Unlike the Dakotas, many folks that have traveled across the state of Nebraska have had reason to declare the state to be the stereotypical representation of the flat, featureless Great Plains state that puts the “fly over” in fly over country.
Having stuck to Interstate 80 for the duration of their time in the Cornhusker State however, they missed all the features that make Nebraska a true hidden gem in the middle of the North American continent.
If one dares to venture off the east to west freeway that everybody sticks to like a house fly on sandpaper, you will run into incredibly photogenic scenes like the Sand Hills, dunes that are coated with brilliant green grass in the wetter parts of the year, or the massive buttes that soar above the flatlands in the western foothills.
Badlands await in the Pine Ridge portion of the state, and from small farming towns, to major urban centers like Lincoln and Omaha, you will be taken aback by the humble, pragmatic and friendly folk that you find here.
Like much of the Great Plains, you can either write off the whole place and speed through on your way to the mountains or the Midwest, or you can slow down and get to know one of the most charming places in the entire USA … your choice.
What To Do – Culture & History
For an inside look at how life was like on the plains of Nebraska back in the days when the first American settlers forged west in search of a new life, check out Pioneer Village in Minden.
Considered to be one of the largest private collections of Americana in the United States, 12 buildings on the premises contain over 50,000 artifacts from innumerable donors, like antique cars, farm equipment, and much more.
Originally started by Disney to tell the story of the westward expansion of the United States, the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. Stretching over the four lanes of Interstate 80, this unusually shaped museum tells the story of pioneers, gold seekers, the mail runners of the Pony Express and so on through audio accompaniment to the exhibits that you will encounter in this place.
Those looking for a touch of quirkiness in Nebraska will find it at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, which can be found on the campus of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Those that spend much of their free time knitting, cross-stitching and crocheting fabulous homemade blankets will love the various types of quilts, from the traditional homely variety, to the more modern cutting edge design that have emerged in recent years.
Sport fans wanting to check out the latest emerging generation of baseball superstars will want to plan their trip to Nebraska to coincide with the College World Series in Omaha.
Held each year in mid to late June, watch the final eight college teams stacked with some of the most talented young hitters, pitchers and fielders in the world duke it out for college baseball supremacy, with plenty of dramatic moments to be had from start to finish.
What To Do – Modern & Natural Attractions
There are tonnes of zoos and aquariums that can be found across the whole of the United States, but would you expect that one of the most critically acclaimed zoological institutes not just in America, but on Earth, is found in Omaha, Nebraska?
Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is that attraction, as it has been crowned by Tripadvisor as the world’s best zoo. While there many be a bit of local bias playing in the results, the fact is that this place has a number of notable accolades, such as the largest wild cat enclosure in North America, the world’s largest indoor desert, as well as world’s largest nocturnal animal environment.
Want to head straight to the core of America’s military nerve center? While going directly behind the scenes may land you in an NSA prison, checking out the Strategic Air and Space Museum is the next best legal alternative.
Containing decommissioned nuclear missiles, aircraft that sat at the forefront of the USA’s primary air defence and offence assets, and other exhibits that explain America’s past history with regard to defending its airspace, you’ll understand the importance of this place to the security of the North American continent.
While much of the Platte River Valley may put you to sleep as you drive through it (Red Bull, windows down and loud music work wonders for alertness!), Chimney Rock National Historic Site will stand out like a sore thumb when you approach it in the western portions of the state.
Consisting of a sandstone spire that rises almost 300 feet above the surrounding plain, it served as a waypoint for westward heading settlers, as reliefs in the adjacent visitor’s center will explain.
Another natural highlight worth the drive in Western Nebraska is Scotts Bluff National Monument. Rising more than 800 feet over the surrounding plains, this formation was also a landmark for traveling pioneers.
However, its summit is actually accessible, unlike the needle-esque Chimney Rock, which is a fact that has spawned numerous trails to the top of this anomalous natural feature. An excellent place to break up the sedentary drive through the state, as well as marvellous place to take spectacular photos of the flat prairie below.