Nebraska Family Road Trip


Each corner of our state offers a bevy of surprises just waitin' to be uncovered. Pack up the car and hit the road with your family to discover all sorts of adventures you'll be talking about for years to come. From pioneer sites to water parks to museums, Nebraska is jam-packed with family fun. Follow this 4-day guide for the ultimate Nebraska family road trip.

Day 1: Historic Highlights

Golden Spike Tower
Golden Spike Tower

Start your journey in Nebraska’s Southwest region, where you’ll discover railroad history, frontier heritage and wide-open spaces.

First Stop: Jumpstart your family road trip with a stop in Ogallala to browse an assortment of ancient woods, fossils and Native American artifacts at the Petrified Wood Gallery. This impressive collection, which was curated by Howard and Harvey Kenfield over the course of 50 years, includes ancient woods from around the world, polished rocks, carvings, gems and minerals. On your visit, be on the lookout for artwork and temporary exhibits on display from other collectors as well.

Second Stop: Next, hit the road and head east to North Platte. Here, you’ll find Bailey Yard, the world's largest classification rail yard. Learn the history of Union Pacific Railroad while you take in the action from the observation decks atop the Golden Spike Tower. Here you can watch as the crews below connect and process over 10,000 rail cars each day. Plus, the tour guides are former Union Pacific employees who can give you firsthand accounts and stories of what it was like to work at Bailey Yard.

Overnight Here: Stop for the night at North Platte’s Tru by Hilton. These comfortably modern accommodations will have you resting easy after your first day on the road. Located near some of the area’s biggest attractions, like Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park and the Cody Park Antique Carousel, the hotel features amenities including billiards, board games and a free build-your-own breakfast bar. Tru by Hilton is also pet-friendly, so it’s the perfect stop if your furry friend is along for the ride.

Day 2: Pioneers & Parks

An exhibit at The Archway.
The Archway

Head east to the state’s South Central region. Here you can follow the footsteps of pioneers, make a splash at exciting water parks and, in spring, witness the sandhill crane migration.

First Stop: Be sure to pack your bathing suits for a stop at Island Oasis Water Park in Grand Island. The kiddos will love making a splash at the park’s attractions, including a 350,000-gallon wave pool, four giant water slides, two speed slides and a 750-foot lazy river. Plus, there are all kinds of fun games and activities, like water basketball, sand volleyball, lily pad and log walks, a sandy play area and more. The park also features an onsite concession stand, so you can enjoy a whole day of watery fun.  

Second Stop: Learn about the trails and pathways of the brave pioneers who settled the American West at The Archway in Kearney. Spanning I-80, this comprehensive exhibit details the history of the Great Platte River Road. From the Oregon Trail and Pony Express to railroad history and Mark Twain’s trip across the country, learn the storied past of the pioneers and adventurers who helped pave the way to our nation’s westward expansion.

Overnight Here:  Ready to wind down for the night? Stay at the all-new Crowne Plaza Kearney for contemporary quarters and can’t-miss amenities including an indoor water park. The hotel is just minutes from The Archway and other area attractions, like the Museum of Nebraska Art.

Day 3: Scientific Sensations

Penguins swimming at Lincoln Children's Zoo.
Lincoln Children's Zoo

Continue east on I-80 towards the city centers of Nebraska’s Southeast and Metro regions for zoo adventures and a firsthand look at planes and spacecraft.

First Stop: Go wild in the state capital at Lincoln Children's Zoo. This award-winning family zoo features over 400 animals, from ring-tailed lemurs and blue death feigning beetles to cotton-top tamarin and pygmy marmosets, the world’s smallest monkeys! The zoo also features hands-on experiences and animal encounters, like giraffe feedings, the Cheetah Chase Theater and Wild Safari Theater, where you can experience your favorite animals closer than ever before.

Second Stop: Head northeast to Ashland and visit the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. Learn the history of Strategic Air Command through inspiring exhibits on American pilots and their courageous feats during WWII and other conflicts. Browse a collection of almost three dozen aircraft, including the B-17G “Flying Fortress,” the C-47A “Skytrain” and the SR-71A “Blackbird.” The museum also features a collection of missiles, rockets, spacecraft and other aerospace artifacts. On your visit, be on the lookout for innovative temporary exhibits as well.

Overnight Here: Head up to Waterloo for a camping adventure at Two Rivers State Recreation Area. This popular getaway can accommodate all camping styles, from primitive tent camping to full hookup RV sites. Two Rivers is the perfect home base for outdoors lovers, featuring a swimming beach, fishing, boating, hiking and horseback riding. If glamping is more your style, stay in one of 10 Union Pacific cabooses-turned-cabins. These unique accommodations sleep six and feature modern bathrooms and fully equipped kitchens — plus, they are a hit with the kids! 


Wave pool at AquaVenture Water Park.
AquaVenture Water Park

Steer north along U.S. 275 on your way to planetarium shows, water parks and the ultimate family lodging experience.

Stop 1: Stop in Wayne to learn all about our solar system at the Fred G. Dale Planetarium. Located at Wayne State College, the state’s most advanced planetarium can display 500 million stars and project the night’s sky 100,000 years into the past and future. The planetarium features a variety of shows focusing on the constellations, lunar exploration, astronauts, the origins of life, earth’s alignment and even extraterrestrial life. There are also shows for the little ones, too, like One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure.

Stop 2:  Next stop: Norfolk, where the kiddos can splash and play in over 20 water features at AquaVenture Water Park.  Open Memorial Day through August, the water park features water cannons, dump buckets, a zero-depth entry pool, a water walk, a wave pool and multiple slides, including a 300-foot raft slide and 200-foot body slide.

Overnight Here: Plan to stop for the night in Norfolk. Norfolk Lodge & Suites at Divots Conference Center is the perfect lodging experience for families. The lodge features plenty of activities to keep the kids happy, including an 18-hole mini golf course, two sand volleyball courts and an atrium-style pool. Plus, there’s a microbrewery onsite for the adults. Guests are also welcome to chocolate chip cookies at check-in and a complimentary buffet breakfast each morning of their stay.