Exploring Lincoln’s Outdoors

Visit something new, swing and slide, enjoy a picnic, take a dive, sink your putt, smell the roses, take a walk, explore a rare ecosystem: all of these activities can be found in Lincoln’s 125 parks, 6,000 acres worth!

Pioneers Park Nature Center, South Coddington and West Van Dorn, hosts four gardens at its heart: the Louise Evans Doole Herb Garden with more than 150 kinds of herbs, the Irene and George Alexander Bird Garden, a perfect place to watch feathered visitors, the Prairie Legacy Garden, and a Children’s Garden.

The Nature Center is also a great place to immerse yourself in a rare ecosystem: the tallgrass prairie. Once covering large swaths of the central U.S., only about 2 percent of it remains. The center also has two interpretive buildings, small bison, elk and deer herds and non-releaseable raptors.

Lincoln also has several saline wetlands along its northern fringe. The Frank Shoemaker Marsh is just one of these wetlands and provides valuable waterfowl and shorebird habitat. Spring is a great time to visit its trails and handicapped accessible pier.

Lincoln’s larger parks: Pioneers, Holmes and Mahoney, are wonderful places to fly a kite, enjoy a picnic, or cross-country ski. Holmes Lake is one of three Lincoln lakes open for non-motorized boating; the others are Bowling Green and Oak Lake. Holmes Lake Park is also the site of Hyde Memorial Observatory. Free and open each Saturday evening, Hyde’s volunteers are eager to share the glories of the night sky with visitors.

Looking for a place to play tennis? A skate park? A fenced dog park? A ‘wild’ park? Lincoln’s park system includes all of these and more. Visit parks.lincoln.ne.gov for more information and park locations. Explore Lincoln’s outdoors—and enjoy!

Union Plaza, the new six-acre urban park north of ‘O’ Street between 21st and 22nd Streets, is a grand place to visit with its water features, outdoor seating, public art, and Children’s Discovery Garden. The Jayne Snyder Trails Center in the plaza forms the hub of Lincoln’s extensive trail system. Its 128 miles of trails beckon hikers and bikers to all corners of the city. A smaller urban park, Lincoln Civic Plaza, at 13th and P Streets, will open in 2013 and feature a lighted glass spire by artist Jun Kaneko.

If you have little ones that need a place to run, climb and swing, you can find playgrounds in 78 parks across the city. When the weather is not cooperative, the Ager Indoor Play Center at 1300 South 27th is a great place for youngsters to work off some of that energy!

As temperatures rise, a swim or splash might be just what is needed. Lincoln has six public pools, three aquatic centers and two spraygrounds. The sprayground in Trago Park, 22nd and U Streets, is free and open from Memorial to Labor Day. Lincoln boasts five city golf courses, from tree-lined fairways or a links-style course to a site perfect for those just learning to play the game. The Holmes Golf Course will have a new clubhouse in 2013.

Lincoln’s public gardens are a perfect place to enjoy colors and wonderful scents as well as learn a thing or two about new plants you might enjoy. The area at 27th and Capitol Parkway is the location of the Sunken Gardens, a formal garden with a fountain, pools and washes of color. Just across the street, the Hamann Rose Garden and Rotary Strolling Garden delight the senses.

By Becky Seth

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