Over 100 local boutiques, pubs and businesses bring this beautiful central district to life.
You will be greeted by the past driving under the Archway (a museum located over Interstate 80) while entering Kearney, but Kearney’s vibrant downtown corridor is a modern, bustling hub: It has stylish boutiques, fun eats, lively libations, infectious music, a thriving nightlife and locally stocked taprooms.
If Kearney is as its slogan says, “where the Heartland gathers,” The Bricks district – or “On the Bricks,” as the locals say – is where the Heartland flourishes. History may frame Kearney’s building facades and brick streets, but Kearney’s anchoring businesses and events feel anything but dated.
While downtown retains its throwback architectural integrity, what’s happening in these buildings and around them is transformational.
“Between the diverse food choices, fine art galleries,
and independent shops and boutiques, you’re always guaranteed
to find something to do in downtown Kearney.”
Stacey Johnson | Edith Joi Boutique
Stacey Johnson, owner of Edith Joi Boutique and finance director at the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce, came to Kearney as a student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and fell so in love with the community that she chose to build her life here.
“While working and going to college, I had the opportunity to really immerse myself in the community and learn about all that Kearney has to offer. My role at the Kearney Chamber has allowed me to build relationships with others who have the same goals, and I see so much of that here – a large community of people who want to give back and help their neighbors.”
Shopping in Kearney
This marriage of elements – Kearney’s communal environment, inventive energy feeding from the university, ongoing events calendars and support from the chamber – have made Kearney and The Bricks a year-round destination.
Now, over 100 businesses line The Bricks. And with the arrival of sharable scooters, it’s even easier to get around town.
Dining in Kearney
Craving a delicious, juicy burger or a handmade crab cake? In downtown Kearney, you can have both. Here, eclectic eats meet comfort food and bar vibes. During Taste Kearney, local restaurants create unique menus to encourage patrons to expand their culinary horizons.
Johnson is especially fond of the transformations happening with historic buildings, including one of her favorites: the McCue’s building. There is a completely renovated Airbnb upstairs, and the street level offers two businesses: a contemporary art gallery and McCue’s Nebraska Taproom, which serves all Nebraska-made spirits, beers and liquors.
If java is more your thing, fuel up on caffeine and pair it with a sweet treat from a coffee shop and bakery (or drop into the local coworking space to pair the pick-me-up with some productivity.)
Sample the Kearney Nightlife
The Bricks sets the pulse, housing hot spots like McCue’s Nebraska Taproom, Thunderhead Brewing, Upper Room Brewery and Platte Valley Brewery. These haunts celebrate handcrafted beers and emphasize gatherings and collaborations. If you want cocktails, look to Coppermill Steakhouse & Lounge for their mule and martini menu. Wine lover? The Alley Rose has an award-winning list that features sips from around the world.
Boutiques, Spas and Workouts
Florists, boutiques, barbershops, service providers and more abound on The Bricks. Every year, over a dozen stores participate in Kearney’s Boutique Week, in which retail lovers can play bingo to win a shopping spree by buying local.
Here, carefully curated vendors, like a cozy home decor shop, bridal purveyors and a matching mommy-and-me store, meet lifestyle must-haves, like a holistic spa and a pet shop. Finally, you can pop into a yoga class and break a sweat inside one of downtown’s multiple gyms.
The arts are alive along The Bricks. The World Theatre is a nonprofit, volunteer-run theater that celebrates pure cinematic experiences. Stop by for indie pics or replays of classics like “The Sandlot.”
Downtown is also home to musical musings, including the Bricks Summer Concert Series, Rockin’ the Bricks, and rotations of local artists spanning blues, rock and other genres. Couple the music scene with a nightlife outing, and you’re bound to have a good time.
Passersby can also muse off downtown Kearney’s murals and public art displays and share them on social media with the hashtag #downtownkearneymurals. Post up next to local artists’ works, or snap pictures of pieces that celebrate Kearney’s unique landscape, including beautiful paintings honoring the sandhill crane capital. Then, on a rainy day, take a sketching class or pop into the Museum of Nebraska Art, the official state art museum.
Bridgett Lavene, Downtown Kearney director, has a full-day Bricks itinerary ready to go.
“I can spend all day downtown,” she says. “My favorite places are coffee at Kitt’s Kitchen & Coffee or a sweet treat from Ktown Cakery inside the Central Mercantile. Then I love shopping at Bow & Arrow Boutique and Wee-Cycle Children’s Consignment & Boutique, taking my son to Paint Paradise for a class to paint pottery, eating dinner at The Alley Rose, and catching a show at the World Theatre.”
A full day, indeed.