Fun Surprises in Omaha for Families With Kids
Nebraska is last in tourism in the United States (and proud of it). But on our recent first trip to Omaha, we were pleasantly surprised to find so many fun things for families to do in this progressive Midwest city. In fact, we made such a long list of cool things to do and see, we are already considering another visit. Really.
Omaha is easy to reach from pretty much any direction of the Lower 48 since it is centrally located. It has a small airport ideal for quick entrances and exits. It took about 10 minutes from the time we deplaned our flight to when we picked up our luggage from baggage claim. Omaha Eppley Airfield (OMA) has a variety of direct flights from across the US, including Delta from Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and New York; American from Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Philadelphia; Southwest from Las Vegas, Houston, Phoenix and St. Louis; and Alaska from San Diego and Seattle. Round-trip flights are going for as little as $194.
On our trip, we stayed at the downtown Hilton Omaha, which was conveniently located and had great views of the downtown and the Missouri River. Room start at around $120/night, or redeem 24k to 50k Hilton Honors points per night, depending on the season.
There are many corporations headquartered in Omaha, including Berkshire Hathaway, Conagra Foods, Union Pacific Railroad, TD Ameritrade and more. With these successful businesses comes the potential of corporate underwriting and donations to zoos, museums and other worthy institutions. Maybe this is why there are so many advanced and well-funded programs for kids in the city.
Here’s a list of some surprises in Omaha for families with kids.
Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
OK, we’re from San Diego, and thought our own San Diego Zoo was the best. Well, the Omaha Zoo is pretty darn amazing, and we had a blast touring its attractions, like the Desert Dome. Inside the dome, animals and plants from desert terrains are well kept and fun to view. Don’t miss the Children’s Adventure Trails, where your kiddos can work off their energy climbing structures and exploring a village built just for their play. We even got to feed a giraffe, but missed seeing the popular Butterfly Pavilion and the Aquarium. Admission prices are $10.95 for kids and $15.95 for adults.
Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
Omaha has done a great job activating the area around and on this 3,000-foot bridge that spans from Omaha, Nebraska, to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Stretched over the Missouri River, the design of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, or "Bob" as the locals have nicknamed it, is striking. There is way more to this attraction than we thought, including interactive water fountains, an amphitheater with musicians and a lot of nature trails for walking or bike riding. Go see Bob — it’s worth the walk. Admission is free.
Many square blocks of red brick warehouses were built in the late 1800s when Omaha was a strong hub for railroad commerce. Now reborn, this colorful area of Omaha is our favorite. Wide sidewalks, cobbled streets and a lot of historic style meets the eye everywhere you go in the Omaha Old Market. There’s a walking tour, if your kids will stay focused long enough, or families can walk around to view interesting shops and boutiques. There are great many places to eat here, with tastes for all palates — even the little ones. If you go, check out the wacky City Limits for gifts and keepsakes, and the experience of Hollywood Candy — it’s like a toy store for candy. Admission is free.
Although we did not visit in person, several parents pointed us to this fun indoor playground for kids to learn, laugh and explore. Part science and part play, the Omaha Children’s Museum incorporates a Science Show, Makersspace, Grocery Store (which our girls used to love when they were little) and a bunch more cool interactive exhibits. Admission prices are $13 for kids and adults, under free for kids under 2 years old.
Joslyn Art Museum
If you want to inject a little culture into your Omaha visit, consider the fine Joslyn Art Museum. The museum has an impressive collection of art with a wide range of pieces, from Impressionist to Modern. The kids will love ART WORKS: A Place for Curiosity. Here the kids can be hands-on with several activity stations that allow them to learn how art is made, and make their own. Admission is free.
What would a visit to Nebraska be without seeing the rows and rows (and rows!) of cornfields that stretch into the horizon and off into nearby Iowa. We had the chance to visit a farm, meet friendly cows and walk through the cornfields right before harvest for grain. It makes you want to break into singing “Oh What A Beautiful Morning….” Admission is free, but be respectful of private property.
For more ideas about visiting Omaha with kids, check out the Visit Omaha website.
Have you been to Omaha with your kids? What activities stood out? Let us know in the comments.