Anchored in the east by two of the Midwest’s coolest cities, and in the west by some tantalizing monuments to the Oregon Trail, much of NEBRASKA is blanketed in a vast expanse of flat farmland. The two sides of the state, connected by four hundred fairly dreary miles of I-80, are well worth exploring, from hip Omaha and state government and university hub Lincoln to the rugged outcrops of Scottsbluff.

Nebraska Territory opened in 1854 and was settled rapidly, beginning with Omaha, a major transport crossroads. Statehood was granted in 1867, and during the 1870s and 1880s, rail companies, encouraged by grants that allowed them to accumulate one sixth of the state’s land, laid down such a comprehensive network of tracks that virtually every farmer was within a day’s cattle drive of the nearest halt. Thus the buffalo-hunting country of the Sioux and Pawnee was turned into high-yield farmland, which even now has few rivals in terms of beef production. Today, fiscally conservative Nebraska bans government debt by law, and is the only US state to have a unicameral legislature.

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