8 Fun Things to Do in Lincoln, Nebraska

Downtown Lincoln, Nebraska
Downtown Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln, Nebraska may not be a hot destination like Miami or Chicago, but it can be a fun little town if you know where to go. For those in Lincoln on business, passing through Nebraska on a roadtrip, or scouting out the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a potential college, I’ve put together this little city guide to show you the best things to check out in the capital of the Cornhusker State. 

The little city of about 280,000 has grown quite a bit in the past several years, and the university attracts students and faculty from all over the world. While the winters can be brutal, springs are simply heavenly. While people may joke about the so-called “Flyover States,” Lincoln can be a fun weekend getaway.

In full disclosure: the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is my alma mater. Go Big Red!

1. Memorial Stadium

Memorial Stadium, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Memorial Stadium, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

If you want to understand Nebraska, you’ve got to understand football. The Nebraska Huskers college football team were perennial contenders in the ’70s and ’90s, winning five national championships in ’70, ’71, ’94, ’95, and ’97. The last three were under the leadership of Coach Tom Osborne (a cool guy; I got the chance to meet him when I was a student there). 

While the Huskers haven’t quite recaptured the magic of the Osborne years, Husker Nation is still one of the very strongest college footbal traditions in the entire country. And the epicenter of that fervor is Memorial Stadium.

Memorial Stadium, originally built in 1923 but expanded in 2013, can accommodate over 85,000 people (although several games have exceeded 91,000); at full capacity, Memorial Stadium becomes the third-largest “city” in the state of Nebraska. There is a joke in there about Nebraska’s rural nature but it also speaks to the dedication Nebraskans have to the school and the sport. These mass gatherings of tens of thousands of fans, all decked out in scarlet, have earned the nickname “The Sea of Red.”

I would recommend a stroll around the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus while you’re there, which has been beautified greatly in recent years. 

Mueller Carillon viewed through one of the many works of art on University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus
Mueller Carillon viewed through one of the many works of art on University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus

2. Haymarket

The Haymarket is a historic area in downtown Lincoln that has been used to trade–are you sitting down?–hay since 1867.

Today you can find a number of good restaurants and breweries in the Haymarket, including Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill. Indigo Bridge Books & Coffee and Ivanna Cone are other popular hangouts.

Every Sunday there is also a large farmer’s market that sets up shop on the Haymarket’s historic brick streets. 

During my last year at the University of Nebraska they started to heavily develop this area, and it’s become a nice nightlife and entertainment hotspot. This is where you’ll find some nice rooftop bars as well as the new Pinnacle Bank Arena. 

3. State Capitol

Nebraska State Capitol Building
Nebraska State Capitol Building

The gorgeous Nebraska State Capitol Building is the second-tallest in the United States, standing at 400 feet tall (only Louisianna’s is taller). Completed in 1932, it was the first state capitol building to include a functional tower. It is the most recognizable landmark in Lincoln, if not all of Nebraska.

Walking into the capitol building, you can see beautiful murals depicting agrarian life (we’re in the Great Plains, after all!) and famous people from Nebraska. Elevators can take you up 245 feet to the observation deck where you can get a good view of Lincoln.

4. Sunken Gardens

Sunken Gardens, Lincoln, Nebraska
Sunken Gardens, Lincoln, Nebraska

The Nebraska Sunken Gardens are a vibrant place to take in, also located conveniently close to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo and the MoPac Trail. Go during the spring and summer for the most beautiful blossoms.

5. Enjoy the Outdoors

One of my favorite trails back when I was a college student was the Mopac Trail

Some of the various parks in Lincoln include Pioneer Park, Wilderness Park, and Holmes Lake & Park.

Antelope Park runs along a creek that runs right by UNL campus. 

MoPac Trail, Lincoln, Nebraska
MoPac Trail, Lincoln, Nebraska

6. Nightlife

College Crowd

Lincoln IS a college town, make no mistake. So a lot of the nightlife is saturated by the early-20s crowd, particularly along O Street. If you fall into this category, you can enjoy bars like: 

  • Sandy’s (get their fish bowls)
  • Barry’s (try one of their 40 different whiskey sours)
  • Brothers Bar & Grill (check for their cheap wing nights)

Young Professional Crowd

But if that crowd ain’t really your thing anymore or you want a more chill or “swanky” vibe, check these out:

  • The Starlite Lounge
  • Jake’s Cigars and Spirits 
  • The Zoo Bar
  • Rule G Nightclub (awesome dance club BUT their dress code, which I’m assuming is meant to weed out douchebags, can be douchebaggish in and of itself) 

7. Museums

Nebraska History Museum

For just $5 you can get into the Nebraska History Museum, showcasing all about the Cornhusker State. Current exhibits include “Piecing Together the Past: Exploring 13,000 Years of History with Nebraska’s Archaeologists,” “Votes for Women: Nebraska’s Suffrage History,” and “Photographers and the Plains Indians.”

Sheldon Museum of Art

The Sheldon Museum of Art is a medium-sized art museum on UNL Campus. Built in 1963, it focuses mostly on 19th- and 20th-century art. Entrance is free. 

8. Food (that isn't just corn)

I don’t usually include chain restaurants when doing a city guide, but I will if they’re locally unique. For example, if you’re ever on a road trip through Nebraska, you should hit up Runza. Runza’s are fast food joints that sell your usual burgers, chicken, and fries, but their specialty item is THE Runza, a sandwich of Germanic origin made of chopped beef, cabbage, and sauerkraut. It’s actually quite good, and I don’t even like sauerkraut. 

Other good eats include:

Conclusion

That should be enough to get you started on your visit to Lincoln, Nebraska! It’s really more fun that most people give it credit for, and I look forward to going back sometime soon. 

If you have anything to add to this list, as always, please free to say so in the comments section below. I would also appreciate a Share, Like, Tweet, and Pin!

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