Follow in the footsteps of the pioneers as you journey over the wide-open prairies of southeastern Nebraska and through the rugged terrain of western Nebraska.
Start your Nebraska adventure in Beatrice at one of the state’s most outstanding attractions, Homestead National Monument of America. Visitors can see artifacts from early pioneer life and learn what it was like to live in this often-harsh environment. Other activities include hiking trails through virgin prairie grasses and living history demonstrations. This year the monument is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act of 1862 with a full slate of events.
Rock Creek Station State Historical Park east of Fairbury is an excellent site for viewing original wagon ruts from the Oregon Trail. The station is best known as the place where Wild Bill Hickok gained notoriety as a gunfighter. Plan a stop in Hebron to see the one-of-a-kind World’s Largest Porch Swing, which makes a great photo opportunity. Then enjoy a delicious glass of wine on the patio overlooking a stunning view of the vineyards at Superior Estates Winery.
Red Cloud is the childhood home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather, who wrote eloquently about life on the Great Plains. Her childhood home and several historic buildings throughout town are open for tours. The Red Cloud Opera House has been renovated and includes a bookstore, an art gallery, a theatre and a variety of Cather memorabilia.
The Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History has one of the best natural history collections in the region, including the People of the Plains exhibit covering prehistoric times to historic trails and pioneer towns. Kool-Aid: Discover the Dream is an interactive exhibit that tells the story of the birth of one of America’s favorite soft drinks, which was developed in Nebraska. The J.M. McDonald Planetarium will schedule special show times for groups, and the museum’s IMAX Theatre has been upgraded to the Lied Super Screen Theater. Go back to the days of Kool-Aid moustaches and release your inner child at Kool-Aid Days in August.
Step Back in Time
Visit Grand Island and experience pioneer life at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, one of the top 10 living history museums in the country. Walk through an 1890s railroad town, push a handcart on the Mormon Trail, learn about Great Plains American Indians, or explore the birth cottage of Oscar-winning actor Henry Fonda. A variety of special events are offered at the museum throughout the year.
Minden is home to the world-famous Harold Warp Pioneer Village. Twenty-six buildings, including a sod house, a one-room school, a Pony Express station and an 1884 church, make up the village. It houses the oldest existing Buick and 350 other antique cars, 20 historic aircraft, 100 vintage tractors, guns, motorcycles, snowmobiles, boats, buggies, trains and trolleys. The crafts of spinning, weaving and broom-making are demonstrated year-round. The historic Minden Opera House has been restored into a beautiful multipurpose facility that attracts live performances from around the country.
Stop in Kearney at the Great Platte River Road Archway, the only tourist attraction in the nation located over a federal interstate. The Archway commemorates westward expansion of America, including the original American Indian habitants; the Mormon, Oregon and California trails; the early pioneers; the modern railroad; and the Lincoln Highway.
Housed in a historic 1911 Renaissance revival post office, the Museum of Nebraska Art features works of art that highlight Nebraska and the Great Plains in 11 exceptional galleries. The museum’s permanent collection includes more than 5,000 works by artists of regional, national and international importance. The nearby Thunderhead Brewing Co. offers award-winning beer and delicious pizza baked in a stone oven. Tours of the brewery can be requested.
The Old West
The Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles in Lexington houses an impressive collection of military equipment and machinery. Lexington is also home to Mac’s Creek Winery and Vineyard, where you can sample excellent Nebraska-produced wines and tour the vineyards and production facilities. One of the few Pony Express stations still intact in Nebraska is in Gothenburg’s city park. Historic items are on display, and you can send mail postmarked with the original Pony Express stamp to friends and family.
Visit Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park in North Platte to tour Buffalo Bill’s house and the beautifully maintained historic barn. During the third week of June, the entire community dons Western duds for NEBRASKAland Days. Enjoy a spectacular view of Union Pacific Railroad’s Bailey Yard, the world’s largest railroad yard, from atop the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center. The 95-foot-tall tower features an enclosed 360-degree view of the action below, historical and regional railroad memorabilia, and a gift shop.
Fort Cody Trading Post is one of the state’s largest and engagingly eclectic gift shops. You’ll find antiques, leather goods, jewelry, Western gifts, novelties, books, clothing, gag gifts and a variety of other fun souvenirs. If it’s fun, it’s at Fort Cody! Walk through the Old West Museum in the back of the store to view a miniature version of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show featuring a 20,000-piece, hand-carved animated display.
Ogallala embraces its colorful Western past at Front Street and Cowboy Museum, where you can catch the Crystal Palace Revue and Shootout, Nebraska’s longest-running summer theatre. Visit the Petrified Wood Gallery specializing in ancient woods, fossils and American Indian artifacts.
Ogallala is also home to Lake McConaughy, the state’s largest lake and a water lover’s paradise offering white-sand beaches, excellent fishing and plenty of relaxation opportunities. The Lake McConaughy Visitor/Water Interpretive Center is the state’s first water museum and interprets the significance of water to the state’s past, present and future.
Explore the land of grapes and honey at South Fork Vineyard near Ogallala. Stroll through the vineyards while sipping a delicious glass (or two) of Nebraska wine, and take home a variety of honeybee products, such as pure Nebraska honey, flavored honey cream, honey sticks, natural soaps and lotions, beeswax candles and savory honey spread.
Scotts Bluff National Monument
Immerse yourself in the day-to-day operations of a working cattle ranch at 17 Ranch near Lewellen. Then head to the 17 Ranch Winery to wet your whistle with a delicious glass of Nebraska wine. Admire a host of pastels, watercolors, glass etchings and wood sculptures created by local artists as you enjoy a cup of coffee or a gourmet lunch at The Most Unlikely Place.
Visible for weeks along the westward trails, Courthouse and Jail Rocks near Bridgeport were so named because of their similarity to courthouses and jail buildings back east. Near Bayard, see the most recognized landmark along the Oregon Trail, Chimney Rock. The Chimney Rock National Historic Site Visitors Center showcases fascinating stories from pioneers as they trekked westward. Experience pioneer life at the Oregon Trail Wagon Train and enjoy campfire songs, stories and a mouth-watering meal prepared over an open fire.
Scotts Bluff National Monument near Gering was a prominent landmark used by American Indians and pioneers along the Oregon and Mormon trails. A drive to the summit is rewarded with tremendous views of the entire North Platte River Valley. Wagon ruts are visible at the base of the monument. A gift shop and museum in the visitor center show the importance of the trails and the area’s colorful history. Enjoy a panoramic view of Scotts Bluff National Monument as you sip a refreshing glass of wine at Prairie Vine Vineyard & Winery.
Visit the reconstructed Robidoux Trading Post in Carter Canyon, south of Gering. Then explore the history of farm and ranch equipment with vintage horse-drawn and steam-powered engines at the Farm And Ranch Museum. Enjoy pine-covered canyons and rugged buttes at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center, a short drive south of Gering. Nestled within the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area, the nature center is located in one of the state’s most beautiful regions. An abundance of native wildlife can be enjoyed from the center’s deck or along the hiking trails throughout the park.
Across the North Platte River, Scottsbluff’s West Nebraska Arts Center features a gallery and gift shop that sells locally made gifts. The Riverside Discovery Center is home to a variety of native and exotic animals. Knitters and crochet enthusiasts will enjoy touring the Brown Sheep Company and browsing its wide selection of yarns.
Possibilities . . . Endless
Planning a group getaway to Nebraska is easy, so get started today. Simply check out the Group Travel Planner at VisitNebraska.gov.
Paula Bohaty, Group Travel Coordinator, Eastern Nebraska Tourism Consultant
Nebraska Travel and Tourism
301 Centennial Mall South | P.O. Box 98907 | Lincoln, Nebraska 68509
402-471-3744 | 402-471-3026 fax | 800-228-4307