Nebraska residents and natives of neighboring states may not think of their area as a vacation destination. However, Nebraska’s lakes and rivers mixed with quaint towns and nature parks actually have all the makings of a perfect weekend getaway. To show that there is fun and adventure everywhere, here is a list of the top Nebraska waterside retreats.

5 Best Nebraska Destinations For A Lake Vacation

1. Valentine/ Niobrara River

Valentine’s varied landscape is sure to have something to satisfy the nature buff in you. Not only is it located in Nebraska’s sandhills - a vast prairieland with sand dunes and a designated National Natural Landmark - it also neighbors the Niobrara River. For a day on the water, you can canoe or kayak to Smith Falls, the highest waterfall in the state. Or, spend a day with the local wild bison, elk, or prairie dogs by taking a driving tour or a hike through Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge.

2. Valentine/ Niobrara River

For a trip to the state’s biggest lake, Lake McConaughy, book a vacation rental in nearby Ogallala. “Lake Mac,” as its known to locals, offers more than 100 miles of coastline and is perfectly suited for a day on the beach or a day on a boat. If you have ever wanted to try geocaching, this is also a great place to start, as there are ten caches hidden in the lake’s vicinity. In the summer, you can immerse yourself in the area’s frontier history by taking in one of the nightly performance of Front Street, an old west show. This shoot-out has been going on for more than 50 years, and you can also visit its free cowboy museum.

3. Kearney/ Platte River

Visit Kearney in early spring if you want to see its claim to fame. For six weeks, more than five hundred thousand Sandhill Cranes, which is more than 80 percent of this species’ worldwide population, stop here during their migration for a rest along the Platte River. If you want to get to know Nebraska on a cultural level, it’s free to visit the Museum of Nebraska Art. MONA focuses on collecting and displaying the work of artists whom have a personal connection to the state and tell Nebraska’s story throughout history.

4. Valentine/ Niobrara River

The quaint, historic town of Brownville will have you feeling like you have been transported back to a simpler time. In fact, if you believe in the supernatural, you may want to visit The Meriwether Lewis Dredge Museum or The Bailey House Museum for a chance for a literal encounter with the past, as both are said to be haunted. For a worldlier activity, visit Whiskey Run Creek for a wine tasting. It is located in a more than 100-year-old barn. The winery is located on the site of one of Nebraska’s first breweries. Bibliophiles will enjoy shopping for rare and used books at the two-story Antiquarium Bookstore, or one of the three other bookstores in town. The best time to take in Brownville’s scenery is during the summer months, when you can book a dinner cruise down the Missouri River on The Spirit of Brownville riverboat.

5. Valentine/ Niobrara River

Although, the tiny town of Crofton, NE has only 800 residents, that does not stop thousands of visitors from stopping by each year. The town’s biggest attraction is nearby Lewis and Clark Lake, which offers entertainment year-round. In the summer, the 35-mile lake attracts beachgoers, or those looking for the perfect sailing or canoeing spot. Crofton’s Lakeview Golf Course even offers panoramic views of the lake from its vantage point on an overlooking bluff. During the winter, when the lake is frozen solid, it transforms in to an ice skating rink.

This article was written by Paula Ashlee Berg.