Nebraska is more than just the Berkshire Hathaway and Cornhuskers. Besides its abundant corn production and agricultural farms, towns in Nebraska boast vibrant cultural scenes and historic districts for a memorable getaway. Being home to various groups of indigenous people, tourists love visiting this state because of the beautiful scenery and the community. It also provides an excellent opportunity to explore historical sites, visit outdoor parks, discover archeological findings, and learn more about the Old West culture. Moreover, it offers some of the best-tasting Reuben and Runza sandwiches. From the beautiful retreats in Gretna to the breathtaking Niobrara River in Valentine, these Nebraskan towns will have travelers feel peaceful yet fulfilled on their next trip to the midwestern US state.
At the southwest of Omaha is Gretna, embodying the spirit of a warm and growing community surrounded by the Great Plains. The Holy Family Shrine is a popular spot, a retreat perfect for travelers looking to strengthen their faith. The shrine can also hold various church-related activities and family gatherings.
A hidden gem in Gretna is Schramm Park State Recreation Area, the first fish hatchery in the state near the Platte River Valley. The park has several wooded trails for hiking, running, biking, and birdwatching. Families can enjoy a geologic display, learn about the Schramm Education Center, and feed fish in water trout ponds. Schramm Park also provided access to the Platte River Water Trail.
A beautiful cafe in Downtown Nebraska, Amore Bakery and Cafe, is known for its French pastries like croissants, Napoleons, and Danishes, and it also serves gelato.
The Fourth of July parties are one of the highlights of a trip to Seward, along with its brick storefronts, tree-lined streets, and vintage architecture. Concordia University is also worth noticing, with its cultural richness, well-maintained grounds, and historic buildings that complement Seward’s overall ambiance.
Famous tourist attractions for travelers to learn about Seward’s history and culture include the Nebraska National Guard Museum, Healthfelt Children’s Memorial, and Red Path Gallery and Tasting Room. The Inner Maker Art Village also features birdwatching opportunities and artworks of famous local artists. Seward is also renowned for its entertainment opportunities, like Main Street’s The Rivoli Theater, featuring classic old-style films and plays.
With a population of 25,000, Norfolk has a crime rate two times lower than the national average. Located in Northeastern Nebraska, this town is along the Elkhorn River Valley and offers a strong sense of community and a rich history. It is home to educational institutions like Northeast Community College, and travelers can enjoy boating and fishing at Skyview Lake or explore the Norfolk Arts Center.
One of Norfolk’s most iconic historical landmarks is the Elkhorn Valley Museum, which provides exhibits and ancient collections. Exhibits cover topics such as pioneer life, Native American history, and the development of the Elkhorn River Valley. Furthermore, the Johnny Carson Theatre pays tribute to the legendary late-night television host Johnny Carson. The theater hosts various performances, including plays, concerts, and community events.
The low employment and crime rates make Columbus one of the safest and most livable towns in Nebraska. In the Platte River Valley, Columbus presents a beautiful backdrop with recreational opportunities like Pawnee Park. This beautiful attraction features a charming lake, green spaces, and walking trails. It also features the antique carousel, the Butterfly Pavilion, and the Columbus Zoo.
Gerard Park is another outdoor attraction in Colombus, with six baseball complexes, tennis courts, and a playground for kids. Tourists will also love the Andrew Jackson Higgins Memorial Park, which showcases sculptures that honor the victims and heroes of World War II and the 9/11 attack. Situated downtown is the Columbus Area Antique Fire Apparatus Museum, home to 6 renowned firetrucks: a 1949 American LaFrance, a 1965 Snorkel Truck, a 1935 Chevrolet 4-door Sedan, a 1957 open-cab American LaFrance, and 1949 and 1950 Fords.
In Southwestern Nebraska, McCook features vintage facades and brick buildings for a classic architectural design, especially in the downtown area. Kelley Park is a notable attraction featuring walking trails, botanical gardens, and recreational facilities. The park is also the venue of the annual Buffalo Commons Storytelling and Music Festival and is home to the High Plains Museum. Travelers can learn about the town’s identity and history in this tourist attraction.
Other iconic sites in McCook include The Carnegie Library, a library built from Andrew Carnegie’s donations of money. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Sutton House is also a historical landmark with a Prairie architectural style, consisting of open floor plans and horizontal lines. Visitors will also enjoy different outdoor activities in the Red Willow Reservoir State Recreation Area, including fishing, hunting, camping, archery, picnicking, and other water activities like boating and swimming.
Papillion, one of the best towns in Nebraska during the summer season, is only a 25-minute drive from Omaha. A famous park with well-preserved green landscapes and walking trails is Halleck Park and Walnut Cree Recreation Area, surrounded by serene lakes for fishing and boating. The trails in this park are also suitable for biking and hiking.
Visiting the beautiful Bellevue Berry Farm and Pumpkin Ranch is an exciting, family-friendly activity for an exclusive vegetable and fruit-picking experience. There are various festivals in the park, such as The Taco Ride, Midwest Pirate Fest, and Mud Factor Mud Run. Kids will also love Papio Fun Park, which has arcade games and go-karts. Travelers can also join the Historic Downtown Papillion Walking Tour, consisting of 21 historical landmarks.
One of the Nebraskan towns with the lowest unemployment rate is Kearney, the world’s sandhill crane capital. This city is right in the middle of the Heartland, which is most famous for the USHL hockey team, the Tri-City Storm. Discover the town’s rich culture and history by visiting The Archway, where visitors will walk over the Oregon Trail, visit the Pony Express Station, and listen to Mark Twain’s cross-country stage-coach trip experience.
The Fort Kearney Historical Park features reconstructed buildings, a powder magazine, parade grounds, and exhibits retelling the story of the 1848 Fort Kearney. You might also want to peek at more than 200 refurbished classic cars in the town’s Classic Car Collection.
Another small yet charming Nebrasktan town is Ogallala, famous for recreational activities like swimming, camping, and boating along Lake McConaughy. The lake is the state’s largest body of water, which becomes even more famous during the summer as the sun hits the glimmering crystal-clear waters.
Ogallala also boasts beautiful architecture, which is evident in the Haythorn Ranch houses and Keystone’s Little Catholic-Protestant Church. Lake Ogallala is a lovely spot where visitors can picnic and birdwatch. Camping is also possible, but reservations are required, especially during peak season. The Cowboy Museum on Front Street showcases galleries about Ogallala’s past, like saloon girls, longhorn cattle, and cowboys, and it’s free!
Chadron is famous for its wide open spaces, abundant wildlife, vast plains, and lush trees. A popular attraction is Pine Ridge National Recreation Area, providing clean campgrounds, hiking trails, and bodies of water for fishing. Chadron Arts Center is a cultural site for watching and discovering live artwork and performances from local artists.
Tourists who love to learn about Chadron’s history can also visit the Mari Sandoz Heritage Center. Chadron State Park, Nebraska’s first state park, is situated among the canyons in Pine Ridge. This historic attraction is renowned for camping, trekking, sightseeing, and birdwatching. Horseback trail rides are also everywhere inside the state park for visitors six years old and above. These are available from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day.
Situated along the Kansas Border is Red Cloud, Nebraska, home of Willa Cather, one of the best Pulitzer-winning writers in America. It features the Willa Cather Center with a Memorial Prairie, inspired by one of the author’s bestselling novels.
Red Cloud features brick streets with historic buildings, including the Red Cloud Opera House, built in 1885. Beautiful festivals, such as Street Car Days and the Republican River Stock Tank Float, are the town's center of attraction. The Republican River is also beautiful, offering ideal spots for viewing wildlife like bobcats, upland birds, eagles, turkeys, and deer. Harry Obitz Park is a prominent outdoor recreation for walking pets.
Plattsmouth in Cass County is another town in Eastern Nebraska with a low crime rate. The city is near the Missouri River and Platte Rivers, contributing to its historical importance as a trading and transportation center. Given its historical role as a transportation hub, Plattsmouth, located near the Omaha metropolitan area, remains well-connected. This makes it convenient for travelers to commute.
Plattsmouth is home to several historical landmarks, including the Cass County Historical Society Museum, which preserves and showcases the area's history. The museum is located in a former Carnegie Library building and features exhibits on local history and artifacts. Nature enthusiasts can appreciate the Schilling Wildlife Management Area, providing outdoor recreational opportunities like biking, fishing, birdwatching, and hiking. Rhylander Park also offers green spaces, playgrounds, and picnic areas.
Aurora is one of Nebraska’s smallest towns, with a population of nearly 4600. As the gateway to the Rainwater Basin, The Central Fly Way, and the Butterfly Highway, Aurora features historical and architectural sites worth visiting. Among popular attractions include the Edgerton Explorit Center, a family-friendly science center for interactive learning. The Plainsman Museum allows visitors to discover the town’s history and the locals living in the Hamilton County Region.
The Gjerluff Prairie and Sherman Ranch are notable, featuring hiking trails, camping grounds, and abundant wildlife. Outdoor enthusiasts can also visit the Lincoln Creek Prairie and Trail, a 20-minute walking trail that connects to Streeter Park.
Valentine, Nebraska, stands out as a beautiful destination, showcasing the scenic splendor of the Sandhills region and the hospitality of a small Midwestern town. The Niobrara River passes through this town in Cherry County, and the Niobrara National Scenic River is ideal for canoeing, fishing, kayaking, and tubing.
The surrounding landscapes and nearby attractions, such as Merritt Reservoir and Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, offer residents and visitors opportunities for outdoor activities, wildlife observation, and serene escapes into nature. Events like the Cherry County Fair and the Nebraska Star Party allow locals and travelers to celebrate their town and share its beauty.
Nebraska's Scenic Towns and Landscapes
These towns in Nebraska extend far beyond its vast prairies, showcasing a collection of sceneries that captivate with unique beauty and welcoming atmospheres. From the quaint historic streets of Papillion to the natural splendor of Chadron's Pine Ridge region, these towns collectively represent the heart and soul of the Cornhusker State. As residents and visitors explore these charming destinations, discover that Nebraska's beauty lies in its wide-open spaces and the warmth and character of its prettiest towns.