Home to the University of Nebraska, this college town scores on its own with beautiful blooms in the Sunken Gardens of Lincoln, a lively entertainment district and the Art Deco-style capitol. Engaging museums, quirky shops and interesting restaurants keep the city busy even after school is out.
The buttery croissant, macaron and cranberry-lemon scone star at French-style bakery and cafe Le Quartier.
For some family-friendly fun, try a class on ceramics, painting and pencil drawing at Lux Center for the Arts.
Spend an afternoon in downtown’s Haymarket District, where dozens of restaurants scatter among boutiques, bookstores and coffeehouses.
At Bread and Cup, one of the city’s leading chefs creates lunches like the curry tuna sandwich, which is best followed by chocolate bread pudding and French press coffee.
Guided tours of the state Capitol highlight its distinctive tower design and murals celebrating Nebraska heroes.
Savor braised lamb shank, Mediterranean shrimp pasta or anything on the combination platter at Parthenon Greek Grill and Taverna.
For modern amenities near the arena and Haymarket, you won’t go wrong staying at either the Courtyard by Marriott (from $149) or the Hilton Garden Inn (from $129).
Crepes and coffee roasted in-house start the day at Cultiva Coffee near the Capitol.
Annuals bloom in the themed display at the Sunken Gardens of Lincoln; past designs have included peacocks and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.
Anchoring the Haymarket District, Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill serves excellent beer-cheese soup and a spicy voodoo chicken as well as year-round and seasonal craft beers from its own Empyrean Brewing Co.
Free samples help customers find a favorite among the 160 types of licorice from 12 countries at Licorice International.
Each year, the Sheldon Museum of Art (on the University of Nebraska campus) holds about 20 exhibitions focusing on American art.
Visitors fly through black holes and swim with whales in a 360-degree virtual environment in the Fulldome Experience at the university’s Mueller Planetarium.
If you’re hungry for an exotic meal, try curried specialities at Lincoln landmark The Oven or Thai creations at The Blue Orchid.
More information: (800) 423-8212; lincoln.org 
One big party
Shop the blocks of renovated brick buildings in the Haymarket restaurant and entertainment district, then top it off with a performance at Pinnacle Bank Arena, which draws the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Linkin Park. (402) 904-4444; pinnaclebankarena.com 
Husker football Tickets to football games at Memorial Stadium are tough to get (sold out since 1962). But visitors can see where the magic happens during a self-guided tour (on nongame days) that includes a display of the Huskers’ three Heisman trophies and an enormous weight room. (402) 472-3333; huskers.com 
By the numbers
Eleven lemurs, four river otters and about 400 other creatures draw visitors to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. In the summer, a ride on Iron Horse, a miniature train that's been chugging aound the zoo for 50-plus years now, gives peeks at some of the residents and the lush grounds where they live. (402) 475-6741; lincolnzoo.org