In the central part of the state, the Hastings Museum of Natural and Cultural History introduces visitors to the natural side of Nebraska.
With a planetarium, a large-screen theater and numerous galleries, the museum offers a variety of ways to get to know the area’s natural history. Among the most interesting components of the museum is the display of animal taxidermy. One of the galleries holds the world’s largest displays of whooping cranes, a bird common in Nebraska.
The museum also chronicles Nebraska’s human history with displays on early Native American inhabitants and more recent residents like Edwin Perkins, who invented Kool-Aid. The museum also features an exhibit of more than 500 firearms called “Lock, Stock and Barrel: The History of Weapons on the Plains.” A similar exhibit, “Traveling in Style,” showcases antique vehicles, from horse-drawn buggies to early automobiles, that were part of Nebraska’s history.
Christmas on Parade
Although Seward is a small Nebraska town, its residents have big plans for the holidays. The town’s Lighted Evening Christmas Parade launched last year after just two months of planning; this year, organizers hope it will be the biggest Christmas parade in the state.
The idea for the event was born last year when several Seward residents attended a parade in nearby Lincoln. This group was inspired to put on a holiday parade and arranged to acquire some floats from the Lincoln parade organizers. Within two months, they had arranged a lighted evening parade accompanied by an indoor Christmas Winter Wonderland, outdoor light displays, a gingerbread-house-decorating contest and other accompanying events.
This year, the organizers are planning a larger event that will take place on Thanksgiving weekend on Seward’s Main Street with the hope that the parade will be the beginning of a Seward holiday tradition.
A leading zoo
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo is widely recognized as one of the leading zoos in the country. This zoo has immersive indoor exhibits like the Desert Dome, the world’s largest indoor desert, as well as the Lied Jungle and a nocturnal animals display.
This year, the zoo completed a $6.5 million renovation of its Scott Aquarium. The aquarium now features 10 exhibits, including a 40-foot “racetrack tank,” a coldwater Pacific habitat that features new Japanese giant spider crabs and an exhibition of “drifters” such as jellyfish and sea nettles. A 500-gallon tide pool touch tank gives visitors a chance to have hands-on encounters with anemones, starfishes and sea urchins.
Visitors have a number of ways to experience the zoo. In addition to touring the exhibits on their own, guests can ride on the steam-powered Omaha Zoo Railroad or take the Skyfari for a sky-life-style ride with overhead views of giraffes, cheetahs and other exotic animals.