As we’ve noted before, Nebraska is at its core a state full of small towns. We love our cities, but it’s the small towns where you’ll really see the true Nebraska spirit shining through. With hundreds of small towns all throughout the state, it’s only natural that we haven’t all had time to visit all of them. These small towns all boast populations of fewer than 1,200, but each town has its own big personality.
1. Alma, Harlan County, population 1,133
Alma's motto is "Alma is for YOU!" and they really mean it. Located on the shores of the Harlan County Reservoir, there is never a lack of things to do in Alma. This town has definitely been enjoying her moment in the sun recently with a downtown revitalization bringing in new businesses and helping existing businesses flourish.
2. Stratton, Hitchcock County, population 343
Stratton's story is one that we would love to see more of in the world. When the town's grocery store closed, the community decided that they just couldn't be without one, so they banded together to raise funds. They purchased the building, revamped it, and opened the market as a community project. Three people are employed there full-time, but plenty of volunteers put in time to keep the store running. Now that is the Nebraska spirit shining through.
3. Curtis, Frontier County, population 939
With its gorgeous location in the Medicine Creek Valley, Curtis is definitely scenic - but its appeal is far more than skin deep. This thriving community is known as Nebraska's Easter City, and every year they throw a massive Easter pageant that attracts people from all over the country.
4. Avoca, Cass County, population 242
If you've never seen hundreds of people get together to chase ducks down a raceway built on a tennis court, you've never been to Avoca in January - and you're definitely missing out. In this case it might be better to show than to tell.
VIDEO A few thousand people congregate in this tiny town for the annual Quack Off. If you don't own your own duck, you can rent one there. All proceeds from the event go to support the Avoca Volunteer Fire Department.
5. Edgar, Clay County, population 498
Edgar is a town with a deep rooted history. You can still visit Oregon Trail wagon ruts and learn about our state's role in the early days of the U.S. An eclectic collection of gift shops offers up some interesting wares, including Sugar Shack Country Candles and porcelain dolls made in the likeness of your child.
6. Mullen, Hooker County, population 509
Known as "The Biggest Little Town In Hooker County," Mullen has a big personality for such a small town. Located right between the Dismal River and Middle Loup River, Mullen is full of activities for the water-lover. History buffs will enjoy the three-story Hooker County Historical Museum.
7. Hay Springs, Sheridan County, population 570
Located at the junction of Highway 87 and US Route 20, Hay Springs has been a natural stopping point for travelers for a long time. While you're here, drink in the beauty of the nearby escarpments known as Beaver Wall and the Sheridan Gates; you can still see wagon wheel ruts worn into the earth by pioneers and military companies traveling through those stone gates.
8. Eustis, Frontier County, population 401
Eustis was founded by German immigrants, and their spirit lives on in the town today. The annual Wurst Tag (Sausage Day) festival lets you celebrate all things German while enjoying the small-town Nebraska vibe. Eustis is located near Plum Creek Lake, Gallagher Lake, Johnson Lake and Elwood Lake, so whether you're a tuber, fisher, or hunter, you know you'll always have something to do there.
9. Cambridge, Furnas County, population 1,063
Equidistant between Omaha and Denver, Cambridge is in a uniquely advantageous position when it comes to high-tech startups. The community is peaceful and friendly, and it's not unusual to see folks talking in their front yards while kids ride bikes until the streetlights come on. Unlike many other towns of the same size, there are no empty storefronts on this main street - a testament to just how much this community is thriving.
10. Axtell, Kearney County, population 726
In a time when many rural schools are consolidating or closing, Axtell is actually considering expanding their school system. It is so highly rated that people from surrounding communities continue to opt in. Axtell is a tight-knit community where the people are passionate about caring for one another and for their town, but that doesn't mean you won't be welcomed here. The people of Axtell will happily tell you all about their little slice of Nebraska heaven.
What a bunch of fantastic little towns. These are some to put on your must-visit list; the people there will no doubt make you feel at home.