Visiting the United States? There are 50 states in all.
Nebraska, a Midwestern state that played a large role in westward migration during the 1800s, is known for its prairies and pioneer trails. But Nebraska’s topography includes sand dunes and towering cliffs as well, and the state’s attractions are just as diverse.
Omaha, the largest city in Nebraska, has a strong theater tradition — the Omaha Community Playhouse, founded in 1924, is where actors Henry Fonda and Marlon Brando got their starts. Omaha has a symphony orchestra, plus ballet, opera and modern-dance companies.
In August, the city hosts the annual Omaha Blues, Jazz & Gospel Festival. Love museums? See Omaha’s El Museo Latino, celebrating the culture of Latin America, or the Joslyn Art Museum, featuring collections of American Indian art.
Nebraska’s capital city, Lincoln, is home to the Flatwater Shakespeare Company, the Haymarket Theater and the Lied Center for the Performing Arts. And towns across the state have museums with hands-on exhibits about pioneer life.
Enjoy spectacular scenery at Scotts Bluff National Monument, a western Nebraska landmark that guided 19th-century pioneers headed west on the California, Oregon and Mormon Trails. Higher elevations are accessible by tunnels and walking paths, so choose your preferred spot for panoramic views.
Nearby, there’s Chimney Rock National Historic Site, an iconic rock formation that points to the sky. The area hasn’t changed much since pioneers first saw it from their wagon trains. For an even more surreal experience, visit northwestern Nebraska’s Toadstool Geologic Park, which resembles a lunar landscape.
Poetry in motion
Each year during March and early April, you can witness one of the wonders of the natural world: some 500,000 sandhill cranes gathering along Nebraska’s Platte River for their annual northward migration. Observe this phenomenon at an Audubon Center sanctuary or from the old railroad bridge at Fort Kearny State Park.
Going back in time
Step into the prehistoric past at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park in northeastern Nebraska. Named for the cloud of volcanic ash that killed the resident wildlife 12 million years ago, the park offers a snapshot of the middle Miocene geologic epoch. Fossils of ancestral rhinos, horses, camels and birds are on display, and visitors can interact with paleontologists.
Omaha’s most family-friendly destination has to be the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, where open-air chairlifts transport you from one exhibit to the next. The zoo, which includes 1,225 species, features the world’s largest indoor desert, the largest indoor jungle, the largest nocturnal exhibit and an IMAX 3D theater.
Art … or junk?
No visit to Nebraska would be complete without a pilgrimage to Carhenge, a replica of England’s Stonehenge created from old cars in place of natural rocks. The quirky site, near the town of Alliance, showcases other car-themed sculptures.