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Valentine, Nebraska Travel Guide
Last Updated: May-23-2014, Hits: 3,943, Rating: 0, Reviews: 0, Votes: 0 Bookmark and Share
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Valentine, Nebraska Travel Guide Hotels and Lodging (9)
Restaurants (7)
Bars and Nightlife (6)
Attractions (16)
Services (5)
Maps (1)
Links (2)
Nebraska Travel Forum (1)
Location: North America
Geography: Grasslands/Plains
Vacation Type: Adventure
Popularity: Off-the-Beaten Path
Costs: Budget
Attractions: Historical Sites, Scenery, Boating, Camping, Ecotourism, Fishing, Hiking

Facts and Stats:
Population: 2,760
Land Area: 2.25 square miles
Elevation: 2,582 ft
Country Dialing Code: 1
Area Code: 402
Languages: English
Electricity: 110V
Currency: US Dollar
Time Zone: Central (CST) UTC-6/UTC-5 (Summer)
Current Time:

Valentine, also known as "Heart City", is a small town in north central Nebraska known for outdoor recreation opportunities on the Niobrara River, as well as the Fort Niobrara and Valentine National Wildlife Refuges.

Valentine, the county seat of Cherry County, is located at the north end of the Sandhills region just 10 miles south of the South Dakota border. The Sandhills are a unique area of grassy sand dunes that cover nearly 1/4 of the state of Nebraska. The Niobrara River flows just south of the town and then flanks the eastern side a few miles away. 25 miles southeast of town is Merritt Reservoir which was created by a dam on the Snake River (not the much larger Snake River in the Pacific Northwest), which is a tributary of the Niobrara. There are a number of other lakes dotting the region south of town.

The town of Valentine is very small and only covers 2.25 square miles of land. Surrounding the town are vast areas of prairie.

Brief History:
The town of Valentine began to form in 1882 with tents and a few rudimentary buildings. In 1883, a rail line was completed to the town, and it received its name after Edward K. Valentine, a Nebraska congressman for the district. Later this same year, Cherry County was established with Valentine as its seat. Valentine was incorporated in 1884, and by then the population had grown to 250 people. By 1886, the population had tripled to 750.

During these years, Valentine had a reputation as the "toughest town in Nebraska" and suffered from lawlessness until guns were prohibited in saloons.

In the early days, acquiring water was difficult, and was hauled daily from a spring on the Minnechaduza Creek by a "water man" with a water wagon. In 1889, a wooden tank was built in town, but the system was plagued by problems until 1928 when a new well was installed.

In 1910 a railroad bridge was built across the Niobrara River. At a height of 127 feet, it remains the highest railroad bridge in Nebraska.

In 1929, the airport was built.

During the Great Depression, a post office and city hall were built, and Main Street was paved.

In 1991, a 76-mile stretch of the Niobrara River including the part near Valentine, was added to the nation's Wild and Scenic River System.

In 2009, Valentine was chosen as one of America's top 100 adventure towns by National Geographic Adventure magazine.

The outdoors is the main draw to this destination and provides a wealth of activities including canoeing, tubing, kayaking, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and horseback riding. Much of this activity is centered in the 19,124 acre Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge which offers canoeing (30 miles), kayaking (30 miles), and tubing (26 miles) opportunities on the Niobrara River. This is also the location of Smith Falls - Nebraska's tallest waterfall at 60 feet high.

McKelvie National Forest is located 15 miles southwest of Valentine and sits on 115,638 acres of land. Fishing, hunting, hiking, and camping are enjoyed here.

27 miles southwest of town is Merritt Reservoir on the Snake River. This spot is a popular hunting, fishing, boating, and camping destination. Just north of the reservoir is Snake River Falls which is the largest waterfall in Nebraska by volume.

The Valentine National Wildlife Refuge is 30 miles south of town and covers 71,516 acres of lake country. Fishing, nature observation, and bird watching are popular here. There are a number of other attractions in and around the town. Check out the "Attractions" section of this guide for more sites and outfitters to get you there.

People & Culture:
Valentine is a rural community made up of many farm and ranches. In fact, Cherry County is one of the highest producers of cattle in the state. This is due to the fact that the Sandhills prairie provides some of the best cattle grazing land in the country.

Valentine gets most of its visitors during the warmer summer months, and also serves as a stopping point for many headed west for the annual motorcycle rally 4 hours away in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Every year around Valentines Day, the post office stamps and re-mails approximately 10,000 cards for those who wish to have their cards postmarked from Heart City.

Food & Nightlife:
Being a small town, Valentine doesn't have much variety in the way of restaurants. What you will find is a lot of casual, traditional American food/steak restaurants. There are a couple of fast food chain restaurants in town as well. One is pizza and the other is sandwiches - we'll let you figure out what they are if you must eat there. There are also a couple of full-service grocery stores in Valentine which carry a reasonable variety of goods.

There are almost as many bars as restaurants, and most of them are open late which is atypical for smaller towns.

Money & Costs:
Nebraska is less expensive than the national average in the USA, and Valentine is less expensive than the Nebraska average. In other words, it is fairly inexpensive. Most lodging options are under $100/night, and food is reasonable for what you get. Equipment rental (tubes, canoes, etc) and shuttle service are less expensive than many other destinations.

Nebraska has a 5.5% sales tax at the time of this writing, and Valentine imposes a 1.5% city tax as of 2007.

Standard tipping procedures in the USA are 15% for average service, and higher for very good service.

Getting There & Around:
The most common method to reach Valentine is to drive. Valentine does have an airport called Miller Field, however, at this time it only accepts charter flights. The closest airports that offer commercial flights are North Platte, Nebraska (130 miles). Chadron, Nebraska (141 miles), and Pierre, South Dakota (130 miles).

Valentine is very walkable and shuttle services are available for many of the recreation activities through the various outfitters in town. There is currently no taxi or bus service here.

The table below shows the distances between Valentine and nearby cities.

Location Miles
North Platte, NE 130
Pierre, SD 130
Columbus, NE 230
Sioux Falls, SD 230
Omaha, NE 296
Cheyenne, WY 313
Denver, CO 393


Valentine has a humid continental climate that is fairly extreme. Winters are cold with frequent light snow, while summers are humid, hot, and rainy, typically in the form of thunderstorms. Valentine is a low risk tornado area.

Below are the current conditions and weather forecast for Valentine, Nebraska.

The table below shows the average high and low temperatures, and precipitation.

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg High 37 40 49 60 71 81 89 87 77 63 48 37
Avg Low 11 15 23 33 44 54 60 59 47 34 21 11
Precipitation 0.26" 0.50" 1.07" 2.22" 3.13" 3.56" 3.21" 2.18" 1.64" 1.25" 0.65" 0.37"

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