Nebraska’s parks, museums, art galleries and other attractions drew more than 20 million visitors last year.
Once again, state parks and the Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium proved to be the most popular places to visit in 2016, according to the Nebraska Tourism Commission. The agency collects annual attendance data from tourism destinations across the state.
John Ricks, executive director of the commission, said Nebraska is an amazing state to explore and the attendance figures show that others think so, too.
“More and more people are spending their time and tourism dollars here and … it will only grow,’’ Ricks said. “This all translates into more jobs and tax revenue for the state’s third-largest industry.”
Statewide celebrations for the 150th anniversary of statehood and another tourism season featuring the Passport program (which encourages people to explore more of the state) position Nebraska for another big year hosting visitors, he said.
Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium attendance topped 2 million visitors for the first time, an increase of 22 percent from 2015. The zoo opened its African Grasslands exhibit last spring.
Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area near Ogallala had more than 1.3 million visitors. Branched Oak State Recreation Area near Raymond had nearly 1.3 million. Five total destinations recorded attendance of more than 1 million people.
The top 10 Nebraska attractions in 2016
1. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
2. Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area
3. Branched Oak State Recreation Area
4. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
5. CenturyLink Center Omaha
6. Wagon Train State Recreation Area
7. Ponca State Park
8. Fremont State Recreation Area
9. Platte River State Park
10. Pawnee State Recreation Area
Only attractions that reported their attendance to the Nebraska Tourism Commission are listed.