Nebraska sometimes doesn’t get the credit it deserves for all of the beauty – both natural and human-made – that can be found here. Make no mistake, friends: Nebraska is an exceptionally beautiful place. This list contains just some of the loveliest places in the state that everyone should see at least once. (These items are in random order and not ranked in any way.)
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Smith Falls State Park, near Valentine
Nebraska's newest state park contains the state's highest waterfall, Smith Falls. You'll walk through a field and over a historic bridge to get to the waterfall, which has been called one of the most romantic places in the state.
2. Indian Cave State Park, near Shubert
The untamed beauty of the Missouri River Valley is on full display in this sprawling park. Miles and miles of hiking trails wind through the wooded hills, and an overlook provides an enchanting view of the river.
3. Toadstool Geologic Park, near Crawford
This rocky, otherworldly landscape is the last thing most people expect to see here on the plains. Located in western Nebraska, Toadstool Geologic Park is one of the biggest surprises the Cornhusker State has to offer.
4. Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha
This massive botanical gardens complex and arboretum will take you several hours to walk through if you want to see it all. It's at its most breathtaking in the spring and summer, but there's still plenty to see the rest of the year.
5. Oglala National Grassland, northwestern Nebraska
Technically #3 is part of this protected area, but it deserves its own mention. The grassland is spectacularly preserved and looks a lot like what early pioneers would have seen on their journey west. It's hard to describe just how beautiful this vast, undeveloped prairie is... you've got to see it for yourself.
6. Sunken Gardens, Lincoln
You'll want to visit this gorgeous urban garden in the summer when everything is in full bloom. In addition to loads of flowers, shrubs, trees, and other plants, you'll also find water features and sculptures. It's a surprising find right in the city, and you'll want to visit over and over.
7. Homestead National Historical Park, near Beatrice
This national monument commemorates the Homestead Act of 1862, which gave homesteaders 160 acres if they committed to staying and working the land. There are restored prairies, historic buildings, and a thoroughly informative visitors center, all of which are simply breathtaking.
8. Scotts Bluff National Monument, Gering
These large rock formations marked the end of the plains and the beginning of rockier terrain for westward-traveling pioneers. It's one of the most impressive sights in Nebraska, and whether you explore it on foot or from your car you're sure to be awed.
9. Bessey Ranger District, Nebraska National Forest, central Nebraska
Our national forest is divided into two divisions: the Pine Ridge Ranger division in northwest Nebraska, and the Bessey Ranger District in the Sandhills. Both places are bucket list-worthy, but when you visit the Bessey Ranger District you get to enjoy two incredible areas at once: the second-largest hand planted forest in the world, and the gorgeous Sandhills.
10. Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, near Harrison
This spectacular monument consists of pristine plains, soaring rock formations, fossil dig sites, wide open skies, and a visitors center with some fascinating prehistoric and early Nebraska artifacts.
11. Fontenelle Forest, Bellevue
You might not even know this forest was sitting here in the middle of this suburban area if you weren't looking for it. Go through the informative welcome center and then set out on a hike along several miles of trails. You can even visit the Raptor Recovery Center and see beautiful birds of prey up close.
12. Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, near Valentine
In addition to gorgeous landscapes and the scenic Niobrara River, you'll see graceful wildlife and the breathtaking Fort Falls, Nebraska's largest waterfall by volume.
13. Holy Family Shrine, Gretna
Many a weary traveler has seen this mysterious glass and wood shrine sitting on a hill alongside the highway and wondered just what it was. You can visit, but you'll need to find your way there first - a feat that has frustrated more than a few potential visitors.
Of course, we can’t name ALL of the most beautiful places in Nebraska in just one list, so let us know: where are your favorite beautiful places in our state?