Star City Attractions
Whether you are a visitor or a resident, Lincoln offers some unique attractions that educate, entertain—and inspire some unexpected oohs and ahs.
University of Nebraska State Museum at Morrill Hall
One of the region’s top natural history museums, the University of Nebraska State Museum, is located on the UNL campus in Morrill Hall. This museum has many interactive exhibits that are just as fun as they are educational. The museum’s famous Elephant Hall gallery contains the world’s premier collection of preserved mammoth, mastodon and four-tusker skeletons along with stunning murals by Mark Marcuson.
Other features include Tree of Life, an interactive exhibit about earth’s evolutionary relationships and the Hall of Nebraska Wildlife, a gallery of 16 dioramas and interactive exhibits. Besides these and other permanent exhibits, bring the family to enjoy Sunday with a Scientist – a different topic is scheduled for the third Sunday of each month. On any weekend, the Mueller Planetarium’s multimedia shows make use of an immersive fulldome projection system that offers 360-degree views. Visit www.museum.unl.edu.
Mueller Planetarium is also at the University of Nebraska State Museum, and though small, is a lot of fun and worth the visit. You can enjoy full dome, digital shows as you immerse yourself in high-tech adventures in a 360-degree space. The Planetarium was the seventh location in the world to adopt the Space Telescope Science Institute’s “ViewSpace” outreach program. As a direct computer link with STScI, the Planetarium was a pioneer in trial testing “ViewSpace” programing and its content.
Hyde Memorial Observatory
Located at Holmes Park in South Lincoln, it is, as far as we know, the only observatory anywhere that is: built, furnished and operated entirely by donations, devoted exclusively to public viewing, completely free of admission charge, and staffed only by volunteers. Hyde is open every Saturday evening, year round from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Featuring views of the night skies through three telescopes and Astronomy Presentations every Saturday Night! Admission is free.
Constructed between 1922 and 1932 at the frugal price of $10 million, the State Capitol, designed by Bertram Goodhue, is described by architects and historians as the nation’s first truly vernacular state capitol. This tower of the plains was the first to break the federal-style mold and include symbolic motifs in every facet of the building. The building’s majestic 400-foot domed tower can be seen from miles away. Get more information at www.capitol.org and read more about it on page 69.
Directly across the street, the beautiful Governor’s Residence is more than just home to the Governor. The classic architectural brick building offers enjoyable guided tours. One of its main features is the doll collection replicating Nebraska’s First Ladies in their inaugural gowns. Call 471-3466 for more information. Try the virtual tour at www.governorsresidence.ne.gov.
Nebraska History Museum
The stories of all the Plains people – Native Americans and explorers, fur-traders and homesteaders, farmers and patriots – can be experienced at the Nebraska History Museum, located at 15th and P Streets. The museum also has an “Investigation Station,” where visitors can explore Nebraska’s past by examining historical documents, photographs, artifacts and the wisdom of elders. The four permanent stations include a Native American tipi, a 1/4th scale prairie schooner, a Build-a-Town table and a 1920s auto-touring campsite. Past exhibits have included “Quilting for a Cause,” about Nebraska’s fundraising quilts, “Pioneering Aviators from Flyover Country” and “Nebraska Cowboys: Lives, Legends & Legacies,” an exhibit on the first 10,000 years of Native American life on the Plains. Admission is free. Learn more at www.nebraskahistory.org/sites/mnh/index.htm.
The Kennard House
A stately mansion at the corner of 17th and H Streets, the Kennard House is the oldest surviving building in the city. Home of Nebraska’s first Secretary of State, it has period furniture and mementos that offer an interesting perspective on Nebraska’s history. Open by appointment only. Visit www.nebraskahistory.org/sites/kennard/index.htm for details.
Museum of American Speed
Founded in 1992 by “Speedy” Bill and Joyce Smith, the Smith Collection Museum of American Speed is dedicated to preserving, interpreting and displaying physical items significant in racing and automotive history. Automobile Magazine says, “Here in the heartland of the United States is the very best racing museum in the country. The museum currently encompasses more than 135,000 sq. ft. in over three levels. The amazing and unusual collection results from the Smiths’ personal involvement in racing and hot rodding for more than six decades. You can visit the museum on Monday through Friday (May through September) at 2:00 p.m. for a guided tour of this incredible collection of historic automotive artifacts. .
William Jennings Bryan’s Home: Fairview
Another historical home worth visiting is Fairview on the Bryan East Campus. This was the stately home of William Jennings Bryan, former congressman and three-time Democratic candidate for president. Bryan also served as prosecuting attorney for the Scopes ‘Monkey’ trial, which he won just days before his death. Call 483-8303 for tour information.
Frank H. Woods Telephone Historical Museum
The Frank H. Woods Telephone Historical Museum offers an impressive display of vintage phones and equipment that predate the 20th century. The exhibit communicates the colorful beginnings of what would grow to become one of the largest independent telephone companies in the country (Lincoln Telephone Co.). Located at 2047 M St., the museum is open Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. with guided tours available. Call 402.436.4640 for more information.
American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Museum
The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Museum commemorates the local population of Germans who immigrated to Lincoln from Russia during the 19th century. As international headquarters, the museum includes a library, archives and special displays. Numerous buildings within the city block area are a part of the exhibit, including two houses that are furnished as common homes of early 1900s. Visit www.ahsgr.org for more information.
National Museum of Roller Skating
Featured in Smithsonian magazine, the National Museum of Roller Skating houses the largest collection of roller skates and roller skating memorabilia in the world, including a gas-powered skate. Interactive exhibits include “How to Build a Roller Skate” and “Evolution of the Wheel.” For more information, visit www.rollerskatingmuseum.com.
Lester Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum
Agriculture buffs won’t want to pass up a visit to the Lester Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum on UNL’s East Campus. This museum features restored classic tractors plus hand tools dating back to the 1700s (as well as a rescued cat appropriately named Allis Chalmers). The museum also displays the development of food production. Tours of the test lab are available—which exists because a 1920 Nebraska law states that no tractor can be sold in the state without first being tested. More than 2,000 tractors have been tested here since then. Visit tractormuseum.unl.edu for details.
Lincoln Children’s Zoo
The perfect museum for the younger set, this zoo features reindeers, lemurs, penguins and other animals. Kids love the pony rides, outdoor café with its trash-eating lion, and the ZO&O Railroad. Get details at www.lincolnchildrenszoo.org and read more on page 33.
Lincoln Children’s Museum
Frequently lauded as one of the best children’s museums in the Midwest, the Lincoln Children’s Museum gives kids tons of hands-on experiences. Call 477-4000 or visit www.lincolnchildrensmuseum.org or read more on page 33.
Lincoln has a number of impressive art galleries and is home to the International Quilt Study Center. Go to http://www.quiltstudy.org or check our art gallery story on page 102 for more information.