Discover the vibrant city of Lincoln, Nebraska, nestled in the heartland of America. It’s a city that thrives on its rich history, cultural diversity, and innovative spirit. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, foodie, or sports enthusiast, Lincoln has something for everyone. This guide will take you on an exciting journey through Lincoln’s top attractions, hidden gems, and unusual things to do.
1. Experience Lincoln’s Historic Charm: The Haymarket District
Venture into the heart of downtown Lincoln and immerse yourself in the city’s historic charm. The Haymarket District is a vibrant area brimming with beautifully restored 19th-century brick warehouses, art galleries, unique shops, and a myriad of dining options. Here, history meets modernity, making it a favorite haunt for both locals and tourists alike.
Stroll down the district’s brick streets, where you’ll be captivated by the unique blend of old and new architecture. Spend an afternoon browsing through the eclectic shops, or indulge in a culinary journey at one of the many restaurants serving everything from farm-to-table meals to international cuisines. Don’t miss out on the district’s iconic Lincoln Station, a former railway depot that now houses a visitor center and a popular eatery. The Haymarket District is truly a testament to Lincoln’s rich past and vibrant present.
2. Marvel at the Architectural Masterpiece: Nebraska State Capitol
Just a short walk from the Haymarket District is the Nebraska State Capitol, an architectural masterpiece that stands as a symbol of the state’s history and government. Built over a decade from 1922 to 1932, the Capitol is a unique departure from traditional dome structures, featuring a 400-foot tower with offices.
A tour of the Capitol offers a glimpse into Nebraska’s legislative process. Marvel at the limestone exterior adorned with carvings that depict 3,000 years of democracy. Inside, the Capitol is a feast for the eyes with its marble columns, mosaic floors, and stunning murals. Don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate ‘The Sower’, the 19-foot-tall bronze figure atop the Capitol, representing Nebraska’s agricultural history.
3. Embark on a Journey Through Time: University of Nebraska State Museum
The University of Nebraska State Museum, also known as Elephant Hall, is a treasure trove for paleontology enthusiasts. Home to the world’s largest articulated mammoth and a renowned exhibit of fossilized elephants, the museum gives you a peek into Nebraska’s ancient past.
Beyond paleontology, the museum also explores the state’s natural history. Wander through exhibits of minerals and meteorites, African and Native American artifacts, dinosaurs, and ancient weaponry. The museum is conveniently located on the University of Nebraska campus, making it a great stop on your Lincoln exploration.
4. Feel the Rush at Memorial Stadium
For sports enthusiasts, no visit to Lincoln is complete without a visit to the Memorial Stadium, home to the University of Nebraska’s beloved Cornhuskers football team. Whether you’re a fan of the game or just love the energy of a live sports event, a trip to the stadium is a must.
With a seating capacity of nearly 90,000, the stadium comes alive on game days, reverberating with the cheers of passionate fans. Take a self-guided tour of the stadium, check out the Hall of Fame walk, or, if you’re lucky, catch a live game and experience the thrill first-hand.
5. Unwind Amid Nature’s Beauty: Sunken Gardens
For a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, head to the Sunken Gardens. Established in 1930 and renovated in 2004, these gardens are a source of civic pride and a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike.
The gardens are divided into three sections: the Healing Garden blooming with white flowers, the Perennial Garden, and the Annual Garden, where over 30,000 plants are used each year to create stunning new designs and themes. The gardens are a delight to the senses, filled with colorful blooms, charming sculptures, and soothing fountains.
6. Dive into the Fast Lane: Museum of American Speed
An adrenaline-fueled adventure awaits at the Museum of American Speed. Founded in 1922, the museum boasts an impressive collection of race cars, engines, and everything in between.
From inline skating to roller hockey, speed skating to roller derby, the museum offers a fascinating insight into the world of high-speed sports. Whether you’re a speed enthusiast or just curious, the Museum of American Speed is a unique attraction that adds a dash of thrill to your Lincoln visit.
7. Connect with Wildlife: Pioneers Park Nature Center
Escape into the wilderness at the Pioneers Park Nature Center, where you can witness Nebraska’s diverse flora and fauna up close. Spread over 668 acres, the park is a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
Hike along the park’s trails, spot herds of bison, white-tailed deer, elk, red-tailed hawks, barred owls, and wild turkeys, or simply take in the breathtaking views of the Great Plains. The Nature Center building also houses a range of caged animals and interactive exhibits, making it an educational and fun outing for all ages.
8. Immerse in Art at the Sheldon Museum of Art
Art enthusiasts will find their paradise at the Sheldon Museum of Art, located on the University of Nebraska campus. Home to over 12,000 pieces of art spanning various mediums, the museum is a celebration of American Art.
Walk through the museum to discover works by renowned artists including Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Andy Warhol. Along the way, you’ll come across sculptures by Jacques Lipchitz, Richard Serra, and William Tucker, among others. The Sheldon Museum of Art is a cultural gem, offering an enriching and inspiring experience.
9. Meet the Animals at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo
If you’re traveling with kids, don’t miss out on a visit to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. Home to more than 400 animals, the zoo offers an interactive and educational experience for all ages.
Take a ride on the scale model train, feed the giraffes, or enjoy a horse ride through the zoo. With its diverse collection of animals and interactive exhibits, the Lincoln Children’s Zoo promises a day full of fun and learning.
10. Celebrate Quilting at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Step into the world of quilting at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. This unique museum houses an impressive collection of quilts from over 30 countries, dating back to 400 years.
Marvel at the intricate patterns and vibrant colors of the quilts on display. Even if you’re not a quilting enthusiast, the museum offers a glimpse into a unique form of artistry and craftsmanship that’s sure to captivate.
11. Delight in the Culinary Scene
Lincoln’s culinary scene is as diverse as its attractions. From farm-to-table eateries serving locally sourced produce to international cuisine, there’s a dining experience to suit every palate.
For a taste of Nebraska, head to Honest Abe’s Burgers & Beer, known for their locally sourced beef burgers. Or, indulge in a craft beer at Kinkaider Brewing, a local favorite. If you’re in the mood for something more exotic, The Oven offers delicious Indian cuisine, while Blue Sushi Sake Grill satisfies sushi cravings. And for a Michelin-starred dining experience, book a table at The Grey Plume.
12. Stay in Style at the Graduate Hotel
Experience the perfect blend of comfort and nostalgia at the Graduate Hotel. Located just a stone’s throw away from the vibrant Haymarket District, the hotel offers a unique stay inspired by local college culture and traditions. The Graduate Hotel is pet-friendly, so you can bring your furry friend along for the adventure.
Each room is thoughtfully designed with a touch of retro charm and modern amenities. From roller skate lamps to corn-patterned drapes, the hotel’s decor pays tribute to Lincoln’s unique attractions.
Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a longer vacation, Lincoln, Nebraska, promises a unique and memorable experience. From its rich history and culture to its vibrant food scene and stunning natural beauty, Lincoln is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
So why wait? Start planning your Lincoln adventure today and uncover the many wonders this city has to offer.