In spring, birding and antiquing draw visitors to Kearney and Grand Island.
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Sandhill crane migration Kearney Grand Island
Sandhill crane migration
| Credit: Courtesy of Nebraska Tourism

As the Platte River flows, so does Interstate-80, making stops at the valley's marvels as easy as choosing an exit. In the east, the river widens into wetlands supporting a multitude of waterfowl. In the west, the waters lap the sandy shores of Lake McConaughy.

Day 1

Spring in Kearney is Sandhill crane time: Thousands of birds stop here to rest on their migration north. A short drive to the Rowe Sanctuary or Crane Trust for guided bird-watching trips satisfies enthusiasts (call for reservations). Morning and evening are the best bird-viewing times, as the cranes take off or land on the Platte River.

The Archway Nebraska

After the morning wildlife show (or before the evening one), 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 200 mint-condition vehicles at the Classic Car Collection.

Look for the reopening of the Museum of Nebraska Art, where all seven volumes of James John Audubon's Birds of America are housed. It is expected to be closed through 2023 for a restoration, renovation and expansion project.

Dig into pizzas and calzones with funny names like The Dude at The Flippin Sweet.

Several national chain motels provide lodging options, including Hampton Inn Kearney and Fairfield Inn and Suites Grand Island.

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer Grand Island
Stuhr Museum
| Credit: Courtesy of Nebraska Tourism

Day 2

You'll want to devote at least a half day to exploring the more than 100 re-created 1800s and early-1900s buildings on the 200-acre Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island.

For a cultural switch, try some of the creative sushi rolls and garlic edamame at Wasabi Bistro.

Shop on West Third Street, also known as Antique Avenue because of stops like Railroad Towne Antique Mall, Heartland Antique Mall and Clutter Bug Antiques.

Savor Italian creations at family-owned Napoli's Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar.