Home to rolling hills, vast grasslands and historical treasures, Nebraska is an amazing place to get away. While we love living in Omaha, sometimes it’s nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Luckily, there are several adorable small towns just a few hours from Omaha that you can explore in a day!
We rounded up some of our favorite small towns in Nebraska—all within a five-hour drive from Omaha. So pack up your family, grab your camera (and your hiking boots for that matter) and get ready to hit the road! But first, use our list to find out what to do, see and eat when you reach one of these Nebraskan destinations.
Distance: About 1 Hour & 16 Minutes
Photo courtesy of the Brownville Historical Society
Founded in 1854, this tiny town is a historical gem with so much to offer! Hop around town between the shops, galleries and cafes before traveling back in time at the many 19th-century landmarks—including the Didier Log Cabin and the opulent Brown-Carson House. Brownville is also home to the Whiskey Run Creek Winery and Distillery, where you can taste some of Nebraska’s best wines in a 100-year-old barn. And in the evening, don’t pass up the opportunity to watch live performers on stage at the Brownville Village Theatre or some spectacular bluegrass at the Brownville Concert Hall!
Other points of interest: River View Glass, Rohman Gardens, Spirit of Brownville Riverboat, Brownville Cultural Center and Steamboat Trace Trail.
Note: Most museums and activities in Brownville are only open from April to October, but you can contact the Brownville Historical Society if you’re interested in seeing something specific in the offseason.
Distance: About 1 Hour & 54 Minutes
About a two-hour drive from Omaha, Aurora, Nebraska is a small town full of historical, natural and architectural sites for you to explore! Take a moment to walk around the square and stop in some of the shops—including the Aurora Thrift Shop, Honeysuckle Lane and The Old Homestead.
If you’re looking to learn something new, stop by the Egerton Explorit Center, an interactive learning and science center that offers fun for the whole family. And for a small dose of history, don’t miss the Plainsman Museum where you can learn all about the people who made Hamilton County what it is today.
Other points of interest: Gjerloff Prairie and Sherman Ranch, Grandview Cafe and Lounge, Cole Park and Escape Aurora.
Distance: About 2 Hours & 48 Minutes
Photo courtesy of Marshal Nelson via Pioneer Village
While we could easily spend more than just a day in Minden, if you only have a short amount of time, there are a few things you have to do. One of them is to pay a visit to the Rowe Sanctuary, a wildlife haven where thousands of sandhill cranes migrate every year.
If you’re interested in stepping back in time while you’re in the area, make sure to stop by the Pioneer Village. This village is made up of over 28 buildings where you can get an intimate look at pioneer times. Inside, there are over 50,000 historical items, making it the largest private Americana collection in the world. You can easily spend an entire day checking out the steam carousel, flying machines, Jackson paintings, antique tractors and even a 1903 Ford!
Other points of interest: Minden Opera House, The Christmas City and the Ft. Kearny State Historical Park and Recreational Area.
Distance: About 3 Hours & 4 Minutes
Unbeknownst to many, this small town in the center of America is actually the Kolach capital of the world. What is Kolach? Well, it’s a traditional pastry filled with jam, cheese, or other toppings from the Czech Republic. You can try one of these tasty treats at the Verdigre Bakery or the town’s annual Kolach Days in June.
In addition to delicious pastries, Verdigre also has plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploration. Head to the Wild Wood Acres Park or the Bohemian Prairie for wildlife, hiking trails, fishing areas, camping and more.
Other points of interest: Bohemian Lounge, Ashfall Fossil Beds, the Klown Doll Museum and Kreycik Riverview Elk Ranch.
Distance: 3 Hours & 8 Minutes
Photo courtesy of Ryan Puls via The Speakeasy
If you’re looking for a place that mixes the best of modern living with a small-town lifestyle—Holdrege is the perfect day trip for you! Here, you’ll find wide, tree-lined streets full of locals spending time on their wrap-around porches. The main attraction is the Nebraska Prairie Museum, a must-see stop that captures the personality of the heartland with a variety of interesting exhibits.
You’ll also want to stop by The Speakeasy for dinner, a fantastic steakhouse that many say offers the best steak in Nebraska! We, and many internet reviewers, highly recommend the filet smothered in garlic blue cheese butter.
Other points of interest: Gutterz Fun Center, Holdrege Sun Theater and the East Avenue Pub.
Distance: About 3 Hours & 8 Minutes
With a population of just over 1,000 residents, Red Cloud is a cute small town that is definitely worth a trip! Here, you’ll find quaint lodging options, regular cultural programs, historic attractions and plenty of recreational activities.
One of the most popular stops in Red Cloud is the Willa Cather House, where Willa Sibert Cather, an American author who wrote novels about frontier life on the Great Plains, lived when she was young. Explore the house, read some of Willa Cather’s work and visit her favorite opera house while you’re in the area to really get the full experience.
Other points of interest: Indian Creek Pond Wildlife Management Area, Diversion Dam, Pine Tree Antiques, On the Brix and Prairie Plum Coffee.
Distance: About 4 Hours & 41 Minutes
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Take a step back to the wild west while you walk the streets of Ogallala. Once a stop on the Pony Express and then later along the transcontinental railroad, shops along Historic Front Streets are outfitted to look like old buildings and at the steakhouse and saloon, you can catch frequent “gunfights” and other entertainment.
For many, the most interesting part of town is Boot Hill, Ogallala’s only cemetery from 1874 to 1884. Over 100 people are buried there, including unknowns, drifters and cowboys—who were buried with their boots on. .
Other points of interest: Mansion on the Hill, Petrified Wood and Art Gallery, Meadowlark Hill Lilac Collection and the Bald Eagle Viewing Center.
Distance: About 5 Hours & 3 Minutes
If you’re an outdoors enthusiast, a visit to Valentine is an absolute must. This small town just happens to be home to the 19,000-square-mile Sandhills region and Niobrara River—offering plenty of opportunities to get out and explore Nebraska’s wild side.
Make sure to stop by the Cowboy Trail while you’re in the area, a 200-mile trail that runs from Valentine to Norfolk. One of the most spectacular parts of the trail is the old train trestle that crosses the Niobrara River just outside of the city, which is a quarter of a mile long and towers 150 feet above the water. After you’ve traversed the countryside, head to the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge to see a herd of bison, elk and a prairie dog town.
Other points of interest: Cherry County Historical Society Museum, Niobrara Valley Vineyards, Frosty Drive-In, Snake River Falls and Peppermill and EK Valentine Lounge.
Where in Nebraska will you go?
Did we miss your favorite Nebraskan small town? Let us know where we should visit next in the comments!