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). 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. After a day of birds, visitors can mix with locals and relax over hand-crafted brews and pizza at Thunderhead Brewing Company before turning in at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Convention Center, which includes a pool.
After a morning crane watch, 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. Napoli’s is a great stop for tasty seafood Alfredo before you head to West Third Street, also known as Antique Avenue. Two multidealer malls and a handful of smaller shops could entertain antiques lovers for the better part of a day, and the Prairie Winds Art Center, which represents more than 30 local artists, is an easy walk down the street.