Lincoln, Nebraska is not shy of accolades. It was Gallup’s 2012 city with the best well-being in all America. The following year, it topped the list of happiest and healthiest US cities.
It is also often cited as one of the best cities to raise a family. Yes, fly-over states tend to be left alone to thrive under the touristic radar. Like most low-key destinations, it is ridden with hidden gems, for all tastes and ages.
In honor of the State Games of America 2015 that will take place in Nebraska, here is a round-up of the top 10 family-friendly attractions in Lincoln. Most of them are in a 3-mile radius so you can abandon the car, and take your time to explore the state capital of Nebraska.
1. Sunken Gardens
The Lincoln Sunken Gardens are one of the most beautiful places in town during summertime. Each year it is redesigned to a particular theme with over 30.000 colorful blooms. Its florissant greenery and its special features — such as the fish-filled ponds, or the White Garden would certainly please flower lovers of all ages. Read more about the Lincoln Sunken Gardens.
2. Lincoln Children’s Zoo
Across from the Sunken Gardens, the 10-acre Lincoln’s Children Zoo is an escape kids love in Lincoln. This Zoo might not be as impressive as the one in Omaha, but visiting its 90+ species will keep you entertained for quite a while. Plus it is a hands-on experience as visitors are invited to feed and interact with domesticated animals from all corners of the globe. Be sure to check out Laura’s Butterfly Pavilion.
3. Lincoln Children’s Museum
The Lincoln Children’s Museum is a wonderland. It is much more of an indoors family-friendly amusement than your traditional museum. The museum features fun and educational programs that involve pets, music, paint, and much more. Occasionally, they have “Adult takeovers” so they, too, can let their inner child come out to play. A game of giant Jenga, anyone?
4. Memorial Stadium
You cannot visit Husker Nation without attending a Nebraska College Football game. On gameday, the Memorial Stadium, in the heart of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, becomes the “third biggest city of Nebraska” with a record sellout streak dating back to 1962.
The loud and vibrant ambiance in and around the city all day long is something even non-sports fans will appreciate. And Memorial Stadium itself is worth visiting for its architecture and its surrounding monuments.
5. The University of Nebraska State Museum
A little more than a Football field length away from the Stadium, you should also make a stop at “Morrill Hall”. The University of Nebraska State Museum is a favorite with Lincoln kids themselves. It is common during visits to see school kids on field trips strolling the halls, amazed by the interactive displays, the photographs, and the fossils of animals from another era. Learn everything about natural history, precious rocks, and earth’s evolution. Steer clear of the museum store, it is filled with the coolest gifts and souvenirs you can find in a natural history museum.
6. Museum of American Speed
Take the fast lane to the Museum of American Speed. Like the name suggests, this museum will please speed demons with its large display of hot rods and race cars. Connoisseurs will relish the exhibitions of engines and other inner components. For the rest, there is also a important collection of toys and models including soap box derby speedsters.
7. Pioneer Park & Nature Center
The Pioneer Park and Nature Center is the place to go to learn everything about the natural environment of Nebraska and the Midwest. This 668-acre park offers more than 7 miles of hiking trails going through varied terrains — tallgrass prairies, wetlands, a stream, and more. If nothing, take the kids there for a hike and a bonding time with nature.
8. Holmes Lake
If you are looking for a recreational area, head to Holmes Lake. On the outskirts of Lincoln, this is a beautiful picnic spot with green areas and outdoor sports facilities but also a fantastic fishing spot. Exploring the park and the observatory would probably take you more a whole afternoon but it would definitely be worth your time.
9. Nebraska State Capitol
Since Lincoln is the state capital, it is expected that it is home to the Nebraska State Capitol. Except for being an architectural masterpiece, it is also a 400-foot-tall building with a top observation level that is open to public. It is the highest vantage point in Lincoln which offers a 360 degree view of the city. The interior of the capitol is richly designed and decorated. And there are free guided tours for those who are interested.
10. Strategic Air & Space Museum
Ever dreamed of riding in a helicopter? Well, this is your chance. The Strategic Air & Space Museum is educative and entertaining. Learn all about aeronautics and engineering in the most interactive way. There are motion simulators, exhibitions of spacecrafts and aircrafts. However, I am sure the whole family will spend most of the visit riding the helicopters and the Space Shuttle Slide and Bouncer. Enjoy!
Except for the Strategic Air & Space Museum and the parks, all the attractions are near downtown Lincoln. As you visit these places, you will surely stumble upon nice local eateries and shops, and experience first-hand the legendary Midwestern hospitality.
Did we miss your favorite Lincoln attractions? Tell us all about it in the comments or on social media. We love to hear back from you.
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