The Star City, with its history, culture and wildlife, is more than a backdrop for college sweethearts Vicki and Scott Clarke and their six kids. It takes center stage.
By Cassie Kreitner
Fun Fact: Charles Lindbergh took his first flying lessons here while a student at the Nebraska Aircraft Corporation.
Our Lincoln family: Bridget, 8; Lydia, 13; Jude, 1; Vicki; Scott; Mollie, 6; Aidan, 15; Honoria, 11.
I was born and raised in Lincoln and met Scott while enrolled at the University of Nebraska. We talked about moving away but loved the friendly college-town feel along with the cultural and outdoor activities. Most homes are no more than a half-mile from at least one of the city's 125 parks. A favorite is Pioneers Park Nature Center—miles of hiking trails wind through prairie lands populated with herds of bison, elk and deer. Our eldest daughter, Lydia, turned her passion for animals into a volunteer job; she's now a ZooCrew member at the Lincoln Children's Zoo's Critter Encounter exhibit.
Our family participates in Lincoln Safari, a scavenger hunt that encourages residents to get outside and learn about the environment. The library distributes guidebooks and maps in January, and we spend months decoding clues to locate 27 posts that have interesting facts, activities and rubbing plates to mark a visit. The Be a Tourist program is similar, but it focuses on indoor attractions. Each year a different passport is issued for more than 20 centers and museums, and prizes such as hotel stays and gift baskets are awarded based on how many sites you explore. We've discovered unique places that are often overlooked by locals, like the National Museum of Roller Skating and the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, which the girls love.
Out-of-towners enjoy meeting "Archie," the largest mounted mammoth skeleton in North America. He's on display at the University of Nebraska State Museum, where you can view one of the world's biggest collections of mammal fossils. On the other side of campus is the legendary Memorial Stadium. Scott and Aidan have fun rooting for our alma mater while selling seat backs in the stands to raise money for Aidan's Boy Scout troop. The Huskers hold a 49-year-old NCAA record for consecutive sellouts. On game days the stadium becomes the third-largest "city"—based on population—in the state!
The hickory-wood smell wafting from the kitchen of Lazlo's Brewery and Grill lures us to the Historic Haymarket District, an extension of the 19th-century Market Square and the oldest section of Lincoln. On Saturday mornings during warmer months the site of the original City Hall is filled with vendors selling fresh produce and handmade goods. The kids like to get snacks from Licorice International, which offers more than 150 types from 12 countries. It's our favorite part of town—we love that the past and present of Lincoln mingle in such a family-friendly atmosphere.
Originally published in the September 1, 2011, issue of Family Circle magazine.