We know that the Graduate Studies website provides a brief overview of Lincoln. However, we realize that our prospective students have a recurring set of concerns and questions that we'd like to answer in more detail.
What is there to do in Lincoln?
There is a lot to do in Lincoln, especially downtown, such as watching sports at a restaurant or brewery, hanging out at a nightspot, tasting thevegetarian cuisine, enjoying live music, including dueling pianos! There are two famous ice cream stores: Ivanna Cone down in Lincoln's Haymarket, and the UNL Dairy Store out on East Campus. There are also several wineries in the state, and a Lincoln Wine and Food Experience.
There is a Marcus Lincoln Grand Cinema in the heart of downtown, with three free hours of parking in the Center Park Garage (must validate parking ticket at theatre), watching Nebraska football on the big screen, student$5 Thursdays, general public $5 Tuesdays, and a Performing Arts series. The Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center a few blocks away shows independent movies such as Mr. Holmes, Testament of Youth, Best of Enemies, Steve Jobs (2015), and He Named Me Malala; National Theater Live screenings (Hamlet, As You Like It, Jane Eyre); and The Met Live.
Other fun events happen annually in Lincoln. There is the famous Capital City Ribfest in mid-August; the Craftacular sale in December of local hand-made products such as jewelry, lotions, soaps, furniture, signs, and children's clothing; a Shop the Blocks event downtown during the holidays; The Chocolate Lover's Fantasy in February; and laser shows around holidays on campus at the Mueller Planetarium. There are also murder mystery themed dinnersat The Grand Manse in downtown Lincoln, or trek up to Omaha and enjoy The Dinner Detective. In September, out at Nebraska City, there is the AppleJack Festival and Extreme Bullriding Tour; in April is the Arbor Day Festival celebrating the beginning of Arbor Day in Nebraska back in 1872; and in July is the Lemon Days bargain sale. Also in late July and early August is the Czech Days festival in Wilber, NE, which began back in 1962. Corn mazes, haunted houses, and pumpkin patches are easy to find in October, with Scary Acres and Mystery Manor in Omaha being two of the more famous ones, and Benson Farms holding the record for largest corn maze.
Activities and the outdoors
UNL sponsors outdoor trips (hikes, biking, canoeing, climbing, kayaking, backpacking), cooking classes, intramural sports, and fitness programs such as Zumba and yoga at reasonable prices. There is also an indoor rock climbing wall and a bowling alley Lanes 'N Games on East Campus. Southeast Community College has a vibrant continuing education program that has courses in everything from day bus trips, to learning about genealogy, dancing (ballroom, Irish, swing, Latin, jitterbug, line dance, ballet), stained glass, jewelry, knitting, history of Lincoln, history of tea, CPR, dog agility and therapy training, origami, calligraphy, painting and drawing, scrapbook fests, floral designing, ethnic foods, landscaping, upholstery, music (piano, guitar, ukulele), acting, photography, acupressure, fencing, and exercise (Pilates, yoga, Zumba, t'ai chi). Also the UNL Confucius Institute has Chinese language, music, calligraphy, and painting classes for adults and children.
There are lots of amusement parks, historic sites, and zoos to visit: Champions Fun Center, Lincoln Laser Tag, Worlds of Fun at Kansas City, visit the world's largest train yard at Golden Spike Tower, the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park, the Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, the Lincoln Children's Zoo, and see the famous Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium in Omaha.
Despite most photos showing flat prairie, Lincoln and Omaha have some amazing city parks and gardens, most with free admission. There is the Great Plains Trails Network maps to help you get around town by biking or walking. There are Garden Tours of UNL campus, Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, and Sunken Gardens in Lincoln. The Pioneers Park Nature Center on the west edge of Lincoln has raptors, bison, elk, and white-tailed deer to view, along with 668 acres of prairie restored to how it looked prior to invasive species. The list of parks, community centers, and city trails in Lincoln are on the Parks & Recreation website.
Arts and museums
There are a wide range of museums and art galleries in Lincoln, with eight alone on or near the City and East campuses: Nebraska State Museum of Natural History (Morrill Hall), Sheldon Museum of Art, Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery, Larson Tractor Test & Power Museum, The Kruger Collection, International Quilt Study Center & Museum, and the Great Plains Art Museum. The first Friday of the month, there is a First Friday Art Walk with galleries staying open later, and sometimes offering additional entertainment or snacks. There is also the Lincoln Children's Museum, the Nebraska History Museum (free!), the LUX Center for the Arts, and the Hildegard Center for the Arts. Don't forget to tour the Nebraska State Capitol building for free!
In Omaha, there is the Durham Museum, the Lewis and Clark Trail Headquarters and Visitor Center, El Museo Latino, The Strategic Air and Space Museum, and the Joslyn Art Museum.
The performing arts are thriving in Nebraska too, with musical performances by the Glenn Korff School of Music, live shows at Omaha's Orpheum Theater (WICKED, Kinky Boots, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, The Phantom of the Opera) and at Lincoln's Lied Center which hosts theater, musical performances (Irish, country, tribute bands), ballet, acrobats, modern dance, and the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues. UNL has a partnership with the Lied which provides a selection of the fall and spring season's shows under the Arts for All program, so that UNL students can attend shows for free. Tickets go quickly, so be sure to get on the email listserv and check early in the semester!
Bookstores: Indigo Bridge (open 7 days a week) has a cafe too; A Novel Idea Bookstore (Tues-Sat) with their famous cats, and each week they post photos of the new book arrivals so you can browse from home; Bluestem Books (Tues-Sat); and the national chain Barnes & Noble has two locations in Lincoln.
Grocery stores: Trader Joe's down at SouthPoint Pavilions, Whole Foods across from Gateway Mall, a Natural Grocers at 48th Street; and the major chain stores of Hy-Vee, Russ's Market, and Super Saver .
Downtown Lincoln also has three post offices (Haymarket, UNL City Campus Union, and 301 Centennial Mall), and a Pearle Vision on O Street. There are numerous banks downtown (West Gate Bank, Pinnacle Bank, Cornhusker Bank, Union Bank & Trust, Lincoln Federal Savings Bank, Frontier Bank, Bank of the West) as it is the state capitol, but Wells Fargo is the only national chain, as Bank of America does not exist in Nebraska.
Further Things To Do
Check out unique Nebraska restaurants,
How do I find where to live? What is there to pick from? How much does it cost?
Downtown apartments and condos have been expanding in the past couple of years, so several new options exist, in addition to the buildings that have been around for a while (up to several decades, if you rent in an old building in the Haymarket). We would recommend the standard national rental websites such as Zillow rentals, Trulia, ForRent.com, Apartment Finder, Apartment Guide, Realtor.com, Apartments.com, Craigslist, or Apartmenthomeliving.com. Most of these have mobile or iPad apps too. A tool specifically for living in downtown lincoln is the DowntownLincoln.org's map and photos of rentals.
"The Bottoms" is the area to the north of campus accessible by a pedestrian bridge, directly across the railroad tracks from Memorial Stadium. There are houses and apartment complexes there, with the housing having a tendency to be older and run down (so check it out in person before signing a lease); and the apartment complexes being new.
Trace an east-west line through the Capitol Building (e.g. along J Street/Lincoln Mall), and look to points south and east: that is where many of the older homes that are segmented into apartments will be located, along with small apartment complexes. Of course, there are more homes broken up into apartments (and small apartment complexes) around East Campus. The StarTran public transportation system in Lincoln has bus lines (#22-25) that run directly to/from East Campus and City Campus. A year-long bus pass is normally mailed to students by UNL each fall.
To check if there is any regular issues with crime in the area you are considering moving, use the CrimeMapping website and Lincoln Police Department's crime listing by area.
Use the Great Plains Trail Network map to locate an apartment further out from campus, but still easily accessible to a walking/bike trail. Depending upon your budget, parking permits can be expensive, and parking is becoming harder to find.
The cost of an apartment will vary depending upon if you have a roommate or not, the amenities, age of the building, and location. In general, the cost of living (food, housing) is fairly cheap, when compared to the national range (see the Huffington Post article "Here's What $100 Is Worth In Each State" from 2014). On average, just as the Graduate Studies website stated, it starts at $625 and goes up. We would recommend considering the weather in Nebraska, and that with severe weather (hail, tornadoes) in the summer, and wintry precip and windchill in the winters, having a garage can be invaluable for protecting a car from damage and keep you from spending extra time 1) scraping your car, and 2) having to move your car when the snow plow comes.
Lincoln Airport info (airline airport code LNK)
If you choose to fly into Omaha, Nebraska (i.e. Eppley Airport or OMA when searching airlines), there are more time slots for travel and cheaper prices. Parking at the airport costs $6-15 per day, depending upon which lot you use or if you choose the parking deck. There are emailed coupons available too. It costs generally $99 for a round trip using OMALiNK shuttle (a good resource for trips in bad weather or when staying longer than a weekend for a conference). Be sure to reserve your OMALiNK trip online at least 72 hours ahead of your flight, to better ensure they will have an available van; holidays tend to fill up quickly, so book even sooner. It is an hour-long drive between Omaha and Lincoln, so allot time for traffic jams if you are arriving/leaving during rushhour.
AmTrak has a station with an enclosed wait room (LNK) one block away from the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Haymarket.
StarTran bus pass
For more information on parking passes and where on campus you can park, see University Parking & Transit.
Great Plains Trail Network
The GPTN seeks to constantly expand and upgrade the bike and walking trails around Lincoln. They have just completed a curb-protected, cross-town bike lane on N Street. Printed trail maps are available, but they are also posted online. Be sure to also check out their Facebook page.