While you probably already know about Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Kansas City, Kansas, did you know there’s also a Nebraska City, Nebraska? Home to over 7,000 people and nestled along the curving banks of the Missouri River in the southeastern part of the Cornhusker State, Nebraska City has a lot to offer for visitors who find themselves here.
And how does one end up in Nebraska City? Well, you might be doing a road trip along US-75, which runs south from Omaha through Nebraska City – or you might make a detour off I-29, which passes Nebraska City on the other/Iowa side of the river.
No matter how you make your way to Nebraska City, here are some of the best things to do in Nebraska City. This cozy town is known for its historic role in the Lewis & Clark Expedition, the Underground Railroad, and the foundation of Arbor Day, so there’s plenty to explore.
In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are the traditional lands of the Jiwere and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in May 2022, and was updated most recently in August 2023.
1. Play at Arbor Day Farm
Arbor Day Farm is one of the best things to do in Nebraska City for families. The estate governs 260 acres of natural beauty and features numerous areas where children and adults can have fun.
One of the most fun experiences is the Tree Adventure, a fabulous mix of trails and tree houses where kids can explore the forest canopy and see pretty birds and roaming deer. Visitors get free baby trees to plant at home at the trail’s end! Arbor Day Farm has the Nature Explore Classroom, an ideal opportunity to connect children to the natural world.
2. Visit Arbor Lodge State Historical Park
Arbor Day Farm also houses the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park. It used to be the original home of J. Sterling Morton, who founded the Arbor Day holiday alongside his family. The incredible home-turned-museum sits within the park’s 72 acres. It is stunning from head to toe, with 52 rooms and countless historical artifacts belonging to the Morton Family.
The house opens daily in the spring, summer, and fall and on weekends during the winter months – a self-guided tour takes about 30 minutes. Also, spend some time wandering the grounds to see all the pretty trees.
3. See the Kregel Windmill Museum
Who knew the manufacturing of windmills could be so fascinating? Housed in the last wooden windmill factory in the United States, the Kregel Windmill Museum exhibits all the original tools and machines needed to make the windmills that were once so prevalent in rural America and throughout the Great Plains.
Visiting the museum is like taking a trip back in time, thanks to the interactive kiosks and videos scattered throughout that give you more insight into the business. While it’s one of the must things to do in Nebraska City if you’re a history buff, I assure you everyone will have a blast here. So make sure to stop by!
4. Explore the Nebraska City Museum of Firefighting
The Nebraska City Museum of Firefighting is another hidden gem. It is delightful, with many interesting fire equipment displays from early to current times, including historical artifacts, records, fire engines from the Nebraska City fire department, and more.
The museum has curated poignant exhibits and displays of large fires that have taken place over the years. With utmost dedication, volunteer firefighters built and currently operate the museum. They also conduct tours and share tons of information about displays.
5. Immerse Yourself in History Along the Underground Railroad
Visiting Mayhew Cabin is one of the Nebraska City things to do every visitor should consider on their getaway. The little cottonwood cabin that once belonged to Allen and Barbara Mayhew has a fascinating history behind it. Back in 1856, Kansas and Nebraska opened up for settlement. However, many settlers from free states like Massachusetts and New York trying to move to Missouri couldn’t survive. This was because people from Missouri, which was a slave state, didn’t want Kansas and Nebraska to become free territories.
That’s how the Underground Railroad was born. The Underground Railroad was a network of clandestine routes and safe houses that enslaved African Americans used to escape into free states and Canada. One of the routes was the Lane Trail, which James H. Lane established in the mid-19th Century. Thanks to its isolation, the Lane Trail became a crucial route of the Underground Railroad to transport free-state settlers through Nebraska and down into Kansas. Along that route, there were several safe houses. One of them being the Mayhew Cabin. Today, the house is a museum capturing the efforts and struggles of those who fought to finally end slavery.
Due to severe damage, the Mayhew Cabin Museum Site is closed until further notice.
6. Visit the Civil War Veterans Museum
During the Civil War, Nebraska, which was still a territory, contributed enormously to the Union war effort, with more than 3,000 Nebraskans serving with the Union army. After the Civil War, all the veterans of the Union Army, Union Navy, and the Marines funded the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).
This fraternal organization built more than 100 Grand Army of the Republic halls around the United States, and every town of any size used to have one. The Nebraska City GAR hall is one of only a few remaining in the United States. Today, it serves as the Civil War Veterans Museum.
The museum possesses bits and pieces of history that explain what our ancestors went through to preserve the Union. Visitors can see the real uniforms and weapons from the era. There are also surgical instruments and currency from the Civil War.
7. Go House Hunting in Wildwood Historic Center
Wildwood Historic Center is a lovely museum housed in an 1860s Midwest home. The beautiful house belonged to Jasper & Ellen Ware, a family who lived here “amidst the wild wood” in western Nebraska City.
Today, a group of lovely ladies dressed in Victorian attire while giving tours explaining the challenges and joys of living in Nebraska during the Victorian period. They also share interesting information about the family and the antique objects that furnish the home.
Make sure to stop by the cute gift shop at the back of the house – it’s full of treasures from local artisans!
8. Try Nebraska Wine
I can’t say it is at the same level as California, but Nebraska has many pretty tasty wineries. Nebraska is home to 30 different wineries, and while there aren’t any wineries in Nebraska City, there are plenty of tasting rooms where you can sip their best bottles.
You have a few options I recommend from Arbor Day Farm, which offers daily wine tastings at the Arbor Day Farm Lied Lodge. Or, if you’re up for a drive, you can head to Soaring Wings Vineyard in Springfield.
9. Eat Fresh Fruit at Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard
Kimmel Orchard and Vineyards have a bit of everything; wine tasting, apple picking, a learning center, and a lovely playground area for the kids. The venue sits in the middle of 98 acres in Nebraska City and produces some of the best fruits and vegetables in the Missouri River valley.
While they’re famous for their delicious apples, they have several products you can purchase, like syrups, fruit wines, jams, honey, and more – don’t miss their apple donuts with cider slushies! Families can get a taste of country life with their fun activities. Depending on the time of the year, Kimmel offers hayrides, apple picking, and U-Pick pumpkins.
10. Hike at Riverview Nature Park
Hiking at Riverview Nature Park is one of the top Nebraska City things to do, especially during the fall when the trees become a burst of color. Riverview Nature Park reopened in 2020 after three years.
The park covers 22 acres of land at Riverview State Recreation Area and now features a renewed walking trail system.
Visitors can enjoy gorgeous landscapes as the new trails take you deep into the woods. There are also trails near the river. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see wildlife, like eagles, deer, coyotes, and foxes.
Have any questions about these things to do in Nebraska City? Let me know in the comments!