With its rich, flat, fertile plains, Nebraska is perfect farming country. Vast tracts of what was once prairie grassland are now ranches and farmland, although a few protected areas survive; in the west, some 3,000 acres surround the imposing, 244-metre sandstone escarpment of Scotts Bluff. Now the domain of walkers, cyclists and picnickers, it used to be an important landmark on the pioneer trails that criss-crossed the state. Nebraska’s two major cities are both in the east.
The largest, Omaha, has an excellent zoo and renowned community theatre. Downtown, the brick-paved streets of the historic Old Market district are lined with restaurants, shops, museums and art galleries. Some 100km southwest is the capital, Lincoln, with its grand State Capitol building, scattering of museums and plethora of city parks – there are more than 100. Midway between the two cities is the massive Strategic Air & Space Museum, where tourists gape at the gleaming aircraft and queue to take their turn on the Desert Storm simulator.
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A typical Great Plains state, Nebraska has four seasons, complete with thunderstorms, droughts, blizzards, hailstorms, tornadoes, and occasional floods.Summers are hot and humid and July’s average temperatures are in the mid-20s (Celsius). Winters are cold and harsh with an average January temperature of -5 degrees. Snowfall varies from about 53cm (21 inches) in the southeast to about 115cm (45 inches) in the northwest corner. Spring and autumn are milder.Nebraska is in the tornado alley, and May and June are the peak months in the tornado season.
Labor Day through Memorial Day is the peak season and when most visitors step off their Nebraska flights, but it does not get overly crowded and the prices are not as high as you would normally see in a peak season.
Omaha is particularly busy in June when the college baseball World Series comes to town. Lincoln is especially busy on football weekends.
Autumn is another popular season with a number of fairs and harvest festivals.
The winter weather and difficult driving make this the low season for visiting Nebraska. The spring weather, however, tends to be pleasant and you can find places where peak-season prices are not yet in effect.
Buses and trains cross Nebraska from east to west on a regular basis. To really see the state though you need a car. I-80 is the fastest and least scenic route across the state, Hwy-2 offers lots of scenery, and US 26 in the panhandle goes along the Oregon Trail.
Downtown Omaha has bus service Sunday through Friday, and Lincoln runs local buses as well.
Apart from Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska is mostly uninhabited prairie, with lots of options for outdoor and river activities. Also check out the Cowboy Trail, which provides a network of good cycling, hiking, and horseback-riding trails.
(prices quoted are from London)