5 Must-Visit Nebraska Summer Spots

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5 must-visit Nebraska summer spots

Summer is a great time to explore all Nebraska has to offer. With festivals and shows in full swing and the state’s beautiful outdoor destinations beckoning, it’s time to hit the road! While this isn’t even close to a full list, here are just five suggestions to get you started.

 Old West Balloon Fest

Old West Balloon Fest – Scotts Bluff County

A long-standing tradition with some recent innovation, this hot air ballooning event is just another reason to visit western Nebraska. Catch all of the unique balloons filling the sky each morning and evening as they take off from Mitchell Airfield and take in all of the unique food and merchandise vendors, kids activities, and plenty more entertainment during the day.

Admission is charged by the carload for this multi-day August festival, so it’s a fantastic bargain if you load up your family and friends to come for all of the fun. The festival prides itself on being enjoyable for anyone “from the ages of 1 to 100,” so there is a little something for everyone. 

And while you’re in the area, there is so much more to see, including Scotts Bluff National Monument, Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area, Lake Minatare and the towns of Scottsbluff, Gering and Mitchell to explore.

Pinewood Bowl Theater

Pinewood Bowl Theater - Lincoln

If you’re looking for a concert experience like no other, put Pinewood Bowl on your list. Nestled among the evergreens of Lincoln’s Pioneers Park, it’s a 5,500-capacity venue where you’ll hear some of the music scene’s top artists under the sunsets and starlight. Check out their calendar to see who’s performing, with shows often lined up into September.

There’s plenty to explore at Pioneers Park before your show, too. Prairie, wetland and woodland habitats, gardens, multi-use trails and lots of open space are all available year-round.

Niobrara National Scenic River

Niobrara National Scenic RiverValentine

The sky is the limit for what you can find exploring this 76-mile stretch of river. For one thing, it was recognized as one of the world’s first International Quiet Trails by Quiet Parks International, meaning it is largely free of man-made noise. It’s a pristine environment where you can be truly immersed in nature.

The area cuts through the Sandhills, one of the world’s more unique natural environments, with six major ecosystems converging on the area. Activities include kayaking, canoeing or tubing down the river, wildlife viewing and camping. You also have quick access to Nebraska’s tallest waterfall, Smith Falls, plus or any of the area’s more than 200 smaller, more hidden waterfalls.

Nebraska State Fair
Photo Courtesy: Visit Grand Island

Nebraska State FairGrand Island

Set in central Nebraska, this annual event is also at the heart of all things heritage and culture in the state. Fit for your whole family or group, it offers livestock competitions, petting zoos, food vendors, live music, rides and diverse vendor booths. So whether you want to dive head-first into the agricultural celebration or stock up on every one-of-a-kind food you can find, the fair has you covered.

Check out statefair.org for a full list of events, schedules and all the latest updates.

Lake McConaughy
Photo Courtesy: @destination_dame

Lake McConaughy State Recreation AreaOgallala

Known as “Big Mac,” this is an outdoor attraction like no other in the state. The reservoir spans 30,000 surface acres, and there is ample white-sand beach and camping space. Fishing, boating, wind surfing, water skiing and swimming are just a few of the activities you can enjoy.

The massive Kingsley Dam separates Lake McConaughy from the smaller, gentler Lake Ogallala, which is also a great aquatic destination with must-see scenery and wildlife.