There are lots of cool things to do in Lincoln, Nebraska, not only a great Midwestern college town, but also the state capitol. Lincoln has a thriving downtown area known as Haymarket Square, world-class museums, a nice selection of high-quality restaurants, and impressive attractions. Here are 9 cool things to do in Lincoln, Nebraska, on your travels—a city that was so abuzz with energy and fun.
1. Drink Great Beer
Lincoln has several noteworthy brew choices, but for me, Kinkaider Brewing is my top pick and the one that made a beer drinker out of me. Choose one of their Nebraska made craft brews like Nut Crusher, Hiram’s Bones (Peanut Butter Cup Porter), or Date Mike Cherry Stem Sour. Better yet, try a flight and sample some of their best-selling or seasonal beers.
2. Visit the Nebraska State Capitol
You can see the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln, with its picturesque domed tower from nearly anywhere in town. This is where the executive and judicial offices are, as well as the only unicameral (one chamber or house) state legislature in the country.
The 400-foot gold-tiled dome and tower stands proud in the heart of Lincoln. Its finial on top, The Sower, represents agriculture, something the state is well-known for. Nebraska’s State Capitol was named a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
3. See Adorable Animals
A darling place to take the whole family is the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. Be sure to purchase a ticket for the train and carousel, which will be big hits with the little ones. Animals you can expect to find here are tigers, giraffe, elephants, and meerkats, plus others. There are several interactive exhibits and up close and personal adventures to have here.
4. Stroll Beautiful Gardens
Sunken Gardens, built in 1930, may be one of the best free gardens in the Midwest. Here you will find strolling paths of themed gardens, lily ponds, trees, and vibrant blooms. I love that the blooms are labeled and learned quite a few new plants on my visit. A fountain and gazebo add a bit of zen to the fabulous garden. Sunken Gardens made National Geographic‘s “300 Best Gardens to Visit in the United States and Canada” publication.
5. Hang Out at Haymarket District
Located in the heart of Lincoln, Nebraska, is the ultra hip historic Haymarket District. This is the place to go, be seen, and have a grand time on your visit to Lincoln. From colorful art alleys to outdoor patio dining, you’ll find an arsenal of coolness in this area. Haymarket is steps away from UNL (University Nebraska-Lincoln) and its Cornhuskers.
The Haymarket District is named for the original market of 1867 where travelers came to buy camping gear, wagons, and, of course, hay. Be sure to check out the 3-D mural, “Iron Horse Legacy,” depicting Number 710, the first train to arrive in Lincoln, Nebraska. The restored steam engine (great for photo ops) represents that train.
6. Eat Yummy Indian Food
Situated on the corner of Art Alley is Ivanna Cone, serving premium handmade ice cream cones and treats in an old-time sodashop. Try one of the unique flavors like lemongrass ginger or carrot cake. On Friday through Sunday nights (5 to 9 PM), order from the walk-up window in the alley.
If you are a fan of Indian food, The Oven offers a really good Chicken Tikka Masala and garlic naan. Blue Sushi Sake Grill satisfies sushi and sashimi cravings, while HopCat Lincoln has the best happy hour with discounted prices on food and drinks.
7. Quench Your Thirst
You’ll find great drink options around Lincoln, from stellar cold-brew and lattes to fine wines, abundant in many of the high-end restaurants and namely Carmelo’s Bistro & Wine Bar. Or, skip straight to the drink menus, including Duffy’s Tavern well-known fishbowls, The Single Barrel’s impressive bourbon and whiskey collection, or Barrymore’s signature martinis or Moscow Mules.
The Mill Coffee and Tea is an excellent place to enjoy your favorite fresh-roasted coffee drink, espresso, iced tea, or Italian soda. The Mill also serves a great breakfast (quiche include), pastries, and a limited item lunch. They also offer outdoor seating on a covered patio.
8. Stay In A Cool Hotel
If you are familiar with the Graduate Hotel chain, you’ll be glad to know Lincoln, Nebraska has one, and in walking distance to the Haymarket District. If you aren’t familiar with the hotels, you are going to fall in love. These cool hotels pay homage to the college-themed mascots and memorabilia associated with the local town it is in. The Graduate Lincoln one sits in the midst of America’s Heartland.
You’ll find 80s-style arcade games in the lobby, school insignia and collectibles at the Graduate Lincoln, as well as a huge TV guide with Johnny Carson’s picture beside the famous and colorful Tonight Show curtain behind the reception desk. A 24-hour fitness center and indoor pool are also features of the pet-friendly Graduate Hotel, but the pool was closed due to COVID on my visit.
I stayed in the Stadium View Queen-Queen room, which sleeps 2 to 4 people. A lounge bench and work desk lined one wall and two super comfy beds with triple-sheeting and a nostalgic TV stand stood on the other. A roller skate lamp, giving a nod to the National Roller Skating Museum in Lincoln, was my favorite unique piece in the there. Hotel rooms also offer corn-patterned drapes and wallpaper, high-end Malin + Goetz toiletries, a beverage chiller, and free Wifi.
9. Browse A World-Class Museum
When you first see the International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, you immediately know it is going to hold lots of treasures, and indeed it does. Quilts from around the world, with embellishments and intricate handwork that will shock you, adorn the walls of this state-of-the-art facility. You don’t have to be a quilter to appreciate and revel in the craftsmanship and talent of the artists who have created them.
Lincoln Photo Gallery
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