Family Fun in Lincoln
The history of the human inhabitants of our corner of the world comes to life at the Nebraska History Museum at the southwest corner of P Street and Centennial Mall (directly across the street from the Children’s Museum).
From artifacts and photos on how Nebraska became a state to exhibits on the native people who lived on this land long before the pioneers, the museum is appealing to all ages. Visit www.nebraskahistory.org/sites/mnh/.
For half a century, the Lincoln Children’s Zoo has been a popular family destination. With an emphasis on young people, the zoo features lots of educational activities and interactive play, from a life-size eagle’s nest to pony rides, to a chance to hand feed goats and llamas. The Caribbean flamingos add color and glamor to the zoo, with their stately pink-feathered outfits. Our favorite exhibit is the Humboldt Penguin Habitat, new in 2010, featuring 10 adorable penguins; each one has their own name, waddling around the exhibit. The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is one of 16 zoos in the country chosen to care for the Humboldt penguin – the rarest penguin species. The 45,000-gallon outdoor pool was renovated and equipped with a water filtration system. The pool also features a rock island with two over-the-water bridges that allow the penguins to swim the entire pool, as well as get out and sun themselves.
A city jewel, the Lincoln Children’s Museum is three stories of adventure, fun and hands-on learning for little ones. It’s even fun for parents! In addition to permanent exhibits, the museum hosts traveling exhibits and special programs including summer camps and their popular Music & Mozzarella series (a free outdoor concert AND pizza by the slice). Visit www.lincolnchildrensmuseum.org for hours and admission information.
Teens who love video games will enjoy Laser Quest in East Park Plaza (www.laserquest.com) or Laser Tag (www.lincolnlasertag.com) on North 27th Street.
Bowling is always popular. Try Hollywood Bowl, Madsen’s (www.madsensbowling.com), Parkway Lanes, or Sun Valley Lanes (www.sunvalleylanes.com). Each has a specialty, like laser bowling, midnight bowling or music and karaoke, to add to the fun.
Organized sports through local athletic clubs are a great outlet for teens. YMCA and private league sports teams play football, soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball, and other sports at such places as the Ethel S. Abbott Sports Complex and Seacrest Field. There are also swimming leagues, track and field leagues, even an archery club. For more information, visit www.ymcalincoln.org.
For those who prefer to be spectators, Lincoln is home to the Lincoln Saltdogs and the University of Nebraska baseball and softball teams,Lincoln Stars semi-pro hockey and a junior hockey league, and of course, the Huskers football team, our local all-time favorite.
Pioneers Park, southwest of the city, is a favorite of Lincolnites for many different reasons. With several ponds, miles of trails and open green spaces, it is a great place for picnics, biking, hiking, flying kites and even horseback riding. It is also home to a Nature Center at its west edge where families can see live animal exhibits including elk, deer, and bison and hike through native prairie and wooded landscapes.
No child can resist the pull of the enormous play structure off the entrance to Antelope Park. The play structure has a designated area for toddlers, a sand box that puts most to shame, and a main play structure for older children with multiple slides and climbing features.
Lincoln Parks and Recreation operates five public golf courses. One in particular, the Ager Junior Golf Course, is especially suited for younger golfers or those just learning the game. The city of Lincoln also manages seven recreation centers that offer sports/exercise opportunities for all ages.
One of these centers is just for children. The Ager Indoor Play Center, next to the Children’s Zoo, features a two-story play structure with slides, climbing and ball pits for older kids. The center includes a toddler play area and enough room for little ones to propel themselves on a variety of tricycles, wagons and mini vehicles. The center provides A great adventure at any time, especially on days when outdoor play is not ideal.
The largest pool in Lincoln is the Star City Shores. It has a zero entry feature for little people and a variety of water features and slides for older children and adults. Star City Shores is a great place to spend a summer afternoon.
With traditional and inflatable play-sets, a basketball court, foam pit, a laser maze, video games and more, Lost in Fun is not only a popular birthday party destination, but it also has day passes for indoor fun any time. Learn more at www.lostinfun.com.
Champions Fun Center is a long-time Lincoln family favorite, and not just for kids! Today, Champions features a 70+ arcade and redemption games, go-karts, open and cosmic bowling, a batting cage, miniature golf, water wars, and the heart-stopping four-story free fall ride. For the youngest family members, the adventure challenge is a must and includes a ball pit and a three-story climbing structure. Visit www.championsfuncenter.com.
For a classic game of miniature golf, check out Adventure Golf. They have batting cages, too. Don’t forget that tasty daVinci’s Pizza is served at Champions Fun Center. At Woods Park, kids can swim or play tennis. Fifteen regulation courts, many of them enclosed for year round use are the first choice for most of Lincoln’s tennis buffs.
Once a week, members of Lincoln’s local Society for Creative Anachronism group gather at Woods to practice medieval swordplay and other forms of hand-to-hand combat. It’s fun to watch, and even more fun to participate once you get some training. Visit www.magmor.net for details.
Lincoln’s skaters have two parks with features just for them—Peter Pan Park and Tierra Park. Throughout town, Lincoln has seven public recreation centers with pool tables, game rooms, weight rooms, basketball courts and fitness classes. Visit www.ci.lincoln.ca.us and click on “Parks and Recreation.”
Music-loving teens can sign up for Academy of Rock, an after-school program held at various middle and high schools and local recreation center. Even teens who have never played a musical instrument can get involved. Go to www.academyofrock.org for more information.
At the Sheldon Museum of Art on the University of Nebraska campus, free Jazz In June concerts are staged every Tuesday night during the month of June. There are also plenty of free summer concerts at Antelope Park Band Shell ranging from hip-hop to kitsch.
Movies and Performances
Pershing Center brings in some fantastic national acts, including those just for kids—like Disney, the Muppets and the Shrine Circus. See www.pershingcenter.com.
The Ralph Mueller Planetarium, located inside the University of Nebraska State Museum, combines classic rock and modern pop music with spectacular laser light shows. Come back another afternoon or evening to explore the universe via one of the astronomy shows. For details, visit www.spacelaser.com.
Catching a movie is always a good time, and Lincoln has plenty of screens to offer. Independent, foreign and other non-Hollywood flicks are screened at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center (www.theross.org).
The 14-screen Grand Theatre, SouthPointe, Edgewood, and East Park Theatres offer state-of-the-art viewing of newly released movies. See the current listing at www.marcustheatres.com/Theatre. Marcus Theatres also has a summer movie series called Kids Rule at their Lincoln Grand and SouthPointe theatres. In the summer, special family movies are shown on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. This series has discounted prices that include popcorn with admission. Visit www.marcustheatres.com.
The Joyo Theatre is an old-fashioned theatre that is enjoying a second life as a place for second-run movies, cult films and movies for kids. The Joyo’s schedule can be found in the Lincoln Journal Star or on its Facebook page.
The Lied Center for Performing Arts brings in performing artists from around the world to its 2200-seat auditorium.
The majority of its shows are appropriate for older children who are able to tolerate a longer performance; however, the FamFest series was specifically created for kids. With shows in a one-hour format, this is a great way to introduce children to live performances. All Lied performances are listed at www.liedcenter.org.
The Lincoln Community Playhouse also programs a variety of family performances in its TAFY (Theatre Arts for Youth) series. They also offer many classes for youth interested in learning more about acting and other theatre-related skills. Visit www.lincolnplayhouse.com.