Family Fun in Lincoln
by Allie Busch
These are some of the many places and things that make Lincoln such a wonderful place to grow up.
Museums & Learning
The Lincoln Children’s Zoo has been a popular destination for Lincoln families for almost half a century. The zoo offers 10 acres of family fun, from animal exhibits to educational activities and interactive play. Kids of all ages can enjoy pony rides, the chance to hand feed goats and llamas, and various camps throughout the year.
Along with hundreds of animals, the zoo has a number of special exhibits, including the Humboldt Penguin Habitat. This 45,000-gallon outdoor pool features a rock island and bridges where 10 adorable penguins swim or waddle the day away. Critter Encounters is another favorite, where kids can actually hold and interact with animals from exhibits, such as guinea pigs, doves, and tenrecs.
A city favorite, the three-story Lincoln Children’s Museum combines education and play, providing fun, hands-on learning for little ones. Traveling exhibits, seasonal events, and special programs like summer camps are offered in addition to permanent exhibits. The museum even helped put Lincoln on the map by hosting an event put on by the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce to break the Guinness World Record for the tallest, and largest Lincoln Logs structure in the world.
Visit www.lincolnchildrensmuseum.org for more information on hours and admission.
Directly across from the Children’s Museum is the Nebraska History Museum, where history from our corner of the world comes to life. Come see artifacts and photos on how Nebraska became a state, as well as exhibits about the native people who lived on this land long before the pioneers. Visit www.nebraskahistory.org/sites/mnh for more information.
If bowling is more your game, try Hollywood Bowl, Madsen’s (www.madsensbowling.com), Parkway Lanes, or Sun Valley Lanes (www.sunvalleylanes.com). Each has a specialty that adds to the fun, like laser bowling, midnight bowling or music and karaoke.
Lincoln is home to the Lincoln Saltdogs and the University of Nebraska baseball, volleyball and softball teams as well as the Lincoln Stars semi-pro hockey and a junior hockey league. Of course, don’t forget the Huskers football team, our local all-time favorite.
However, if you like to get out on the field or court yourself, the YMCA and other private league teams offer organized sports such as football, soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, and basketball throughout the year at the Ethel S. Abbott Sports Complex and Seacrest Field. You can also participate in swimming or track and field leagues, as well as archery. For more information, visit www.ymcalincoln.org.
Lincoln has seven public recreation centers throughout the city with pool tables, game rooms, weight rooms, basketball courts and fitness classes. One of these centers, the Ager Indoor Play Center, is just for children. Located next to the Children’s Zoo, it features a two-story play structure with slides, climbing and ball pits for older kids, and a separate toddler play area. For more information, visit www.ci.lincoln.ca.us and click on “Parks and Recreation.”
Lincoln Parks and Recreation also operates five public golf courses. One in particular, the Ager Junior Golf Course, is especially suited for younger golfers or those just learning the game. If you’re not a serious golfer, check out Adventure Golf for a classic game of miniature golf.
For game-lovers of all ages, Champions Fun Center is a long-time favorite of both kids and adults. Champions boasts 70+ arcade and redemption games, go-karts, open and cosmic bowling, batting cages, miniature golf, water wars, and a heart-stopping four-story free fall ride. The youngest family members will enjoy the adventure challenge, which features a ball pit and a three-story climbing structure. Visit www.championsfuncenter.com for more information.
Lost in Fun is another popular indoor recreation center for birthday parties, or just simply a day of fun. Learn more about their traditional and inflatable play-sets, basketball court, foam pit, laser maze, and video games at www.lostinfun.com.
If you like to spend your days outdoors, Lincoln has a variety of parks to take advantage of when the weather turns nice. Pioneers Park, with several ponds, miles of trails and open green spaces, has been a favorite of Lincolnites for years. Located southwest of the city, it is a great place for picnics, biking, hiking, flying kites and even horseback riding. Its west edge is also home to a Nature Center, where families can see live animal exhibits including elk, deer, and bison and hike through native prairie and wooded landscapes.
At Woods Park, kids can swim or play tennis at the site’s fifteen regulation courts. Some are even enclosed year-round, making them a top-choice for Lincoln tennis buffs.
Once a week, members of Lincoln’s local Society for Creative Anachronism group gather at Woods to practice medieval swordplay and other forms of hand-to-hand combat. Interested in participating? Visit www.magmor.net and get some training!
Antelope Park and its enormous play structure is an obvious favorite of children around the city. The main play structure, with multiple slides and climbing features, caters to older children, while the designated toddler area and amazing sandbox appeals to the younger Lincolnites.
Lincoln’s skaters even have two parks with features just for them—Peter Pan Park and Tierra Park.
If you plan on spending time outdoors this summer, make sure to take a break from the heat in the largest pool in Lincoln, Star City Shores. With a variety of water features, slides, and zero-entry, it’s the perfect place for visitors young and old.
Know a music-loving teen? They can sign up for Academy of Rock, an after-school program held at various middle and high schools and local recreation centers. Even teens who have never played a musical instrument can get involved—no experience necessary! Go to www.academyofrock.org for more information.
Every Tuesday night in June, grab a blanket and some snacks and join the Sheldon Museum of Art on the University of Nebraska campus, where it hosts free Jazz In June concerts. Other free summer concerts, from hip-hop to kitsch, can be found at Antelope Park Band Shell.
Movies and Performances
Pershing Center brings in some fantastic national acts, including those just for kids—like Disney, the Muppets and the Shrine Circus. See www.pershingcenter.com.
The Ralph Mueller Planetarium, located inside the University of Nebraska State Museum, combines classic rock and modern pop music with spectacular laser light shows. Come back another afternoon or evening to explore the universe via one of the astronomy shows. For details, visit www.spacelaser.com.
Catching a movie is always a good time, and Lincoln has plenty of screens to offer. Independent, foreign and other non-Hollywood flicks are screened at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center (www.theross.org).
The 14-screen Grand Theatre, SouthPointe, Edgewood, and East Park theatres offer state-of-the-art viewing of newly released movies. See the current listing at www.marcustheatres.com/Theatre.
Marcus Theatres also has a summer movie series called Kids Rule at their Lincoln Grand and SouthPointe theatres. In the summer, special family movies are shown on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. This series has discounted prices that include popcorn with admission. Visit www.marcustheatres.com.
The Joyo Theatre is an old-fashioned theatre that is enjoying a second life as a place for second-run movies, cult films and movies for kids. The Joyo’s schedule can be found in the Lincoln Journal Star or on its Facebook page.
The Lied Center for Performing Arts brings in performing artists from around the world to its 2200-seat auditorium.
The majority of its shows are appropriate for older children who are able to tolerate a longer performance; however, the FamFest series was specifically created for kids. With shows in a one-hour format, this is a great way to introduce children to live performances. All Lied performances are listed at www.liedcenter.org.
The Lincoln Community Playhouse also programs a variety of family performances in its TAFY (Theatre Arts for Youth) series. They also offer many classes for youth interested in learning more about acting and other theatre-related skills. Visit www.lincolnplayhouse.com.