Lincoln, Nebraska offers natural beauty and is centrally located in an area packed with charming small towns. See free-roaming animals and wildlife in North Platte, or spend a day at the children’s museum in Kearney. Cater to outdoor enthusiasts with treks along hiking trails in Ponca, or indulge golfers with a challenging game on a course in Royal or Ponca. As for accommodations, book a stay at one of many cozy Nebraska vacation rentals for your next weekend getaway. Check out the top destinations within driving distance from Lincoln.

1. North Platte

If you and the kids love to see exotic animals, then make the three and a half-hour trek from Lincoln to North Platte for the weekend. Cody Park features free-roaming animals adjacent to the city’s famous Buffalo Bill statue, which makes a perfect backdrop for a family photo. When traveling with adults, kick back at the Platte Bar with some brews, or play a game of pool at Brother’s Tavern. The Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park contains numerous scenic hiking trails, as well as an antique carousel that’s a favorite of kids and adults alike.

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2. Kearney

A two-hour drive from Lincoln puts you in the quaint city of Kearney for the weekend. Let the kids explore the interactive exhibits at the Kearney Area Children’s Museum, or get in some retail therapy at the Hilltop Mall or Stagecoach, a local boutique and gift shop. Entertain your crew with a thrilling performance at the World Theatre on a Saturday evening, and then spend Sunday kayaking and canoeing at Yanney Heritage Park. Car enthusiasts may feel like they are in heaven when you tour the Classic Car Collection specialty museum. One of the biggest attractions is the Trail Bridge and the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, where you can snap a selfie before returning to your vacation rental.

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3. Lexington

Get to know the great outdoors when you make Lexington your weekend vacation destination. Located two and a half hours west of Lincoln, this city is home to 100 acres of trails for you and the family to hike and bike. Step back in time with tours of the Dawson County Historical Museum, the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles, and the Robert Henri Museum. Let the kids get wet and wild at the Family Aquatic Center, which has a splash pad, water slide, and Olympic-sized pool.

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4. Ponca

It takes just a little under three hours to find yourselves wandering along 1,400 acres of woodlands and the Missouri River bluffs near your vacation rental in Ponca. Home to Ponca State Park, this scenic city offers 20 miles of mountain biking trails, horseback rides, and weekend cookouts with the locals. Enjoy nine holes of golf at the Highland Oaks Golf Course, and then perfect your fishing skills with guides and park rangers from the state park. After your outdoor adventures, stop in at Bump N’ Sam’s for some bar bites and beverages.

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5. Valentine

Opt for a sweet weekend getaway in Valentine, located five hours from Lincoln, and enjoy stunning views of the Niobrara National Scenic River from your vacation rental’s balcony. When you want to make a splash, rent some kayaks and canoes from Graham Canoe Outfitters, or take a guided walking tour to see the wildlife refuge and falls at the Niobrara Valley Preserve. History buffs can get their fill at the Cherry County Historical Society Museum and Centennial Hall, which features 12 exhibit rooms and a schoolhouse dating back to the late 1890s.

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6. Royal

Find pure seclusion with a vacation rental in Royal, only a three-hour drive northwest from your Lincoln abode. This historic city attracts outdoorsy types for fishing at the Grove Lake Dam and hiking along the trails of the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. While on the trails, keep an eye out for interesting geological formations, as well as camel and rhino fossils. When lunchtime rolls around, opt for a homemade feast at the Green Gable of Pleasant Valley Restaurant. Delight avid golfers with 18 holes at the Summerland Golf Course in nearby Ewing. Top off your weekend by learning more about Nebraska history with a stop in at the Antelope County Museum.

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7. Norfolk

Opt for big adventures in the small city of Norfolk, located two hours and 10 minutes from your Lincoln home. If you visit during the summer season, thrill the kids with a weekend afternoon at the Memorial Aquaventure Waterpark, where they can zoom down water slides. Any time of year, you can treat the family to a game of miniature golf at the Willow Creek Recreation Area. Artistic types enjoy spending time at the Norfolk Arts Center and Elkhorn Valley Museum to see artwork from the locals, while outdoor types can explore the Ashfall Fossil Beds, which are visible from the historic Cowboy Trail.

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