Whether it’s for a week or just an afternoon, it can feel so good to get away from life for a bit. But when kids are involved, the logistics of travel and activities can get a little more complicated. Luckily, there are plenty of kid-friendly attractions in Nebraska, and families can delight in the wide variety of ways to keep busy...and tire out those little ones. Nebraska is home to children’s museums where kids can learn about science, history, and art, zoos and aquariums where they can get up close and personal with some exotic and local wildlife, and outdoor natural areas where families can hike, picnic, camp, or go boating for a wonderful adventure under the sun. No matter the season, there’s always an excuse to get out of the house and see what Nebraska has to offer.
1.Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
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History is fascinating, and though it might sound like a dry subject for kids, at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, there are some really cool Native American artifacts and interactive exhibits to help everyone understand the history of the place. Outside, the Agate Fossil Hills—Carnegie Hill and University Hill—are two distinct landmarks where scientists uncovered fossils of animals that lived millions of years ago during a period of time called the Miocene Epoch. The reconstructed skeletons of those fossils, and stories about the strange, extinct animals that they once were, can be found in the visitor center.
301 River Rd, Harrison, NE 69346, Phone: 308-668-2211
2.Ak Sar Ben Outdoor Aquarium
This free attraction is located on a small park in Gretna, and contains twelve large tanks where visitors can take a look and learn about local marine life. Native fish, reptiles, and amphibians are on display here at this small aquarium, and kids and adults alike can learn all about the native wildlife they might see around them every day. The aquarium and educational center also contains a collection of native birds and animal pelts, and kids can even take a look through a microscope for an up close look at some of the insect life that can be found in Nebraska.
21502 NE-31, Gretna, NE 68028, Phone: 402-332-3901
3.Children’s Museum Of Central Nebraska
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At the Children’s Museum of Central Nebraska, they believe that playtime should be all the time, but they also believe that kids are capable of learning a lot and having fun at the same time. Full of hands-on exhibits and imaginative play areas, the Children’s Museum of Central Nebraska is a great destination for a quick pit stop if the kids are getting restless on a long car ride, as well as a wonderful full-day destination on a rainy day or during a vacation. Story times, art projects, games and more are in store at the Children’s Museum of Central Nebraska.
Lower Level of Allen’s Superstore, 1115 W 2nd St, Hastings, NE 68901, Phone: 402-463-3300
4.Edgerton Explorit Center
Most kids are curious by nature, and at Edgerton Explorit Center, children are encouraged to ask questions and learn through a series of interactive, colorful, and fun exhibits. Most of the Edgerton Explorit Center pertains to the field of science, with games and demonstrations that help kids learn about concepts like the three states of matter (by freezing and melting things, of course), sparks and electricity (with the help of some static!), and the science of sound. A typical visit at the Edgerton Explorit Center lasts for about three hours, so kids will have ample time to explore, learn, and play.
208 16th St, Aurora, NE 68818, Phone: 402-694-4032
5.Fontenelle Forest Nature Center
Sometimes it can be good to escape the hustle and bustle of life and step into nature. Families near Bellevue can do this at Fontenelle Forest, a beautiful green space with hiking trails and picnic facilities, perfect for an afternoon as a family. The Fontenelle Forest Nature Center runs fun events and activities like high ropes course activities, nature lectures and classes where kids can learn about and even meet some of the animals who live in the forest, Habitat Hollow, an exhibit specifically designed for young kids where they can learn about animals, dress up in costumes, and play. Fontenelle Forest is also home to a Raptor Woodland Refuge, which focuses on the conservation of birds of prey and runs lots of fun and educational programs.
1111 Bellevue Blvd N, Bellevue, NE 68005, Phone: 402-731-3140
6.Great Platte River Road Archway Monument
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There are roadside attractions, and then there’s the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, which takes the form of a walkable arch that stretches right over I-80. The Archway first opened in 2000, and inside it is a museum commemorating the history of the Great Platte River Road, which for a long time has been a main thoroughfare for pioneers migrating west, Native Americans traveling through the area, and more. Family-friendly exhibits include a recreation of a traditional sod house, an interactive historical exhibit, and a Trail Blaze Maze. There are also picnic facilities on the premises.
3060 E 1st St, Kearney, NE 68847, Phone: 308-237-1000
7.Kearney Area Children's Museum
At the Kearney Area Children’s Museums, there are several expansive areas of play and learning, where kids can create unique projects in an art studio that allows them to explore their creative side, or conduct experiments and learn about the world around them in the science center. There’s a train depot where kids can play and take a ride, a miniature grocery store, a fire station, and a farming area where kids can learn about the food they eat and where it comes from. All around Kearney Area Children’s Museum, kids are invited and encouraged to play, touch, and interact with the exhibits around them.
5827 4th Ave, Kearney, NE 68845, Phone: 308-698-2228
Lake Minatare is the largest lake in the area, and it is home to the only full-size lighthouse in the state of Nebraska. Families who visit Lake Minatare can expect a world of fun out on the water. Visitors can try their luck with a fishing rod, splash and swim in the lake, enjoy a relaxing paddle on a kayak or canoe, or spend the day out on a boat while they water ski and go tubing and enjoy the sunshine. Campgrounds at Lake Minatare mean that families can bring their RV or a tent for a full weekend of adventure, or maybe even longer. Because Lake Minatare is an important habitat for migratory birds, the lake is open during the warmer months of the year but is closed to the public from mid-October through mid-January.
Minatare, NE 69356, Phone: 308-783-2911
9.Legacy of the Plains Museum
Nebraska has a proud role in American history. It’s in the agricultural heart of the country, and as American settlers migrated west, it was an integral part of their journey. The Legacy of the Plains Museum pays tribute to that journey with exhibits that contain artifacts from settlers and pioneers who passed through and settled in Nebraska. The museum is actually located right on the historic Oregon Trail, and has some gorgeous views of nearby Scotts Bluff Monument, so it’s easy to fit this great attraction into a larger itinerary for the day. Some of the displays at the museum include historic farming equipment and exhibits explaining how the pioneers lived their lives, and the museum is also a working farm, so families can learn about modern farming techniques as well.
2930 Old Oregon Trail #8500, Gering, NE 69341, Phone: 308-436-1989
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10.Lincoln Children’s Museum
With three stories packed full with interactive exhibits and creative play areas, the Lincoln Children’s Museum is a great place to spend a rainy or snowy afternoon, and a great destination to let the kids stretch their legs and burn off some of their energy. The Lincoln Children’s Museum prides itself on believing that age is a state of mind, and wants its museum to be fun for kids of all ages, whether they’re five years old or fifty. The littlest visitors can play and explore in the Grow Zone, while older kids can have fun in Tiny Town, which is complete with a bank, a doctor’s office, and even a mini apple orchard. Upstairs there’s a transportation exhibit that features trains and cars, a system of kid-sized prairie dog tunnels, and a performing arts stage.
1420 P St, Lincoln, NE 68508, Phone: 402-477-4000
11.Lincoln Children’s Zoo
Since 1965, the Lincoln Children’s Zoo has served as a place where families could come and learn about animals, interact with nature, and have fun. The zoo is different from others in that it is designed specifically for kids, with lots of activities and events that afford visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with the animal residents of the zoo. On the animal encounter stage, kids can have the opportunity to interact with animals like a porcupine, an African serval, a chameleon, an armadillo, a macaw parrot, and so many others. The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is home to over 400 animals and runs lots of camps and events designed specifically for kids so they can learn about these marvelous creatures.
1222 S 27th St, Lincoln, NE 68502, Phone: 402-475-6741
12.Missouri National River
The Missouri River is the longest river in North America, and a long part of it winds through Nebraska. The Missouri National Recreational River covers a 100 mile stretch of river along the state border of Nebraska and South Dakota. There are two basic districts of the recreation area: the 39-mile stretch of the river and the 59-mile stretch, and each one offers a distinct experience, so it’s important to plan ahead before visiting the Missouri National Recreational River. No matter which area you choose, the place is beautiful, and some of the activities and sights you’ll see include the Meridian Bridge, gorgeous overlooks which can be reached by a number of hikes of varying difficulty, and of course, paddling on the river.
13.Mormon Trail Center
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In the 19th century, the Mormon population in Nauvoo, Illinois left their settlement and traveled west. Many of them made it to Utah, where to this day there is still a huge population of Mormons, but a smaller settlement was Winters Quarters, in a town now known as Florence, nebraska. At the Mormon Trail Center, visitors can learn all about the history of the Mormon religion and the Mormon pioneers of the 19th century. The museum at the Mormon Trail Center is open year round, seven days a week, though hours change depending on the season, so it’s recommended to check their website before visiting.
3215 State St, Omaha, NE 68112, Phone: 402-453-9372
14.Museum of Nebraska History
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The state of Nebraska has a long and storied history spanning thousands of years into the past, and many of those events are documented and memorialized in the Museum of Nebraska History, located in Lincoln. This museum is well suited for families with children, and contains many interactive and interesting exhibits pertaining to the history of Nebraska. Visitors can learn about Nebraska before and after it became the state we know today, and take a look at the thousands of artifacts and objects that are on display in the museum, which depict life in Nebraska throughout the ages.
131 Centennial Mall N, Lincoln, NE 68508, Phone: 402-471-4754
15.Museum of the Fur Trade
The Museum of the Fur Trade is the most expansive museum of its kind in the world. It tells the story of how people used to trade the furs from animals they hunted for other goods, and the impact that this economic system had on early European and American settlers as well as on the Native American population of the region. The Museum of the Fur Trade contains thousands of historic items and artifacts that people commonly traded for. There’s a huge collection of textiles and cloth, a display of firearms and weapons, a selection of ornaments, crafts, and art supplies, antique tools, and containers from many of the food and provisions that were traded.
6321 Hwy 20, Chadron, NE 69337, Phone: 308-432-3843
16.Omaha Botanical Gardens
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The Omaha Botanical Gardens, otherwise known as Lauritzen Gardens or Kenefick Park, are a beautiful place to stop and enjoy some nature. These gardens have a charming outdoor landscaped area filled with flowering blooms and lovely walking paths, where families can stop and smell the roses both literally and figuratively. The gardens are also home to an indoor greenhouse filled with tropical plants and flowers that bloom year-round, so the Omaha Botanical Gardens are a wonderful destination even in the dead of winter. The gardens have a charming cafe, perfect for a quick lunch, and a gift shop full of unique and beautiful souvenirs.
100 Bancroft St, Omaha, NE 68108, Phone: 402-346-4002
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17.Omaha Children’s Museum
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When it comes to children’s museums, this nationally recognized museum of play and learning is a must-see. The Omaha Children’s Museum features seasonal exhibits that are catered toward helping children learn and have a great time while they do it. Their permanent collection of exhibits includes an interactive science center, a tinkering lab where kids can use real tools to create whatever they can dream up, a mechanic’s play service center, a fun water park garden where kids can cool down during the summer, and a STEAM Cave, which focused on science and engineering, and encourages kids to be creative even as they use their scientific thinking skills.
500 S 20th St, Omaha, NE 68102, Phone: 402-342-6164
18.Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is located on 130 acres of land in Omaha, and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon learning about animals and marine life as kids get up close and personal with some really cool creatures. Visitors can take part in an animal encounter to meet some of the zoo’s residents, or even take a backstage tour to meet some of the zookeepers and see all the work that goes into running a zoo and keeping all the animals happy. The zoo runs classes and camps for kids of all ages, and even hosts events throughout the year for holidays and seasonal fun.
3701 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68107
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19.Pierce Historical Museum
The Pierce Historical Society is dedicated to the preservation of the region’s history as well as the education of the next generation about how the community came to be. At the Pierce Historical Museum, visitors will love the opportunity to get a look at the museum’s collection of artifacts, which contains over three thousand items that were used in daily life in historic Nebraska. Also included in the museum are the buildings on the premises, including a historic train depot, a small schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, and a building used to house farm machinery, which is filled with some historic farming equipment. Admission to the museum is 100% free, but if visitors would like a guided tour, the cost is $1 per person.
Gilman Park on N. Mill St Pierce, NE 68767, Phone: 402-329-4265
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The award winning collection of pioneer and americana related artifacts at Pioneer Village is truly impressive. With over fifty thousand items in their 28 buildings, Pioneer Village is the best place to learn about how early settlers lived. Many of the items have been restored to their original operating order, and so visitors at Pioneer Village will have the opportunity to see these artifacts at work, whether its an antique toy or a historic tractor. Some of the fun and interactive buildings in the village include a Pony Express station, a sod house, a general store, a stockade, a blacksmith shop, one room schoolhouse, and even a toy collection.
138 US-6, Minden, NE 68959, Phone: 308-832-1181
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21.Platte County Museum
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Kids and adults alike will be wowed by the collection at the Platte County Museum, located in Columbus, NE. In this historic building, they will find a massive bank vault from the 1920s, an entire log cabin with many of its original furnishings, which dates back to 1857, and a really unique barber shop from the late 19th or early 20th century. Other cool items in the museum include antique tractors, cars, and motorcycles, clothing and furniture that dates back to the Victorian era, fossils, and tools used by Native Americans. The Platte County Museum is open on weekdays from 8:30am until 1:30pm, and on weekends from 1pm to 4pm.
2916 16th St, Columbus, NE 68601, Phone: 402-564-1856
22.Riverside Zoo & Discovery Center
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At the Riverside Zoo and Discovery Center, kids and families can have a wonderful day full of adventure and experiential learning. In the discovery center, kids can learn about the animals they see in the zoo, and interact with the world around them through a small rock climbing wall, interactive playgrounds, and a number of recreated ecosystems that kids can climb on, play in, and learn about. The zoo portion of Riverside will then show kids some of the wildlife they might find in these ecosystems, and teaches kids about the living habits of those animals in the wild. The zoo is open year round, with discounted ticket pricing for young children.
1600 S Beltline Hwy W, Scottsbluff, NE 69361, Phone: 308-630-6236
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23.Strategic Air and Space Museum
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At the Strategic Air and Space Museum, kids can take part in specially-curated exhibits designed to help children learn about space, spacecraft, air travel, and engineering. Exhibits contain helicopters, airplanes, rockets, and even a planetarium, where guests can learn to identify some of the very stars and planetary objects they see in the sky every night. In the CHildren’s Learning Center, kids can conduct experiments that help them learn about concepts like airflow, pressure, and mass, or build a circuit board to see firsthand how they work. At the innovation station, kids can use a variety of materials to make their own inventions, and on the magnet wall, kids can design their very own roller coaster.
28210 W Park Hwy, Ashland, NE 68003, Phone: 402-944-3100
24.The Durham Museum
© The Durham Museum
Located in downtown Omaha, the Durham Museum is situated inside the city’s former Union Station. The Durham Museum is dedicated to preserving and educating the public about the history of the American west. The exhibits cover a wide range of topics, from culture to science to anthropology to the development of industries, and many are rotating or traveling, meaning there’s always something new to enjoy. At the Durham Museum, guests will learn not just about the past, but about the impact of that past on current day society, through a number of fun and interactive exhibits which will be enjoyable for the whole family.
801 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68108, Phone: 402-444-5071
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25.York Area Children’s Museum
The York Area Children’s Museum can be found in the York City Auditorium, just inside the South Hallway. This children’s museum aims to create a safe space where kids can play and learn about a wide variety of subjects. It is a volunteer-run organization, and admission is only $1 per person. Exhibits within the York Area Children’s Museum include a small play town that features houses, a bank, a restaurant, a medical clinic, and even a tree house loft. There’s also a science room equipped with microscopes and other cool equipment that allows kids to explore and learn, a construction zone, and a craft room.
612 N Nebraska Ave, York, NE 68467, Phone: 402-362-1347
25 Fun Things to Do in Nebraska with Kids of All Ages
- Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Ak Sar Ben Outdoor Aquarium, Photo: niknikp/stock.adobe.com
- Children’s Museum Of Central Nebraska, Photo: Alex Tor/stock.adobe.com
- Edgerton Explorit Center, Photo: krutenyuk/stock.adobe.com
- Fontenelle Forest Nature Center, Photo: terry/stock.adobe.com
- Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, Photo: Henryk Sadura/stock.adobe.com
- Kearney Area Children's Museum, Photo: suzannmeer/stock.adobe.com
- Lake Minatare, Photo: Goodpics/stock.adobe.com
- Legacy of the Plains Museum, Photo: leekris/stock.adobe.com
- Lincoln Children’s Museum, Photo: Tomsickova/stock.adobe.com
- Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Photo: vladislav333222/stock.adobe.com
- Missouri National River, Photo: Rostislav/stock.adobe.com
- Mormon Trail Center, Photo: DR pics/stock.adobe.com
- Museum of Nebraska History, Photo: Ruslan Gilmanshin/stock.adobe.com
- Museum of the Fur Trade, Photo: joppo/stock.adobe.com
- Omaha Botanical Gardens, Photo: Anna J. Photography/stock.adobe.com
- Omaha Children’s Museum, Photo: Jaimie Duplass/stock.adobe.com
- Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, Photo: dennisjacobsen/stock.adobe.com
- Pierce Historical Museum, Photo: firstofmayday/stock.adobe.com
- Pioneer Village, Photo: Pavlo Vakhrushev/stock.adobe.com
- Platte County Museum, Photo: Anderson Matos/stock.adobe.com
- Riverside Zoo & Discovery Center, Photo: Peter Maszlen/stock.adobe.com
- Strategic Air and Space Museum, Photo: Anton Barashenkov/stock.adobe.com
- The Durham Museum, Photo: The Durham Museum
- York Area Children’s Museum, Photo: akintevs/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com