The state of Nebraska has something for everyone, from sandhills, the great prairies, forests, and canyons, to places of historic interest and fun activities. The state can roughly be divided into two major regions, the Dissected Till Plains on the eastern side, and the Great Plains spread across the rest of the state.
Omaha and Lincoln are the two largest cities, both lying towards the southeast corner of the state. Lincoln is also the capital and sits amidst prairies, while Omaha lies on the banks of the river Missouri. Both cities have a number of museums, parks, sporting events, and other activities happening round the year.
The till plains have low hills and loess which are extensive deposits of yellowish grey windblown sediment. While the Great Plains have a few canyons in the otherwise flat land, there are sand dunes, valleys, lakes and wetlands too. There is also the Badlands, that are cut sandstones resulting from wind pressure taking random shapes with pointy edges.
Nebraska’s Sandhills roughly cover 20,000 square miles, and display an untouched beauty. The best possible way to enjoy this natural landscape is to travel through the highways. Nebraska’s Highway 2, a discontinuous road with two segments, has been officially designated as a national scenic byway, and is one of America’s 10 most beautiful highways.
Towards the northwest, the picturesque landscape is made up of plateaus and large wheat fields. Some of the most visited and recommended trails can be found at the Wildcat Hills Recreation Area. The Toadstool Geological Park has unbelievable sights and a hiking trail which is known for its peaceful environment.
Nebraska also has a number of lakes and rivers that make water sports and associated activities possible, from Branched Oak in the east, to Lake McConaughy in the southwest. In fact, more water traverses its land than most other states. Probably that is why its name, Nebraska, is derived from Native American words meaning ‘flat water’ referring to Platte River running through the state. In the spring, people travel to Platte River to see the annual Migration of the Sandhill Cranes.
While travelling the scenic byways, one encounters a changing terrain, little known historic sites, and rich history. There are two popular trips, the Sandhill byway trip, and the Gold Rush byway trail.
Chimney Rock National Historic Site is worth visiting to learn about the great western migration. The Homestead National Monument is dedicated to the act that enticed and paved the way for settlers. Another national monument worth visiting is, the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, for those interested in archaeology. The Scotts Bluff National Monument is another historical site not to be missed.
Nebraska has eight state parks, two national forests, one national recreation area, and six national wildlife refuges. You can still spot some bison, which had nearly vanished in the 1800s, at the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge. Indian Cave State Park is big attraction for camping enthusiasts, with 22 miles of hiking trails. Long Pine State Recreational Area is another favorite amongst campers.
As mentioned, museums are aplenty in Nebraska. Some most visited include Museum of American Speed in Lincoln, Joslyn Museum in Omaha, the Durham Museum in Omaha, Omaha Children’s Museum, Great Platte River Road Archway Monument in Kearney, Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Museum of Fur Trade in Chedron. The University of Nebraska State Museum is another huge attraction and is said to have the biggest mammoth skeleton, nicknamed Archie, on display.
To make one’s visit unforgettable, there are some unique places where one can stay in Nebraska. Some of them are:
Hotel Deco XV in Omaha
Lied Lodge and Conference Center, a nature-themed getaway in Nebraska City
Lord Ranch Resort, Valentine is surrounded by beautiful Sandhills
Old Main Street Inn in Chadron, built in 1890s is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in America