There’s no getting around it: it’s hot. REALLY hot. There’s no need to let the heat derail your summer fun, though. You can still get out and do some awesome things that won’t result in heat stroke. These activities will keep you in the shade or air conditioning, offer a way to cool off, or just be so much fun that you won’t mind the heat.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Arbor Day Farm, Nebraska City
Take a walk through the Tree Adventure where you'll find lots of shade and lots of fun things to keep the family occupied. Or, if it's just too hot to think about walking, hop on the Discovery Ride, a fun tractor ride through the fields that keeps you covered with a shade. Time your visit right and you can even see the spectacular sight of the sunflowers in full bloom.
2. Cody Park, North Platte
There are so many thing to see and do at Cody Park that you might be able to ignore the fact that it's a million degrees outside. Cool off with some ice cream, take the kids on a few rides, and explore the trains.
3. Drive the fossil freeway, western Nebraska
This one takes a little more planning and time than the other activities, but it's definitely worth it for any fossil enthusiast. There are six history-rich locations in Nebraska for you to explore: Toadstool Geologic Park, Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed, Trailside Museum at Fort Robinson State Park (where you'll see the incredible fossil of two mammoths locked in battle), the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Scotts Bluff National Monument, and Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area. Some stops have air conditioned buildings; you can also cool off in your nice air conditioned car in between stops.
4. Homestead National Monument, Beatrice
Celebrate the impact of the Homestead Act on Nebraska in this unique museum dedicated to the indomitable spirit and hard work of prairie pioneers. Stay inside the visitor's center for the least amount of heat exposure, but if you're feeling brave you can venture out to see the one-room school house and settlers' cabin and gaze in wonder at the restored wild prairie space.
5. Knight Museum and Sandhills Center, Alliance
The Knight Museum doesn't get as much attention as it should; if you haven't yet visited, put it on your agenda for this summer. Here you'll learn all about the Sandhills and the people who lived and live here - all the way from pre-history to present era. Genealogy buffs will love their rich collection of Western Nebraska genealogical records.
6. Lake McConaughy, Ogallala
Doesn't that just look like the best place to be on a hot summer day? There are endless activities to do on and in the water - just don't forget the sunscreen...and some flip-flops to keep the bottoms of your feet from burning on the hot, hot sand.
7. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Ashland
It was very hard to choose between Mahoney and Platte River State Park, but Mahoney wins out thanks to its killer water park. Still, Platte River State Park is basically right next door if you prefer a less crowded experience (and it has waterfalls!).
8. Nebraska State Fair, Grand Island
The fair is August 26-September 5 this year, and hopefully the temperature outside will have started to cool down by then. Even if it hasn't, there are plenty of buildings to cool off in, and you can have tons of fun after the sun goes down.
9. Nebraska Star Party, Merritt Reservoir, near Valentine
This annual stargazing party is one of the greatest nighttime summer adventures in Nebraska. This year's party is July 31-August 5. Everyone is welcome, from amateurs to experts, but
10. Riverside Discovery Center, Scottsbluff
The park was unfortunately affected by a severe flood over Memorial Day, but they have worked hard to recover and they are open. Watch and learn about animals from around the world and then cool off in the awesome outdoor splash pad.
11. Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, Ashland
If you're going to spend a day indoors, this is one of the best places to do it. The enormous museum holds aircraft of all kinds, along with exhibits on space travel and military aircraft, among others. The flight simulators are awesome, but they are NOT for anyone with a weak stomach.
12. Smith Falls State Park, near Valentine
You do have to take a short walk over the river and through a little field to get to the falls, but it's worth it. If you're brave enough, you can even step under the water. But be warned - it is COLD.
13. Spend a day tubing on a river
There are a few rivers suitable for tubing in Nebraska and lots and lots of outfitters who can rent you the necessary equipment. When you get hot, just jump into the water and walk alongside the tubes for a few minutes. You'll have to be careful to apply lots and lots of sunscreen if you don't want to be burned to a crisp.
14. Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari, Ashland
This is the third attraction on this list that's in Ashland, so you could actually combine it with #7 and #11 to make a great weekend getaway. You can stay in your air conditioned car through the whole safari park if you wish, but there are also opportunities to get out and see some other animals that you can't spot from the path.
15. Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha
Yes, the zoo will be packed no matter when you go in the summer. Yes, walking around outside will be hot. But there are plenty of climate-controlled buildings to explore, you can ride the tram instead of walking, and we hear the new Alaskan Adventure splash pad is a pretty great place to cool off.
There’s still plenty of summer left, so get out there and have some fun. If you’re looking for maximum refreshment, then head on over to our
list of water parks you should visit.