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6 Picturesque Small Towns in Nebraska for a Weekend Retreat

by Staff

Its location in the very center of the United States makes the state of Nebraska an ideal choice for travelers looking for a scenic Midwest road weekend retreat. However, knowing where in the “Cornhusker State” to go can be a challenge.

Curious travelers can find some of the best locations for a memorable weekend break by looking beyond the big cities of Omaha and Lincoln and instead should check out some of the state’s attractive small towns. From Valentine’s outdoor adventures to the nature-centric sightseeing available in McCook, uncover six picturesque small towns in Nebraska guaranteed to inspire.

McCook

West side of George Norris Avenue, looking south from about E Street in downtown McCook, Nebraska.


McCook is an excellent spot to visit for those seeking an authentic American Midwest break. Located in the southwestern part of the state close to the border with Kansas, highlights here include the Museum of the High Plains, a must-do for those wanting to learn more about the region. Along with its impressive collection of artifacts and exhibits chronicling the history of the High Plains region, the museum also does a great job of sharing stories of the early pioneers, farming, and the impact of the railroad.

McCook is also perfect for those wanting to explore the Republican River Valley, an area known for its fishing, hiking, and bird-watching experiences.  Prefer a little tamer adventure? The 18-hole Heritage Hills Golf Course is a great way to spend some time. Come bedtime, there are plenty of choices for hotels in McCook. Check out the rates at big brand offerings, including the Holiday Inn Express McCook, an IHG Hotel, and Quality Inn & Suites.

Broken Bow

Post office located at the northeast corner of South D Street and 8th Avenue in Broken Bow, Nebraska.
Post office located at the northeast corner of South D Street and 8th Avenue in Broken Bow, Nebraska. 

Broken Bow is well-known as a Nebraska getaway destination and offers plenty of fun things for weekend explorers to do. Popular attractions here include the Custer County Museum. Housed in the former Burlington Northern Depot, it provides a fascinating glimpse into the past, from its early settlers to the development of the local railroad, through its displays of artifacts and photographs.

Broken Bow is also a great spot from which to enjoy the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, which passes through the town, and the Loup Rivers Scenic Byway. These tourist routes provide excellent opportunities to experience the unique beauty of Nebraska’s most extensive ecosystem and boast superb views of the region’s rolling sandhills and lush grasslands, as well as some wildlife spotting. Need a place to stay? Check out Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Broken Bow and the independently owned Charles Wesley Motor Lodge for details.

Nebraska City

North side of 1st Corso, looking northeast from 9th Street, in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The two-story green-roofed building with arched windows at center is the Memorial Building.
North side of 1st Corso in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The two-story green-roofed building is the Memorial Building.

Nebraska City’s location along the banks of the Missouri River makes it an ideal location for a fun Nebraska weekend getaway. Highlights of a stay here include visiting Arbor Day Farm, a 260-acre conservation area dedicated to the legacy of J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, a nationwide tree-planting program established in 1872. Visitors can enjoy tree planting, explore interactive exhibits at the Tree Adventure, and even book a night or two at the Lied Lodge, a stunning hotel and conference center made from timber and stone on the property.

Another must-visit attraction is the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, which offers an immersive journey into the historic expedition of the explorers through the Missouri River Basin.

Ord

North side of L Street, looking northwest from about 15th Street in downtown Ord, Nebraska.

North side of L Street, looking northwest from about 15th Street in downtown Ord, Nebraska.


While Ord doesn’t often pop up in conversations about the best places to visit in Nebraska, this small community is certainly worth considering for those wanting to explore the scenic North Loup Valley region. Fun things to do in Ord include visiting nearby Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park. This well-preserved 1800s military post offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of soldiers and settlers during the Indian Wars, including the original barracks, officers’ quarters, and guardhouse.

Outdoor fun can be had at the Calamus Reservoir, a popular spot for fishing, boating, swimming, and camping, and at the adjacent Calamus State Recreation Area with its beaches, trails, and birdwatching opportunities. Accommodations include the Cobblestone Inn & Suites and the Airport Motel, both located on the city outskirts.

Ashland

Silver Street, looking east, in downtown Ashland, Nebraska.

Silver Street, looking east, in downtown Ashland, Nebraska.


Ashland is strategically positioned between Lincoln and Omaha and offers a pleasant escape into the heart of the Midwest. Top attractions in Ashland include the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum with its impressive collection of aircraft and spacecraft, including the SR-71 Blackbird, a Cold War-era spy plane, and the Apollo Command Space Module.

The Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari is fun if the kids have tagged along for the weekend. This open-air zoo features bison, elk, wolves, and bears, among other species, in settings reminiscent of their natural environments. The Roost Bed and Breakfast is a great place to stay for those seeking centrally located cozy accommodations, while across town, the Ashland RV Campground is a good choice for those living the RV lifestyle.

Valentine

West side of Main Street, looking northwest from about 1st Street in downtown Valentine, Nebraska.

West side of Main Street, looking northwest from about 1st Street in downtown Valentine, Nebraska.


Last but by no means least, Valentine is another good choice for those wanting to explore Nebraska’s Sandhills region. Located in the northern part of the state near the South Dakota border, the Niobrara River is one of the town’s big draws. Famous for its gentle currents, stunning waterfalls, and beautiful scenery, this National Scenic River is perfect for those who enjoy outdoor activities such as canoeing, kayaking, and tubing, with numerous outfitters like Brewers Canoers and Little Outlaw Canoes providing equipment rentals and shuttle services.

Smith Falls State Park, home to the 70-foot-tall Smith Falls (Nebraska’s tallest waterfall), is another must-visit attraction. Valentine also serves as a base for exploring the nearby Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest with its vast expanses of pine forests and grasslands – it’s a great place to get in some hiking, horseback riding, and camping. Need a place to stay? The Niobrara Lodge and Harmony Inn & Suites are good options.

The Final Word

It’s no big secret that visitors can discover some of the best weekend getaway experiences in Nebraska by visiting some of the state’s most picturesque small towns. These unique places to visit in Nebraska appeal equally to adventure seekers as they do those wanting to learn a little more about the state. Find out more and be inspired by these six picturesque small towns in Nebraska for a weekend retreat.

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