Omaha is a city often overlooked in favor of more prominent and well-known destinations. However, the Midwest city is rich in history and culture and popular for travelers and road-trippers. Whether you’re looking to explore museums, visit the zoo, or catch a stellar sunset, Omaha hit a home run for me. This blog post will look at the best things to do in Omaha, including top attractions, local favorites, and off-the-beaten-path destinations that I think you’ll like.
Old Market Passage
The Old Market is one of the oldest and most historic districts in Omaha, Nebraska, and the Old Market Passage is a beautiful and unique way to explore it. The cobblestone passage starts at 10th and Harney Streets and winds through the Old Market, featuring murals, art galleries, sculptures, and colorful buildings.
Old Market Passage is an adorable alleyway with three floors of local businesses. The thriving plants add a nice touch to the already beautiful alleyway. It’s easy to see why this is one of the most photographed places in Omaha.
Stop in Trini’s for a delicious hand-crafted margarita, sip a tasty glass of vino at Howard Street Wine Merchant, or spruce up your wardrobe at Overland Sheepskin & Leather. I could seriously drop some cash in this one.
Union Station is a 1931 historic train station that was beautifully restored and turned into a cultural center. The Art Deco station features exhibits, galleries, and events throughout the year. It is one of the best art-deco examples in the Midwest.
Visitors can enjoy a cup of coffee, ice cream, or a meal at one of the cafe restaurants.
Union Passenger Terminal’s Great Hall has decorative patterns on the 60-ft ceilings and terrazzo floors, sparkly dangling chandeliers, and bronze statues to mimic those traveling through the station. Seeing this beautiful building in person was incredible and much more than I could have imagined.
Inside Union Station lies The Durham Museum, a fascinating two-story museum filled with exhibits and historical treasures. The Durham is a Smithsonian affiliate. I enjoyed the Lewis and Clark Gallery, Union Pacific exhibit, paper currency and Federal coinage displays, and 1940s and ’50s train cars you can get up close and personal with.
Bob the Bridge
Bob the Bridge, aka Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, is a 3,000-ft popular destination that spans the Missouri River. It connects Omaha, Nebraska, with Council Bluffs, Iowa. Be in two states at once. Bob the Bridge is a great spot for photos, with its two twin towers, almost invisible cables, and benches along the way to rest and take in the view.
Come here for a great walk with the enjoyable scenery of the Missouri River and impeccable sunsets. Tag your photo with #ItHappensOnBob to share your Bob selfies.
The Lauritzen Gardens is a botanical garden and conservatory home to a diverse collection of four-season plant displays in the riverfront hills. Expect to find a Victorian, rose, and herb garden, a Japanese Park, bird sanctuary, and model railroad garden. Check the garden website to see what’s currently in bloom and to schedule programs and classes for children, adults, and families.
Tickets are $15 for non-member adults and $9 for non-member children ages 3 to 12. Leashed dogs are permitted. Come hungry and enjoy a panini, soup, wrap, or salad at ConAgra Café.
Manual wheelchairs are available to loan on a first-come, first-served basis.
I couldn’t write an article about Omaha and not include one of the tastiest appetizers ever! This off-the-hook delicious appetizer is the Chicken Fried Bacon from Twisted Fork Grill and Saloon at the historic Old Market District.
I’m serious; you are missing out if you have yet to try this fantastic way to eat bacon dipped in a side of Southern peppercorn gravy. Other dishes include salads, sandwiches, and entrees. Take advantage of the Saturday and Sunday weekend brunch, with chicken & biscuits, a tater tot casserole, Monte Cristo, and Huevos Rancheros, to name a few.
Pair your entree with a mimosa flight of three minis.
Henry Doorly Zoo
The Henry Doorly Zoo is one of the top-rated zoos in the world, and it’s no surprise why. The zoo has diverse animals, including white rhinos, elephants, bongos, gorillas, and darling sea lions. Highlights include the Desert Dome, the largest indoor desert in the world (South Africa, Australia, and SW USA represented), and the Lied Jungle, one of the world’s largest indoor rainforests.
Points of interest include exotic animals, Sue’s Carousel, stingray feeding, Skyfari train ride, and an aquarium.
The Henry Doorly Zoo is accredited by the Assoc. of Zoos and Aquariums, a member of the World Assoc. of Zoos and Aquariums, and is committed to conservation and education.
The totally immersive zoo ranked third for the best zoo in the country per the 2020 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice poll. Check the zoo’s website for special events like yoga in the aquarium, trivia night (21 and up), and seasonal events, to name a few.
Henry Doorly Zoo’s aquarium features a 70-foot shark tunnel, hundreds of exotic fish, sea turtles, and Antarctic penguins. There are several places to grab a nibble or meal, too.
Heartland of America Park
The Heartland of America Park is a beautiful spot to relax and enjoy the outdoors. The park just experienced its reopening after a four-year closure for construction. It features a sizeable lakeside amphitheater, a fountain, a scenic overlook, and walking trails.
Visitors can rent paddleboats to explore the lake or enjoy a picnic in one of the many grassy areas.
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters
The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters and Visitor Center is dedicated to the famous explorers: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. It features exhibits and artifacts related to their westward expansion journey.
Learn about the men’s 4,900+ miles, through 16 states, from Pennsylvania to the Pacific Coast, at this treasure trove sitting on the banks of the Missouri River basin. Please note that it is closed on Saturday and Sunday.
Holland Performing Arts Center
Known for its striking European design and impeccable acoustics, the Holland Performing Arts Center is a must-visit destination for cultural performances. Experience a diverse lineup of music and dance throughout the year, all while savoring a refreshing beverage or enjoying a delicious meal at Zinc.
An exciting array of performances is lined up for 2023. Don’t miss the opportunity to see renowned acts such as Lonestar, Diana Ross and participate in a special fundraiser featuring Molly Shannon and Susan Orlean in “Between the Lines.”
Children of all ages will love visiting Omaha’s Kiewit Luminarium, a mind-blowing STEM museum on the reimagined RiverFront that opened in April 2023. This state-of-the-art attraction features 100+ interactive exhibits and incredible programming. The Geometry Playground is something I’ve never seen in any children’s museum across the country.
A timed entry ticket is required. Tickets are $24.95 for adults, $19.95 for ages 5 to 17, and free for kids four and under. Discounts are available for teachers and their families, military and their families, seniors, and students.
Planning a Budget Stay
Save money while enjoying a convenient location just minutes from Omaha by staying at the Red Roof Inn & Suites in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This budget-friendly hotel offers well decorated rooms, incredibly comfortable beds, and a high level of cleanliness. Plus, with free parking, Wi-Fi, and a delicious breakfast (including mouthwatering biscuits and gravy), you’ll have everything you need for a great stay.
Omaha: Be Pleasantly Surprised
Omaha may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of vacation destinations, but it has plenty to offer visitors. From world-class museums and botanical gardens to historic train stations and public parks, Omaha simply pleases.
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