Fred G. Dale Planetarium at Wayne State College

in background, a round room with black walls painted with a moon and stars on them is filled with red and black theater seats and the bottom of a white dome is visible. in foreground, the words "Fred G. Dale Planetarium Wayne Nebraska" and "" sit on a translucent white square.

Nebraska's most advanced planetarium isn't in Omaha or Lincoln, on the campus of a huge university. It's right here in Siouxland, in Wayne, Nebraska, and I got to check it out with my family recently! Here's a peek at what we found, with full details below:

Doesn't it look fun? Here's everything you'll want to know about the planetarium, which is officially known as the Fred G. Dale Planetarium, after Wayne State College professor Fred G. Dale, who taught geography at Wayne State College from the 1920's to the 1960's.

Where is the Fred G. Dale Planetarium?

The Fred G. Dale Planetarium in the basement of the science building on the campus of Wayne State College in Wayne, Nebraska. Wayne is just under a one hour drive southwest from downtown Sioux City and less than 2 hours north from Omaha.

Where is parking for the Fred G. Dale Planetarium?

There is lots of parking on the Wayne State College campus, and on weekends, visitors to the planetarium can use almost any of it (Avoid the 15 minute spots-the planetarium shows take longer than that!). On weekdays, use the visitor lot (Lot 10 on the campus map) on the far end of the Wayne State College campus. When we went, only the door off of L.Wendt Drive was the only door open, but from inside it was possible to also open a handicap accessible door facing the humanities building, so if you are bringing a stroller or wheelchair, you may need to do that or call/e-mail ahead of time to make arrangements to have that door already unlocked. The stairwell off L. Wendt was elaborately painted, with the walls heading down to the planetarium painted in a space theme and the walls up painted with a variety of animals in recognition of the Museum of Natural History on the 1st floor.
a stairwell is elaborately painted with celestial objects on all sides and the words "Fred G. Dale Planetarium" visible above a landing

What is the Fred G. Dale planetarium?

red and black theater seats int he Fred G. Dale Planetarium, a round room with black walls that have the moon and some stars painted on them. the bottom of a large white ceiling dome is visible above the black wall.

The Fred G. Dale Planetarium is like a cool combination of a science lab and a movie theater. The Spitz Sci-Dome theater with seating for 50 is the most advanced planetarium in the state of Nebraska! This projection system allows for extremely accurate projections of the night sky, showing up to 500 million stars at a time on a domed ceiling (the chairs lean back enough that you're not uncomfortable!) Outside the theater, the lobby is basically a small astronomy museum, with a variety of telescopes and a small play area. I'd love to see them expand this in the future, maybe with more information posted about the various telescopes and models! The Fred G. Dale Planetarium first opened in 1969, and was almost totally renovated in 2010 after a pipe leak rendered that necessary. It still looks fresh and new today!

a model of the solar system sits atop a black desk at the Fred G. Dale Planetarium in Wayne, Nebraska

The planetarium is open to field trips, private tours and shows, and regularly hosts public showings that anyone is welcome to attend. The full list of public show times is listed on the Wayne State College website.

Shows at the planetarium

The shows at the Fred G. Dale Planetarium include astronomy shows for all ages, from Sesame Street and Zula Patrol shows for toddlers on up to serious academic astronomy for college students. There are also shows on non astronomy topics such as the Sistine Chapel, the history of flight, and even Abraham Lincoln! They have public showings multiple times a week, and usually designate one weekend a month as "Kids' Weekend" and focus on their great programming for kids. We saw "One World, One Sky" which starred Big Bird and Elmo and was created by a partnership between Chicago's Adler Planetarium and the Beijing Planetarium. My kids don't have a lot of experience going to theaters, so I was a little nervous about how they would behave, but they were so engrossed in the movie that they did an awesome job. They loved it, and the other families who attended the same time as us seemed to also! Besides the shows which are like movies, the planetarium can also show an accurate depiction of the night sky on the present day, or millions of years in the past!

a solar system rug and a bookshelf full of books and toys, all space themed, sit in a nook vibrantly painted with cartoon aliens and planets at the Fred G. Dale Planetarium
Play area for fun before or after the show!

VR at the Planetarium

The Virtual Reality headset at the Fred G. Dale Planetarium offers another opportunity for educational fun. VR programs available include a wide variety of topics including astronomy, history, health sciences, culture and entertainment. Contact the planetarium to set up a VR session!

How much does it cost to visit the Fred G. Dale Planetarium?

The  public shows at the Fred G. Dale Planetarium are free for families to visit! There is a donation box near the theater door, and while suggested amounts are $3 per child and $5 per adult, they appreciate any amount visitors feel able to donate.

For more information

To find out more about the Fred. G. Dale Planetarium, visit the Wayne State College website or visit the Fred G. Dale Planetarium on Facebook. I talked to Professor Todd Young when planning our trip and this post, and he was very responsive and friendly, so don't hesitate to reach out to him if you need assistance!

Other Things to Do in Wayne, Nebraska

We initially went the wrong way (upstairs instead of down) and were delighted to discover that there is also a natural history museum in the Carhart Science Building on the Wayne State College campus! The A. Jewell Shock Natural History Museum was not open when we were there, but because the hallway was full of glass panels, we could peek in and see a preserved bear, yak, and much more inside. We will have to go back another time when it is open to find out what else they have. I'd love for them to consider having it open sometimes in the future on Kids' Weekend at the Planetarium.

a very small girl with pigtails and a red coat and a slightly larger boy in a lime green coat admire a real stuffed bear through a window at Wayne State College in Nebraska

Off-campus, there is also an art gallery, the Blue Cat Gallery & Studio, which is hosts art classes for kids as well as displaying art for the public to admire. Unfortunately for us, the Blue Cat is closed the first quarter of the year, so we didn't get to visit it on this trip, but I look forward to checking it out sometime in the future.

For some delicious food, Wayne-style, we tried both Runza, and Udder Delights and both were delicious! We had original Runza sandwiches, which are ground beef, onion, and cabbage which are pre-cooked, then placed inside dough that is then baked into delicious hot rolls. Mine tasted really fresh and flavorful, with light fluffy bread. At Udder Delights, we tried a Pink Flamingo and a Car Wash. The Pink Flamingo was strawberries, pineapple, slushy ice, and lemon lime soda and was delicious--I'm lactose intolerant and it was so nice to have something that tasted just as good as everyone else's, but that I knew I wouldn't regret! My husband had the Car Wash which is a thick blended ice cream treat full of vanilla ice cream and fresh homemade brownies, and he loved it. I definitely recommend either Runza or Udder Delights (or both) for a meal or treat before or after a trip to the Fred G. Dale Planetarium at Wayne State College!

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