Having Fun for Free in Lincoln

Published: Tues., March 24, 2015; by Jairo Cervantes

Jairo Cervantes portrait

“Fun” and “free” are the perfect combination for fully enjoying my time in Lincoln when I’m not in class or working in the lab. The city of Lincoln offers a wide range of opportunities to have fun, from visiting historical places to enjoying nature—and all of them for free!

Visiting the Nebraska State Capitol. The free tours at the Capitol guide you through the history behind of one of Lincoln’s most distinctive buildings. Its walls feature amazing frescos and mosaics and its corridors hold sculpture from renowned American artists. Once you finish the free tour, go to the 14th floor at top of the building. From there, you get a 360-degree view of the city—the view is phenomenal.  Tours start every hour on the hour, except for noon.

First Fridays. On the first friday of every month, the galleries of Lincoln open their doors to the public. Many of the events feature free hors-d'oeuvres. Lincoln turns out to view art and to see and be seen. For up-to-date information about which galleries and museums are participating, check out the Lincoln Journal Star. If you're just stopping in, consider parking in one of the city's garages--the first hour's free!

Walking the Sunken Gardens. My friends and I always enjoy walking in the Sunken Gardens. Not just because it's beautiful, but also because it’s free. A sunny evening at the garden is the perfect time to refresh and unwind. While you walk the paved pathways, you’ll see the reflecting pools, a variety of flowers, and the waterfall. Don’t forget to snap a picture at the gazebo. It immortalizes your visit!

Parks. Lincoln boasts 125 parks and 131 miles of trails. This makes Lincoln’s one of the best park systems in the nation! Here are a few of my favorite parks:

      • Holmes Lake. If you love walking as I do, Holmes Lake  is the perfect destination. The path around Holmes Lake gives you the chance to see all that the park has to offer, including picnic spots and fishing.
      • Pioneers Park. Hiking the park’s trails and visiting the wildlife center are a great opportunity to see buffalo and elk. The Nature Center houses native small animals such as snakes, owls, and turtles and it offers family-friendly programming. During the winter when the hills are covered by snow, this park becomes a sledding destination. All you need is a sled! I’ve gone sledding several times, and it was an awesome experience every time (and I know you’ll enjoy it too). As an international student from a warmer climate, it’s especially fun, since my hometown doesn’t get any snow.

Jazz in June. Every Tuesday in June, the Sheldon’s Sculpture Garden fills with jazz aficionados (and people who just want to hear some good music!). Pack a picnic and enjoy the warm summer evening, or arrive early to take a tour of the Sheldon Museum of Art. The museum boasts an outstanding collection rich in American Impressionism, early Modernism, Abstract Expressionism, and contemporary art.

Farmers Markets. There are farmers markets across Lincoln throughout the week; the largest and best for people watching is the Farmers Market in the Haymarket, open Saturday mornings from May through October. Lincoln comes out to shop and stroll, and you can pick up amazing local produce for that night's dinner.

Play disc golf. Lincoln has two disc golf parks. Grab a disc and go with a friend. By the end of the game, you’ll find that you’ve walked several miles, cleared your head, and enjoyed the outdoors!

Join the Nacho Ride. Tuesday evenings during the summer, a group of riders gather to bike out to Eagle, Nebraska. The ride features gently rolling hills and a well-maintained gravel path. While the nachos aren’t free, the ride is. Go with friends, or make new friends during the ride or over dinner.

National Museum of Roller Skating. If you've got a rainy day and you want to learn something new, check out the National Museum of Roller Skating. Learn about the history of roller skating and then go inline skating on Lincoln's trails.

There is no excuse for not enjoying Lincoln. Even if you don’t have car, the bus is free with the UNL bus pass, or you can use the extensive trail system to get around. I hope to see you out there!