9 FREE Things to do in Lincoln, Nebraska
1. Antelope Park is a particularly beautiful park offering extensive facilities, including Rose Gardens, fountains, statues, Lincoln Children’s Zoo, a recreation center, a play center, trails system, tennis courts and several playground areas and is accessible for all children (note: several venues, including the zoo, rec center and play center are not free). Take a walking tour of over twenty one military monuments, honoring Nebraska’s sacrifices through many wars. This park appears to be several parks as it is bisected by many streets.
2. The 90 year history of the Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum is on display throughout the world’s first tractor testing laboratory built in 1919. This restored historic building honors former tractor testing engineer Lester Larsen. Open Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
3. The Nebraska History Museum features Native American cultures of the Great Plains, along with lives of pioneer settlers. Kids can participate in hands-on learning in the Investigation Station from 1-4 p.m. each day. Exhibits allow them to investigate historic artifacts and pretend they are members of the Lewis and Clark expedition. There is a suggested donation of $2. The museum is open Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m. Closed on all state holidays.
4. Pioneers Park & Nature Center is an 1,100-acre park that includes public art, an outdoor amphitheater, picnic areas, hiking/biking trails, ponds, a sled run and a golf course. At the southwest corner of Pioneers Park stands a 668-acre Nature Center with eight miles of walking trails that meander along ponds, through tallgrass prairie, woodlands and wetlands, and across a stream. A herd of bison, elk and deer, wild turkey, hawks and owls are exhibited in their natural Nebraska habitat along the Nature Center trails. The center is open Monday-Saturday 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays from noon-5 p.m.
5. Take a walk through the Historic Haymarket and experience the people, smells and artwork that fill the vibrant area. It reflects Lincoln’s early beginnings; in its heyday it was a wholesale and retail center. Today, it is a fine dining, shopping and entertainment district.
6. The Nebraska State Capitol is one of four skyscraper capitols in the nation, the interior of this jewel details Nebraska’s illustrious history, and is home to the only non-partisan, one-house state legislature in the nation. Elaborate mosaics detail Nebraska’s pioneer spirit, culture and history. Tours are available on the hour (except at noon).
7. The Sheldon Museum of Art is a great place to begin your visit to Lincoln’s impressive displays of the arts. Housing a comprehensive collection of contemporary American art, this beautiful gallery features notable artists including Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Mark Rothko, and Robert Motherwell. The campus-wide sculpture garden contains more than 30 pieces by key American artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Closed Mondays.
8. Sunken Gardens at South 27th Street and Capitol Parkway, is a beautiful terraced garden featuring thousands of annuals, reflecting ponds, waterfall, paved pathways with donated engraved concrete pavers that memorialize special people and events, restrooms and an ornate gazebo. ADA accessible.
9. The National Museum of Roller Skating, open weekdays only, is devoted to wheeled fun, from recreational skating to roller derby and inline skating. There are displays of skates and costumes and videos of competitions.