Omaha is, in my opinion, a great place to live and a great place to visit. And no season is packed with more things to do than summer. I’ve gathered a list all the great things to do in Omaha this summer, including top places to go, things to do, and water activities that will help you stay cool in Omaha.
UPDATED: This post was first published in 2019 and was updated in April 2020 with current event dates, exhibits information, and more.
COVID-19 UPDATE: I’ve updated where I know for certain events have been canceled or businesses are temporarily closed. Please double-check your destination before going.
Water activities in Omaha
Bumper boats – The only place you can find bumper boats is Fun Plex.
Float Trips – You’ve heard of tubing, sure, but we also tank in Nebraska. You can rent tubes and tanks from RiverWestPark; just tubes from Tubing & Adventures and Uncle Scott’s Outfitters; and just tanks from Tank Down The Elkhorn.
Inflatable water obstacle course – Just outside of southwest Omaha is Louisville State Recreation Area, which opened an inflatable obstacle course on one of its lakes in 2018.
Paddling – You can kayaks classes through Neighborhood Offshore and Omaha Parks and Rec. For rentals, you can rent kayaks and canoes at Lake Manawa Beach (located inside Lake Manawa State Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa), the University of Nebraska at Omaha Outdoor Venture Center (open to the public, not just students), and Neighborhood Offshore.
Paddle boats – Two state parks have paddle boat rentals by the half-hour: Mahoney State Park and Platte River State Park. Before going to either park, check out these guides: Mahoney State Park For Families and 7 Reasons To Visit Platte River State Park.
Pools – Omaha parks has several outdoor pools but the 2020 opening date has not been announced – Gallagher Leisure, Miller Water Park, Camelot Traditional, Elkhorn Traditional, Lee Valley Traditional, Roanoke Traditional, Elmwood Leisure, Hanscom Leisure, Hitchcock Traditional, Karen Traditional, Spring Lake Traditional, Cryer Traditional, Deer Ridge Leisure, Oak Heights Leisure, Zorinsky Aquatic Center – as well three indoor pools (Montclair, Mockingbird and Common Ground).
Council Bluffs has two outdoor pools, including Pirate Cove Water Park (with water slides) and Katelman Water Park. Goldfish Swim School has feature afternoon Family Swim sessions that are open to the public.
Spraygrounds – Omaha Parks and Recreation Departments has nine spraygrounds typically open Memorial Day to Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The best part? They’re free. In 2020, the spraygrounds will likely not open.
Find them at: Benson Park, Fontenelle Park, Kountze Park, Orchard Park, Seymour Smith Park, Upland, Morton, Westwood Heights, and Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Plaza. You’ll have to pay admission to Omaha’s zoo for this next sprayground, but it is, hands down, the coolest of them all: Alaskan Adventures. On the busiest of summer days, there may be a wait to get into it.
Other spraygrounds can be found at: Council Bluffs’ Bayliss Park and Fairmount Park, Shadow Lake Towne Center in Papillion, First National Bank Tower in downtown Omaha (more of a fountain you can play in), and Omaha Children’s Museum. Located a few miles south of Omaha, Platte River State Park has a two-level spray ground (minimal entrance fee to the sprayground, but you also need a state park permit).
Standup Paddleboard (SUP) – You can rent SUP equipment or take classes through Neighborhood Offshore.
Omaha Attractions That Are Great In The Summer
You may have to brave summer vacation crowds at the following attractions, but I think it’s worth it. A good rule of thumb is to get there first thing in the morning, or at the end very of business hours. Here’s what some Omaha attractions, museums and landmarks has planned for the summer:
The Bob – The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spans the Missouri River and it goes by the name “Bob” or, “The Bob.” Crossing it is “Bobbing.” We usually ride our bikes across it, as there are trails on both sides of the river.
Be sure to take a picture straddling the state line for Iowa and Nebraska – it’s right in the middle of the bridge. Note: Parking may not be available due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Do Space – 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 play with robots and try new games. Adults may use the computers, all the available software, and 3D printer (there’s a fee for materials). Best of all – it’s FREE! Currently closed.
Durham Museum – Expect the Durham Museum to usually has a busy summer since they open awesome traveling exhibits typically. The Durham Museum is a great place to spend the afternoon, crowds withstanding, since it’s so spacious and air-conditioned. If your kids love trains, this is the place to be. Currently closed.
When we’re done, we head out to the water sculpture in front, where kids (and adults) can splash in. The outdoor sculpture garden is nice to explore, as well. Currently closed.
Lauritzen Gardens – Lauritzen Gardens is a colorful and serene place to visit in the summer. The kids’ favorite garden is open (the model train garden), for one thing. If it’s extremely hot, the conservatory is a refreshing place to explore, especially the more temperate room with the water feature. Currently closed.
Lewis & Clark National Park Head Quarters – At the base of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is the small building for the Lewis & Clark National Park Head Quarters. Inside, you’ll find a gallery of hands-on activities created for families (and adults who are kids-at-heart). A ranger may be available to talk about the artifacts and animal pelts on display.
When we visited the national park headquarters, the kids played dress up, learned about the animals Lewis & Clark encountered, and tried writing with a quill. Currently closed.
Old Market – The charming few blocks of brick road in the Old Market is worth a stroll when the weather’s right. Check out this post about free things to do in the Old Market or learn about this urban walking labyrinth that takes you on a self-guided tour of the district.
Omaha Children’s Museum – Each summer, the museum has two temporary exhibits that make a visit exciting even for regular. This year, the exhibits are “America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far” and “Fairytale Land.” Currently closed.
This place is best for kids under 10. Don’t miss building something in the Tinker Lab. Before you go, check out these insider tips for OCM.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium – Some of the zoo’s best attractions for kids are open in the summer, including Alaskan Adventure (a huge spray ground) and Children’s Adventure Trails. The zoo’s other seasonal activities, from Stingray Beach and Skyfari, are in full swing in the summer, too.
You can check on construction of the new Sea Lion Shores exhibit, set to open in the Fall 2020. Plus, check out all the things you did’t know you could do at Omaha’s zoo! Currently closed.
Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum – Technically, it’s not in Omaha, but don’t overlook an afternoon at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Neb. If your kid loves planes (or you do), it’s worth exploring. There’s also an educational kid’s area to check out. Currently closed.
Union Pacific Railroad Museum – Another one that’s not technically in Omaha, but close enough. The Union Pacific Railroad Museum in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa, is a FREE museum, so if you have a train-loving kid, it’s a no-brainer place to visit. Currently closed.
Water parks & aquatic centers – If you’re looking for water slides, there are just a handful of water parks/aquatic centers to add to your list. Fun Plex is Omaha’s largest water park, and the closest we get to having a theme park with rides. It has a wave pool, slides, and a large water feature, as well as a small rollercoaster, go carts, and rides. Zorinski Park is a city park pool that has water slides.
At Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Neb., is a great aquatic center with a regular pool, wave pool, slides and a sprayground.
Kroc Center in South Omaha has an indoor aquatic park with slides, a little lazy river, and zero-depth entry pool.
** Most aquatic centers remain closed.
Things to do at parks near Omaha
Fishing – A few of the best options are in state parks just outside of Omaha. Our favorite is Platte River State Park, where if you time it right, your kids can get some pointers from a park ranger.
FootGolf – It’s soccer. It’s golf. It’s FootGolf. Find FootGolf courses at Elkhorn Ridge Golf Course in Elkhorn, Neb.
Hike – Hummel Park has a few trails, some for moderate skill levels. The park has a hiking club that heads out on the first Saturday of the month. The nature center is great, too.
Playgrounds – Hummel Park has the most unique slides you’ll find in the area, but they’re for slightly older kids. Looking for a sand-free playground? Head to Stinson Park at Aksarben Village.
For a large, wooden playground, check Dreamland Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa. For more park ideas, read about the 8 Great Parks In Omaha.
**Parks are open but the playgrounds are currently closed.
Trail Rides – Guided horseback rides are available at Mahoney State Park and Platte River State Park. There are age and weight limitations and they differ per park. Mahoney also has pony rides for younger kids. Rides are seasonally offered. Call ahead to see if these will be offered.
Waterfall – There is only one natural waterfall near Omaha, and it’s located just off a trail at Platte River State Park. It’s not large, by any means, but it’s a favorite of mine and it’s an easy hike for kids. The water is shallow, so you can walk in the water around it to cool off.
Zip line – There’s only one place to zip line in Nebraska and it’s near Omaha. Go Ape has a zip line course at Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Neb. In the summer of 2019, Fontenelle Forest opened TreeRush Adventure Park with two courses (one being great for kids ages 4-6). Currently closed.
In Iowa, there’s a zip line at Mt. Crescent in Crescent, Iowa. It’s close enough to the Omaha metro (just about 20 miles) to count, I say. Currently closed.
Things To Do Indoors In Omaha
When the temperature hits 90 or hotter, I start looking for things to do indoors. Here are some fun indoor places to visit on hot summer days:
Activity centers – Rather than call them what they are, kid-sized hamster climbing tubes, we’ll call these things climbing centers. You’ll find awesome ones at the Kroc Center in South Omaha, Mahoney State Park’s Activity Center, and at a few fast food restaurants around Omaha, especially Chik-fil-A. Currently closed.
Axe throwing – This is a fun thing to do with a group, older children or as a couple. Some places, like Axe Games, allow younger kids to throw if they’re supervised, but let them know ahead of time that you’re bringing a kid. Other places to look into include Flying Timber Axe Throwing and Craft Axe Throwing. Currently closed.
Archery Games – I tried out Archery Games with friends, and it’s a workout…but a fun one! Figuring out a bow and arrow in the archery arena may frustrate younger kids, but older kids may get the hang of it pretty easily. Currently closed.
Bowling – Bowling alleys in Omaha include Maplewood Lanes, West Lanes Bowling Center, The MARK, Papio Bowl, Chops Bowling Alley, and Western Bowl. Some are straight forward bowling allies; others offer additional activities like laser tag. If your family regularly bowls, be sure to sign them up for the Kids Bowl Free program. Currently closed.
Create – Head to Board and Brush to make your own personalized board, do a drop-in mini workshop, or make something alongside your kid. Details on the experience may be found here. Save $10 on your project with the promo code OHMYOMAHA!
I’m also a fan of The Makery, which is more of a drop-in create experience. We went there for a TAGG event and loved that with the TAGG program, The Makery will donate a portion of proceeds from any project you make there.
** These types of creative maker spaces are offering take-home kits. Call and check!
Climbing Walls – Mahoney State Park has a climbing wall and a bouldering wall at the park’s Activity Center (must pay state park admission fee, as well as fee for climbing). Approach Climbing Gym is another option for the public. Currently closed.
UNO also has a climbing wall and its free for UNO students, and pretty inexpensive for non-students (kids must be at least 5 years old). Currently closed.
Entertainment centers – These entertainment centers cater to different ages. For arcade games, laser tag, and other activities that may appeal to older children and adults, go to the Amazing Pizza Machine, The MARK and Dave & Buster’s. Currently closed.
For families with younger kids, there is a Chuck E. Cheese in Midtown Omaha.Currently closed.
Escape rooms – Escape rooms in Omaha include Get Out Omaha, House of Conundrum, The Escape Omaha, Entrap Games, and Locked Room Omaha. Escape rooms, generally, are better for older kids or going there with a group of your friends. Currently closed.
Younger kids will like the occasional escape rooms held at the Millard branch of the Omaha Public Library branches (check the calendar for when these one-day programs are held). Currently closed.
Gyms – 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. Premier Gymnastics’ open gym will appeal to older kids, especially those training in gymnastics, tumbling or parkour. You don’t have to be a member to go to the open gym. Currently closed.
Mini Golf – Like the idea of playing putt putt around a pirate ship or dinosaurs? Omaha has several indoor putting options. See where you can putt indoors (and outdoors) in Omaha in this post. Currently closed.
Trampoline parks & other places to jump – For trampoline parks, Omaha has three places to go to in Omaha: Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park and Altitude Trampoline Park. Urban Air is the more expensive option for trampoline parks, but it also has an indoor ropes course and a ninja course (as well as a large play area). The Hub in Council Bluffs is another indoor trampoline park option. Currently closed.
More ideas for summer fun in Omaha
Cheap movie series – Two cinemas I keep an eye are Film Streams and Marcus Theaters. Film Streams‘ Forever Young Family & Children’s Series is high quality new films or films from our childhood, and kid tickets are only $2.50 for the series! These are screened at the Ruth Sokolof Theater in downtown Omaha. Currently closed.
There are three locations of Marcus Theaters in the metro area that usually run the low-price kids’ movie series Check the website for upcoming series. The locations that run these films usually are at Village Pointe, Majestic and Twin Creek. Currently closed.
College World Series – This kind of goes without saying, right? For a few weeks every June, Omaha attracts thousands for the NCAA Men’s College World Series. Beyond the games, there’s the Opening Day Celebration, Fan Fest, a fun run, live music and so much more. The 2020 College World Series has been canceled.
Free outdoor concerts – Every weekend (and many weekdays), you’ll find a free outdoor concert. Some of my favorites series include Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing, Bridge Beats and the Saturday concerts at Stinson Park.
There are also free concert series at Village Pointe, Rockbrook Village, and more. Check out this post for additional free concert ideas. Don’t forget the big, free concert held usually the Saturday before the Fourth of July at Memorial Park. I have a huge list of free summer concerts in this post.
** Many concert series for the summer have been canceled in 2020. Please double check with the event before going.
Nebraska Passport – Start collecting stamps for the 2020 Nebraska Passport right here in Omaha. The program runs from May 23 to Oct.31, 2020, but due to the rapidly evolving nature of COVID-19, the start and end dates are subject to change.
Omaha Storm Chasers Baseball – Attending an Omaha Storm Chasers game is more than just watching a game of baseball. For kids, Werner Park has a play zone and a mini golf area. You can read more family-friendly things to do at Storm Chasers games here. Plus, there’s all the good food. I compiled a list of locals’ favorite ballpark foods. The season is currently on hold.
Summer festivals – Every weekend seems to have competing festivals to attend. Some of the big ones that are free include Omaha Summer Arts Festival and Taste of Omaha. For major music acts, snag tickets to Maha Music Festival.*
** Many festivals have been canceled for the summer of 2020. Taste of Omaha has announced that it is postponed to Aug. 14-16.
Explore beyond Omaha
If you’re an outdoorsy person, check out this post about 10 outdoor activities near Omaha, including sand beaches, the Great Tree Adventure in Nebraska City (which opened the super fun Treetop Village in 2019), and Indian Cave State Park near Brownville, Neb.
If you’re looking for more ideas, here’s a post listing the top family-friendly outdoor activities near Council Bluffs, Iowa. Most on the list are just a day trip away!
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