10 things to do in Nebraska for first-time visitors

The state of Nebraska is often overlooked as a travel destination. But there’s plenty to see and do in this Midwestern state, from hiking and biking to exploring the state’s rich history and cultural heritage.

It has some of the best hiking and biking trails in the country, as well as several interesting museums and historical sites. And let’s not forget the food! Nebraska is home to some of the best steakhouses in the country, not to mention several craft breweries and wineries.

So whether visitors are looking for a relaxing vacation or an action-packed adventure, Nebraska has something for everyone. Here are 10 of the best things to do on a first visit.

ten Visit the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Ever wanted to walk through a rainforest or see sharks up close? The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha is one of the best zoos in the country and offers visitors the opportunity to do both of these things and more. The zoo is home to over 30,000 animals and 900 species, including gorillas, lions, tigers, rhinos and elephants. There’s also a rainforest exhibit with free-flying birds and an aquarium with sharks, stingrays and sea turtles.

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9 Hike through the Nebraska National Forest

The Nebraska National Forest is the largest man-made forest in the United States. It is also home to some of the best hiking and biking trails in the state. The forest offers over 100 miles of trails, including the Centennial Trail which winds through the heart of the forest. There’s also the Turkey Run Trail, which takes hikers to a lookout point with views of the Platte River valley. Or, one could try the 40-mile Schnebly Hill trail for a longer hike, which crosses the forest dunes. Don’t forget the essentials of the hike that you should always have, such as water and snacks!

8 Canoe or kayak on the Niobrara River

Let’s be honest; canoeing and kayaking are as much about views as they are about exercise. And there’s no better place to take in the views than from the Niobrara River. It is a slow-moving river that meanders through the scenic Sandhills region of Nebraska. Tourists paddle past forests, grasslands and sandstone cliffs along the way. Many outfitters offer canoe, kayak and shuttle rental services, allowing you to make the trip as long or as short as you want.

If you’re up for a tough hike, head to Dismal River Falls in northwest Nebraska. They are located in the Nebraska National Forest near the town of Valentine and are among the state’s best kept secrets. The hike to see the falls is approximately 2.5 miles round trip and is rated as moderate to difficult. The trail is mostly uphill, but the views of the river and the 100 foot high falls are well worth the effort.

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6 Explore Chimney Rock National Historic Site

Chimney Rock is one of Nebraska’s most iconic landmarks, and it’s also a National Historic Site. The rock formation was a major landmark on the Oregon Trail, and it’s easy to see why. Standing over 300 feet tall, it’s hard to miss! Today, one can hike to the top of Chimney Rock and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. One can also learn about the history of the Oregon Trail at the Visitor Center.

5 Visit and hike to the top of Scotts Bluff National Monument

For even more incredible views, head to Scotts Bluff National Monument near the town of Gering. The cliff was once a major landmark on the Oregon Trail, and today it’s a popular spot for hiking and picnicking. There are several trails to choose from, ranging from the easiest to the most strenuous, and the views from the top are simply breathtaking. If one wants to learn more about the history of the Oregon Trail, be sure to stop by the Visitor Center.

4 Taste local cuisine at a Nebraska steakhouse

Nebraska isn’t just about cornfields – it’s also known for its delicious steak. Taste local cuisine at a Nebraska steakhouse! After a long day of exploring, nothing tastes better than a juicy steak, and Nebraska is known for its beef. Some of the best steakhouses in the state can be found in the cities of Omaha and Lincoln. Whether you crave a tender filet mignon or a hearty rib eye, you’ll find it in Nebraska. Just make sure the visitor arrives hungry!

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3 Take a wine tasting or brewery tour at one of the state’s wineries or breweries

If the tourist is a wine or beer lover, he will be happy to know that Nebraska is home to several wineries and breweries. The state’s climate is ideal for growing grapes, and Nebraska wines have won numerous awards. For a truly unique experience, go for a wine tasting or brewery tour. One will be able to taste some of the best wines and beers in the state, and one might even learn a thing or two about the brewing or winemaking process.

2 Shop till you drop at the Omaha Farmer’s Market

The Omaha Farmer’s Market is held every Saturday from May through October. It showcases cheeses and meats, in addition to others, all of which are locally grown. Visitors will also find flowers and live music here. The market is the perfect place to stock up on fresh ingredients for a picnic or just to browse and enjoy the atmosphere. If the tourist is looking for a unique souvenir, be sure to check out the handcrafted items by local artisans. We would surely find something that the person would like.

1 Drive The Cowboy Trail – Nebraska’s Longest Rails-To-Trails Project!

If you’re looking for a scenic drive, look no further than the Cowboy Trail. The trail is Nebraska’s longest rail-trail project stretching more than 200 miles across the state. It will take you through some of the most beautiful countryside in Nebraska and you will have the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife. The trail is open to hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders, so it’s the perfect place to get out and explore. One can also stop at one of the many small towns along the way to explore local shops and restaurants.

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