I have a cousin turning 6 this year and he owns his own home. Yeah, he’s a Leap Day baby. For those birthday “kids” excited to be celebrating Leap Day in Omaha, as well as the general public, there are some fun activities to look forward to.
Disclosure: I partnered with Altitude Omaha for this post and received complimentary admission in trade. All thoughts, opinions, and typos are my own.
Where to celebrate Leap Day in Omaha
It happens only every four years: Leap Day. Since it takes 365 1/4 days to go around the sun, an entire day is added to the month of February every four years. And 2020 is a Leap Year, making Feb. 29, 2020 Leap Day.
As you can imagine, trampoline places are all over the “leap” in Leap Day. Altitude Trampoline Park in Omaha actually has Leap Week planned to celebrate. It’s a 10-day celebration that runs from Feb. 21 through March 1.
The big day, Feb. 29, is an all-ages promotion for Leap Year babies. It’s a birthday party with gifts and free birthday jump passes for life!
Other promotions running during Leap Week: Two for $20 jump special; $50 off birthday parties; and $5 Toddler Time.
Altitude Omaha features more than 34,000 square feet of attractions, including Battle Beam; Extreme Dodgeball and Volleyball; The Foam Pit, High-9 Reaction Wall; Trampoline Basketball; The Main Court (wall-to-wall trampolines); Kid’s Court; Gymnastics Tumble Tracks, Wipeout; Performance Trampolines, Trapeze Swing and Rock Wall.
More 2020 Leap Day events in Omaha
While not a massive birthday party for Leap Year babies, there are several other fun events planned for Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.
Coffee: From Seed to Cup with A Hill of Beans – 10 a.m to noon at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. $10 for members and $15 for non-members. Advanced registration required.
Sip N’ Shop | A Leap Day Event – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hardy Coffee Co. inside the Highlander Building, 2112 N. 30th St. It’s a shopping event featuring local makers.
SuperMART Leap – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (games start at noon) at Nebraska Furniture Mart, 700 S. 72nd St.
Succulent Bar! – 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Makery, 12100 West Center Road, Suite 612. Select the container, succulent, and decorations and pay for the type/number of components chosen. Don’t forget to use TAGG with your purchase. All Ages.
Omaha Royal Princess Ball – 12:30 p.m. for earliest admission at Courtyard by Marriott Omaha Bellevue at Beardmore Event Center, 3730 Raynor Parkway, Bellevue, Neb. Regular tickets are $25 and early admission tickets are $40.
Celebrate Black History with Vaunda Micheaux Nelson – 1 to 3 p.m. at The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. Reservations are required and regular museum admission applies; free for members. All Ages.
Omaha Fashion Week “Evolve Featured Designer Showcase” – 6 to 10 p.m. at the Omaha Design Center, 1502 Cuming St. Reserved seats are $45.
Dierks Bentley presented by WoodhouseGives – 7 p.m. at CHI Health Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St. Tickets are $40-$255 and benefit Food Bank Backpack Program.
Omaha Mom Prom – 7 to 11:30 p.m. at Soiree Room, 7040 N. 102nd Circle. SOLD OUT.
“Stomp” – 7:30 p.m. at the Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St. Tickets are $30-$89.
Back to the 80s Party – 9 p.m. at Driftwood Inn, 2701 Harry Langdon Blvd., Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Lenten season means two things for Omaha-area residents – a time for personal sacrifice and reflection, as well fish fries. With more than 30 parishes and groups sponsoring fish fries in the Omaha area, you can find great food and fun times from Blair to Plattsmouth. Here’s a look at a few of the Omaha fish fries that you’re likely to enjoy a good meal and company.
Updates: This post contains updates for cancellations. Omaha Archdiocese has recommended all fish fries be canceled to avoid the spread of COVID-19, so any Catholic Church listed below will not be holding fish fries.
Why fish fries?
Catholics honor their faith for a six-week period by surrendering something special to them as a way of recognizing the sacrifices made by Jesus Christ. Each Friday during lent, fish fries provide a sense of community and camaraderie among Catholics. But, don’t think fish fries are just for Catholics; Greek Orthodox Church followers also celebrate the season with a fish fry, as well as community groups.
A fun thing about fish fries is that everyone is invited to enjoy fish and chips…and maybe an adult beverage or two. Fish fries are always family-friendly.
Tip: Check the organization’s website or social media to verify times and dinner prices.
2020 Omaha Fish Fry Recommendations
Holy Name Catholic Church Fish Fry
Located at 2901 Fontenelle Blvd., Holy Name hosts its 38th annual “Fryday” fish fry Feb. 21 through April 3. Dinners are served from 4:30 to 9 p.m., with the last ticket sold at 8:30. Bring your own drink if you prefer, but adult beverages will be sold inside the fish fry.
If you prefer not to wait in line, it’s recommended you arrive early. People arriving at 6 p.m. can expect a substantial wait.
Tickets typically run $12 per adult, $10 for seniors, and $7 for children under 12. Holy Name traditionally serves Alaska pollock.
Considered one of Omaha’s premier fish fries, politicians are known to frequent, looking to shake a few hands and win votes.
St. Vincent de Paul Church Fish Fry
Call St. Vincent de Paul the Fish and more Fry. With a menu featuring fried and baked fish, macaroni and cheese, and cheese pizza, your family will be challenged not find something for dinner on which everyone will agree. Running each Friday from Feb. 28 to April 3, fish dinners also come with french fries or baked potato, and coleslaw.
The fish fry at 14330 Eagle Run Drive costs $10 per adult, $9 per senior, and $6 for children ages 4-12 (Kim’s note: Thanks to a reader for the heads up that the price increased this year!). Adult beverages and soda are available. Don’t forget to enjoy dessert while you’re there.
St. Gerald’s Knights of Columbus Fish Fry
St. Gerald Parish, near 96th and Q streets, hosts its annual fish fry from 5 to 8 p.m. on Fridays, Feb. 28 through April 3.
Offering a menu of fried cod, baked tilapia, and fried shrimp, dinners come with a side of french fries or baked potato, coleslaw or salad with bread. For non-fish diners, the parish offers cheese pizza and macaroni and cheese.
Mary Our Queen Catholic Church Fish Fry
UPDATE: Mary Our Queen announced the fish fries planned for March 13 and 20 are canceled.
Named as one of the best fish fries in Omaha (including Best of Omaha in 2017), Mary Our Queen offers a menu of fried and baked fish, french fries or fried spudsters, coleslaw, as well as a mac and cheese option.
Serving dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. each Friday, Feb. 28 through April 3, Mary Our Queen is located at 3405 S. 118th St.
St. Patrick Catholic Church Fish Fry
The Elkhorn parish adds entertainment to its fish fry, including a magician, clowns who make balloon animals, and face painting. Families can make a night of it each Friday, Feb. 28 through April 3.
The dinner menu includes fried and baked fish, fried shrimp, French fries, mac and cheese, green beans, and coleslaw. Cheese pizza is also available. St. Patrick Catholic Church, 20500 West Maple Road, also offers drive-thru service.
Located at 13913 S St., the Millard American Legion Post 374 will host its annual fish fry on Friday, Feb. 28, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. With a menu including a variety of fish and shrimp, the legion also offers steaks. Macaroni and cheese is available. Each meal comes with a side of french fries, coleslaw, and bread. Prices vary based on the entrée ordered.
St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church Fish Fry
Update: St. John announced they are canceling fish fries until further notice.
Bringing a Mediterranean flavor to the traditional fish fry, St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church features a menu of fried and baked cod, salmon, shrimp, and spanakopita (spinach pie). Don’t forget to enjoy a tasty Greek dessert.
The fish fry, 602 Park Ave., is open from 4:30 to 8 p.m. each Friday, Feb. 28 through April 3. Admission is $11 per adult and $4 for children 12 and under.
Croatian Cultural Society of Omaha Fish Fry
Update: The March 13 fish fry went on as planned. No word if future fish fries are canceled.
With a menu of fried and baked fish with fries or baked potato and coleslaw or macaroni and cheese, visitors to the Croatian Cultural Society of Omaha can also learn more about the area’s Croatian heritage.
The fish fry is known for its large portions of fried and baked fish, as well as macaroni and cheese and dessert. The fish fry also features a full bar.
Dinners are $10 per adult and $5 for elementary school students. Children under 5 eat for free. The Croatian Cultural Society does accept credit cards.
Scottish Rite Fish Fry Days
The Scottish Rite Fish Fry-Days run each Friday, March 20 through April 3. Featuring a menu of all-you-can-eat fried fish, french fries, and coleslaw, as well as a drink, dinners are $12 per person. While to-go orders are welcomed, they ask you call ahead so they can have it ready when you arrive.
The fish fry is available over lunch hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Scottish Rite, 202 S. 20thSt.
Creighton Bluejays Baseball Fish Fry
Update: All NCAA games have been canceled so there will not be baseball fish fries in 2020.
The Creighton Bluejays host an annual fish fry as part of their Big East home baseball schedule for Friday night games at TD Ameritrade Park. Ticket prices include a meal voucher for games against Central Connecticut State (March 13), Boise State (March 27), Seton Hall (April 3), and Wichita State (April 10).
Whether you want to support your church or local service organizations, the Omaha area offers a variety of fish fries you can attend. There’s something special about standing in line and visiting with your neighbors while you await your turn for a delicious meal and tasty drink. Either way, you’ll enjoy a true Omaha experience.
Steaks get a lot of attention in Omaha, but you’re missing out if you never order a burger every once in a while. Here are a few of my favorite restaurants and the best burgers I recommend you try there (well, one you can try if you dare).
Why: Since 1965, Dinker’s has been serving hand-pressed burgers. The one that helped them make a name for themselves is the Haystack Burger, which Midwest Living ranked it as one of the best in the Midwest. The Haystack is served on a Rotella’s bun (a local bakery) and comes with American, honey smoked ham and a free-range fried egg.
This photo, by the way, is of a different Dinker’s burger. Because I was craving bacon on the day I was taking burger pictures. I’m only human.
The classic burger
What: Backyard Burger
Where: Blatt Bar + Table, 610 N. 12th St.; 2835 S. 170th Plaza; Flagship Commons, 10000 California St.
Why: If you prefer your hamburger to not stray too far from the traditional toppings, the Backyard Burger at Blatt is one to try. Served on a fresh brioche bun, the angus beef is topped with the typical lettuce, tomato, red onions and yellow mustard, with a little pepped up garlic dill pickles and smoked ketchup. It’s cooked to perfect and will not have any hidden flavor surprises.
Why: You can order anything off the farm-to-table menu at Block 16 and love it, but if I had to direct you to one sandwich, it would be the Croque Garcon Burger. It’s messy, but you will not be able to stop eating it. This delectable creation is a ⅓-pound Jon’s Natural burger served on a ciabatta roll and topped with cheese, ham, a sunny-side-up farm egg, mustard and truffle mayonnaise.
I started devouring it before I remembered I had wanted to get a picture of it!
It’s star-studded because my foodie hero, Alton Brown, loves it. Pretty much, he said Block 16 turned the standard burger into high art.
Why: Dario’s is a charming bistro in Dundee, and while most people are going to go with the French cuisine served there, the cheeseburger will be one you’ll remember (and the fries. ooooh the fries). It’s topped with caramelized onions and Gruyère cheese. Foodie critics from the Thrillist to Big Seven Travel rave about it. The burger also happens to be one of the lowest priced items on the menu, and for being so darn good, I say it’s a steal.
But really, I’m just sitting over here still thinking about the fries.
Why: Finishing the Stellanator will give you a life-time of bragging rights. What’s on this bad boy? Served on one bun, you’ve got six burger patties, six fried eggs, six pieces of cheese, 12 pieces of bacon, and then all the extra toppings like lettuce, tomato, fried onion, pickles, jalapenos, and peanut butter. Oh, and you have to eat the fries that come with it. In 45 minutes.
I’ve never attempted this, actually. Most people haven’t, actually. Since 1936, Stella’s has made a name for themselves for their burgers (their single patty burgers), and I much rather prefer those.
Why: One of the house specialties, the burger at this low-key brewery is satisfying and pairs great with their beer (take their pairing recommendation seriously). Served on a brioche bun, the meat comes from a local farm (Grass Run Farms), and is topped with Havarti, arugula, house-made pickled red onions and ketchup, as well as a whole grain keller dill mustard.
Why: Rather than create something that’s meat-like, Wilson & Washburn has created a surprisingly good beet burger that doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. And I’m not a fan of beets at all. AT ALL. And this is a burger I enjoy.
Tip: If you’re looking for the Impossible Burger in Omaha, Stella’s was one of the first ones to put it on their menu.
I’m curious about your favorite burgers in Omaha so leave a comment with your recommendations!
As one of Omaha’s most popular attractions, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge offers visitors more than just a place to enjoy a walk or bicycle ride. From a troll guarding its entrance to photo opportunities, “Bob,” as locals call it, offers family fun with a splash park and summer concerts.
As the country’s longest pedestrian bridge that connects two states (Nebraska and Iowa), the Bob Kerrey offers several fun opportunities. On the Iowa side, you can enjoy long walks or bicycle rides along western Iowa trails. With his own Twitter account (@BobTBridge), the bridge shares jokes and fun tips.
The Kerrey bridge’s design reflects the current of the Missouri River. As you walk, jog or bicycle across the bridge, take the time to stop and read the information placards that cover the river’s history, and its role in the area’s development.
Meet OMAR the Troll
OMAR, a blue troll, sits at the foot of the Kerrey bridge on the Omaha side, standing guard against all who seek to cross. Will he ask you three questions in order to cross? Or, is he looking for the Billy Goats Gruff?
Actually, he’s there to pose for photos with anyone wanting one with a 300-lbs. blue guy (who’s not a Smurf). Added to the Missouri River bridge in 2019, OMAR (Omaha Missouri Area River) quickly became a fan favorite. He even has his own book, “OMAR finds a home,” which can be found at local book stores, such as The Bookworm.
Complete the .9k marathon
Run, bicycle, or walk the world’s shortest marathon at .9 kilometer, which is the distance from one end of the bridge to the other. The bridge is 3,000 feet long.
Take a selfie on the bridge and stop by the Omaha visitors center at 10th and Farnam streets and show it to the staff for a bumper sticker highlighting your achievement. It’s intended as a parody of the half- and full-marathon stickers runners receive.
Fun tip: To complete a true marathon, you’d need to cross the bridge 47 times, according to Visit Omaha.
Since the Kerrey bridge connects Nebraska and Iowa over the Missouri River, the act of standing midway across the bridge with one foot in Nebraska and the other in Iowa is known as “Bobbing.” It may be the most popular spot in the United States for photos of feet.
Take a picture and post in on social media with the hashtag #ItHappensOnBob.
Cool off at the sprayground
During the summer months (Memorial Day-Labor Day), a section of the riverfront near the foot of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge gives families and children an opportunity to jump around in the water spraying from the ground in a circular play area.
Parents and others can watch from a stepped seating area.
Attend a Bridge Beats concert
Beginning mid-July and running for the next six Friday evenings, the sprayground area of the Kerrey bridge turns into a concert arena with the annual Bridge Beats series.
Featuring popular local bands, such as Lemon Fresh Day, On The Fritz, and Taxi Driver, the public is invited to grab a seat on the stepped seats or the grassy area and enjoy the free concerts, which can range from Top 40 music to classic rock and country and western.
Rent a bike and ride across Bob
With a bike rack near the Bob Kerrey bridge, you can rent a single-rider bicycle from Heartland B-Cycle and enjoy a ride across the bridge and then travel along the riverfront trails on ether side of the Missouri River.
It’s a great way to exercise and have fun exploring the area. You can even ride the bicycle to explore other Omaha sites, but you’ll need to return it to one of the Heartland B-Cycle stands located around the city.
Located a short walk from the Kerrey bridge, the visitors center also features exhibits and information about the Lewis and Clark expedition, as well as the flags of the Native American tribes along the Missouri River to the Columbia River at the confluence with the Pacific Ocean, where the expedition ended.
Take a ride on the River City Star
Take a river cruise aboard the River City Star and see a different view of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. As the paddle boat travels downriver and then upriver, you can see the bridge from beneath, admiring the curves that represent the river’s current, as well as the city’s skyline.
The River City Star offers a variety of tours, including a public tour cruise and lunch or dinner cruises. The River Star is located a short distance north of the Kerrey bridge.
With a water splash area, free concerts and more, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge offers people more than just a place to enjoy a walk or run. Connecting two states, the bridge is a beautiful spot to connect with family and friends.
Benson is a popular neighborhood in Omaha, Neb., having a fun vibe without much pretension. You’ll encounter a mix of ages depending on where you choose to dine, drink and/or hang out.
I remember moving to the area 10 years ago, pregnant with my firstborn and not worrying about missing much while I sat at home and ate pickles and mac & cheese. And then, one year later, the neighborhood was cool. Like, everyone was going there, and great bars were opening, and breweries, and concert venues, and and and…and I had a baby so I felt like I was missing out.
These days, Benson 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. I still don’t get to visit as much as I’d like to, but it is one of my go-to places with friends and for date nights. Here’s my guide to Benson.
Where is Benson in Omaha?
Most people refer to the stretch of Maple Street between 60th and 65th streets as Benson, but it actually extends a bit more each way (and extends north and south of Maple into neighborhoods). It’s considered a part of Midtown Omaha.
For the purpose of this blog post, I’m focusing on that busy stretch of Maple Street. It’s kinda what you’d call Benson’s downtown area.
Where to park it in Benson
Parking in Benson, as is the case in a few of Omaha’s popular neighborhoods, can be a bit of a headache. However, I’ve never NOT been able to park. Plus, parking is FREE. So relax. We can handle this.
The first parking lot to check is just south of 61st and Maple Street (on the southeast corner of the block). If that’s full, begin checking neighborhood streets south of Maple Street, as well as on-the-street parking along Maple Street.
Very few businesses have (tiny) parking lots, but they exist. Ted and Wally’s has a few spots, for instance.
Dining options – Benson restaurants
Breakfast, brunch, dinner, dessert. Whatever you want to eat, Benson has it. There are a lot of restaurants to run through so I’ll start with my favovrites and then share the rest.
Why: This is a greasy spoon at its finest. It’s a small eatery, so it’s possible you’ll have a wait if you show up after about 9 a.m. The only downfall of Leo’s, alas, is that the coffee is not good. But I still have a lot of love for Leo’s.
Why: This cozy place purposely has European touches to it. I highly recommend splurging on the chef’s tasting menu. One warning about the menu, though: Creative bites are sometimes exactly that. Bites. If you’re a big eater, a tasting menu like this may not fully satisfy you.
Yoshitomo, 6009 Maple St., this sushi restaurant has a devoted following. I have no complaints about the food, and I found the menu to be creative. But for some inexplicable reason, it’s just never one I recommend to people.
Why: This made-from-scratch ice cream is my favorite. The Benson location is Ted & Wally’s second location and I find that it’s also the one with the least amount of wait no matter the season. Same ice cream, less wait. Score!
Baked After Dark, 6103 Maple St., satisfy your sweet tooth with this late-night cookie shop.
Hardy Coffee Co., 6051 Maple St., a coffee shop that often has irresistible baked goods.
Benson restaurants I’ve yet to try
So, I haven’t eaten at every restaurant in Benson (shocking, I know). So the following restaurants I can’t quite tell you whether or not they’re great choices. Yet.
Ika Ramen and Izakaya, 6109 Maple St.
Jojo’s Diner, 6118 Military Ave., word is this new diner is a good place to go for breakfast.
Mantra Bar & Grille, 6913 Maple St.
Mayne St. Market, 6207 Maple St.
TACO CO., 6108 Maple St.
Taqueria Chingon, 6324 Maple St.
Cheers! Bars & breweries in Benson
It’s easy to bar hop in Benson, since there are a lot of unique places in one compact strip of Maple Street.
Why: This is a great bar housed in a restored 1908 building. The craft beer and cocktail selection are superb, and usually, the music is perfection.
If you’re eager to try local beers, head to either The Benson Brewery or Infusion Brewing Co. The Benson Brewery has the bonus addition of serving up good pub food, too. The Benson Brewery, 6059 Maple St., and Infusion, 6115 Maple St.
Barley Street Tavern, 2735 N. 62nd St., go here for live music and a neighborly, convivial atmosphere.
Burke’s Pub, 6117 Maple St., it’s got the neighborhood bar feel to it.
Bars that I just haven’t been to yet
Flavas Margarita Lounge, 6052 Maple St.
Jake’s Cigars & Spirits, 6206 Maple St.
Kaitei, 6109 1/3 Maple St., look for this hidden little Japanese bar below Ika Ramen.
Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave.
St. Andrews Pub, 6102 Maple St.
The Sydney, 5918 Maple St., it’s been so long, I don’t know if I can tell you what The Sydney is like. I do recall it has good acoustics if you can catch a live show there.
Things to do in Benson with friends
Benson is a grown-up’s playground. There are several things to do for nights out with friends or for dates. But first, let’s talk about daytime.
There’s also a lingerie store right on the main street of Benson with window displays that nearly always makes me giggle uncomfortably like a 12-year-old.
For daytime and nighttime, a fun place to go is the Beercade at 6104 Maple St. It’s a classic arcade disguised as a really good craft beer bar. You can play pinball or challenge your friends to the likes of “Mortal Kombat.” You don’t have to have a drink in your hand to play.
If shuffleboard is your thing, head to Musette Bar. This dive bar is not really my scene, and I’ve only been there once. Bring cash.
I’m most likely, though, going to be headed to a concert at The Waiting Room Lounge if I’m in Benson at night. There are some fantastic tours that pass by this venue, as well as popular local vands. And, if craft beer is a priority, this concert venue has a fantastic selection on tap.
New to the scene, is Omaha Virtual Reality, a virtual gaming place I’ve yet to visit. It sounds like a fun place to go with friends.
Things to do with kids in Benson
Arguably, Benson is more fun for grown-ups. However, we’ve found many reasons to head to the neighborhood with the kiddos over the years.
When the weather is nice, we’re at Benson Park, 7028 Military Ave. The playground is huge and there’s a great splash park there. There’s a short, paved trail around the lake. It’s where my kids learned to ride their bikes. Even though it gets a tad crowded, it’s one of our favorite Omaha parks.
And when it’s not so nice outside, we tend to spend time at the Omaha Public Library Benson branch, 6015 Binney St., which has a pretty solid kid’s section. They’re known for their annual event with several storybook characters that’s free and really adorable.
The Benson Community Center is also a good spot, though, to be honest, we’ve only ever been in there for the Halloween party.
Which reminds me, Benson businesses LOVE trick-or-treaters and there’s an afternoon each October set aside for kids to stop by stores and get goodies.
If you’re wondering which Benson restaurants are the best for families, the ones that are my family’s favorites include Ted and Wally’s, Leo’s Diner, and Virtuoso.
Events in Benson
Benson’s annual and seasonal events are more in the spirit of neighborhood celebrations, though a few can and do draw large crowds.
Benson First Friday is a free monthly art event in Benson. You can venture into pop-up galleries in businesses and see (and purchase) art by local artists. It’s pretty casual and you’ll likely meet all of the artists.
Benson Days is held in July each year. It’s a neighborhood celebration held on a single day, though the name Days has stuck. There’s typically a parade, live music and other family-friendly activities. There’s also a 5K fun run planned near or on Benson Days.
Benson Boo Bash is held on a Saturday in October and consists of trick-or-treating at various businesses as well activities as at the community center.
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.