Located halfway between Chicago and Denver, Lincoln is, in more ways than one, neither here nor there1. With a population of nearly 200,000, it is the second largest population centre in Nebraska, behind Omaha, which lies some 96km NNE on Interstate 80.
The two things most often said about Lincoln are it's very clean and it's a great place to raise children. If reproduction is not your aim, at least you won't step in anything distasteful.
At first glance, it may appear that Omaha is in fact the cultural centre of Nebraska. However, because of its close association with the University, this distinction rightfully belongs to Lincoln. Lincoln was granted the status of state capital in 1868, beating more obvious choices, like Omaha, because certain powerful members of Nebraska society did not want to get their feet wet fording the Platte River to get to the capital city.
The climate of Lincoln is best described as extreme. It can be brutally hot and humid in the summer and equally frigid in the winter. It's quite pleasant, though, if you are lucky enough to arrive during the three days of spring or autumn.
The streets of Lincoln are mostly organised on a grid. Numbered streets run north and south, and the numbers increase from west to east. Lettered streets run east and west, with 'A' being most southern and 'Y' most northern2. However, as Lincoln is larger than 26 city blocks there are streets that violate this scheme, mostly around the periphery of town.
StarTran is the name of Lincoln's mass transit system. It consists of buses that run at inconvenient times to anywhere you want to go, so long as you want to go downtown. StarTran is mostly geared to commuting; there is no service on Sunday or after 7pm.
Fortunately, Lincoln is conveniently sized for cycling. A bicycle is an excellent way to get around, sometimes far better than a car3. Be warned though, it is illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk downtown. This is unless, of course, you are a member of the Lincoln Police Department whose bicycle patrol's main task seems to be prowling the sidewalks of downtown to apprehend and ticket cyclists riding on the sidewalks.
The Capitol towers 123 metres over the downtown area, jutting skyward with The Sower, the statue of a Promethean4 figure scattering seed over the land, at the pinnacle.
O Street has the distinction of being the longest, straightest main street in the world. It runs east to west through the centre of town and the heart of downtown. Once you find O Street, you will probably be able to find anything you need in Lincoln. It was immortalised by Allen Ginsberg in his poem Zero Street.
The Haymarket is a small shopping district just north-west of downtown. It's made up of old warehouses that have been converted into various boutiques and shops. A variety of eateries flourish in the Haymarket, as well. It's a great place to start or wrap up an evening's carouse.
The University of Nebraska
If you are large enough with a high enough threshold of pain, you can trade four years of gladiatorial combat for a bachelor's degree, at the University of Nebraska. You can choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in more traditional ways if you are not inclined to sports.
The university is best known for its broadcast journalism, agriculture, and American football programmes.
Places to Go
The Zoo Bar, 136 North 14th Street - is home to one of the most pre-eminent blues clubs in the world. The Zoo is not huge, so arrive early to get a good seat for the show.
Yia-yia's, 1423 O Street - is, without question, the best pizza in Lincoln is to be had at this pizzeria/pub. It's also great for playing table football around lunchtime.
The Mill, 800 P Street - is the place to go if there's too much caffeine in your blood system. If you prefer to augment your caffeine buzz with nicotine, try the imaginatively named Coffee House at 1324 P Street.
Crane River, 200 North 11th Street - has creative menu replete with vegetarian options. A variety of beers are brewed on premises.
Sheldon Art Gallery, 12th & R Streets, on campus - with over 12,000 pieces in its permanent collection, this is a great place to spend a Saturday afternoon. The Sheldon also houses the Mary Riepma Ross Film Theater.
The Oven, 201 North 8th Street - The best Indian food in Lincoln - so far. The competition is fierce; it's hard to find bad Indian food in Lincoln.
The Lied Center, 12th & R Streets, on campus - has an eclectic mix of big name performances, but not cheap.
A Novel Idea, 118 North 14th Street - is a great used book store with a wide selection of titles and topics.
Kimball Hall, 11th & R Streets, on campus - offers high culture on a low budget featuring faculty and student recitals on a regular basis.
Omaha - If you're in Lincoln and find yourself overcome by ennui, Omaha is just a short hop at 120kmh up Interstate 80.