10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Nebraska

Long overlooked as a travel destination, Nebraska is a state of warm-hearted people, interesting natural attractions, and inviting cities. Lincoln, the state capitol, and Omaha are the two main population centers. Each of these are worth a visit, with old historic areas to wander through and vibrant cultural scenes to enjoy. The Nebraska landscape also holds some fascinating attractions for those who take the time to explore it, from Chimney Rock to the beautiful scenery of the Sandhills.

1 Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
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Although zoos are rarely the most exciting thing to see or do in a state, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha is an exception. This unique facility is home to the world's largest indoor desert, the largest indoor jungle, and the largest nocturnal exhibit. In addition, it also features an aquarium. Exhibits are largely interactive and engaging, with opportunities to touch stingrays as they swim by or ride a camel. After a long day of walking, the Lozier IMAX 3D theater is a great place to enjoy a feature, with a constantly changing line-up of movies.

2 Old Market in Omaha

Old Market in Omaha
Old Market in Omaha Lana Law
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The Old Market is a terrific spot to shop, dine, and experience a glimpse of what Omaha would have looked like in its early days. Cobblestone streets and renovated old buildings from the early part of the 19th century give the area a quaint and historical feel. Housed in these interesting buildings are a diverse set of retail establishments ranging from galleries to coffee shops and fine dining establishments. The Old Market is right downtown and is within easy walking distance to many of Omaha's other tourist attractions, including the Durham Museum and the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.

3 Strategic Air and Space Museum, Ashland

Strategic Air and Space Museum, Ashland
Strategic Air and Space Museum, Ashland Greg Goebel
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Fans of aircraft and aviation technology will be impressed by the extensive collections on show at this museum in Ashland, mid way between Omaha and Lincoln. First opened in 1959 as the Strategic Air Command, the museum grew over the years and in 1998 moved to its current location in a modern facility. A few years later, the name was changed to the Strategic Air and Space Museum. The museum is spread over 300,000 square feet and showcases all manner of airplanes, spacecraft, and special exhibits that change on a regular basis. Also on site is a planetarium that features seasonal astronomy shows and motion rides (for an additional fee) that simulate the feeling of being in a helicopter and riding a roller coaster.

Address: 28210 West Park Highway, Ashland

Official site: www.sasmuseum.com

4 Chimney Rock National Historic Site

Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Chimney Rock National Historic Site
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Dating from 25 to 24 million years ago, the Chimney Rock formation rises 480 feet above the surrounding countryside. This dramatic rock spire was a noted landmark for pioneers heading westward in the early to mid-19th century. The landscape today looks much as it did when wagon trains crossed this way during the great western migration. Visitors can get a sense of what it must have felt like for the pioneers when they arrived here. A visitor center on site provides information on the geology of the formation and the history of the Overland Trail.

Location: Chimney Rock Road, 1.5 miles off of Highway 92

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Chimney Rock National Historic Site - TripAdvisor.com

5 Haymarket District in Lincoln

Haymarket District in Lincoln
Haymarket District in Lincoln Lana Law
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A lively atmosphere, great restaurants, and restored historical buildings all combine to make the Haymarket area a fun place to visit at any time of year. Visitors can wander the inlaid brick streets and peer in windows of eclectic shops, or stop in for coffee and snacks at any of the numerous cafés and restaurants. The restored water tower and town clock are a couple of the sightseeing attractions in this area. While there is always something going on in the Haymarket District, it can be particularly busy on days when the local university sports teams have games scheduled.

6 Scotts Bluff National Monument

Scotts Bluff National Monument
Scotts Bluff National Monument
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This imposing natural structure can be seen from far and wide across the Nebraska prairies. It was used as a landmark by Native Americans who inhabited the area, and later by travelers who passed by here in the mid 19th century, including pioneers making their way west on the California, Oregon, and Mormon Trails.The national monument was first founded in 1919, and many improvements to the area have been made over the years. A winding road leads up to the higher elevations and features three tunnels. Hiking trails lead to great viewpoints out over the surrounding countryside.

7 Golden Spike Tower in North Platte

Golden Spike Tower in North Platte
Golden Spike Tower in North Platte Lana Law
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The Golden Spike Tower offers a bird's eye view out over the Bailey Yard, officially certified as the world's largest railroad yard. More than 150 trains and 10,000 rail cars a day enter this yard. The tower rises eight stories and is fully enclosed in glass. Beyond the Bailey Yard, the full expanse of the Platte river valley unfolds as visitors look out from the viewing area. At the base of the tower is the visitor center where all manner of Union Pacific memorabilia is showcased. The Golden Spike Tower is just on the outer edge of North Platte.

Address: 1249 North Homestead Road, North Platte

8 Indian Cave State Park

Indian Cave State Park
Indian Cave State Park Dick Clark
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Beautiful and intriguing petroglyphs showing nature scenes and wildlife line the walls of the cave at this state park. The picturesque setting of the park on the banks of the Missouri River also makes it a popular destination for camping. A diverse and interesting set of hiking trails wind their way around the park and take in some of the highlights, including a ridge and the Lincoln Bend Wetlands. Indian Cave State Park is just a short drive southeast of Brownville.

9 Carhenge

Carhenge
Carhenge
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Certainly one of Nebraska's quirkier attractions, Carhenge duplicates the more familiar Stonehenge, but is constructed with automobiles. Thirty-nine cars arranged in all different positions jut out of the prairie grasslands and so perfectly replicate the real Stonehenge that the summer solstice event happens here in the same manner as it does in England. Although Carhenge is the main attraction, there are also a number of other unique works on site. In one area, a metal fish is shown emerging from the ground. This is a free attraction.

Location: 3 miles north of Alliance, on Highway 87

10 A Scenic Driving Tour of the Sandhills

A Scenic Driving Tour of the Sandhills
A Scenic Driving Tour of the Sandhills
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The Sandhills region of Nebraska is a paradise for nature lovers. Covering one quarter of the state, it consists of dunes, some reaching 300 feet high, along with grasslands, and shallow lakes. A driving tour through the Sandhills, often described as one of the most scenic in the USA, is a great way to explore the area. Highway 2 winds its way through the landscape, taking visitors on a 272-mile route past an array of interesting natural and man-made sights, including the quirky Carhenge. Most visitors start the drive in Grand Island and end in Alliance.

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