Written by Jennifer Sill
I grew up in Nebraska and have a lifetime of happy memories of things to do in this state. One of the things our team really wanted to do when we started this site was to be a place where people could go to see ‘What’s Happening’ in Rural Nebraska. The task is overwhelming!! There is SO much to this “Good Life”. We wanted to come up with a short list of some really great things and hope that you can help add to our list.
**Editor’s note: hover over most of the titles for complete lists/links/etc.**
So, in no particular order:
1. Tubing – Grab an inner tube and set sail! We always went down the Republican River as they let dam water out. But any lazy river in Nebraska will do the trick. My favorite tire tubes to use were HUGE tractor tire tubes!!
2. Tanking– Tanking is alot like tubing, but you’re in a big, ol’ cow tank. Sometimes people even put picnic tables inside. Click here for a link to a company who rents tanks on the Cedar River.
3. Wurstag – First weekend in June! You can join the festivities on Saturday. The Rumbles start playing at 9pm.
4. Farmer’s Markets – Most towns have their own. Just call the City Offices to find out dates and times.
5. The Niobrara The Niobrara has to be a number all its own. This is something that you shouldn’t miss. The scenery is breathtaking. You can stop along the side and check out some water falls. And you can ‘brave the rapids’ at Rocky Ford.
6.The State Fair!!
The Nebraska State Fair has moved to Central Nebraska. Grand Island has added some great features. There’s a sky ride now and on their web site, a way to personalize your own schedule for the perfect day at the fair.
7. County Fairs! You can get a real taste of Nebraska when you visit the County Fairs. Literally, you can BUY a taste of Nebraska. You can go to the livestock shows and purchase the blue-ribbon winner. That is some of the best meat we’ve ever gotten. (Click the link for a full list of county fairs by date.)
8. Annevar – That’s Ravenna spelled backwards. It is another ‘can’t miss’ festival.
9. Franklin Movie Theaters. The prices are low… even for popcorn and sodas. Community members come together to run it all and clean it afterwards. They have $2 Monday nights!! It really is a treat! Address: 611 15th Avenue, Franklin. Phone: (308) 415-3313.
10. Drive in theater. Yes, there is still one in Rural Nebraska. It is in Neligh (north. way up north… and east.) It may be a drive, but I have some EXTREMELY HAPPY memories of seeing drive-in movies as a kid. It is worth the travel to go back in time a bit with your own kids. Here’s their number: (402) 887-5212 (showtimes) and the address: TK Drive-in, HWY 275 E., Neligh
11. Kool Aid Days – Edward Perkins developed the state soft drink about 85 years ago. Now it is time to celebrate with gallons and gallons of Kool Aid!! Taste new flavors, vote for your favorite, games, Kwick Drink contest and much more. It’s the second weekend in August.
12. Go Boating! There may not be much water in Nebraska, but what there is rocks!! I’ve spent many a summer weekend floating out on friend’s boats. You can rent boats at Johnson Lake and Harlan County Dam. (The link will get you to a ‘boating map’ of our great state.)
13. Turkey Days– Head to Oxford for a free turkey dinner (Free will donation). The festival offers TONs. We’re told our site is the only place online for a full list of events.
14. BOB – Nine cities hold their city-wide garage sales. Farm houses along the route also open up. It is a picker’s dream. This one is in Southern Nebraska.
15. Junk Jaunt – It could be considered fall, but I had to add it anyway. A final summer sale. Antique dealers, crafters, and garage sales. This time heading North in Nebraska.
16. Art in the Park – Kearney has a popular, yearly Art in the Park. Not only can you buy beautiful art, but there are crafters tables for the kids. You can also check local parks for schedules for music evenings in the park.
17. Rodeos. I LOVE a good rodeo. Bull riding, roping, riding, even the clowns are awesome. Usually there is a fair and sometimes a parade to go with them. The Bertrand Fair and Rodeo is the one I attended as a child, but click on the link above for a full list by date of the summer rodeos in the state.
18. Cruise Nite – Some of the best cars from all over
the state the country come to Kearney for this major event. See them and talk to the owners at the show-and-shine. Or just hang out and watch them cruise up and downtown.
19. Combine (and other) Demo Derbies– The point of a demolition derby is to create a car that will last… and then crash into the other cars until only one car is left moving. They are fun to watch!! I have never seen a Combine Demo Derby, but I REALLY want to!! Looks like my chance is at the Boone County Fair in Albion. (Two links in the title here. The first is for the Boone County fair. The second is for a full list of Demo Derbies in Nebraska.)
20. Tractor Pulls – I grew up in the town that once hosted the biggest Tractor Pull around. We lived 3 miles away and could hear the engines scream and the street dance music. If you haven’t been to one, you should. The idea is to have the strongest ‘tractor’ — the one that pulls the most weight. (Click the title for the full tractor pull schedule)
21. Drag Racing – Another fun stop for engine lovers. This one is about FAST cars. Nebraska has dozens of Drag Tracks. (Check ’em out by clicking on the title.)
22. Camping – If you are more in to the quiet sounds of nature, grab your gear and go camping!! One of my good friends works for the Nebraska Game and Parks. He’s been all over and suggests these: Bessey national Forest near Halsey, Fort Robinson, Ponca and Indian Cave State Park. He says Smith Falls is more rustic-primitive but a mecca for naturalists. He is also fond of a smaller private area called Broken Arrow Wilderness at Fullerton on the Cedar River. You can find a park near you at this link: Nebraska State Parks
23. Visit a Farm – I grew up on a farm, so this one is natural. Great memories in the summer deal with mud and animals (also difficult memories of hard work.) But if you aren’t lucky enough to know a farmer, you can click on the title link. They’ll hook you up!
24. Melodrama – Boo! Hiss!! That’s right, throwing popcorn is encouraged. One of my favorite summer activities is to head down to the Harlan County Dam Playhouse Melodrama. All tickets are $10.
25. NEBRASKAland Days. North Platte. Fair, Rodeo, Concerts (This year they have Daughtry), helicopter rides.
You won’t be able to fit them all in this year, but I suggest you get to most of these!!
I also know that everyone who lives here has a reason they love summer. If you didn’t see your reason here, tell me about it!! Maybe next year we’ll put together a “Top 50”