12 Unique Things to Do in Lincoln

by Paul Joseph  |  Published April 11, 2023

A political hub, a foodie haven and a vibrant cultural centre, the US city of Lincoln draws large numbers of visitors throughout the year.

An imposing view of the Nebraska State Capitol (Photo: Nicolas Henderson via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

The Nebraskan capital is home to an enticing mix of historic landmarks, upscale eateries, welcoming coffee shops, and distinguished arts venues, along with endless opportunities for outdoor adventure both in the city itself and within easy reach. If you’re coming to Lincoln and would like to work on building an itinerary that includes plenty of unique things to see and do, here’s our starter for 12.

Visit an architectural masterpiece

Rising four hundred feet from a giant two-story base, domed with gold-glazed tile and topped with a bronze statue of a pioneer sower of grain, the Nebraska State Capitol is visible from miles away. But the building is not only an architectural masterpiece – it also houses a dazzling array of artwork representing the long natural, social and political evolution of the state. Today both its magnificent exterior and interior can be enjoyed by the public, with the 14th floor observation open to visitors throughout the week.

1445 K Street / Mon-Fri 8am-5pm Sat 10am-5pm Sun 1pm-5pm

Take in some culture

Lincoln has an impressive sprinkling of cultural venues and among its very best is the University of Nebraska State Museum. Located on the University of Nebraska-Loncoln City Campus, it is widely considered the region’s premier natural history museum, and is best known for its incredible collection of fossil elephants. Through exhibits, displays and interactive wildlife dioramas, visitors can learn all about Nebraska fossils, unusual creatures, minerals and meteorites, evolution, ancient weapons, dinosaurs, monsters of the ancient seas, African and Native American cultures and plenty more.

Morrill Hall, 645 North 14th Street / Tues-Sat 9am-5pm Sun 12pm-5pm Closed Mon

Petrol heads with a keen interest in American racing and automotive history are in for a treat in Lincoln thanks to the presence of the Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed. Opened in 1992, this remarkable museum is home to a stunning assortment of seminal cars, engines, parts, pedal cars, automotive toys and memorabilia. Among the exhibits are the world’s largest collection of exotic and historic American racing engines from the early 1900s to the present day.

599 Oakcreek Drive / Mon & Fri 10am-4.30pm Sat 9am-1pm Closed Sun & Tues-Thurs

Cars on display at the Museum of American Speed (Photo: JOHN LLOYD via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Enjoy some world-class art

Set within an eye-catching modernist building at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the free-to-enter Sheldon Museum of Art contains nearly 13,000 American artworks spanning a diverse range of artistic styles, including 19th-century landscape and still life, American impressionism, early modernism, geometric abstraction, abstract expressionism, pop, minimalism and contemporary art. Among the works on display also include a prominent sculpture collection, with more than 30 statues by renowned sculptural artists dotted throughout the museum.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 12th and, R St / Tues-Sat 10am-4pm Closed Sun-Mon

If you find yourself in Lincoln during June and have a passion for art then consider yourself lucky, as it’s the time of year when the Lincoln Art Festival comes to town. A regular fixture on the city’s cultural calendar for over two decades, the festival sees Canopy Street and the Railyard in the city’s Historic Haymarket District transformed into a celebration of artistic merit and innovation. With a strong focus on local artists, the event features diverse works of art, demonstrations, and hands-on activities, all set against a backdrop of live stage performances.

Historic Haymarket District, Downtown Lincoln / June each year

Visitors congregate in front of an art stall at the Lincoln Arts Festival (Photo: Lincoln Arts Festival)

Get a taste of the local food scene

Lincoln has a thriving and diverse culinary scene and one of the best ways to discover it is by joining a guided food tour. There are several companies offering food tours across the city, some of which are themed around a particular delicacy or neighbourhood. During the tour, you’ll get to visit several eateries and food outlets where you’ll sample local dishes and treats, meet local chefs and be shown around their kitchens. Meanwhile your guide will be on hand to regale you with fascinating facts and stories about the region’s foodie heritage.

Take a stroll around picture-postcard gardens

An ideal antidote to the hustle and bustle of Lincoln’s urban surroundings, the Sunken Gardens are a haven of tranquillity in the heart of the city. Built at the start of the 1930s, the 1.5-acre site is teeming with picturesque trees, shrubs and foliage, along with ponds, reflecting pools, and a striking geyser fountain that shoots water in the air. Meandering through the gardens are a network of walking trails that allow visitors to gently amble around enjoying the scenery at their leisure.

The picturesque surroundings of the Sunken Gardens (Photo: Sarah 68508 via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Look around a historic downtown district

Sprinkled with delightfully renovated and restored late 19th-century brick warehouses, quaint brick streets, a large water tower, and a unique clock, Lincoln’s Historic Haymarket District is a pleasure to amble around at your leisure. With the University of Nebraska located nearby, it also enjoys a youthful energy, with many of the city’s students congregating here to socialise in the myriad bars and restaurants. Be sure to check out the Lincoln station while here, which was once a railway depot and today houses a visitor centre and a popular eatery.

Explore a nature reserve

Spread over some 668 acres, Pioneers Park Nature Center is one of Lincoln’s most popular family outdoor attractions. Eight miles of hiking trails wind around the site, where herds of bison, white-tailed deer, elk are regularly spotted, along with the more elusive red-tailed hawks, barred owls, and wild turkeys. In the Nature Center building, visitors can get up close and personal with caged animals, including the chance to touch a turtle or a snake while supervised by on-site staff. To let off some steam, there’s also a kids’ play area.

3201 South Coddington / Mon-Sat 9am-4.30pm Sun 12pm-4.30pm

An eye-catching sculpture at Pioneers Park Nature Center (Photo: Sarah 68508 via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Catch a college football game

Across Nebraska, sport is a seriously big deal and in Lincoln the main sports team is the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football side, who play their home matches at the Memorial Stadium. Located on the campus of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the 90,000- capacity arena is a cauldron of noise on match days. Tickets can sometimes be tricky to come by, but are available to book online in advance. And if you don’t quite make it to a game, then you can still book on to a self-guided tour of the stadium, which includes the Hall of Fame walk outside.

One Memorial Stadium Drive

Go for a day out at the zoo

With more than 400 animals residing here, including several endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger and Matschie’s tree kangaroo, Lincoln Children’s Zoo makes for a great day out with children. As well as the chance to admire the animals in their cages, the zoo also offers a number of ‘experiences’, including giraffe-feeding sessions, guided horse rides, and an Animal Encounter Stage where you can come face to face with exotic creatures including armadillos, owls, boa constrictors, and an alligator. Kids also love the scale model train that travels around the zoo.

1222 South 27th Street / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm

A West African Dwarf Crocodile snapped at Lincoln Children’s Zoo (Photo: wht_wolf9653 via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Watch some live entertainment

If the rain comes to town and you’re stuck for something to do indoors in Lincoln, then it’s worth checking the programme for what’s going on at the Lied Center for Performing Arts. The state-of-the-art performing arts facility plays host to a busy roster of regional, national and international live stage shows, with a focus on providing a platform for local Nebraska artists to showcase their talents. Tickets can be purchased up to the last minute at the online box office or in person.

301 North 12th Street