10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Lincoln, Nebraska
As the capital of Nebraska, Lincoln is home to a wealth of museums and cultural attractions, but it is also a university city with an active and vibrant atmosphere. Visitors will find no shortage of things to do, regardless of their interests. In the city center is the Historic Haymarket District, an interesting area with shops, galleries, and restaurants, popular with both locals and tourists. The area around the capitol building has a number of important sites, including the Governor's Residence. On the University of Nebraska campus, conveniently located in the heart of the city, are the Sheldon Museum of Art and the University of Nebraska State Museum. Outside the city center, but still within easy driving distance, some unique attractions are worth checking out, from the Speed Museum to the Quilt Museum.
See also: Where to Stay in Lincoln
1 Historic Haymarket District
The Historic Haymarket District is a wonderful place to stroll around, grab a bite to eat, or just people watch. The area is compact and consists of beautifully renovated and restored late 19th-century brick warehouses, brick streets, a large water tower, and a unique clock. The Haymarket District has a lively vibe, as the University of Nebraska is nearby and the students frequent the many establishments packed into this small area. The most notable building is the Lincoln station. Once a railway depot, today it houses the visitor center and a restaurant. In the summer, the streets are frequently closed off for festivals and farmers markets.
Location: 7th and P Streets, Lincoln
2 Nebraska State Capitol
It took three tries for Nebraska to construct a capitol building that would last. The building today, the third one on this site, is unique in respect to other state capitols. It doesn't have the traditional dome, but instead, it incorporates a 400-foot tower containing offices. The cost of the building was 10 million dollars and construction took 10 years, starting in 1922. The Nebraska State Capitol is well worth a visit for its limestone exterior depicting 3,000 years of democracy through carvings, and its ornate interior of marble columns, mosaic floors, and murals. The figure on the very top is a 19-foot-tall bronze figure of The Sower.
Address: 1445 K Street, Lincoln
3 University of Nebraska State Museum
For fans of paleontology, the University of Nebraska State Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is a must-see attraction in Lincoln. Housed here is the world's largest articulated mammoth, along with a well-regarded exhibit of fossilised elephants. As a result, the museum is sometimes referred to as Elephant Hall. The museum has other collections related to the natural history of Nebraska and is home to the Mueller Planetarium. A trip to the museum can be part of a pleasant stroll around the lovely grounds of the University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln.
Address: 645 North 14th Street, Lincoln
4 Sunken Gardens
The beautiful Sunken Gardens are a work of natural art that pleases all the senses. Founded in 1930 and renovated in 2004, the gardens are a point of civic pride in Lincoln. There are three main gardens: the Healing Garden, where all the plants bloom white; the Perennial Garden; and the Annual Garden. In the Annual Garden, more than 30,000 plants are used each year to create new designs and themes. The gardens are relatively small, covering less than two acres, so they can be easily toured by almost anyone.
Location: 27th and Capitol Parkway, Lincoln
5 Museum of American Speed
Fans of race cars, engines, and generally anything that goes fast will enjoy the Museum of American Speed. The museum was founded in 1922 and today boasts 135,000 square feet of exhibition space. In addition to an extensive archive collection, there are three major exhibitions, namely Automobilia, Cars and Engines, and Toys and Models. The museum can be tricky to find as it is located in an industrial park, but it is worth the effort. Tours are offered at very specific times in the afternoons only, and last two hours.
Address: 599 Oak Creek Drive, Lincoln
6 Pioneers Park Nature Center
Ideal for those looking for outdoor fun with some education thrown in, the Pioneers Park Nature Center is set on 668 acres and is a great place to get back to nature. Eight miles of hiking trails wind around the property, and visitors will see herds of bison, white-tailed deer, and elk. Those with keen eyes may also spot red-tailed hawks, barred owls, and wild turkeys. In the Nature Center building, caged animals can be seen up close, and for those wishing to touch a turtle or a snake, it can be easily arranged simply by asking.
Address: 3201 S Coddington Ave, Lincoln
7 Sheldon Museum of Art
The fascinating Sheldon Museum of Art consists of 12,000 pieces of art spanning many different media. This museum is just a short stroll from the University of Nebraska State Museum, and along the way are unusual sculptures that are part of the Sheldon Museum's collection. Of particular note is the untitled big head by the artist Jun Kaneko, on the steps of the museum. There are more than 30 sculptures, with pieces by Jacques Lipchitz, Claes Richard Serra, and William Tucker among others. Inside, the main focus of the museum is on American Art. Notable artists in the collection include Mary Cassatt, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Andy Warhol.
Location: 12th and R Streets, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
8 Lincoln Children's Museum
Ideal for children of all ages, the Lincoln Children's Museum is both fun and educational. Colorful and exciting exhibits in the museum are enough to keep little people entertained for hours. The museum allows children to be active and creative in a learning environment. Exhibits change, so visitors may want to check in advance to see what experiences they can expect to find during their trip.
Address: 1420 P Street, Lincoln
9 International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Housed in a unique modern building on the East Campus of the University of Nebraska, the International Quilt Study Center & Museum is an unexpected delight. Quilting aficionados will not want to miss the main collection showcasing 400 years of quilting, with 3,500 items from more than 30 countries. Even those without any knowledge of quilting will find the colors and patterns displayed here mesmerizing. The museum also hosts a regular roster of traveling exhibits and offers a diverse set of educational programs and activities.
Address: 1523 N 33rd Street, Lincoln
10 Governor's Residence
Set on beautiful grounds with large trees, pretty gardens, and manicured lawns, the Governor's Residence is a picture-perfect mansion. The building, originally opened in 1958 and extensively remodeled in 1997, contains 31 rooms, but only five bedrooms. The architectural style is modified Georgian Colonial. The mansion is just a short walk from the Nebraska State Capitol, and the two can be combined in one visit. Guided tours are available once a week. Opening hours and tours are limited.
Where to Stay in Lincoln for Sightseeing
We recommend these great hotels in Lincoln, near top attractions like the Historic Haymarket District, museums, and Memorial Stadium:
- Hilton Garden Inn Lincoln Downtown / Haymarket: mid-range pricing, great location, wonderful staff, indoor pool with whirlpool, 24-hour fitness center, complimentary airport shuttle.
- Hyatt Place Lincoln Haymarket: three-star hotel, comfortable rooms, free hot breakfast, indoor pool, grab-and-go market.
- Embassy Suites by Hilton Lincoln: affordable rates, heart of downtown, suites with kitchenettes, complimentary breakfast with made-to-order omelettes, indoor pool.
- Comfort Suites University: budget hotel, spacious suites, indoor pool and Jacuzzi, small fitness room.