From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Nebraska’s capital and a shining jewel in the vast Great Plains, Lincoln, Nebraska is a unique city with a whole lot to offer — so much so that we doubt you’ve seen and done it all, even if you’ve called it home for a while. Covering almost 100 square miles and home to more than a quarter of a million people, this bustling metropole has grown from its humble beginnings as the 1856 village of Lancaster, and is also home to the University of Nebraska, founded back in 1869.
Today, Lincolnites enjoy the famous Haymarket District, a range of fine dining and museums, and, of course, the beautiful natural landscape that surrounds the city itself.
What else is there to explore in Lincoln? We’re so glad you asked! Read on to learn more about our favorite options.
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Those who think the “great plains” have nothing to offer but grasslands are sorely mistaken. Here are some of the coolest state and national parks and preserves in the Lincoln, NE area.
Featuring the largest lake in eastern Nebraska, with 1,800 acres of water, Branched Oak State Recreation Area is a popular destination amongst fisherfolk, boaters and campers. However, even if you’re not looking to get out on the water, there’s plenty to keep you occupied here: miles of hiking and equestrian trails make it a win for landlubbers, too.
Conveniently located along the Platte River off I-80, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is an easy half-hour drive from Lincoln, and offers year-round accommodations and facilities for recreational use. The Walter J. Scott Observation Tower is a particularly popular attraction, offering visitors sweeping views of the landscape and the network of trails used to get to the tower itself.
Consisting of over 2,500 acres — about 740 of which are water — the Pawnee State Recreation Area offers something for everybody. Pawnee Lake is the second-largest in Salt Valley, and a popular choice for boaters and anglers, and the nearby landscape is chock full of opportunities for hikers, hunters, and horseback riders.
Tucked halfway between Lincoln and Omaha, Platte River State Park draws a large visitorship from both of Nebraska’s biggest cities — and for good reason. Its rolling hills and waterfalls make it easy to forget how often this state is dismissed as solely grassland, and its shady forests make for welcoming hiking surroundings.
Good things come in relatively small packages, as anyone who’s visited Wagon Train Lake State Recreation Area knows. Comprised of just under 750 acres of land with a 315-acre lake to go along with it, this park offers larger-than-life boating, fishing, picnicking, and just plain relaxing opportunities.
A wilderness nestled just southwest of Lincoln proper, the Yankee Hill State Wildlife Management Area is a great place to get outside even if you’re pressed for time. What’s more, fishing and hunting is allowed provided you have the proper permits.
You don’t have to go far from town to enjoy some stellar sights. Here are some of the best hiking trails in Lincoln and the immediately surrounding areas.
Winding through Lincoln’s sprawling Wilderness Park, the Wilderness Park Trails are a looped network of paths that stretch more than 17 miles all told — but there are plenty of opportunities to make for shorter, day-trippable adventures along the way. These trails are also known for their birdwatching opportunities as well as beautiful wildflowers.
Another lengthy endeavor that could easily be separated out into smaller point-to-point hikes, MoPac East Trail measures almost 22 miles altogether and sees about 400 feet in elevation gain. Reviewers mention that the trail is smooth enough even for bikers, offering expansive views of the surrounding plains.
Looking for something a bit more approachable? Antelope Creek Trail is tucked into Lincoln’s Holmes Lake Park, and the entire loop runs less than two-and-a-half miles. Seeing about 50 feet in elevation change, this trail is rated easy and is also dog-friendly, though pets must always be kept on a leash.
Running straight through the heart of Lincoln, Rock Island Trail is a popular destination for those looking for a quick morning run or a leisurely stroll after work, and since it’s paved and relatively flat, it’s stroller and wheelchair friendly. Also a good option for cyclists!
A moderately-trafficked loop tucked into Pioneers Park, the Pioneers Park Trail runs a little less than three miles altogether and sees about 100 feet in elevation gain, making it an easy-moderate venture perfect for those looking to get outside for some exercise and fresh air. The scenery is lovely in winter, too — just be sure you bundle up!
With so much to see and do in Lincoln, you’re going to need some fuel to get you through it all. Here are some of the best restaurants in Lincoln, whether you’re looking for Indian, Italian, Mexican, or something else entirely.
When it comes to date night, there’s nothing quite like Italian — and Florio’s Italian Restaurant & Grille sets the standard for Tuscan fare as far as Lincoln is concerned. Whether you’re looking for dinner, a family-style meal, a kid-friendly atmosphere or just a mountain of absolutely divine pasta, check it out.
Offering Indian and Nepali delights in a casual setting, Aroma Indian Cuisine will draw you in just as its name implies. With an array of specialities and traditional dishes alike, there’s sure to be something on the menu to excite every palate, no matter how picky.
A Lincoln Mexican joint good enough that there’s a second one! Mazatlan Mexican is a beloved institution amongst locals, dishing up a wide range of favorites from enchiladas to burritos to tacos, all accompanied by well-poured margaritas, of course.
Think “plant-based” has to mean “boring”? Think again! Juju’s Vegan Cajun and Creole Cuisine serves up spicy and satisfying dishes that feel just as indulgent without the meat and dairy — so much so that even carnivores will walk away with a smile on their faces.
Lincoln may be about as far from Asia as it’s possible to get — but if you’re looking for the best Asian restaurant in Lincoln, you’re not going to be disappointed. Issara Modern Asian Cuisine’s name means “freedom” in Thai, and you’ll have the freedom to choose from a wide range of delicious, freshly-made pan-Asian dishes, all of which are perfectly presented in an inviting atmosphere.
Despite its laid-back, midwestern attitude, Lincoln is chock-full of fun things to see, do, and explore — whether you’re hitting the town by yourself, as a couple, with friends or with the whole family! Here are some of the top things to do in Lincoln, Nebraska this weekend and beyond.
Lincoln is a great place for kiddos! Here are some of the best family-friendly activities.
Zoos are already a classic family activity, and Lincoln Children’s Zoo specifically brings the wilderness down to an all-ages-friendly level. Housing over 40 endangered species including the Sumatran tiger, the Humboldt penguin, the snow leopard and Matchie’s tree kangaroo, this also serves as an excellent opportunity to get the kids amped up about conservation efforts.
What kid isn’t obsessed with cars? For that matter, we know a ton of adults who can’t get enough of automobiles. If you and your family have the need for speed, you’ve gotta check out Licoln’s Museum of American Speed, which preserves and displays years worth of automotive history in a sprawling 135,000-square-foot space. Keep in mind that hours of opening vary seasonally, so be sure to check the website before you visit.
The Haymarket District serves as Lincoln’s city hub, and is a must-do for residents and visitors of all ages. Dotted with a wide variety of shops and restaurants and also hosting a weekly farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, the Haymarket District is a great place to meander around for a family day.
There’s certainly no shortage of things to do in Lincoln during the day — but what about after nightfall? Fortunately, the fun doesn’t end once the sun goes down! Here are some of our favorite nighttime activities in Lincoln.
A town institution since the 1930s, the Bourbon Theatre has been renovated since its early glory days… and still offers up an equally glorious roster of live entertainment. Along with live music and acting, the theatre also hosts multiple bars mixing up craft cocktails, so you can sip something smooth while you take it all in.
As incredible as all the things to see and do on the ground in Lincoln are, things get even more amazing once you turn your gaze upward. At the Hyde Memorial Observatory, the public can access high-powered telescopes as well as informational resources to help them understand what they’re looking at in the universe around them.
Guess what? “Cheap” doesn’t mean the same thing as “boring” — especially in Lincoln! Here are some of our favorite low-cost activities.
The only Nebraska garden listed in the “300 Best Gardens to Visit in the United States and Canada” by National Geographic’s Guide to Public Gardens, Sunken Gardens is high on the list of things for couples to do in Lincoln — and anyone else who enjoys meandering through beautiful foliage, for that matter. With more than 30,000 individual annual plants which are redesigned each year, this is a stop well worth your time, and admission isn’t just cheap — it’s free!
A trendy spot inside the greater Haymarket District, Lincoln’s Railyard is a popular place for live entertainment and events, from bingo nights to public concerts to cornhole leagues and more. The Railyard is also surrounded by bars and restaurants, so even if nothing is going on in the square itself, it’s not hard to find something fun and affordable to do nearby.
Here are even more options for things to do in Lincoln that won’t cost you a single cent.
Mentioned above as one of the primary places for hiking in town, Pioneers Park is also home to an informative and educational Nature Center, which makes its mission to interpret the history of Nebraska and the central Great Plains at large. Admission is free, though very small donations ($3-$5) are suggested.
Lincoln, Nebraska just so happens to be the proud home of America’s only roller skating museum — and better yet, the National Museum of Roller Skating is 100% free to enter! Skate on through years of artifacts and information revolving around one of America’s coolest and most dynamic sports, all without paying a dime.
Everyone needs some pampering now and again. Here are the best day spas and salons to get your R&R on in Lincoln.
Offering a diverse array of treatments, from classics like massage and facial to more in-depth body work such as dermaplaning and chemical peels, Body Nouveaux Spa, as its name implies, leaves you feeling just a little bit newer when you walk out than you did when you walked in.
For most of us, beauty and body treatments are about more than what they make us look like — they’re about how good they make us feel! At Tranquility Spa & Salon, you can choose from a full menu of both beautifying and relaxing services, such as hairstyling, massage, skin treatments, professional makeup application, waxing and more, all of which are offered in a serene environment.
Getting your sweat on doesn’t just make your clothes fit better — it makes you feel better, physically and emotionally. Here are the best gyms and yoga studios for those looking to strengthen and ground themselves in Lincoln, NE.
Fitness,at its core, is about finding ways to live better — so what better place to pursue that goal than Good Life Fitness? With two convenient Lincoln locations to choose from, both of which are stocked with all the equipment you need and the professional help that can help you achieve even your lofitest goals, there’s a reason this gym has been voted one of the best in town on multiple occasions.
The oldest registered yoga studio and school in town, Lincoln Yoga Center has established its reputation as a leader in this area… and it has held up that reputation for years. A variety of different classes are offered for patrons of all fitness, ability and interest levels, and teacher training is also offered for those looking to take their practice to the next level.
Yoga is an incredible physical practice, of course — but it also originated as a spiritual one. And if you’re looking to bring some thoughtful intention and worship to your own yoga practice, Studio 4:8 Yoga might be the perfect spot for you. Offering a range of “Christ-centered” classes (though the studio is open to those with any kind of belief system), this studio truly nurtures a full mind-body-soul experience.
While there’s no need to leave Lincoln to find things to see and do, it’s also true that there are some incredible destinations within an easy day’s drive — which are the perfect places to take a quick day trip or even a long weekend getaway. Here are some of our favorite day trips from Lincoln!
It may not be the capital — that honor falls to Lincoln, of course — but Omaha is the largest city in the state of Nebraska, and it offers a range of fun things to do that you won’t find anywhere else. For instance, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is one of the best-regarded in the entire country, and crossing the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is a whimsical way to spend an afternoon holding your sweetheart’s hand. (Psst: here’s our guide to the town!)
You might take a train, you might take a plane, but if you have to walk — well, considering it would take you 67 straight hours, according to Google Maps, we hope you’ve got some time on your hands. But it’s true that Kansas City is well worth your time, not only for its bars and barbecue but also for its cultural attractions and exhibits. Plus, it’s a much more reasonable three hours away by car! (Guess what - we have a guide on this one, too!)
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Lincoln that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Lincoln? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.