By Adrian Lara. Posted January 17, 2014.
Hello! Here goes my suggestion for 100 things to do in Lincoln. I hope you’ll learn about football, restaurants, parks, museums and many other interesting places here in this beautiful city.
- Nebraska State Capitol: Tallest building in town, very beautiful! Make sure you take the 1h guided tour. It will be a much better experience than if you go on your own.
- Memorial Stadium: Home of the UNL Cornhuskers! It’s a must for anyone visiting Lincoln.
- Haymarket: The historic market preserves an old-fashioned, very beautiful style. There are many restaurants; you can also visit the train station and some local shops.
Parks and lakes
There are so many beautiful lakes and parks around Lincoln. If you haven’t gone to Pawnee Lake for a BBQ on Sunday, you definitely should!
- Sunken Gardens: This is a must. It is located very close to campus and it exhibits a variety of flowers and plants. Just drop by and walk around, you will love it!
- Children Zoo: This is certainly not a park! But it’s a great experience to see penguins, ride a camel and other interesting things! Fun for both kids and adults.
- Holmes Lake Park: Conveniently located close to campus. I’m a big fan of this park during winter (keep reading to know why).
- Wilderness Park: Wilderness Park is great for running, biking or just walking around. It has very nice trails and the forest is quite dense.
- Pioneers Park: One of my favorites! Surrounded by a very nice trail (walk it, bike it or ski it in winter), and you can see buffalos all year long!
- Pawnee Lake: My favorite for a BBQ. The view of the lake is magnificent. It’s windy so it’s never too hot. There are grills for you to throw your BBQ party.
- Branch Oak Lake: You should go to this one if you’re planning on swimming. I think it has the prettiest swimming-section of all.
- Vineyards: These are not parks, but an afternoon of wine-tasting in vineyards such as the 17 Ranch Winery or the Silver Hills Vineyard is a great plan!
In terms of social life, Lincoln’s downtown is everything between N, R, 12th and 16th Streets. The list below is suitable for lunch, a drink after work and mostly, for night life.
- Yia Yia’s: Known for its pizza and large offer of imported beer. It also has a pool table.
- Iguana’s: If you go here, make sure you order the Frog Sperm: a shot in a tube with a frog on top, for only $1!
- Duffy’s Tavern: The one place where fishbowl drinks are available. It has a nice outdoor patio on the back (good for summer, and it has a fire during winter).
- Jakes Cigar: This bar is important for soccer fans. Here is where you’ll catch the Euro final, World Cup, UEFA Champions League matches, etc.
- Mix Bar & Arcade: Drinks and dancing… with real arcade machines! Don’t forget your quarters. They also have Mario Kart 64 competitions every now and then.
- Barrymore’s: Classier drinks and good music.
- Sandy’s: We all sing in the shower, but if you like to do it in public, Sandy’s has karaoke on Wednesdays.
- Starlight Lounge: My personal favorite! Underground lounge, 1960’s decoration with an old-fashioned environment and comfy sofas. Great for a relaxing evening.
- Doc’s Place: A “classier” elegant bar. There’s no loud music and it has a large list of beers and cocktails.
Going out other than downtown bars
If bars are not your style, you can also consider:
- Bowling: There are two nice places to go bowling, Sun Valley Lanes or East Campus.
- LaserTag: I discovered this by chance and it awakened my inner kid! Yes, I’m a grad student and I have in my list a place where you point your laser gun to the other guy. But I just love it :)
- A blind date with a book: At “A Novel Idea Book Store”, you can find books that are inside an envelope. You won’t know the title or the author, but you can decide to go on a blind date with the book if you like the keywords on the envelope!
Quiet places to study
Here are some suggestions of where to go study, for those who don’t really like staying in their office.
- Love Library: If you don’t want to go that far, Love library is a common study place. You know for sure that this place will be quiet. :)
- Starbucks: Everybody knows Starbucks! It’s not the cheapest, but it’s good and definitely quiet.
- Coffee House: More discreet and therefore less crowded. Their coffee is delicious and people understand that this is often a working place, so it’s also quiet.
- The Mill: This is one of the coziest places to have coffee and it’s really good. Because it’s in the Haymarket, this is also a gathering point for conversation. But it’s still a nice place to study.
Now let’s talk about arts. Before coming to Lincoln, I had never seen so many museums so close to each other!
- Lincoln Children Museum: If you have kids, this is the place to go!
- University of Nebraska State Museum: I like to think of this one as the museum in front of the mammoth. You’ll learn a lot about many animals and how Nebraska looked like many years ago.
- National Museum of Roller Skating: If you’re a roller skating fan and want to know more about its history, this is the place to go!
- Museum of American Speed: This museum has a nice collection of racing-related stuff! All the way from toys to cars. If you like speed, this is a must!
- Hyde Memorial Observatory: This one is for those who are curious about life outside Earth. The planetary is great!
- Frank H Woods Telephone Pioneer Museum: Another tiny and hidden beautiful museum in Lincoln! Good place to go if you're interested in the history of telephone industry.
- International Quilt Study Center and Museum: This is the largest publicly held quilt collection in the world!
Besides all the museums, here are some things you can do to entertain the art side of your brain.
- First Friday Art Walk: The Haymarket’s art galleries host on the first Friday of every month an “Art walk” with access to the galleries, wine offerings and cheese.
- Lied Center for Performing Arts: The Lied Center offers a wide variety of shows. For some of them, students get free tickets!
- Lincoln Symphony Orchestra: The Lincoln Symphony Orchestra is a must for those who like this type of music. Follow their schedule; they have presentations in the Lied Center quite often.
- Theater: The Lincoln Community Playhouse is a local live theater with monthly presentations.
- Concerts at the Pinnacle Bank Arena: It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the Pinnacle Bank Arena schedule. The arena has seen everything between Bon Jovi and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I’m sure you’ll find something you like.
I tried to come up with different styles of restaurant: American style, Indian, Latin-American, Asian, you pick! There’s also a list of fast food, for those days when you need something for lunch.
- Lazlo’s: The widow maker might be the best hamburger in town!
- Red Robin: Competes with Lazlo’s for the best hamburger.
- Applebee’s: There are many Applebee’s in USA, this is not “local” food. But it’s good!
- Olive Garden: Same as Applebee’s, not local but delicious!
- Fazoli’s: Another American version of Italian food, similar to Olive Garden.
- IHOP: International House of Pancakes… you got it, it’s a brunch place! Delicious!
- Farmers market: A completely different option. During part of the year, the Farmers market is open every Saturday morning at the Haymarket. Great place for handmade food!
- Buffalo Wild Wings: 50-cents wings on Tuesdays. A typical sports bar with good hot wings and beer to enjoy American Sports (Football, Basketball, Baseball…).
- The Oven: There are two Oven locations in Lincoln. The one in the Haymarket is better known and a very nice place. The one at 70th and Pioneers has, according to what I’ve heard, better tasting food.
- Sher-E-Punjab: Not as classy as The Oven in the Haymarket, but their food is really good too!
- La Mexicana: my favorite Mexican food in town!
- El Potrero: In my opinion, food is not as good as La Mexicana, but the place is nicer and better decorated.
- Mazatlan: A third option of Mexican food.
- Rodizio: This is Brazil! You just take a sit and the waiter brings lots of different meats. You’ll pay $18 and that’s all you’ll spend during the day, because you’re definitely not having dinner after this crazy Brazilian-style lunch. Not a meat lover? The salad bar is one of the best in town.
- Blue Orchid: very classy restaurant and not so expensive. Delicious food!
- Imperial Palace: Really good Chinese food, quite close and serves really fast. Tip: Ask for the “white menu” if you want more traditional dishes. The default menu is slightly Americanized.
- Mr Hui’s: A little place, hidden in Cornhusker Highway and 33d street. Really good Chinese food!
- Kinja: I’m not a sushi fan, but according to the reviews, this is one of the best sushi in Nebraska!
- Dozo: Great Japanese restaurant in a great location (Haymarket). If you go during happy hour, you’ll get great deals on sushi!
To grab some food during lunch
- Burritos: Chipotle and Qdoba are the best at huge and great burritos.
- Subs: There are so many options for eating a sandwich that I just packed them all together: Jimmy Johns, Goodcents, Subway, Firehouse Subs… you pick.
- Hamburgers: Five Guys is, by far, the best hamburger you can get for 5 bucks. Also, Runza is a locally owned fast food restaurant. Support local restaurants and go there!
- Gyros: For a gyros lover, Ali Baba Gyros is the place to go grab lunch. Their cooking is really good.
- Mediterranean: Sultan’s Kite offers yummy Mediterranean grill food.
For a yummy dessert
- Ivanna Cone: In my opinion, this is the best ice cream in Lincoln! Conveniently located in the Haymarket, there’s always room for an ice cream!
- Red Mango: For the lovers of frozen yoghurt!
- Dairy Store: University of Nebraska home-made ice cream. It’s delicious!
- Cookie Company: It’s really close to campus and they sell cookies. No marketing required for such a beautiful idea!
- Licorice International: Are you a fan of licorice? Lincoln has one of the best in the country! Drop by to get your candy.
- Marcus Grand Theater: This is where you want to go when usual movies (Hollywood or any other famous movie everybody’s expecting). Tip: You get a buy-one-get-one-free deal at Qdoba with a movie ticket from here!
- The Ross: The Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center is where you want to go to see all the non-Hollywood movies! If this is your style, you’ll develop the habit of checking the Ross’ website every couple of weeks to see what they are offering. Great alternative option!
- Gateway Mall: Gateway mall is indoors, with several department stores such as Dillards, JC Penney or Sears. They also have small shops. If you’re buying souvenirs for your family, this is the place to go!
- South Pointe Mall: This mall is outdoors. In my opinion, this one has more “high quality” clothing options, such as Scheels, Old Navy, Von Maur. If your goal is to invest some money on good clothing, this would be my first stop.
- From Nebraska Gift Shop: The other great place to buy Nebraska souvenirs is the gift shop on Q Street. Everything they offer is related to Nebraska.
Exploring the trails
Did you know that Lincoln has more than 130 miles of non-vehicle trails? I can bike to campus and I only need to cross three streets! Here’s my opinion on some of the known trails.
- Nacho rides: This is a bike ride organized weekly by the Outdoor Adventures Office. It’s a great way to start getting familiar with the trails, knowing people and eating nachos/burritos!
- Mopac trail: This trail heads east all the way to Omaha. It gets very quiet and beautiful after 84th St!
- Billy Wolf trail: This trail stays within the city, but it’s a nice option if you’re heading south-east (Holmes Lake, for example).
- Jamaica trail: This trail can seem endless! It heads south on crushed limestone. It’s quite challenging, because it can get windy out there.
- Rock Island trail: My personal favorite. Consider taking this trail all the way to South Pointe Mall in Fall and you’ll be amazed!
- John Dietrich trail: This one seems to be less popular, it heads north-east and then east. It’s very beautiful and very convenient for all students living north-east to bike to campus.
- Bison and Pioneer Park trails: Another favorite. You start on Jamaica trail and then head west towards Pioneer Park. Very quiet and very green! If you want a half hour of silence and trees, here is where you’ll get it. And you can have a picnic at Pioneers Park before heading back.
- Antelope Valley Parkway trail: This one is conveniently close to campus and follows the Antelope creek. It was recently renovated and you’ll see parks, fountains and art on your way through it.
UNL is all about American football and my list would be awfully incomplete without addressing it. The more you know about it and the more you enjoy it, the more you’ll feel like you belong to UNL!
- Go to the stadium at least once: Please, please, please… if you’re a UNL student, don’t go home after a few years without witnessing live how 90 thousand people go crazy about the Huskers. This is an absolute must!
- Opening Day: The game with the best feeling in the entire season! If you’re only going to watch one game in your life, let it be this one.
- Tailgate: Tailgating is all about having a huge party right before the game, just to make sure that you’re not hungry and thirsty by the time it starts. It’s arguably as fun as the game itself! If you watch a game, make some time for tailgating as well!
- Barry’s: I’ll just quote Dallas on this one: “You can’t call yourself a true Husker fan until you’ve fought your way into Barry’s bar before or after a Nebraska game”. Give it a try! Barry’s is a nice place, even when there’s no football game. It has a nice rooftop to enjoy drinks. The rooftop has heaters during winter.
Following other sports
Although the Football Cornhuskers are by far the most popular team in Lincoln, there are other teams that you can follow.
- Volleyball: The women’s volleyball team is a 3-times national champion. They are excellent and you should go to at least one game if you like this sport!
- Saltdogs baseball: The Saltdogs are a member of the Central Division of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. Go watch a game to the stadium near the Haymarket!
- Lincoln Stars hockey: The Lincoln Stars are a Tier 1 junior ice hockey team playing in the West Division of the United States Hockey League (USHL). They play in the Ice Box, near the Devaney Sport Center.
Doing sports yourself
- The Rec Center: If you’re a student at UNL, you can go to the Rec Center for free. Swimming pool, climbing wall, gym, basketball, volleyball, spinning, yoga… you name it, the rec has it. Great opportunity to do some exercise.
Once a year events
The following only happen once a year and it’s a real shame that we can’t have them more often!
- Lincoln Marathon: This flat, fast, Boston-qualifying race is the best around! The crowd is the best and registrations sell out in 3 days (no joking). If you like running, this is a race you don’t want to miss.
- Halloween: I know this is not very “local”, but this goes mostly for international students. Lincoln goes crazy on Halloween! Everybody dresses up and it’s a lot of fun. This is your chance to experiment something that might not be popular at all back home.
- 4th of July: This date is very meaningful to Americans and they make sure they celebrate it. For international students, the best place to be in Lincoln is Oak Lake Park. The fireworks are great!
- Big Red Welcome: This event is held the last weekend of the Summer holiday, right before the beginning of the Fall semester. Great place to have fun, play games and get prizes and free food!
- Tunnel Walk: Want to go inside Memorial Stadium right at your first week of class? Go to the Tunnel Walk, where freshmen are welcome to UNL and we all run into the stadium just like the Huskers do!
- Zombie Walk: This is organized during early Fall semester. If you’re into make-up and being a zombie or a resistant soldier with NERF guns, this is a must!
- Homecoming week: Once a year, UNL welcomes alumni and this is a very fun week! In particular, don’t miss the parade on Friday afternoon, when they kick off home coming week.
- Get Rec’d: Very exciting event organized by the Rec Center. Come in and have free food, lots of prizes and lots of fun.
- Cornhusker State Games: Tired of the intramural tournaments only? This event, held in July every year, is a good chance to get some good quality competition in many sports.
- Diwali Night: Diwali night is a wonderful event where you get to eat and dance the way Indians do. Don’t miss this! I cannot insist enough on how the best thing of being a grad student is to have the opportunity to know other cultures. Diwali Night is one of those.
- Free ice-skating night: From October to March, there are monthly free ice-skating nights at the Ice Box for those with an NCard. Never skated before? This is the best place to learn, a majority of people are beginners!
Many thanks to Grace Troupe, Dallas Hartwell, Tingying Lee, Rafa Leano, Carmen Cano, Sara El Alaoui and many others for all their ideas. Hope you’ll find something in this list that you didn’t know about!