Nebraska February 16, 2019
The Best Small Town In Nebraska May Not Be Where You Expect
When you think of small Nebraska towns, you probably picture a sweet little place surrounded by fields and maybe some rolling green hills. While our definition of a “small town” typically includes those with 1,000 or fewer residents, the rest of the country has a more generous definition. That’s why many Nebraskans wouldn’t peg this city of nearly 6,000 as the best “small town” in the state, but
Insider recently bestowed it with the honor, and we wouldn’t dream of disagreeing.
Chadron is a small city located in Dawes County, in the far northwestern corner of the state. Its roots stretch back to 1884 when the town was established along the route of the Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley Railroad.
It's come a long way since pioneer days, but Chadron retains that homey, small-town feel that so many of us in Nebraska love. Although 6,000 residents may seem like a lot to keep up with, folks here still manage to know their neighbors and keep up with town events.
As you may expect, there are plenty of places of historical significance in this Old West town. The Olde Main Street Inn has been a fixture in the town since its early days, and today continues to be a destination for weary travelers. There's also a beloved bar and restaurant inside, 77 Longbranch Saloon. Every visitor should make a point to stop by for at least a drink or two.
Cultural sites and activities are abundant in and around Chadron. The Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center, located on the campus of Chadron State College, has exhibits featuring the life of author Sandoz as well as the history of this unique area.
Nearby, the Museum of the Fur Trade offers a one-of-a-kind look at the trade that defined Chadron in its early days. The Dawes County Historical Museum provides another perspective on life in and around Chadron from the 1880s through the 1960s.
Lovers of natural attractions will not be disappointed when visiting Chadron. You'll be right at the doorstep of the Nebraska National Forest. This beautiful destination is 222 square miles of hand-planted forests - the largest of its kind in the country.
Chadron State Park, Oglala National Grassland, and Pine Ridge National Recreation Area are all in close proximity, along with many other fascinating outdoor spaces. Head out to these areas for hiking, horseback riding, biking, camping, picnicking, and a number of other activities.
You'll find plenty of recreational opportunities in the city itself. Several parks and sporting fields give the whole family something to do on a nice day. There are chain restaurants as well as smaller family-owned eateries, and you'll have a great time exploring the locally-owned businesses in town.
The whole town turns out to celebrate Fur Trade Days every summer, and other smaller celebrations happen throughout the year. It's at these events that you can really see the community spirit embraced by this special "small town" in the panhandle.
Have you ever lived in or visited Chadron? Do you agree it’s the best “small town” in the state? Tell us all about it in the comments!