Historic Haymarket District in Lincoln, Nebraska

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Driving through the barren landscape of the Nebraska Great Plains, it may be difficult to imagine there are cities such as Lincoln or Omaha right around the corner. Ok so I may be doing Nebraska a little injustice here because the reality is there is much more beauty to be had in the Cornhusker state than you may know. After spending a couple of hours in Omaha,  we stumbled across what we now consider to be one of the focal points of this unheralded state – The Haymarket District in Lincoln, Nebraska.

If you need to figure out a reason to visit Nebraska, this may be the perfect catalyst to justify a trip!

The Haymarket District

After passing Memorial Stadium, home of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, we made our way to the hub of historic culture in Lincoln – The Haymarket District! Once a booming focal point of Lincoln’s retail and wholesale industry, the Haymarket District is now a cultural and entertainment gem worthy of spending some time to explore.

haymarket district in lincoln, nebraska

We parked behind the Lincoln Railyard and wandered back toward the heart of the Haymarket. It is no surprise to see that this area is now a booming part of Lincoln, with bars and restaurants on every street corner providing Husker fans and visitors a relaxing haven.

Historic Railyard Renovation

A historic Haymarket tour is available but I think exploring this part of Lincoln is much more fun on your own. Spontaneity is always a winner in my opinion, so the sound of exploring every nook and cranny in the Haymarket District has a certain appeal to it.

haymarket district in lincoln, nebraska

We started our own personal tour at the old Railyard and Burlington Northern Lincoln Station. The Railyard on Canopy Street has been transformed into Lincoln’s premier entertainment district. Whether you consider this to be a majestic renovation, this is certainly an intriguing landmark with plenty of history.

haymarket district lincoln nebraska

But it’s the exterior of this building and the old railway lines with the locomotives still standing that are the real attraction here. Imagine these old trains chugging their way across the country, with Lincoln providing a moment of respite amidst a forlorn Nebraskan landscape.

historic haymarket district lincoln

Iron Horse Park

Situated directly adjacent to the Lincoln Railway Station and old railway lines, Bill Harris Iron Horse Park is a great spot to relax among Lincoln’s finest culture and historic Haymarket District.

iron horse park lincoln nebraska

A newly constructed clock is at the heart of Iron Horse Park, despite it being situated just outside the gates.

haymarket district clock lincoln nebraska

This provides photographers a picture perfect moment to capture this along with the gorgeous park and stereotypical Haymarket District in the background.

iron horse park clock haymarket district

As we walked around Iron Horse Park, I noticed a tribute on the wall of the Lincoln Station that denoted “Iron Horse Legacy: Nebraska Landscape 1871-1872”. It’s only when you glance up and notice the huge mural on the wall that you realize this tribute by Jay Tschetter references an earlier era of the Haymarket district.

haymarket district lincoln nebraska

The mural is of a locomotive passing through the Nebraska landscape in the late 19th century, a vivid contrast to today’s society as you look to your right and see the locomotive standing motionless after years on the open tracks.

iron horse park locomotive mural

The Restaurant Scene

The Haymarket District is now renowned as a fine dining haven with a myriad of restaurants and bars available to satisfy your culinary needs. There is a nice blend of cuisines available so regardless of your preference, there is likely to be something here to intrigue your tastebuds.

Walking around we noticed that the Irish presence in Lincoln was prevalent with McKinney’s Irish Pub and McFarland & Son’s Authentic Irish Pub both really appealing options. Large selections of craft beer and Irish whiskeys are available at both of these pubs, so it’s no surprise that these are two of the more popular spots in the Haymarket District.

If you prefer to stay with a more stereotypical American dining experience, Lazlos Brewery and Grill appears to be a highly recommended option with fine steaks and seafood available plus much more. However, as we continued to explore the restaurant scene I was most intrigued by the wonderfully named ‘Brewsky’s’. This is a really casual dining option but still offers a wide selection of food and beverages.

Mexican, Italian and seafood establishments can all be found with a little further exploring around the Haymarket District. I would highly recommend making a loop around the Haymarket District by taking 7th street parallel to Lincoln Station, walk by the iconic clock before making a right up Q street, another right on 8th street and finally taking P street back to 7th.

Gift shops, restaurants and bars are scattered all along these streets so if you don’t find anything here that intrigues your pallet…well you should probably stick with McDonalds!

Summary

I love stumbling across historic downtown areas like the Haymarket District. It’s refreshing to see when these once booming districts have now been renovated into a real iconic part of the city. All too often you see old, manufacturing districts become neglected areas of urban space, but credit to Lincoln for making the Haymarket District a real focal point of Nebraska’s state capital.

We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours exploring the Haymarket District and I would love to return here to sample some of the fine cuisine clearly available. Nebraska may be famous for their steaks but with such a wide variety of cuisine to choose from, you won’t go hungry in Lincoln for very long!

Weekend Wanderlust


8 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve only been as far west in Nebraska as Omaha (on the eastern edge of the state) but will be driving through in a few weeks. I’ll definitely keep the Haymarket District in mind if we have time for a stop along the way.

  2. It has been years since driving through Nebraska, and I would never have imagined that you could find anything to write about, travel wise, from there. Nice!

  3. I’ve only been to the western portion of Nebraska – and in summer – but I found it to be hauntingly beautiful. Going to have to check this out!

  4. Native Nebraskan here: I think this is a state with a bunch of hidden gems – unfortunately most folks drive through via I-80 and don’t take time to go off the road. And also, once you get off of I-80 it’s not terribly flat in most places (I-80 through Nebraska was built on a flood plain).

    The Old Market in Omaha is worth exploring as well. It’s a bit older and larger than the Haymarket, but IMO has a much more bohemian feel. There are also some cool ethnic neighborhoods to explore and the Henry Doorly Zoo, which is rated one of the best zoo’s in the world.

    If you travel through Omaha and south along the Missouri River you will be VERY surprised by how hilly it is. Drive down to Brownville, NE which is a historic steamboat port on the Missouri – there are funky little shops, great hiking at Indian Caves State Park, and lots of cool river and Underground Railroad history in Nebraska City. Make sure to stay at the Lied Lodge & Conference Center – there is 25 M 6 lane indoor swimming pool and a massive treehouse at neighboring Arbor Day Farm. Not to forget several wineries and orchards to visit in the surrounding area.

    Western Nebraska also has some gorgeous landscapes – it’s a very remote place and to be honest I haven’t even had a chance to explore out there. But om my list is Ft. Robinson State Park, Pine Ridge, Toadstool Geologic Park, Agate Fossil Beds, Scotts Bluff and Chimney Rock National Monuments, the Wildcat Hills and Lake McConnaughey. In Northern Nebraska there is the Cowboy Trail which is a rails to trails bicycle route across the northern part of the state; there is some fantastic canoeing and tubing to be found along the Niobrara River with many outfitters based out of Valentine.

    In general, Nebraska has a lot of gems, but they are off the beaten path!

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