Family Vacations in Nebraska


Courtesy of M. Forsberg, Nebraska DED Near Burwell, the 5,000-acre Calamus Reservoir is a welcome water retreat.

The Great Plains of Nebraska are the perfect place for your family to re-discover the American Frontier. State parks and museums preserve the spirit of the Wild West, while sprawling trails and fields invite visitors to create new adventures of their own.

In the following pages, you'll find profiles of some of the state's vacation spots. From historic parks to natural-habitat zoos, there are plenty of attractions for your family to explore. You'll also find contact information to help with your trip planning, as well as photographs from each destination. Here's a preview:

Henry Doorly Zoo

Omaha's award-winning zoo recreates natural habits so that visitors can watch the animals roam through waterfalls, cliffs and giant trees.

Fort Robinson State Park

Relive the days of the Old West: breakfast trail rides, fireside buffalo stew cookouts and sing-alongs await you on the grounds of this 22,000-acre historic park.

Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historic Park

Frontier legend William Cody -- also known as Buffalo Bill -- lived on a ranch just north of North Platte. Today, his house is filled with memorabilia from the Wild West.

Carhenge

Built as an homage to the automobile and one of England's most mystic destinations, Carhenge is one of those roadside attractions you simply don't want to miss in Nebraska.

Chimney Rock

Rising to a spire of almost 325 feeet above the North Platte River Valley, Chimney Rock can be seen from miles away.

Read on to the next page and discover more about the natural wonders and history of Nebraska.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Nebraska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Nebraska, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Nebraska: Henry Doorly Zoo

The Desert Dome is one of many simulated habitats for the animal residents of Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo.

Workers at Omaha's award-winning zoo like to say the animals roam free and its visitors are captive. This claim is partially true. In Hubbard Gorilla Valley, a 520-foot-long window-lined tunnel allows visitors to travel into the middle of the three-acre gorilla habitat to observe these majestic creatures. The zoo's orangutans can study their visitors from two 65-foot-high banyan trees -- they even have a view of downtown Omaha. In turn, visitors can view the orangutans from a 70-foot-high platform that is accessible by elevator.

As you traverse an elevated treetop walkway through the award-winning Lied Jungle exhibit, you'll pass lush vegetation and fascinating animals native to the misty jungles of three continents. The authentically re-created habitat features waterfalls, cliffs, caves, medicinal plants, and giant trees. Approximately 90 animal species from forest floor to highest canopy reside in the exhibit.

Kingdoms of the Night, the world's largest exhibit of nocturnal animals and their habitats, is located beneath the Desert Dome. Desert ranchers know all about the local vegetation and wildlife. Learn more about these modern-day dude ranchers on the next page.

Henry Doorly Zoo Information

Address: 3701 S. 10th St

Omaha, NE

Telephone: 402/733-8400

Hours of Operation: 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., daily

Admission: $10.75 adults; $7 kids

Continue to the next page to learn about

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Nebraska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Nebraska, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Nebraska: Fort Robinson State Park

Rich in the history of the Great Plains, Fort Robinson offers visitors modern-day dude ranch activities and a fascinating Old West background. Its 22,000 acres of wide-open plains, forested hills, and sandstone bluffs are home to herds of buffalo and longhorn sheep. Guests can explore on horseback, by stagecoach, by jeep, by mountain bike, or on foot.

Fort Robinson was once one of the U.S. Cavalry's largest remount depots and held 17,000 horses. Established in 1874, it survived through the last tragic days of the Plains Indian wars. It's also where famed Sioux Chief Crazy Horse was fatally wounded. Visitors can stay overnight where blue-coated members of the cavalry once bunked or in campgrounds or cabins.

Summers are packed with activities for families. The breakfast trail rides and fireside buffalo stew cookouts and sing-alongs are popular events. Rodeos and melodramas are featured at the Post Playhouse. History buffs like to explore the Fort Robinson Museum and the Trailside Museum, which displays fossils that date back 200 million years. Other activities include swimming, trout fishing and crafts. In winter, cross-country skiing is popular.

William "Buffalo Bill" Cody knew a thing or two about Nebraska living and the Wild West. Find out more about Buffalo Bill and his ranch state historical park on the next page.

Fort Robinson State Park Information

Address: 3701 S. 10th St

Omaha, NE

Telephone: 402/733-8400

Hours of Operation: 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., daily

Admission: $10.75 adults; $7 kids

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Nebraska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Nebraska, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Nebraska: Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park

The Buffalo Bill Ranch Historical Park allows families to experience the Wild West as it was during the life of frontier legend Buffalo Bill.

Frontier legend William Cody started out as a Pony Express rider, and he earned the nickname Buffalo Bill after he won a buffalo-hunting contest while working as a scout and ranger along the Santa Fe Trail.

Buffalo Bill lived on a ranch just north of North Platte and toured the United States and Europe with his famous Wild West Show. Today, his home is part of the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park. When you tour the house and its outlying buildings you'll find a wealth of memorabilia from the Wild West days, including original posters, costumes and film clips from his show's tours. Families can camp in the park and tour it on horseback.

Tired of horseback routes? How about a road trip to Carhenge instead -- it's Nebraska's very own Stonehenge look-a-like. Continue to the next page and find out why Carhenge is a permanent stop for several cars and a popular spot for Nebraska visitors.

Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park Information

Address: 2921 Scouts Rest Ranch Rd

North Platte, NE

Telephone: 308/535-8035

Admission: $2.50

Hours of Operation:

  • March - May - 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Mon. - Fri.
  • Memorial Day - Labor Day - daily, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Labor Day - October 24, Mon. - Fri., 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Nebraska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Nebraska, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives:For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Nebraska: Carhenge

Jim Reinders and his family arranged old cars, painted gray, to match the                                  configuration of Stonehenge.
Jim Reinders and his family arranged old cars, painted gray, to match the configuration of Stonehenge.

In the small town of Alliance, Nebraska, is the unusual sculpture known as Carhenge. Carhenge is a replica of Stonehenge in terms of size and orientation, but the story of its origin is a bit different. As creator Jim Reinders explained, it was just "something to do at our family reunion." Reinders wasn't kidding: Carhenge was built during a reunion at the family farm in 1987.

Reinders and 35 of his relatives grabbed their backhoes, found a forklift, and worked seven 8-hour days to position the 38 cars. Among them, classic Cadillacs, an AMC Gremlin, and a Willys pickup, were stacked in formation and painted battleship gray in accordance with Stonehenge's appearance. People were immediately drawn to Carhenge despite its location four hours from Cheyenne, Wyoming. An estimated 40,000 to 80,000 folks visit each year.

Carhenge may not be a mysterious rock formation, but Nebraska isn't without its own natural wonders. Continue onto the next page to learn about Chimney Rock and Scotts Bluff, a 325-foot natural rock formation in Nebraska.

Carhenge Information

Address: 2141 County Rd. 59

Alliance, NE

Telephone: 800/738-0648

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

Admission: Free

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Nebraska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Nebraska, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

Family Vacations in Nebraska: Chimney Rock and Scotts Bluff National Monument

Chimney Rock (top) and Scotts Bluff (bottom) are two distinct formations that can                                  still be seen along the historic Oregon Trail.
Chimney Rock (top) and Scotts Bluff (bottom) are two distinct formations that can still be seen along the historic Oregon Trail.

Chimney Rock rises to a spire almost 325 feet above the North Platte River Valley in Nebraska. It can be seen from miles away, so it was the ideal landmark for pioneers traveling the Mormon, California and Oregon trails. Today, Chimney Rock is a National Historic Site that still marks the place where the plains give way to the Rocky Mountains.

Modern-day visitors often travel the Oregon Trail, today known as US Highway 26, about 45 minutes from Chimney Rock to see Scotts Bluff National Monument, another important three-trail landmark. Especially after a long trip across the prairie, whether by covered wagon or station wagon, the monument is striking for its key features--Scotts Bluff and South Bluff and their dramatic cliffs.

Most of the park is native mixed-grass prairie, which has the virtue of looking as pristine and undisturbed as in the days of the pioneers. Gazing out over the landscape, you can feel a kinship with these brave travelers. The monument also boasts barren badlands between Scotts Bluff and the North Platte River, amounting to an amazing variety of landscape packed into 3,000 acres. A museum on the national monument grounds houses exhibits on the area's history.

Chimney Rock and Scotts Bluff National Monument Information

Address: S. of Hwy. 92 on Chimney Rock Rd

Bayard, NE

Telephone: 308/586-2581

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., daily

Admission: $3 adults; kids free

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Nebraska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Nebraska, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.