Nebraska is a state in the Great Plains region of the United States of America. Admitted to the Union in 1867, "the Cornhusker State" quickly became known for its cattle and its corn. The state has largely flown under the radar of the outside world and locals are just fine with that.
The name Nebraska comes from the Omaha word Ni Bathaska, meaning "flat water", after the Platte River which flows through the state.
Nebraska can be roughly characterized as having four regions
- 1 Omaha – the largest city in the state and home of the College World Series
- 2 Bellevue - the oldest city in the state
- 3 Lincoln – the state capital and home of the Nebraska Huskers
- 4 Norfolk
- 5 Grand Island
- 6 Hastings
- 7 Kearney
- 8 North Platte
- 9 Scottsbluff/Gering
- 1 Antelope County - rural county
- 2 Chimney Rock National Historic Site – a landmark stone spire surrounded by treeless prairie
- 3 Deuel County - rural county
- 4 Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters – follow in the footsteps of the famous explorers on the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail.
- 5 Platte River State Park – a protected region of Nebraska's wetlands
- 6 Sand Hills – mixed grass prairie on grass stabilized sand dunes covering 19,000 square miles with dunes reaching 300 feet (91 m) in height
- 7 Scotts Bluff National Monument – rugged landscape with bluffs that tower over the river
- 8 Toadstool Geologic Park – surreal landscape caused by erosion
- 9 Wildcat Hills
Nebraska has a reputation of being a flat, monotonous region of farm and ranch land, but this stereotype has come from the many people who drive across Nebraska on the Interstate 80 corridor (the Platte River valley). Those who venture off this heavily traveled road discover that Nebraska does have a subtle, wide-open beauty that is all its own.
Nebraska is the only triple landlocked state in the U.S., meaning that you'd have to drive through at least three other states (or two states and a Canadian province) to get to the ocean. The title "Nebraska Admiral" (formally, "Admiral in the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska") is the state's highest honorary title, bestowed on approval of the state governor; it is not a military rank and carries no duties, pay or other compensation.
The vast majority of Nebraskans speak American English with a neutral "Standard Midwestern" accent. In some rural areas of the state, people speak with a slight accent best described as "country twang"; this accent is also easy to understand. Nebraska is largely devoid of unusual terms for everyday items, with a few exceptions:
- Carbonated drinks are nearly universally referred to as pop.
- Beer served from a keg at a bar is a draw; a half beer/half tomato juice drink in rural areas is a red draw.
- The town of Norfolk is pronounced Norfork and the town of Beatrice is pronounced Bee-at'-riss
- The town of Papillion is pronounced Pap-pill'-yun.
- The town of Plattsmouth is pronounced Platts-myth.
Nebraska has a fast-growing Hispanic population, largely concentrated in its medium-sized cities and Omaha. In these areas, governments, businesses, and community organizations often provide services in Spanish.
Nebraska's major national highway corridor is Interstate 80, which runs east-west across the state, Interstate 29 runs parallel to the state's Eastern border in Iowa and Missouri. Other major highways that enter Nebraska include Interstate 76 (from Colorado), US 81 (major north-south route), US 20 (northern east-west route), US 26 (from Wyoming), and US 385/Nebraska 71 (western north-south route).
The two major airports in Nebraska are located in Omaha and Lincoln. Omaha is served by all major airlines as well as Alaskan, Allegiant, and Frontier; Lincoln is served by Delta and United. There are no direct international flights to any Nebraska airport. Other airports with commercial service are in Alliance, Chadron, Grand Island, Kearney, McCook, North Platte and Scottsbluff. The Sioux City, Iowa airport serves the northeast corner of the state.
Amtrak makes stops daily in Omaha, Lincoln, Hastings, Holdrege and McCook. The only train serving the state is the California Zephyr. It will bring you in from San Francisco (Emeryville), Salt Lake City, and Denver from the west and Chicago from the east. Amtrak's stops are generally in the middle of the night no matter what direction you come from.
- Burlington Trailways, toll-free: +1-800-992-4680. Travels along I-76 and 80 between Denver and Omaha via Ogalalla, North Platte, Lexington, Kearney, Grand Island and Lincoln in Nebraska. Another route along I-80 from Chicago, across Iowa via Davanport, Iowa City and Des Moines; to Omaha.
- Express Arrow (Black Hills Stage Lines), ☏ +1 402 371-3850, toll-free: +1-877-779-2999. Travels along I-76 and 80 between Denver and Omaha via Ogalalla, North Platte, Lexington, Kearney, Grand Island and Lincoln in Nebraska on one route. And along US-Hwy 81 & 30 from Norfolk via Madison, Humphrey, Columbus, North Bend & Fremont to Omaha on another route.
- Greyhound Lines, toll-free: +1-800-231-2222. Serves only Omaha from Des Moines and Chicago along Interstate 80 and 88.
- Jefferson Lines, toll-free: +1-800-451-5333. Travels primarily on Interstate 29 between Kansas City, MO and Sioux Falls, SD via Omaha and Sioux City. A variation of the route detours from St Joseph, MO up to Maryvile, MO and Clarinda, IA along US Hwy 71 and over towarads I-29 via Shenandoah, IA along SR-2
The American Discovery Trail connects Nebraska with Colorado, Iowa, and both coasts.
Nebraska is a large, sparsely populated state; the vast majority of Nebraska is best seen by car. Intrastate bus service within the state is served only by Express Arrow and Burlington Trailways (see 'By bus' in the above under 'Get in'). Information on transit can be found here.
- 1 Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, 3701 S 10th St (Take Exit 454 on I-80, for 13th St South toward Stadium-Zoo.), ☏ +1 402 733-8401. 9AM-5PM. This nationally renowned zoo is Nebraska's number one paid attraction. It features an expansive and aquarium, "Kingdoms of the Night" (world's largest nocturnal exhibit and indoor swamp), the Lied Jungle (world's largest indoor rainforest), and the "Desert Dome" (world's largest indoor desert). $20.95 Adults, $13.95 Children, $19.95 Seniors and Military.
- 2 Ashfalls Fossil Bed State Historical Park, 86930 517th Ave, Royal (take US-20 west of Royal, turn north on 517th Ave and follow for 7 miles), ☏ +1 402-893-2000, firstname.lastname@example.org. May 1-May 28: Tu-Sa 9:30AM-4:30PM; Memorial Day-Labor Day: W-Su 9:30AM-4:30PM; Sep 8-Oct 10: W-Sa 9:30AM-4:30PM, Su 1:30PM-4:30PM. Located in Antelope County. First discovered in 1971, this fossil site captures a snapshot of the area 10-12 million years ago. Over 360 acres are available for hiking and picnicking. There is a visitors center and a viewing platform where visitors can watch people unearth ancient bones. $7.50 per person.
- 3 The Great Platte River Road Archway (Archway Monument), 3060 East 1st St (take exit 275 off I-80, head north on NE-10 and take the first left on E 1st St), ☏ +1 308-237-1000, toll-free: +1-877-511-2724. M-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Closed on holidays. Spanning I-80, the archway allows visitors to explore the settling of the west by the pioneers on the Oregon Trail and the construction of the Lincoln Highway. The audio guide is highly recommended. Outside the archway, there is a maze, picnic area, and a reconstructed sod house. $12/adult, $11/senior, $6/youth. Admission fee is for historic exhibits only.
- 4 Carhenge, 2151 Co Rd 59 (take Flack Ave/NE-87 north from Alliance, it will be on the right), ☏ +1 308-762-3569, TourBoxButte@bbc.net. Site open during daylight hours. Gift shop open M-Sa 10AM-5PM. Constructed in 1987 by Jim Reinders as a memorial to his father. A replica of England's Stonehenge, constructed out of vintage American automobiles painted gray. The site also hosts a number of other art pieces by Reinders and other artists. Free admission.
- 5 Spade Ranch, 3055 145 Trail, Ellsworth, NE 69340 (take NE-27, between US-2 and NE-2, turn east on King Ranch Rd), ☏ +1 308-282-1573. At one time encompassing almost 500,000 acres and 60,000 head of cattle, the Spade is one of Nebraska's oldest and most expansive ranches. The ranch continues to operate as a traditional open grazing ranch. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Attend a Nebraska football game at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln
- Check out a College World Series game in Omaha.
- Canoe, kayak or tube the Niobrara River in the Sand Hills
- Enjoy a cheap beer in one of the many bars south of the University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln
- Eat a piece of real Nebraska beef at one of Omaha's many steakhouses.
- Bird watch during the spring Sandhill Crane migration in Kearney.
- Take a tour of historic Bellevue.
- See Nebraska's Largest flagpole in Sidney, home of Cabela's.
- Before the dust bowl and drought of the 1930s, Nebraska had many thriving wineries. That era is returning, and there are now nearly 30 wineries across the state.
- View the world's largest rail yard Bailey Yard from the Golden Spike Tower 8 stories high in North Platte.
- Visit Omaha's Old Market for great bars and shops
- Order a Runza at the fast food restaurant of the same name
- A past Nebraska slogan was The Beef State, and much of Nebraska's cuisine can still be best described as "meat and potatoes". Stop in any Nebraska city or town and you'll be likely to find low-cost, high-quality, home-cooked dining options. Nebraska's cuisine has been influenced by the numerous immigrant groups that have settled in the state; for example, you'll find German and Scandinavian dishes in the northeast, Czech meals in some areas, and numerous Italian restaurants in Omaha.
- Nebraska's rural entrepreneurs have made products from family farms across the state available at GrowNebraska.org.
- Kool Aid - the official drink of Nebraska. It was invented in Hastings where there is also a museum dedicated to the drink.
Mobile phone coverage in most of Nebraska is excellent. Some remote areas in the Sandhills still have no coverage and GSM coverage can be spotty in some areas, but CDMA coverage is good throughout the state. 3G service is available most everywhere and LTE coverage is available in most of the eastern part of the state, and the entire I-80 corridor on all three network.
Public pay phones are rapidly disappearing; many of the smaller towns now only have one. In rural areas, many businesses will let people make local calls.
Nebraska has, given its population and size, fairly extensive Internet connectivity; however, public Internet access in Nebraska can be hard to find. (Internet cafes are practically nonexistent.) In many places, the best option for public Internet access is a public library; in rural areas, libraries are often only open for a few hours each week.
Wi-Fi Internet access is now provided by many Nebraska businesses, particularly in larger towns, especially in Omaha and Lincoln. Many restaurants, book stores, and coffee shops now offer free Wi-Fi, and will advertise this service by placing stickers or signs on their front doors as well as on their website. Many hotels and motels statewide have added Internet connectivity as an additional amenity as well.
In the cities of Omaha and Lincoln crime rates have begun to rise due to the increase in population these two cities have experienced over the past several years. These crime rates do vary considerably among neighborhoods, however, it is important to take proper precautions and use the same degrees of common sense you would ordinarily implement while visiting a mid-size American city. If an area appears decrepit and/or seedy, then you probably do not want to remain there for any length of time.
These two cities have also experienced an increase in gang activity. This should is something to be aware of, but generally crime of this nature is inter-gang related and does not affect the ordinary citizen. Nevertheless, don't put yourself in a position that could lead you to becoming caught in the crossfire of rival gangs.
Nebraska is located within the country's "tornado alley". Throughout the spring and summer seasons, the state often experiences very violent thunderstorms which contain hail squalls and spawn tornadoes of various strengths. It is important to keep yourself informed of the current weather conditions while traveling through or visiting the state during these seasons as conditions can change very rapidly. Television and radio stations provide excellent severe weather coverage.
Refer to the Tornado safety page for more information about this matter.
During the winter months, blizzards and ice storms do occur, and dangerous wind chills are a possibility. High winds can take even a limited amount of snowfall and form very large drifts -- beautiful to look at, but dangerous if you are stuck far from help. It is important to find a local weather forecast whenever you plan to travel through the more sparsely populated areas of the state.
- Iowa - Rural Iowa lies along Nebraska's eastern border and provides further opportunities to explore America's agricultural heartland.
- Missouri - The state's southeastern neighbor has much to see, from the natural beauty of the Ozarks to the major metropolitan areas of Kansas City and St. Louis.
- Kansas - Located south of Nebraska, Kansas is generally considered the center of the country, at least in geographical terms, and is nicknamed "the Heart of America."
- Colorado - The Rocky Mountain state borders Nebraska to the southwest and offers a mind-boggling array of outdoor activities.
- Wyoming - Home to Yellowstone National Park, the cowboy state borders Nebraska to the west and provides opportunities to experience life on the range in addition to rugged wilderness.
- South Dakota - Home to such natural and cultural wonders as Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park and Mount Rushmore, Nebraska's neighbor to the north offers a surprising amount for travelers to see and do.