What is the first thing that springs to mind when someone mentions the state of Nebraska? If you’re like most people, you instantly have a vision of endless fields of tall corn with golden tassels reaching for the endless blue sky in a state of wide open endless spaces. That’s a lot of endless. In fact, it is true that Nebraska does indeed grown bushels and bushels of life sustaining corn, both for domestic purposes as well as overseas consumption, but it is also much more than just a corn producing machine. There is actually a lot more to Nebraska than the part of our brains that stores the 5th grade Geography trivia tries to tell us.
Speaking of trivia, let’s start with a few basic Nebraska facts. Did you know that the state is located centrally in the Great Plains portion of the United States, but was once considered to be a part of the Great American Desert? That should lend a small clue as to the type of climate that the traveler will find there. The fact that its geographical classification has changed has nothing to do with an epoch shift in the weather patterns. No, the crafty and observant Nebraskans have put their thinking caps on and have changed the Nebraska landscape into a rich farming region despite its arid climate due to the use of scientific farming. The once fairly barren terrain is now abundant with record producing crop farms and much of the untillable soil has been advantageously put to use as lucrative cattle grazing ranches.
Nebraska takes its name from a Native American word Chiwere which means “flat water”. That, too, is another clue as to the type of topography that covers the majority of the state’s regions, particularly the western half. The eastern part of the state was left as a hilly and, perhaps as some think, a more picturesque area due to the glaciers that passed through millions of years previously. The western half of the state, also known as the Great Plains region, seems to be comprised of endless expanses of flat land that is in a much more arid area than its eastern sister half. Accordingly, much smaller rainfall totals fall in this part of the state compared with the greener hills of the east.
Even though a state nickname for Nebraskans are the “Cornhuskers”, that didn’t come until much later, once it had became established as a leader in the farming industry. The first real Nebraskans were called “homesteaders” because they took advantage of the government’s offer of free land to those who would brave the frontier and help further western settlement. As these pioneers moved west they were greeted by the eastern half of the not-yet-state with gently rolling grass covered hillsides and much to their surprise, were pretty devoid of any type of trees. Their ingenuity was tested as to what to build houses with and these improvising settlers came up with the novel idea of using slabs of sod stacked to form the walls of dwellings. Their idea was successful and today in some historically preserved areas of the state, a traveler can visit an original sod home and get a taste of what life was like in the mid 1800s before the west was settled.
At this point, you should have a pretty good picture painted in your minds about the terrain, climate and fortitude-filled people that make up the state of Nebraska. Due to the adventurous nature of their ancestors’ background, hardiness and heartiness are standout components of the entire state’s population. Nebraskans have a can-do attitude that is hard to duplicate. The modern day Cornhusker lives in a state that is industry filled, economically stable and can compete with any other of its 49 relatives for quality education, extremely reasonable cost of living indexes and an impressive tourism system that offers exciting family fun filled vacation options.
So what exactly can a family planning a vacation do that is worthy of spending their hard-earned free time and money? The answer to that is definitely plural, not singular. Nebraska has many choices when it comes to providing entertainment and sightseeing. For example, for the history buff, Nebraska is jammed packed with historical museums, national memorial centers, Native American information points, historical markers, heritage centers and Indian reservations that welcome visitors and the chance to share their culture. For families looking for action filled excitement for the kids, the larger city areas of Omaha and Lincoln can provide all the fun needed. You could try the Lincoln Children’s zoo which houses over 300 different types of animals such as camels, big cats and different kinds of primates. They have a butterfly pavilion that is always a treat for the children as they can experience the birth of butterflies from their cocoons. Families can wander through beautiful botanical gardens or laugh at the daily seal shows. If the thrill seeker in you and your family prefers the buzz and whirl of an amusement park, head to the Fun Plex in Omaha. This is the state’s largest ride and water park that can provide hours of fun for all.
What about the vacationers who prefer the great outdoors experience to being entertained in the cities? They will definitely not be disappointed by Nebraska! In the prairie and lakes region of the upper central part of the state, there is much to do for those interested in outdoor recreation. For the biking enthusiast, there is a trail of over twenty miles which includes all levels of endurance that runs through the mountains of western Nebraska. There are also seasonal campouts along this route for those wishing to make it more than a day trip adventure. Or try Enders Reservoir State Park for swimming, boating, fishing or camping using the method of your choice- either the more rustic art of tent camping or there are also hook ups for the cushier RV type camper. This park also provides, in season, an opportunity for the hunters to try their luck.
So now after reading this article, the next time someone mentions the work Nebraska around you, you’re sure to have more come to mind than the spacious cornfields and wide open spaces, although there are still plenty of those there, too! Nebraska is a land of promise for those looking for a different type of vacation spot and a land of potential for those considering a change of pace.