Star Attractions in the Star City
Lincoln boasts a variety of attractions to keep you entertained, and you may even learn a few things, too.
University of Nebraska State Museum – Morrill Hall
One of the region’s top natural history museums, the University of Nebraska State Museum, is situated 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.
Other interesting exhibits include Explore Evolution, which looks at current evolutionary science and the Hall of Nebraska Wildlife, a gallery of 16 dioramas in interactive exhibits. Besides these and other permanent exhibits, bring the family to enjoy Sundays with a Scientist – a different topic is scheduled for third Sunday of each month. On any weekend, the Mueller Planetarium’s multimedia shows make use of an immersive full-dome
projection system that offers 360-degree views. Visit www.museum.unl.edu.
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. The “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.
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.
The Sunken Gardens feature an annual floral display of more than 30,000 individual plants and was the only Nebraska garden listed in the National Geographic Guide of Public Gardens guide to the 300 best gardens to visit in the United States. The 1.5 acre lot, first developed in 1930, features a Healing Garden, Perennial Garden and Annual Garden. Visitors can wander through the tulips in the spring, watch the annuals bloom in the summer and enjoy the trees and shrubs in the winter, making it a beautiful yearlong attraction.
Nebraska History Museum
The stories of the Plains people – Native Americans and explorers, fur-traders and homesteaders, farmers and patriots – can be all experienced at the Nebraska State Historical Society, located at 15th and P Streets. The museum also has an “Investigation Station,” where visitors can investigate Nebraska’s past by examining historic 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 “The First Nebraskans,” 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.
Sheldon Museum of Art
The Sheldon, located at 12th and R Streets, houses more than 12,000 works of art in all media. The exhibition program comprises 20 exhibitions per year, and the museum also organizes exhibits from its permanent collection. Outside, visitors can see more than 30 sculptures in the Sculpture Garden. The Sheldon also features education programs including symposia, lectures and children’s workshops. For information on hours, exhibitions and programs, go to www.sheldonartmuseum.org/.
William Jennings Bryan’s Home: Fairview
Another historical home worth visiting is Fairview on the Bryan LGH 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.). Visit www.woodstelephonepioneers.org for tour information.
American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Museum
The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia Museum commemorates the local populations 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.
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. Interactive exhibits include “How the 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 hand tools from the 1700s to the latest modern tractors used by farmers today (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. 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.
Lincoln Children’s Museum
Frequently lauded as one of the best children’s museums in the Midwest and Plains, the Lincoln Children’s Museum gives kids tons of hands-on experiences. Call 477-4000 or visit www.lincolnchildrensmuseum.org.