Nebraska destinations, parks and attractions
Are you going on a road trip to Nebraska, looking for tips about the destinations so you and your party can enjoy it, be comfortable and not spend a fortune?
Here are some of the top destinations in Nebraska and tips about visiting them
National parks and monuments in Nebraska
- Agate Fossil Beds National Monument,
In the early 1900s, paleontologists unearthed the Age of Mammals when they found full skeletons of extinct Miocene mammals in the hills of Nebraska -- species previously only known through fragments. At the same time, an age of friendship began between rancher James Cook and Chief Red Cloud of the Lakota. These two unprecedented events are preserved and protected here... at Agate Fossil Beds.
- California National Historic Trail,
Various States CA,CO,ID,KS,MO,NE,NV,OR,UT,WY.
Follow in the footsteps of over 250,000 emigrants who traveled to the gold fields and rich farmlands of California during the 1840s and 1850s: the greatest mass migration in American history. The California National Historic Trail is over 5,000 miles long and covers portions of 10 states. Step into history along more than 1,000 miles of ruts and traces from travelers and their overland wagons.
- Homestead National Historic Park,
The Homestead Act of 1862 transformed the world. Millions were invited to file claims including, families, immigrants, single women, and freed slaves. Over 10 percent of the United States was homesteaded! The land, long inhabited by American Indian cultures, changed forever. Homesteaders created settlements and farms, drove industrial advancement, and built our nation chasing the American Dream.
- Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Sixteen States: IA,ID,IL,IN,KS,KY,MO,MT,NE,ND,OH,OR,PA,SD,WA,WV.
The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is approximately 4,900 miles long, extending from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the mouth of the Columbia River, near present day Astoria, Oregon. It follows the historic outbound and inbound routes of the Lewis and Clark Expedition as well as the preparatory section from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Wood River, Illinois.
- Missouri National Recreational River,
Imagine a 100-mile stretch of North America's longest river, a vestige of the untamed American West. The Missouri National Recreational River is where imagination meets reality. Two free flowing stretches of the Missouri make up the National Park. Relive the past by making an exploration of the wild, untamed and mighty river that continues to flow as nature intended.
- Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail,
Various States IL,IA,NE,UT,WY.
Explore the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail across five states to see the 1,300-mile route traveled by Mormons who fled Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Great Salt Lake Valley in 1846-1847.
- Niobrara National Recreational River,
With a little something for everyone, the Niobrara National Scenic River is a destination for crossing adventures off your bucket list. Most popular for river recreation, you can float the Niobrara River on a canoe, tube, or kayak as a beginner and have a blast. Hiking, biking, and wildlife watching keep our visitors busy. Oh! And we haven't even told you about the waterfalls yet.
- Oregon National Historic Trail,
Various States ID,KS,MO,NE,OR,WA,WY.
Imagine yourself an emigrant headed for Oregon: would promises of lush farmlands and a new beginning lure you to leave home and walk for weeks? More than 2,000 miles of trail ruts and traces can still be seen along the Oregon National Historic Trail in six states and serve as reminders of the sacrifices, struggles, and triumphs of early American settlers.
- Pony Express National Historic Trail,
Various States CA,CO,KS,MO,NE,NV,UT,WY.
It is hard to believe that young men once rode horses to carry mail from Missouri to California in the unprecedented time of only 10 days. This relay system along the Pony Express National Historic Trail in eight states was the most direct and practical means of east-west communications before the telegraph.
- Scotts Bluff National Monument,
Towering 800 feet above the North Platte River, Scotts Bluff has served as a landmark for peoples from Native Americans to emigrants on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails to modern travelers. Rich with geological and paleontological history as well as human history, there is much to discover while exploring the 3,000 acres of Scotts Bluff National Monument.
- Douse Sod House - a sod house in Custer County in the central Nebraska,
80560 Oak Grove Rd, Comstock, NE. Built in 1900 and occupied until 1959. After a long period of neglect, it was restored beginning in about 1981, and opened as a museum in 1982. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Here 's a description of how a sod house is made:
At the house site, the grass was removed. Often, the soil was excavated one to two feet (30 to 60 cm) below ground level; this reduced the height of the walls, and thus the amount of sod that had to be cut. The ground that would form the house floor was moistened and then tamped with a fencepost to flatten and harden it. Footings were rarely laid, due to the cost or unavailability of material. Blocks were usually cut with a plow into bricks which were two feet long, twelve inches wide, and four inches thick; of this they built the walls of the house. In the center of the house is a big crotch; in this and on the end walls rests the ridge pole; next come the rafters, about one and one-half feet apart, which are simply round poles of elm, ash, and cottonwood with the bark on. On top of this is a layer of willows; on top of them a thin layer of sod, and over all about six inches of dirt. One man described "We have a cellar and board floor though it is something unusual in a sod house. The house is sixteen by twenty-one feet inside and the walls are two feet thick.".
- Sod House - House made of sod, photo at right
300 Lake Ave, Gothenburg, NE 69138. Phone: (308) 537-2680. The site includes a sod house, a barn housing photographs and memorabilia, and wooden windmills in an old farmstead setting. Open May-Sep, daily, 9am-3pm. Donation. It's right off the exit from the interstate I-80 Exit 21 , behind the gas station. In fact the daughter of the original owner works there. (as of 2020). That's right, they used to make houses from "bricks" or grass sod.
Nebraska State parks and historic sites
Nebraska’s first state park, Chadron State Park was founded in 1921 and is nestled among the distinctive buttes and canyons of Nebraska’s Pine Ridge. Since its founding a century ago, it’s remained a popular spot for camping, family reunions and old-fashioned vacations where guests can escape and enjoy spending time in one of the state’s most famous landscapes.
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This modern state park is the perfect year round destination for a family escape. Families can visit the aquatic center and indoor playground, explore the park’s hiking and biking trails, climb the observation tower and, when the weather turns cold, enjoy sledding and ice skating. Mahoney State Park is located midway between Nebraska’s two largest cities, Lincoln and Omaha and is open year round.
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Stunning Fort Robinson State Park comprises more than 22,000 acres of exquisite Pine Ridge scenery, compelling Old West history, exceptional lodging, scenic camping and the park’s own buffalo and longhorn herds. Fort Robinson is a particularly popular destination for family reunions and has been named one of the nation’s top family reunion spots by USA Today, among other publications.
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Named for the large sandstone cave within the park, Indian Cave State Park encompasses 3,052 rugged acres bordering the mighty Missouri River. The park is well known for its beautiful camping and picnicking spots, as well as for its 22 miles of scenic hiking and biking trails. The park boasts sweeping views of wide, winding Missouri river and a majestic hardwood forest that puts on a spectacular show of colors each autumn.
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Situated at the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers on Nebraska’s northeastern border, Niobrara State Park offers visitors a wide array of outdoor experiences. This scenic, tranquil park offers cabins, both primitive and RV camping, picnicking, swimming, boat ramps, horseback trails, hiking, fishing and wildlife watching opportunities.
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Quaint Platte River State Park is nestled halfway between Nebraska’s two largest cities - Lincoln and Omaha. popular draws are the park’s picturesque waterfall, scenic hiking and biking trails and two observation towers that allow those who climb to the top a spectacular view of both the Platte River and Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, which is just across the river.
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Situated in the picturesque Missouri River bluffs in northeastern Nebraska, Ponca State Park is the eastern gateway to the 59-mile section of the Missouri National Recreational River, one of two picturesque, unchannelized stretches of the river bordering Nebraska. Comfortable lodging, unique events and sweeping views of the river have made Ponca state park a popular destination for all types of family gatherings, from family vacations to weddings.
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Scenic Smith Falls State Park is home to Nebraska’s highest waterfall, also called Smith Falls. The state park is a popular destination for campers, as well as canoers, kayakers, tubers and others who visit the area to experience the beautiful Niobrara River, a National Scenic River. Not only is the land home to the beautiful falls, it is also an area of biological significance where several ice age species can still be found.
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Nebraska Seasons, bugs, topography and climate
Nebraska has very warm summers and cold winters. The average annual temperature in Nebraska is around 50°F and has an average high of about 87°F during the month of July and an average low of about 14°F in January.
Nebraska Camping tips
Camping is available year-round in Nebraska. Nebraska’s state parks, state historical parks and state recreation areas offer five different levels of camping: full hookup ($35 per night); electric plus ($30 per night); electric ($25 per night); basic ($15 per night); and primitive ($10 per night). These rates are consistent across all parks throughout the state, with the exception of Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area (SRA) and Smith Falls State Park (SP). Lake McConaughy SRA and Smith Falls SP camping fees are found below in the Camping and Group Facilities section.
More information on each type of camp site, including amenities, electrical hookups and more is available for download.
Most modern facilities such as full-hookup service, showers, modern restrooms, dump and fill stations will be closed from mid-October through April depending on weather. Consult the park location directly for information regarding off-season services. Camping during the off-season rates are $5 less per night for all site types, except primitive. Primitive rates are $10/night year around.
STATE PARK AND RECREATION AREAS WITH LODGING and CAMPING