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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Wieseler

The Ultimate Local’s Guide to Lincoln

Top Things to Do in Nebraska’s Capital City


When it comes down to it, there’s no shortage of fun things to do in Lincoln, Nebraska. Whether it be going out to the bars or walking through beautiful scenery, Lincoln has it all. Here’s a breakdown of some of the best things to do by category, according to the locals.


Outdoors

  • Tanker Hill - One of the best views of Lincoln and the airport, Tanker Hill can be found in Arnold Heights Park. It offers similar amenities as any of the other parks, but it holds a special place in the locals’ hearts for fun day of winter sledding.

  • Bike Trails - Lincoln is host to an extensive network of bike trails in its parks and throughout the city. They are fun to get out on either for a short trip or a long joyride. Be on the lookout for special biking events that will take you around town and into surrounding areas!

  • Sunken Gardens - This one is for the photographers and Instagram-ers. Each year, this former neighborhood dump ground features a new floral design, putting over 30,000 annual flowers on display, alongside many other perennial blooms and garden greens. The Sunken Gardens’ design theme for 2023 is “Magical Mystery Tour,” based on the album covers and art work from the Beatles. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

  • Wilderness Park - As Lincoln’s biggest park, this 1,472 acres of land plays home to many plant and animal species. It has plenty of hiking and biking trails, a couple even with some unique suspension bridges. As the name implies, this park is for those outdoors folks who want to get out into the wilderness.

  • Branched Oak Lake and Wagon Train Lake - In the summertime, you can find a great place to relax near these two lakes. Both have great amenities for swimming, fishing, mountain biking, camping, hiking, and grilling out. Both will require a Nebraska State Park entry permit which you can purchase here.

Experiences

  • The Capitol Building - The old architecture and symbolism of the artwork inside sets the stage for an immersive history lesson on Nebraska. It was designed by New York architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue in 1920, who mixed Gothic Revival and Art Deco with a hint of Byzantine architecture so it stands out above the rest of the city. Tours are free and run on the hour Monday through Friday starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m. On Saturday and holidays tours begin at 10 a.m. with the last tour starting at 4 p.m. On Sunday they run 1-4 p.m.

  • Husker Football Game - You can never truly understand Lincoln, and Nebraska for that matter, without experiencing a Cornhusker Football game. True, they haven’t had the best record in a while, but that doesn’t stop fans from repeatedly selling out the stadium for every home game. The atmosphere is fun, there’s lots of camaraderie among fans, and you can’t help but cheer the team on.

  • Haymarket - If you want to just walk around and see where the day takes you, the Haymarket is a great place to start! It’s the downtown area of Lincoln, and it’s got all kinds of shops, cafes, nightlife and other activities to keep you busy all day. If you visit Lincoln between May and October, be sure to check out the Haymarket Farmers Market on Saturday mornings as well.

  • Jazz in June - Also on UNL’s campus, you can find the Jazz in June event every summer. Typically taking place every Tuesday evening, the event offers great music with a chill atmosphere.

  • Zoo Lights - Now, if you are visiting in the winter, a must-see is the Zoo Lights event at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, which features hundreds of lit up animal silhouettes and twinkling lights throughout the entire zoo. It’s an affordable event that even gets you a train ride and a free souvenir mug filled with delicious hot cocoa with a VIP ticket.


  • Roca Berry Farm - A must visit attraction in the fall, Roca Berry Farm is oldest, largest (and many argue best) pumpkin patch in the county, perhaps even in the state. If you have a young family, you can easily spend the entire day there, with attractions ranging from jumping pillows and corn mazes to zombie paintball and the House of Illusions. But that’s not all. At night, Roca Berry Farm turns into Roca Scary Farm, a haunted theme park with three spooky attractions for both teens and adults to endure. Whether you love all things scary or prefer good old-fashion pumpkin-patching, Roca Berry Farm is the place to go in the fall!

Nightlife

  • The Other Room - A little-known gem tucked away between buildings within the Haymarket, The Other Room is a kind of semi-formal speakeasy. It’s an intimate setting with ornate cocktails unique to the bar. It’s cash only, and you must respect the vibe with low voices and no flash photography.

  • Kinkaider Brewing - Based out of Broken Bow, Nebraska, Kinkaider Brewing offers a wide selection of their top beers at their Lincoln location. Better yet, the atmosphere is perfect for summer nights, with a huge patio and gas fire pits on the tables to roast some s'mores, not to mention the frequent live music.

  • The Alchemy - If you enjoy a more medieval vibe when enjoying a cocktail, then you’ll want to check out the Alchemy. Though a little pricey, you get what you pay for. Unique twists on classic drinks will leave you asking your waiter/waitress for another round.

  • Arcade Bar - Maybe you are more of the type to drink and play? The Arcade Bar’s got you covered! A fun, retro-style atmosphere, this bar has all the oldies, but goodies when it comes to arcade games. Sip on your favorite drink of choice while you play Pacman, or take a Mystery Shot before you head into Mortal Kombat. All the nostalgia of the 1990s and early 2000s with all the fun of being drinking age.

  • Mckinney’s - You’ll find all the Guinness-lovers at McKinney’s, an Irish-style pub in the Haymarket. Even if you aren’t much for a tall glass of rich, dark beer, you might appreciate the decor — dollar bills decorated and signed by McKinney’s numerous patrons cover the pub from top to bottom.

  • Barrymore’s - Down an alley off 13th St. you’ll find the backdoor for the Rococo Theatre - because it used to be! However, now that door will take you to Barrymore’s, a bar that’s always hopping, particularly on Thursday nights. Barrymore’s Trivia Night fills up the space with trivia wizards and those just looking for a good laugh. It just might be the best trivia in town, but get there early or you might not get a seat!

  • Boiler Brewing Co. - A great destination for themed trivia, Boiler Brewing Co. also offers a wide variety of unique beers, meads, ciders and seltzers. Their daily menu typically features over 20 types of beverages! The best part? They rotate often, depending on what the brewery decides to brew next. You can even take a tour of the brewery, which run on the first Sunday of every month.

  • Bierhaus - A rustic bar with a heavy German influence, Bierhaus is the newer bar on the block. Serving mostly beers and ciders, it also has a solid food menu, with their giant pretzels being a customer-favorite. You can also get your beverage in various types of mugs—their most infamous one being a glass boot!

Restaurants

  • Tipsy Tina’s - A great night out awaits at Tipsy Tina’s, where you can get giant refreshing frozen margaritas. You can also find lots of great Mexican-American dishes at this taco restaurant, but nothing quite beats their classic chips and queso.

  • Vincenzo’s - Considered one of the best (if not the best) Italian restaurants in Lincoln, Vincenzo's always provides a nice atmosphere and great tasting food in a historical downtown building. Date night-approved!

  • Tandoor - You don’t have to go to the other side of the world to experience the food. Tandoor is a great restaurant for authentic Indian cuisine that doesn’t skip out on flavor and spice.

  • Lazlo’s - Looking for traditional home-style cooking? Lazlo’s has got you covered. In the heart of downtown Lincoln, this restaurant features great American food paired with in-house brewed craft beers.

  • Kasumi Sushi - If you’re worried you can’t get the seafood diet in the middle of the country, don’t worry. Kasumi Sushi finds a way to make you forget you’re even landlocked. Grab all you can eat sushi with or a classic seafood boil at this downtown favorite.

  • De Leon’s - If you’re looking for some fast and cheap Mexican-American food, De Leon’s is the place to go. Open 24 hours/7 days a week, De Leon’s makes a great stop for a midday lunch or a late night snack.

  • Toppers Pizza - If you need a late night pick-me-up, Toppers has got you covered. With some of the best pizza in Lincoln, Toppers will have you drooling for more. Plus, you can’t beat the prices.

  • Good Evans - At this cute breakfast diner, expect fluffy pancakes (even gluten-free ones!), savory skillets and sweet, sweet pastries. Good Evans is the place to go for weekday breakfast or weekend brunch. However, the entire city knows it, so expect a long wait! Definitely worth it though.

Cafes and Desserts

  • Mana Games Café - Board game and card game lovers, this is the place for you. With hundreds of games to choose from, whether they are party games, cooperative games or the classics, you can easily spend hours on end at Mana Games Cafe. Plus, you can get some fun game-inspired drinks and snacks to keep you sustained while you journey around the game board. Cost is $5 for a day pass, but they also have a monthly membership if you find yourself going at least once a week.

  • The Mill - A Lincoln staple, The Mill began as a small cafe started in 1975 by two bicycle shop owners who got tired of “shop” coffee every morning. The small operation quickly grew into a gourmet coffee business with its own locally roasted coffee blends and herbal teas. Now with locations in every part of town, it’s a go-to cafe for relaxing, studying or working.

  • Hurts Donuts - Whether you are a Krispy Kreme or Dunkin’ Donuts fan, Hurts Donuts has them both beat. With flavors from Oreo cheesecake to apple pie, their specialty donuts are more than frosting and sprinkles. While the donuts may cost a bit more than your typical gas station dozen, they are well worth the extra cash and calories.

  • Ivana Cone - Located across the hall from Mana Games Café in the Creamery Building in the the Historic Haymarket, Ivana Cone is a classic ice cream parlor with dozens of flavors and ice cream styles to choose from. Most people opt for their delicious waffle cones, which you can smell the moment you walk in the door.

  • 402 Creamery - Looking for gluten free or dairy free dessert options? Look no further than 402 Creamery, which has two locations: Haymarket and Village Gardens. This ice cream shop features signature flavors and seasonal specials — all of which are made from scratch.

Where will you go first?

Lincoln is full of hidden and not-so-hidden gems throughout the entire city, making it a great destination for family vacations or a weekend getaway. Be sure to check back periodically as I’m sure these lists will only continue to grow!


*Jacob Thomas and Andrew Cook contributed to this article.

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