Lincoln Nightlife

A visionary mayor, ultramodern arena, born again Haymarket, expanding university and enduring appeal of time-honored venues are together writing a new chapter in Lincoln’s nightlife. In just the past two years, the Haymarket alone has added 21 establishments. To make the most of Lincoln’s growing network of restaurants, shops, bars and hotspots, I’ve assembled a self-paced, weekend walking tour through craft breweries, sculpture gardens, pedestrian malls, gastronomic high points and bass-thumping
nightspots. Ready? On to our first step.  

6 p.m. Raise golden suds at Ploughshare Brewing Co. (1630 P Street). This rustic, TV-less brewery crafts some of the region’s finest microbrews. Fridays and Saturdays at 6 p.m., beer savant and Ploughshare owner Matt Stinchfield gives 45-minute tours ($5.50) that include a custom pint glass, beer of your choice, history of Nebraska craft beers and a view of the fermentation tanks and malt mills in action. Want to feel like a bulldozing fullback? Try the Percheron IPA, a cinder block of a draw. On the thoroughbred side, the Helga Honey Wheat is a smooth-gliding lighter ale. Post tour, grab a cushioned stool on the south side to ‘people watch’ and admire the Nebraska State Capitol’s golden dome. With your custom glass in hand, head out. On to the next stop.

7:00 p.m. From Ploughshare, walk west along P Street. Cross Centennial Mall and take a peek at its multi-million dollar renovation. In short time, Centennial Mall from P to R Streets will feature a kinetic water fountain, art alcove and amphitheatre-style seating. Continue on P until 10th Street, hang a left, enter the Grand Manse building and look for the door to Blue Orchid Thai Restaurant (129 North 10th). Since the mid-2000s, Blue Orchid has been venting fragrant curries and cool cocktails with a modern, cosmopolitan styling. If reliable favorite is your mood, go with the Panang Curry, which pairs amazing with a cut of salmon. For spicier palettes, the Drunken Noodles is a fine choice. As you’ll recall, this is a walking tour, so order your aromatic cuisine to go. Double back on P Street to 13th.

7:15 p.m. Styrofoam in hand, cross the street and find a table inside Tower Square (13th and P), a new 18,000-square-foot public crossroads. Between bites of seared tofu, check out Ascent Tower, a kaleidoscopic glass tower by world-renowned Omaha sculptor Jun Kaneko. First lit on the 2014 Winter Solstice, it’s now a nightly beacon for the city’s nocturnal navigators. Also of interest is the Stuart Building—a gorgeous 1927 Art Deco-Gothic Revival hybrid—directly to your south.

8:15 p.m. Shake your legs. Let’s head north. Take 13 Street up to R Street where you’ll border the southern edge of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus. Turn left and continue leisurely along R Street. Clustered along this block are Love Library, Van Brunt Visitors Center, the Ross, the Temple Building and the College of Business Administration. On the corner of 12th and R is the Sheldon Museum of Art, a wonderful trove of sculptures, paintings and photographs from the likes of Warhol, Pollock and O’Keefe. But, a nightlife guide this is, reroute yourself to the building’s south and descend to the sunken sculpture garden. For a moment of zen, sit on a bench and listen to the water trickle. Down here, quiet speaks volumes.

8:45 p.m. Continue south on R for a block and then hang a right on Q Street. Proceed until 8th Street, turn left and go up one block. Welcome to The Mill (800 P Street), a Lincoln institution and solid port of entry to the Haymarket District. If you’re indecisive, ask a knowing barista who’ll whip up a frothy concoction in no time. The big porch that flanks the west side is a cultural, generational and ethnolinguistic melting pot where, on any given night, Iraqi men play dominoes between gossiping Ukrainians and college students planning a sustainability fest. If you’re content to retire early here, I bid you adieu and hope your time was well spent. If not, let’s find adventure in places where it’s abundant this time of night.

10:00 p.m. Finish that coffee. Head west on P Street, hang a right on 7th and behold The Railyard, a vibrant, block-long entertainment hub. Try Joysticks (350 Canopy Street, Suite 230), a barcade where you can simultaneously pound buffalo chicken bacon wraps and Blanca on Street Fighter II. If you’d rather ball than brawl, there’s pinball, NBA Jam and a dozen other classics to choose from. For fresh air, walk out to the balcony and bask in the glow of The Cube, a behemoth screen looping digital artwork.

11:30 p.m. You’ve been waiting patiently to show your dance moves. Let loose at Rule G (350 Canopy Street, #300). If it’s nice, dance on the rooftop patio, in the shadow of Pinnacle Bank Arena. If it’s not, head inside to the Spin Room, a Lite Brite on steroids with 500 color-changing LEDs. Little about Rule G—the music, drinks, patrons, vibe—is mild. If flashy is your thing, set up shop and enjoy. Or, if you prefer a mellower climax to the evening, see below.

Midnight. From The Railyard head east on Q Street for one block and then right onto 8th. Turn left in the alley between Q and P (across from Brewsky’s) and continue 200 feet until reaching The Other Room. Its Facebook page bills its address as “secret,” adding to its mystique. This speakeasy-style bar has room only for 20 and on busy nights guests wait until space is made by those departing. Jill Cockson, bartender and managing partner, is a Picasso of mixed drinks. Order a Mumbai Exorcism—or really anything, for that matter—and see her pour, mix, dance, shake and, sometimes, set fire.

The rest is up to you. Though I suggest that while sipping your final drink (you won’t need another, believe me) you recap the night and our city’s increasing ways to enjoy it.   

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