When my children were younger, I remember the blank stares on their faces when I’d mention visiting a museum. Today, as adults, they’re eager to visit museums with me, because they understand the value they offer us in terms of art, history, and the American story.
In Lincoln, the capital city of Nebraska, you can visit a plethora of museums, each providing a unique experience. From the International Quilt Museum to a museum focused on roller skating, Lincoln’s museums are must-visits.
Here are some of my favorites.
1. International Quilt Museum
Located on the east campus of the University of Nebraska — Lincoln, the International Quilt Museum is part art museum and part history museum. Each of the 6,000 quilts from around the world — some date to the 1700s! — tells its own story through design and style. While the museum is an interesting place to visit, its most popular attraction might be Reverie, an outdoor work of art consisting of ribbon-like white metal that appears to be floating in the wind.
2. National Museum Of Roller Skating
If you’ve ever gone roller skating, you’ll want to visit the National Museum of Roller Skating inside the offices of USA Roller Sports. The museum offers a neat look at the history and culture of roller skating.
You’ll see roller skates dating to the 1700s, when they were designed with three wheels in an inline style. Did you know that four-wheeled roller skates weren’t invented until the late 1800s?
The museum also includes exhibits on roller sports, including roller hockey, roller basketball, and roller soccer. Roller figure skating — better known as roller dance — is popular with skaters. Tara Lipinski, an award-winning Olympic ice skater, also starred in roller dance.
The museum is open weekdays during business hours. While the museum doesn’t charge for admission, it gladly accepts donations.
3. Sheldon Museum Of Art
The Sheldon Museum of Art, located on the main campus of the University of Nebraska — Lincoln, offers amazing artwork, ranging from works by Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol to pieces by up-and-coming artists. With four galleries — two permanent galleries and two for special exhibits — the Sheldon has been home to Lincoln’s art scene for more than 50 years. Outside the museum, a sculpture garden features classic pieces as well as modern works by artists such as Jun Kaneko from Omaha.
4. Morrill Hall
Also known as the University of Nebraska State Museum, Morrill Hall traces the natural history of Nebraska.
There’s a statue of a mammoth outside, and you can meet Archie, one of the tallest mammoth fossils in the world, inside. Visitors can also view prehistoric tuskers (early elephants) and giant camels; believe it or not, Nebraska was once home to the largest population of camels in the world!
Cherish Nebraska, an exhibit that opened in 2019, gives visitors insight into other animals that once roamed the prairies. Imagine staring down a saber-toothed cat or a 7-foot-tall bison with horns stretching another 7 feet! You can also take in displays highlighting animals that still call Nebraska home, such as mountain lions and deer.
5. Germans From Russia Museum
Germans from Russia? Yes, you heard that right. In the mid-1700s, Catherine the Great, a German herself, issued a manifesto encouraging Germans to resettle in Russia with the promise of free land if the immigrants would start colonies. By the end of the 19th century, nearly two million Germans had migrated to Russia. Then, in the late 1800s, Germans from Russia started migrating to the United States, settling in states such as Nebraska and Kansas that reminded them of their homeland.
Lincoln’s Germans from Russia Museum seeks to preserve and share the history of these immigrants. Visitors can find photos and antiques on display.
Lincoln is known as the home of the runza, a sandwich consisting of ground beef and cabbage inside a bread pocket. This recipe is based on the German-Russian bierock.
6. Museum Of American Speed
Open since 1992, the Museum of American Speed is the result of businessman Bill Smith’s 60-year love affair with race cars. With exhibits featuring vintage race autos that competed at famous races, such as the Indianapolis 500 and Pikes Peak, the museum is a great primer on the history of these vehicles.
Cars are grouped according to themes, including gas stations and racetrack pit areas. You’ll find rocket cars used to break speed records, classic cars such as the Tucker automobile, and classic motorcycles. The museum even owns a 1958 Cadillac that once belonged to Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr.
The Museum of American Speed features more than just classic cars. There are exhibits highlighting pedal toy cars, metal lunch boxes, and guitars autographed by famous musicians.
7. Tom And Nancy Osborne Athletic Complex
Located inside Memorial Stadium, home of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Tom and Nancy Osborne Athletic Complex provides a walkthrough of Cornhusker football history.
The small museum welcomes visitors with a display of national championship trophies celebrating the team’s five titles. You can trace Nebraska football from its early days as the Bugeaters through its modern-day honors. In the lobby of the athletic offices, you’ll find trophies and memorabilia from Nebraska’s bowl trips, including a clipboard used by Coach Bob Devaney and items used by Coach Tom Osborne. Catch the short film about game day in Nebraska and see copies of the Heisman Trophy won by three Huskers.
The museum is open daily (except on game days) and doesn’t charge admission. Outside the entrance is a life-size sculpture of Osborne standing beside quarterback Brook Berringer.
Where To Take A Lunch Break
When you’re ready for a break from the museums, head to Runza for a delicious sandwich. The runza, a bread pocket with fresh ground beef, cabbage, and onions, is a Nebraska favorite. The sandwiches are even sold at Nebraska football games! Alongside the popular sandwich, you can enjoy sides such as crinkle fries and handmade onion rings. For a true Runza experience, order the frings, a combination of French fries and onion rings. From fall through spring, you can order a hot bowl of chili and a side of cinnamon rolls.
For a unique hamburger experience, check out Honest Abe’s, where you can enjoy your burger with toppings such as gouda cheese, pork belly, sweet onion jam, cumin, or spicy mayonnaise. Try a side of freedom fries coated with garlic.
Steak lovers should head to Misty’s Steakhouse & Lounge. Founded in 1963 as a bottle club, the restaurant eventually developed a reputation for great steaks. Today, Misty’s is home to Lincoln’s best steaks and prime rib. Celebrities, politicians, and athletes often dine at Misty’s when in town.
With so much to see and do, you might want to plan on several days in the Lincoln area. If you decide to stay longer, consider booking at the Cornhusker. Once an independent hotel, it is now part of the Marriott family and offers guests a quality stay at a reasonable rate. The Cornhusker is conveniently located downtown within walking distance of several attractions and the University of Nebraska.