There is no time like the present to explore domestic travel and vacation options. One of the hotspots this season includes Nebraska. While this midwestern state is popularly recognized for its prairies and dunes, Nebraska is also the perfect ‘get-away’ for those on a budget. So have a look at our sampling of top free things to do in Nebraska and enjoy the Nebraska road trip in a pocket-friendly way!
Top 12 Great & Free Things to Do in Nebraska
There are plenty of ‘touristy’ things to do in Nebraska even if you are not confined by a budget. However, if you are looking at deriving the most out of your visit here then read on and find out the top 12 free things to do in Nebraska.
But before that, have a quick overview of cheap things to do in Nebraska through the below slides:
Budget Vacation in Nebraska: Fun & Inexpensive Things to do… from Rental Trader Inc
1. Fishing, Boating, Hiking in Omaha Lakes: Lovely Family Spots
Omaha makes it to the top of our list as the city is blessed with some of the most scenic lakes making them a perfect family vacation spot. Out of these, Glenn Cunningham Lake is the most popular. It was named after the former mayor of Omaha. There are fun things to do in Nebraska lakes. Visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, cycling, and sailing.
Other lakes that deserve a visit include Lake McConaughey, Carter Lake, Lake Manawa, and Lake Wanahoo. You will not regret it, and neither will your wallet.
2. Explore Cultural Richness: Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts is an excellent place to explore the cultural richness of Nebraska. The center regularly hosts exhibitions and public programs that are open to everyone and free of cost. The center is in downtown Omaha in the vicinity of the Historic Old Market area.
The center is built with an aim to encourage an understanding of art in its contemporary form and to support artists and cultural production.
3. Visit Old Market: Nebraska’s Unique History
This historic district houses some interesting buildings constructed during different eras. While the Old Market was constructed to sell groceries, each building within offers a unique perspective on the history of this city.
Prominent structures in the Old Market district include the Windsor Hotel, P.E. Iler Block, McClure-Smith building, the Morse-Coe Shoe company, and the A. I. Root building, most of which are of brick construction and all of which display some of the local the history of Omaha.
4. Joslyn Art Museum: Cultural History Of The State
This fine arts museum is nearly 90 years old and is named after its patron George A. Joslyn. It was set up as a dedication in his memory by his wife Sarah H Joslyn. Since 2013, the entry fee has been scrapped and the museum is open to the public free of charge.
The museum offers both permanent collections and temporary exhibits. Permanent collections here include Ancient Art, 16th and 17th-century European paintings, early American portraiture, traditional Native American works, and a wide range of 20th-century sculpture and paintings.
The art museum is adjoined by the Joslyn Sculpture Garden that was inaugurated in 2009. This garden is home to works of art featuring national as well as local artists.
Even if you are not an art enthusiast, the Joslyn Art Museum is the perfect place to experience Native American and Western American collections.
5. Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park
Entering Omaha’s central business district, you are greeted by an homage to the settlers of the West and some of the wild animals they encountered. The Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness Park is home to over 60 stainless steel and bronze works of art which depict flora and fauna including bulls, cows, calves, and Canadian geese. Pioneer Courage Park depicts the daring and ingenuity of those who braved the untamed West and settled this land.
The bronze flight of geese is especially moving as the flying birds are attached to various other structures mid-flight including a traffic signal, bronze trees, a light post, a building corner, poles, and more. While the setting of this exhibition could not be further from the wilderness, the spirit comes through in beautifully crafted art. No wonder, the Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness has quickly become a favorite tourist destination in Omaha.
6. Parks, Trails, and Gardens: Unique Attractions
Parks and gardens are inherent to Omaha. The first four were designed in 1854 by Alfred D. Jones on the map of this city and today there are nearly 200. They are currently administered by the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Public Property in the city of Omaha, and each offers its visitors a unique look into the past and present of Omaha.
Kenefick Park: Famous & Great Railroad Locomotives
The Kenefick Park hosts two of the finest pieces of machinery ever built to power up the Union Pacific Railroad. The first one is called Centennial #6900 and is the largest ever built diesel-electric locomotive. The second is aptly called the Big Boy and is the largest steam locomotive in the world.
The Kenefick Park is open all year round (except for public holidays) and the admission is free. The two unique attractions have made this park an appealing location for young and inquisitive minds who are keen to explore the past and imagine the future.
Mt. Vernon Gardens & Sunken Gardens: 30000 Plant Species
The Mt. Vernon Gardens in Omaha are a popular location for picturesque weddings as they offer a panoramic view that is free of charge. The Sunken Gardens in Lincoln is famous for its annual floral display which boasts of over thirty thousand plant species. Its features include perennial and healing gardens that deserve a visit, especially on summer nights.
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (Headquarters) & the Mormon Trail Center
The Lewis and Clark National Historic trail is gnarly, nearly 5000 miles long, and covers 16 states. The trail begins in Pennsylvania and ends at the Pacific Coast, but its Headquarters are located in Omaha, Nebraska and are a must-visit for anyone interested in following the trail of Lewis & Clark. The place is open to the general public and is frequented by enthusiasts planning to retrace the steps of the historical figures.
Omaha is also home to the Mormon Trail Center. The center offers visitors a first-hand view of the pioneer adventure and is open to the public completely free of charge all throughout the year.
7. Camping in Nebraska National Forest
The Nebraska National Forest is the largest man-made forest outside of Asia. Created by combining 3 forest regions – Niobrara, Dismal River, and North Platte National and Niobrara forests, the region is filled with a variety of vegetation. There are plenty of opportunities for nature lovers to enjoy hiking, hunting, and camping. Popular camping grounds include Natick campground, Bessey Recreation Complex, and Whitetail campground.
8. Visit State Capitol Building: Cost $10 Million In 1932
It is almost impossible to miss this majestic structure towering over the city. The State Capitol Building in Nebraska’s capital city was inaugurated in 1932 and was built for ten million dollars and offers an excellent bird’s eye view of the city. Visitors are allowed to access the 14th-floor observation deck to enjoy this experience. It is one of the best free things to do in Nebraska.
9. Bob Kerry Bridge: Connects Iowa & Nebraska
A visit to Omaha, Nebraska is incomplete without a walk on the Bob. The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge was built to connect 2 states – Iowa and Nebraska. You can actually be in 2 states at the same time by placing one foot in Nebraska and one in Iowa on this bridge.
This cable footbridge hangs over the Missouri River and has been a free tourist attraction since it was inaugurated in 2008.
10. Museum of Nebraska Art, Kearney: MONA Of Nebraska
Locally known as MONA, the Museum of Nebraska Art houses more than six thousand pieces of art. It is the official art museum of the state of Nebraska and home to the Nebraska Art Collection, which displays works by artists that have a connection to Nebraska by birth or other connection. There is something for everyone at MONA. The collections include works of art by regional, national, and international artists.
The museum is free for everyone and its various exhibits are open throughout the year for public viewing. Even if you are not an art enthusiast you must plan a day visit to this museum at Kearney.
11. Gerald R. Ford Birth Site: Presidential Mementos
The 38th President of the United States was born in Omaha, Nebraska. The birth site and gardens include a kiosk that is modeled on the original structure of the home. Visitors can also view presidential mementos before venturing into the colonnade and the adjoining Rose Garden that is modeled on the lines of the Rose Garden in the White House grounds.
12. The National Museum of Roller Skating, Lincoln: Unique Nebraska
The National Museum of Roller Skating in Lincoln is a truly one-of-its-kind museum and this is the main reason why it has made it to our list of top 12 free things to do in Nebraska. The displays include a staggering amount of information on the history of roller skating in the form of skates, costumes, films, and artwork dating back to the year 1819 up to the present day and age. This non-profit museum is all about sharing the experience of roller skating with the world free of charge.
Wrapping Up The Great Free Things To Do In Nebraska
As you can see there are plenty of free things to do in Nebraska. However, spring and summers are the best seasons to visit this state as winters are not for the faint of heart and the days are short. Having said that, indoor attractions like the museums and art galleries are still open to the public and can be enjoyed in every season. Lastly, try replacing expensive hotel accommodations with rental vacation homes. Our platform Rental Trader allows you to view and compare various properties to find the one that fits your requirement and your budget. You can fill out the web form or call us directly for more information.