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10 Outdoor Summer Adventures Near Omaha

10 Outdoor Summer Adventures Near Omaha

Great outdoor adventures are less than two hours away from Omaha. Whether you want time on the water or adventure on a trail, I’ve found it all in Nebraska and Iowa. Read on for 10 of my favorite spots to go and why they’re so fun:

Updated: This post was published in 2016 and updated in March 2021 with new prices.

Standup paddleboard or kayak at Flanagan Lake

Standup paddleboards on the shore of Lake Cunningham in Omaha.
Standup paddleboards on the shore of Lake Cunningham in Omaha.

Where: 168th and Fort streets, Omaha

Distance from Omaha: In the city limits

Cost: Free to go to the park; $25/hour to rent a paddleboard or kayak for 2 hours

What’s not to miss: Rent standup paddleboards (SUP) from The Neighborhood Offshore Outfitters and have fun exploring the lake with your older children. If you feel extra motivated, try one of their SUP yoga classes.

My first experience with the outfitter was at Glen Cunningham Lake, so full disclosure, the picture above isn’t from Flanagan Lake. Still, I’ll keep them on this list because we don’t have many SUP and paddleboard options.

Trails & ropes courses at Fontenelle Forest

On the TreeRush course at Fontenelle Forest.

Where: 1111 Bellevue Blvd. N, Bellevue, Neb.

Distance from Omaha: 9 miles

Cost: Admission to Fontenelle ie $11 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for children (ages 2-17), and FREE for children younger than 2 and members; prices for TreeRush Adventures is are about $39.95 (ages 7-11) and $47.95 (ages 12+). There may be special promotions for cheaper tickets.

What’s not to miss: There are a lot of trails, both accessible and dirt, to trek at Fontenelle. For an extra adventure to your visit, be sure to reserve some time on the TreeRush Adventures course located inside Fontenelle Forest.

If you’re hiking with small kids, make sure you include plenty of time to play at Acorn Acres.

Beach time at Lake Manawa State Park

Lake Manawa State Park in early spring

Where: 1101 South Shore Drive, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Distance from Omaha: 14 miles

Cost: Out-of-state visitors must pay a $5 park entrance fee per vehicle; it’s $3 per person entering the beach area, plus extra cash for renting a canoe, paddleboard or kayak.

What’s not to miss: This is one of the closest lakes to Omaha that has a swimming area roped off from the rest of the lake, which is busy place in the summer with boats. You can rent a canoe or kayak there, as well.

I steer my kids to renovated Dreamland Park, though. It was pretty much designed by engineers who asked kids what they’d love to have in a park and then they built it.

Hiking at Hitchcock Nature Center

The tower at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa.

Where: 27792 Ski Hill Loop, Honey Creek, Iowa

Distance from Omaha: 21 miles

Cost: $2 for a daily pass or you can buy a year pass for Pottawattamie County Parks

What’s not to miss: Check out a free backpack from the nature center. It provides kid-friendly supplies like a magnifying glass and animal ID chart to enhance your kids’ adventure in nature.

Tip: If you have older children, plan a stop at nearby Mt. Crescent Ski Area, which has a zipline for the truly adventurous.

Related post: 8 Favorite (and Easy) Hiking Trails Near Omaha

Schramm State Recreation Area

Where: 20874-21146, NE-31, Gretna, Neb.

Distance from Omaha: 25 miles

Cost: A Nebraska State Park Permit is required to enter this park area.

What’s not to miss: Find the Schramm Park trail that takes you to the suspension bridge. Kids love crossing it. The park has a fairly new and impressive education center that’s an additional fee to enter.

Also, if you’re kids like getting a little messy, don’t skip the archaeological dig site. They might just find a fossil!

Spend a full day outdoors at Mahoney State Park

Wave pool at the Mahoney State Park aquatic center.

Where: 28500 W. Park Highway, Ashland, Neb.

Distance from Omaha: 27 miles

Cost: A Nebraska State Park Permit is required to enter this park area. Some activities are an additional fee, including horseback riding, the aquatic center, and paddleboats.

What’s not to miss: Horseback trail rides for 6 and older (pony rides for the youngins); train-loving kiddos will like the short hike near the lookout tower that gives them a decent view of passing trains.

Related post: Plan a family getaway to the park with the post Mahoney State Park with kids

Find the waterfall at Platte River State Park

Boy walking across the waterfall at Platte River State Park

Where: 14421 346th St., Louisville, Neb.

Distance from Omaha: 28 miles

Cost: A Nebraska State Park Permit is required to enter this park area. Some activities, like horseback riding, are an additional fee.

What’s not to miss: Go find the little waterfall that you can usually walk across and the teepee.

To add more adventure to your day at the park, you can go horseback riding, try your aim at the archery center, or cool off at the two-level spray ground.

Related post: Learn more about Exploring Platte River State Park with kids

Tip: Louisville State Recreation Area is near Platte River State Park, and that place has a wicked inflatable water obstacle course.

Have a big adventure at Tree Adventure

The Treetop Village at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure.

Where: Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure, 2611 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City, Neb.

Distance from Omaha: 45 miles

Cost: Adults are $13, kids 3-12 are $11 and kids 2 and younger are FREE. Hayrack ride is extra.

What’s not to miss: Tree Adventure is one of our favorite places to visit in Nebraska City. The attraction opened the super fun TreeTop Village in 2019. Run through treehouses and bounce on a rope trampoline. You’ll be tired before you’re through.

For a bit more low-key, take the hike into the woods and try to find all 50 wooden bird (and one squirrel) cutouts, and enjoy the footbridges over the creek.

Jump the waves Branched Oak State Recreation Area

Playing on the beach at Branched Oak Lake.
Playing on the beach at Branched Oak Lake.

Where: 12000 West Branched Oak Road, Raymond, Neb.

Distance from Omaha: 68 miles

Cost: A Nebraska State Park Permit is required to enter this park area.

What’s not to miss: The sand beach and boating. Branched Oak is all about time on the water.

Look for the cave at Indian Cave State Park

Indian Cave, one of the attractions of this Nebraska state park.

Where: 65296 720 Road, Shubert, Neb.

Distance from Omaha: 92 miles

Cost: A Nebraska State Park Permit is required to enter this park area.

What’s not to miss: Go ahead and look for the park’s namesake, but the cave isn’t the real attraction here. Hit the trails and the living history cabins for a more memorable experience.

2021 update: Due to flooding, the cave area is temporarily closed.

Related postExploring Indian Cave State Park With Kids

10 amazing outdoor adventures near Omaha, Nebraska - From water activities like SUP to treetop adventures on ropes courses or treehouses.

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Saturday 4th of May 2019

Great Article KIM All are Amazing Outdoor Adventures !! Thanks ...

Alissa Apel

Tuesday 31st of May 2016

I'd like to check out: Branched Oak State Recreation Area. I've never been there before.


Wednesday 1st of June 2016

I'd love to hear about it if you go!

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