'WanderNebraska' program challenges visitors to explore the state

May 28, 2024, 6 a.m. ·

WanderNebraska brings people from across the world to important historical sites in the state. (Photo by Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation)

The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation is challenging Nebraskans to get off the interstate this summer. That’s from Leslie Fattig, the foundation's executive director.

In its third year, the WanderNebraska program has almost 200 historical sites across the state for people to visit, Fattig said, from the state’s biggest cities of Omaha and Lincoln to places like Oshkosh, where less than 1,000 people reside.

“We want people to experience the real history of Nebraska,” Fattig said. “So many people refer to our beautiful state as a flyover state, and we're just not sitting down for that. We want them to get off that interstate, experience and learn more about the history of our communities.”

WanderNebraska operates similarly to the state’s passport program. Participants can order a guidebook or use the website to find the sites, then check in at those spots to document their trips.

The foundation is offering prizes to those who participate in the program, with new levels unlocked with the more sites visited. The program works in tandem with other major sites in the state, Fattig said, such as Walk to the Rock, a 2.3-mile trail to Chimney Rock in the panhandle.

“The trails at the rock and this fantastic WanderNebraska program go hand in hand to bring more tourism to the state. And you know what tourism does,” Fattig said. “It's such an important component of economic development.”

WanderNebraska began with a statewide grant program in 2020, which was created by the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation to support the efforts of historic preservation in communities across the state. That can include expenses for renovations or new exhibits at museums, improving education or hiring interns.

In its first iteration in 2021, Fattig said there were about 30 museums and local historical societies that participated in the program. The number nearly doubled to about 55 sites last year.

This year there are 196 sites all across Nebraska.

“We’re proud," Fattig said. "We’re thrilled. We’re humbled."

The program kicked off Monday and will run until Nov. 30.