When it comes to popular vacation destinations in the United States, Lincoln, Nebraska doesn’t exactly come top of mind. I find myself telling people all the time why it is an awesome place to visit and live, which, admittedly, is often met with skepticism from those who have never been there before.
Granted, many of those people also think Nebraska is located somewhere west of the Rockies (I won’t name names). On a scale of one to ten, prior knowledge of Nebraska from those who don’t hail from an immediate border state tends to be about a 1.5.
This important educational gap requires action, and I am the girl to take it. To meet this pressing need, I’ve distilled many of my own talking points to make the case for why Lincoln is worthy of more than just a wave from 36,000 feet.
Here are my top ten reasons why you should visit Lincoln, Nebraska.
1. Downtown Lincoln and the Historic Haymarket District are chock-full of great local shops and restaurants.
- Into boutiques? Stella has a great curated selection of women’s clothes and accessories.
- Like steak? Nebraska has some of the best steak in the country. Check out Misty’s, a Lincoln staple.
- Enjoy a good coffee shop? The Mill and Crescent Moon are two fantastic local coffee shops.
- Into activities? Check out locally-owned Escape Lincoln, where you and your friends will be locked in a room where only solving a series of mind-bending puzzles can secure your ticket out.
- Enjoy a good pour? The college bars on O Street have the cheapest drinks around ($20 will get you very far in Lincoln). Zipline Brewing Co. is all the rage in local beer these days (Empyrian, Blue Blood and Ploughshare also share the local brewery spotlight). Barrymore’s occupies space in a historic downtown theater and is decorated to suit, making the most out of its soaring ceilings and creating an atmosphere of mystery. And the Starlite Lounge in the Haymarket is decorated like a Jetsons-themed vintage store. Its signature martinis, starting at just $5, are the best deal in town.
- Want dessert? Visit Ivanna Cone, where ice cream “from scratch” is taken to a whole new level. With up to 17 different flavors on any given day, the Ivanna Cone ice cream dream team bakes and blends inventive flavor combinations that rotate daily to keep customers coming back.
2. Lincoln is home to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a major research university.
The university’s campus is situated just north of downtown and is easily walkable from most hotels. The best times to walk the campus are when the magnolia trees are blooming in the spring, and when the leaves change to the university’s signature scarlet red in the fall.
3. Lincoln is an exceedingly affordable travel destination.
This ain’t San Francisco or New York City, folks. The advantage to vacationing in the Midwest is that food, drinks, and lodging are very reasonably priced. It’s actually quite a well-kept secret: In Lincoln, you get all the perks of a buzzing, lively city atmosphere (about a quarter of a million people reside here) at a fraction of the cost of most other cities.
4. The sports atmosphere is off the chain.
Lincoln’s main attraction is the University of Nebraska Cornhusker football team, which plays at the landmark Memorial Stadium on campus. (I previously wrote about the college football game-day experience if you want to learn more.)
The university also boasts a top-ranked women’s volleyball team that sells out every game. The men’s and women’s basketball teams play at Pinnacle Bank Arena, a shiny, new, spaceship-looking arena rising from the Haymarket District. Pinnacle Bank Arena also attracts top performers that never would have set foot in Lincoln in the past.
5. People are SO. DAMN. NICE.
Not the fake nice that you get in some places. Like, genuinely warm and wonderful. Lincoln is a place where drivers wave as they pass each other, people acknowledge each other with a friendly greeting on the sidewalk, and bar patrons strike up friendly conversations with their seat neighbors. If you visit, don’t forget to let your guard down and enjoy the earnestness of Nebraskans.
6. Lincoln is the state capitol, and home to the only unicameral legislature in the country.
Meaning legislation only passes through one chamber to be approved, unlike the rest of the United States (including the federal government) which require bills to pass through two separate houses of elected representatives.
7. There are some great museums around the city.
The University of Nebraska State Museum at Morrill Hall features the world’s largest mammoth skeleton, an extinct land mammal related to elephants that used to roam Nebraska’s plains. Additionally, a special exhibit running through March 2017 showcases National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore’s Photo Ark series (Sartore is a Nebraska native who resides in Lincoln with his family when he’s not on assignment). The Sheldon Museum of Art is home to one of the world’s leading collections of American art beginning in the 19th century. And the state capitol building is open for tours and features some beautiful architecture, murals, and unobstructed views of the countryside from the top-floor observation deck.
8. There’s a vineyard nearby.
Done laughing? Sure, Nebraska’s harsh climate isn’t exactly the best suited for winemaking, but James Arthur Vineyards actually does a commendable job of creating good table wines using a blend of American varietals and French hybrid grapes. The large tasting room and surrounding vineyards also make a great place to spend an afternoon. My suggestion: stick to the whites.
9. Nebraska’s largest city, Omaha, is just an hour away by car.
Omaha is a destination in its own right. Chances are you’ll be traveling through Omaha on your way to Lincoln if you choose to fly to Nebraska: The city is home to Eppley Airport, which has nonstop flights serving major cities around the country.
10. Lincoln is consistently ranked as a “best place to live” in the United States. (Here’s another article.)
For all the reasons I listed above. I mean, what’s not to love?
So, are you convinced? I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to book my next visit!
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