Omaha winters can be long and, before you know it, cabin fever sets in. If you want a reason to leave the house, here’s a big list of things to do in Omaha in the winter – including free things to do in Omaha (look for the bold “FREE” in the description).
UPDATED: This post was first published in November 2018 and has been updated in September 2020 with businesses that have closed or COVID-19 changes. I work hard to keep this list updated, so please let me know if hours have changed or if you know of something new to add!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I may receive payment for purchases made through the links.
You’ll find several sections in this list including things to do indoors and things to do outdoors. And of course, most of the Omaha places on this list are kid-friendly.
Things To Do Indoors In Omaha
If you’re looking for unique things to do indoors in the winter, this is your list:
Giant activity centers
Check Groupon for discounts or visit at off times of the day to save some money.
Bounce houses & trampoline park
For bounce houses with open play times, check out BounceU. You’ll have to sign wavers before playing at any of these places.
Gyms For Kids
More for younger kids, gyms are popping up everywhere to give kids a chance to run, tumble, and climb safely. Gyms with public play hours include GO! Kids Gym, KIDS body shop, Kids Warrior Gym, and PE 101 Kids Gym.
Escape rooms, generally, are better for older kids or going there with a group of your friends. Occasionally, one of the Omaha Public Library branches will have a one-day or weekend-long kid-friendly escape room set up.
This is a fun thing to do with a group or as a couple. Some places, like Axe Games, allow younger kids to throw if they’re supervised, but call ahead.
I tried out Archery Games with friends, and it’s a workout as much as it is just a fun time. I can see older kids loving it, but it figuring out a bow and arrow in the archery arena may frustrate younger kids.
Indoor putt putt
Like the idea of playing mini golf around a pirate ship, dinosaurs or glow-in-the-dark stuff? Omaha has several indoor putting options.
See where you can putt indoors (and outdoors seasonally) in Omaha in this post.
The long-awaited Venture Parks’ new rock climbing walls at Mahoney State Park are open now at the park’s Activity Center (must pay state park admission fee, as well as fee for climbing).
Update: The UNO activity center may be temporarily closed in the winter of 2020 due to COVID.
Live Theater & Music
It wouldn’t be my blog if I skipped over the great performing arts scene in Omaha. Winter is the best time to see a play or musical performance! Update: Some local theaters have closed temporarily, others have spread out their season. Please check with each individual theater.
Some of my favorite theatrical venues in Omaha are Omaha Community Playhouse, Bluebarn Theatre, and the Broadway Series presented by Omaha Performing Arts.
If you’re looking for kids’ shows, see what’s happening at The Rose. Live music? Omaha Symphony has a ton of shows, including a Family Series and a great Movie Series. Update: The Omaha Symphony has altered its season in 2020 due to COVID.
Indoor ice skating in Omaha include Motto McLean Ice Arena, Moylan Iceplex, Baxter Arena, and Ralston Arena. Around the holidays, there are typically even more ice skating options around Omaha, often outdoors.
Play with cats & drink coffee
Yes there is a cat cafe in Omaha, and yes, you need to go (assuming you like cats). You order your coffee separately at Felius, and then pay for the amount of time you want to sit in the room, playing with the cats.
It’s a relaxing place…again, assuming you like cats.
There are several bowling alleys without the frills if you’re looking for inexpensive fun, and then there are a few with flashy add-ons like laser tag or a huge arcade.
Indoor Ferris wheel
You don’t have to wait for summer and all the county fairs to find a Ferris wheel in Omaha.
Head to Scheel’s at Village Pointe and you’ll find one. Rides are pretty reasonably priced.
Omaha Parks and Rec has three indoor pools: Common Ground, Mockingbird and Montclair. Another option is Goldfish Swim School, which holds Family Swim sessions.
Omaha Attractions That Are Great In The Winter
Staying, somewhat, with the indoor theme, check out some of these area attractions that are great to visit in the winter:
The conservatory at Lauritzen Gardens offers two different climates to experience while walking a path through lush gardens.
If you visit during the holiday season, you can enjoy additional decorations and the impressive poinsettia tree. Kids love the model trains that have been moved indoors over the winter. Update: Purchase your tickets online before going in 2020.
Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
With five indoor attractions near the main entrance, it’s easy to see a lot of animals without spending much time outside. Plus, the Desert Dome and indoor rainforest are fine places to go to forget about winter drearies.
I love visiting in the winter so much, I wrote Five Great Things To Do At Omaha’s Zoo In The Winter. Update: Purchase your tickets online before going.
Expect the Durham Museum to be busy between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve since it’s decked out for the holidays. In 2020, there will certainly be some changes, though, so before visiting, check to see if you need to reserve tickets.
After the New Year, it quiets down and you can enjoy exhibits without the crowds. Bring kids here to see the trains (full-size and model).
Update: Purchase your tickets online before going.
Omaha Children’s Museum
If you’ve got kids younger than 9, Omaha Children’s Museum is the best place to let them loose. After a few hours of playing, building, and learning, they’ll be all tuckered out. Disclosure: I work at Omaha Children’s Museum.
Update: In 2020, capacity is limited at the museum so I highly recommend purchasing tickets ahead of your visit (up to seven days in advance).
Most winters, it’s great to head to Do Space for hands-on tech activities for kids. There’s a room for younger kids and one for teens (that has a huge video game screen). Check out kits to test out robots and play games.
Adults head here to use the computers and 3D printer. Best of all – it’s FREE!
Update: Do Space is currently closed to activities, but you can still reserve a computer.
Joslyn Art Museum
Joslyn Art Museum is my go-to for a calming experience. I just head right to my favorite galleries and seek out new details in familiar paintings. That works when I’m alone.
When I’m with my kids at Joslyn Art Museum, we head to Art Works or check out an activity backpack and do all the activities. Update: Due to COVID-19 safety measures, Art Works and the backpack program are temporarily closed.
Don’t forget, Joslyn is FREE (some traveling exhibitions may be an additional ticket for you, but kids are going to be admitted free).
Council Bluffs winter attractions
Don’t overlook Council Bluffs when planning winter outings. The Union Pacific Railroad Museum is FREE, so if you have a train-loving kids, it’s a no-brainer place to visit. The first Friday night of the month usually has a fun theme night event.
Bass Pro Shop is another FREE place to visit with a large aquarium to fascinate kids, plus around Christmas, there’s Santa’s Wonderland to visit.
Don’t forget there’s also Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Neb.
Parks With Fun Winter Activities
Bundle up for these outdoor activities you can do in Omaha in the winter:
Mahoney State Park
This is the ultimate winter destination, in my opinion. You have the outdoor stuff like toboggan hill and ice skating, but then the (already cool) Activity Center now has climbing walls.
If you have younger kids, don’t skip the Activity Center – it has the area’s best indoor playground. Update: Call ahead to see if the Activity Center is open. It may be temporarily closed during COVID.
For more ideas on what to do there, read Mahoney State Park In The Winter. You will need to pay a state park fee, per vehicle, to enter Mahoney, and pay a nominal fee to get into the Activity Center (ice skating and wall climbing are additional fees, too).
Schramm State Recreation Center
This nearby park in Gretna recently opened its new Education Center and it can easily occupy kids for the afternoon. There are aquariums at Schramm Park, hands-on exhibits, a touch tank, a play area, and a maker space.
Hummel Park usually has a hiking club that heads out on the first Saturday of the month (even in winter), plus winter special events at Hummel include Santa Sleigh Ride in December and in February, there’s an event planned near Valentine’s Day.
The park is FREE to enter and so are the events.
I know a lot of moms who love bringing their kids to Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, Neb., for the indoor play area called Habitat Hollow in the lower level of the visitor’s center. UPDATE: This indoor area may be closed temporarily due to COVID-19.
Don’t skip the trails to get some fresh air on a brief hike – you can even rent snowshoes from Fontenelle.
However, if OPS is closed for snow, Fontenelle will be closed too. There are always special events or guided hikes, so check the calendar for details. There is a fee, per person, to enter Fontenelle Forest.
Hitchcock Nature Center
One of my favorite parks to visit any time of the year is Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa (about 20 miles from Omaha). The nature center is fantastic, so if you have kids, stop there first; you can check out a kid’s activity backpack while there.
Outdoor winter activities at Hitchcock include sledding down Chute Trail or renting snowshoes. You’ll need to pay a county park entry fee, per vehicle, to enter Hitchcock Nature Center.
Outdoor Activities In The Winter
Mt. Crescent Ski Area
The area’s only ski slopes, Mt. Crescent Ski Area is located in Crescent, Iowa. You can rent skis and snowboards, plus sleds. Their sled hill is the only one I know of in the area that has a chair lift to get you to the top of the hill.
Tip: If you’re up for a longer drive, Seven Oaks Recreation is a great weekend ski trip destination in Iowa.
If you’re looking for something FREE to do, bundle up and go “bobbing.” The terms comes from when you cross The Bob, the pedestrian bridge that spans the Missouri River.
Don’t miss taking a picture of yourself standing with one foot in Iowa and one foot in Nebraska.
Popular hills include Memorial Park, Walnut Hill, Spring Lake Park, and Zorinski Park. Schools with great slopes include Black Elk Elementary School, Holling Heights Elementary School, St. Robert Bellarmine School, Papillion-La Vista South High, Portal Elementary School, Ralston Middle School, Laura Dodge Elementary School, Bryan High School, and Bellevue East High School.
It’s kind of stating the obvious, but sledding is FREE.
Omaha has outdoor rinks near Nebraska Medical Center in Midtown and the Brickyard in downtown Omaha, as well as many indoor options.
Here’s a list of my favorite places to ice skate.
Omaha Movie Theaters With Kids Series
Expect high-quality films (including some of your childhood favorites) to be screened in Film Streams‘ Forever Young Family & Children’s Series. Kids’ tickets are only $2.50 for the series! These are screened at the Ruth Sokolof Theater in downtown Omaha.
This chain of movie theaters usually has a few series screening older films for low-price tickets. Check the website for the upcoming series. The typical locations in Omaha to show these films are at Village Pointe, Majestic, and Twin Creek.
Winter Fun In Nebraska
Get out of Omaha for even more winter activities! The Well-Traveled Nebraskan wrote about 13 Surprising Nebraska Winter Things To Do and Activities.