This high plains Nebraska itinerary includes a stunning natural phenomenon – the Sandhill Crane Migration centered over unparalleled nature

For six weeks between late February and early April, one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the world takes place in Nebraska – the Sandhill Crane Migration. Witness more than 500,000 sandhill cranes descend onto the Platte River Valley in an area known as the Central Flyway. For up-close, guided tours of this majestic event, plan to visit Rowe Sanctuary and Iain Nicholson Audubon Center near Gibbon. Or visit the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center near Grand Island.

Sandhill Crane Migration, Bald Eagle Viewing and Nature

Events celebrating the arrival of sandhill cranes take place in Kearney and the surrounding communities of Minden and Gibbon. In addition, other events happen in Grand Island and Hastings. The Nebraska Flyway website is dedicated to bringing you the latest information on events, activities and tours taking place during sandhill crane season and throughout the year.

Sandhill Crane couple.

Other locations across Nebraska offer equally impressive opportunities to view birds and wildlife up close. Lake Ogallala below Kingsley Dam attracts one of the largest and most diverse bird populations in the country. It’s also open for bald eagle viewing from late December to early February, and guided tours are available. Johnson Lake in south-central Nebraska is another prime bald eagle viewing area, and guided tours are available there as well.

The Chicken Dance Trail across south-central and southwest Nebraska takes you face-to-face with birds of all shapes, sizes and species. Groups can take guided birding tours at the Sandhills Guest House near Lakeside.

Enjoy a breathtaking aerial view of the vast Nebraska Sandhills from an airplane. Or explore rangeland, meadows and wetlands closer to the ground in a vehicle tour south of Lakeside and near Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Tour a neighboring ranch to view one of the most iconic native wildlife of the Great Plains—the bison.

Nebraska also offers a number of top-quality state parks, wildlife management areas and recreational areas where tours can be set up to view wildlife in their natural habitats. Explore 4,000 acres of grassland, woodland and wetland at Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge near Fort Calhoun or 45,000 acres at Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge north of Oshkosh. Southwest of Lincoln, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center is home to more than 300 species of birds and wildlife in a tall-grass prairie setting.

High Plains Sandhill Crane Migration Itinerary

Sandhill Crane migration stop on the Platte River in Nebraska.

Treat your group to a fun specialty tour with a high plains and Sandhill Cranes theme. The itinerary includes tourism hot spots ideal for creating an exciting trip for your clients.

Exceptional wineries and tasting rooms, art galleries, western migration history and excellent restaurants are on tap. In addition, the cosmopolitan centers of Lincoln and Omaha are also some examples.

Day One: McCook, Kearney, Holdredge and Minden

McCook—a great starting point—is home to several restaurants, shops and boutiques in its charming historic downtown district. Don’t miss Sehnert’s Bakery and Bieroc Café for mouthwatering homemade dishes and desserts. Sen. George Norris was one of the nation’s most influential senators and a McCook native. Take a glimpse of his life at the Senator George Norris State Historic Site, where you’ll see artifacts and memorabilia from his 45 years in Congress.

Visit GROW Nebraska’s Buy Nebraska Store in Kearney for local and Nebraska-made crafts, products, gifts and souvenirs. The Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege houses an impressive collection of items from World War II German POW Camp Atlanta, works of art created by POWs and interesting historical structures throughout the museum grounds.

Minden is home to the world-famous Harold Warp Pioneer Village, where you can walk through 26 historically accurate buildings. They include a sod house, a one-room school, a Pony Express station and an 1884 church. The historic arts of spinning, weaving and broom-making are demonstrated in the village year-round.

Great Platte River Road Archway, Kearney, NE.

Great Platte River Road Archway, Kearney, NE.

Kearney’s Great Platte River Road Archway is the only tourist attraction in the nation to be located over a federal interstate. This impressive, three-story, interactive museum commemorates the nation’s westward expansion. Your group will love MONA—the Museum of Nebraska Art. Housed in a 1911 Renaissance revival post office, the museum features 11 exceptional galleries and more than 5,000 works of art highlighting Nebraska and the Great Plains.

Overnight: Kearney

Day Two: Grand Island and Hastings

During the annual Sandhill Crane migration, you can encounter majestic birds at several sites. For example, visit Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center near Grand Island, Rowe Sanctuary and Iain Nicolson Audubon Center near Gibbon and public sites throughout the area. It’s an amazing sensory experience that you’ll remember forever.

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, NE.

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island, NE.

Noted as one of the top 10 living history museums in the country, Grand Island’s Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer will transport you back to the early days of the pioneers. Afterward, spend some quality time shopping the galleries and specialty stores in Grand Island’s historic downtown district. Next, head to Hastings and the Hastings Museum, home to one of the best natural history collections in the state. While there, view its one-of-a-kind Kool-Aid: Discover the Dream interactive exhibit that tells the story of the birth of one of America’s favorite drinks.

Overnight: Hastings

Day Three: Aurora, York, Lincoln, Ashland and Gretna

Kick off this day exploring Aurora’s Edgerton Explorit Center , which is dedicated to the inventor of the strobe light—Aurora native Harold “Doc” Edgerton. Continue to York for a visit to Lee’s Legendary Marbles and Collectables. Lee’s Marbles is a collection of more than a half-million marbles, including some that are very rare. Afterward,  stop at Chances “R” Restaurant and Lounge for made-from-scratch food and libations. For over 50 years, this family-owned restaurant has upheld a tradition of outstanding cuisine and modest prices.

Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari, Ashland, NE.

Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari, Ashland, NE.

Head to Lincoln and take a guided tour of the impressive State Capitol building, home of the nation’s only one-house legislative body. While in Lincoln, head to the Historic Haymarket District. This eclectic area offers galleries, restaurants, antique stores, shops, bars and coffee houses in turn-of-the-century buildings. Designed by internationally acclaimed architect Philip Johnson, the Sheldon Museum of Art is an excellent modern art gallery housing 20th century American art. In addition, the International Quilt Museum features more than 3,000 quilts from over 25 countries and across four centuries.

Nearby Ashland has a rich variety of shops, restaurants and galleries in a charming historic downtown. It’s also the gateway to three stellar attractions: Strategic Air & Space Museum, Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari and Eugene T. Mahoney State Park. For those with religious avocations, the Holy Family Shrine near Gretna is an impressive glass chapel and offers respite for the weary traveler.

Overnight: Omaha

Day Four: Omaha 

Your final day brings you to TripAdvisor’s No. 1 ranked zoo in the United States. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium offers many exciting activities, including America’s largest indoor rain forest and the world’s largest indoor desert. In addition to unique exhibits, enjoy a ride high above the zoo on the Skyfari. Another cultural must-visit museum is the El Museo Latino which highlights the important contributions of the Hispanic population on the history, culture and development of Omaha. Afterward, head to the 100-acre Lauritzen Gardens that includes an arboretum, bird sanctuary, rose and herb gardens, spring flower walk, Victorian and festival gardens and a woodland trail.

Lauritzen Gardens exhibit in Nebraska.

Enjoy lunch in the historic Old Market, an eclectic shopping and dining district with dozens of boutiques, nightclubs, bars, cafés and upscale restaurants. The Durham Museum is housed in a restored Art Deco train station and showcases the history of Omaha. Hot Shops Art Center houses 50 art studios, two art galleries and exhibition spaces. For more culture, head to Love’s Jazz & Arts Center which showcases the impact of African Americans on Omaha’s art scene. In addition, the world-class Joslyn Art Museum features exquisite works of art from antiquity to the present. Travel to West Omaha and the home to the world-famous Father Flanagan’s Boys Town.

Find Endless Possibilities

This is just one of the many opportunities awaiting your group in Nebraska. Our Group Tour website is designed to make planning and operating your tour through Nebraska as easy and profitable as possible. You’ll find our electronic Group Tour planner, itineraries, escort notes and much more. So what are you waiting for? Go to and start planning a journey filled with interesting stops, fun-filled days and unforgettable moments.

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