Lincoln is home to the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, the Nebraska State Capitol, and plenty of other interesting and historical attractions. Through the decades, the city has been a political hub, a foodie haven and a center for culture in Nebraska. And its eclectic mix of college town locales, upscale restaurants, artsy experiences and outdoor adventure makes it a must-visit, whether you’re visiting from Omaha or you’ve flown in from across the country.
But when you only have a day to explore everything Lincoln has to offer, it can be hard to narrow down the must-dos. Luckily, we crafted an entire itinerary! So grab your walking shoes, your buddies and your sense of adventure because we’re touring Lincoln’s best attractions, restaurants and communities.
8:30 a.m. — Coffee and Pastries at the Coffee House
Photo courtesy of The Coffee House
One of Lincoln’s favorite coffee spots since 1987, the aptly named “Coffee House” is a cozy spot featuring delicious espresso and coffee drinks, tea and baked eats. Start your day of exploration off right with a cup of Joe and a fresh pastry—like one of their popular square muffins, chocolate croissants or cinnamon rolls. Or, for a healthier choice, they have plenty of freshly cut fruit and yogurt parfaits on the menu.
The next stop on our Lincoln itinerary is the Sheldon Museum of Art! This museum features more than 12,000 works of art in various mediums. Here, 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. They’re open Tuesday through Sunday and admission is completely free.
12:30 p.m. — Lunch at Leadbelly
Before Leadbelly came to be, owners Michael Martin, Tony Young and Wendy Young envisioned a friendly neighborhood gathering spot with delicious food and drinks—and we think that they have more than accomplished their goal. The contemporary American menu offers a little something for everyone, including a broad range of vegetarian options. And if it’s a nice day, why not sit on their outdoor patio, which is one of our favorites in the area.
The Haymarket can be traced back to Lincoln’s first decade as a town. In 1867, at the very beginning of Lincoln’s history, “Market Square” was a designated space between O and P Streets and featured an open-air market for produce and livestock as well as a camping ground for immigrants. In 1874, the city and state donated the original “Market Square” and moved the market two blocks north, creating “Haymarket Square,” where scales were provided for weighing hay, cattle and produce. Today, the charming area is full of great restaurants, unique shopping and fun nightspots located among restored turn-of-the-century warehouses.
This cozy spot is known among locals as one of the best restaurants in town—and with its intimate atmosphere, elegant cuisine and extensive wine list, there’s really no mystery as to why. The dinner menu features sophisticated dishes like Bruschetta Salmon, Chicken Juliette and Lobster Mac and Cheese that will please any palette. If you’re visiting during the week, make sure to take advantage of their happy hour menu that runs until 6 p.m. and features special discounts on appetizers, pizzas, wines, beers and other drinks.
Bonus: On the first Thursday of every month, the restaurant hosts a $10 wine tasting event for your enjoyment. These nights are immensely popular, so reservations are strongly encouraged!
7:00 p.m. — Take in Twilight at the Sunken Gardens
Evenings 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 U.S. and Canada, and we aren’t at all surprised! The gardens are open all year long and while they are especially beautiful during the warmer months, they’re also pretty magical during winter. Take a quiet walk around the gardens at twilight, exploring the gazebo, the shallow pools and different types of fauna. They don’t close until 11 p.m., so you have plenty of time to explore.
Photo courtesy of The Other Room
Open until 1 a.m. almost every night, this secretive speakeasy in Haymarket is a must-visit before you leave Lincoln. From the outside, it’s very easy to miss—all you’ll see is a red brick wall with a wrought-iron gate. On the other side of that gate, you’ll find a massive door and a light above it. If the light is green, you’re free to enter. If it’s red, that means the small space is at capacity and you’ll have to check back a little later, but we promise it’s worth the wait. Inside, you’ll be greeted with a cozy, prohibition-style speakeasy offering delicious drinks and friendly service. But fair warning: there are several rules you have to abide by in the speakeasy. Phone calls are not allowed as well as flash photography and it is cash only. You’ll also be asked to keep your voice down—it’s all a part of what makes this spot so special!
What would you add?
Is there a must-visit Lincoln spot that you think should be added to this itinerary? Let us know about it in the comments!