While Bellevue has the distinction of being the oldest continuously-settled place in the state, Nebraska City has been recognized by the Nebraska State Legislature as the oldest incorporated city. And it’s an identity this special little place has really embraced.
Besides being one of the most naturally beautiful towns in the state, Nebraska City is full of historical attractions. This small city of just over 7,000 residents has an astonishing 10 museums celebrating the history of the city, county, state, and country.
Perhaps the best-known is the Arbor Lodge State Historical Park.
The Mortons were a very important family in Nebraska's history. J. Sterling Morton founded Arbor Day and acted as President Cleveland's Secretary of Agriculture. The White House-like home pictured above was the family's home which was expanded to 52 rooms from its original four. You can tour the 72-acre Arbor Lodge Historical Park for free and without a parks sticker. Tours of the mansion are available for a small fee.
2600 Arbor Ave, Nebraska City.
The Mayhew Cabin and John Brown's Cave represents the only recognized Nebraska stop on the Underground Railroad.
No one knows for sure how many escaped slaves may have passed through this little one-room cabin on their way to freedom. A recreated tunnel beneath the cabin shows what it may have been like for the people who stayed there briefly while on the way to their new lives. The underground walking path is currently closed for renovations, but you can still tour the cabin and the recreated village on the grounds.
2012 4th Corso, Nebraska City.
The Nebraska City Museum of Firefighting honors the state's oldest volunteer fire department, which dates back to 1856.
The items in the museum were actually used by the NCVFD, and some of them date all the way back to the department's earliest days. The kids can dress up in firefighter costumes and everyone can get an up-close look at antique fire trucks; it's a charming place to spend part of your afternoon.
1320 Central Avenue, Nebraska City.
The Civil War Veterans Museum at the G.A.R. Memorial Hall is dedicated to preserving the memories of the Civil War.
The museum is within one of the last remaining Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Halls in the state. The exhibits feature artifacts from both sides of the war, and the entire museum is a tribute to those who fought and died in the fateful conflict.
Visit at 910 1st Corso, Nebraska City.
The Missouri River Basin Lewis & Clark Visitor Center is actually outside of Nebraska City, but not by much.
This huge 12,000-square-foot museum is all about the natural and scientific discoveries made by Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition. The building and grounds are simply beautiful, but the most amazing sights may be the full-scale recreated boats of the types the expedition used.
100 Valmont Drive, Nebraska City.
The Taylor-Wessel-Bickel-Nelson House is one of the oldest standing homes in the state.
It now displays a fascinating history of Nebraska City; you can see what the city looked like in different eras at all different stages of development. If you love this city, this museum is the best place to learn all about its past.
711 3rd Corso, Nebraska City.
The Kregel Windmill Factory Museum is a tribute to one of Nebraska's former industries.
This is the last intact historic windmill factory in the country, and it's a fascinating place to visit. The factory didn't churn out countless products the way today's factories do; the workers there made a few thousand over the years, but they were used all across the country. See how they were made at this unexpectedly awesome facility.
1423 Central Avenue, Nebraska City.
Wildwood Historic Center brings the Victorian era to life as seen through the eyes of previous generations of Nebraskans.
The gorgeous Gothic-style home is full of wonders, from period-appropriate furnishings to regional arts and crafts. Volunteers dress in period clothing to give tours and talk about the fascinating history of Nebraska City.
420 Steinhart Park Road, Nebraska City.
The Old Freighters Museum is an interesting look at the history of the freighting and shipping industry in Nebraska City.
A lot of people forget that Nebraska City was once a very important port town. This museum is located in the offices of the Russell, Majors, & Waddell Freighting Company, Nebraska City's top shipping firm back in the state's early days.
407 N 14th Street, Nebraska City
The River Country Nature Center is probably one of the state's most unusual nature museums.
It houses more than 400 specimens of taxidermy animals native to Nebraska. There are a lot of other natural exhibits to explore here, as well. Interactive exhibits let visitors learn all about Nebraska's climate, wildlife, archaeology, and paleontology. It's a true hidden gem.
114 S 6th Street, Nebraska City.
How many of Nebraska City’s amazing museums have you explored? Tell us all about your experiences in the comments! If you want to learn more about this perfectly Midwestern town, take a look at
this article from the archives.