Picture yourself in a place with wide open spaces, fresh air, and perhaps, adorable animals. That, my friends, is what I’ve been seeking lately: Outdoor farm experiences near Omaha. There’s a term for it. Agritourism. If you’re interested in some farm experiences (and maybe a little food or drink), read on!
What Is Agritourism
Agritourism is a growing type of travel that combines agriculture and tourism. That’s simple enough, right? But, what does it mean? Let’s use the National Agricultural Law Center for a better definition:
“Simply stated, agritourism could be thought of as the crossroads of tourism and agriculture. Stated more technically, agritourism can be defined as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism in order to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining and/or educating the visitors and generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner.
“Regardless of the exact definition or terminology, any definition of agritourism should include the following four factors:
• combines the essential elements of the tourism and agriculture industries;
• attracts members of the public to visit agricultural operations;
• is designed to increase farm income; and
• provides recreation, entertainment, and/or educational experiences to visitors.”
Farms Near Omaha
If a farm has animals, it’s a hit with my family. Here are a few of our favorites! The listings are based on proximity to Omaha, starting with the closest.
- Scatter Joy Acres (4966 Newport Ave., Omaha) – Scatter Joy Acres is all about animal encounters, from goats, cows and horses to more exotic species like peacocks and a porcupine.
- Alpacas of the Heartland (7016 County Road 39, Fort Calhoun, Neb.) – Make a reservation to visit this small non-profit one morning, as you’ll get a bag of carrots to feed more than 30 alpacas. Hours are limited.
- Nelson Produce Farm (10505 N. 234th St., Valley, Neb.) – Pick produce off the plants (or buy from their farmstead), plus check out adorable animals at Nelson Produce Farm. You can buy food to feed some of them. This farm has a small cafe where you can buy lunch, or treat yourself to a large watermelon slice or a tasty strawberry shortcake.
- Honey Creek Creamery (25593 Old Lincoln Highway, Honey Creek, Iowa) – My first introduction to Honey Creek Creamery was early spring one year when they started hosting goat yoga sessions. It was more cuddle time with the babies than serious stretches, and I loved it. It’s located next door to Stanley’s Snack Shack, where you can buy ice cream made with goat’s milk. If you’re lucky, they may show you how to milk one of the goats!
- Degroots Backyard Petting Farm (1244 St. F32, Harlan, Iowa) – Think of Degroots as more like visiting relatives who have a farm rather than a small business. Low-key, FREE, and with plenty of friendly animals, this is a great little place to visit if you’re up for a drive.
- Gifford Farm (700 Camp Gifford Road, Bellevue, Neb.) – I’ve been wanting to visit Gifford Farm for ages, but their hours in 2020 all sorts of wonky. We went for a Halloween event, finally, and I have to say, it’s a lovely, quiet little farm. It’s designed more for school groups, and I’m thinking special events are more geared toward young children, but definitely a nice escape not too far from Omaha. (PS: Bring cash)
- Other farms – Hansen’s Dairy (8461 Lincoln Road, Hudson, Iowa)
Another sub-group in the farm category are the ones that involve eating good food or wine straight from the farm. While having fresh watermelon at or goat’s milk ice cream is one thing, the following take the food experience to the next level.
- Weekends at Slattery Vintage Estates (8925 Adams St., Nehawka, Neb.) – Come for the wine tasting (during regular times) and wood-fire pizza, stay for the live music outdoors. The setting is absolutely charming (though, technically, the ingredients for the pizza weren’t grown there). We spent a night in one of their glamping tents, making it an easy walk to dinner and entertainment that night.
- Farm to Table (Nelson Produce Farm at 10505 N. 234th St., Valley, Neb.) – One weekend a month, the farm hosts a dinner on Friday and Saturday nights with a fresh menu. Dates are up for August and September, with October to be determined still.
- Farm to Fork (Central Avenue in Nebraska City, Neb.) – I’ve been eyeing this annual event in Nebraska City and have never been able to snag tickets. They go on sale in March/April and sell out long before the event in August. Each year, the multi-course, family-style dining experience features “dishes created by regional restaurateurs utilizing locally-sourced products complemented with regional wine.” Sounds amazing. The 2021 event is on Aug. 22.
- Luna Valley Farm (3012 Middle Sattre Road, Decorah, Iowa) – This is the farm that started an obsession for me. I had wood-fire pizza at a farm one weekend in Decorah and I’ve never forgotten it. The ingredients were grown and raised on the farm. And they had live music and beer to pair with it. Heaven. Note: I’ll be the first to confirm this is not close to Omaha. But if you’re in that part of Iowa, make an effort to go!
- More options: Pizza on the Prairie at Wallace Centers of Iowa (2773 290th St., Orient, Iowa)
Living History Farms
See what life was like on a farm a century (or longer) ago at these living history farms.
- Living History Farms (11121 Hickman Road, Urbandale, Iowa) – This giant, open-air museum is probably the most well known living history farm for Iowans and Nebraskans. It’s so well done, and covers several Midwestern eras of farming. My kids loved the hands-on nature of it and the knowledgable staff.
- Other living history farms: Wessels Living History Farm (5520 S. Lincoln Ave., York, Neb.); Carstens 1880 Farmstead (32409 380th St., Shelby, Iowa)
Orchards Near Omaha
Whether you choose to pick your own apples or berries, or buy them straight from the farmer who grew them, these are the orchards to visit in Nebraska and Iowa. The listings are based on proximity to Omaha, starting with the closest.
- Ditmars Orchard (19475 225th St., Council Bluffs, Iowa) – I’ve loved this charming little orchard for years now. It’s never crowded, it’s a super close orchard to Omaha, there’s a good variety of apples and they have a fun play area for kids. Oh, and they have the most delicious apple cider donuts. And wine. Don’t forget their wine.
- Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure (2611 Arbor Ave, Nebraska City, Neb.) – Picking apples is just a small part of the fun activities at the Tree Adventure. However, one of the unique things about this orchard is the chance to pick and taste heirloom apples.
- Other orchards – Bellevue Berry Farm & Pumpkin Patch (11001 S. 48th St., Papillion, Neb.); Trees, Shrubs & More (3803 Cornhusker Road, Bellevue, Neb.); Small’s Fruit Farm (1844 194th St., Mondamin, Iowa); Union Orchard (2405 S. Highway 75, Union, Neb.); Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard (5995 G Road, Nebraska City, Neb.)
Pumpkin Patches Near Omaha
Pumpkin patches have grown to be more than strolling through a field of pumpkins. The whole-day experiences. The listings are based on proximity to Omaha, starting with the closest.
- Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Apple Orchard (12102 S. 180th St., Gretna, Neb.) – It’s not fall until my family has been to Vala’s. Some people (myself included) refer to it as the “Disney of Pumpkin Patches” because there is so much to do there, it takes an entire day. The apple orchard is fairly new. Don’t leave without trying a slice of pie or hard apple cider.
- Other pumpkin patches – Welch’s Pumpkin Patch (17676 Sunnydale Road, Council Bluffs, Iowa); Pioneer Trail Orchard & Pumpkin Patch (21534 Chestnut Road, Council Bluffs, Iowa); Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch (3935 NE-133, Blair, Neb.); Bloom Where You’re Planted Farm & Pumpkin Patch (911 108th St., Avoca, Neb.); McCurdy’s Pumpkins (intersection of Highway 71 and Highway 6 on the east edge of Atlantic, Iowa); Poppy’s Pumpkin Patch (55275 837th Road, Norfolk, Neb.); Uncle Bill’s Farm (244 400th Ave., Grinnell, Iowa)
There are gardens and botanical gardens, and then there’s something called a flower maze.
- A-Mazing Flowers & Studio (103 W. Center Ave., Prague, Neb.) – This small-town attraction is gaining a lot of attention for its unique claim to fame: The world’s only cut flower maze. You’ll learn a lot about flowers as you make your way through the maze, pointing to the flowers you want to add to your very own bouquet. You’ll want to book your tour far in advance. (And if time allows, add a flower-press experience to your visit)
Hay Rides Near Omaha
While many farms and orchards have a variation of a hay ride, if the ride itself is what you seek, rather than picking fruit or petting an animal, then read on.
- Shady Lane Ranch (17744 Shady Lane, Council Bluffs, Iowa) – A great place to combine a hayrack ride with a bonfire, a trip to Shady Lane is a fall favorite of mine. Fun warning: Hay rides usually involve hay fights between passing tractors.
Tours Near Omaha
Find out where your food and drink comes from, and how things get made, on these tours.
- Living Loess tour (various destinations around western Iowa) – This monthly (and seasonal), self-guided tour highlights various destinations in the Loess Hills of western Iowa. Each month, a different destination is featured and hosts activities. On one outing, we went to Harvest Studio, where botanical artist Cynthia Gehrie, works. With her guidance, my family painted nature art. As you visit a destination, be sure to get the stamp on your passport for a chance to win a prize.
- Other tours – Tassel Ridge Winery Tour (1681 220th St., Leighton, Iowa; see the steps “from vine to bottle”)