Site of the ’21 National High School Finals Rodeo offers variety of activities, eats, and fun for rodeo athletes and their families

For high school rodeo athletes, qualifying for and competing at the National High School Finals Rodeo is a dream come true.

And for their parents and grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and family, it’s the opportunity for a great trip.

For the first time ever, Lincoln, Neb. will play host to the National High School Finals (NHSFR) July 18-24 and there’s plenty to do in Nebraska’s capital city.

Giraffes: Feed giraffes and watch cheetahs run in the new $24 million renovations at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo.

Rodeo fans will find a variety of attractions to suit every member of the family.

If shopping and great food are part of your plans, the Haymarket District and the Railyard in downtown Lincoln are just the ticket. Over 75 shops and restaurants are within walking distance in this historic part of town. For star-gazers, the Mueller Planetarium brings the wonders of the universe in an immersive-style theater setting.

For those fond of museums, the International Quilt Museum is the home of the world’s largest quilt collection. The Nebraska State Capital, a national historic landmark, is an architectural wonder, its spire rising nearly 400 feet above the plains; it’s filled with frescos, checkered marble floors, hand stenciling, and more. The Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed is for the gearheads, and for those who love tractors, the Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum is the only tractor test lab in the nation.

If the outdoors, golf, water parks, and gardens beckon you, Lincoln’s Sunken Garden boasts thousands of flowers, with water lily-filled ponds. Pioneers Park Nature Center is a great fit for kids ten and under, as is the Lincoln Children’s Museum and the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, where attendees can feed the giraffes! Is golfing more your style? Hit some balls on a variety of courses, from beginners to championship level. And the whole family can cool off at the Star City Shores Water Park, with water slides, a zero entry pool, and even a sand area in which to build sand castles!

Quilt museum: The International Quilt Museum is home to the world’s largest publicly held quilt collection, representing works from around the world and throughout history.

And there are plenty of food and lodging choices as well. Lincoln has over 900 restaurants, with everything from ethnic to comfort food, from pizza to what Nebraska is known for: beef. And the capital city has over 5,000 hotel rooms, too, for relaxing and putting up your feet after a hard day’s rodeo. And for those with campers, there are several great lakes in the area at which to “pitch your tent.”

As high school rodeo athletes and their families make their way to Lincoln, there are fun things to do to break up the tedium of travel. Canoe or tube down the beautiful Niobrara River, along Nebraska’s north border. Thousands of pioneers traveled under the shadow of Scotts Bluff National Monument, in western Nebraska, and it’s still a beacon to travelers. On the eastern end of the state, Omaha offers the world’s number one zoo, Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is a chance to see exotic animals.

For those who love rockets and space, the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in Omaha is a great place to “visit” outer space, and the Joslyn Art Museum, also in Omaha, is home to great pieces of art, from the Greeks to the Renaissance, from the Baroque period to the artists of the American West.

And visitors to Nationals and Lincoln should be sure to add the Rodeo and Horse Expo Show to their itinerary. Featuring over 100 vendors, one-of-a-kind items will be for sale, with a western lifestyle appeal. It will be held at the Lancaster Event Center Fairgrounds during the days of the rodeo.

Strategic Air Command: The Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum will ignite the thrill of discovery, adventure and innovation in guests of all ages.

Fans are also invited to attend the Welcome to Lincoln Day Celebration on July 17. This day-long celebration offers special opportunities, attractions and discounts culminating in a celebratory event at the Railyard, located in the Haymarket District in downtown Lincoln. Evening events will include dummy roping contests, live entertainment, and introductions to the top rodeo contestants from each state. All Welcome to Lincoln Day activities are free.

Over 1,700 high school student athletes will be in Lincoln July 18-24 to compete in the world’s largest rodeo, and while they’re in town, there is plenty to see and experience.

“We’re proud to host the National High School Finals Rodeo,” said Amy Dickerson, managing director of the Lancaster Event Center Fairgrounds.

“Nebraska is a great place for people to visit.”

To plan your itinerary and find more information, visit Lincoln’s NHSFR website at NHSFRLincoln.org or the association’s website at NHSRA.com. The staff at the Lancaster Event Center Fairgrounds, where the rodeo will be held, has made a list of their favorites, which can be found at NHSFRLincoln.org.