Whether you’re visiting Omaha for the first time or you’ve lived here for 20 years, there’s a museum out there waiting for you to visit. Whenever someone asks for suggestions on things to do in Omaha, I almost always recommend visiting one of our museums – we have something for everyone.
Top Omaha museums to visit
Below I share some of my favorite museums in Omaha and the ones that are considered the must-visit cultural attractions. They’re the ones that are the most-visited and happen to be the ones I’m most familiar with.
For the six museums featured in this post, I share tips on what’s the must-see thing at each and what makes each unique. You’ll also find some other tips that I think are helpful for planning, like roughly how much time you may spend there and if there is food available for purchase.
The second section includes museums and galleries that are notable but I may not be as familiar with or haven’t visited yet. I’m not about to give you tips for museums I haven’t visited yet, so for the list, I provide a description on what you can expect.
At the end of the post, you’ll find a section of museums near Omaha that are easy enough to include in your itinerary if you’re a visitor, though technically, they’re not in Omaha.
Things to know about to Joslyn Art Museum
Where: 2200 Dodge St. (downtown Omaha)
What makes it unique: A beautiful building, a visit Joslyn Art Museum is one of the best free things to do in Omaha.
Must see thing: I’m a particular fan of the small Impressionist collection, which include Degas, Monet and Cassatt. The museum has a large collection of American West and Native American art. Don’t leave without dipping your toes in the fountain out front. In the summer, kids often will wade through it.
How much time: Allow between 2 to 3 hours; if you’re there with kids, expect to spend about an hour in the Art Works area.
Cost: FREE, though special exhibits are often an additional fee. Often, there is a discount to see the special exhibit on Thursday nights. One recent exhibit was free on the first weekend of each month.
Is it kid-friendly? It can be very kid-friendly. Head to the lower level to visit Art Works, an interactive space for making art related to exhibit pieces. Also, you can check out themed backpacks with activities for kids. Read my guide to visiting Joslyn Art Museum with kids.
Cafe? Yes, it’s located in the atrium. The food is pretty good, if a bit pricey. No special food items that are necessarily just for kids. Do not try to bring your own food in. You can picnic in the sculpture garden.
Things to know about The Durham Museum
Where: 801 S. 10th St. (downtown Omaha)
What makes it unique: Housed in Union Station, The Durham Museum is a large museum celebrating the region’s history, with a particular emphasis on the railroad.
Must see thing: Walk through the restored trains on the lower level.
How much time: You can easily spend at least 3 hours at the museum (more if you like to read descriptions).
Cost: $11, adults; $8, seniors; $7, children (ages 3-12); FREE, children 2 and younger
Is it kid-friendly? Yes, there’s a hands-on play area on the lower level, plus no kid can resist the huge model train display. Read my guide to visiting The Durham Museum with kids.
Cafe? Yes, Union Station’s soda fountain is the cafe. Don’t leave without trying a root beer float or phosphate. Outside food is not permitted.
Things to know about Omaha Children’s Museum
Where: 500 S. 20th St. (downtown Omaha)
What makes it unique: Omaha Children’s Museum is the best place to go for hands-on play with an educational emphasis for kids under the age of 10. It’s also the most-visited museum in Nebraska.
Must see thing: The Imagination Playground is the most popular permanent exhibit. I personally think the Tinker Lab is pretty unique and worth a stop. Read my tips for visiting Omaha Children’s Museum.
How much time: You could spend a day here, but kids may start to tucker out after 3 hours. If your kids don’t take naps anymore, expect to spend at least 4 hours here.
Cost: $13 for kids and adults ages 2 and older; $12 for seniors; free for children younger than 24 months. If you have a membership to another science center or children’s museum, you may get a discounted admission (or FREE!). Read more about reciprocal museum admission here.
Is it kid-friendly? Of course! There’s a family bathroom near the Imagination Playground, as well as a nursing room.
Cafe? There is a small cafe upstairs offering pizza by the slice, hot dogs and other kid-friendly fare. You’re also welcome to bring your own food.
Things to know about KANEKO
Where: 1111 Jones St. (downtown Omaha)
What makes it unique: KANEKO is truly a creative space that’s hard to define. It’s part gallery, part performance space, part gathering space for creatives.
Must see thing: KANEKO is an ever-evolving space so the must-see thing is usually whatever the special exhibit happens to be. When I visit with my family, there’s usually at least one area that appeals to the kids, something they’re allowed to touch. And every so often, it’s much like an art gallery where everything is “no touch.”
How much time: Expect to spend about 1 to 2 hours here.
Is it kid-friendly? Some special exhibits are more accessible to kids than others. We almost always find something pretty cool there that’s OK to touch and therefore OK for kids. There are occasional family-friendly events there.
Things to know about Bemis Center For Contemporary Art
Where: 724 S. 12th St.
What makes it unique: The Bemis Center For Contemporary Art has an excellent artist residency program. Take advantage of the open studio days to meet the artists and see what they’re working on.
Must see thing: Much of this space is temporary art exhibitions, so you never know what you’re going to find. But, one thing you can find there is the Art-o-Mat, an art vending machine that dispenses real, one-of-a-kind art!
How much time: You can expect to spend about an hour here unless you’re visiting during one of their special events like open studios or a family day. Then, plan on about 2 hours.
Is it kid-friendly? The art itself may or may not appeal to kids when doing a self-guided tour, so try to visit during open studios or one of the family days. I find the art here to be more thought-provoking than other places, which sometimes just doesn’t register with younger kids.
Things to know about Boys Town Hall of History & Father Flanagan’s House
Where: 14057 Flanagan Blvd, Boys Town, Neb. (West Omaha)
What makes it unique: What was started by Father Flanagan in 1921 for a few orphaned boys is now the National Historic Landmark Boys Town. Visit the Hall of History, tour Flanagan’s home and stop by the Visitor’s Center to learn all about it.
Must see thing: Everyone says the world’s largest ball of stamps at the Visitor’s Center is a must-see, but I prefer the Hall of History with its replica bus to climb aboard and the memorabilia from the Spencer Tracy movie “Boys Town.”
How much time: Plan about an hour or 2 hours to visit.
Is it kid-friendly? Yes, though it’s not very hands-on.
Cafe? Yes, breakfast and lunch is available at a cafe in the Visitor’s Center.
More galleries and museums in Omaha to visit
Omaha has a lot of smaller galleries and museums that are worth visiting. Many on the list below are quite niche. Expect to spend about an hour or less at each.
Artist Co-operative Gallery – This Old Market art gallery features more than 30 artists and artisans. Expect to find unique paintings, sculptures, textiles and more. Exhibit openings are a great time to visit and meet some of the artists.
Czech and Slovak Educational Center and Cultural Museum – This museum tucked in Crossroads Mall in Midtown Omaha is dedicated to the history of Czech and Slovak immigrants.
El Museo Latino – Located in South Omaha, this is the Midwest’s first Latino art and history museum. The museum has several special events worth checking out.
Gen. Crook House – This beautifully restored home of the Civil War hero is found on the North Omaha campus of Metro Community College.
Great Plains Black History Museum – Located in North Omaha on historic 24th Street, the museum preserves the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout middle America.
Historic Florence Bank and Depot Museums – The Florence Bank is Nebraska’s oldest bank. Learn about the Florence neighborhood history at the bank, plus visit the depot that dates back to 1888 and has a caboose and railroad displays.
Hot Shops Art Center – Located in NoDo (North Downtown), this multi-level building is home to galleries and working spaces of more than 80 artists of every imaginable medium. Time your visit during the May or December open house and see demonstrations like glass blowing.
Love’s Jazz and Arts Center – This center preserves and highlights the African American culture of North Omaha, and particularly highlights the impact the neighborhood had on jazz music. The space includes the Preston Love gallery, a performing arts area and an exhibition space.
Modern Arts Midtown – This art gallery is an extension of Modern Arts Midwest in Lincoln, Neb., and features local and regional contemporary artists. The exhibition space features abstract and traditional art forms ranging from paint, sculpture, photography and textiles.
Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters – The museum and visitor’s center at Winter Quarters tells the history of the migration of 90,000 pioneers to the Rocky Mountains. Displays include a log cabin, covered wagon, oxen and handcart.
South Omaha Museum – South Omaha Museum preserves and celebrates that which makes South O so unique to this area, like the stockyards and Rosenblatt Stadium. The museum gives tours of the area and presentations.
Split Gallery – This downtown art gallery is a space created by artists for artists. Find exhibitions, pop-up shows and studio sales, as well as performances, lectures, workshops and more.
Museums and historic sites near Omaha
Fort Atkinson State Historical Park (Fort Calhoun, Neb.) – The main draw is the actual fort, though there is a visitor’s center to explore as well. I recommend visiting on one of the living history weekends when they have re-enactors demonstrating what life was like in the early 1800s. Read more about the fort’s living history weekends here.
General Dodge House (Council Bluffs, Iowa) – This stately home of Grenville M. Dodge was built in 1869. Dodge was a major figure in the railroad history of the area, as well as a Union Army general and politician.
Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum (Ashland, Neb.) – Get up close to aircraft and space travel memorabilia at this Smithsonian affiliate. This large museum is home to to the largest collection of Cold War aircraft and artifacts in the United States.
Union Pacific Railroad Museum (Council Bluffs, Iowa) – This free museum celebrates the long history of Union Pacific. There are interactive exhibits that appeal to kids.
Western Historic Trails Center (Council Bluffs, Iowa) – This small, free attraction has displays about the Lewis & Clark, Oregon, Mormon and California Trails, all of which passed through the region. I visited it with the kids and shared details about it here.