That’s why this is Nebraska…where the possibilities are endless. Nebraska is the Old West, the Great Plains of American Indian lore and the wild frontier. It’s the journey of pioneers, the land of cowboys and the fun of discovering new surprises and adventures around every corner.
If your group is looking for a taste of the Wild West, you’ll find it in in Ogallala, where the Texas Trail ended. Cattle drivers, lonely from the trail and carrying fresh money in their pockets, helped Ogallala earn its reputation as a wild and woolly cow town that saw its share of gambling, dance hall girls and main street shootouts. Those creating too much of a ruckus sometimes found permanent residence at Boot Hill, a nearby cemetery that earned its name from the common practice of burying cowboys with their boots on.
Today, you can get a taste of the colorful heritage of Nebraska’s Cowboy Capital at Front Street and Cowboy Museum, where shootouts and dancing showgirls will capture your imagination.
At the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park in North Platte, you’ll learn all about the life of one of the most famous cowboys, Buffalo Bill Cody, including his stint as a Pony Express rider, his famous Wild West Show and his scouting experiences.
North Platte is also home to Fort Cody Trading Post where you’ll find antiques, leather goods, jewelry and Western gifts. Walk through the Old West Museum in the back of the store and discover a miniature version of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, a 20,000-piece hand-carved animated display.
Silent Serenity of the Sandhills
As you cross the central portion of the state, the Nebraska plains give way to wide-open spaces and dramatic, panoramic views of the Nebraska Sandhills. These undulating sand dunes make up the largest grass-stabilized dune region in the Western Hemisphere.
Nebraska’s lush “sea of grass” serves as a magnificent anchor for one of the state’s most abundant treasures—an expansive and ever-changing skyline. Whether crystal clear and cheerful or dark and foreboding, it’s always breathtaking to behold. After sundown, prepare to be awed by the sheer abundance of stars.
To experience the way of life prevalent in these parts, visit Broken Bow’s historic downtown district with a variety of specialty stores. The Custer County Historical Museum owns many original images by famed sandhills photographer Solomon Butcher depicting the pioneers who settled this land in the 19th century. The Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Interpretive Center showcases the beauty of the Nebraska sandhills.
Halsey is the gateway to the Nebraska National Forest, the nation’s largest hand-planted forest. This oasis in the sandhills offers nature trails and a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape from atop an observation tower. For soft adventure enthusiasts, canoeing, kayaking or tubing the Dismal and Middle Loup rivers is an ideal pastime with Sandhills Motel & Glidden Canoe Rental. Stop in downtown Ashby at CaLinda’s Pot Shop & Art Gallery for high-quality earthenware pottery.
Then head northwest to Alliance for a visit to Carhenge, a to-scale replica of England’s world-famous Stonehenge using old cars instead of stones. The Carnegie Arts Center features local and regional artists, gifts and a sculpture garden. The Knight Museum and Sandhills Center is one of Nebraska’s most impressive museums and interpretive centers. Return to a slower, more relaxed era at Dobby’s Frontier Town, a recreation of a turn-of-the-century Western town.
Lewis and Clark’s exploratory journey through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 led to the westward expansion that brought thousands of pioneers to these lands in search of a better way of life. The Oregon, Mormon and California trails all wound their way through Nebraska. What was once a major thoroughfare of the western migration is now an awe-inspiring journey full of unexpected sights and exciting adventures that attract history buffs.
As you make your way, you can’t help but be taken aback by the outcroppings of rocky plateaus rising from the prairie. One of the most recognizable landmarks along the route is Chimney Rocknear Bayard. Jutting into the skyline, it was a welcome marker for weary pioneers making their way across the prairie. Today it serves as a reminder of the hardships and triumphs.
The Chimney Rock National Historic Site Visitors Center shares stories the pioneers memorialized in their diaries as they trekked. You can get a taste of pioneer life at the Oregon Trail Wagon Train during a journey aboard prairie a schooner, complete with campfire songs, stories and a delicious meal prepared over an open fire.
Scotts Bluff National Monument near Gering was another prominent landmark used by travelers along the Oregon and Mormon trails. A drive to the summit is rewarded with tremendous views of the entire North Platte River Valley. Genuine wagon ruts are visible at the base of the monument.
For the perfect mix of history and recreation, head to western Nebraska’s premier state park—Fort Robinson near Crawford. Spend the night in the 1909 enlisted men’s barracks or officers’ quarters that date from 1874 to 1909 and visit the park’s own buffalo and longhorn herds. Activities include buffalo stew cookouts, hayrack breakfasts, horse-drawn tours, swimming, museums and Jeep rides through the majestic pine-covered buttes.
In addition to natural landmarks, Nebraska boasts a large number of historically rich attractions. One such spot—the Great Platte River Road Archway near Kearney—walks visitors through America’s westward journey, bringing the pioneer road to life through multimedia exhibits.
The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island, too, recognizes the state’s pioneering past with a living history experience like no other. In the summer months, Railroad Town—the museum’s own 1890s village—is buzzing with townspeople dressed in period clothing. The town depicts pioneer life with more than 60 original structures including shops, homes and barns.
Looking for a unique place to wrap up your cowboy adventure? Stop at High Plains Homestead to enjoy some of the best food you’ll ever eat. This re-created Old West village features a working blacksmith shop, antique store and the Dirty Creek Saloon. Visit the old-fashioned general store to pick up a special gift or a rustic souvenir.
Possibilities . . . endless
This is just one of the many opportunities awaiting your group in Nebraska. Our newly redesigned Group Tour website is designed to help make planning and operating your tour through Nebraska as easy and profitable as possible. You’ll find our electronic Group Tour Travel Planner, itineraries, escort notes and much more. So what are you waiting for? Go to GroupTravel.VisitNebraska.com and start planning a journey filled with interesting stops, fun-filled days, and unforgettable moments.
Micheal Collins, Group Travel Manager
Nebraska Tourism Commission
PO Box 98907
Lincoln, NE 68509