March 23, 2014

Union Pacific Railroad Museum + Nearby Fun in Council Bluffs

Just south of the lovely Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, you’ll find the Union Pacific Railroad Museum. If you’ve got a kid who loves all things Thomas, this place is for you. If you don’t have a kid who loves trains, you just love history, this is especially for you.

Surprisingly, I’ve never been to this FREE museum (donation is encouraged), even though I have two train obsessed kids. I even worked two blocks from this museum for many years. Shame on me.

Anyway. Enough shaming. I made up for it recently by bringing Mr. Wonderful, the kiddos and two aunts along for the ride.

Farley and Mooch hanging out with their aunts at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.

Farley and Mooch hanging out with their aunts at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.

What to expect

The museum is housed in the old public library, a gorgeous and historic building in itself. The second and third floor have exhibits; the first floor – where you enter the building – is the little gift shop and helpful reception desk. Pick up a free audio tour if you’re there without hyper-active kids.

One fo the exhibits that did encourage kids to touch and climb on.

One fo the exhibits that did encourage kids to touch and climb on.

The museum received an update in the last few years and it is very engaging and eye-catching with colorful displays. A lot of the museum is artifacts, which my kids (ages 2 and 4) breeze right by…or try to climb on (shhhh). Omaha and Council Bluffs are steeped in train history and you’ll learn a lot here.

What kids like

Mooch enjoyed the similuated explosion a little too much.

Mooch enjoyed the similuated explosion a little too much.

There is a lot of effort to be interactive, some succeeding more than others. My kids love pushing buttons, and there is a bounty to push in this museum. There are displays that encourage touching, sitting on and making loud noises and those were a hit. There’s a part to pretend like you’re lighting off dynamite – fun for the kiddos.

The video and photo interactive booths were neat but didn’t work very well.

You can get a picture taken with these two fellas, but the photo emailed to you is grainy and blurry. So never mind.

You can get a picture taken with these two fellas, but the photo emailed to you is grainy and blurry. So never mind.

What’s nearby

If it’s a bit of a drive for you to get C.B., plan on doing a bit more while you’re there. Pack a picnic and enjoy Bayliss Park. If it’s really hot, there’s a small splash pad there for kids to run through.

My kids playing at Bayliss Park last year. They've grown so much!

My kids playing at Bayliss Park last year. They’ve grown so much!

Across the street from the park (east side), there is a nice ice cream shop… so, about a block from the museum.

If you’re going for a train or transportation-themed day, there’s the RailsWest Museum not too far from there. Or, you could do like us and dine at the regional chain Quaker Steak & Lube near the Mid-America Center.

Quaker Steak & Lube, near the MId-America Center, has themed dining rooms - cars, trucks, motorcycles - that sort of thing.

Quaker Steak & Lube, near the MId-America Center, has themed dining rooms – cars, trucks, motorcycles – that sort of thing.

There’s a lot to look at there for kids – real race cars, motorcycles, trucks and memorabilia.

Just across the river, back in Omaha, you can see a neat train documentary at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium right now at the IMAX there. If you’re a member, it’s free to see.

See a lot more train ideas here.

Your turn: Have you been to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum? What did you think of it?

Comments

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    There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content.
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