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The 10 most important, iconic, quintessential Nebraska attractions

Today is the 150th anniversary of Nebraska’s statehood. To mark the occasion, I’ve prepared this list of the top 10 most quintessential, iconic, must-see Nebraska attractions. (Source: Me.)

10. Arbor Lodge State Historical Park and Arbor Day Farm, in Nebraska City (two separate but related attractions). Birthplace of Arbor Day, the tree planter’s holiday.

9. University of Nebraska State Museum, Morrill Hall, in Lincoln. The state’s best museum. Best known for its collection of fossil elephants, including the world’s largest Columbian mammoth fossil. Also, there’s a planetarium, and an excellent and relatively new exhibit about evolution.

8. Homestead National Monument of America, near Beatrice. Tells the story of the Homestead Act of 1862, which transferred millions of acres of land in the United States from public to private ownership.

7. Scotts Bluff National Monument, near Gering and Scottsbluff. A series of steep, majestic bluffs that were an important landmark on the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails.

6. Sandhill crane migration, in central Nebraska. More than half a million of these birds converge each spring along the Platte River Valley, on their way to breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. One of the continent’s great wildlife spectacles.

5. The Sandhills of western Nebraska, covering about a quarter of the state. A region of mixed-grass prairie on grass-stabilized sand dunes. Vast, undulating, relatively empty, beautiful. State Highway 2 from Grand Island to Alliance is widely regarded as the state’s most scenic drive.

4. Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, in Omaha. The state’s top paid attendance attraction. Widely regarded as one of the world’s best zoos.

3. Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, and Husker football. One of the nation’s most storied college football programs. Five national championships. Intense fan base, even when the team isn’t doing well.

2. State Capitol, in Lincoln. Second tallest in the USA. Beautiful inside and out. Houses the nation’s only unicameral, nonpartisan state legislature.

1. Chimney Rock, near Bayard. Prominent, pointy rock formation. One of the most famous landmarks on the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails, and probably the state’s most iconic visual symbol.


That’s me, admiring Chimney Rock in July 2015.

Here are 30 runners-up for the list.

  • Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
  • The Archway, Kearney
  • Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park
  • Bailey Yard and Golden Spike Tower, North Platte
  • Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, Omaha
  • Boys Town
  • Brownville
  • Carhenge, near Alliance
  • College World Series, Omaha
  • The Durham Museum, Omaha
  • Fontenelle Forest Nature Center, Bellevue
  • Fort Robinson State Park
  • Hastings Museum, Hastings
  • Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha
  • Lake McConaughy and Kingsley Dam
  • Mahoney State Park
  • Missouri National Recreational River, Lewis and Clark Lake, and Gavins Point Dam
  • Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Omaha
  • Nebraska History Museum, Lincoln
  • Nebraska National Forest (Bessey Ranger District and Pine Ridge Ranger District)
  • Niobrara National Scenic River
  • Old Market, Omaha
  • Pioneer Village, Minden
  • Strategic Air and Space Museum, near Ashland
  • Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island
  • Toadstool Geologic Park
  • Wildcat Hills
  • Willa Cather State Historic Site and Red Cloud Opera House, Red Cloud
  • (tie) The rest of the state parks (Chadron, Indian Cave, Niobrara, Platte River, Ponca, Smith Falls)
  • (tie) The rest of the state historical parks (Ash Hollow, Bowring Sandhills Ranch, Buffalo Bill Scouts Rest Ranch, Fort Atkinson, Fort Hartsuff, Fort Kearny, Rock Creek Station)

Nebraska tourism project, 2013-2014: Overview

In 2013 and 2014, I traveled extensively throughout Nebraska, my home state. I made a ridiculously long list of tourist attractions and events, and visited them all.

The list included every attraction that the average Nebraskan has heard of, as well as many that the average Nebraskan hasn’t heard of.

I began my travels in March 2013 at Rowe Sanctuary near Gibbon, where a friend and I observed one of the state’s oldest and most iconic attractions — hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes. These majestic birds make a migratory stop in central Nebraska’s Platte River Valley each spring.

I ended my travels in December 2014 at one of the state’s newest attractions — Ascent, a multicolored glass tower in downtown Lincoln. Designed by artist Jun Kaneko, it had been installed just three months prior.

In between, I went to nearly 350 other sites — including all three national monuments (two visits apiece), all eight state parks, all nine state historical parks, all four accredited zoos, all six national wildlife refuges open to the public, all four national forest and grassland areas, the four largest lakes and their dams, and all nine sites maintained by the Nebraska State Historical Society (including three visits to Chimney Rock). I visited the state’s three major art museums (Joslyn, Sheldon, and MONA), several smaller galleries, and a number of public art works, including Carhenge near Alliance (two visits), and in Omaha, the Fertile Ground mural, the First National Sculpture Parks, and Stored Potential (grain elevator banners that have since been taken down). I visited many natural and cultural history museums, including all the major ones (Durham, Stuhr, Hastings, U of N State Museum, Nebraska History, Strategic Air & Space). And I dined and drank at many notable restaurants, breweries, wineries, and tasting rooms.


Chimney Rock (Mike Tigas, CC BY 2.0)

I didn’t visit every historical marker in the state. But I did check out all five of them in my home county, Furnas County.

Nebraska has nine roads designated as scenic byways. I drove parts of all of them. But the only one I drove in its entirety was the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway — a 272-mile stretch of Nebraska Highway 2, between Grand Island and Alliance, through the Sandhills, recently described by Jim Harrison as “the most mysterious landscape in the United States.”

I went to the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island both years. I went to several college sports events — Nebraska football, volleyball, and women’s and men’s basketball, Creighton men’s basketball, Omaha ice hockey, and the College World Series. I went to NEBRASKAland Days in North Platte, Nebraska’s Big Rodeo in Burwell, the Wilber Czech Festival, the Wayne Chicken Show, Seward’s 4th of July Celebration, the Offutt Air Show, the Brownville Fall Flea Market, the Omaha, Winnebago, and Ponca tribal powwows, Blue Man Group at the Lied Center in Lincoln, and performances of the Omaha Symphony, Opera Omaha, and Omaha Community Playhouse.

Memorial Stadium on game day (Bobak Ha'Eri, CC BY 3.0)

Memorial Stadium (Bobak Ha’Eri, CC BY 3.0)

On foot and in vehicles, I did LOTS of organized tours. Three of The Durham Museum’s River City History Tours, which are guided bus tours of Omaha. Guided agricultural tours of Switzer Ranch near Burwell, Prairieland Dairy near Firth, Kreycik Riverview Ranch near Niobrara, and Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City. Guided walking tours of Omaha’s North 24th Street area (the heart of the city’s African American community), Omaha’s South 24th Street area (the heart of the city’s Latino community), and the Henderson Mennonite Heritage Park. A cruise on the Missouri River aboard the Spirit of Brownville riverboat. Self-guided auto tours of the national wildlife refuges, and Boys Town, and the Naval Ammunition Depot site near Hastings. Self-guided walking tours of Memorial Stadium, and Wyuka Cemetery, and Fort Omaha, and Saint Cecilia Cathedral, and Lauritzen Gardens, and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, and the vast Stuhr Museum grounds, and Ashfall Fossil Beds, and Fort Robinson State Park, and Toadstool Geologic Park. A guided tour of Willa Cather sites in Red Cloud, a self-guided tour of Wright Morris sites in Central City, a guided tour of the historic sites of Bellevue, and guided or self-guided tours of several historic homes, including those of Thomas P. Kennard, George Norris, William Jennings Bryan (Fairview), Bess Streeter Aldrich, J. Sterling Morton (Arbor Lodge), Buffalo Bill Cody (Scouts Rest Ranch), General George Crook, George and Sarah Joslyn (Joslyn Castle), Father Edward Flanagan, the Fort Sidney post commander, and Nebraska’s governor. And of course, a guided tour of Nebraska’s outstanding State Capitol.

Nebraska State Capitol (Carol M. Highsmith)

Nebraska State Capitol (Carol M. Highsmith)

Besides these organized tours, I did informal, but thorough, walks around many other sites — Omaha’s Old Market, Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park, and Lewis and Clark Landing; Lincoln’s Historic Haymarket; the three national monuments (Scotts Bluff, Agate Fossil Beds, Homestead); and lots of nature areas (Wildcat Hills, Chalco Hills, Crane Trust Nature Center, Fontenelle Forest, Neale Woods, Schramm Park, Spring Creek Prairie, Willa Cather Memorial Prairie).

In both 2013 and 2014 I participated in the Nebraska Tourism Commission’s Passport program, which encourages travelers to visit up to 80 specified attractions, collect stamps, and win prizes. The first year I got 70 of the 80 stamps, and the second year I got 57. Also, in 2013 I participated in a similar passport program sponsored by the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau, and got stamps at 30 of the 33 sites in and around Lincoln.

I plan to do at least a few more blog posts about my Nebraska travels. The next one will probably be a Top 20 list.

Nebraska tourism project, 2013-2014: The complete list

This is a complete list of all the tourist attractions I visited and events I attended in Nebraska throughout 2013 and 2014.

* Nebraska Passport site, 2013
# Nebraska Passport site, 2014
Lincoln Be a Tourist Passport site, 2013 and/or 2014

  • Aframerican Bookstore, Omaha
  • Agate Fossil Beds National Monument *#
  • Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium Outdoor Education Center (at Schramm Park State Recreation Area)
  • Aksarben Village and Stinson Park, Omaha
  • American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Lincoln †
  • America’s 20th Century Veterans’ Memorial, North Platte
  • Andrew Jackson Higgins Memorial (at Pawnee Park), Columbus
  • Angel DeCora Memorial Museum/Research Center, Winnebago
  • Antelope Park, Lincoln
  • Antiquarium Bookstore and Bill Farmer Gallery, Brownville
  • Arapahoe Pharmacy, Arapahoe (last remaining soda fountain pharmacy in Nebraska)
  • Arbor Day Farm, Nebraska City *
  • Arbor Lodge State Historical Park and Arboretum, Nebraska City #
  • The Archway (Great Platte River Road Archway), Kearney #
  • Argo Hotel and Steakhouse, Crofton (overnight stay) *
  • The Art and Gift Gallery, North Platte *
  • Arthur Bowring Sandhills Ranch State Historical Park, near Merriman *
  • Artists’ Cooperative Fine Art Gallery, Omaha
  • Ash Hollow State Historical Park, near Lewellen
  • Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park, near Royal #
  • Back Alley Bakery, Hastings *
  • Barnstormers, Norfolk *
  • Bassett Lodge and Range Café, Bassett (overnight stay) *#
  • BeeHaven Farm Roadside Market, near Harrisburg *
  • Bella Italia Restaurant & Pizzeria, Cozad #
  • Bellevue Historic Sites (Old Presbyterian Church, Fontenelle Bank, Log Cabin)
  • Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha
  • Bennett Martin Public Library, including Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors, Loren Eiseley Exhibit, and Polley Music Library, Lincoln *†
  • Benson Plant Rescue, Charlotte’s Store, Omaha #
  • Bess Streeter Aldrich House and Museum, Elmwood *
  • The Black Crow Restaurant and Bar, Beatrice #
  • Blackbird Scenic Overlook, near Macy
  • Blue Blood Brewing Company, Lincoln *
  • Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, Omaha
  • Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art, David City *
  • Boot Hill, Ogallala
  • Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge
  • Boys Town *
  • Braeda, Lincoln †
  • Branched Oak State Recreation Area
  • Brownville Fall Flea Market, Brownville
  • Buffalo Bill Scouts Rest Ranch State Historical Park, next to North Platte *
  • Buffalo Bill Ranch State Recreation Area, next to North Platte (overnight stay)
  • The Burkholder Project, Lincoln
  • Cabela’s, Kearney
  • Cabela’s, La Vista
  • Cabela’s, Sidney
  • Calamus Outfitters, Switzer Ranch, near Burwell (jeep tour, overnight stay) *
  • Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area and Virginia Smith Dam
  • Calamus State Fish Hatchery
  • Cambridge Museum, Cambridge
  • Carhenge, near Alliance #
  • Cellar 426, near Ashland #
  • Chadron State Park
  • Chalco Hills Recreation Area and Wehrspann Lake
  • Champion Mill and Lake Historical Park, Champion
  • Chances “R” Restaurant and Lounge, York
  • Chimney Rock National Historic Site and Visitor Center *
  • The Chocolate Bar, Grand Island #
  • Classic Car Collection, Kearney *#
  • College World Series baseball game at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha
  • Corps of Discovery Welcome Center, near Crofton
  • Country Drawers, Cambridge #
  • Country Lavender Farm, near Hampton #
  • Country Traditions, Fremont #
  • Countryside Market, Bertrand #
  • Courthouse and Jail Rocks
  • Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center, near Wood River *
  • Creighton Bluejays men’s basketball game at CenturyLink Center Omaha
  • Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge
  • Dancing Leaf Earth Lodge and Cultural Learning Center, near Wellfleet
  • DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge
  • The Deuce, North 24th Omaha Walking Tour
  • Dick’s Western Store, Tekamah #
  • Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte Memorial Hospital, Walthill
  • Dowse Sod House, near Comstock
  • The Durham Museum, Omaha #
  • E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues (at Lied Center, UNL), Lincoln
  • Edgerton Explorit Center, Aurora
  • Elkhorn Valley Museum and Research Center, Norfolk
  • Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
  • Fairview/Bryan Museum, Lincoln
  • Fertile Ground mural, Omaha
  • Film Streams at Ruth Sokolof Theater, Omaha
  • FireWorks, Lincoln †
  • First National Sculpture Parks (Pioneer Courage and Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness), Omaha
  • First Friday Art Walk, Lincoln
  • Florence Bank and Depot Museums, Omaha
  • Florence Mill, Omaha
  • Fontenelle Forest Nature Center, Bellevue *#
  • Fort Atkinson State Historical Park, next to Fort Calhoun #
  • Fort Cody Trading Post, North Platte
  • Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park, near Burwell *
  • Fort Kearny State Historical Park, near Kearney
  • Fort McPherson National Cemetery, near Maxwell
  • Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge *
  • Fort Omaha (self-guided walking tour), Omaha
  • Fort Robinson State Park *
  • Fort Robinson History Center (at Fort Robinson State Park) #
  • Fort Sidney Museum and Post Commander’s Home, Sidney #
  • Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area
  • Friday Nights Live concert at SouthPointe Pavilions, Lincoln †
  • From Nebraska Gift Shop, Lincoln
  • Front Street and Cowboy Museum, Ogallala
  • Furnas-Gosper Historical Museum, Arapahoe
  • Gene Leahy Mall, Omaha
  • General Crook House Museum (at Fort Omaha), Omaha *#
  • Genoa Indian School Interpretive Center, Genoa
  • Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens, Omaha
  • Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, Omaha
  • Glur’s Tavern, Columbus *
  • Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center (next to Bailey Yard), North Platte #
  • Governor’s Mansion, Lincoln
  • Great Plains Art Museum, Lincoln †
  • Great Plains Black History Museum, Omaha
  • The Green Lantern Steakhouse and Lounge, Decatur *
  • Greta’s Gourmet, Lincoln †
  • GROW Nebraska Grand Island Store *
  • GROW Nebraska Kearney Store
  • Happy Jack Peak and Chalk Mine, near Scotia
  • Harlan County Lake and Harlan County Dam
  • Harvey P. Sutton House, McCook (only Frank Lloyd Wright building in Nebraska)
  • Hastings Museum, Hastings #
  • Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles, Lexington #
  • Heartland of America Park and Fountain, Omaha
  • Henderson Mennonite Heritage Park, Henderson
  • Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
  • HF Crave, Lincoln †
  • Higgins Hardware, Plattsmouth #
  • High Plains Homestead and Drifter Cookshack, near Crawford *#
  • Historic Haymarket and Iron Horse Park, Lincoln
  • Historic Haymarket Farmers’ Market, Lincoln
  • Holmes Lake Park, Lincoln
  • Holy Family Shrine, near Gretna
  • Homestead National Monument of America
  • Honoring-the-Clans Sculpture Garden and Cultural Plaza, Winnebago
  • Hot Shops Art Center, Omaha
  • Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed Education and Research Center, near Crawford
  • Indian Cave State Park
  • International Quilt Study Center and Museum, Lincoln *#†
  • It’s All About Bees, Ralston *#
  • James Arthur Vineyards, near Raymond †
  • Jazz in June, Lincoln
  • Jewish Community Center Art Gallery, Omaha
  • Jisa’s Farmstead Cheese, near Brainard #
  • John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, Bancroft *
  • John J. Pershing Exhibit, Lincoln
  • Johnny’s Café, Omaha
  • Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha
  • Joslyn Castle, Omaha
  • KANEKO, Omaha
  • Kenefick Park, Omaha
  • Kiechel Fine Art, Lincoln †
  • Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard, Nebraska City *
  • Klown Doll Museum, Plainview
  • Knight Museum and Sandhills Center, Alliance *
  • Kreycik Riverview Elk & Buffalo Ranch Tour, near Niobrara
  • La Paz, Lincoln †
  • Lake McConaughy/Lake Ogallala State Recreation Areas and Kingsley Dam #
  • Lake McConaughy Visitor Center/Water Interpretive Center, near Ogallala #
  • Lake Minatare State Recreation Area
  • Lakehouse Bar and Grill, near North Platte *
  • Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum, Lincoln †
  • Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha’s Botanical Center #
  • Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari, near Ashland
  • Legacy of the Plains Museum (Farm and Ranch Museum), Gering #
  • Leifeld’s Hardware and Furniture, Petersburg #
  • Lewis and Clark Lake State Recreation Area and Gavins Point Dam
  • Lewis and Clark Landing, Omaha
  • Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Visitor Center, Omaha
  • Lewis and Clark Visitor Center, near Crofton
  • Licorice International, Lincoln †
  • Lied Center for Performing Arts, Lincoln †
  • Lincoln Children’s Zoo *#†
  • Lincoln County Historical Museum, North Platte *#
  • Lincoln Highway Diner, North Platte #
  • Lincoln Municipal Band concert †
  • Lincoln Saltdogs baseball games at Haymarket Park †
  • The Lodge at Wilderness Ridge, Lincoln †
  • Loop Brewing Company, McCook *#
  • Louis E. May Museum, Fremont
  • Love’s Jazz and Arts Center, Omaha
  • Lucky Bucket Brewing Company, La Vista *
  • Lucy’s, Mullen #
  • Lux Center for the Arts, Lincoln †
  • Lyceum Café and Bookstore, Brownville *
  • Mac’s Creek Winery & Vineyards, near Lexington #
  • Main Street Apothecary and Patefield’s Good Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain, Laurel #
  • Malcolm X Birthsite and Visitor Center, Omaha
  • Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center, Chadron *
  • Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center, Lincoln
  • Massacre Canyon Monument and Visitor Center, near Trenton
  • Master’s Hand Candle Company and Serendipity Chocolate Factory, Tekamah *
  • Mayhew Cabin with John Brown’s Cave, Nebraska City *
  • Memorial Park, Omaha
  • Memorial Stadium (self-guided tour), Lincoln
  • Meriwether Lewis Dredge and Museum of Missouri River History, Brownville
  • Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area and Merritt Dam
  • Michael Forsberg Gallery, Lincoln
  • Midtown Crossing and Turner Park, Omaha
  • Midwest Theater, Scottsbluff
  • Minden Opera House, Minden
  • Missouri National Recreational River
  • Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Interpretive Trail and Visitor Center, Nebraska City
  • Misty’s, Lincoln (all three locations) †
  • Morgan’s Store, Ellsworth *
  • Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Omaha
  • Mount Vernon Gardens, Omaha
  • El Museo Latino, Omaha
  • Museum of the Fur Trade, near Chadron *
  • Museum of the High Plains, McCook
  • Museum of Nebraska Art, Kearney
  • Museum of Nebraska Major League Baseball, St. Paul
  • National Museum of Roller Skating, Lincoln †
  • Naval Ammunition Depot site, near Hastings
  • Neale Woods, near Omaha
  • Nebraska Barn & Grill, Gothenburg #
  • Nebraska Brewing Company, Papillion *
  • Nebraska Cornhuskers football game at Memorial Stadium, Lincoln
  • Nebraska Cornhuskers men’s basketball game at Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln
  • Nebraska Cornhuskers volleyball match at Bob Devaney Sports Center, Lincoln
  • Nebraska Cornhuskers women’s basketball game at Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln
  • Nebraska Firefighters Museum and Education Center, Kearney
  • Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame, Lincoln
  • Nebraska History Museum, Lincoln †
  • Nebraska Jewish Historical Society and Riekes Museum, Omaha
  • Nebraska National Forest, Bessey Ranger District (overnight stay) *#
  • Nebraska National Forest, Pine Ridge Ranger District
  • Nebraska Prairie Museum, Holdrege
  • Nebraska State Fair (at Fonner Park), Grand Island
  • Nebraska State Holocaust Memorial (at Wyuka Cemetery), Lincoln
  • NEBRASKAland Days Parade and Buffalo Bill Rodeo, North Platte *#
  • Nebraska’s Big Rodeo, Burwell
  • Neligh Mill State Historic Site, Neligh #
  • Niobrara National Scenic River
  • Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor Center, Valentine
  • Niobrara State Park
  • Nissen Wine, near Hartington #
  • Norfolk Arts Center, Norfolk *
  • North Platte National Wildlife Refuge (all four units)
  • Offutt Air Force Base Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air Show
  • Oglala National Grassland
  • Old Market, Omaha
  • Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge, Paxton
  • Omaha Community Playhouse (“A Christmas Carol”)
  • Omaha Mavericks ice hockey game at CenturyLink Center Omaha
  • Omaha Storm Chasers baseball game at Werner Park, near Papillion
  • Omaha Symphony performance at Holland Performing Arts Center
  • Omaha Tribe Pow Wow (Umonhon Hedewachi), near Macy
  • Opera Omaha performance at Orpheum Theater
  • Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, Arapahoe
  • Ozzie & Jan’s Famous Lee’s Chicken, Lincoln *
  • Pawnee State Recreation Area
  • Petrified Wood Gallery, Ogallala *
  • Pioneer Village, Minden
  • Pioneers Park and Pioneers Park Nature Center, Lincoln †
  • Plainsman Museum, Aurora
  • Platte County Historical Society Museum, Columbus #
  • Platte River State Park
  • Ponca State Park
  • Ponca Tribe Museum, near Niobrara
  • Ponca Tribe Pow Wow, near Niobrara
  • Pony Express Monument, Sidney
  • Pony Express Station, Gothenburg
  • Pour House Tasting Room, Friend *
  • Prairie Grounds Café and Gifts, Broken Bow *#
  • Prairie Point Junction Quilt Shop, Cozad *#
  • Prairieland Dairy Day, near Firth †
  • Purple martin roost, Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha
  • The Quilting Cupboard, Valentine #
  • Quincentenary Belltower (at Pawnee Park), Columbus
  • The Railyard, Lincoln
  • R.F. Goeke Variety Store and Soda Fountain, Atkinson *
  • River City History Tours (sponsored by The Durham Museum), Omaha (3 different tours)
  • River House Soda Fountain & Café, Plattsmouth #
  • Riverside Discovery Center (Riverside Zoo), Scottsbluff #
  • Robert Henri Museum, Cozad
  • Robidoux Pass and Robidoux Trading Post, near Gering
  • Rock Creek Station State Historical Park, near Fairbury
  • Rocket Inn, Indianola *
  • Rowe Sanctuary and Iain Nicolson Audubon Center, near Gibbon (sandhill crane viewing)
  • Saint Cecilia Cathedral and Cultural Center, Omaha
  • Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest
  • Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway (Highway 2 from Grand Island to Alliance)
  • Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway Visitor Center, Broken Bow
  • Sandhills Motel and Glidden Canoe Rental, Mullen (overnight stay only) *
  • Sandstone Grill, Burwell #
  • Sarpy County Museum, Bellevue
  • SchillingBridge Winery and Microbrewery, near Pawnee City *
  • Schramm Park State Recreation Area
  • Scotts Bluff National Monument
  • Scratchtown Brewing Company, Ord #
  • Senator George Norris State Historic Site, McCook
  • Seward 4th of July Celebration, Seward
  • Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln *†
  • Siouxland Freedom Park and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall replica, South Sioux City
  • The Sisters Grimm, Bushnell *
  • Smith Falls State Park
  • Snake Falls
  • Soaring Wings Vineyard and Brewery, near Springfield *
  • Sod House Museum, Gothenburg
  • Spirit of Brownville Riverboat Cruise, Brownville
  • Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, near Denton *†
  • Springfield Artworks, Springfield *#
  • State Capitol, Lincoln *#†
  • Stauffer’s Café and Pie Shoppe, Lincoln †
  • Stored Potential (grain elevator art), Omaha
  • Strategic Air and Space Museum, near Ashland #
  • Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, Grand Island *
  • Sunken Gardens, Lincoln *
  • Swanson Reservoir State Recreation Area and Trenton Dam
  • Thedford Art Gallery, Thedford *
  • Thomas P. Kennard House, Nebraska Statehood Memorial, Lincoln
  • Thunderhead Brewing Company, Kearney *#
  • Toadstool Geologic Park, near Crawford
  • Too Far North, Fort Calhoun #
  • Tower Square and Ascent tower, Lincoln
  • Trails and Rails Museum, Kearney
  • Trailside Museum of Natural History (at Fort Robinson State Park)
  • Union Plaza, Lincoln
  • University of Nebraska State Museum at Morrill Hall, Lincoln #†
  • UNL Dairy Store, Lincoln
  • Valentine National Wildlife Refuge
  • La Veinticuatro, South 24th Omaha Walking Tour
  • Veterans Memorial Garden (at Antelope Park), Lincoln
  • Victory Hill Farm, near Scottsbluff #
  • Wagner’s Quilts and Conversation, Arapahoe #
  • Wayne Chicken Show, Wayne
  • Wessels Living History Farm, next to York #
  • West Nebraska Arts Center, Scottsbluff *
  • Westside Restaurant, O’Neill #
  • Wilber Czech Festival, Wilber
  • Wilber Czech Museum, Wilber
  • Wild West Memorial (at Cody Park), North Platte
  • Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area and Wildcat Hills Nature Center #
  • Wilderness Park, Lincoln
  • Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, near Red Cloud
  • Willa Cather State Historic Site and Red Cloud Opera House, Red Cloud *
  • Willow Point Gallery/Museum (Gene Roncka), Ashland
  • Windmill collection (vintage), near Jackson
  • Winnebago Tribe Pow-Wow, Winnebago
  • Woodland Trails Art and Learning Center, Winnebago *
  • World’s Largest Porch Swing, Hebron
  • Wright Morris Boyhood Home/Walking-Driving Tour, Central City *
  • WunderRosa Winery, near Roca †
  • Wyuka Cemetery (self-guided walking tour), Lincoln †
  • Zipline Brewing Company, Lincoln *

My top 5 personal news stories of 2012

I like how every December, news organizations compile lists of the top stories of the past year. It makes me wonder: What are YOUR top 5 stories of 2012 from your own life? Here are mine:

5. Establishing more of a presence online, including on Facebook and in this new personal blog, the MikeLewpedia.

4. Getting readjusted to being a Nebraskan again after being away from the state for 12 years, including completing the first year of my job at, moving into a place of my own after living with family and friends for about six months, getting reacquainted with old friends, and making many new ones.

3. Turning 40, and spending that weekend with my mom and brothers (my birthday was on Mother’s Day this year).

2. My emotional and psychological ups and downs, and the numerous things that played a role in triggering those.

1. Getting involved in the thriving atheist communities in Nebraska and nationwide, including attending the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C., the Midwest Freethought Conference in Omaha, and Skepticon in Springfield, Missouri.

Being the last one picked

You know how no one wants to be the one to take the last cookie, or the last pizza slice, or the last dinner roll? That sort of insensitivity just boggles my mind. I mean, that food item probably already feels bad about being the last one picked. You all can hesitate if you want, but I am not going to sit here and let you prolong its humiliation any longer.

A cool version of “All I Want For Christmas Is You”

Mariah Carey is way talented and way gorgeous, but let’s face it, that Christmas song of hers is way overplayed and makes me feel way Grinchy. Yet, somehow, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots, and a bunch of schoolkids popping up out of nowhere, have made the song way cool, and so now I feel way, um, non-Grinchy.

My #1 desired biological trait

For my job I have been reading a lot of biology lately. It makes me wonder, what trait or traits, possessed by other organisms on our planet, do you wish you had as a human? I’m going to go with the ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually, perhaps through fission, or budding off of my abdomen.