Nebraska has plenty of attractions for visitors, especially in the smaller towns. You'll find wide open spaces and prairies, world-class sporting activities, and wetlands that attract migratory birds by the thousands. Why not witness a Native American powwow or an open-air concert? You'll find outstanding farmers' markets, exciting history, and a lifestyle focused on the outdoors. Nebraska's small towns are full of interesting things to see and do for people of all ages and interests.
01 Love literature in Red Cloud
Red Cloud is full of red brick houses and spectacular prairies. The town and surrounding area inspired Willa Cather's novels, and there are over 50 places where stories have been set, including Burlington Depot. Red Cloud is also home to the National Willa Cather Center. You'll also find the largest true round barn in the world at the Starke Round Barn in Red Cloud. The town has art galleries and interesting stores, including the Corner Nook and Willa Cather Foundation Bookstore.
02 Go birding in Kearney
Kearney is at the center of the Platte River Valley and draws in migratory birds throughout the year. It's especially famous for the sandhill cranes that migrate through the area from February to April. It's an incredible sight when over 500,000 birds take to the skies. The town is also full of interesting museums — there's the Archway that tells the story of early settlers, the Museum of Nebraska Art, and a Classic Car Collection.
03 Hit the trail in Norfolk
Norfolk is located on the trailhead for the 195-mile Cowboy Trail that traverses some of the most beautiful parts of Nebraska. It's a magnet for hikers, horseback riders, and cyclists traveling along the route, and there's a large campsite at Ta-Ha-Zouka Park to accommodate lovers of the great outdoors. You can also rent kayaks and paddleboards at North Fork Outfitting or dine out in some great restaurants in nearby Kearney.
04 Admire waterfalls in Valentine
Valentine is a beautiful place and home to Nebraska's largest waterfall. The Smith Falls State Park is close to town and ideal for walks—take a swimsuit so you can cool off while you're there. If you like action-packed vacations, go tubing on the Niobrara National Scenic River. In Valentine, the Sandhills Museum tells the area's history, and there are some good cafes to relax in, such as Bulldogger's BBQ.
05 Go water skiing in Fremont
Fremont has many antique stores to explore, but it's best known for watersports on the Platte River. Head to the Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area for fishing and boating on one of the over 20 sand-bottomed lakes here. You can also swim or take a wildlife spotting tour. Another exhilarating activity is to take an airboat tour on the Platte River nearby.
06 Visit Carhenge in Alliance
Carhenge is a highlight of Route 66 and is an iconic sculpture of old cars piled on top of each other in the shape of England's Stonehenge. Come to this town and see the bizarre structure made of vehicles for yourself, or head into Alliance and explore the Carnegie Arts Center for more artistic inspiration. The Knight Museum is another popular attraction and is home to several Native American artifacts.
07 Sail on a riverboat at Brownville
Brownville's location on the Missouri River makes it a stopping point for the classic steamboats and riverboats in the area. Take a tour by boat to see the Missouri River as Clark and Lewis would have viewed it when they passed through on their journey to survey the frontier. Or, dine out in style on a classic riverboat. Brownville is also home to the Museum of Missouri River History. The Steamboat Trace Trail is another great way of seeing the river as a walker or cyclist. Be sure to spend time at Brown-Carson House, which was home to the founder of Brownville.
08 Celebrate the Fourth of July in Seward
Seward might be a small town, but it's famous for having huge Fourth of July celebrations, making it one of the best places in the country to celebrate Independence Day. There's live entertainment, a large fireworks display, and more. The town is also home to the Nebraska National Guard Museum, and there are some interesting art galleries in town.
09 Explore the museums in Chadron
This small town is home to Chadron State College as well as several interesting museums. Choose from the Dawes County Historical Society Museum, the High Plains Heritage Center, or the Museum of Geology for some insight into the local history. Walgren Lake State Recreation Area is excellent for swimming and boating, and you'll also find some good walks in the area.
10 See a Pony Express station in Gothenburg
The Pony Express was a historic system where horseback riders delivered mail across America as settlers moved west. Two of the original Pony Express stations are in Gothenburg and are museums today. You can also visit some of Gothenburg's other museums, including the farmstead setting of the Sod House Museum and the Gothenburg Historical Museum.
11 Get outdoors in Crawford
Crawford is one of the best places to experience the beauty of the Great Plains. Visit the Ponderosa Ranch and Ash Creek Ranch to see deer or hunt turkey. Guided hunting tours are available in the area. The Toadstool Geological Park is full of exhibits, including some unique geological rock formations. You'll also find the Trailside Museum of Natural History in Crawford and good walking at Fort Robinson State Park.
12 Celebrate Christmas in Minden
Minden is a delightful small town in Nebraska and is well known for its Pioneer Museum, with interesting American artifacts dating to the 1830s. When it gets to Christmas time, Minden knows how to celebrate the holiday season. You'll find 12,000 bulbs decorating the Kearney County Courthouse, a Christmas pageant, and the town square illuminated with more decorations. Looking for somewhere to eat in Minden? Try the El Agave Mexican Restaurant or Runza.
13 Relax in Aurora
Aurora has such a lovely atmosphere that it is frequently voted as one of the best places to live in Nebraska. There are historic red brick buildings, and the Plainsman Museum has many interesting exhibits, including a replica nineteenth-century schoolhouse. Another interesting museum is the interactive Edgerton Explorit Center which features educational, scientific displays. You'll discover hands-on scientific experiment displays and tailored opportunities for school groups.
14 Discover space in Ashland
Ashland is a small town with charming stores, art galleries, and cafes. Check out the Cheri O's Coffee House and Ice Cream Parlour. Ashland is also home to the Strategic Air and Space Museum dedicated to aircraft like the Avro Hawker Vulcan and the Superfortress. The museum also holds special events and exhibitions throughout the year. Another popular Ashland attraction is the historic Israel Beetison House, which was built in 1875.
15 Dine out in McCook
McCook is a great place to find prairie lakes and farmland. It is home to the Museum of the High Plains, where you can learn more about the area. You'll also find the Sutton House, which Frank Lloyd Wright designed here. McCook is also home to some great places to eat, including several popular, family-owned restaurants. Take your pick from Fuller's Family Restaurant, the Lighthouse Marina and Grill, or Sehnert's Bakery and Bieroc Cafe.