Lincoln, Nebraska, is primarily known as the state's capital city and the home of the University of Nebraska's flagship campus, but the city—set in the southeast corner of the state—has numerous worthwhile attractions for visitors.
Foremost among them is the unusual and impressive state Capitol, which is unlike any other Capitol building we've ever seen: The art-deco spire looks like something out of a Buck Rogers serial. The tower rises 400 ft/120 m above a building constructed of marble, bronze, hand-carved wood and gold leaf. The decorations inside are almost as impressive as the exterior.
If time is not an issue, there are several other notable buildings: the Governor's Mansion (it has a nice doll collection representing the state's first ladies); the Kennard House (original 1870s decor—the owner built it to show he had confidence in the new city); and the Nebraska Bank of Commerce Center (one of the accomplishments of well-known architect I.M. Pei).
Lincoln has a number of museums. The Sheldon Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden is an impressive collection of 20th-century American art housed in a structure designed by architect Philip Johnson. The sculpture garden extends for several blocks around the gallery—maps are available.
The Folsom Children's Zoo and Botanical Garden re-creates an 1800s town with a large, nicely landscaped area where children can pet the animals. Take a ride on the miniature train circling the zoo. Another possibility for kids is the Lincoln Children's Museum.
The University of Nebraska State Museum (locally known as Morrill Hall) has mounted skeletons of mammoths, mastodons, four-tuskers and modern elephants. The museum's Ralph Mueller Planetarium offers well-produced sky shows and laser-light shows. The Museum of Nebraska History is a state-of-the-art facility illustrating the way people have lived on the Great Plains from prehistoric times to the 1950s.
Lincoln is also home to the National Museum of Roller Skating, which is—trust us—the only museum of its kind. It traces the history of skates from the 1700s through the greats of vaudeville and competitive skating. Slightly less quirky is the Frank H. Woods Telephone Pioneer Museum, which traces the development of the phone with exhibits showing how turn-of-the-20th century operators worked. Dozens of old telephones and related accessories and technology are on display.
The Haymarket area of Lincoln is a restored warehouse district, full of energy, with plenty of dining and shopping opportunities. Those interested in outdoor recreation should check out the Wilderness Park Hiking Trail, a 13-mi/21-km trail along Salt Creek that passes through heavily wooded areas, meadows and creek beds rich with wildlife and wildflowers. Also, within a 25-mi/40-km radius of Lincoln are many lakes and other recreation areas.
Among the notable events on Lincoln's calendar are Haymarket Heydays (food vendors and entertainment in the city's historic district—mid-June); and the Star City Holiday Parade and Weekend Festival (first Saturday in December).
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