Nebraska, 'Not-At-All What You Thought'

The 2020 State Travel Guide. Its title employs a tone similar to the motto: “Nebraska. Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

If you’re going to visit Nebraska, and apparently few people are, maybe you’d be interested to know it’s “Not-At-All What You Thought.”

That’s the hope of the Nebraska Tourism Commission, which subtitled its 2020 “Visit Nebraska” state travel guide with the slogan.

Laugh all you want, but we get it. Every time Nebraska comes up nationally, it’s draped in Cornhusker red, there’s a reference to Omaha Steaks or it’s filled with cattle and cornfields. (Or in the case of an entire television show, it takes place on a farm and all the side characters are eccentric townies.)

Even those of us who live here fall into the trap of thinking the state is boring when it’s far from it. There’s goofy stuff, fascinating places, wondrous views and great entertainment all over the state.

These are just a few of our favorites.

The one-and-only Carhenge

Topping the list of things you wouldn’t think to find in Nebraska — or, let’s be honest, anywhere at all — is Carhenge, the curious Stonehenge replica made entirely out of old cars. Find it near Alliance.

Some amazing prehistoric fossils

Prehistoric Nebraska was fascinating and full of some animal species you wouldn’t expect. And we know that because of the Ashfall Fossil Beds, where fossilized skeletons of rhinos, camels, turtles and lots more were preserved when a prehistoric volcano erupted some 12 million years ago and covered the area in ash. It’s near Royal in Antelope County.

A serious stuffed animal collection

And we don’t mean plush, cuddly teddy bears. These bears, in their days of being alive, were fierce creatures, and they stand alongside numerous other taxidermied animals inside a steakhouse in Paxton. While you eat at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse — if you can manage to eat your meat while being stared down by animals — you’ll be surrounded by your standard big game animals as well as elephants and even a giraffe.

White sandy beaches

You’d think that the nearest of such beaches would be far south by the Gulf of Mexico, but you can actually just go to Burwell. The Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area has white sandy beaches.

One of the world’s best golf courses

Once again, the Sand Hills Golf Club was ranked among the top 15. In the world. No joke. Head to Mullen, and you’ll find a country club with a killer course set among the Sand Hills. It’s gorgeous, and it plays great. But it’s also private, so you’ll just have to take our word for it.

A big ball of stamps

We’re not sure what it compared to when receiving its title of the world’s largest ball of stamps, but a big old ball of stamps is at Boys Town. The thing is about three times the size of a basketball, but don’t try to pick it up. It weighs about 600 pounds.

Feed raccoons your dinner scraps

First, eat your fried chicken. Then share it with some furry woodland creatures, namely raccoons, who camp out on the patio waiting for scraps. It’s an interesting and perhaps off-putting combination, to be sure, but it’s part of the thing at the Alpine Inn, where a giant viewing window lets you watch the action. Find it in the Ponca Hills north of Florence.

Visit the caves where (maybe) Jesse James hung out

Near Lincoln is the 5,600-square-foot Robbers Cave, which is full of man-made tunnels dug out of sandstone. It’s long been an attraction in Lincoln, and the walls are covered in etchings made by visitors going back more than a century. Legend holds that famous outlaw Jesse James used the tunnels as a hideout.