If there’s one recurring theme I notice with first-time visitors to Omaha, it’s this: Surprise. Omaha is not a big city, but it has most everything here that would would find in one. Only, it’s all much more affordable to do it all here. Ready to see what Omaha has to offer? Here are my favorite things to do in Omaha and the must-see attractions I recommend to all visitors.
And who am I? I’m a born and raised Omaha girl. And for the past nine years, I’ve dedicated this blog to seeking out the best of the city with my family and friends. I’m one of the city’s biggest fans.
Table of Contents
Events and Festivals In Omaha By Month
Want to know what big festivals or annual events are happening in the Omaha metro area by month? Click the link below to jump to the month below:
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is regularly ranked among the Top 5 zoos IN THE WORLD, and it just keeps getting better. No matter the season, there’s plenty to see in a day. And you’ll need a full day for it.
Visiting in the winter? Visit the world’s largest indoor dessert and the huge Kingdoms of the Night exhibit underneath it. Then head over to one of the larges indoor rainforests before venturing a short distance to the impressive aquarium, where the shark tunnel will mesmerize you.
In the summer, visit the African Grasslands to see elephants, lions, and giraffes roam. The birth of two elephant calves this year has made everyone excited to visit soon.
Don't forget to pack towels and a change of clothes for kids, because they will get wet playing in the Children’s Adventure Trails and Alaskan Adventure waterpark.
Then there are the rides, the restaurant overlooking the rainforest, the IMAX…there’s a lot!
The most recognizable district in Omaha, the Old Market is a charming spot day or night. What once was Omaha’s bustling produce and market center now is full of hip restaurants, quirky stores and boutiques. The brick roads remain, the vegetable warehouses now are condos and bars.
Shop stores like Ray Gun, Made in Omaha, Jackson Street Booksellers, and Hollywood Candy. Browse the free galleries like Omaha Artist Co-op and Old Market Passageway Gallery. And dine at some of the city’s best restaurants like Boiler Room, or be entertained at places like Monster Club (a horror movie-themed restaurant) or Laka Lomo Rum Club (a tiki bar).
Expect to pay for parking (metered or lot), and know that surrounding the Old Market is a bunch of one-way streets.
Address: The Old Market is located in Downtown Omaha, Neb. It runs from Farnam Street on the north side to Jones Street on the south side, and from 10th Street on the east side to 13th Street on the west side. The main intersection is 11th and Howard – head there to get an iconic photo for Instagram.
Each season in Omaha has its high points. Spring has St. Patrick's Day and fabulous live performances. Summer bursts with concerts, festivals, and fireworks. Fall is the prime season for farms, pumpkin patches, haunted housses and apple picking. And winter? There's snowshoeing, holiday celebrations, indoor waterparks.
Note: This does not reopen until the summer of 2022
The RiverFront is a public-private funded three-park project that should be a ame-changer for the city when it’s finished.
The much-anticipated first stage of the project is slated to open in mid-Summer 2022 (July 1-4 with a series of free eventts). In the summer 2022, Gene Leahy Mall will reopen as a mega green space (40,000 square feet) with an outdoor concert pavilion, playground, sculpture garden, water feature, and dog park.
In 2023, the area closer to the Missouri River (the old Heartland of America Park) will reopen. The vision includes a skate ribbon, amphitheater, and a pier. Lewis & Clark Landing should also reopen in 2023, with a playground, urban beach, marina, sand volleyball courts, and more. A science center should also open in the area at that time, too!
Address: From about 14th Street between Douglas and Farnam streets, eastward, and then once at the riverfront, it will extend north and south.
If you have a child who’s 8 or younger, you cannot go wrong taking him or her to Omaha Children’s Museum. Full disclosure: I work there. My kids are actually older than 8 and they still love going there.
You can spend at least three hours there before your kiddo tires out. Definitely visit the Imagination Playground with the huge water table and mini grocer store, as well as the Tinker Factory to work with real tools. There is usually one or two special exhibits at the museum, with super awesome ones opening each summer (I’m biased and I don’t care).
There is a small cafe upstairs, and an oh-so-tempting popcorn machine. Parents, they also serve coffee and mochas.
Where: 500 S. 20th St.
Cost: $$, but the museum is a member of the ASTC program, so if you have a membership to a science center, you may get four people admitted for free! Your home museum needs to be 90 miles from OCM.
My kids still refer to the Durham as “The Train Museum.” It’s way more than trains, but definitely, they are a highlight there as you can walk through old train cars and watch a humungous model train roam. The museum showcases Omaha history in exhibits as well as traveling special exhibits. In the past, they’ve have exhibits ranging from Muppets to dinosaurs to guitars.
Don’t miss visiting the old-fashioned soda fountain. If you don’t like root beer floats, treat yourself to a sundae.
The Durham Museum houses the city’s largest indoor live Christmas tree each year, and has a full season worth of holiday activities during “Christmas at Union Station.”
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium operates a second animal attraction just outside of Omaha, the Nebraska Wildlife Safari. It's mostly a drive-through experience where you'll see bison, Sandhill cranes, and elk.
Midway through, you can park and explore trails that lead to bears, wolves and bald eagles, among others. Young kids will like the little petting zoo area, too.
Address: 16406 N. 292nd St., Ashland, Neb. (about 20 miles west of Omaha)
Joslyn Castle (not to be confused with Joslyn Art Museum) is a not-so-secret hidden gem in Omaha. The historic mansion is well-preserved and open for public tours on select days. The tour can be a little info-heavy so not many kids will stay interested the entire time (I have one who would, one who wouldn’t last 10 minutes). Bring a camera because the place is gorgeous.
The grounds are always free and open to visit, and the gardens are exceptionally pretty in the spring and summer.
Joslyn Castle has special events throughout the year, such as the popular Speakeasy series and a holiday boutique.
The area known as Boys Town is a National Historic Landmark, and its history is tied to Omaha hisotry. There are a few places to visit while you're on campus, startting with the Visitors Center and Hall of History, where you'll learn more about the beginnings of the historic home for children.
If you're interested in the man who started Boys Town, you can also visit Father Flanagan’s home.
i haven't written extensively about Boys Town, but it is among the city's historic sites and museums I recommend visiting at least once.
Omaha has more than its fair share of talented local chefs. And now we have food halls that bring a lot of them together under one roof.
The Switch Beer & Food Hall is the newest food hall on the scene. New restaurants are still being announced occasionally. It was the first food hall in the nation certified as a three-Star Certified Green Restaurant™ by the Green Restaurant Association and the second restaurant in Nebraska to earn it. NOTE: The Switch will close on June 26 for renovations and reopen under the new name, Kamp.
In 2019, Inner Rail Food Hall opened at Aksarben Village, and has abundant indoor and otdoor seating. Inner Rail is all quick-service restaurants with a definite world flavor appeal to it.
Omaha’s first food hall (actually, the state's first), Flagship Commons, opened at Westroads Mall in late 2015. Westroads is a pretty conveniently located mall near busy Dodge Street, as well as near Interstate 680. It has one a location of one of my family's favorite restaurants, Blatt Table + Beer. There are also great sushi and ramen quick-service restaurants there.
Most of Flagship’s seating is in a common area, with a mix of typical table seating, bar seating, and my favorite spot, a couch seating by a fireplace. Most seating is indoors, though if you dine at The Blatt, you can snag a table outside.
The Switch Beer & Food Hall, 3618 Farnam St.
Inner Rail Food Hall, 1911 S. 67th St.
Flagship Commons, 10000 California St. (north entrance)
The pandemic one positive effect for my family: We actively sought outdoor experiences that made us happy. Those experiences typically involved cute animals.
Scatter Joy Acres is a long-running petting zoo of sorts, with many of its animals trained as service animals. Beyond the expected goats and hogs, you'll encounter a camel, peacocks, horses, donkeys, emus, a friendly porcupine, and many more critters.
Gifford Farm is a lovely, quiet little farm. It’s designed more for school groups, but every so often they will be open to the public on a Tuesday or on a Saturday for a special event. You'll find sheep, alpacas, and a variety of other farm animals. (PS: This is a cash-only place)
Make a reservation to visit the small non-profit Alpacas of the Heartland for an fun morning. You’ll each get a bag of carrots to feed more than 30 alpacas.
Pick produce off the plants (or buy from their farmstead), plus check out adorable animals at Nelson Produce Farm is more of a pick-your-own produce farm than an animal farm, but there are plenty of cute animals there, including chickens, cattle and horses. You can buy food to feed some of them, too.
Scatter Joy Acres, 4966 Newport Ave., Omaha
Gifford Farm, 700 Camp Gifford Road, Bellevue, Neb. (about 5 miles south of Omaha)
Alpacas of the Heartland, 7016 County Road 39, Fort Calhoun, Neb. (about 10 miles north of Omaha)
Nelson Produce Farm, 10505 N. 234th St., Valley, Neb. (about 15 miles west of Omaha)
Benson is a neighborhood in Omaha has has evolved into an eclectic neighborhood that’s welcoming to all, with unique nightspots, a stellar concert venue, and a few places that kids will love. A good time to explore is on the first Friday of the month when art and pop culture collide in evening for Benson First Fridays. It's free and you can see a lot of great local art during BFF.
A few of my favorite places to visit with friends is the Beercade (exactly what it sounds like...pure awesomeness), Krug Park (a bar), and the beer garden at Bärchen. One of my favorite shops is in Benson too, Found, with an ever-changing selection of home decor. For live music, you've got to head to The Waiting Room.
Kids in tow? They'll love ice cream at Ted & Wally's and hot cocoa at the theme cafe, Edge of the Universe.
Most people refer to the stretch of Maple Street between 60th and 65th streets as Benson (where you'll find all the shops and restaurants), but it actually extends a bit more each way (and extends north and south of Maple into neighborhoods).
Small in size but big on charm, Omaha's Litttle Bohemia is a neighborhood just south of the Old Market. It got its name because in the mid-1880s, Czech immigrants coming to Omaha created a community along 13th Street.
When of the city's oldest restaurants, Bohemian Cafe, closed in 2016, the neighorhood seemed doomed. But, it's enjoying a revival thanks to local entrepreneurs who've opened in the area, including Infusion Brewery who opened a location in the former Bohemian Cafe (and keep the vibe alive inside and out).
You'll find second-hand shops like New Wave Clothing, Scout and Pretty in Patina in Little Bohemia, plus quirky bars like Fizzy’s Fountain & Liquors and Beercade 2.
Little Bohemia is mostly along 13th Street, between Pine and William streets.
Infusion Little Bohemia Beer Hall, 1406 S. 13th St.
At last check, Omaha has 17 craft breweries...check that, 18 breweries. 19? I dunno, there's always new ones popping up. I like enjoying a meal with my beer, so I'm happy wiht places like Benson Brewery or Upstream Brewing Co., which have a menu alongside their beers. Upstream has the bonus perk of two great outdoor patios.
But, for just good beer, tthere are more than a dozen others from Kros Strain to Brickway Brewery and Distillery. If you like a little "show" with your beer, head to the Alpine Inn where the evening entertainment is a pack of trash pandas eating the table scraps outside the restaurant's windows.
The Durham Museum’s River City History Tours cover various themes from Omaha's seedy history to the city's storied jazz history. There’s a tour guide well-versed in history pointing out things along the way and sharing interesting stories related to the tour topic.
Nebraska Tour Co. operates a few history walking tours in different neighborhoods, including the Old Market.
The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.
Nebraska Tour Co. starts at different locations around the city, depending on the tour.
The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spans the Missouri River and it goes by the name “Bob” or, “The Bob.” Crossing it is “Bobbing.” The bridge has a popular photo opp in the middle - the Iowa-Nebraska state line is right in the middle of the river.
We usually ride our bikes across it, as there are trails on both sides of the river.
Combine a coffee shop and bar with a huge collection of games and you get Spielbound. For a small fee, you can spend a whole day with friends or family playing nearly any board game, card came, or strategy game you can imagine.
Spielbound is essentially a game library, and lingering and browsing through the games is totally fine there.
Address: Spielbound Board Game Cafe, 3229 Harney St.
Like the idea of playing mini golf around a pirate ship, dinosaurs or glow-in-the-dark stuff? Omaha has several indoor putting options. Kids love the themed ones like Prehistoric Putt, Medieval Putt, and Pirate Putt.
Prehistoric Putt, 11134 Q St.
Medieval Putt, 20915 Cumberland Drive, Elkhorn, Neb. (about 5 miles west of Omaha)
Pirate Putt, 1718 Madison Ave., Council Bluffs, Iowa (about 5 miles east of Omaha)
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.
Omaha has a surprisingly large theater scene, with extremely talented local actors as well as touring productions passing through. Some of my favorite theatrical venues in Omaha are Omaha Community Playhouse, Bluebarn Theatre, and the Broadway Series presented by O-Pa.
If you’re looking for kids’ shows, see what’s happening at The Rose. Their June production is usually a top-notch musical.
Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St.
Bluebarn Theatre, 1106 S. 10th St.
Broadway shows are at the Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St.
We are spoiledin Omaha. Tickets to amazing concerts are a fraction of the cost in bigger cities. Some of the city's best venues include The Slowdown, The Waiting Room, and both halls inside the Holland Performing Arts Center (the main concert hall and the intimate Holland Music Club. And we have big name shows, too, at CHI Health Center.
For outdoor concerts, there are a few annual series and festivals that are top-notch every summer. There's the free summer series Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing and the Independence Day concert at Memorial Park, as well as ticketed events like Maha Festival.
The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St.
The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St.
Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St.
CHI Health Center, 455 N. 10th St.
Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing, held in Turner Park between Dodge and Farnam streets at around 31st Avenue
Memorial Park, 6005 Underwood Ave.
Maha Festival, held in Stinson Park at Aksarben Village, 2285 S. 67th St,
Miles and miles of trails are the draw to Fontelle Forest, though the rescued birds in the Raptor Woodland Refuge are a close second. Fontenelle is made for both the experienced hiker and inexperienced. You could spend hours on dirtt trails, or just an hour or so on the fantastic boardwalk that’s stroller-friendly.
Fontenelle is open in all seasons. In the winter, you can rent snowshoes to explore.
Don't skip the nature center. The lower level has a great space for kids.
Address: 1111 Bellevue Blvd N, Bellevue, Neb. (5 miles south of Omaha)
Located inside Fontenelle Forest, but not a part of Fontenelle Forest, is TreeRush, a ropes course for everyone, all ages. For kids ages 4-6, there’s KidRush Adventure Park, a low-to-the-ground ropes course that’s just challenging enough for kiddos to feel a part of the action. For everyone, there are varying levels of challenging courses.
It's a blast, and a workout. And sometimess they have evening sessions where you can walk among treetops on courses lit by strings of twinkle lights.
Address: Located inside Fontenelle Forest, 1111 Bellevue Blvd N, Bellevue, Neb. (5 miles south of Omaha)
Cost: $$ (this is seperate from admission into the forest)
Sure, a lot of cities either have a pro baseball team or a AAA. We have the Omaha Storm Chasers, for instance. It's a great outing for friends and families (splurge for passes to the kid's zone).
But, only one city has the NCAA Div. I Men’s College World Series, and that city is Omaha.
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. It's a big party.
Omaha Storm Chasers at Werner Park, 12356 Ballpark Way, Papillion, Neb. (about 5 miles south of Omaha)
College World Series at Charles Schwab Field, 1200 Mike Fahey St.
Tanking is a Nebraska thing. It's like floating or tubing, but in a livestock water tank.
Most tanking outfittters are located in central Nebraska in the Sandhills but you can have the tanking experience close to Omaha on the Elkhorn RIver with the outfittter Tank Down the Elkhorn. It's a memorable way to spend a summer day witth friends.
Pack the sunscreen.
Address; Tank Down the Elkhorn, 23301 W. Maple Road, Elkhorn, Neb. (about 10 miles west of Omaha)
Omaha's very own amusement park is called Fun-Plex Waterpark & Rides. You can easily spend a summer day in the waterpark area, splashing in the wave pool, flying down waterslides or floating along the Lazy River.
But, there's a whole other side to Fun-Plex you'd miss out on. A personal favorite is the cart racing, but there is also a small rollercoaster, bumper boats, putt putt and an indoor arcade.
And for the 21+ crowd, there is a tiki bar in the waterpark, with a swim-up bar area.
Feel like being pampered? Have a self-care day at one of these Omaha spas or salons:
Becky with Utopia Massage (she comes to you, or you can book with her at Urbane Salon and Day Spa, 1007 Farnam St., suite 1). Text 402-505-0701 to get the booking process started or request her at Urbane
Harmony Med Spa, 6750 Mercy Road, suite 4
Loveland Nails & Spa, 8900 W. Center Road, suite 102
Love boutiques and shops? Omaha's got a few excellent shopping centers that have plenty of locally-owned stores witth unique inventory. A few favorites include Country Side Village, with shops like Gramercy, Village Pomegranite, and Made In Omaha, as well as bakeries, bars, and coffee shops; and Shops at Legacy, with shops like Posh Princess and Garment District, as well as excellent restaurants like Shucks and Blatt.
Country Side Village, 8722 Countryside Plaza
Shops at Legacy, West Center Road and 168th Street
The demand for food flights and drink flights has grown tremendously in Omaha. It started with Zen Coffee announcing its hot and ice flights of four flavors, and then suddenly, we all started craving samples of everything.
If you want ice cream flights, head to Graley's in Papillion. Margarita flights? MULA in the Blackstone District is your place. And there's so much more!
Zen Coffee Co., 132nd and Center street
Creamery & Confections, 147 N. Washington St., Papillion, Neb.
Mardi Gras is celebrated at a few places in Omaha. Upstream Brewing Co. has a more family-friendly atmosphere with live music, face painting, and food specials (at least, earlier in the evening). Crescent Moon’s party is a bit more adult, with Hurricanes, drink specials, Cajun food, and live music.
Temperature Tuesdays are a big deal in Nebraska, at least, for Runza lovers. The price of a Runza sandwich each Tuesday in February is whatever the temperature is at 10 a.m. (with purchase of fries and drink).
Events in March
One of the largest parades of the year, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, is held the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day in downtown Omaha.
Howl-O-Ween Safari is held over a weekend in October at the Wildlife Safari, 16406 292nd St., Ashland, Neb, featuring a hayrack ride, enjoy dinner and Halloween-themed games, roast some marshmallows, and more.
Baseballoween is a free event held in October at Werner Park in Papillion, Neb.