Spring in Kearney is Sandhill crane time: Thousands of birds stop here to rest on their migration north. A 20-minute drive to the Rowe Sanctuary for guided bird-watching trips satisfies enthusiasts ($25, call for reservations).
After the wildlife show, stop at The Archway, spanning Interstate-80. Inside, a high-tech museum recounts centuries of human travel along the Platte River.
For lunch, try the local favorite Thunder Spud at Thunderhead Brewing Company in Kearney. It's an entree-size potato loaded with Alfredo sauce, roasted chicken, bacon and pepper Jack cheese. Walk some of it off on a tour of 190 mint-conidtion vehicles at the Classic Car Collection.
James John Audubon’s famed bird studies, including all seven volumes of Birds of America, reside at the Museum of Nebraska Art, which also features a sculpture garden.
Dig into pizzas with funny names like The Dude at Trattoria Flippin' Sweet. National chain motels provide several lodging options.
Travel 50 minutes east along Interstate-80 to Grand Island. The must-see destination here is the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. Be sure to bring good walking shoes to explore the 200-acre historic village’s 100 buildings.
For a cultural switch, try some sushi at Wasabi Bistro before shopping on West Third Street, also known as Antique Avenue.
Browse works from more than 30 local artists at Prairie Winds Art Center, and savor the ravioli and eggplant parmigiana at family-owned Napoli's Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar.