Lincoln reminds visitors that Nebraska isn't all cornfields and prairies. With its vibrant art and nightlife scenes thanks to the huge downtown campus of the University of Nebraska, it makes a good overnight stop. But it's the friendly Midwest attitude that might encourage you to stay longer.
The remote and little visited Nebraska Panhandle is for many the most evocative part of the state. Stark vistas stretch to the horizon in lands little changed in millennia. Scottsbluff makes a good base. Heading north, Hwy 29 (aka the 'Fossil Freeway') is a great drive and it segues right onto equally scenic US 20.
Fortunately, 'America's Heart City' doesn't milk the schtick. It sits on the edge of the Sandhills and is a great base for canoeing, kayaking and inner-tubing the winding canyons of the federally protected Niobrara National Scenic River. Floating down the river draws scores of people through the summer.
A classic midsized Nebraska town along the Platte River Valley, Grand Island bursts to life each spring when hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes converge on a critical sliver of threatened habitat just south of the city limits. Birders and biologists from around the world flock to see this massive migration, dubbed one of North America's greatest wildlife phenomena.
The name North Platte may not ring a bell with the average traveler, but hard-core railroad fans know it as the home of Union Pacific's Bailey Yard, the world's largest railroad classification yard. Meanwhile, American-history buffs come here to see the place where Bill Cody launched his famed rodeo show, Buffalo Bill's Wild West.