Lincoln is bursting with fun things to do. With so many friendly faces, a thriving craft beer scene, great restaurants and school pride (go Huskers!), our town is one of the best places to live. Even so, it can be tempting to stay in and watch Netflix when the wallet is feeling a little drained. Luckily, there are plenty of activities in town that don’t cost a cent!
Instead of hanging on the couch, take the weekend to get out and explore our wonderful city. Whether you’re looking to hear some music or take in history at a museum, we’ve gathered up a list of our favorite activities in Lincoln that are completely free of charge. We suppose it’s possible to have fun on a budget after all.
Hang out at the Railyard
Photo courtesy of The Railyard
The Railyard has only been around for a few years, but with the wide array of shops, restaurants and apartments, it has already become the state’s most popular, year-round entertainment district.
In the warm months, the main courtyard becomes a public open space that offers a nice spot to lay out a picnic and take in the sights. Occasionally, visitors will be able to watch films and sporting events on the “Union Bank Cube”— a mega screen built into a nearby building. The summer movie series schedule can be found here. Then, during the winter, bundle up to enjoy the outdoor skating rink! You can use the rink free of charge (although there is a small fee to rent skates).
Meander Through a Farmers’ Market
Sure, farmers’ markets are a great place to stock up on fresh vegetables, warm pastries and various knick knacks, but they also provide a great setting to simply be. You might be tempted to buy some goodies, but if you’re on a tight budget, you can enjoy meandering through the booths, having conversations with the vendors, and perhaps listening to a live musician. As these are community-oriented markets, you might even run into your friend or neighbor!
If you’re hanging out at the Railyard, you’ll find a popular farmers’ market on Saturday mornings from May to October just across the street in the Haymarket. Other favorites of ours include the Old Cheney Road Farmers’ Market, which takes place on Sundays, and the Fallbrook Farmers’ Market on Thursday evenings.
Get in Touch With Mother Nature
When you’re feeling a bit suffocated by the concrete jungle, pack up your hiking shoes, grab your bike, or get a picnic together and hit the trails. There are several incredible parks in Lincoln that offer a quick escape from city life and a chance to soak in the sunshine. Though they’re centrally located, you’ll feel like you’re worlds away!
The Pioneers Park Nature Center includes 668 acres of prairies, wooded trails, gardens and exhibits, and is a great place for people of all ages to come learn about native wildlife. Meanwhile, the Lincoln Wilderness Conservancy is a bit more off the beaten path, but offers miles of hiker/biker trails and picnic tables. If you’re looking to get closer to the water, Holmes Park & Lake is your best bet. Here, you’ll find a serene spot to cast a line, take a picnic or walk your dog on a sunny afternoon. Interested in sports? There are several fields on site that can be rented for recreational use, as well as an 18-hole golf course.
Visit the National Museum of Roller Skating
The National Museum of Roller Skating offers a glimpse into history (much like other museums), but not in the traditional way. Roller skating is a shared passion and pastime of many Americans, but has also been a quintessential element of sport and business throughout the years. This museum aims to broaden our understanding of roller skating, and to see exactly how it fits into our past. Roll on over on Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. — admission is free.
Climb the Tower at the Nebraska State Capitol
As well as being home to our nation’s only one-house nonpartisan legislature, the Nebraska State Capitol is also recognized for its unique architecture. You won’t find the grand dome that has become a trademark of most capital buildings, but rather a 400-foot tower with an observation deck that offers stellar views of the city. Visit the building to take in the history, see some stellar artwork, and of course make your way up to the observation deck. After you’re done touring the inside, settle down in one of the Capitol Courtyards to enjoy a picnic and take in the sights.
Catch a Show at the Lincoln Community Garden Performance Series
Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Community Garden Performance Series
This series has been around for nearly 30 years, bringing a variety of free concerts to downtown Lincoln between May and August. The performances occur on Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. outdoors in the Lincoln Community Foundation Garden. Take a lunch hour to hear some tunes and soak in the warm, Nebraska sun! This season, look forward to acts including the Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band, The Lightning Bugs and the Midnight Wanderers. You can find the full line-up here.
Explore Your Artsy Side at the Sheldon Art Gallery
Get the creative juices flowing (or just enjoy looking at pretty things) at the Sheldon Art Gallery. The museum features more than 12,000 works of art in various mediums. You’ll find landscape paintings, still life, geometric abstraction, sculptures and more, all offering a unique perspective of our surroundings. In 1972, the museum was one of the first institutions to receive accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, and was reaccredited in 2012. Stop by on Tuesdays through Sundays!
The Sunken Gardens
Warmer days are perfect for visiting Lincoln’s Sunken Gardens. This was the only Nebraska garden listed by National Geographic as one of the 300 best to visit in the US and Canada, and it’s not tough to see why. The grounds are absolutely breathtaking at any time of year, but especially when the flowers are in full bloom. Each year, you’ll find an annual floral display featuring more than 30,000 plants designed and arranged to represent a new theme each year. 2017’s theme is Purple Reign in honor of the late Prince — don’t miss it!
See? Saving Money Can Be Fun.
There are so many great ways to explore Lincoln — and we’re always looking for recommendations. What are some of your favorite free things to do around town? Let us know in the comments!