Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions that draw large crowds of people every year, without fail. In 1996, some of the most popular places were Fort Robinson State Park (355,000 visitors), Scotts Bluff National Monument (132,166), Arbor Lodge State Historical Park & Museum (100,000), Carhenge (86,598), Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (60,002), and Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park (28,446).
In the scenic Pine Region of the state, Fort Robinson played a role in a number of battles with Native Americans. But it is best remembered as the place where Chief Crazy Horse surrendered in 1877, after the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the defeat of Lt. Col. George Custer. Crazy Horse was later stabbed to death by a soldier at the fort.
Today, with some 50 original structures still standing, this important landmark is part of the 22,000-acre Fort Robinson State Park. Frontier artifacts are displayed in the former post headquarters, now a museum; among other buildings open to visitors are the officers' quarters and a reconstruction of the guardhouse where Crazy Horse was attacked.
In the mid-1800s, when covered wagons rolled west along the Oregon Trail, more than 250,000 people passed Scotts Bluff, near present-day Gering. Looming 800 feet above the North Platte River valley, the bluff strikes a dramatic pose against the flat prairie.
At the monumentís museum, visitors can view special exhibits about the Oregon Trail , as well as fascinating artifacts. It is also possible to drive to the top of the bluff! On a clear day, the breathtaking vistas include views of distant Chimney Rock -- a beacon for weary pioneers -- and the difficult mountain trails beyond.
The beautiful Arbor Lodge, located in Nebraska City, is the home of J. Sterling Morton, who founded Arbor Day in 1872. The mansion on the site is surrounded by a 65-acre arboretum with more than 250 species of trees and shrubs, most of which were planted by Morton.
Located near the town of Alliance is Carhenge, an unusual sculpture made out of automobiles. The site is modeled after Englandís great Stonehenge.
The Stuhr Museum illustrates several types of towns that were created on the Nebraska prairie, but its attraction is Railroad Town, re-created on a 60-acre site in accordance with the plans of a rail company. Also on the grounds are dozens of authentic 19th-century buildings that line the village's quaint streets.
In striking contrast is the museumís modern main building, which houses clothing, furnishings, and other mementos of pioneer life. Nearby, Plains Indian and Old West artifacts are exhibited, as is a fabulous collection of antique cars and farm machinery.
A public idol and the friend of presidents and monarchs, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody was an embodiment of the traditional rags-to-riches success story. His trail to triumph began in Iowa, where he was born in 1846. Following an early stint as a Pony Express rider and service in the Civil War, in 1867 Cody became a buffalo hunter, hired to provide meat for railroad construction crews. A remarkable shot, he quickly earned a reputation as a fine marksman -- and the famous nickname Buffalo Bill.
Tales of his prowess spread, and before long, Cody was persuaded to demonstrate his talents onstage. His theater act made him wealthy, and he began developing a ranch in North Platte, Nebraska. Here, in 1882, Cody organized a rodeo event that evolved into his Wild West Show. Handsome and wearing his elegant buckskin outfits, the sharpshooter was the star of this extravaganza for 30 years as it toured the United States and Europe.
Today, visitors to the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park (off Route 30 in North Platte) can marvel at the treasures and memorabilia inside his barn and 19-room home.