Out 'n About in the Community of Opportunity: 5 Free Things to Do in Lincoln, NE
Opportunity abounds in Lincoln, NE, to enjoy family outings on the cheap. Over 100 city parks connected by 99 miles of trails beckon adults and kids to come enjoy time in the outdoors. Temperatures from the upper 60s to high 80s make spending time outside ideal from April through October, but fun freebies aren't just limited to parks. Here's a few other places to visit.
Stroll Through Sunken Gardens
Create your own fairy tale as you stand amidst 30,000 brilliant flowers at Sunken Gardens (South 27th St. and Capital Pkwy., Lincoln, NE). The gardens took shape in the 1930s as a way to help the unemployed earn money and beautify an abandoned dump site. Known as the Lincoln Rock Garden, rocks created retaining walls for terraces and water fountains. Stroll brick pathways under graceful gazebos and shady trees. The garden is abloom with color and maintains a koi pond from spring through summer. In winter, bring your camera for dramatic snowscape pics.
Roll Through a Museum
If your kids love getting around on wheels, they'll love visiting the National Museum of Roller Skating (4730 South St., Lincoln, NE). Show them what skating was like before the days when skate wheels popped out of the bottoms of shoes. Imagine rolling along on skates that look like little bicycles, skateboards for your feet or gas-powered skates that power you along at 40 mph. Learn that the first skates in 1819 were inline skates with two wheels in front and one under your heel. Bring along a grandparent who probably has fond memories of metal quad skates that attached to your shoes with a tightening key.
See the Stars
Gaze into the night sky through three telescopes at the Hyde Memorial Observatory (3701 S. 70th St., Lincoln, NE). The observatory was built completely by donations, is run by volunteers and is dedicated to providing viewings to the public. It's open every Saturday night year-round until 11 p.m. You don't have to be a science geek to join in: Astronomy presentations each Saturday night let you know in plain language what you're looking at in the night sky and how its position progresses or changes during the month. After you return home, check into the observatory's webpage to keep abreast of what's happening in the night sky each month.
Be a Pioneer
The kids will have fun exploring woodlands, wetlands, prairies and trails stretching through 668 acres at Pioneer Park (3201 S. Coddington Ave., Lincoln, NE). Your family adventure takes you to wood duck and heron wetlands and on trails that lead to buffalo, elk and white-tailed deer. Ancient-looking columns rise to the sky with a story to unfold—they once presided over the U.S. Treasury building in Washington, D.C. But this is not the only artwork in the park. Create a treasure hunt to look for the statues of bison, elk and a Native American sending smoke signals.
Go on a Photo Safari
Use some of Lincoln's public art as backdrops for silly selfies or memorable vacation photos. Stop by Morrill Hall at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (645 N. 14th St., Lincoln, NE) to see Archie, a life-size bronze sculpture of a mammoth like those that lived in the area eons ago. Pose with the cartoon-like Watchful Citizen at the Haymarket (335 N. 8th St. B, Lincoln, NE) or Join the Parade of frolicking children outside the Lincoln Children's Museum (420 P St., Lincoln, NE).
- City of Lincoln, NE: Sunken Gardens
- YouTube: National Rollerskating Museum
- YouTube: National Museum of Roller Skating Collections
- Roadside America: National Museum of Roller Skating
- National Museum of Roller Skating
- Lincoln Parks Foundation: Sunken Gardens
- Hyde Memorial Observatory
- City of Lincoln, NE: Pioneer Park Nature Center (also Map and Trails)
- Public Art Lincoln: Columns (See others at bottom)
- The Daily Nebraskan: Mammoth Piece Comes Home to Morrill Hall
- Public Art Lincoln
- Lincoln, Nebraska: Overview of Lincoln
Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.