We are now pacing our movement to attend a big event that we signed up for several months ago, the Grand National Rally in Forest City, Iowa. It will happen during the last week of July, so we have plenty of time to meander through two more states on our way. Nebraska, the Cornhusker State, is our 42nd, and we had two planned stops – Lincoln and Omaha. Being in the midwestern states in July, heat and humidity are obviously the order of the day. Outdoor activities have been shortened and started very early, and air conditioning has become our friend.
The state capitol in Lincoln
When we learned that Lincoln, named after Abraham Lincoln, is the state capital of Nebraska, we made a visit to the capitol a priority. Hey, we knew it would be air conditioned! Besides, we’re beginning to appreciate state capitol buildings after experiencing the beautiful Kansas statehouse in Topeka.
Nebraska’s story begins on the themed limestone exterior. Carved across its four sides is a sculpture gallery of Nebraska’s foundation, history and heritage.
We were awestruck the moment we stepped in, and wondered if we were really in the capitol. Uncertain where to begin, we looked first at the mosaic ceilings, wall and floor, then the long hallway leading to the rotunda.
Inside and out, the beautiful architecture and design overflowed with images, symbolism and stories from across Nebraska. Like other capitol buildings, art and sculpture are used to chronicle important historical events, influential people of the past and the state’s heritage.
A guided tour would certainly have enhanced our understanding and appreciation of the many features we may have missed, but the overall design and theme that went into this building was quite amazing. It took ten years to complete the construction, and when finished in 1932 the $9.8 million cost was all paid. Quite impressive, considering this was obviously during the Great Depression.
With hiking mostly on the back burner during these hot and humid days, we snuck in early morning walks at the Sunken Garden, the Pioneer Nature Trail and other paths around town. After those treks we hibernated inside Betsy and took showers with the AC in full blast mode the rest of the day.
The Sunken Garden is a Depression-era project built on an old neighborhood landfill site in the heart of Lincoln. About 100 volunteers have supported the maintenance of the gardens since then, and they keep up with the yearly design changes for the annual flowers. The residents are proud that the garden is listed as one of the “300 Best Gardens to Visit in the U.S.” by the National Geographic Guide to America’s Public Gardens.
The city has 125 parks where paths and trails abound, and we choose to check out the Pioneer’s Park Nature Center, one of the largest in the city.
On display along the prairie was the Hudson Cabin. It was built by Thomas Jefferson Hudson in 1863, and was noted as being “the largest and grandest house and the only shingled roof, upon the whole site on Salt Creek” at that time. In 1964 this cabin was found hidden inside a larger home during a remodeling project. It was reconstructed and moved back to the Nature Center in 2010.
In the much larger expanse of the park we explored woodlands and wetlands, as well as a small area or prairie where colorful native wildflowers and grasses were on display:
And this resident American Elk (or Wapiti, Indian word for “white deer”) was taking a rest. Apparently, the last wild elk in Nebraska were killed in the early 1880’s. This guy, with his velvety matured antlers, is found only on public and private reservations.
Off we went on another walk across the grass for some more exercise.
Around Lincoln’s historic district
Finally, we did a bit of driving and walking around the city’s historic district. The Haymarket District was once a place of dwellings and retail stores. As the town grew in the 1870’s and ‘80’s, it succeeded in attracting railroads to the Salt Creek bottom lands. Wholesale jobbing and manufacturing businesses began displacing the stores and houses.
Today, several large warehouses remained intact and are part of the National Historic Register after efforts to revive the neighborhood almost failed. It’s a fun place to walk around now, with many restaurants and cool shops to explore.
Several restaurants, condos, hotels, pubs, coffee shops and bars are now housed after rehabilitation of the warehouses. They serve the sports fans before and after events at nearby Pinnacle Arena and Memorial Stadium (home of the Nebraska Cornhusker’s football team), just a short walk away.
Even though we tried to avoid the hottest parts of the day, we managed to adjust our time so we could get a taste of Lincoln and the surrounding areas. But this heat and humidity is brutal!
Next up: Looking for fun while visiting Omaha, Nebraska