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The 10 Best Small Towns in Nebraska

Here's what you need to know...
  • Nebraska’s fascinating culture and history are on display throughout its many charming small towns.
  • A road trip across Nebraska is the best way to explore all that the state offers
  • Because Nebraska has wide expanses of open space and unspoiled wilderness, it is important to pack an emergency kit and to check your vehicle’s maintenance condition before starting a road trip
Situated squarely in the heart of the Midwest, Nebraska is home to 1.9 million residents, and it ranks 43rd in the country in the area of population density. The landscape is largely dictated by plains, but the Missouri River and other waterways break up the landscape.

Weather conditions can be harsh in this state. Severe thunderstorms are common during the warmer months of the year, and winters are marked by heavy snowfall.

In 1867, Nebraska was admitted to the United States, and its early days before statehood and for a few decades after were marked by skirmishes with Native American tribes and military forces or settlers.

Today, however, the Native American heritage in Nebraska is strong, and there are many protected lands, tribal schools, and more throughout Nebraska.

The state has a primarily agricultural economic base, but meatpacking and other more industrialized jobs are prevalent in the larger cities.

Because of its many natural areas and protected lands, spending time outdoors is popular among locals and tourists.

Places such as the California National Historic Trail, Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, and others draw visitors throughout much of the year.

Museums, historical landmarks, colleges, and more are also found throughout the state. Make sure while you are planning your trip you make sure you are covered with the right coverage with our free quote tool above! 

The 10 Best Small Towns in Nebraska

One of the best ways to get to know more about Nebraska is to take a road trip across the state.

Visiting a few of the more popular and interesting small towns can be enlightening. These are a few of the towns you should include on your Nebraska road trip itinerary.

# 10 – Ogallala

Population: 4,737
Must-See: Front Street, Ogallala Post Office

Ogallala was originally founded in 1868, and its primary economic activity was related to long cattle drives between Nebraska and Texas. It later grew in size when the Union Pacific Railroad passed through the city.

Ogallala is conveniently located close to Lake McConaughy, which is one of the state’s most popular outdoor recreational spots.

In addition to visiting Lake McConaughy, be sure to visit a few of the city’s popular tourist attractions, such as historic Front Street and the Ogallala Post Office.

#9 – Minden

Population: 2,923
Must-See: Pioneer Village Museum Complex

Minden is a very small town located in south-central Nebraska, and it boasts a strong German heritage because of the lineage of most of its early settlers.

When you visit Minden today, you can tour the famous Pioneer Village Museum Complex, which features 28 buildings and more than 50,00 artifacts.

If you plan to visit Nebraska in the winter months, keep in mind that Minden is well-known for its elaborate holiday lights display.

#8 – Valentine

Population: 2,737
Must-See: Snake River Falls, Smith Falls State Park

Valentine is dubbed America’s Heart City because of its name, but it is more well-known for its proximity to natural areas. It was established in 1833 primarily because of the railroad route through the area.

The city spans across two time zones, and its post office notably splits the difference by adjusting its time by only a half-hour.

When you visit Valentine, plan to explore some of the more popular natural areas close to the town, such as Smith Falls State Park and Snake River Falls.

#7 – Seward

Population: 6,964
Must-See: Fourth of July celebration, Concordia University

Established in 1868 because of the presence of a railroad line in the area, Seward has grown only nominally in size over the years. This town is included in the Omaha metropolitan area, but it notably has the character and charm of a small town.

Its Fourth of July celebration draws tens of thousands of visitors to the area each summer, and many others visit the area throughout the year to explore Concordia University.

#6 – Red Cloud

Population: 1,020
Must-See: Willa Cather’s childhood home, a nine-hole golf course

While Red Cloud was originally inhabited by settlers in 1833, it did not formally become a town until 1872.

The town is most well-known for its large historic district, and famously, the childhood home of author Willa Cather is located in this district and is open for public tours.

There is also a nine-hole golf course in Red Cloud that is rated as the third best course of its size in the state.

#5 – McCook

Population: 7,698
Must-See: George Norris House, McCook Army Airfield

When both the Burlington railroad and Missouri railroads reached this area in 1882, McCook was established.

The town is named after a Civil War general, and the McCook Army Airfield is located only a few miles outside of town.

Several notable historic landmarks are located in McCook, including the George Norris House. This house was built in 1899 and is the former home of a U.S. senator.

#4 – Nebraska City

Population: 7,289
Must-See: Mayhew Cabin, Arbor Lodge

While Lewis and Clark passed through the area now known as Nebraska City in 1804, the town was not founded until 1846 when a military fort was constructed.

The town initially grew quickly in size because of steamboat travel on the Missouri River and because of the railroad. With a visit to Nebraska City, you can tour the historic Mayhew Lodge.

If you visit on specific days of the year, you can also enjoy the AppleJack Festival or participate in Arbor Day activities.

#3 – Aurora

Population: 4,479
Must-See: Hamilton County Courthouse, Plainsman Museum

Aurora is a quiet town that is located conveniently on Interstate 80 in the heart of the state.

The Historic Court House Square in the downtown area is an ideal place to visit to learn more about local history and to tour nearby shops.

You can also learn more about the area’s early days of the settlement with a tour of the famous Plainsman Museum. Several festivals are also held throughout the year in Aurora.

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#2 – Chadron

Population: 5,851
Must-See: Chadron Commercial Historic District, Museum of the Fur Trade

Chadron was originally founded as a fur trading post, and its earliest days are tied strongly to the Native Americans who lived in the area.

Numerous railroad lines and rivers pass through or near the area, promoting trade and settlement.

To celebrate and honor the city’s heritage, the Museum of the Fur Trade is open year-round, and the town also hosts the annual Fur Trade Days festival in the summer.

While visiting Chadron, take time to explore the shops in the charming Chadron Commercial Historic District.

#1 – Ashland

Population: 2,453
Must-See: Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Strategic Air and Space Museum

Ashland is a small town located close to Interstate 80, and its location makes it a popular bedroom community for both Omaha and Lincoln.

While its early days were marked by the passage of settlers through the area on a tributary of the Oregon Trail, today’s growth is largely based on suburban sprawl.

When visiting Ashland, spend time touring the Strategic Air and Space Museum, and head just outside of town to enjoy outdoor recreation at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park.

Driving in Nebraska

AdobeStock_38015788-1600x1600Nebraska is a fairly large state, and you can spend many fun-filled days traveling through the various small towns and getting to know more about what the state offers.

Before you embark on your road trip, however, remember that a minimum amount of auto insurance is required by law.

Whether you choose to buy only the minimum amount of auto coverage required or you want to expand your coverage for additional protective benefits, it is wise to request at least three or four auto insurance quotes online to find the best rates possible.

– Car Insurance Laws in Nebraska

Nebraska is a fault state, which means that you may be held financially liable for all accident-related damages if you are at-fault in a collision.

This Midwest state requires all of its drivers to buy liability coverage in the amounts of:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury if one person is injured
  • $50,000 for bodily injury if multiple people are injured
  • $25,000 for property damage insurance

Keep in mind that drivers also must have coverage against losses related to an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

– Safe Driving in Nebraska

Adopting safe driving habits is a great way to reduce your potential risk of being involved in a collision in Nebraska. These are a few excellent tips for safe driving in this state.

  • Avoid driving when weather or road conditions are not ideal.
  • Always wear your seatbelt, and confirm that each passenger in the vehicle is properly buckled in.
  • Avoid all forms of impaired driving, including driving when you are emotionally upset or impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • Review the condition of your car each time before you head out on the road.
  • Stock an emergency kit in your car to be prepared for a potential breakdown or other mishap.

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