Guest Post: Visiting Omaha Art Galleries With Kids

Omaha has an abundance of art galleries that are free and open to the public. The bulk of them are located in the Old Market and around the downtown area. You should check them out sometime. Don’t be shy.To get you and your family started on your gallery adventures, I sought advice from two people with a lot of insight:  Writer Suzanne Smith Arney, who focuses often on art, and Omaha painter and printmaker, Lori Elliott-Bartle.

Arney’s tips for enjoying a gallery visit with children:

“For a successful visit that’s fun for everyone, it’s best to do a little prep work.”

I’m a firm believer that there’s something for everyone to love about museums. I say museums (a place to look), rather than galleries (a place to sell). For a successful visit that’s fun for everyone, it’s best to do a little prep work.

Suzanne Smith: "Have your child make a drawing to remember the visit, or buy a souvenir postcard and let her start an art collection of her own."
Suzanne Smith Arney: “Have your child make a drawing to remember the visit, or buy a souvenir postcard and let her start an art collection of her own.”
  1. Check out the website for basics like hours, fees, current exhibitions, and special events, or call and ask what is available for kids. Joslyn Art Museum, for example, has kids’ programs under the “Visit” tab. For little ones,  see “Education,” “Classes” and “Art Adventures.”  And Joslyn’s Discovery Garden and Mind’s Eye Gallery are family must-dos.
  2. Another place to prepare is the library. An advanced search using keywords “museum” and “visit” and selecting “children” as audience brings up a wide range of materials sure to build anticipation.
  3. Do teach your child museum manners. I use the “two feet and ten fingers” rule – stand about two feet away from the art and fingers all still. Even a toddler can learn to hold his hands behind his back and to describe rather than point. The visit is much pleasanter without scoldings!
  4. Have your child make a drawing to remember the visit, or buy a souvenir postcard and let her start an art collection of her own.
  5. Remember to keep each visit short and sweet, and come back often. The objective is to discover, at any age, that art is enjoyable,  interesting, relevant, and even necessary to a whole life.
  6. Besides museums, you can have fun finding art in the neighborhood. Start at www.publicartomaha.org.
  7. An older child who’s interested in art may enjoy a gallery show, especially an opening reception with a chance to meet the artist. Art fairs and the May and December Open Houses at Omaha’s Hot Shops Art Center are wonderful places to watch artists at work.

The late Roberta Rogers, gallerist, collector, docent, and dear friend, liked to say that she’d been bitten by the art bug. If you’re lucky, it could happen to you!

– Suzanne Smith Arney is a freelance writer living in Omaha, Nebraska, who enjoys writing about artists and their work, and the role of art in our everyday lives. Although primarily an art writer, she also writes about family, education, food, and travel. In addition to articles in local, national, and European magazines, Arney has written/contributed to three books. She’ll seize any opportunity to go arting with granddaughters, Kate and Chloe, who always have something new to teach her about art.
Lori Elliott-Bartle: "While the building is open every day, a great time to visit many artists is during an open house, always held the first weekends of December and May."
Lori Elliott-Bartle on Hot Shops Art Gallery : “While the building is open every day, a great time to visit many artists is during an open house, always held the first weekends of December and May.”

Visiting Omaha galleries Q&A with Elliott-Bartle:

Look for opportunities that allow children to engage with and handle the art.

1. If a person has never been into a local art gallery, what can they expect?

You can think of galleries as you might consider different retail shops. Each has its own personality and tone; some are more formal than others. I encourage people to visit several galleries to get a sense about the variety of art displayed and to see a range of media, styles and price points. When entering a gallery, visitors should expect a warm greeting and the opportunity to ask questions. Most galleries have web sites so visitors can preview examples of the types of work they can expect to see during a visit.

2. If they’re planning on bringing children, is there a good time to visit?

In planning a gallery visit with children, I would base the timing on the children. Take kids along when they are well rested and fresh, open to exploring and listening to directions about whether or not to touch things.

Look for opportunities that allow children to engage with and handle the art. In some venues, they can create something of their own.  Family fun days at Joslyn Art Museum, public art displays around the city, special exhibits at Fontenelle Forest, demonstrations at art fairs, gallery receptions, or studio open houses offer chances to touch artwork and learn more about materials, tools and techniques.

3. What are some do’s and don’t of visiting the Artist Co-op and Hot Shops with children?

Both places welcome children, but I think a good guideline is to talk to your kids before you go into a gallery about looking at things but not touching them. An artist will invite visitors to touch something if it’s OK, but wait for the invitation before handling artwork.At Hot Shops Art Center, 1301 Nicholas St. in Omaha, you have the chance to visit the working spaces of artists, and many are happy to demonstrate or describe their techniques and tools. On the first floor, visitors can stroll through galleries, as well as see where the building gets its name by visiting the glassblowers, potters and metalworkers who all use heat to transform their materials. Two additional floors filled with studios allow visitors to find artists who draw, paint, carve, sculpt, print, weave, design jewelry and make photographs all under one roof. While the building is open every day, a great time to visit many artists is during an open house, always held the first weekends of December and May.

Members of the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery, 405 S. 11th St. in Omaha, staff and run the gallery, so whenever you visit, you have the chance to meet at least one of the artist-members. We get to know one another’s work, so we often can answer questions about the styles and techniques other artist-members use. There are painters, potters, sculptors, weavers, printmakers, glass artists and photographers who represent a wide range of styles. If you’re interested in looking at a piece more closely, just ask the member on duty to pick it up for you.

4. Any interesting facts, tips about local artists or fun mediums that parents can point out when walking around a gallery with children? (Kinda like a cheat sheet for parents)

You can always challenge kids to talk about what they see, how the piece makes them feel, what shapes and colors do they recognize, whether it reminds them of something else, like illustrations in a book they’re familiar with or a place or person they know. Depending on how interested they are, you can talk about point of view and perspective, whether it’s realism or surrealism or abstraction, or some combination. Let your imagination open up and build on what you hear from your children.

 
– Lori Elliott-Bartle is a painter and printmaker who maintains a studio on the third floor of Hot Shops Art Center and shows her work at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery in Omaha’s Old Market. She is one of several artists participating in the upcoming “Play Me, I’m Yours” public art installation, in which pianos will be placed in high-traffic areas around town for people to play. You can see examples of her work on her web site http://lorielliottbartle.com.

Joslyn Art Museum With Children

Edited: Nov. 26, 2014

My earliest memory of the Joslyn Art Museum was a class field trip. I don’t recall visiting the museum with my parents, though. I don’t know if they didn’t trust me – I do have this compulsion to touch merchandise at stores, and Mr. Wonderful thinks my tendancy to drop breakables is like that of Chunk’s from “The Goonies.” Maybe they really thought I’d do some damage at an art museum.

I see the potential in my kids, too, but I still have brought them to Joslyn. Why not, I figured? It’s FREE now.

Don't be fooled. Mooch and other go-go-go toddlers aren't so calm at museums. You've got to be on your toes!
Ha! Ha! Ha! As if this is how our visit went.

I tested the waters recently with Mr. Wonderful and our darling, and turns out touch-feely, children. We – and the priceless works of art – survived, though, and here’s what I learned.

Related post: Tips For Enjoying Gallery Visits With Kids

Taking small children to Joslyn Art Museum

The Art Packs are themed and designed for specific age groups. We went with the Shapes pack for our preschooler and toddler.
The Art Packs are themed and designed for specific age groups. We went with the Shapes pack for our preschooler and toddler.

1. Head to the Scott EdTech Gallery first and pick up a themed backpack (an Art Pack, if you wanna know the lingo). With toddlers in tow, we opted for the mini art pack with a shapes them, which had a board book, a shape sorter and a  suggestion on what to look for in the paintings when you roam the museum. Other focus on architecture and sketching and other stuff beyond my kidlets.

2. If you have your themed backpack and you’ve done the activities, then it’s time to explore. In an ideal world, you’ll stroll casually with your children and they’d say “Look, Mama! There’s a circle!” In my world, I chase Mooch while Mr. Wonderful shuffles along with Farley, leaving cameras and odds and ends behind on benches. Make no goals and you’ll enjoy yourself.

This fountain. I tell you, kids are attracted to it like flies to a Coke bottle.
This fountain. I tell you, kids are attracted to it like flies to a Coke bottle.

3. Visit the fountain. You don’t even need to plan it in your tour, kids seem to find this instinctually. It’s a charming area to sit for a spell, while your children splash your back. Fun!

There are zones designed especially for children at Joslyn.
There are zones designed especially for children at Joslyn.

4. Visit the areas designated for children: The Mind’s Eye Gallery and the open space by the Special Exhibit area (near that cool, swirly Chihuly). The Mind’s Eye Gallery often features a well-known children’s book illustrator, like Dr. Seuss next month (yay!). Upstairs, you’ll find a colorful little corner to rest while your little artist draws, reads or wrecks havoc. Add their creation to the other abstract works of art made by youngsters.

Farley's the Dali of his preschool classroom.
Play, color and read with your children during your visit to Joslyn Art Museum. He’s the Dali in his daycare.

There’s a drawer of games that older kids may enjoy playing as well. Younger ones will enjoy the mess they make.

Play, color and read with your children during your visit to Joslyn Art Museum.
Play, color and read with your children during your visit to Joslyn Art Museum.

5. Consider a trip just to sketch or take pictures. Farley enjoyed taking pictures with his camera (no flash).

Farley fancies himself a budding photographer. He's got the eye.
Farley fancies himself a budding photographer. He’s got the eye.

6. For older children, do a scavenger hunt while you’re there. Get the iArt scavenger hunt for your smartphone here.

Farley in the Discovery Garden.
Farley in the Discovery Garden.

7. End your visit outdoors with a wild rumpus in the sculpture gardens. On the northwest corner, you’ll find the colorful Discovery Garden made just for children. To the east of the museum is the Peter Kiewit Foundation Sculpture Garden. Yes, you can get into the reflecting pool, which is why I suggested you end here.

End your visit on a hot day with a slow walk in the reflective pool. Slow. A hard-learned lesson for some scrappy toddlers.
End your visit on a hot day with a slow walk in the reflective pool. Slow – that was a hard-learned lesson for a particularly scrappy toddler.

* * * * *

More things to know about Joslyn and young children:

– A new space called Art Works opened in November 2014 featuring nine stations to explore various forms of visual art, from sculpture to drawing to animation. Read about the kid-friendly space here.

– There are self-guided art activities for children every other Saturday morning. See details here.

– Joslyn and the Omaha Public Library offer free story time each month. See details here.

* * * * *

Check back tomorrow for a special post about visiting Omaha art galleries with children. Local artist Lori Elliott-Bartle and freelance art writer Suzanne Smith Arney will share tips on making the most of your visit!

Hyper At Red Mango: Our Trip to Try Tasty New Smoothies From the Frozen Yogurt Giant

Sponsored post

Red Mango SuperBiotics Smoothies Summer LogoRed Mango, popular among my friends for its all-natural frozen yogurt and the variety of toppings from kiwis to crushed up candy, has a new superbiotic summer smoothies line. Always up to try something new, I was happy they asked to be an Oh My! Omaha sponsor.

It’s good timing, too, since today through Friday, Red Mango is offering $2 Super Biotic Smoothies. And for the coupon adverse, this deal doesn’t even require one. You can get a regular size (16oz) Super Biotic smoothie all day, every day in store (only 16oz Super Biotic smoothies are eligible for this offer).

Mr. Wonderful and I brought the kids down to the Red Mango next to Ameritrade Park – a neat location with outdoor seating.

The patio at the Red Mango in downtown Omaha.
The patio at the Red Mango in downtown Omaha.

As is their habit, Farley and Mooch ran wild while I mulled over the 22 smoothie options – the dairy-free Raspberry Jammin’ or maybe a Spoonable Mango Banana? And do I add a little boost to it?!

I was clearly taking too long to decide. If I didn’t hurry, Mooch would be dangling from the ceiling soon.

The Strawberry Energizer Smoothie at Red Mango. Yum.
The Strawberry Energizer Smoothie at Red Mango. Yum.

We settled on three things to share. The winner was hands down the Strawberry Energizer Mr. Wonderful ordered. Made with the obvious strawberries and yogurt, plus some banana, it’s the right amount of sweetness for everyone’s tastes.

I picked the Honey Badger Fat Burner because I’m a sucker for fun names. The Honey Badger was a blend of yogurt, granola and honey. It was mild in flavor and lacked the ka-pow of the strawberry. But Honey Badger don’t care.

The healthy fruit in the toppings bar at Red Mango. Naturally, my son wanted Nerds and sprinkles on his frozen yogurt instead.
The healthy fruit in the toppings bar at Red Mango. Naturally, my son wanted Nerds and sprinkles on his frozen yogurt instead.

And, since we had children who were tall enough to see the toppings bar, we couldn’t get out of there without some fro-yo topped with goodies. The kids greedily ate that big bowl up, stealing our spoons so we couldn’t sample. I wanted to get them one of the Just Kidd’n snack-sized options of smoothies, the PB one sounded right up their alley. Oh well, next time.

The kids started bogarting the frozen yogurt. How many spoons does one kid need?
The kids started bogarting the frozen yogurt.

We love our sponsors, and encourage you to give them some love, too! Follow Red Mango, one of the fastest-growing retailers of all-natural frozen yogurt and fresh fruit smoothies, on Facebook and Twitter.

So let’s review the fun new options at Red Mango, shall we? There are four lifestyle-centered categories:

Body Balance: Flavorful and functional yogurt smoothies formulated with beneficial boosts
All Fruit Harmony: Refreshing dairy-free and soy-free smoothies made only with fruit, juice and ice.
Twisted Fruits: Smooth and creamy signature yogurt smoothies offered in new and innovative fruit-forward flavors.
Just Kidd’n: Naturally delicious, snack-sized fruit and yogurt smoothies, blended just for kids.

Since I, for one, like the promise of a little boost in my drink (no, friends, not the alcoholic kind of boost, at least not here), here are the smoothie boosts you can have added to your drink to give it a wholesome kick. In addition to the protein, energy, immunity and multivitamin boosts available, Red Mango has added four new boosts which have been formulated with natural and innovative ingredients:

Metabolic Fit 360™: A proprietary blend of protein, calcium and African Mango which supports metabolic balance and promotes healthy weight management.
Dark Chocolate Mate: Finely ground, Brazilian roasted maté and dark chocolate; a delicious, rich, low-calorie flavor which also supplies a nice dose of antioxidants.
Tropical Hibiscus: Finely ground, premium Nigerian hibiscus blossoms infused with natural pineapple and lychee; a bright and tropical low-calorie flavor and antioxidant boost.
Green Tea Acai: Finely ground, premium green tea with açai berries, the Amazonian superfruit; a low-calorie antioxidant boost made with the best ingredients.

—-

This is a sponsored post by Red Mango. The opinions in this post are mine, though.

Family-Friendly Bike Rides in Omaha

The Omaha metro area offers several trails that are great for families to bike on. Below is a list of bike trails in Omaha to try out with your kiddo. They’re relatively flat and wide enough for a trailer.

Being true to myself here, I’ve selected trips that also happen to include a stop for something sweet. You don’t have to make the stop, you fun hater, but I believe life is all about balance. Sweet with sweat.

Before you go, let me get my Mom tone on and remind you that everyone needs a helmet (even if they’re riding in a trailer). And don’t forget to be courteous to your fellow cyclists and the runners on the trail, your children will learn by your example.

Kid-friendly bike trails in Omaha - Including which trails are wide enough for bike trailers
Bike rides are pretty easy when you’re being towed.

Keystone Trail

Distance: About 5 miles total, cupcake pit stop at the halfway point.

Sweet Stop: Jones Brothers Cupcakes, 2121 S. 67th St. (in the heart of Aksarben Village).

Starting Point: Park in the lots used for Crane Coffee and Peak Performance, 519 N. 78th St., hop on your bikes and head south, making the stop at Jones Bros. your turnaround point.

Pros: Stinson Park is right by Jones Bros., so you might have an impromptu play session; you used to be able to get a discount a Jones Bros. as a biker (it’s been a while since I’ve checked this out).

Cons: The scenery around the trail leaves much to be desired; no water fountains on that bit of trail; Jones Bros. is not located on the trail so you need to have a decent idea of where you’re going.

Big Papio Trail

Distance: About 3 miles with a fro-yo or bakery break at the halfway point.

Sweet Stop: Red Mango or Wheatfields, both located at One Pacific Place, 103rd and Pacific streets.

Starting Point: Park at Towl Park off about 94th and West Center Road. You’ll bike north. Your stopping point is at One Pacific Place for choice of frozen yogurt (Red Mango) or abundance of baked good options (Wheatfields). Head back the way you came (obviously).

Pros: The trail is quiet.

Cons: It might be a little difficult to find Towl Park (I’ve never heard of it); you’ll have to leave the trail and venture into a busy shopping area to get to your sweet oasis.

Kid-friendly bike trails in Omaha - Keystrone Trail is a good, flat option
We often ride the part of Keystone Trail that starts north of Cass Street, parking near Crane Coffee and heading north on the trail. There’s a playground at the end of the trail if you head north.

West Papio Trail

Distance: About 5 miles with a frozen custard break at the halfway point.

Sweet Stop: Culvers, located near where the West Papio intersects with the Keystone Trail.

Starting Point: Use the neighborhood park at the intersection of Cobblestone Road and Wilma Road in Papillion. Bike eastward. Your stop is at Culver’s, just about where the trail intersects with the Keystone Trail.

Pros: Pretty quiet and more scenic than the trails above.

Cons: I don’t recall the trail leading up to Culver’s door, so you may have to walk your bikes through some grass.

Chalco Hills Recreation Area

Distance: About 7 miles, part of it is a loop

Sweet Stop: There is no ice cream stop within biking distance for families, so once you’re finished with your ride, pack up the bikes and head to one of the nearby fast food restaurants for soft-serve ice cream. McDonald’s is my kid’s preferred place on 144th Street near the Interstate 80 entrance.

Starting Point: The main entrance to Chalco is at 154th and Giles Road. Chalco has several parking lots located near picnic areas.

Pros: It’s a beautiful ride throughout. Much of the trail takes you around Wehrspann Lake, which is a 250-acre lake. Plus, there are restrooms here.

Cons: As the name implies, there are some hills here, including a few inclines that will be tough for little legs to bike up and/or scary for little ones to bike down. They’re manageable. My 6-year-old was fine on the way down, but had to walk her bike up one of the hills.

Kid-friendly bike trails in Omaha - Chalco Hills Recreation Area in West Omaha is a scenic park to bike around.
Chalco Hills has a bike trail with a mix of flat stretches and a few hills. There are several access points to Chalco Hills Recreation Area in West Omaha.

Walnut Creek Recreation Area

Distance: 3.1-mile looping trail

Sweet Stop: None within biking distance, so hop in the car after your ride and go to Shadow Lake Towne Center. The shopping center has an Orange Leaf, Freddy’s and Chocolaterie Stam.

Starting Point: Walnut Creek is located south of Highway 370 and west of 96th Street. There are two entrances, one at 96th Street and the other a 1.5-mile farther south and 1.5-mile west on Schram Road to Turkey Road.

Pros: Biking around the Walnut Creek Lake is beautiful and mostly flat (at least, a lot flatter than Chalco). If your family is the mountain biking kind of family, this has some nice trails, too. Also, there are restrooms here.

Cons: This is a popular park, so when we’ve been here to bike, the trail can be a little crowded.

Wabash Trace Trail (in Council Bluffs, Iowa)

Distance: It’s up to you since your Sweet Stop will actually be at the end of the ride (I recommend riding for about 15 to 20 minutes and then turning around).

Sweet Stop: Tastee Treat, 13996 Wabash Ave., Council Bluffs, Iowa

Starting Point: You can park at the trail head at East South Omaha Bridge Road, which will be just west of Tastee Treat. You may be able to park at Tastee Treat and access the trail from there as well. You’ll ride along the trail heading roughly southeast and it’s up to you when you should turn around.

Pros: The further you go, the prettier the scenery.

Cons: It’s crushed limestone, so if all you have is a road bike, you are out of luck; if you’re unfamiliar with Council Bluffs, you may be unsure how to find the trail

Additional biking options for Omaha families

If you’re looking for a few more ideas, to liven up your family bike rides in Omaha, here are some more trails or parks to consider:

Zorinsky Park – This super popular park almost always has a fairly crowded, paved trail. Still, it can get pretty scenic, especially on the west side of the park. There are a few inclines, but overall, it’s a fairly flat route around a lake. There are also two playgrounds.

Benson Park – This is a very short loop around a small lake, but this is where our kids learned to ride their bikes. The path can get crowded on warm days, but if you go during more temperate seasons, you’ll feel like you have the park to yourselves. There’s a great playground here and a spray ground that’s open in the summer.

Lewis & Clark Landing & The Bob – There are paved trails on both sides of the Missouri River, which you can access by crossing the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge (more commonly referred to as The Bob). The bike up the bridge is a little steep for little legs. The bridge can get crowded by people oblivious to bikers, so know that you may either have to weave around crowds or just hop off your bike. The Council Bluffs side has more extensive trails if you want a longer ride, but for short legs, the Omaha side is just fine.

More information about biking in Omaha

I found a lot of trail information from the handy Trail Link website. MAPA also has a bike map of the Omaha metro to download. Check them out! For mapping how far you ride, try using Map My Ride.

Kid-friendly bike trails in Omaha for families who like to ride together. List includes paths around lakes and parks. #bikes #Omaha #Nebraska #familytime

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Surviving Shakespeare on the Green With Children

Sure, you think your kid's smart and will occupy himself with studying the Shakespeare on the Green program. But, you're wrong. Pack some toys.
Sure, you think your kid’s smart and will occupy himself with studying the Shakespeare on the Green program. But, you’re wrong. Pack some toys.

Shakespeare on the Green is a summer tradition in Omaha. For three weekends starting at the end of June, hundreds of people pack a picnic, a bottle of wine and gallons of bug spray, and they head to that swath of grass behind the University of Omaha to watch some live theater. They go to this free event to relax outdoors.

I bring my kids and ruin that.

Kids should go to Shakespeare on the Green with their parents, certainly. It’s just a lot more work to bring them. But do it, at least once.

We’re not going this year because we still need to recover from our first trip to Shakespeare on the Green with them – the very loud meltdown, the begging for food from strangers, the unfinished beer I had to dump because of our quick exit. But, I still stand by my feeling that children are welcome and should be at Shakespeare on the Green. But, you need a game plan.

Surviving Shakespeare on the Green With Children

Food is essential for Shakespeare on the Green, with or without children in tow. Pizza was a hit with us, but never underestimate the power of just having a lot of snack food. Nutella is highly recommended.
Food is essential for Shakespeare on the Green, with or without children in tow. Pizza was a hit with us, but never underestimate the power of just having a lot of snack food. Nutella is highly recommended.

Pack Smart – The Bard is great and all, but your children aren’t going to stay glued to the stage. I recommend bringing a variety of quiet toys (not throwing toys like a football, this does not amuse your neighbors during the show). Some essentials to pack, even if you aren’t bringing a rugrat: Bug spray, flashlight, dinner or snacks, and something to drink. And alcohol (don’t forget the corkscrew or bottle opener). You’ll also need something to sit on, so chairs or blankets.

Sit Strategically – You may need a quick escape with a rily child. I sure did and there is nothing fun about weaving through an attentive crowd with a Sit-n-Stand stroller over grass while two children sob. There’s also nothing quick about it. So, sit near the back or on the outskirts of the crowd on either side.

She may look incapable of mass destruction, but believe me, when she was under 1, we took her out after 7 p.m. with the understanding that our child may turn into a Gremlin at any moment.
Mooch in the dress up tent at Shakepeare on the Green, at approximately 6:55 p.m. – The Danger Zone. She may look incapable of mass destruction, but believe me, when she was under 1, we took her out after 7 p.m. with the understanding that our child may turn into a Gremlin at any moment.

Go Early – Seems counter-intuitive, but this is a good idea if you’re bringing children who have the Cinderella complex like Mooch. She’s wonderful until a certain hour of the evening and then she’s unpredictable and on a short fuse and then we have to leave like 5 minutes ago. Go early and enjoy the pre-show activities and absorb the atmosphere. Then, when you inevitably have to leave at intermission – or worse, right in the middle of the quietest part of Act I – you won’t feel like you missed as much.

Farley trying hard to understand what's happening on stage. Two-year-olds are so dumn. (just kidding)
Farley trying hard to understand what’s happening on stage. Two-year-olds are so dumb. (just kidding)

Discuss – Since you got there early and all, read through the program and explain in simple terms what will be happening on stage. The people behind Shakespeare on the Green do remarkable things and present very entertaining theater, but it’s still not easy to follow, especially if you’re more comfortable with “Curious George” 12-minute stories. If your child seems interested, talk about the action over intermission. See if he can tell you what happened. Ask him what he thinks of it.

Extra Tips

King Farley in the dress up tent
King Farley in the dress up tent

– Visit the dress up tent with the kids. It’s just fun to check out and get all Elizabethan with your family.

– Bring some cash to donate to this free community event. Have your child put the money in the bucket.

– There are two shows presented each year. This season, it’s “Twelfth Night” and “Titus Adronicus.” Word of warning, “Titus Adronicus” has mature content and is graphic in nature, so parental discretion is recommended.

Outdoor Dining in Omaha

There’s something about a cool breeze, a cold drink, the clink of silverware on a plate, the chatter of quiet conversations and laughter. Dining al fresco. Love it. As luck would have it, Omaha has a lot of outdoor dining options. Here are some of my favorites, with a few bars thrown in for good measure.

UPDATE: This post was first published in 2013 and was updated in January 2020 to reflect closures.

Surfside Club, one of the few places to eat and drink on the river front in Omaha. It's just a happy place for me.
Surfside Club, one of the few places to eat and drink on the river front in Omaha. It’s just a happy place for me.

You’ll notice the list is downtown heavy. My younger 20-something days spent living in the Old Market are clearly reflected here. (My life now in song) Since having kids, leisurely dining experiences are a thing of the past. And it’s no longer worth having more than one drink when you think about dealing with a 3-year-old who is soooo not a morning person.

Some places on the list are kid-friendly, but let’s be selfish and imagine going to dinner without children in tow.

Downtown Omaha

Nicola’s in the Market (521 S 13th St.) – Fine Italian dining on the outskirt of the Old Market. The charming patio has lights strung up to add to the relaxed atmosphere. Reservations are highly recommended since seating is limited. Website

La Buvette is an Old Market staple for good wine. Wine makes mama happy.
Photo courtesy Visit Omaha

La Bouvette (511 S. 11th St.) – I could sit here all night, but probably shouldn’t. It’s ideal for a date, but also a great spot to catch up with friends. They have a great selection of wine and delicious food to compliment said wine. You could have a beer there, but don’t be that guy. Website

Plank (1205 Howard St.) – I’ve been there for dinner once and I feel comfortable recommending it. It’s a seafood place with a hip edge. Happy Hour lasts until 6:30 p.m. with good deals, I thought. Website

I got all arty with this night shot of Mr. Wonderful at Upstream Brewery. I'll stop that.
I got all arty with this night shot of Mr. Wonderful at Upstream Brewery. I’ll stop that.

Upstream Brewery (514 S. 11th St.) – There are two outdoor seating areas. I recommend the street level for early morning people watching on Saturdays during the Farmers Market, otherwise the car fumes are a bit much. Head upstairs to the rooftop patio to chill out with a good beer. Website

Mr. Toad’s (1002 Howard St.) – Strictly drinks here with primo people watching. Somehow, the exhaust isn’t as annoying here as at Upstream. Anyway. Drink prices are steep but I love the location and the strung-up lights, so every once in a while, I splurge. Website

Rose & Crown (515 S. 20th St.) – Here’s a dive to bring your friends to. Walk through the not-so-special bar and head straight for the patio. With its lights and huge trees with faces in the trunks springing up through the patio floor, you’ll start feeling carefree in no time (maybe the cheap drinks help). Website

Midtown Omaha

One of my favorite outdoor spots in Omaha. Photo courtesy marksindundee.com.
One of my favorite outdoor spots in Omaha. Photo courtesy marksindundee.com.

Mark’s Bistro (4916 Underwood Ave.) – I am enchanted with this patio (just go to the website and check out the pic – nice, right? This is the place in my head I go to when I wish I had a glass of red wine and a secret hiding place. The food’s also very good – gourmet mac and cheese? Hell yeah. Website

Midtown Crossing (32nd and Farnam streets) – This is actually a collection of restaurants. (Website) This area’s on the list because they have primo views of Jazz on the Green. Imagine summer nights on a comfy chair, listening to live music on your perch while waiters bring you tasty food you didn’t have to carry with you to the park. It’s nice. Want a suggestion? It’s a chain, but I do like the margaritas and the vegetarian options at Cantina Laredo. Website

West O

Dante Ristarante Pizzaria (168th & Center in the Shops of Legacy) – Delicious Italian food in a strip mall? It’s true. The patio doesn’t offer an exquisite view, but the atmosphere is nice, what with fire pit and all. But, go there for the food. I’m talking Neapolitan pizza. The spaghetti is rumored to be divine. Website

North O

Surfside Club - You don't go there for the food (though, you're a fool if you don't order some corn fritters and dip them in some maple syrup while you're there).
Surfside Club – You don’t go there for the food (though, you’re a fool if you don’t order some corn fritters and dip them in some maple syrup while you’re there).

Surfside Club (445 N, River Drive) – Nothing fancy about eating fried food while boaters moon you. Oh, but it sure is fun. The whole dining experience is fun here. The place sits on the Missouri River and part of the draw is watching the crazy boaters pass by in the summer. The menu has expanded some since it reopened, but it is known for the fried fish and oh-so-good corn fritters with honey. Website

Council Bluffs, Iowa

Cellar 19 (928 Valley View Drive, Council Bluffs) – Think deli meets wine bistro, it’s casual but nice enough for a low-key date night. The patio doesn’t offer much of a view, but the deli options are fresh and the wine is really good and reasonably priced. Website

Historic 100 block of West Broadway – For outdoor drinks, I recommend checking out the perennial reader’s choice winner, Barley’s.

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Your turn! Where are your favorite outdoor eating/drinking spots in Omaha? What’s missing from this list?