Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Valentine, NE

  • Published 2022/12/08

Valentine is a city in Nebraska that acts as the county seat of Cherry County.

While it’s only a small city in terms of population, Valentine covers expansive areas in Nebraskamostly wilderness, rivers, and grasslands.

It’s a city surrounded by several wildlife refuges, making Valentine one of the best places to do many varied outdoor excursions such as fishing, hiking, kayaking, and camping.

While the outdoors makes Valentine a popular destination, it also has a lot of other interesting commercial establishments that you may want to check out.

There are many things to do in this scenic city, so check this list of the best things to do in Valentine, Nebraska, to kickstart your planning.

Stroll along Valentine City Park

Upon touchdown, one of the first things you should do in Valentine is visit Valentine City Park.

Here, you can enjoy sweeping views of the beauty of Valentine and see how it blends with its natural surroundings that feature lush forests and scenic hills.

You can see a lot of creeks and woodlands in Valentine City Park, making it an ideal destination if you’re looking for a nearby place to camp.

Dogs are also allowed here, which makes it a perfect place to go on a scenic trek with your furry friend.

Valentine City Park is a great way to kickstart your itinerary, conveniently located along Main Street.

See the Majestic Waterfalls at Smith Falls State Park

Smith Falls State Park is another natural wonder in Valentine, located a couple of miles east of Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge.

The waterfalls at Smith Falls State Park are unique, as the water flow isn’t too strong, but its quirky rock formations give it a strange aesthetic that makes it seem more like a manmade water fountain.

This waterfall descends from up to 60-plus feet, making it one of the tallest waterfalls in Nebraska.

The trek to the waterfall is not challenging, and you can experience the serene Niobrara River.

The park is a great destination for families with young children and teenagers.

Learn Local History and Ecology at Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor Center

Exterior of the Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor Center

Jacob Boomsma /

Your next stop in Valentine would ideally be the Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor Center.

This visitor center is a great way to immerse yourself among the local rangers who are well-versed in the intricate topography in Valentine.

They’ll happily assist you in mapping out your outdoor itinerary while providing historical information about the city.

Interior of the Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor Center

Jacob Boomsma /

Besides the rangers, you can also see a film and some exhibits about the Niobrara River.

The exhibits are beautifully displayed, mostly about the Niobrara River’s natural history and early civilizations.

Niobrara National Scenic River Visitor Center is in the heart of Valentine, along U.S. Route 20.

See Bison at Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge

Bisons at Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge

Danita Delimont /

After Valentine City Park and the visitor center, you visit the various outdoor attractions in Valentine, such as the Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge.

A massive 77,000-acre prairie wilderness east of the city proper, Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge is best known for its picturesque beauty and biodiversity.

Perhaps the most famous aspect of this refuge is the presence of majestic bison.

A waterfall at Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge

Wirestock Creators /

You can spot these massive herbivores by the herds, roaming around and benefitting from the rich prairies of the refuge.

Besides bison, you can spot other animals here, such as elk and wild prairie dogs.

Providing a scenic experience with wildlife, Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge is a can’t-miss destination in Valentine.

Prairie dog at Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge

Ken Schulze /

Experience the Niobrara River with Brewers Canoers and Tubers

While there are many places where you can see the Niobrara River, going on a kayaking adventure is still the best way to experience it.

Brewers Canoers and Tubers are one of the most famous tourist agencies you can contact for your river adventure.

They provide a holistic tour of the Niobrara River while also providing rentals for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing activities.

The staff at Brewers Canoers and Tubers are also extremely helpful for first-timers in these river activities.

You can visit Brewers Canoers and Tubers along U.S. Route 20 in Valentine’s city proper.

Go Camping at Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest

Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest is a massive prairie with tall grasslands southwest of Valentine’s city proper, spanning around 118,000 acres.

It offers various activities, such as trekking, camping, and deer hunting, under state regulations and guidelines.

A popular activity here is camping, as the national forest is one of the most scenic places to immerse yourself in nature.

While the ride here can be rough, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of massive cloud formations.

Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest is one of the best places to see the raw natural beauty of Valentine’s wilderness, so consider it when planning your trip.

Travel on Horseback along Cowboy Trail

Pathway of Cowboy Trail

marekuliasz /

Cowboy Trail, adjacent to Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge, is a couple of miles southeast of the city proper.

It is a 300-plus mile rail-to-trail government project that extends well beyond Valentine, reaching Norfolk City as well.

The best way to experience this former railroad track is to ride a horse or cycle on a bike.

Structure of Cowboy Trail

marekuliasz /

The city encourages tourists to cycle or go on horseback, as bike rentals and horseback services are available in Valentine.

You don’t have to travel far to appreciate this trail, as you can see beautiful landmarks near the city, most prominently the majestic Valentine Bridge.

You won’t get a lot of opportunities to feel like a cowboy riding a steed in the vast lands of America, so give Cowboy Trail a go!

Try Your Luck at Rosebud Casino

Valentine also has a few interesting establishments that are a nice addition to your outdoor adventure, with the Rosebud Casino atop this list.

Situated a couple of miles up north of the city proper along U.S. Route 83, Rosebud Casino is one of the go-to places to relax and have fun in Valentine.

Its casino offers the standard experience, which can easily take up hours of your time because of its fun atmosphere.

Doubling as a hotel, you may want to consider checking in at Rosebud Casino as well, as it offers one of the best Jacuzzi suites and hotel rooms in the city.

Finally, Rosebud Casino is also known for its stellar buffet, one of the city’s best places to get a nice meal.

Shop for Quirky Items at Broken Spoke Boutique

Another interesting city attraction is Broken Spoke Boutique, a specialty store focusing on women’s wear and doubling as a souvenir and gift shop.

One of the most interesting things you can see at Broken Spoke Boutique is its customized longboards, elegantly made from used water skis that give it a unique aesthetic.

You can also find several knick-knacks here that make for a great souvenir, especially their selection of accessories.

If you’re looking for thrifty deals, check out their wide selection of clothing for women.

Broken Spoke Boutique is along Main Street.

Trek and See the Snake River Falls

Aerial view of Snake River Falls

Lloyd Wallin Photography /

The Niobrara River isn’t the only river that runs through Valentine, as it’s also home to the Snake River.

A couple of miles north of Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area, you’ll be able to see Snake River Falls.

Unlike Smith Falls in Niobrara River, Snake River Falls is a smaller waterfall that packs a stronger punch in terms of water flow.

Because of its size, you can trek behind the gushing waters of Snake River Falls and experience it up close.

This is also a fantastic way to experience Snake River, as you’ll see gorgeous rock formations, making it a perfect place to take a memorable photo with friends or family.

Order a Pint of Beer at Bolo Beer Co.

Bolo Beer Co. is more than just a craft beer brewery; it also doubles as a tourist landmark in Valentine, found along East 1st Street.

The open layout of the brewery gives you instant access to Bolo Beer Co.’s machinery, which offers a unique steampunk vibe to the shop.

You can check out all the various equipment and processes used to brew their craft beer there.

There is also backyard-style seating outside the shop, which uses a warehouse as its building.

Of course, aesthetics are secondary, as Bolo Beer Co.’s true charm lies in its excellent selection of alcoholic beverages.

Ask their friendly bartender for recommendations if you’re unsure what to get.

Take a Swing at Frederick Peak Golf Club

There’s no better feeling than playing a round of golf amidst the serene landscapes of Nebraska, and at Frederick Peak Golf Club, you can do that.

Frederick Peak Golf Club utilizes the varying terrains of Valentine to offer a unique experience.

Each hole here features natural bunkers, wide greens, and lots of undulations, making it a challenging experience.

Add the awesome scenery, and you’ll have a memorable time playing at Frederick Peak Golf Club.

Affordable and scenic, the golf course is along Dowden Street, a few miles from Valentine City Park.

Enjoy Serene Views at the Bryan Bridge

Aerial view of Bryan Bridge

marekuliasz /

Bryan Bridge is a great addition to your itinerary if you have an affinity for areas that give you a sense of solitude.

Located along U.S. Route 83, a couple of miles south of Cowboy Trail, Bryan Bridge is a historical landmark surrounded by vast empty grasslands and the Niobrara River.

Because of this, you can feel a sense of serenity when you go here on a clear day.

Far view of Bryan Bridge

Vihelik, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While its rural surroundings add to the beauty of Bryan Bridge, the bridge itself is a charming 1932 steel construction awarded for its beautiful aesthetic.

Far from any urban city or neighborhood, Bryan Bridge is the perfect getaway to clear your mind and take in the beauty of nature.

Relax at Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area

If you want to take your outdoor experience up a notch, Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area is another destination that’s right next to Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest.

Unlike the tall grasslands of the latter, Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area is known for its scenic views of Cedar Bay and Merritt Reservoir.

The area doesn’t have tall grass and wildlife compared to the national forest, making it ideal as a rest and relaxation campsite.

Many locals here bring their recreational vehicles to camp or go on a fishing excursion.

If you want to experience the gorgeous bayside beauty in Valentine, this is a must-see destination.

Go Fishing at Big Alkali Lake

Southeast of Valentine’s city proper lies yet another massive wildlife area, the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.

The wildlife refuge features several smaller management areas, with the Big Alkali State Wildlife Management Area being popular due to Big Alkali Lake.

Big Alkali Lake is home to some of the most varied and biggest species of fish in Valentine, making it a popular spot for serious anglers.

Some of the best-known fishes you can catch here are catfish, northern pikes, and walleyes.

Big Alkali Fish Camp also provides a great all-around fishing experience, helping you set camp and organize your fishing experience fuss-free.

Final Thoughts

While Valentine is a small city in terms of population, it makes up for it with its varied topography that extends miles beyond its urban districts.

You can do many outdoor activities in Valentine, such as boating, trekking, camping, and wildlife observation.

From rich prairies to gorgeous waterfalls, the city is a haven for explorers after a full American outdoor experience.

Once you get tired from all these outdoor excursions, the city is blessed with many decent hotels and commercial establishments that provide comfort and convenience during your stay.

Explore one of the hidden gems in the country by trying these best things to do in Valentine, Nebraska!

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