Lincoln, the capital of Nebraska, is a vibrant city with a rich history. The city is home to a number of top attractions, including the state capitol, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and several museums and historic sites. So if you’re looking for things to do in Lincoln City, you won’t be disappointed as the city offers a wide range of activities. I was in this city for a few days, and here is a list of the 12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Lincoln you shouldn’t miss.
Best Things to Do in Lincoln, Nebraska
1. Visit the University of Nebraska State Museum
A visit to the University of Nebraska State Museum is a must, especially if you are interested in paleontology. The museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate and is home to a number of impressive collections, including the world’s largest collection of fossilized elephants. And for this reason, people often refer to it as the “Elephant Museum.”
In addition to the fossils, the museum also has a planetarium. The planetarium offers a number of different shows, which are all included in the price of admission. When I was there, I saw a show about Nebraska weather patterns, which was fascinating. I would highly recommend checking the schedule in advance and planning your visit around one of the shows.
The museum is located on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, so it’s easy to combine a visit here with a walk around the beautiful grounds. All this makes a visit to this university one of the top things to do in Lincoln. Admission is very reasonable, and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.
2. Great Plains Art Museum
Art lovers will want to add the Great Plains Art Museum to their list of top attractions in Lincoln. This museum is part of the University of Nebraska and is free to enter.
The museum contains a large permanent collection of art from the Great Plains region as well as rotating exhibitions. It includes works of renowned artists such as Albert Bierstadt, Charles M. Russell, Frederic Remington, and Robert Fletcher Gilder. Exhibits are often rotated to ensure there is always something new to see. The artwork covers a wide range of mediums, including paintings, sculptures, photography, and more.
I am not an art expert by any means, but I enjoyed walking around the museum and seeing all the different pieces. I particularly liked the sculptures in the outdoor courtyard.
The museum also hosts a number of events throughout the year, including lectures, films, and concerts. Check the website for a schedule of upcoming events.
3. Stroll through the Historic Haymarket District
Lincoln’s historic Haymarket district is a great place to explore the local shops and restaurants. The area was originally settled in the 1840s and was the site of the city’s first market square. The district got its name from the hay that was sold there.
The Haymarket is now home to a variety of businesses, including art galleries, specialty stores, and restaurants. The area is also home to the University of Nebraska’s College of Law.
When you are visiting the Haymarket, be sure to walk down Canopy Street. This street is lined with string lights and is very pretty at night. There are also a number of public art installations along the street. I recommend grabbing a coffee at one of the local cafes and then wandering around to see what you can find. There are some really cool shops in the area, selling everything from vintage clothing to handmade jewelry.
If you get hungry, there are plenty of great places to eat in the Haymarket district. I recommend checking out The Sandwich Board, which has a great selection of sandwiches and salads. For something a little different, The J.T.K. is a restaurant specializing in American cuisine. And if you’re looking for a place to grab a drink, I recommend Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill, which has an extensive list of craft beers.
One of the notable buildings in the Haymarket district is the old Lincoln Station. This historic building served as a railway depot in its early days. Today, it has been renovated and now houses a coffee shop, a bar, and a restaurant. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.
So whether you’re looking for things to do, places to eat, or just want to explore a bit of Lincoln’s history, the Haymarket district is a great place to start.
4. Visit the International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Lincoln is home to the world’s largest collection of quilts, and this museum is one of the top attractions in Lincoln for anyone interested in this art form. This museum is located on the University of Nebraska’s East Campus and is the home of the largest known public collection of quilts in the world
The museum has more than 3,000 quilts on display, and the collection is constantly growing. The quilts date back as far as the 1700s, and there are examples from more than 30 countries. The museum also has a library with more than 10,000 books and other materials related to quilts and their history.
In addition to the quilts on display, there is also a rotating selection of special exhibitions. When I visited, there was an exhibit on Amish quilts. This exhibit featured more than 50 quilts, as well as related materials such as clothing, furniture, and other items. The exhibit also had a short film about the Amish community.
The museum also offers a range of educational programs, including classes, workshops, and lectures. Even if you have knowledge of quilting, the exhibits are sure to make you appreciate this art form in a new light.
5. Watch a Game at Memorial Stadium
If you’re a sports fan, one of the top things to do in Lincoln is to watch a game at Memorial Stadium. This stadium is home to the University of Nebraska’s football team, the Cornhuskers. The stadium was built in 1923 and has a capacity of over 90,000. It is one of the largest stadiums in the United States and is lovingly nicknamed “The Sea of Red.”
If you’re visiting Lincoln during football season, I would definitely recommend going to a game. The atmosphere is electric, and the fans are passionate. Even if you’re not a huge sports fan, it’s still a great experience.
I was fortunate enough to attend a game during my visit, and it was a lot of fun. The game I saw was Nebraska vs. Ohio State, and it was a close game. The fans were really into it, and there was a lot of energy in the stadium. I met a group of Cornhusker fans who were more than happy to talk about their team. They even gave me a shirt, which I was very grateful for.
And if you can’t make it to a game, you can still take a tour of the stadium. The tours are led by current or former Cornhusker football players, and they provide a great behind-the-scenes look at the stadium. No matter how you experience it, Memorial Stadium is a must-see for any visitor to Lincoln.
6. Tour the Nebraska State Capitol
A tour of the Nebraska State Capitol is a must-do when you’re in Lincoln. In fact, this is the tallest building and one of the top attractions in Lincoln.
Standing at 400 feet (122 meters), the building is 22 stories high and took almost ten years to complete. The building is open to the public for tours, which I would recommend doing if you are interested in learning more about the history and architecture of the building. The tour takes you to the top of the dome, as well as to the Legislative Chambers, Governor’s Suite, and Supreme Court Chamber.
The dome of the capitol is impressive and offers 360-degree views of Lincoln. On a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction. And at the top of the dome is home to the Sower, a 19-foot bronze statue that was installed in 1932.
The building is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. There is no charge to enter.
7. Tour the Lincoln Cathedral
One of the top things to see in Lincoln is the cathedral, as it is always included on most city tours. Dating from 1072, it is one of the oldest cathedrals in England and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The cathedral is famous for its three towers and was once one of the tallest buildings in the world. The exterior of the cathedral is impressive, with its Gothic architecture, flying buttresses, and intricate stone carvings. The interior is just as stunning, with stained glass windows, a beautifully carved wooden ceiling, and an intricately carved stone font.
This cathedral is celebrated for its medieval architecture, making it one of the top places to visit in Lincoln. It is worth noting that the cathedral is still an active place of worship, and there are often services taking place, so be respectful if you visit during these times.
The cathedral is open to the public every day, and there is no charge to enter. However, there is a suggested donation. If you’d like to learn more about the history of the cathedral, guided tours are available for $9.50.
8. Lincoln Castle
You can’t say you’ve been to Lincoln until you’ve visited the castle. This historic Norman castle was built in 1068 and has a rich history. It was built by William the Conqueror, the first Norman king of England, on the site of a pre-existing Roman fort.
During its long history, the castle has served a number of purposes, including a prison, a court, and a royal palace. It also played a role in the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda.
Today, this castle is one of the top tourist attractions in Lincoln and is open to the public. Some of the top things to see here include the Victorian Prison, the Magna Carta displays, a stone sarcophagus unearthed during a dig in 2013 (including other artifacts), and the medieval walls.
You can also take an audio tour, which I highly recommend as it brings the castle’s history to life. There are also regular events held at the castle, so check the website in advance to see what’s on during your visit.
9. National Roller Skating Museum
If you’re looking for free things to do in Lincoln, then a visit to the National Roller Skating Museum is a great option. This museum celebrates everything roller skating and is a fascinating place to visit whether you’re a fan of the activity or not.
The museum focuses on the five main types of roller skating; Artistic Skating, Speed Skating, Roller Derby, Inline Skating, and Roller Hockey. The museum also contains a large collection of Roller Skating memorabilia, including historic skates, photographs, and other artifacts.
When I visited the museum, there was a small film playing on a loop that provided an overview of the history of roller skating. This was interesting even for someone like me who knows very little about the sport.
There are also some interactive exhibits where you can try your hand at roller skating. I didn’t attempt this, but it looked like great fun for kids (and brave adults!).
The museum is open from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free. This is a great option if you’re looking for something a little bit different to do.
10. Visit the Pioneers Park Nature Center
Do you need a break from all the city sights? Head over to the Pioneers Park Nature Center, one of the top attractions in Lincoln for nature lovers. The Nature Center is located on 668 acres of land and is a great place to explore the outdoors.
The Nature Center has 8 miles of hiking trails that take you through various ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, and tallgrass prairies. In addition, this park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including bison, elk, deer, and turkeys.
If you’re interested in learning more about the area’s history and ecology, the Nature Center also offers educational programs for all ages. I took part in a guided hike led by a park ranger. The ranger pointed out different plants and animals and shared some interesting facts about the area.
Pioneers Park is also a popular spot for bird watching, especially in the spring when migrating birds pass through. So if you’re a birdwatcher, be sure to bring your binoculars.
Overall, whether you’re looking for a place to hike, picnic, or just explore, Pioneers Park should definitely be on your list of things to do in Lincoln.
11. Take a Group Therapy Bike Tour
If you are looking for something a little different and want to see some of Lincoln in a fun way, then consider taking a Group Therapy Bike Tour. This kind of tour is becoming popular in many cities as a fun way to see the sights and learn about the history and culture of a place.
On the Group Therapy Bike Tour in Lincoln, you will cycle around the city on a multi-pedal trolley bike of up to 15 people. The tour lasts for 2 hours and covers about 4 miles. You will pedal your way around some of the top Lincoln attractions, such as the State Capitol, the Haymarket District, and the University of Nebraska Campus.
The tour is led by a guide who will point out interesting sights and provide historical commentary along the way. You will also make a stop at a local pub and restaurant for a break and a chance to sample some of the local cuisines.
The Group Therapy Bike Tour is a great way to see some of Lincoln’s top sights, get some exercise, and learn about the city’s history and culture. It’s a great option for families, groups of friends, or anyone who wants to see Lincoln in a fun and unique way.
12. Stroll through the Sunken Gardens
If you are looking for a Lincoln attraction that is a little more low-key, then the Sunken Gardens might be perfect for you. The gardens were created in the 1930s and originally served as a lily pond. Over the years, it has undergone several transformations and is now among the top 300 most beautiful gardens in the United States.
Today, this 1.5-acre garden is divided into three main sections, each with its own theme. They Include Healing Garden, Perennial Garden, and the Annual Garden. The Annual Garden is the most colorful, with more than 30,000 plants used in spectacular yearly floral displays that are redesigned with a new theme each year.
There are trails and benches throughout the gardens, making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. The Sunken Gardens are open daily from sunrise to sunset, and admission is $8.
Lincoln is a historic city with plenty to see and do. These are just a few of the top attractions in Lincoln that you won’t want to miss. So whether you’re looking to catch a game, learn about the city’s history, or just do some shopping, this city has something for everyone.