Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy downtown Lincoln and think it offers a nice array of restaurants, bars and activity. I like that it’s compact and you can pretty much walk anywhere you want within the downtown area. It may not be huge, but there are enough really good spots that I’m happy going back to again and again.
But what I really love about living in Lincoln is how easy it is to get out in the middle of nowhere, even on the outskirts of the city. A good example is Pioneers Park. It has pretty much everything a good park should have--playground area and ballfield, shaded running trails, cool sculptures, lake with ducks, sledding hill, and lots of open grassy space. It also has things most parks don’t have -- a live herd of buffalo, extensive nature center, giant Indian statue, golf course, outdoor concerts, and a windblown stretch of prairie.
It also has terrain. Meaning, you can stand on a hill above the trees and see sunsets, or lie on the grass and see stars. And it’s a pretty big park, so it’s not too hard to find solitude there, if that’s what you’re looking for.
For the runners out there, this is a perfect park for you to do that “hilly” run that shows up on your training schedule. Where else in town can you get in a good scenic six-mile run without backtracking or running in a dizzying circle?
A quick word of warning about the wildlife--they have been known to roam freely, on occasion. Watch out for frogs during certain parts of the summer. When they leave their nursery pond and make the arduous trek through the fence and across the road to the swampy area nearby, it takes more than the average defensive driving to avoid them. I’ve also had a chance encounter with a giant snapping turtle wandering up the hill from his pond. Rest assured, he will only go to the effort of snapping at you if you get in his face. Fortunately, the buffalo and the elk seem pretty content with their habitat.
If you’re looking for fun stuff to do with a group of friends, there’s that too! The Pinewood Bowl outdoor concert series has picked up in the last few years, drawing some great bands like Counting Crows, My Morning Jacket, Alice in Chains, and the Lumineers, to name a few.
The park is quite happily situated across Van Dorn Street from Lee’s Chicken, a fine home-style fried chicken restaurant with lots of country charm (and tasty food!) During the summer, C and L Dairy Sweet is open on the same intersection, for all your ice cream and slushee needs.
Briefly put, Pioneers Park and the surrounding area has never let me down. There is so much more to love about Lincoln, but for anyone else who sometimes feels the need for space, now you know of one really good place to get a lot of it.
Photo Credit: Valerie Jensen