Lincoln Highway in Ogallala, Nebraska. Editorial credit: Sandra Foyt /

8 Coolest Towns In Nebraska For A Summer Vacation In 2024

Cool down with an excellent pint of the Kool-Aid Man in Nebraska, the state where Kool-Aid burst into American households. Most of all, you will be cooling down in the coolest towns in the Cornhusker State for a summer vacation this 2024. Among the many awesome small towns you will find in Nebraska are historic landmarks such as Chadron and Seward, as well as nature-filled dwellings like Valentine and Nebraska City. You will be frolicking and flourishing amidst the heat of the sun as these cool towns cool you down. So, see for yourself why these locations are the coolest towns in Nebraska for a summer vacation in 2024.


The Dawes County Courthouse in Chadron, Nebraska.
The Dawes County Courthouse in Chadron, Nebraska. Image credit: Editorial credit: davidrh /

Only two hours from Valentine, Chadron is an excellent place to escape the summer heat, especially since it has been a fur-trading hub in the vast Pine Ridge National Recreation Area since 1885. There are several locations where you can appreciate Nebraska’s High Plains heritage. Take the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center, for example, where you can appreciate the indigenous cultures of the region. Or the Museum of the Fur Trade, where you can learn more about Chadron’s contributions to fur trading in Nebraska. Fort Robinson State Park houses several military structures and Native American relics for your perusal. For those of you more interested in cooling down in Chadron’s wilderness, you ought to walk through the North Platte River, Chadron State Park—Nebraska’s first state park—and finally through the vast Nebraska National Forest. Lest you forget, you should first purchase a room at the Chadron Inn & Suites if you intend to stay a while.


Scotts Bluff National Monument in Gering, Nebraska.
Scotts Bluff National Monument in Gering, Nebraska.

Less than two hours away from Chadron, the resplendent town of Gering can be found at the foot of an Oregon Trail landmark. Among the many historic and modern landmarks dotting the region is Scotts Bluff National Monument, a beautiful vantage point from atop Wildcat Hills that lets you gaze out at a land founded by early pioneers and frontiersmen. You might even spot the remnants of wagon wheel ruts left behind by these selfsame frontiersmen along the Mormon Trail and Oregon Trail. The Pioneer Graves contains the skeletal remains of the now-deceased pioneers and trailblazers. At the Robidoux Trading Post, you can get a better idea of how life as a frontiersman was lived. Remember to say hello to the “Hi” rock formations at Wildcat Hills or the Buffalo Creek Wildlife Management Area. Most importantly, remember to give yourself a break at the Monument Inn & Suites, Cobblestone Hotel & Suites, or Circle S Lodge.

Nebraska City

Arbor Lodge in Nebraska City, Nebraska. It was the home of J. Sterling Morton.
Arbor Lodge in Nebraska City, Nebraska. It was the home of J. Sterling Morton. Image credit: Workman via Wikimedia Commons

Arbor Day, a secular and global celebration for planting trees, was first orchestrated in Nebraska City in the year 1872. Today, you can plant your own trees in Nebraska City every year between April 26 and 28. More arbor-themed attractions can be seen in Arbor Day Farm, a 260-acre campus with a 50-foot-tall treehouse. Nearby, visitors can tour the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, the former estates of Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton. However, aside from this preservation of the arboreal ecosystem, Nebraska City is renowned for featured showcases at the Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clarke Interpretive Trail and Visitor Center, which is essentially a place that talks about Lewis and Clark’s visit to Nebraska. In addition, you can learn more about the abolitionist movement that liberated many enslaved Americans at the Mayhew Cabin and John Brown's Cave. If you need accommodations, you can try the Whispering Pines Bed & Breakfast and Lied Lodge.


George Norris Avenue in McCook, Nebraska.
George Norris Avenue in McCook, Nebraska. Image credit: Ammodramus via Wikimedia Commons.

To quote from Willa Cather, a renowned American author, “Anybody can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.” The prairie-surrounded town of McCook best exemplifies this statement. Hailed as the “Capital of the Buffalo Commons,” you can find these thunderous buffalo herds in significant numbers in the prairies all over McCook. The town is also a place replete with historic significance, as best seen in the Sutton House, the only building in Nebraska made by famed sculptor Frank Lloyd Wright. The Museum of the High Plains details much of McCook’s simplistic past, while the Red Willow Reservoir State Recreation Area on Hugh Butler Lake is a good spot for swimming and fishing. For those eager for rodeos and other equestrian celebrations, head to the Kiplinger Arena for fun and games. And for those who wish to relax in McCook’s pleasant evenings, you will find what you need at Coratel Inn & Suites By Jasper McCook, Bobwhite Perch Lodge, or Horse Creek Inn.


View of Front Street in Ogallala, Nebraska
View of Front Street in Ogallala, Nebraska. Editorial credit: YULIYAPHOTO /

Ogallala, an old Wild West settlement on the Texas Trail, got its name from the Oglala (Oklada) Sioux tribe that seasonally hunted game in the region. But these days and in every season, tourists throng to Ogallala to savor a taste of the Big Mac—also known as Lake McConaughy, where one can enjoy kayaking and other boating activities. The Kites and Castles, a fun and popular event that involves sand-sculpting and kiting, is held annually on the Big Mac’s shores every July 27. Visitors can always brave the Ash Hollow State Historical Park to sightsee the historic and geological remnants of Ogallala’s former inhabitants. You might also be interested in the old roads that composed the Oregon, Mormon, and California Trails. Ogallala has often been called “The Cowboy Capital of Nebraska” due to the well-preserved saloons and stores at Front Street and the Cowboy Museum. Should you wish to stay longer to ogle over Ogallala, you can book a room at the Lazy K Motel.


Downtown Seward, Nebraska.
Downtown Seward, Nebraska. Image credit: Ammodramus, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Only around 25 miles from Lincoln, the town of Seward sits as the county seat of Seward County. This delightful and laidback settlement was named after William Henry Seward, who served as Secretary of State under President Abraham Lincoln. Seward exemplifies its patriotic ties to the United States since it was there that the first Fourth of July celebration took place in 1868. Because of this, Seward has earned the moniker “Nebraska’s Fourth of July City.” To this day, Seward showers visitors and residents alike with the biggest Independence Day celebration every July 4. And for those of you who wish to glean more of Seward’s contributions to Nebraska and the US as a whole, you can see the exhibits at the Seward County Historical Society and Museum as well as the Nebraska National Guard Museum.

Red Cloud

Downtown Red Cloud, Nebraska
Downtown Red Cloud, Nebraska. Image credit: Jimmy Emerson DVM via

Feel as soft and comfortable as a cloud while traipsing through Red Cloud, a homely village along the Republican River. The town got its name from Red Cloud, a warrior-chief of the Oglala Sioux. Since its founding in 1872, Red Cloud has hosted the annual Street Card Days celebration in the first weekend of August.

The town is notably the birthplace of Great Plains author Willa Cather, and the Willa Cather State Historic Site showcases many of the novelist’s literary notes and family memorabilia regarding the plains and prairies of Nebraska. You can also tour the Willa Cather Thematic District to see literary references and allusions from Cather’s books. Elsewhere, the Burlington Depot Historical Marker highlights the importance of the Missouri River Railroad in relation to Red Cloud’s development. Nearby, the Indian Creek State Wildlife Management Area is a good place to walk and exercise. Only around 35 miles from Hastings, enjoy staying at the Green Acres Motel, 345 Red Cloud, or Bar S Lodge.


 Niobrara River near Valentine, Nebraska
Niobrara River near Valentine, Nebraska.

The lovely village of Valentine lounges on the Niobrara River, a rapid and rolling river perfect for watery games and sports. Aside from this natural watercourse, you can enjoy the waterfalls and cascades of Valentine at the Smith Falls State Park. Additionally, the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge and the Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest are home to some of Nebraska’s charming wildlife. The Sandhills of Nebraska, the largest tract of stabilized sand dunes in the Western Hemisphere, are excellent places for trekking and biking. The Arthur Bowring Ranch State Historical Park gives visitors a taste of the simple farming life whether in the past or the present. You can take a detour through the Cowboy Trail for lackadaisical views of the countryside. There is no need to worry about lodgings because the Niobrara Lodge, the Heartland Elk Ranch, and the Raine Motel have the accommodations right for you.

Although the Cornhusker State was named after the Otoe Native American word nebrathka, meaning "flat water”—a reference to the Platte River—you will certainly not have a flat experience when visiting the coolest towns in Nebraska for a summer vacation. Beyond the majestic destinations in cities like Omaha, you will be astounded and mesmerized by the arboreal beauty of Nebraska City. Although it would be fun to go traipsing in the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, the largest indoor rainforest in the US, there are still many bucolic experiences to cherish in nature-loving towns like Valentine, Ogallala, and Red Cloud. So grab a fresh drink of Kool-Aid and go bursting through walls and with flavor while exploring the coolest towns in Nebraska this 2024.

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