Lincoln’s Exceptional Public Parks and Pools

Parks are the breathing spaces of a city. Lincoln has 125 parks with 6,000 acres of life-enhancing green space. They range from small mini-parks with plants and perhaps a sculpture, to the large areas of our beautiful regional parks. In between are neighborhood parks boasting playgrounds and shaded benches.  You can find one within a half mile wherever you are in the city.

Pioneers Park, at West Van Dorn and South Coddington, has a long history. The land was donated to the city in the 1930s. Its sweeping vistas to the state capitol, several ponds, and stately entrance sculptures were designed by Ernst Herminghaus. The park is on the National Register of Outstanding Landscape Architecture. As with all of Lincoln’s larger parks there is extensive playground equipment, picnic shelters, a ball diamond and plenty of room to explore. Pinewood Bowl is the venue for concerts and a community summer musical. The columns from the Old Federal Treasury Building in Washington D.C. overlook one of the park’s ponds and are a favorite venue for weddings. Nestled in Pioneers Park is a small area of native tallgrass prairie where you can see the colorful procession of native wildflowers and grasses as they mature throughout the season.

A much larger expanse of prairie is located in the 668-acre Nature Center at the west end of Pioneers Park. With eight miles of hiking trails you can explore woodlands and wetlands as well as prairie. In season you are sure to spot small mammals, basking turtles, a variety of birds, and a host of interesting insects. Outdoor exhibits, including small bison, elk and deer herds, and non-releasable raptors are even easier to view. Two buildings are full of hands-on exhibits and smaller live animals that staff can take out for an even closer look. The bird garden is an especially wonderful place in winter when colorful visitors to the feeding stations enliven the dormant landscape. A children’s garden invites younger visitors to explore how their food grows, the whimsy of plant names and the fragrances plants provide. The herb garden boasts over 100 varieties and the many labeled plants in the prairie garden can alert you to what is blooming in the larger landscape. Find more information at

Pioneers Park is also home to one of Lincoln’s four 18-hole, championship-length public golf courses. Each course has lovely terrain and unique challenges. A volunteer marshaling program helps keep the pace going and answers your questions. The four courses are located conveniently in various parts of town including the Highlands, at 5501 NW 12th Street and Mahoney Park at 70th and Fremont.

The 4th full-length course is located in another varied regional park, Holmes Lake Recreation Area near 70th Street and Normal Boulevard. The path around the lake offers a great view of the city skyline and sunsets. This park is one of three parks that invite non-motorized boating. Others are Oak Lake at Sun Valley Road and Charleston and Bowling Lake, NW 48th and W. Cuming. Holmes and Oak Lakes also offer dog parks.

Holmes Lake Recreation Area is home to the unique, volunteer-run Hyde Memorial Observatory. Open on Saturday evenings year-round, it gives visitors the opportunity to view the night skies through three telescopes. Two video programs are also offered including one on the season’s constellations and the other on a variety of space-related topics. Knowledgeable volunteers answer visitor’s questions. Admission is free.

Lincoln has an award-winning 9-hole golf course as well. The Jim Ager Memorial Golf Course in Antelope Park, is suitable for young golfers and those developing basic skills.

As with the other courses, the adjacent park stretching south from 27th and Capitol Parkway, has nearby attractions. The bandshell hosts free municipal band concerts on Sunday evenings in July and August. Kids will love the extensive, accessible playground and an Indoor Playground serves children from three years old to 48” tall. The park borders the lovely Sunken Garden, Hamann Rose Garden, and the Lincoln Children’s Zoo.

Is it summer, and hot? One of Lincoln’s six public pools, three aquatic centers and two spraygrounds can provide just the fix. Check out the new slide at Star City Shores at 4375 N. 33rd or the spraygrounds in Trago Park or Woods Park.

Lincoln’s parks include two skate parks, one in Peter Pan at 33rd and W and the other in Tierra Briarhurst at 27th and Tierra.

Wilderness Park with its hiker, biker and equestrian trails, is a mostly wooded, linear park along Salt Creek. Sit in the quiet of this retreat from city noise, enjoying the stately bur oaks or listening to the gurgle of the stream.

A small gem of a park is located at 18th and E Streets near the capitol. Hazel Abel Park is dedicated to Nebraska’s first elected woman senator. The Victorian-themed park was recently renovated with new playground equipment and a restored cast iron fountain.

Several downtown parks are worth visiting. Union Plaza, north of “O” Street between 21st and 22nd Streets is the hub of Lincoln’s trail system, and has an amphitheater and public art. Or find out what is going on at our new Tower Plaza, at 13th and P with its 50 foot multi-colored lighted glass tower designed by Jun Kaneko. The Centennial Mall renovation, stretching north from the capitol, is expected to be complete by early summer, 2016.

So play or sit, take a deep breath, and enjoy Lincoln’s many parks.  

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