Lincoln Nebraska is the second largest city in the state. It boasts an emerging food and arts scene and enough free things to do with kids to fill a weekend with family fun. This city is packed with opportunities for outdoor adventures and enjoyable learning experiences. From rose gardens to roaming buffalo to tractor testing to roller skating history, chances are you’ll find something the whole family will enjoy.
Take a Walk through Antelope Park
Much like Central Park in New York City, Antelope Park provides Lincoln locals and tourists a break from the concrete world. The park is large and can appear to separate into two because of the streets which intersect it. Located in Southeast Lincoln, this offers extensive visitor facilities.
These facilities include the rose gardens, fountains, statues, walking trails, tennis courts and several playground areas, all surrounded by native greenery and seasonal plants.
Antelope Park also features the Veterans Memorial Garden, where visitors can take a walking tour of more than 20 military monuments honoring Nebraska’s sacrifices through many wars.
Meet some Buffalo Pioneers Park & Nature Center
With 668 acres of tall-grass prairie, woodlands, wetlands and a stream, this nature preserve was established in 1963 to preserve the natural landscapes and species of the Great Plains.
The center is now dedicated to the education of its visitors, providing outdoor experiences as well as hands-on indoor learning experiences for children. Two buildings on the property house hands-on and small animal exhibits.
There are also some big animals at Pioneers Park. There are eight miles of hiking trails through various habitats, which are home to wildlife such as bison, white-tail deer, and elk, as well as other facilities are accessible year-round.
The center is open Monday-Saturday 8:30 a.m. to- 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to-5 p.m.
Get to Know the Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum
Tractor testing became a way for engineers to develop safer and more advanced tractor technology in 1919, when the Nebraska State Legislature established Tractor Law.
Today you can visit where it all began in Northeast Lincoln on the University of Nebraska- Lincoln’s east campus. Featuring many of the tractors that were once tested at the facility. The museum offers tours of the exhibits with admission, these tours can be requested and scheduled on the museum website.
Open Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Look Inside the Nebraska State Capitol
One of four skyscraper capitols in the nation, the interior of this building details Nebraska’s illustrious history. Construction for the home to the only non-partisan, one-house state legislature in the nation began in 1922 and was completed in 1932.
The total cost of the building was just under $10 million, but you and your family can tour this architectural wonder for free.
Elaborate mosaics detail Nebraska’s pioneer spirit, culture and history. All of its rooms are thematically decorated and in pristine condition.
The building’s main attraction, the central room of the 14th Floor Observation Level, otherwise known as the Memorial Chamber, pays tribute to the “common man.” It has eight murals representing the unsung heroes of Nebraska’s history. These murals were added to the chamber in 1996 and complement the black-marble dome, which represents the night sky.
The building is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Holidays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1 p.m. to- 5 p.m. Tours are available every hour on the hour, with the exception of noon.
Brush up on history at the Nebraska History Museum
After going through a year-long renovation, the Nebraska History Museum has opened its doors once again, ready to continue honoring its mission statement, “collect, preserve, and open to all, the histories we share.”
This 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 p.m. to- 4 p.m. every day.
Exhibits allow children to investigate historic artifacts and pretend they are members of the Lewis and Clark expedition, among other things.
The museum is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1 p.m. to-4:30 p.m.
See the Sights and Sniff the Smells of the Historic Haymarket
Since 1985, Lincoln’s Historic Haymarket has allowed patrons to experience the food, culture, and people of Lincoln. In its early days it was a wholesale and retail center; today, it reflects Lincoln’s early beginnings with some modern-day twists.
This market is much more than a farmer’s market. It features locally created art, furniture, jewelry, music and many other valuables. You can shop, be entertained and sample some local food specialties.
The Historic Haymarket is open from May through October and runs from 8 a.m. until noon, rain or shine.
Get Cultured at the Sheldon Museum of Art
Located in West Lincoln, on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Sheldon Museum of Art, founded in 1888, is a great place to begin your visit to Lincoln.
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.
The museum offers tours and special events depending on the dates of your visit. Information about the events can be found on the museum website.
This art museum has some abstract hours to match its abstract and contemporary art. Open Tuesdays 10 a.m. to- 8 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to- 5 p.m., and Sundays noon to 5 p.m.
Stop and Smell the flowers at the Sunken Gardens
The Sunken Gardens at South 27th Street and Capitol Parkway, is a beautiful terraced garden featuring thousands of annuals, several reflecting ponds, a waterfall, paved pathways with donated engraved concrete pavers that memorialize special people and events, and an ornate gazebo.
Every year the garden features a display of more than 30,000 annual plants redesigned to a different theme each year. The Sunken Gardens are not simply one garden with sporadic floral arrangements but in fact several gardens, which are planned and arranged meticulously.
Here are three of the Sunken Gardens’ visitor favorites:
The Healing Garden is located in the upper level on the west side of the Sunken Gardens. It is a garden meant for meditation and reflection, inspired by the White Garden at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, England. This garden features mostly white blossoms and visitors are encouraged to visit them during moonlit summer nights.
The Perennial Garden is located in the upper level on the north side and is a shady oasis for those flowers that thrive in the shade. At this garden visitors can find varieties of shade-loving plants such as hostas, viburnum and hydrangeas.
The Annual Garden is the Sunken Gardens’ pride and joy. Thousands of annual plants are put into place by volunteers and follow a theme each year. Some of the past themes have been elaborate, such as Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” “Power of the Peacock,” “Purple Haze” and “Solar Flair.”
The Sunken Gardens are open daily from 6 a.m. to- 11 p.m.
Get Inspired at the National Museum of Roller Skating
The small and humble National Museum of Roller Skating 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, which make this a perfect rainy-day attraction. It also contains the world’s largest collection of historical roller skates, dating to 1819.
The hours of operation of the museum are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to- 5 p.m.
This post was updated by Alexandra Olsen, a college student intern for TravelingMom.com, in April 2016. Her love of travel began at a very young age–traveling with her family to little beach towns growing up in Brazil. She has her own personal travel blog, Trail Mix, which she started while spending a summer studying abroad in Norway.