16 Free Things to Do in Lincoln, NE

Lincoln, NE

Join me as I share my favorite free things to do in Lincoln, Nebraska, that truly showcase the heart and soul of this city.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Robert Watson, Jeremy Newman, Elizabeth Allison, Harry Schooley, James Heiner, Shanna Bullard and Paul Esposito.

Take a Peek into the Nebraska Governor's Mansion

Facade of the Nebraska Governor's Mansion
Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock.com

Walking past the Nebraska Governor's Mansion, one can't help but marvel at the grandeur of this historic place.

Nestled in my part of town, this august residence has become a beloved local landmark, standing tall as a symbol of our state's rich heritage.

I've had the privilege of visiting the mansion during the annual Christmas tree lighting.

The grandeur of the mansion, adorned in festive lights, is a sight to behold.

Moreover, the stately Georgian Colonial-style architecture and the charm of the holiday decorations illuminate Nebraska's spirit.

The mansion is not just eye candy, though.

Stepping inside, one can feel the history seeping through its walls.

The interior is as magnificent as the exterior, with the elegant furnishings and ornate decor reflective of various periods in our state's history.

A guided tour around the mansion is like walking through a living history book.

The mansion's garden is another highlight worth mentioning.

I often stroll through it, especially during spring when the flowers bloom.

The serene atmosphere and the beauty of the well-manicured landscape make it a perfect spot for quiet contemplation.

Experiences like these remind me of our great legacy and instill a sense of pride in being a Nebraskan.

So, if you're ever in our great state, don't forget to visit the Nebraska Governor's Mansion.

It's a piece of our identity.

Visit the Sacred Nebraska Holocaust Memorial

One of the reasons I love living here is the rich history and the monuments that remind us of it.

One monument that particularly stands out is the Nebraska Holocaust Memorial.

It shines a light on our path toward equality and freedom.

It's a place that brings geometry, photography, and language together in a valuable lesson that we often need to learn and relearn.

The memorial serves as a poignant reminder of the horrific treatment inflicted upon the weary, weak, and helpless individuals during the Holocaust.

It's not a light history to bear, but it is essential for us not to forget.

Whenever I visit, my heart aches as I remember the inhumane acts humans can do.

But this place also gives me hope for a better future filled with grace, kindness, and humanity.

I highly recommend visiting if you find yourself in our beautiful town.

The Nebraska Holocaust Memorial is a beacon of truth, clarity, and grace and a testament to our commitment never to forget.

Stroll through Sunken Gardens

Gazebo at Sunken Gardens
Jenn1030 / Shutterstock.com

I never stop marveling at the beauty of Sunken Gardens.

Built in 1930, our local gem is full of vibrant sculptures, expansive lawns, and charming lily ponds that nestle within a lush landscape.

It's a scene that promises to take your breath away every visit, regardless of how many times you've been there.

Stepping into the garden, the first thing you notice is the fragrance.

The scent of blooming flowers hits you, making you pause to take it all in.

Moreover, the careful arrangement of the flower beds, the multitude of colors, and the butterflies fluttering around make you feel like you are stepping into a painting.

There's a calmness to the place you wouldn't expect in a city.

The sound of the birds chirping, the soft rustling of leaves, the distant laughter of children - it's soothing to the senses.

You'll often find me on one of the many benches, lost in a book, or simply enjoying the serene environment.

Fully bloomed water lillies at Sunken Gardens
bmr3n3 / Shutterstock.com

The ponds, filled with koi, are another favorite of mine; the fish glide through the water, creating ripples in the sunlight.

It's a mesmerizing sight that you can't help but stop and admire.

The gardens are also a popular spot for photographs.

Numerous couples capture their love. Families make memories and even professionals with their tripods.

But beyond the photos, the memories make this place special.

From casual strolls to picnics, it's been a part of countless cherished moments.

The gardens are well-maintained.

Parking is plentiful, with many on-site and street parking available, too.

And if you're like me, you'll also love leaving your mark in the guest book near the giant dome.

The Sunken Gardens is a sanctuary where I can escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect with nature.

It's one of the many things that make my city unique.

Pretty white flowers at Sunken Gardens
bmr3n3 / Shutterstock.com

Discover Treasures at the Great Plains Art Museum

I remember first setting foot in the Great Plains Art Museum.

It was indeed like uncovering a hidden treasure.

Tucked away in the heart of downtown, the museum is an aesthetic revelation devoted to the history and culture of the Great Plains.

The museum boasts a diverse collection of art; my favorites included these two prairie chickens crafted entirely from cut pieces of paper, an incredible testament to the artist's skill and patience.

Every visit surprises me with the depth and variety of the artwork on display.

I believe it should be on everyone's list, especially if you're keen on understanding the culture and natural environment of the Great Plains.

Moreover, it's home to excellent American artists with works by Frederic Remington, John Falter, Albert Bierstadt, and Edwin Deming.

The museum also houses a fascinating display of stereoscopes, even providing a device for visitors to peer through, transporting you back in time.

Every piece of art and exhibit tells a story of the Great Plains, making the museum more than just an art collection.

It’s an immersive experience, a journey through time and culture.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast or a curious passerby, the museum is an artistic haven that never disappoints.

So, next time you're in town, I recommend sparing an hour or two for art appreciation at this beautiful museum.

Explore Pioneers Park Nature Center

Ruins at the Pioneers Park Nature Center
Ammodramus, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

When I step out my front door and venture into my hometown's best-kept secret, the Pioneers Park Nature Center, I feel a sense of calm and tranquility.

This sprawling, 668-acre wonderland is more than just your average city park.

With its expansive prairies, thick forests, and lush wetlands, this natural oasis is a playground for environmental education and animal preservation.

It's not just about the beautiful trails or the diversity of plant life.

The Nature Center is also home to wildlife - free-range bison and turkey vultures are among the regulars here.

But the real gem of the park is the nature center itself, where you can get a closer look at some of the region's reptiles.

The boys in the family never miss a chance to see the snakes they've come to know and love.

There's something magical about the place that keeps you coming back.

Perhaps it's how meticulously they've preserved the land's natural beauty.

Even people who aren't typically nature lovers are taken aback by the stunning landscapes.

As a testament to this, my friend, who usually prefers the comforts of the city, was completely smitten with the park on his first visit.

Not to mention, the park is steeped in local history.

It's a nostalgic experience visiting the one-room schoolhouse that has stood the test of time.

The Pioneers Park Nature Center is a paradise that should not be missed.

You won't regret it!

Unleash Fun at Roper Park

I can't help but marvel at the serenity and peace that engulfs Roper Park.

It's a haven, a perfect sanctuary for my furry friend and me.

The park in Lincoln, Nebraska, boasts lush environs that transform simple walks or bike rides into unforgettable adventures.

One of the park's standout features that we adore is the designated dog park.

Separate areas for small and large dogs guarantee a safe and fun environment for your pups to frolic freely.

The dog park is clean, and believe me, it's a relief to know that other pet owners are as responsible as I am when cleaning up after our fur babies.

A lap around the large dog area is about a half-mile, offering me and my dog a fantastic opportunity to get our daily exercise dose.

The park also features a covered shelter where you can catch a break, chat with other pet owners, or enjoy the park's tranquility.

Moreover, the local community here is supportive, often bringing gallons of water to share and keeping the water dishes topped up, which is a heartwarming gesture.

But Roper Park isn't just for canines.

It's also home to ball fields, tennis courts, and a disc golf course, offering a myriad of activities for everyone.

Whether it's a family picnic or an active day out, Roper Park has something for everyone.

So, if you're in Lincoln and looking for a place to unwind, head over to Roper Park.

Make sure to bring your furry friend along, and together, have a great time exploring the park's amenities.

Your pets will surely come home tired but happy, and you'll leave with a refreshed spirit.

Reflect at the Veterans Memorial Garden

View of the Veterans Memorial Garden
Shots by Natalie / Shutterstock.com

It's hard not to feel a pang of solemnity when I take my morning strolls through the Veterans Memorial Garden.

Each step I take on its well-maintained path is a silent homage to the brave souls who served and sacrificed in various wars and conflicts.

The garden, nestled in the heart of Lincoln, Nebraska, is a touching tribute to these brave individuals.

As I move from one monument to another, each dedicated to a different war or conflict, I am constantly reminded of the immense scope of military service.

The names of the fallen from our area, meticulously etched into the stone, are a stark reminder of the harsh realities of war.

It's a silent nudge, pushing the reality of sacrifice to the forefront of your thoughts.

I often stop before each monument, taking a moment of silence to reflect on the lives lost.

But this garden is not only a place of mourning, but it's also a place of appreciation.

As I look around, I see other locals walking around peacefully, some even bringing their children to educate them about the importance of service.

It's a humbling experience.

However, despite the sad undertones, I always leave the Veterans Memorial Garden feeling a newfound sense of peace and gratitude.

It's a fantastic place to visit, but it's also a place of contemplation, respect, and gratitude for the gift of service so many brave men and women provide.

Spend the Day at Holmes Lake Park

Holmes Lake Park on a bright sunny day
Payton Spicer / Shutterstock.com

In the heart of Lincoln, Nebraska, you'll find a place that seems like an escape from the city hustle.

A place where I often find myself heading towards when I need a break.

It's none other than Holmes Lake Park, my favorite nearby retreat.

My granddaughter loves everything about the outdoors, so it's no surprise that the park's open spaces are our preferred playground.

We're always up for the challenge of spotting the butterflies that hover over the blossom-filled fields.

It's quite the sight, especially with the lake as a delightful backdrop.

My partner and I love the park for a different reason.

Holmes Lake Park is the perfect place for our daily walks.

We walk around the park's perimeter, quickly picking up those 5,000 steps we aim for each day.

And let me tell you, there's nothing quite like soaking up the fresh air along the walking paths and open green spaces this place offers.

One of my favorite things about Holmes Lake Park is its public golf course

Indeed, the challenging layout and the varying lengths of the holes more than make up for it.

Plus, it's an excellent value for money, which makes it one of the city's best.

Holmes Lake Park is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered.

Whether it's a day of golf, a walk around the lake, or a simple picnic under the open sky, this park guarantees a refreshing experience every time.

Enjoy a Quiet Retreat at Saint Mary's Catholic Church, Lincoln

Every time I step into the serene confines of Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Lincoln, I feel a sense of peace.

The church's beauty, both inside and out, is truly breathtaking.

The intricate detailing in the architecture, the calming hues of the stained glass windows, and the pristine cleanliness of every corner, including the restrooms, are something that I take immense pride in.

I've always found the parishioners at Saint Mary's to be warm and welcoming.

Saint Mary's is where people from all over Nebraska find solace, ponder over life, and feel closer to God.

Having been a part of this sweet parish for several years, I understand its significance and its positive impact on people.

We always look forward to welcoming visitors and offering them a slice of the tranquility we have come to love.

Enjoy an Afternoon at Antelope Park

Scenic view of the colorful flowers at Antelope Park
Hanyou23, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every visit to Antelope Park feels like a new adventure waiting to happen.

It's my sanctuary, my outdoor haven.

This park, nestled in the city's heart, is my retreat from the outside world.

The playground at Antelope Park is something to behold.

There's something for every age group.

My children could spend hours swinging, sliding, and playing in the sand pit section.

It's a catalyst for their imagination.

But the park is not just about physical play.

It's a place of reflection too.

The war memorials and other statues imbue the place with solemnity and respect.

They serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made by generations before us.

The ample picnic space is another feature that deserves a mention.

On a sunny day, there's no better place to lay out a blanket and enjoy a seaside-inspired picnic while the children play to their heart's content.

Antelope Park is a cherished part of my community, my home.

Explore the Sheldon Museum of Art

Exterior view of the Sheldon Museum of Art
Ammodramus, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever been to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus?

If so, you must have noticed the Sheldon Museum of Art, a place brimming with beautiful American art from the 1800s landscapes to pop art.

I'm lucky enough to have the museum on my doorstep and visit regularly.

It's a petite yet mesmerizing museum – the architecture alone is a visual treat.

The exhibits are a pleasant mix of conventional and contemporary art, each narrating a unique story.

And the best part is, it's free! The museum often organizes themed rooms, allowing local and touring artists to exhibit their works.

Interior view of the Sheldon Museum of Art
Ammodramus, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

On my last visit, I was pleasantly surprised to find a collection perfectly aligned with our homeschool art topics.

So naturally, I brought my kids along.

My youngest was restless by the second room, but my older one relished the visit.

The outdoor sculpture garden is also worth the visit.

It's a serene spot, perfect for a stroll or a quiet moment of reflection.

If you're in the vicinity and have a couple of hours to spare, I'd recommend spending them at the Sheldon Museum of Art.

It's a small but spellbinding place that celebrates the beauty and diversity of American art.

Explore the Nebraska State Capitol

View of the majestic Nebraska State Capitol
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Now and then, I take a day to rediscover the beauty of my city, and one of my favorite places to do this is at the Nebraska State Capitol.

It’s not just your typical government building - it's a majestic testament to the architectural splendor in Lincoln.

Stepping inside the capitol feels like entering a different era.

The wood inlays, mosaics, and brass accents are works of art, a testament to the mastery and dedication involved in the building's completion in 1932.

There's this unending intricacy to the details that always leaves me amazed.

And let's not forget its 400-foot domed limestone tower - it's a sight to behold, especially when you climb to the top.

Breathtaking interiors of the Nebraska State Capitol
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

The view of the city is breathtaking, almost like you've been lifted above the everyday hustle and bustle.

Moreover, the capitol is home to a splendid library, a haven for book lovers like me.

And if you're driving, you can park your car for free for two hours right at the front door, a small luxury that I always appreciate.

Make sure to visit the Lincoln statue. It's a prominent feature and a tribute to our city's namesake.

The Nebraska State Capitol is a vibrant piece of history and culture.

And as someone who appreciates art and history, it's one of the places that makes me proud to call Lincoln my home.

West Chamber at Nebraska State Capitol
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Enjoy a Delightful Day at Hazel Abel Park

There's something magical about that moment when you first step into Hazel Abel Park in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Your eyes are immediately drawn to the well-maintained greenery as a calming backdrop to the city's hustle.

Despite its size, which is only half a block, this little gem of a park never fails to provide a momentary escape from the urban rush.

Every stroll in the park feels like a pleasant meander through a verdant oasis.

The beautiful fountain, nestled in its heart, is like a serene lily pad in a peacefully quiet pond.

Moreover, the sound of its water gently cascading from tier to tier is a soothing lullaby for anyone who needs a breather.

In one instance, I remember spotting a stray chip bag in the fountain.

A quick retrieval ensured it returned to its pristine state.

Hazel Abel Park, though small, is certainly not lacking in charm or functionality.

There's a gazebo that's perfect for family picnics or quiet reading sessions.

Some benches are scattered across the park, offering comfortable sitting spots and basking in the day.

There's also a playground that's always buzzing with the giggles and laughter of children, adding to the park's lively atmosphere.

The park's beauty also makes it a haven for photographers.

Its picturesque setting provides countless opportunities for capturing captivating shots.

I've seen several photographers flock to its bounds, cameras in hand, ready to seize only this park can provide enchanting moments.

So, if you find yourself in Lincoln, Nebraska, visit our beloved Hazel Abel Park.

It's a tiny park, but it's packed with the loveliest surprises.

You'll take away more than a few memories, I promise.

Enjoy an Evening at Hyde Observatory

Outside view of the  Hyde Observatory
Mdahmke, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I've always held a particular fondness for the stars and the mysteries they hold.

I remember the first time I set my eyes on the vast expanse of the cosmos through the Hyde Observatory's telescope, nestled amidst the tranquility of Holmes Lake Park.

It isn't a grand structure, quite the opposite; it's a small, charming building with an attached patio that houses three fantastic telescopes.

The largest one even boasts a 14-inch mirror!

A clear night, a new moon, and a warm jacket were all I needed for my Saturday night adventure at the observatory.

The beauty of the planets in our solar system, the Moon's craters, and the brightest stars was awe-inspiring.

Their explanations, presentations and the opportunity to ask questions about the universe's wonders enriched the experience.

The best part about these celestial escapades at the Hyde Observatory is that they are entirely free.

Whether you're an astronomy enthusiast, a curious toddler, a teenager, or a grandparent, Hyde Observatory welcomes all with open arms.

It's about cultivating a sense of curiosity and fostering a love for learning.

And, if you want to see more than just the moon, pick a new moon night for your visit.

Otherwise, the moon's bright light might outshine the other celestial bodies.

Nothing is like seeing the universe unfold right before your eyes at Hyde Observatory.

Find Sanctuary at Wilderness Park

Wooden bridge at the Wilderness Park
Christi 1234 / Shutterstock.com

Whenever the hustle and bustle of city life gets a bit too overwhelming, I find myself drawn to the tranquility of Wilderness Park.

It's my little haven of greenery and wildlife tucked away in Lincoln.

Getting lost in the diverse trails that wind through the woods and along the creek is always a joy.

The heart of the park is undoubtedly the winding creek.

It's common to see fowl and various small mammals making the most of the water's edge.

The fallen trees and bank structures add to the rustic charm, making it feel like you've entered another world.

Though there's an ongoing battle with invasive honeysuckle, the park's charm shines through.

The park is a paradise for hikers and a playground for those interested in a good bike ride.

Moreover, the trails are well-maintained and aren’t too steep, which makes it a delightful place for a fun bicycle ride.

Nature trail at Wilderness Park
Christi 1234 / Shutterstock.com

One of the things I appreciate most about Wilderness Park is how the City Parks and Rec department maintains the trails well.

Stinging nettles have a way of growing off the sides of trails, a minor annoyance that the city combats by regularly mowing the trail edges.

The city’s recent efforts to improve accessibility, such as the new pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks past Walt Library and the sidewalk of the Old Cheney entrance, have made the park safer and more inviting.

These additions aren’t the only changes to the park.

I'm also a Friends of Wilderness Park member, a community group that helps maintain the park and organizes guided hikes.

It's great to be part of a group that actively contributes to the park's upkeep and allows me to give back to my favorite place in Lincoln.

Wilderness Park is the perfect spot for anyone seeking escape from the city without actually leaving it.

There's nothing like a good hike or bike ride through the woods to help reset the mind and body.

It's been my sanctuary for thirty years, and I can't imagine my life in Lincoln without it.

Walk Down Memory Lane at the National Museum of Roller Skating

So there I was, smack dab in the middle of the world's largest collection of historical roller skates, located right here, in the heart of Lincoln, at the National Museum of Roller Skating.

Trust me, there's something magical about being surrounded by various skates that have rolled down decades and centuries.

Every display seemed to tell a story, each with its unique charm.

From the lace-up styles of the 1940s to the neon-colored skates of the 80s, I felt like traveling through time.

I popped in my headphones and launched the audio tour available on my phone - a delightful feature that allows you to explore the expanse at your own pace.

Though it's a self-guided tour, it's free and surprisingly engaging.

I'd say set aside a good 30 minutes for the visit.

This place is a beautiful journey back to my childhood, sparking memories of when I first strapped on a pair of skates.

But it’s not only for the nostalgic ones like me. It could be a great place to introduce kids to this beautiful sport.

It’s a hidden gem that's not only fascinating but also educational.

Whether you're a roller skating enthusiast, a history buff, or just someone looking for a unique experience, this museum is a must-visit.

Final Thoughts

Having lived here for years, I can confidently say that Lincoln, Nebraska, is teeming with natural beauty, rich history, and unique attractions you can explore without spending a dime.

So whether you're a long-time resident or just passing through, Lincoln always has something new to discover.

I invite everyone to cherish and explore these free gems that make our city a truly wonderful place to live and visit.

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