Visit Kearney like a local. Tune in to hear our locals top 4 must-do activities.
A common question we hear around here is where do the locals go and what do they like to do. So we pulled together a team of Kearney Locals to tell you about all things Kearney. In this episode, we hear our Locals’ suggestions for their top things to do.
Meet our Locals:
Co-Owner, Edith Joi Boutique
Fun Fact: My favorite thing to do is organize! I have been organizing homes, offices, and storage rooms for a few years now and never get tired of it! Favorite Food: Pizza and Mexican run a close competition! Guilty Pleasure: Fountain Coke Favorite Zoo Animal: Giraffe Favorite Vacation Spot: Anywhere there is water and sunshine
What’s a ‘must-do’ activity to someone visiting Kearney: “Oh I would make a day of it! First, you have to stop at the Archway when you get off the interstate. It is such a local treasure! Next, definitely check out the shopping around town. We have SO MANY locally owned businesses which I don’t feel like you see as much in other towns. And not just in one area either, the entire town is full of totally unique gems just waiting to be found. Finally, check out our parks. We have the most beautiful parks that are so well kept.”
Event Coordinator, The Archway
What’s a ‘must-do’ activity to someone visiting Kearney: “I would say if you’re in town visiting, you definitely need to check out the Archway. It’s such a fun, unique, and educational monument that I think everybody needs to go to at least once in their life, if they haven’t yet! There are so many great things to do in Kearney but I would also really encourage visitors to check out the World Theater. I love going there, especially at Christmas-time. Yanney Park is a site to see if you have the time, as well.”
Captain/Owner, Sayler Screen Printing
What’s a ‘must-do’ activity to someone visiting Kearney: “The Kearney Water Trail, it’s kind of a new addition to our community. Get a kayak and go float on the canal for a couple hours. It’s nice and relaxing. It almost feels like a little getaway but your still in city limits”
CEO/President, Kearney Area Community Foundation
Fun Fact: Our goldendoodle, Remy, was an actor in the Crane River Theatre production of Annie. He played “Sandy” and had to attend play practice in the summer of 2018. Favorite Food: Nebraska steak Guilty Pleasure: Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard Favorite Zoo Animal: Definitely, the monkeys Favorite Vacation Spot: Napa Valley, California
What’s a ‘must-do’ activity to someone visiting Kearney: Yanney Heritage Park. “Anybody can come here and have a great time. Whether your fishing, or walking the dog or playing on the splashpad, there is something for everyone here.”
Here in Nebraska we like to get together with friends and soak in the good life with a good drink in hand. Whether you are a beer lover or a self-proclaimed wine-o, you will find yourself in good company at one of our local breweries or wineries. Kearney offers a selection of taphouses, pubs and a fantastic brewery.
Or if you are looking for a new adventure, take a daytrip to one of the wineries and vineyards in our area. Sip some Nebraska-made wine on the patio while watching a legendary Nebraska sunsets.
Follow along as we tour central Nebraska and sample amazing Nebraska- made beer and wine.
McCue’s Nebraska Taproom
All Nebraska. All the Time. This is the moto at Kearney’s newest taproom McCue’s Nebraska Taproom, located Downtown ‘On the Bricks’. Featuring a menu of craft beer, wine and spirits made right here in Nebraska. How cool is that?! They even have kombucha on tap, a carbonated, non-alcoholic tea packed with vitamins, probiotics and antioxidants. This taproom is located in a renovated grocery store, which was also called McCue’s and operated from the 1920’s through the 1970’s. With industrial décor, vintage character and a variety of beverages to try, you will definitely want to sit back and stay awhile.
Established 20 years ago, Thunderhead Brewery knows a thing or two about what makes a good beer! Here you will find beer that has been handcrafted by an experienced staff of beer lovers. Offering a delicious menu of pilsners, porters, stouts, IPAs, fruit beers, honey beers, barrel aged favorites, and even a firkin from time to time. We haven’t even mentioned the food! Stone oven pizzas, calzones and legendary hand-made pretzels means there is something for foodies and beer lovers alike. Cheers!
Want more Thunderhead? They are open for free tours at their brewery in Axtell, 18 miles south of Kearney. Tours are conducted on Saturdays from 2:00-5:00pm. Learn how their beer is made and when you’re done purchase some to take home with you. Or find their beer at multiple locations across the state.
Platte Valley Taphouse
Your neighborhood beer destination. You will find a variety of beers on tap, great drink specials, and fun times with friends! Platte Valley Taphouse has 17 beers on tap ranging from SOP South of The Platte Mexican lager to the sweet Red Rock Ale to Apricot Blonde, the perfect beer for summer. And hey, why not enjoy some eats with your drinks? There are delicious pizzas made to order or snack on their famous pretzels. With a large patio and a friendly environment, you will want to kick back and enjoy a cold one at The Platte Valley!
And now for the wine lovers…
Cedar Hills Vineyard and Gardens
Enjoy the wide-open spaces of Cedar Hills Vineyard and Gardens located 45 minutes northeast of Kearney. Offering a selection of award-winning Nebraska wines on tap. Cedar Hills hosts dinners and other events, including Arts & Crafts with Wine & Drafts nights. There are camper pads available with full hook-ups and your stay includes a complimentary wine tasting. Relax on 80 acres of property, enjoy some wine, wood-fired pizza, beautiful scenery, wildlife and starry night skies at Cedar Hills!
Mac’s Creek Winery and Brewery
Mac’s Creek Vineyards & Winery is family owned and operated for almost 20 years. Located one-half mile north of Lexington, as short trip (35 miles) west of Kearney. The 12-acre vineyard specializes in wines made using grapes acclimated to a shorter growing season and the brutal cold temperatures of a Nebraska winter. Mac’s Creek Winery uses ten different types of grapes to create their award-winning wines. They are known for their wine but they also brew delightful beers and cider. With events ranging from Sunset Dinners to yoga in the vines, this a perfect getaway when in Central Nebraska.
George Spencer Tasting Room
Located on a 10-acre vineyard, the George Spencer Tasting Room is a beautiful spot to drink a glass of wine with good company. In the Tasting Room you will find a selection of Nebraska-made wines, offering 4-6 wines for sampling, wine by the glass or purchase a bottle to enjoy there or to take with you. There is also an assortment of Nebraska made beer and spirits. On the grounds you will find the Tasting Room, an event venue named The Barn and even a Bed and Breakfast. Sit out on the patio and enjoy live music on the weekends during the summer months.
As you start filling your summer up with events save a spot for a stop in Kearney. Whether you come from hundreds of miles away or are looking for fun close to home, set your sites (and your GPS) on Kearney this summer.
Kearney delivers a variety of experiences, from outdoor recreation and sporting events to concerts and outdoor markets. With all those options decisions can be difficult, so we compiled a list of the 7 must-do events to add to your summer ‘Bucket List’.
Buffalo County Fair – When you say summer, one of the first things that pops into my head is walking down the midway to get my ‘fair food’ fix. There is way more to the Buffalo County Fair than funnel cakes! But that is a personal highlight. Also topping that list, concerts are a big draw during fair time. This year you can take your pick from artists, Rodney Carrington, Rodney Atkins with Locash or the Midwestern rock band, Red Wanting Blue. Lastly, what fair is complete without a ride on the Ferris Wheel?! The carnival is open for six days for you and your kiddos to enjoy.
Kearney Water Trail – One of the first of its kind in Nebraska, the Kearney Water Trail is 2.3 miles of easy and enjoyable float through town, with public access points at the northeast corner of Yanney Park off 11th Street and along Central Avenue behind Midway Auto. Bring your own kayak or rent one at from Kearney Paddle Sports. Just call ahead to make your reservation. UPDATE July 2019 – Due to recent flood the water trail is closed until further notice.
An Outdoor Performance – I love it when the arts and outdoors come together! Bring a lawn chair and enjoy one of the many free concerts/performances we have this summer. The Rockin’ the Bricks concert series in Downtown Kearney brings great music, food and drinks, and lots of shopping and activities for the whole family. Or hit up the Concerts in the Park series, a summer tradition 40 years in the making, Sunday evenings at Harmon Park.
Lastly, your ‘bucket-list’ will not be complete without taking in the outdoor performances by the Crane River Theater Company. This year they will be performing ‘You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown’ at Yanney Park Amphitheater. It is sure to be fun for the whole family!
Splash Pads – Hot days and splash pads, what a perfect combination! There are multiple locations around town to splash around! Cool off this summer at Yanney Heritage Park, Nina Hammer Park, East Brooke Park or Dryden Park.
Cunningham’s on the Lake – Summer nights sitting on a patio with a cold beverage, looking out on the water…does it get any better than that?! If that sounds like your kind of fun, we have just the place. Cunningham’s Journal on the Lake opened last summer and has instantly became a local favorite. Kick back, relax and choose from over 45 different local and regional brews or craft cocktails. With great food and unique atmosphere, you definitely don’t want to miss this one! UPDATE July 2019 – Due to recent flood Cunningham’s on the Lake is closed until further notice. In the meantime, visit their downtown location for great food, outdoor garden and other events.
Nebraska Firefighters Museum and Education Center – You can’t leave town without taking in some local history, and the Firefighters Museum is just the place. Their mission is to safeguard and preserve Nebraska’s proud firefighting heritage. Experience antique fire trucks and equipment, and enjoy hands-on with their fire prevention exhibits and activities.
This summer the Firefighters Museum will be celebrating their 10 year anniversary! (also Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday) Join the celebration, August 17th! There will be a Fire Truck Show & Shine, BBQ competition, kids games, entertainment, demonstrations and more.
Kearney Night Market – Gather downtown “on the bricks” Thursday nights this summer for the Kearney Night Market. Celebrate local entrepreneurship while enjoying Kearney’s historic downtown. At the Night Market, you’ll find everything from a Beer Garden, fresh food, craft vendors, coffee, Sno Cones, BBQ, and much more!
With summer quickly approaching it is time to start planning some family vacations. But what if you could take an awesome vacation and not spend hours in the car, or spend a bunch of money on airfare? Staycations have been on the rise over the past few years as families want to have a great weekend but don’t want to break the bank. It is also a wonderful way to explore the attractions that make your city special and educate your family about the culture in your own backyard.
Here some summer Staycation ideas to help you make the most of your weekends in Kearney.
Staycation #1 – The Outdoor Adventurers
Bike Path – Grab your bikes and hit the trail, with over 25 miles of trails a nice ride is a great way to start your day. Pack a Picnic – take a break from biking and stop at one of our great parks, Yanney Park is located along the trail and would make a perfect place for a picnic. Frisbee Golf – it’s a activity the whole family can enjoy. Kearney has several course around town including Centennial Park, Cottomill, Horizon Middle School and Fort Kearny. Camping – Fort Kearny is a great place to pitch your tent, with fishing, hiking, swimming and no-wake boating are available on adjoining Fort Kearny State Recreation Area . And don’t forget no camping trip is complete without s’mores! Water Trail – Finish your weekend with an adventure down the Kearney Water Trail, a 2.3 mile float down the Kearney Canal. Public access points are at the northeast corner of Yanney Park and along Central Avenue behind Midway Auto.
Staycation #2 – History Hunters
Archway -tour the Archway and celebrate the American spirit of adventure! Firefighter’s Museum – Your kids will be wide-eyed when they visit The Nebraska Firefighters Museum and Education Center, their mission is to safeguard and preserve Nebraska’s proud firefighting heritage. Downtown – plenty of history ‘on the bricks’ it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat and talk about how we can preserve the history in our community. Classic Car Collection– wake up and start the day with a trip down memory lane as you stroll through over 200 classic cars. Frank Museum-wrap up your day by stopping at the Frank Museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 129-year-old mansion is a hidden treasure in this community.
Children’s Museum – start the day of exploring the exhibits at the Kearney Area Children’s Museum a place that inspires play, exploration and discovery through interactive experiences. Big Apple Fun Center – kids of all ages will a good time at Big Apple enjoy some friendly competition with mini-golf, bowling, laser tag and more. Holiday Inn – Stay at our of our local hotels for a night of swimming and water slides. Even the little ones can enjoy the water in the kiddie area. Splash Pads – with several Splash Pads your kids can have fun in the sun at many of our parks including Yanney and Dryden Parks.
Movie – wrap up the weekend with popcorn and a movie at one of our 3 theaters, all of which offer a Sunday Matinee.
Travel matters – tourism affects our whole community. Your vacation actually impacts more than you may realize, from supporting local jobs and attractions to bringing money into local businesses.
The Stagecoach is very familiar with the tourism industry and looks forward to travelers walking through their door each year. This summer is going to be extra exciting as they are one of the stops on the Nebraska Passport. When owners Gary and Susan found out they were selected as part of the Passport program they were thrilled! They were so excited they begin making engraved wooden ornaments to give as a keepsake to Passport visitors.
A little history, Stagecoach itself began in 1973 when Gary’s parents built a shop north of the I-80 corridor in Kearney Nebraska. At that time, there were few other businesses around them, just a gas station and a couple of hotels with hopes that Nebraska tourism would prosper. Today, Kearney has grown tremendously and they are surrounded by thriving hotels and restaurants. What a difference 40 years makes!
The exterior has that historic charm and inside you will find so many treasures! Along with many gifts and souvenirs, the Stagecoach has become the premier retailer in Nebraska for Native American Turquoise jewelry. Many of the pieces have been Nebraska-made by owner Gary, right here in Kearney. Stagecoach is also Kearney’s largest rock shop and has a wonderful selection of stones and minerals.
I interviewed owners Gary and Susan to find out just how much tourism impacts their business and what this industry mean to them and their business.
What role does tourism play in your job/business? Tourism plays a big role in what we do here at Stagecoach. Because we are located near I-80 we get lots of travelers who are staying here overnight or just need a break from driving. These people are always looking for interesting things to see and do around town and shopping is often a top priority. We always try to think about products that travelers will enjoy and that represent our state well. Kearney has done a great job promoting the Sandhill Crane migration and we see a lot of visitors during that time period. This is something that seems to grow every year and we spend a significant amount of time preparing for it.
How many years have you been working as a business owner/in tourism?
This is our 46th year at the Stagecoach. My parents started the business in 1973 and I joined shortly after. Before that, my grandparents had a souvenir shop called “The Wigwam” in Atlanta, Nebraska. They ran that since the 1950’s. My son is planning to continue the business and will be the fourth generation in the tourism industry.
What makes Kearney such a great destination to visit? Kearney and the surrounding area have a wide range of attractions and events that appeal to a variety of different people. They include the Car Museum, Trails and Rails Museum, Pioneer Village, The Archway, MONA, and many others. There is always lots to see and do in this town. Furthermore, Kearney is a bright, clean community and is able to accommodate lots of travelers.
What do you like to do in Kearney when you aren’t working?
I really enjoy taking advantage of Kearney’s robust walking trail system. These trails, as well as the connecting parks, are varied and always clean. I see lots of people utilizing these trails around town.
What is your favorite summer activity?
Summer is a busy season for us at Stagecoach but when I do have time I like to walk and visit the parks. This year we are part of the Nebraska Passport program so I plan to spend some time exploring the other Passport stops around the area, like Andrew’s Garden and others.
Where is your favorite place to eat/drink in town?
The wide selection of restaurants that Kearney has to offer is another wonderful quality of our community. It’s difficult to name just one favorite restaurant but if I had to I would probably say Sozo. They always have a menu full of unique and fresh options. I’ve never had something that I did not enjoy there.
What is one thing you have to pack when you go on vacation?
The most important thing for me to pack is a comfortable pair of walking shoes. When we travel we like to pack as much into a day as possible. So having comfortable shoes is very important.
Start 2019 off right with these six Kearney events. Check our event calendar for more!
#1 First Day Hike
Hit the trail for a 500 to 600-yard hike at Fort Kearny State Recreation Area. Meet at the trailhead and come prepared with winter appropriate clothing and items. Bring your four-legged friend along (must remain on a six-foot maximum leash).
Make sure to stick around for some hot chocolate!
Tuesday, January 1 10:00am Fort Kearny State Recreation Area
#2 The Blacklist Season 6 Premiere Party Celebrate with us as we kick-off season 6 of The Blacklist with a FREE special double episode at The World Theatre. Tickets are required for entry and can be ordered online at theworldtheatre.org.
Cocktail and hor d’oeuvres from 6:00pm-7:00pm with the screening at 7:30pm, followed by a talkback with The Blacklist creator and Kearney-native Jon Bokenkamp.
Thursday, January 3 6:00pm The World Theatre
#3 Home & Builder Show This show has products for every aspect of the home building process including outdoor landscaping. This is a wonderful display of the latest products in the industry. No matter what your home budget is, there is something for the basic spec home to the most custom project you are working on. Admission is $5.
January 11-13 Friday: 1:00pm-7:00pm Saturday: 10:00am-7:00pm Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm Buffalo County Fairgrounds ____________________________________
#4 Tri-City Storm Hockey The Kearney community is the proud home of Storm Hockey, a Tier I junior ice hockey team in the USHL. January brings in three weekends of home games to the Viaero Center, facing off against the Waterloo Blackhawks, the Muskegon Lumberjacks and the Youngstown Phantoms.
$17 for standard seating for adults, $10 for children 12 and under, children 3 and under are free.
vs. Blackhawks: January 11 & 12 at 7:05pm vs. Lumberjacks: January 18 & 19 at 7:05pm vs. Phantoms: January 25 at 7:05pm Viaero Center
#5 RV & Boat Show This show brings in some of the best family vacation products known to man: RV’s and Boats. Three full days of the best variety in the industry, including fishing seminars, golf instruction, camping, kayaking and boating displays.
January 25-27 Friday: 12:00pm-8:00pm Saturday: 10:00am-8:00pm Sunday: 10:00am-5:00pm Buffalo County Fairgrounds
#6 Crane River Theater’s 10th Birthday Bash Let’s Party! The evening will feature a sneak peek into the season ahead, a look back at shows of the past, hors d’oeuvres, cake and a complimentary champagne toast. They will also be honoring an outstanding individual, business and organization with the annual Taking Flight Awards.
If you’ve ever attended a Crane River Theater production, come share your memories and find out what’s in store for the year to come! Tickets at cranerivertheater.org.
Thursday, January 31 6:00pm-8:00pm The World Theatre
Located just two and a half hours from Omaha, Kearney has a population of 33,520 people. We loved the atmosphere there and how it was a blend of small town meets small city. There was fun stuff to do but also lots of wide open spaces. There’s also some ridiculously good food. We already want to go back!
Most people, especially travelers, have bucket lists of things they want to do and explore. Some are big items, some are small, but none the less, they are usually something that they know will leave a lasting impression and memory in their minds for years and years to follow. If you live in Nebraska (shoot, even if you don’t!), if you don’t have “See the Sandhill Crane Migration” on your bucket list, you are doing yourself a disservice!
This often overlooked and underrated annual event is majestic, beautiful, inspiring and everything you need to look at Nebraska travel in a whole new light.
Sandy has been hard at work preparing for the Sandhill Crane Migration. Lucky for you, we’ll keep you updated on what she’s been doing…
Friday, October 26 I am super excited “trill, trill” to show everyone the fresh off the press 2019 Crane Watch Brochure. I shared them with my friends at the Kearney Chamber, Rowe Sanctuary, Fort Kearny and random campers from Oregon.
My relatives will be returning in March and I can’t wait, “flapping of wings”.
Tuesday, October 30
I thought I would watch some home videos of my friends as I wait for them to get here! In just a short few months, this Platte River will be singing again!
In early March we drove to Nebraska, picked up my sister in Lincoln, and then went on to Kearney to see the great Sandhill Crane migration.
If you’ve never heard of the migration don’t feel bad. I grew up in Nebraska and until last year, I was completely unaware of it.
The amazing thing is, it’s one of the greatest animal migrations on earth. Thousands of Sandhill Cranes begin arriving along the Platte River in late February and stay through March. At night they sleep in the River because it offers protection from predators (The Platte, as the pioneers said, is a “mile wide and an inch deep”). The sound of an animal approaching through the water is a giveaway and the birds can quickly take flight.
We made arrangements to visit a blind along the river in the early morning (think getting up at 5 a.m.). It was a foggy, moonless morning and going out to the blind was something of a test of our dedication. The pathway is unlit (the better not to disturb the cranes) and even the guides admitted it was the blackest night/morning they could recall.
Dark enough that had a woman standing in front of me not been wearing a light-colored jacket I would have been hopelessly lost. Dark enough that if I held my hands up in front of my eyes I still couldn’t see them.
As it was, I couldn’t shake the image of one person at the front of the line veering off into the river and all of us following to form a massive pileup in the Platte. The headline would read: 15 bird watchers drown in freak accident after getting lost on path.
We shuffled into the blind feeling our way along the wall. They told us there were benches on one side and windows on the other. We touched our way to the benches and then waited for the dim light to show us more than the outlines of the windows. It was a long wait.
Finally, in the dim light I spotted something on the river. Too dark to be sure with my own eyes, I set the camera for a long exposure and took a shot. I knew it would be blurry and unusable, but perhaps I could at least verify the bird sitting in the river.
It worked. And, as I looked at the image on the back of the camera I spotted the familiar white and black neck and head of…you guessed it…a Canada Goose.
In fact, by the time the sun came through the clouds, the cranes had already left the river for the surrounding cornfields. No worry though – there were plenty of cranes to see during the day.
How many are there? At the peak, we’re talking several hundred thousand birds – all congregating in a 75-mile stretch of the Platte River valley. They sleep in the river and then at sunrise or just before the sun comes up, they fan out to the surrounding countryside, where they feed. The harvested cornfields along the river provide perfect feeding grounds for the cranes, which forage for grain left in the fields and anything else they can eat.
The birds repeat the routine for a month or so, fattening up for their flight north to their breeding grounds, which can range from Minnesota to Alaska, Canada and even Siberia. Like Hawks, Eagles and Vultures they soar on thermals, which conserves energy.
I’ve read that under the right conditions, the thick flocks of cranes can make the normally invisible patterns of the thermals visible as they ride the wind.
The birds do perform an interesting dance, leaping and throwing corn stalks, grass or other debris in the air. Although it’s referred to as a mating dance and that, apparently is its primary purpose, I’ve read the Cranes often dance even when they are not trying to attract a mate.
The migration has been taking place for millions of years. Yes, that’s right – millions of years. A fossil found in the Platte dates back some 10 million years ago. Although if you want to be a stickler for accuracy, it was probably an ancestor of today’s genus and not identical to the species we see today. On the other hand though, the oldest fossil of what is clearly a Sandhill Crane is still 2.5 million years old.
That’s a little hard for me to grasp. The dawn of modern man is placed between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago in Africa. Some researchers believe man may have arrived in the Americas as early as 50,000 years ago. Others put it much later
That still leaves the cranes here for 2,450,000 years before man set foot on the continent; and if you include the earlier fossil species, we’re talking about 9.95 million years before man arrived in the Americas.
Times like that are almost impossible for me to fathom. The contrast is remarkable. The earliest archeological records date the first semi-permanent residents of the Platte to about 1,000 years ago.