During the summer, it seems we’re constantly encouraging our kids to play outside — to get some exercise, soak up vitamin D, and let out some of that pent-up energy. And here in Lincoln, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to enjoy the great outdoors. The city has several destinations specifically designed with kids in mind — or at least ones that cater to our little ones with kid-friendly attractions.
We’re sharing some of the top-rated kid-approved outdoor activities in Lincoln, from splashing at a sprayground to visiting wildlife at the zoo. Have fun!
On a hot summer day, there is no better place to be than the sprayground at Trago Park. This large visitor-operated water park has several sprayers, fountains, slides, spinners and other water features. The various types of features make it accessible to children and adults of all ages as well as those with any mobility issues. The Trago Spraypark is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer!
Since 1963, Pioneers Park Nature Center has been a valued resource for the Lincoln area, as both an environmental education center and wildlife sanctuary. Explore 8 miles of hiking trails winding through various habitats, including tallgrass prairie, woodlands, wetlands, and a stream. Visitors can meet exhibit animals, birdwatch in the bird garden, smell herbs in the herb garden, dig in the natural play area, and learn something new in the exhibits — kids especially love seeing the raptors! This 668-acre nature center is free and open to the public. Click here for more information before your visit.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Pick up a refreshing sweet treat for your little ones at (402) Creamery, a beloved relatively new ice cream shop churning out small-batch, super premium, made-from-scratch ice cream. They have a variety of signature flavors, like almond brittle with salted ganache, cookies and cream, cinnamon snickerdoodle, lemon blueberry and more, along with rotating flavors every month — so sample a few and decide on your favorite! (402) Creamery has two scoops shops — one in the Haymarket and one in Village Gardens in South Lincoln.
You know what they say: if you don’t have a pool, find a friend with a pool! If you don’t have that either, don’t fret because the City of Lincoln operates a handful of community pools open to the public. These pools are the perfect place for your little ones to splash around, cool off, and practice swimming, while you lounge with your favorite book — or splash around yourself! Click here for a full list of Lincoln’s pools, including Irvingdale Pool, Ballard Pool, Highlands Aquatic Center, Eden Pool, Star City Shores Aquatic Center, and more. You can even purchase a season pass if you think you’ll be spending a lot of time at the pool this summer!
The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is home to over 400 animals, including giraffes, cheetahs, tigers, giant anteaters, red pandas, ring-tailed lemurs, meerkats, Galapagos tortoises and more — including 40+ endangered animals. The zoo may be smaller than others, but there is plenty to see and experience, with lots of shade from trees lining the path meandering from exhibit to exhibit. Admission to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo is $14.95 for adults, $12.95 for children ages 2–12 and seniors 62 and up, and free for kids 1 and under.
While you’re near the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, make the short trek to Sunken Gardens, a stunning public garden that all ages will appreciate and admire. Formerly used as a neighborhood dumpsite, the 1.5-acre area was first developed in 1930 and has since been used as a backdrop for many memorable occasions — and a beloved treasure for Lincoln residents and visitors alike. You’ll find more than 30,000 different annuals of all different shapes, sizes and colors — and a variety of park features throughout the well-maintained gardens. Kids especially love the water features, including the waterfall and two man-made ponds. The best part? Admission to Sunken Gardens is completely free! There are also restrooms on-site open from April to October.
Home to Sunken Gardens and not far from the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Antelope Park is a wonderland for kids. One of our favorite features for little ones is the massive playground, which is the largest playground in the city! It has more than 15 slides, swings, a sandbox, lots of ladders and steps, and much more. The playground has two separate areas, one for older kids and a smaller set designed for little ones 2–5 years old. And beyond the playground, the park has plenty of green space, trails, picnic tables, and other amenities the whole family will enjoy.
If you’re in the Historic Haymarket during the evening, make sure to stop by the electric Gallery Alley for a group photo. Your kids will be mesmerized by the glowing alley, which is draped with live and abandoned electrical wiring, meters, conduits and unused loading portals, with neon LED light wires. Plus, the alley is lined with works of art created by public artists that add to the appeal of this well-traveled route and popular photo spot.
What Is Your Family’s Favorite Activity in Lincoln?
Tell us about it in the comments below!