Looking for a destination in Nebraska to add to your American travel bucket list? This list of the best things to do in Lincoln will have you adding this Midwest city—and booking your flights!—in a flurry. With a pretty, green-spotted skyline and an endless offering of interesting attractions, Nebraska’s capital city isn’t one you won’t want to miss.
Lincoln, Nebraska, is a museum lover’s playground, with renowned museums and hidden gem art galleries tucked around every corner. The State Museum of Natural History, the Museum of American Speed, and the National Museum of Roller Skating are among the tourist-approved favorites in the city. Though Lincoln is largely considered a family-friendly destination, you’ll also find a few boozy highlights for adult travelers to wet their whistle, too, like the Boiler Brewing Company and the Deer Springs Winery.
Need some inspiration to put together an epic trip itinerary? This comprehensive guide to all the best places to visit in Lincoln, NE, is the ideal place to start!
Got more travel plans on the horizon? Check out all our other attractions guides and our United States Travel Guide for more ideas on where to go, when to visit & what to do!
Best places to visit in Lincoln, NE
Lincoln Children’s Zoo
Don’t let the name fool you: A trip to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo is a fun attraction for tourists of any age. What started as the passion project of Arnott Folson in 1959, this animal park now presents you with the opportunity to see over 40 endangered species up close and personal- That’s over 10% of their residents!
To break up your day of walking through the exhibits, you can take advantage of the Lincoln Children’s Zoo’s full daily calendar of interpretive programming. You can watch a cheetah run at full speed, count how many fish a penguin gets for lunch, and even meet a few of the star performers at the Wild Safari Theater. The zoo also sells giraffe feed bundles if you’d like to hang out with these gentle giants for a while.
Moms and dads with little ones in tow will be relieved to know that strollers and wagons are available to rent on-site for a mere handful of pocket change.
If you’re a fan of big, beautiful blooms, a visit to the Sunken Gardens is a must on your Lincoln trip. In fact, it’s been named one of the best gardens to visit in the United States and Canada by National Geographic. Spanning one and a half acres at Lincoln’s iconic Antelope Park, this floral extravaganza deserves a spot right at the top of your Nebraska bucket list.
The Sunken Gardens may just be the most whimsical attraction in Lincoln, with scenes right out of a children’s fairytale. The most popular feature, The Lily Pond, is a striking display of aquatic plants with a peaceful soundtrack of flowing water playing in the background.
The gardens are open until 11:00 pm each night; try to visit after sunset for the most magical experience. If you do, you’ll be delighted by blooms illuminated by the moonlight and fireflies dancing quietly in the sky.
Pioneers Park Nature Center
Want a true Nebraska prairies experience? Head to the Pioneers Park Nature Center. You’ll start your journey at one of the interpretive centers and then choose from eight miles of trails. No matter which path you choose, you’ll navigate through tall grasses, wetlands, a few forested areas, and even a raptor reserve. Don’t forget a good pair of shoes!
Despite all its other attractions, one of the biggest draws to the Pioneers Park Nature Center is that its grounds are home to a herd of local bison. The park’s bison attract hoards of painters, photographers, and poets seeking some inspiration, as well as amateur wildlife watchers hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful beasts up close.
You won’t be able to resist stopping to watch the bison meander their way through the plains and graze along the horizon!
State Museum of Natural History
Looking for an attraction to pique the interest of your aspiring young naturalists? Try the State Museum of Natural History. Operated by the University of Nebraska, this museum is located on campus at the beautiful Morrill Hall. Though admission is separate, it can easily be combined with a trip to the planetarium located in the same building.
The State Museum of Natural History offers a wide array of exciting permanent exhibits. You’ll roam through the halls with eyes wide open as you explore ancient weapons, massive crystals, and fossils that tell the tale of evolution.
Like most natural history museums, there’s a healthy display of dinosaur skeletons here—which is always a hit with the kids!—but you’ll also witness some more unique paleontological finds like woolly mammoths, giant camels, and prehistoric sharks.
Museum of American Speed
Do you love cars? Be sure to add a visit to the Museum of American Speed to your stopover in Lincoln, NE. Since opening its doors in 1992, this futuristic warehouse-style gallery has amassed a collection of over 150 mint-condition race cars, classics, and luxury vehicles.
Although the car collection is the most popular reason to visit the Museum of American Speed, you’ll find there’s plenty to see & do here that flies under the radar. Stop by to learn about the evolution of car design, browse engine exhibits that’ll take you through the inner workings of racecars, and even peruse car-themed toy and art galleries.
Lincoln Children’s Museum
Let your kiddos blow off some steam and harness their natural curiosity about the world around them at the Lincoln Children’s Museum. Even during summer vacation, there’s no harm in mixing in a little play-based learning; it’ll be so much fun that they won’t even realize that this is an educational attraction!
At the Lincoln Children’s Museum, you’ll play your way through three floors of exhibits curated for every age group and development stage. Watch your kids crawl through the prairie dog tunnels, shop at a tot-sized grocery store, “drive” a police motorcycle, and suit up for a space shuttle launch. Just don’t forget your camera; some precious memories are sure to be made here!
Sheldon Museum of Art
Looking to add some artistic flair to your Lincoln itinerary? The Sheldon Museum of Art provides visitors with a chance to ponder a collection of contemporary art with a modern flare.
With a permanent collection, some 13 000 pieces large, this art museum will entrance you. You’ll have the opportunity to explore abstract, pop, and minimalist pieces, as well as feature exhibitions where you can meet local artists.
Best of all, admission to the Sheldon Museum of Art is free!
Nebraska State Capitol
You simply cannot visit Lincoln without spending an afternoon at the Nebraska State Capitol. Located on K Street, the 400-foot tower is easily visible throughout the city and is one of the top points of interest in Lincoln for tourists.
Even if you’re not terribly interested in the local government systems, it’s still worth taking a complimentary tour of the Nebraska State Capitol building. It’s an excellent place to admire the historic architecture, art, and design of Lincoln. The halls of the building are adorned by mosaic ceilings and floors, bronze statues, and genuine paintings.
Holmes Lake Park
Want to escape the city buzz? Make some time in your itinerary for a waterfront picnic at Holmes Lake Park. Sprawling over 110 acres, this urban nature retreat is anything but ordinary. Head down towards South 70 Street and Pioneers Boulevard, and you’ll be rewarded with green open lawns, twinkling waters, and forested trails.
Holmes Lake Park is a great (and free!) choice for young families. Kids can scale the playground equipment, cast a line and learn to fish, or use the telescopes in the Hyde Observatory to check out the sky come nightfall.
Visiting Lincoln through the winter months? Be sure to pack your skates and go for a whirl on the Holmes Lake Park ice skating rink!
Historic Haymarket District
A visit to the Historic Haymarket District is the best choose-your-own-adventure attraction in Lincoln. This old-timey neighborhood is packed full of historic buildings, fun nightlife, great restaurants, and local shops to explore. (Several are even dog-friendly!)
One of the top sightseeing spots to add to your Historic Haymarket District bucket list is The Railyard. This outdoor space is dedicated to concerts and events known as “yard parties.” Pop by to listen to live music and enjoy street food from local vendors under the night sky.
International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Go see the world’s largest public quilt collection at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum! Comprised of over 4,000 textile works dating back to the 1700s—not to mention originating from over 60 countries—this gallery is sure to knock your socks off.
Want to make your experience a little more hands-on? The International Quilt Study Center & Museum offers a plethora of single-day quilting workshops and demos where you can give this art form a try for yourself. Picking up a new skill is a souvenir that’ll last a lifetime and is definitely worth the investment!
National Museum of Roller Skating
Love weird and wonderful museums? Whether you are a frequent rink rat yourself or just harbor curiosity about this old-school pastime, you’ll adore the National Museum of Roller Skating. Open Tuesday-Friday for the last 42 years, this quirky gallery is dedicated to the sport’s greatest athletes and artifacts.
Self-guided tours of the National Museum of Roller Skating are free. You can even complement your visit with a chance to try roller skating for yourself: The nearest roller rink is under 20 minutes away at the Good Life Skate Center.
Great Plains Art Museum
Need a second art gallery to satisfy your creative spirit? The Great Plains Art Museum is a Lincoln, NE, fan favorite. The museum is located on the University of Nebraska Campus and offers free admission to students and tourists alike.
The Great Plains Art Museum has a permanent collection every Nebraska-bound art lover must see. Featuring 8,200 works across various mediums—especially those originating in the American West—this gallery is a source of endless inspiration.
For an experience that’s totally unique to this gallery, keep an eye out for the Elizabeth Rubendall Foundation artist-in-residence. Each April, a local artist creates a new piece from start to finish in front of museum patrons. The piece is later added to the permanent collection.
When planning your visit, just be sure to remember that the galleries are closed on Saturdays when the football team is playing a home game.
Nebraska History Museum
It almost goes without saying that one of the best places to visit in Lincoln for history buffs is the Nebraska History Museum. Located on Centennial Mall Street, this tiny gem is easily combined with several of Lincoln’s other top museums and attractions.
Largely comprised of rotating, limited-time-only exhibitions, the Nebraska History Museum covers all kinds of local topics, ranging from archeological discoveries to the women’s suffrage movement.
Even if you only have a small gap in your itinerary, a trip to this history museum is one of the best things to do in Lincoln on a time crunch; you can get through the galleries in as little as an hour.
Boiler Brewing Company
Have something to celebrate on your Lincoln vacation? The Boiler Brewing Company is the perfect place to raise a casual toast with your besties. Choose from one of two locations in the city and get ready for a good time. This craft brewery is an attraction and one of the best places to eat in Lincoln, all in one!
Start your visit off with a Boiler Brewing Company tour, and then head to the tap room for your complimentary pint. When the munchies start to hit, be sure to ask for their menu of innovative pub fare and recommended brew pairings. The Ghost Sandwich at the Boiler South location is especially popular.
Deer Springs Winery
Want a more sophisticated (and perhaps romantic) place to have a pour? Head to Deer Springs Winery for a flight of local wines. This farmhouse-style tasting room & vineyard has everything you’re looking for.
Deer Springs Winery may be best known for being experts at winemaking, but they also serve up some pretty good food, so you might want to schedule your visit around meal time. At the very least, be sure to order a board of nibbles like local bread and cheeses to satisfy your cravings.