Just south of the lovely Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, you’ll find the Union Pacific Railroad Museum. If you’ve got a kid who loves all things Thomas, this place is for you. If you don’t have a kid who loves trains, you just love history, this is especially for you.
Surprisingly, I’ve never been to this FREE museum (donation is encouraged), even though I have two train obsessed kids. I even worked two blocks from this museum for many years. Shame on me.
Anyway. Enough shaming. I made up for it recently by bringing Mr. Wonderful, the kiddos and two aunts along for the ride.
What to expect
The museum is housed in the old public library, a gorgeous and historic building in itself. The second and third floor have exhibits; the first floor – where you enter the building – is the little gift shop and helpful reception desk. Pick up a free audio tour if you’re there without hyper-active kids.
The museum received an update in the last few years and it is very engaging and eye-catching with colorful displays. A lot of the museum is artifacts, which my kids (ages 2 and 4) breeze right by…or try to climb on (shhhh). Omaha and Council Bluffs are steeped in train history and you’ll learn a lot here.
What kids like
There is a lot of effort to be interactive, some succeeding more than others. My kids love pushing buttons, and there is a bounty to push in this museum. There are displays that encourage touching, sitting on and making loud noises and those were a hit. There’s a part to pretend like you’re lighting off dynamite – fun for the kiddos.
The video and photo interactive booths were neat but didn’t work very well.
If it’s a bit of a drive for you to get C.B., plan on doing a bit more while you’re there. Pack a picnic and enjoy Bayliss Park. If it’s really hot, there’s a small splash pad there for kids to run through.
Across the street from the park (east side), there is a nice ice cream shop… so, about a block from the museum.
If you’re going for a train or transportation-themed day, there’s the RailsWest Museum not too far from there. Or, you could do like us and dine at the regional chain Quaker Steak & Lube near the Mid-America Center.
There’s a lot to look at there for kids – real race cars, motorcycles, trucks and memorabilia.
Just across the river, back in Omaha, you can see a neat train documentary at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium right now at the IMAX there. If you’re a member, it’s free to see.
See a lot more train ideas here.
Your turn: Have you been to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum? What did you think of it?