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Nebraska itinerary: Sandhill cranes and cultural museums converge in Kearney

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For six weeks, from late February to early April, more than 80 percent of the world’s population of sandhill cranes converges on Nebraska’s Platte River. The spring migration population of sandhill cranes in the Central Nebraska Flyway is estimated at 650,000, and the Kearney area offers a wide variety of crane viewing experiences, such as a stop at Fort Kearny State Recreation Area.

While in Kearney, take in its culture, from cars to firefighting heritage, with this two-day itinerary provided by Kearney Visitors Bureau.

Day One
Have lunch at a local establishment.

Museum of Nebraska Art in Kearney NebraskaPhoto: Creative Commons

Museum of Nebraska Art, Kearney, Neb.

Visit the Museum of Nebraska Art. View Nebraska through 175 years of great art from the 19th century to the contemporary scene. Located in a 1911 Renaissance Revival building, the museum is home to the official art collection of the State of Nebraska. Visit the Anne Thorne Weaver Museum Shop, stocked with gift ideas. Spend time in the Hillegass Sculpture Garden.

Check out the Classic Car Collection, the best public car attraction between Chicago and Denver. It includes nearly 200 vintage automobiles from the early 1900s to the 1990s. The attraction includes multimedia displays throughout.

Stop at Fort Kearny State Historical Park, built to protect Overland Trail travelers. The park was a home station for the Pony Express, an outfitting depot for Indian campaigns and a home of the Pawnee Scouts. An interpretive center, a blacksmith-carpenter shop, and a powder magazine and split log stockade tell the exciting story.

Watch the sunset at Fort Kearny State Recreation Area. Come a half-hour early to view the cranes from an old railroad bridge that spans the Platte River. The bridge is part of a 1.4-mile trail, a 300-yard walk from the parking area, and offers great views of the river anytime of the day. The recreation area also offers seven small lakes, camping and other wildlife viewing opportunities.

Eat dinner at a local establishment.

Day Two
Have breakfast at the hotel.

Reconstructed building, Fort Kearny State Historical Park, Kearney, NebraskaPhoto: Chris Light

Reconstructed building, Fort Kearny State Historical Park, Kearney, Neb.

Visit Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary for a guided blind tour. Rowe’s viewing blinds are strategically placed along the Platte River to provide excellent views of the sandhill cranes while they are on their river roost. Tours are available in the morning and in the evening. This particular tour lasts about two hours and is led by trained guides.

Join the 1.5 million visitors who have experienced the nation’s westward expansion through the eyes of those who lived it. Spanning 310 feet over Interstate 80, The Archway presents 170 years of America’s westward movement through detailed displays and harrowing stories. The group can walk over one of America’s busiest interstate highways.

Have lunch at a local establishment.

Stop at Nebraska Firefighters Museum & Education Center, located next to The Archway. The Nebraska Firefighters Museum is designed to provide a place that safeguards and preserves Nebraska’s firefighting heritage and to educate groups about fire prevention.

Visit the Trails and Rails Museum. Trace the history of the great transportation ruts through Buffalo County on a site where the Mormon Trail, Union Pacific Railroad and Lincoln Highway once passed. In addition to the Union Pacific steam engine and archives of the area, displays include an 1898 depot and church, the 1880s Loup River Freighters Hotel and an 1871 schoolhouse. 

ASK
Kearney Visitors Bureau
308-237-3178
visitkearney.org

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