The best things to do in North Platte based on our family vacation. Find the must-see attractions and plan your trip.

17 Fun Things to Do in North Platte, Nebraska (7 are free)

North Platte is best known as the home of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, whose historic ranch and mansion are one of the many things to visit.  The fun doesn’t stop there though you will find many more things to do in North Platte. 

In fact, taking from the buffalo Bill theme, the Lincoln County Visitor’s Bureau recommends the best attractions through its “Buffalo” of Approval.

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North Platte History

 North Platte, Nebraska, located at the junction of the North and South Platte Rivers is the seat of Nebraska’s Lincoln County.  

Built during the post-Civil War advancement of the railroads, North Platte is full of history. It was founded in 1868 as a result of the extension of the Union Pacific Railroad. 

Although the railroads have always been the main basis of the region’s economy, North Platte is also known for agriculture and cattle ranching. In fact, the local farmers market is bustling in the summer and an attraction worth visiting. 

North Platte, Nebraska List of Fun Things to Do

Union Pacific Bailey Yard and Golden Spike Tower 

This is a must-see attraction for everyone – but especially for train lovers and history buffs. This is the world’s largest rail classification and sorting yard and is over 8 miles long and 1 1/2 miles wide.

 The Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center overlooks the Bailey Yard.  It honors the famous golden spike that officially joined the Union and Pacific railroads in 1869. 

The multi-story spike-shaped building houses a variety of exhibits, mostly on the history of the railroads. In addition, the seventh floor and eighth-floor observation decks are both great places to watch the trains in the adjacent Union Pacific Bailey Yard.

The Golden Spike and Visitor Center also includes a gift shop full of railroad-themed souvenirs.

  • Golden Spike and Visitor Center Website
  • Location: 1249 North Homestead Road, North Platte, Nebraska, 69101
  • Hours: October – April from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and May to September 10 a.m.- 7 p.m. 
  • Cost: Adult admission is $7.00.
  • Discounts: Senior and student discounts are available, and children 5 and under are free

North Platte Area Children’s Museum

This is the best small-town children’s museum we have ever been to.  This museum, housed in a historic building, is full of hands-on activities.  They have everything from costumes and props to dress up in, a huge lite board, and a construction site touch and try.  It is geared towards imaginative play. 

Throughout the museum, there are various themed areas, ranging from a railroad to a pirate ship. The museum also includes a puppet theatre and pizza parlor and holds special events throughout the year.

  • Children’s Museum Website
  • Location: 314 North Jeffers Street, North Platte, Nebraska, 69101.
  • Hours: Open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Cost: Admission is $6 for children ages 2-12, and $4 for adults 13-59.
  • Discounts: Children under 24 months are admitted free, senior’s admission is $3, and free admission with museum membership.

Cody Park Railroad Museum

The Cody Park Railroad Museum showcases what North Platte is known for historically (besides Buffalo Bill!)— the railroads. 

In this outdoor museum, you will find many historic locomotives, including one of the few series 3900 steam engines on display. When visiting this train, you can explore the engineer’s compartment as well as the mail car, caboose, and other attached railcars. The museum is also home to historic rail depot.

  • Cody Park Railroad Museum website
  • Location: Part of the Cody Park complex, 1601 N Jeffers St, North Platte, NE 69101
  • Hours: Open May 1 to September 22 – Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Cost: Admission is free.

Lake Maloney State Recreation Area

The Lake Maloney State Recreation area is a large outdoor recreation area fronting 1000-acre lake. The recreation area is great for many outdoor activities, but especially boating and fishing. 

In addition, there are a couple of (unsupervised) swimming beaches. If you prefer to stay on land, hiking is another popular activity, and campsites are available for both primitive and RV camping.

  • Lake Maloney State Park website
  • Location: Six miles south of North Platte, 9402 Lakeview Drive, North Platte, Nebraska, 69101.
  • Hours: Open 24/7.
  • Cost: Daily and annual permits are $8 and $45 respectively, and there are additional camping fees. See website for details.
  • Discounts: If you are a Nebraska resident, daily permits are $6 and annual permits are $30.

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    Cody Park

    The Cody park complex is another of our favorite stops in North Platte.  We enjoy the children’s rides and the Carousel (1913 Herschell-Spikeman original), the playground and the drive through mini zoo.  Yep – you drive (or walk) around the outside of the zoo for free.  

    If you are more sports-focused, there are athletic facilities, including a baseball field, a swimming pool, and a horseshoe pit! 

    And if you’re hungry, Cody Park is also famous for the soft-serve ice cream sold at the park.

    • Cody Park website
    • Location: 1601 North Jeffers St, North Platte, NE 69101.
    • Hours: Cody Park is open 24 hours, but the attractions close at 9 pm
    • Cost: Admission to the park is free (Rides are $1 or less each)
    • Discounts: Multi-ticket discounts and group rates for rides

    North Platte Recreation Center and Cody Park Pool

    if you would like to get in some indoor swimming during your visit to North Platte, the North Platte Recreation Center and Cody Park Pool is open to visitors as well as residents. 

    We took the kids swimming at this pool and had a great time. I would recommend this as a rainy day activity. The family admission rate makes this a great deal for a family group.

    The center includes plenty of things for children, including a game room, water slides and a “kiddie pool.” In addition, there is free babysitting for parents who take classes at the center.

    • North Platte Recreation Center website
    • Location: 1300 South McDonald Road, North Platte, Nebraska, 69101.
    • Hours: Hours for the building and pool vary according to season.
    • Cost:  Adult admission is $6.75, and family admission is $16 per day. Discounts: Youth admission is $4.75 and senior admission (age 60 and over) is $6.

    Cody Go-Karts

    Cody Go-Karts is a small family-owned amusement park that features go-kart rides on two tracks, rides, and a small water park.  We have a great time on the slick track and the tweens drove their own go-carts. 

    But if you are not into go-karts, the park has a variety of other attractions, ranging from bumper boats to water slides to miniature golf. 

    And though the park is open to all ages, some of the rides, slides, and games designated for kids only. Snacks are available, or you can bring a cooler. 

    In an effort to serve families with the best deals, you can choose from a large variety of ticket prices and rates. 

    • Cody Go-Karts Website
    • Location: 805 Halligan Drive, North Platte, Nebraska. 69101.
    • Hours: Memorial Day to Labor Day 10:30 a.m. to 10 from p.m. and open weekends 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. the rest of the year.
    • Cost: Prices for individual rides or day packages vary. 
    • Discounts: Group rates available, and discounts for partial day visits

    Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park

     The Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park is a must-see in the town of North Platte. Like it sounds, it is the historic ranch of Buffalo Bill, made into a museum and park.  

    Originally called Scout’s Rest Ranch, the site includes Buffalo Bill’s 1886 mansion, the barn, and outbuildings, and plenty of Cody memorabilia within the buildings.  You can tour the mansion, watch a movie, and walk through the huge barn full of old carriages. 

    The ranch adjoins Buffalo Bill State Recreation Area, which offers many outdoor activities to enjoy.

    • Buffalo Bill Ranch Website
    • Location: 2921 Scout’s Rest Ranch Road, North Platte Nebraska, 69147.
    • Hours: The ranch grounds are open from 8 am until sunset year-round, and the house and barn are currently open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Cost: Free to walk the grounds. A donation of $2 for 13 years and older, and 1$ for those 12 and under to tour the house and buildings.
    • Discounts: Children under two have free admission.

    Iron Horse State Park

     The Iron Horse State Park is a fifty-acre park, forty acres of which are a under a lake! This park’s lake is periodically stocked for fishing, and fishing facilities include a handicapped-accessible fishing dock.

    The park is also great for walking and hiking. Picnic tables are available, and there is a kids’ playground that is currently being upgraded by the local Kiwanis.

    • State Park Website
    • Location: South Jeffers Street, North Platte, Nebraska 69101.
    • Hours: The tourist information “caboose” is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Cost: Free

    Lincoln County Historical Museum

    The Lincoln County Historical Museum is both a museum and a “historic village” of old buildings.

    The museum’s historic buildings include a schoolhouse and a general store, and they serve as a trail for a scavenger hunt that kids are invited to try. Visitors are welcome to take pictures and invited to submit them to the museum’s online gallery of visitor photos. The museum’s gift shop features local crafts for sale.

    • Museum Website
    • Location: 2403 North Buffalo Bill Avenue, North Platte, NE 69101.
    • Hours:  Open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5p.m
    • Cost: Admission is $6 for 13 and over, family admission is $10
    • Discounts: Children under 12 have free admission, and there are military and senior discounts. 

    Fort Cody Trading Post

    The Fort Cody Trading Post is an unusually fun souvenir shop, with a museum devoted to Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show attached. The gift shop is filled with Western gear and souvenirs.

    In addition, the gift shop sells things ranging from food items to Native American-made jewelry. The Trading Post also features live music performances during the summer months.

    • Fort Cody Trading Post Website
    • Location: 221 Halligan Drive, North Platte, NE, 69101.
    • Hours: The trading post hours vary with the season. See website for details
    • Cost: Admission is free

    North Platte Community Playhouse

    If you like live theatre or movie-watching, the North Platte Community Playhouse offers both. The live shows at this historic theater include four mainstage productions per year, most of which are popular musicals. 

    The theatre also hosts a children’s theatre program during the summer.

    • North Platte Community Playhouse Website
    • Location-: 301 East 5th Street, North Platte, Nebraska, 69101.
    • Hours: Business hours are 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily. See website for showtimes.
    • Cost: Ticket prices vary, and tickets may be ordered online.

    Prairie Arts Center

     If you are an art lover, I suggest visiting the Prairie Arts Center, a gallery supporting local artists.

    Originally built in 1913 as the North Platte Post Office, the building itself is a work of art. In addition to its varied exhibits, the Prairie Arts Center offers a variety of art classes for all ages.

    • Prairie Arts Center Website
    • Location: 416 North Jeffers Street, North Platte, Nebraska, 69101.
    • Hours: The Prairie Arts Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    • Cost: Free but donations are welcome. There is a charge for classes and memberships are available.’

     Homestead Pumpkin Patch

    Depending on when you visit North Platte, the Homestead Pumpkin Patch offers a great new seasonal attraction—picking your own pumpkins. Beyond the pumpkin patch, there are a variety of fun activities, ranging from foosball to hayrides. Pumpkins, gourds, and pumpkin products are also available for sale.

    • Homestead Pumpkin patch Website
    • Location: 6459 South Homestead Road, North Platte, Nebraska, 69101.
    • Hours: Open on weekends only. mid-September to late October, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
    • Cost: General admission to the pumpkin patch is $9.
    • Discounts: Admission is free to children two and under.

    Wild Bill’s Fun Center

    Wild Bill’s Fun Center, like the name suggests, is devoted to family fun. It is best known for its bowling lanes, but also has a video game arcade, laser tag, and virtual reality. 

    They have a good variety of virtual reality games, and bowling includes nighttime cosmic bowling.

    • Wild Bill’s Fun Center website
    • Location: 1100 South Jeffers Street North Platte, NE 69101,
    • Hours: Hours vary according to activity, 
    • Cost: Prices vary according to activity,
    • Discounts: Wild Bill’s Fun Center offers different discounts each week.

    Best Places to Stay in North Platte Nebraska

    We have stayed in hotels and campgrounds in North Platte during our visits to this town.  I can recommend the places that we have stayed at or have friends and family vouch for.  


    See our full article on campgrounds near North Platte.

    If you want to try RV camping but don’t have one, try renting one. This is the best way to enjoy RVing without jumping in and buying an RV. We have out camper listed on a peer to peer site that has a large variety of RVs for rent all over the country. I suggest you try RVShare or Outdoorsy. We offer our readers a special $50 discount on outdoorsy here.

    I-80 Lakeside Campground

    This small locally owned campground attracts locals and tourists alike.   You can enjoy tent or RV camping on a little lake right in town. The scenery is beautiful, grassy sites are spacious and the owners are lovely.   

    We have stayed at this campground. I can say that this is by far one of the best values we have had in our western states travels.  See our article for our favorite spot!

    Family and Dog Friendly Hotels:

    Best Western Plus North Platte Inn and Suites

    Our top choice for both family-friendly and pet-friendly hotel is the Best Western North Platte Inn & Suites. This hotel is a great deal for families.

    The Best Western has an indoor pool, hot breakfast and clean rooms. Best Westerns allow children to stay for free.

    La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham North Platte

    Another perfect option is the La Quinta Inn and Suites. We frequently stay in La Quintas with our family and this is one of the top-rated on TripAdvisor.

    It is conveniently located just off of I-80, adjacent to Iron Eagle Golf Course and near to the airport. With a free hot breakfast and an indoor pool, your family will be quite happy here.

    Other Information to Help Plan Your Visit to North Platte:

    The best time to visit

     Weather in North Platte, Nebraska is typical for the Midwest (speaking as someone who has lived in the region!). 

    Summer temperatures can rise into the high 90’s, while winter temperatures can drop down to the teens. The annual rainfall averages twenty inches, and total snowfall is up to thirty inches. 

    The best time to visit is the spring, when the weather is pleasant and everything is greening up. 

    Although, we have also enjoyed the hot summer, playing in the lake at the campground I mentioned above.

    Getting to North Platte, Nebraska

    North Platte is easy to get to by car, being conveniently located at the crossroads between I-80 and I-83.   We have driven from Colorado many times along this route.  The rest stops on this section of highway are very nice. 

    Depending where you are coming from, if you want an alternative to the interstate, I recommend Sandhill Scenic Drive. 

    If you prefer to fly, small regional jets connect through Denver (DIA). 

    Bus travel is also an option from some cities, with either Arrow Stage Lines or Burlington Railways.

    In the Amtrak runs through North Platte, although the hours are not the most convenient.  We looked into this and decided against taking the train with small children for this reason. 

    Distance from nearby major cities:

    • North Platte NE to Lincoln NE 3 hours and 23 minutes (281 miles)
    • North Platte NE to Omaha NE 4 hours (281 miles)
    • North Platte to Denver Colorado 4 hours ((263 miles)

    Final Thoughts on Visiting North Platte, NE

    This small western town is full of historical things to do and modern family friendly activities. Many people may pass right by on I80 but this is worth a stop.

    This is part of our series on North Platte. You might be interested in our other article The best places to camp near North Platte.

    Also, visiting North Platte might include a road trip and you will want to read our Sanity Saving Tips for a Road Trip with Young Kids.

    Things to do in North Platte Nebraska (7 are free).  Plan your visit to North Platte with places to stay, directions, and when to visit.
    Things to do in North Platte NE
    Shauna Kocman founder Family Travel Fever
    Shauna Kocman founder of Family Travel Fever

    Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever.  We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug!  I take the kids by myself because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.

    Sign up for our email list for my best travel tips plus get the family travel planner free. 

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    1. I dont think I saw Dusty Trails. They offer Horseback Riding Kayaks/tTanks/Tubes/Canoes down the river, Petting Zoo and Crane Tours.

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