As the Platte River flows, so does Interstate-80. The ribbon of water that guided pioneers west today leads visitors to historical and recreational destinations.

By The editors of
March 22, 2016


The Archway Spanning Interstate-80 near Kearney, the high-tech museum recounts more than 200 years of human travel along the Platte River, from Oregon Trail pioneers to I-80 motorists.

The Archway

Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park Memorabilia of the Wild West showman fill his 1880s Scout’s Rest Ranch mansion and barn in North Platte.

Classic Car Collection Ogle the tailfins of a 1959 Cadillac among more than 200 mint-condition vehicles at this Kearney attraction.

Frank House Volunteers lead tours of the 1889 mansion at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. A 10-foot-tall Tiffany window brightens the red sandstone building.

Golden Spike Tower From the eight-story tower in North Platte, watch some of the 10,000 rail cars that chug daily through the world’s largest train yard, Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard.

Hastings Museum Kool-Aid: Discover the Dream tells of Nebraska native Edwin Perkins’ 1927 creation, Kool-Aid, in the museum 25 miles south of Grand Island.

Lake McConaughy Wildlife areas, campgrounds and more than 100 miles of shoreline draw visitors to Nebraska’s largest reservoir.

Lake McConaughy. Photo by Ryan Donnell.

Museum of Nebraska Art Exhibits at this Kearney attraction focus on state heritage and on Nebraska artists like Omaha-based sculptor Les Bruning.

Nebraska Firefighters Museum Kids can try on gear while adults check out firefighting history at the Kearney spot.

Nebraskaland Days It’s fitting that a rodeo festival (June 17–27, 2020) would take place in North Platte, where, many say, Buffalo Bill held the first major rodeo. The fest crowns Miss Rodeo Nebraska, declares bull-riding champs and stars country music A-listers.

Sandhill Crane Migration In spring, one of the planet’s epic wildlife migrations comes to the area around Kearney and Grand Island. Half a million Sandhill cranes stop to rest and feed along the Platte River. Reserve a spot with Rowe Sanctuary or Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center for viewing at sunrise or sunset.,

Sandhill crane

Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer Learn about settlers’ lives through exhibits at the Stuhr Building, and then visit with living-history reenactors at the 1899 Railroad Town in Grand Island.


Canteen Bar and Grille Adjacent to the Quality Inn and Suites, it's a handy (if not flashy) place for seafood, salads and sandwiches in North Platte.

The Flippin Sweet Pizzeria and Burger Joint Dig into build-your-own pizzas and calzones, plus burgers, pasta, salads and sandwiches, in Kearney.

The Flippin Sweet Pizzeria and Burger Joint. Photo courtesy of Lunar Media Management.

Napoli's Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar Traditional Italian creations at the family-owned eatery in Grand Island and Hastings include chicken Parmigiana and seafood Alfredo.

Thunderhead Brewing Company The Thunder Pie pizza- Alfredo sauce, chicken, bacon, jalapeños, pepper Jack and mozzarella-pairs nicely with Cornstalker Dark beer in this Kearney spot.

Wasabi Bistro Asian cuisine meets the Midwest in creative sushi like the Nebraska Roll, with cooked tenderloin, snow crab and avocado. A black glass wall with dozens of painted pink cherry blossoms gives Far East flair to the Grand Island restaurant.

Pals Brewing Company Pair seasonal craft beer, such as Apricot Wheat, with pizza, cheese curds or nachos in North Platte. An outdoor seating area with cornhole games keeps the kids (and parents) happy.

Steeple Brewing Co. Church life inspires beer names (Fellowship Hour, Bats in the Belfry) and architectural details at this taproom with a pastor-turned-brewmaster in Hastings.


Hampton Inn Kearney Just off I-80, the chain hotel provides comfy rooms, along with a pool and included breakfast.

Holiday Inn Express and Suites North Platte An evening reception, spacious rooms and a hot tub make for relaxing stays.

Fairfield Inn and Suites Grand Island An evening reception, spacious rooms and a hot tub make for relaxing stays.

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