincoln, NE 68502

Did you know there are at least 150 species of roses worldwide? One hundred twenty-three of those are on display in Lincoln, Nebraska. The area was chosen as a test garden to observe how the nation’s formal flowers would weather the climate. Lucky for us, they withstood.

Hamann Rose Garden was established in the 40s, but over the years, they branched out. Other flowers, such as hydrangeas and peonies, are on the property. These gardens are one of the best things to see in Lincoln. Is this the most optimum place in the city to get photos? It definitely might be. There’s only one way to find out.

A few of our favorite things to stop at in Hamann Rose Garden are the Pollinator Habitat, the array of flowers, and the decorative water features. Whether you’re an early bird or night owl, if you’d like a little outdoor time, check out the gardens every day from 6 am until 11 pm.

See Related: Best Weekend Trips from Omaha, Nebraska

2. Sunken Gardens

Sunken Gardens
Image by Erin used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Address: 2600 D St, Lincoln, NE 68502

Out of all the outdoor spaces in America, Lincoln’s own Sunken Gardens is listed as one of the best in the US and Canada by National Geographic. A place with such beauty was precisely what the people needed back when it came together.

Sunken Gardens was built just as America was deep in The Great Depression. Naturally, a place that belongs on a palatial estate helps morale. Whether you want to stroll along or just need a bit of sweet-smelling air, it takes about an hour to get through the gardens. But feel free to take your time. Those photos won’t take themselves.

Or heck, bring a picnic! Any outside food and beverages are welcome in these romantic gardens. So, you can lay a spread out on a blanket or use the provided tables. What a lovely afternoon, either way.

The best aspects of the Sunken Garden are that there is no fee, more than 30,000 flowers, and the plants are arranged in a theme. If being lost in a sea of blooms sounds like your way to enjoy a day, come by any from 6 am through 11 pm.

See Related: Things to Do in Omaha, Nebraska

3. Robber’s Cave Tours

Robber’s Cave Tours
Image by Robber’s Cave Tours

Address: 925 Robbers Cave Rd Suite B, Lincoln, NE 68502

Lincoln’s oldest tourist destination doubles as the only thing to do underground. Since 1864, Robber’s Cave has given explorers insight into what is happening beneath us. The cave itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

If this sounds like a great time, cave tour guides are ready to help you explore Lincoln from a different perspective. Robber’s Cave Tours won the 2022 Outstanding Nebraska Tourism Attraction of the Year.

A few things to know about the Robber’s Cave Tours: it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to be guided through, the ground is uneven, any vandalism will result in a ban, and pictures are strongly encouraged.

Book a tour for your group Monday through Friday from 3:30 pm until 10 pm or on the weekends from 10 am through 10 pm. Get to know the locals better when staying at Rogers House Inn Bed and Breakfast. This historic house will make you feel like you’ve always been here.

See Related: Cheapest Places to Fly Around the World

4. University of Nebraska State Museum

University of Nebraska State Museum
Image by James St. John used under CC BY 2.0

Address: Morrill Hall, 645 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68588

Fittingly, a whole museum is dedicated to the state in the Nebraska state capital. Located in Morrill Hall on the Nebraska campus, the Nebraska State Museum goes out of its way to keep people coming back. Those words should indicate that this is not your typical museum.

The best way to describe what goes on here is engagement. More than exhibits, all kinds of smaller events occur all year. Many are directed to children to interest them in science and natural history.

Whether you’ve been in Nebraska for a lifetime or are new to the area, there is much to learn here. Permanent exhibits like Elephant Hall offer a look back at the land before anyone settles it. Just a stone’s throw away is a look at the first people of the plains.

An entire area is dedicated to what hit Nebraska from outer space. Yes, go ahead and buy that annual pass. That’s about how long it will take to get through everything. Oh, let’s not forget the planetarium.

Some of our favorite exhibits are Cherish Nebraska, Paleontology of Nebraska, and Ancient Weapons Throughout Time. If learning about everything Nebraska piqued your interest, see it all for yourself Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm or Sunday from 12 pm to 5 pm. The Nebraska State Museum is one of the most fun and unique things to do in Lincoln, Nebraska!

5. Pioneers Park Nature Center

Pioneers Park Nature Center
Image by Ammodramus, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Address: 3201 South Coddington, Lincoln, NE 68522

Who knew there was room in the capital city for a walk back through time? Pioneers Park Nature Center offers 668 acres of educational programs and eight miles of hiking trails. Upon arrival, start the day at the visitor center.

The staff there provides maps and explains what you can do while there. Pioneers Park is a love letter to the local flora and fauna. If you were on the hunt for an outdoor meditation site, it probably doesn’t get to be more of a healing garden than this. From the excited bird chirping to the smooth prairie grass, the experience is one of lowering blood pressure. There are two interpretive buildings on the trail. That also includes a children’s play area.

It may seem like a lot of walking, but the facility welcomes the whole family. Must-see areas in the center start with the bison herd, nature center art pieces, and the Chet Ager Building. Does living history make you want to plan a day out? Drop by Pioneers Park Nature Center any day from 9 am until 7:30 pm.

See Related: National Parks in The USA to Visit

6. Sheldon Museum of Art

Sheldon Museum of Art
Image by Ammodramus, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Address: University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 12th and R St, Lincoln, NE 68588

Art museums that house installations outside as well as inside are fun places. Also, who doesn’t love free things? Both of those ideas are what you get here at Sheldon Museum of Art.

For over half a century through the present day, this museum hosts academics, faculty, and art lovers to embrace mediums such as pop art, contemporary art, American impressionism, or artistic skating while chatting about it. Heck, even looking at the art gallery is enough to provoke conversation.

To encourage returning visitors, there is a regular exchange of exhibits. Typically, a new installment lasts a semester before the upcoming new sets arrive. There are always reasons to check out what they have to offer.

Perhaps it’s enough to inspire a new creation in your own home. Get inspired by art from the last two centuries at Sheldon Museum from Tuesday through Saturday between 10 am and 4 pm. Don’t forget prints in the gift shop!

See Related: Places to Stay Near Platte River State Park

7. Lincoln Children’s Museum

Lincoln Children's Museum
Image by Jane A. RankinCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Address: 1420 P St, Lincoln, NE 68508

If you’ve ever heard children in your home complaining about boredom, the Lincoln Children’s Museum is the solution. That includes the standard off days from school. They stay open for many of those, too.

This giant playground will work to tire the little people out for an easy bedtime. Age groups are split, so there’s no worry about big kids versus small kids or those big kids getting bored with little kid stuff.

Kids can go at their own pace and learn about things they want to learn through hands-on exhibits. With a bit of influence, parents can encourage insight into money. Well, how money works, anyway, with the interactive bank exhibit.

Or maybe even get the creative juices in the Flow Zone, designed for little people up to age three. Children can walk on the moon, score a touchdown, perform on stage, and fly.

With three levels to explore, you might want to plan more than one day to see it all at Lincoln Children’s Museum. Check your calendar for a time: Wednesday through Saturday, from 9 am until 5 pm, or Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.

That running around might make the kids too tired to make it home. Turn it into a weekend getaway by booking a room within walking distance of Graduate Lincoln.

See Related: Ways to Book an Around-the-World Ticket

8. International Quilt Museum

International Quilt Museum
Image by Maureenose

Address: 1523 N 33rd St, Holdrege St, Lincoln, NE 68503

If any place can use a good quilt, it’s Nebraska. Who would have known that the world’s largest collection of quilts would end up in Lincoln, Nebraska? Spending an entire day taking in quilts at the International Quilt Museum may not sound that adventurous initially, but it’s about way more than keeping warm.

You might even see this as closer to cultural attractions than anything else. You see, there are at least 65 countries represented in the collection. These pieces also represent a timeline of humanity from the last six centuries. That’s why the International Quilt Museum is a necessity.

If you like what you see here and want to know more, the University of Nebraska has gone beyond the museum to bring it to you. They have created a whole virtual side of the museum with options, such as an archive of free lectures and weekly discussions on textiles. There is also a podcast.

The exhibits are regularly changing, but some favorite collections are Mountain Mist, 9/11 Victims Memorial, Pre-1800, and African American. Get cozy with quilts from around the world from Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 am until 4 pm.

9. Nebraska Outdoor Education Center

Wooden bridge at Nebraska Outdoor Education Center
Nebraska Outdoor Education Center / outdoornebraska.gov

Address: 4703 N 44th St, Lincoln, NE 68504

If you’ve ever watched archery in Disney’s Brave or the Olympics and thought, “Wow, that’s cool. I’d love to learn that!” Nebraska Outdoor has you covered. Getting comfortable with a bow and arrow takes time, as does getting a feel for a firearm. Whether you’re trying to learn a new skill or more about self-defense, there’s a range or class for you.

There are even day camps for kids who want to learn various skills. Teens 14 and up are invited. Activities that come with the bases are archery, survival, and hunting. Not a student? No problem; there are events where all ages are welcome.

That includes junior Olympic archery instruction. There’s plenty to learn and all the professionals around to assist. Stretch a bow at Nebraska Outdoor Education Center every day, minus Wednesday, from 12 until 8 pm.

See Related: What to Bring on a Camping Trip with Friends

10. Museum of American Speed

Museum of American Speed
Image by JOHN LLOYD used under CC BY 2.0

Address: 599 Oakcreek Dr, Lincoln, NE 68528

If you or someone you love has a passion for all things automotive, the Museum of American Speed is where to park it. At 135,000 square feet, any fanatic can see why this place was voted the #1 attraction for car lovers by Readers Choice. This is the only national museum of its kind, which is more than a display of cool cars; it’s every facet of the industry.

What will you discover at the Museum of American Speed? First, you’ll learn about the people who brought cars to life and those who continue running them. Then, it’s all about safety. You can’t have American speed in the first place without being careful. Does the engine’s purr make you want to learn more about the mechanics? There’s an exhibit for that as well.

Want to find race cars you love? There’s a toy store full of all the vehicles and accessories you can think of. Lastly, who needs coffee shops when there are Cars and Coffee?

Let’s just say there are plenty of events going on. At the museum, you can see 150 vehicles, 600 engines, and pedal cars. If cars are your speed, see more on Monday or Friday from 12 to 4:30 pm or Saturday from 9 am until 1 pm.

11. Nebraska State Capitol

Nebraska State Capitol
Image by CapitolistCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Address: 1445 K St, Lincoln, NE 68508

Over a decade, the Nebraska State Capitol building was built. When construction started, the country surged in wealth and resources during the roaring 20s. By the time it opened, America was deep in The Great Depression.

No matter what is happening worldwide, the government still has to run. From a rocky beginning to a flourishing state, the capitol has a story to tell. You can hear that story for yourself through a tour.

This self-guided walk through the State Capitol Building gives the listener a firsthand look at the walls and the history of the state of Nebraska.

When the weather is nice, that includes the observation deck. The most intriguing parts of the capitol are the public hearing rooms, the Lincoln Monument, and the capitol displays. Let’s not forget the food! Not only is there a cafeteria inside, but there are also food trucks outside.

The Nebraska State Capitol best represents downtown Lincoln. Feel the power Monday through Friday from 8 am until 5 pm, Saturday from 10 am until 5 pm, or Sunday from 1 to 5 pm. Get to know the area around the capitol even better with a scavenger hunt. This leads you all across the downtown and even to the university campus. 

See Related: Most Famous Historic Landmarks in the USA

12. Holmes Lake Park

Holmes Lake Park

Address: 70th & Normal, S 70th St, Lincoln, NE 68506

This man-made lake isn’t for swimming, but observation of the natural habitat is encouraged. It is a natural play area, after all. Voted the best park in Lincoln, Nebraska, Holmes Park has been a place for citizens since the 60s. In some ways, it’s a place for the community to unite.

The reason is the abundance of stuff going on. There is baseball, boating, and fishing. Not to mention the playgrounds, picnic tables, volleyball courts, water fountains, and restrooms. If this place doesn’t fit on the romantic things to do in Lincoln, Nebraska list, nothing does.

This is the type of place where you can spend all day and do multiple activities. It’s also where you can have one kid roller skating, another having up-close encounters with squirrels, and you have peace.

At Holmes Lake Park, you can also find a golf course, biking trails, and an observatory. Just a short walk to quiet can be yours any day from 5 am until 11 pm.

13. Wilderness Park

Wilderness Park
Image by Karin Dalziel used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Address: 4700-4798 S 1st St, Lincoln, NE 68512

Wilderness Park happens to be the largest in the city. That’s part of why it’s almost unbelievable that these wild green spaces are smack dab in a capital city.

Feeling removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown Lincoln is what makes this area special. Contained within the border are 31 miles of trails. Bring your feet, bike, or horse to see it all. Wilderness Parks is your road map if you’ve ever dreamed of getting lost in a sea of tall trees and bubbling brooks.

One thing you may not know about this place is that it helps keep the city from flooding. Located in the park is Salt Creek. Since the great local flood of 1856, this creek has wanted to recreate the chaos.

Thanks to the army’s levee system, the creek has calmed down a bit. Yes, Wilderness Park doubles as a safety precaution. Enjoy almost 1,500 acres each day from 5 am until 11 pm.

See Related: Best Mancation Destinations Around the World

14. LUX Center for the Arts

LUX Center for the Arts
Image from TripAdvisor

Address: 2601 N 48th St, Lincoln, NE 68504

Don’t we all want to discover a new hobby? Perhaps one that could even prove lucrative with time? This is another art museum that goes above and beyond. LUX wants art to be accessible to everyone, regardless of age or income bracket. This museum showcases local artists as well as those from sea to shining sea.

The great thing about that is if you’re a local talent, you are just as likely to be on display as anyone else. You can apply to participate right on the website. In order to make sure everyone has a chance, LUX offers discounts and scholarships.

So, come by and look at the pieces on display, or make something of your own. Here is a list of artistic mediums taught at LUX: At LUX, take a class in one of the following artistic mediums: pottery, printmaking, painting, jewelry, or drawing. Enjoy this art museum Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am until 5 pm.

15. Haymarket District

Haymarket District
Image by Ammodramus used under CC0

Address: 335 N 8th St B, Lincoln, NE 68508

The Haymarket District is as old as Lincoln, Nebraska itself. In the city’s original layout, the market square was an open-concept space for produce and livestock. It also doubled as a temporary space for newbies. Haymarket is just as much a historic district as anything else.

The hay part of Haymarket District was from the enormous amount of cattle that took up space on the spot. A lot has changed since way back then. Not only can you take a historical tour, but you can also have a night and day out on the town. Some of what you can expect to do with your time include fine dining, art walks, shopping, trying a new beverage, or spending the night.

Want to enjoy a local brewery? Try out Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill or Kinkaider Brewing. If Italian is more your style, don’t miss Napoli’s Italian Restaurant or the popular Vincenzo’s, where you can enjoy one of your favorite classic Italian dishes.

There are over two dozen eateries in the historic Haymarket District, so you definitely won’t go hungry. Historic Haymarket District is open to patrons daily from 10 am until 8:30 pm.

With that many options for what you can do in a day, it might be better to get a head start the night before. Stay within walking distance of Haymarket District in this Holiday Inn Express & Suites. Breakfast is included!

Tours in Lincoln

1. Explore Lincoln with a Unique Scavenger Hunt by Zombie Scavengers Top Recommendation

The Crazy Corpus Christi Scavenger Hunt is a unique way to learn about the city and explore it beyond what tourists typically experience. Playing the game is simple, fun, and exciting: Use your phone or tablet to navigate through trails, solving riddles and answering questions along the way. The more you play, the more points you get!

2. Adventurous Scavenger Hunt in Lincoln by 3Quest Challenge

In this Lincoln, Nebraska scavenger hunt, you'll visit 13 random locations as you search for items to gather points. (You’ll also get a chance to explore the city and learn fun facts about Lincoln.) The app updates you with your current location and the list of items at each stop, so you can focus on finding them all. At the end of the tour, you'll turn in your list to a remote host who will rate your performance.

3. Lincoln Scavenger Hunt: Capitol to Campus!

3Quest Challenge is a fun and unique challenge where you will get to explore Lincoln while completing quests and finding hidden items. You have to complete quest 1, then quest 2, then quest 3 in order to finish the game! Each Quest has a time limit of 2 hours. How fast can you do all 3 challenges?

FAQs

What is Lincoln, Nebraska, known for?

There’s plenty of history and things to do in Lincoln, Nebraska, to make this capital noteworthy. For natives of Nebraska, Lincoln is a foodie destination and where politics happen. For everyone else, the University of Nebraska is a well-known school with a wide variety of subjects. Of course, Lincoln is also familiar because of its namesake.

Is Lincoln, Nebraska, worth visiting?

If Nebraska had even been a thought, there would be so many places to visit and things to do in Lincoln, Nebraska, to make it worthwhile. Not only are there plenty of Lincoln tourist attractions for all interest levels, but it’s also an easy city to deal with. Unlike many overpopulated and traffic-heavy cities, Lincoln has all the fun stuff of a big city with none of the irritations.

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