Main Street in Chadron, Nebraska.

Nebraska's 7 Most Underrated Towns to Visit in 2024

What makes a place underrated? Oftentimes, the shadow of the popular cities is too large, and while one location gains attention, little comes to what may be more deserving. In the case of “The Cornhusker State,” Nebraska suffers this problem on two fronts. Firstly, the state is affectionately regarded as boring, and secondly, many of the unique towns it has to offer are disregarded in favor of their urban counterparts. To do justice to Nebraska, discover seven of its most underrated towns to visit in 2024.


Oxen pull a Conestoga covered wagon on the Oregon Trail, at Mitchell Pass, Scotts Bluff National Monument
Oxen pull a Conestoga covered wagon, Scotts Bluff National Monument.

With a population under 15,000 as of 2021, Scottsbluff calls the daring outdoorsman with the lure of two national monuments and plenty to do in order to be one with nature.

Known for the pioneer monument Chimney Rock and the gargantuan Scotts Bluff National Monument, a day trip in Scottsbluff is highly underrated. Walk through the quaint, small town lined with shops and galleries, then take a trip to see the arid but unforgettable parks and monuments (or the Black Hills Ice Rink), and finally, enjoy a night of stargazing where light pollution is minimal.


Ogallala, Nebraska: View of Front street.
Downtown Ogallala, Nebraska. Image credit YULIYAPHOTO via

Putting the emphasis on "small," this curiously named small town hovers right below 5,000 residents according to a 2021 census. What once started as a stop for the Union Pacific Railroad during the days of the Nebraska Territory, has today managed to hold on to its vital past. 

Many of the streets of Ogallala still have false front commercial architecture, and it pairs nicely with the historic sites that have stayed relatively the same for 100 years. Out of the many, perhaps Mansion on the Hill is the best known, and this 1887 residence has now been converted into a museum that details not only its history but the entire town! If that is not enough, the Petrified Wood Gallery showcases a different type of historicity: fossilized wood and artwork done by the surrounding area's hand, carved, and cultivated for a millennium plus.


Downtown Valentine, Nebraska: west side of Main Street, looking northwest from about 2nd Street
Downtown Valentine, Nebraska.

Using the beauty of the Great Plains, Valentine (named after a congressman in 1882) is yet another town with its locus centered on the environment. This is by no means meant to diminish its merit, but instead, to raise its wonders and show that this criminally underrated town has much in the way of natural sights and places to visit.

Known in particular for having the highest waterfall in the state at 63 feet, Valentine proudly calls the rushing waters of Smith Falls its own. In close proximity, Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge is attempting to keep a precious part of the grasslands from destruction. Feeding and caring for an array of bison, coyotes, and deer, Niobrara charges no one to view or visit the fort. For something a tad bit more exclusive, The Prarie Club golf course of tall grass has too, managed to carve itself a slice of paradise.


Downtown Chadron, Nebraska
Historic downtown Chadron, Nebraska.

Having humble origins in the fur trade, Chadron started as a trading post in the early year of 1841. Playing off of the events that took place on its soil, this place of quietude slowly and surely became a refuge for the learned and curious. 

Boasting an especially green state park by the same name (Chadron State Park), this small town also proudly flaunts having three specialty museums. One details the entire history of the fur trade in Nebraska (Museum of the Fur Trade), one is dedicated to the great pioneer author Mari Sandoz (Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center), and finally, one stands for the history of the entire county (Dawes County Historical Museum). Becoming a full-blown museum town, few locations are as lucky as to have rich centers of knowledge mere minutes apart.


Downtown Aurora, Nebraska: west side of 12th Street.
Downtown Aurora, Nebraska.

Only being settled in the 1860s, Aurora has coasted under the view of many as it was well on its way to becoming a well-rounded town. Capturing a still image of life in a place where time is slowed, Aurora certainly has not skipped out on modern times, but still keeps its roots in place.

For a more futuristic and sci-fi feel, the Edgerton Explorit Center seeks to produce and enchant young minds with science and its many creations. Offering walk-ins that lead to many learning-based games that play off of mechanics, biology, and chemistry, the center has steadily gained fame, which led to a new record of 200,000 visitors annually.

On the side, for a calmer feel, Aurora has the informative and very artistic Plainsman Museum, a non-profit institution which works to capture the history of the entire county, and life from a much simpler time.


Downtown Gretna, Nebraska.
Downtown Gretna, Nebraska. Image credit Jared Winkler, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Founded in 1886 and named after Gretna Green in Scotland (many of the settlers had Scottish origins), it's no wonder that Catholicism made its mark on this speck of a town that harbors much natural beauty and grand architecture. 

Perhaps the best-known site is the Holy Family Shrine, a unique chapel that was originally made for travelers of the faith in 2000. While some come today for religious reasons, others come to be in awe at the structure that is nearly entirely composed of wood beams and clear glass. Giving a view of the entire area unobstructed, even the nonreligious may appreciate this landmark.

In sharp contrast with the shrine, Gretna's most impressive technological location is the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. First opening in 1959, the facility is an informative walkthrough, which has real planes, mechanisms, and instruments of war with plaques that detail their usage and history.


Gering, Nebraska: East Side of 10th Street, Looking Northeast from M Street.
Downtown Gering, Nebraska.

Becoming a town in 1887, as with many others, its existence as a trading post transformed the site into something completely new today. Perhaps even more lively now than in the past, Gering has become as active and dynamic as a small town can get it. 

From the Hiway 92 Raceway Park, where they offer exclusive track usage to burn tires to one's delight, to the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area & Nature Center, which encourages exploring the rolling lands with prudence and care, Gering is an example of a wild creation that does not at all resemble its past, but takes great strides into the future.

To be underrated is to be underappreciated in the eyes of the public, and every single one of these towns fits that description. Despite all that they offer, the towns of Nebraska are highly underappreciated. But maybe, just maybe, that's okay. Like priceless jewels in a heap of dirt that no one has yet to claim, perhaps their being neglected adds to their value, as it brings something more personal, an element of originality that makes it easier to appreciate for those who do know.

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