Hummel Park Nature Center is one of the best city parks to visit, at least, it's one of the most unique. If it’s hiking you want, you can enjoy some (short) trails for free at this city-owned park. There’s a nice nature center to visit and fun, futuristic slides there, as well.
There are occasional free family events at Hummel, including ones for fall and winter.
Of course, there are seven other great ones I recommend, too, so click the "Continue Reading" button to see the others!
This is truly a haven in the middle of Omaha. The small wetlands sanctuary is located just off one of the city’s busiest streets, but the short wooded trails make you feel removed from the chaos. Be sure to take a stroll on the boardwalk.
Omaha Community Playhouse’s Alternative Programming series features free readings of plays. Held on select Monday evenings, these plays tend to be a bit more risqué than what you’d find on the Playhouse’s stages. (No reservations needed)
Each summer from mid-May to mid-October, several markets run on the weekends (mostly) in Omaha. My favorites, the “official” Omaha Farmers Markets, are held on Saturday mornings in the Old Market and Sunday mornings in Aksarben Village.
Featuring a ton of vendors, plus typically a few performers, there is a vibrancy at these markets that can’t be beaten.
On the first Friday of the month, head to either Benson (along Maple Street) or the Old Market for a mix of art and socializing. Participating galleries will have artwork on display, and often, snacks and/or beverages. More details
KANEKO is a hard-to-describe creative space, but there is often a temporary exhibit on display worth checking out. A few of the past ones have often had an interactive component that my kids have loved, like a musical swing set and rocking chairs.
Every so often, KANEKO has a free family day, so be sure to check their online calendar. More details
World-class art from antiquities to contemporary (and my favorite, Impressionism) can be seen at Joslyn Art Museum. Occasionally, there are special exhibits that are an additional fee, but generally, you can see the museum’s permanent collection without paying an admission fee.
If you have children with you, be sure to visit the interactive play space, Art Works, on the lower level.
Free annual events in Omaha
Year-round, Omaha has a variety of popular free events. Here are some of my favorites I recommend attending.
It’s not summer until I’ve been to a Jazz on the Green concert at Turner Park. This series, produced by O-Pa, runs for six Thursday nights each summer starting the first Thursday after the Fourth of July.
This is an extremely popular event, and some groups arrive right when the green opens at 5 p.m. There is usually a pre-show band or dance lessons, so it’s worth arriving early. Pack a picnic for this (and bring along some wine or adult beverage if you wish).
Rarely do you get to see Shakespeare performed for free and performed superbly. Two different plays are performed over three weekends each summer near Elmwood Park in Midtown Omaha. Pack a picnic and bring lawn chairs or a blanket to this. And arrive early to enjoy pre-show activities.
I like to include Taste of Omaha on this list even though if you actually wanted to taste any of the foods offered by vendors, you’ll have to pay. Still, this is a fun event to stroll, plus there is usually live music.
The Holiday Lights Festival lasts several weeks, but one of the big highlights is the Family Festival on the first Sunday in December, where venues around downtown Omaha are free and have activities. Participating venues include Omaha Children’s Museum, The Durham Museum, and the Omaha Police Horse Barn. This is the one day a year Omaha Children’s Museum is free to the public.
Other free events during the Holiday Lights Festival include the Holiday Market at Aksarben Village and New Year’s Eve fireworks. Obviously, there are also a lot of lights to see throughout downtown Omaha.
Each September, Smithsonian Museum affiliates participate in the nation-wide free day. All you have to do is download the pass. Two museums in Omaha usually participate - The Durham Museum and El Museo Latino.
Free days at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium are rare but they do happen each year. Typically, these free days will be off-season, and sometimes, as is the case for Veterans’ Day, they’ll be for only a special group of people.
One of the largest free concerts held each year in Omaha, this free concert at Memorial Park is held around the Fourth of July. Featuring a well-known band and ending with fireworks, thousands of families from around the metro make the trek to Midtown to enjoy the evening together.
Omaha families love a parade. Some of the biggest ones held each year include Septemberfest Parade, held on Labor Day, and my favorite, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held usually the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day. Both parades are in downtown Omaha.