Nebraska is a state full of natural wonders and hidden gems just waiting to be explored. Slow down and take in all that the good life has to offer such as the prairies of the Great Plains, the towering dunes of the Sandhills, and the panhandle’s dramatic rock formations. The kids will love spending time on a “different planet” at Toadstool Geologic Park, or learning all about Nebraska’s railroad history at Harold Warp Pioneer Village and North Platte. There’s plenty to see and do in Nebraska, and even some great camping spots. Book a stay at one of many incredible Nebraska vacation rentals today. Have an unforgettable Independence Day by checking out these family-friendly places in Nebraska.
Omaha is the largest city in Nebraska and without a doubt has plenty of family fun for your Fourth of July vacation. Our absolute favorite spot is the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. The freshly renovated Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium is the largest aquarium inside of the zoo and lets you walk on the “bottom of the ocean,” get up close and personal with sea turtles and watch sharks circle above you. Visit Kingdoms of the Night, the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit, the Lied Jungle, America’s largest indoor rainforest, and the Desert Dome, the world’s largest indoor desert. We’re starting to sense a pattern here. Plus, there are all your regular zoo favorites like tigers, lions, rhinos, giraffes and more. Don’t forget about the live steam train, tram, carousel and aerial tram.
2. Scotts Bluff National Monument
Surround yourself with the beauty of nature at the Scotts Bluff National Monument. To the North, look up to see the Platte River and the whole Mitchell Valley. Turn around to see the outskirts of the Rocky Mountains with a towering bluff and panoramic views in every direction. You can hike or drive up to the monument, or do both because each way provides a unique view of the attraction. The national monument includes multiple bluffs along with a covered wagon along the historic Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail. In addition, take some extra time to explore the area because there are beautiful fields on sunflowers nearby.
3. Toadstool Geologic Park
If your family is in the mood for some spontaneous adventure, come to Toadstool Geologic Park for some ancient geography, raw nature, and natural ruins. Explore the “moonscape” of the Badlands with a self-guided trail brochure and have a picnic with a unique backdrop. You’ll feel like you’re on a different planet as you leap from ledge to ledge and hike off into the distance. Make sure to check out the High Plains Homestead, home of the Drifter Cookshack, for a dinner before heading back to your vacation rental. The park is open 24 hours a day, year-round, and camping facilities are also available.
4. Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park
Every kid goes through a dinosaur phase, and the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park is here to cater to every childhood fantasy. The Great Plains were blanketed with a fall of volcanic ash nearly 12 million years ago leaving behind the fossil skeletons of animals that died at a watering hole following that massive volcanic eruption. The Hubbard Rhino Barn allows for the discovery and protection of many more fossils in the park and gives visitors a firsthand look at the extinct animals preserved exactly as they died while all new fossil excavations are carried out in their full view.
5. Harold Warp Pioneer Village
Continue your kids’ history lesson at the Harold Warp Pioneer Village where more than 50,000 historic items are on display. The village includes twenty-six buildings with a sod house, one-room school, Pony Express station, depot, general store and an 1884 church. It’s also the home of the oldest existing Buick and 350 other antique autos, 20 historic aircraft, 100 vintage tractors, guns, motorcycles, snowmobiles, boats, buggies, trains, and trolleys. For anyone not as interested in cars and motors, spinning, weaving and broom making is performed on site. A motel and campground are also available on the site if you want to stay overnight. It’s the perfect place to learn the story of American and how it grew!
6. Indian Cave State Park
Any outdoor loving families? Look no further than Indian Cave State Park. This park offers 22 miles of hiking and biking trails, horseback rides, boat ramp and RV camping plus cross-country skiing and sledding in the winter and hundreds of trees, shrubs, and wildlife. Really, the list goes on and on. Grounds are open year-round for camping and hiking and the museum and other facilities open during the summer months for their living history program.
7. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park will keep everyone in the family happy. Located along the Platte River bluffs, there’s a restaurant and lodge on site along with horseback trail rides, nature trails, a marina, fishing, sports fields, indoor theater, a water park with slides and wave pool, crafts, miniature golf, and a driving range. If you’re sick of the outdoors, catch a show at the theater year-round. There are also arts and crafts, game room and activity center with plenty of things for the kids to do.
8. Happy Jack Peak and Chalk Mine
Happy Jack Peak and Chalk Mine has more than 6,000 feet of the honeycombed cavern and the only publicly accessible chalk room and pillar mine in North America. Take one of their guided tours to learn all about the history of “the chalk.” It was discovered in the 1850s and soon after, people began using the strange, lightweight rock in buildings. One “chalk” building still stands In nearby Scotia, Nebraska, where there’s also great hiking, plenty of spots for picnicking, and a spectacular view of the North Loup Valley. You and your family won’t want to miss Nebraska’s greatest and only underground adventure!
9. North Platte
The city of North Platte has an amazing place we know your kids will love. The Golden Spike Tower provides a unique look at the sights and sounds of Bailey Yard, the world’s largest classification rail yard. You can witness the daily activities of Bailey Yard as more than 150 trains and 10,000 rail cars are processed each day. It was also the home of Buffalo Bill, one of North Platte’s founding fathers. You can visit his historic home where he brought the famed Wild West Show to life. Fourth of July fun in this town actually starts on the 2nd with Sutherland’s annual Independence Day Celebration. Festivities begin with a slack rodeo performance, then continues with the first rodeo performance on July 3. July 4th is packed with activities starting with a 5K fun run, kids races, a community BBQ, parade and the final performance of the rodeo at 8 pm. Head to the Golden Spike Tower when the sun goes down for a perfect view of the fireworks.
10. Smith Falls State Park
Smith Falls State Park is Nebraska’s newest state park. Thanks to a national historic bridge across the Niobrara River, you and your family can walk to Nebraska’s highest waterfall. It’s particularly special because several ice age species can still be found here. This is a great spot if you want to spend your July 4th camping, canoeing, kayaking, or tubing. It’s perfect for cooling off on a hot summer’s day!