Ogallala, Nebraska, View of Front street. Editorial Credit: YULIYAPHOTO / Shutterstock.com

9 Most Underrated Towns In Nebraska To Take A Trip To

The state of Nebraska is the 16th largest state in the country and shares its borders with South DakotaIowaMissouriKansasColorado, and Wyoming. With three rivers, the Dissected Till Plains and the Great Plains, the state offers a diverse natural tapestry that outdoor adventurists would enjoy exploring. It is also home to the first U.S. Army post west of the Missouri River and thus carries a rich military heritage that can be discovered in many of the historic sites scattered around the region. Those who venture into obscure towns in the state are bound to find a destination filled with a perfect blend of nature and history to make for a memorable trip. 


Main Street in Chadron, Nebraska
Main Street in Chadron, Nebraska

Chadron is a small city located in the Great Plains region of Nebraska. As such, it offers deep insight into the High Plains heritage. Visitors can explore this history at the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center. Then, take a tour of the Museum of the Fur Trade to witness the preservation of the first business in the New World, the North American fur trade. The Bordeaux Trading Post from 1837 is also located here. Nature lovers can spend their time at the Pine Ridge National Recreation Area located in the Nebraska National Forest, where visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, and horseback trails or go hunting deer and turkey. The Chadron State Park is also nearby, which offers a modern camping ground, swimming pool, and various trail rides to keep visitors entertained. 

Nebraska City

Brick paths at the Arbor Lodge, Nebraska.
Brick paths at the Arbor Lodge, Nebraska. 

Nebraska’s eponymous city is one of the oldest incorporated cities in the state and is located in Otoe County on the western bank of the Missouri River. Start at the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, the original home of the founder of Arbor Day, J. Sterling Morton. Along with the age-old mansion, visitors can also explore the collection of approximately 260 tree and shrub species, alongside the ten trees recognized by the Statewide Arboretum because of their size and age. Then, take a tour of the l Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center to witness the 300 scientific discoveries of flora and fauna made here in the 1800s, as well as the life-size replicas of the keelboat, white pirogue, and earth lodge. Finish this discovery trip by heading to the Arbor Day Farm, where tourists can enjoy one-of-a-kind Treetop Village, hike miles of forested trails, journey into the woods on the Discovery Ride, and more. 


Downtown street in Minden, Nebraska.
Downtown Minden, Nebraska. Image credit: Jared Winkler via Wikimedia Commons

Minden is one of the smaller cities in the state and is conveniently located inside the Tri-City Area for easy access. Delve into the history of this small town at the Harold Warp Pioneer Village complex, which encloses 28 buildings, a priceless steam carousel, 17 historic flying machines, antique tractors, and 350 other antique cars, including the oldest Buick. Take a trip to the nearby National Audubon Society's Rowe Sanctuary to view wildlife or enjoy the beautiful Sandhill Cranes. Tourists can bike, hike, camp, fish, or even cash a historical show in the summers at the Fort Kearny State Historical Park and Recreation Area. Finish the trip by attending a concert, play, or art show at the captivating Minden Opera House.


Ashland, Nebraska USA:  The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. Editorial credit: Klanker / Shutterstock.com
Ashland, Nebraska, The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. Editorial credit: Klanker / Shutterstock.com

Ashland is located along the bottom of Salt Creek, which makes it an excellent fording site and a great underrated trip destination. History and Aerospace nerds would love the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, which boasts a unique collection of aircraft and artifacts from the Cold War, as well as space travel exhibits. Outdoor enthusiasts, on the other hand, can enjoy a large aquatic center with a wave pool and water slides, the Go Ape Zipline Course, horseback riding, rock climbing, and other activities at the Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in the summer. In the winter, the same park becomes an ice skating rink and a sledding hill for continued family fun. Those visiting in the summer and autumn seasons should make sure to drive through the Wildlife Safari Park and witness species of bison, elk, Sandhill cranes, bears, wolves, and bald eagles. 


Downtown Aurora, Nebraska.
Downtown Aurora, Nebraska. 

Aurora is the county seat of Nebraska’s Hamilton County and is a gateway to multiple scenic locations, such as the Rainwater Basin. Visitors should begin their trip to Aurora by exploring the history of Hamilton County at the Plainsman Museum. Visitors can view numerous historic artifacts such as agricultural equipment, an old boardwalk, Native American crafts, military memorabilia, and more. Families can enjoy their time by indulging in the games, events, and hands-on science experience at the Edgerton Explorit Center. Film fanatics should make sure to catch a movie at the retro 12th Street Cinema. The Cole Park and Pioneer Trails offer opportunities for hiking, picnicking, biking, fishing, and boating. A goodbye stroll around the town’s Central Park Square will take tourists through a preserved courthouse, historic shops, and a lush green lawn. 


United States Post Office, Ogallala, Nebraska. Editorial credit: Sandra Foyt / Shutterstock.com
United States Post Office, Ogallala, Nebraska. Editorial credit: Sandra Foyt / Shutterstock.com

Ogallala is a historical town that used to be a stop on the Pony Express and the transcontinental railroad, which made the town boom with business. Labeled ‘Nebraska's Cowboy Capital,’ Ogallala has a rich Western heritage that can be explored in the Cowboy Museum, which displays the history of the Old West. The Boot Hill Cemetery is the town’s first cemetery and a historic park that tells the tombstone history of the small city. For more outdoorsy personalities, the Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area offers boating, fishing, swimming, windsurfing, and camping facilities. The popular Lake McConaughy, known as the Big Mac, is also located nearby and has 100 miles of shoreline that tourists can sunbathe on or build sandcastles in. Stop by Ogallala's Front Street to see dance hall hostesses perform their nightly show before heading out. 


Niobrara River with near Valentine in Nebraska Sandhills.
Niobrara River near Valentine in Nebraska Sandhills.

Valentine, aptly nicknamed ‘America’s Heart City,’ is located just north of the Niobrara River, on the northern edge of the Sandhills region, which makes the town an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Head down the Niobrara National Scenic River on a canoe, kayak, tube, or tank, or go waterskiing in the Merritt Reservoir and Cottonwood Lake nearby for endless fun in the water. To get deep into nature, hike the Cowboy, Niobrara River, or Valentine City Park trails that will allow tourists to see the famous old oak trees of the town. Spend a day in the Smith Falls State Park to enjoy a wooden boardwalk and the highest falls in the State. Fishing enthusiasts can find a hoard of bass, northern pike, perch, and bluegill fish in the Valentine Wildlife Refuge Lakes. An interesting item to add to the itinerary is to grab the Valentine Magazine and Cherry County Passport and hop by passport stops to find all stamps and win prizes. 


Early morning on a dirt road, near Seward, Nebraska. Image credit Bill Chizek via Shutterstock.
Early morning on a dirt road near Seward, Nebraska. Image credit Bill Chizek via Shutterstock.

Seward is known as the ‘4th of July City’ as it is the official home of the 4th July Small Town USA Celebration, making this town the perfect destination to bask in the American spirit. Start at the Nebraska National Guard Museum, where the displays illustrate the military history of the Nebraska Army and Air National Guard, and interested visitors can engage in further reading on the topic at the Seward Memorial Library. Art enthusiasts will be delighted to know that the town also offers multiple art galleries and collections, such as the Bartels Museum and Marxhausen Gallery of Art, Lobby Gallery, and Marxhousen Art Gallery. A must-visit site is the World's Largest Time Capsule, located on Hillcrest Drive in the town, drawing tourists from all over the state. 


Downtown Gretna, Nebraska. Image credit: Jared Winkler via Wikimedia Commons.
Downtown Gretna, Nebraska. Image credit: Jared Winkler via Wikimedia Commons.

Gretna is located in Sarpy County, Nebraska, and invites tourists to explore its open country lifestyle. The Schramm Park State Recreation Area and Education Center is the ideal spot to start this exploration, as it is a vast natural space ideal for birdwatching, hiking, biking, fishing, and picnicking. Vala's Pumpkin Patch and Apple Orchard is a year-round attraction where tourists can go pumpkin picking or apple picking in the open fields. Kids and families would enjoy spending their time watching the numerous fish, amphibian, and reptile species in the aquariums at the Schramm Education Center. Couples should make sure to head to the Wall of Love to attach a padlock to commemorate their relationship before leaving Gretna. 

In conclusion, Nebraska, often overlooked among travel destinations, stands as a hidden gem with its diverse natural landscapes and rich historical heritage. From the small city of Chadron, nestled in the Great Plains, offering a glimpse into High Plains heritage, to Nebraska City, the state's oldest incorporated city, with its historical parks and farms, each destination unfolds a unique tapestry of nature and history. Tourists have a host of experiences available in this region; from diving into aerospace history at Ashland and exploring the military heritage at Seward to delving into the Old West life in Ogallala and celebrating American Independence in Gretna, there is a unique trip in Nebraska waiting for every kind of wanderer.


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