The Hidden Petting Zoo In The City: Scatter Joy Acres

There’s a 26-acre ranch that has long been Omaha’s best-kept secret. Scatter Joy Acres is a working farm and petting zoo tucked among trees in the middle of Omaha. I’ve only recently “discovered” it, but it turns out, many of my friends have already known about it and loved it.

Petting emus at Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha Nebraska

What is Scatter Joy Acres

Joy Bartling started Scatter Joy Acres in 2005/2006 as a rescue for abused and neglected animals. Its original name was Soby Ranch Ministries. It grew and relocated to its current location in north Omaha.

Scatter Joy Acres is now a working ranch with more than 100 animals including pigs, horses, goats, alpacas, peafowl, cows, emu, sheep, and a pretty interesting camel. Animals are kept in pins that visitors are allowed to let themselves into (except for a few areas that are well-marked).

While you’ll encounter most of those animals at the petting zoo, some are involved in therapy sessions for developmentally-disabled, seniors, at-risk children, and veterans.

Porcupine at Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha, Neb.

We talked with a volunteer at the farm who introduced us to the porcupine who is often used in teaching kids. The porcupine looked pretty intimidating, but it turns out, she’s rather friendly. She might even crawl into your lap!

I didn’t cuddle a porcupine during our visit, alas. But she did eat a turnip out of my hand, so that was a win.

Why go to Scatter Joy Acres?

The last few months have been stressful for everyone, so the idea of visiting a farm, with its wide open spaces and cute baby animals, really really appealed to me. It turned out, it was the prescription my whole family needed.

A donkey eats at Scatter Joy Acres

We finally felt at ease. There was room to roam. There were animals to pet.

I can think of many reasons to go to Scatter Joy on top of just needing a break from pandemic hysteria:

  • It’s educational. Think of it as a field trip.
  • It’s therapeutic. Just try not to smile back when a camel grins at you.
  • It’s supporting a good cause. Many of these animals are rescue animals that get a new life now as therapy animals.

Is there food available at the farm?

The main reason my family left before we felt totally ready to leave was that we were hungry (OK, the main reason was they were closing for the day and ready to kick us out, but the second reason was that we were hungry).

This place is more farm than attraction, so you won’t find a snack shack or concession stand. There is a vending machine.

We were pretty thirsty by the end of our visit and the water fountain wasn’t working, so I’d suggest bringing a bottle of water or being prepared to buy one.

A barn at Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha, Nebraska

The farm during COVID-19

Here’s is Scatter Joy’s statement in regards to the pandemic:

“Scatter Joy Acres is proactively working to protect the health of our guests and our animals. We remain open and events are continuing as scheduled. SJA will modify our response to the situation as needed. Our plan regarding Coronavirus includes closely monitoring national, state, and local health authorities for recommendations regarding safe operations.

Donkeys at Scatter Joy Acres

“SJA will follow the recommendations regarding safety and precautionary measures issued by the CDC, Douglas County Health Department, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. All volunteers have been asked to help prevent the spread of disease by taking steps to reduce the transmission of infectious disease in the workplace.

  • “The best strategy remains common sense; frequent hand washing with warm, soapy water for a minimum of 30 seconds; covering your mouth whenever you sneeze or cough; and discarding used tissues in wastebaskets.
  • “SJA has always provided hand sanitizer for volunteers and guests and will continue that practice.”
  • “SJA volunteers are asked not report to work while they are ill.

“Guests are asked not to come while they are ill.”

A volunteer at Scatter Joy Acres holds a baby emu

Volunteers do not wear masks at Scatter Joy, so if that concerns you, it would be best to wait to visit.

The acreage is spacious so it’s pretty easy to practice social-distancing, as long as you are patient entering and leaving a pen. A few spaces are narrow, especially in the barn near the rabbits, so it’s harder to practice social distancing if someone is already in that space.

Just have patience.

Hours and admission

For the general public, you’ll want to keep tabs on tithe petting zoo hours. For the spring and summer (March 1 to Aug. 31), the hours are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.

Goats at Scatter Joy Acres, a petting zoo in Omaha

Tip: Spring is a good time to visit because of all the baby animals. When we were there, we saw baby emu and puppies.

The fall petting zoo hours (Sept. 1 to Oct. 31) are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.

Winter Hours (Nov. 1 to Feb. 28 or 29) and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

We went on a Sunday and had no problem seeing all of the animals in about two hours. Of course, we could’ve spent more time there, so I’d recommend planning to spend three or four hours there.

We left only because we were hungry and had missed lunch…and well, they were trying to close.

An up-close look at a tortoise at Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha, Nebraska

Admission is $7 per person on weekdays and $10 per person on the weekend. Children younger than 2 are admitted FREE.

Where is Scatter Joy?

Interestingly enough, I lived fairly near Scatter Joy Acres for years without knowing it. I moved this spring and only after I moved further away from it did I finally visit. You don’t have to be like me.

Address: 4966 Newport Ave., Omaha

There’s plenty of parking, though I imagine once the secret gets out, that might not always be the case.

Button to read more Omaha stories

Where to find more animals in Nebraska

Can’t get enough of animals with a single visit to a farm? Here are more places to find animals throughout Nebraska:

OmahaOmaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. While there isn’t a petting zoo per se, there are places with animal encounters, including goats at the Children’s Adventure Trails, sting rays at Sting Ray Bay, and starfish and other sea creatures at the aquarium.

Ashland – The Nebraska Wildlife Safari is primarily a drive-through safari, but there is a chance to stop and visit a petting zoo with goats and chickens (though, it is temporarily closed due to COVID-19).

LincolnLincoln Children’s Zoo has many opportunities to see animals up-close. This zoo is made with kids in mind.

You don't have to venture too far in Nebraska to find a working farm! Here's a guide to Scatter Joy Acres in Omaha, Nebraska. Learn about the animals, mission, and when to visit this unique petting zoo at a ranch. #Nebraska #FamilyTravel #Farm #PettingZoo #Animals

Stay in the know

Subscribe to the Oh My! Omaha newsletter to receive free emails with travel inspiration, Omaha events, and giveaways. Emails are about twice a month.

Looking for an off-the-beaten-path fun outing in Omaha? Scatter Joy Acres may be Omaha's best-kept secret. Learn about this petting zoo and working ranch and the rescue animals that live there. #Omaha #Nebraska #FamilyTime #FamilyTravel #FarmLife

17 Omaha Craft Breweries You Should Try

In a few short years (or so it seems), Omaha has grown into a booming craft brewery scene. I’ve had a few years to explore the industry (ahem, perhaps a more than a few years), so I thought I’d share my favorite brews from all of the breweries.

Beer on the patio of Upstream Brewing Co. in Downtown Omaha

Be sure to comment with your favorites! If I missed a brewery (or another one opened up), let me know.

Background on Kim’s beer picks

I’m by no means a beer snob or connoisseur. In fact, if you look over the list, you’ll see I tend to just favor a few kinds of beers (brown ales, saisons). However, I do love trying new beers. So, that’s why I made this post.

A flight of beers at Benson Brewery

I started learning about the Nebraska microbrewery scene in 2008, when my then-fiance and I held a beer tasting fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Back then, there weren’t many Omaha breweries, so we sought brewers throughout the state.

It was a fun and successful fundraiser, and we got to know the friendly and generous people behind some of the state’s longest-running breweries.

A saison at Farnam House Brewing Co. in Midtown Omaha

It’s awesome to see the brewers grow over the past 10+ years! Some of those early brewers eventually opened a taproom in Omaha, like Thunderhead and Empyrean.

Omaha Craft Breweries

Benson Brewery

Found on the main drag of the Benson neighborhood, Benson Brewery is a great spot for food and drinks before a night out. The brewery opened in 2013.

This is one of the few brewpubs that are family-friendly, and even has a kid's menu with things like burgers and mac and cheese.

COVID-19 Update: The brewery offers curbside pickup, online ordering and delivery, with operating hours being Monday through Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m. (you can start calling in orders at 3 p.m.). The dining room is closed for the foreseeable future.

Try: The Blonde Bunny is a good, light ale.

Where: 6059 Maple St.

Brickway Brewery and Distillery

With a taproom in the Old Market, Brickway Brewery and Distillery is a prime spot to grab a beer and people-watch the afternoon away.

Brickway is also a distillery, so if you're thirsty for something a little stronger, they distill their own gin, whiskey, vodka, bourbon and rum.

COVID-19 Update: Beer and spirits are available to-go. The creative guys at Brickway also started making hand-sanitizer and now have made enough to offer it for free. Every Friday, you can get 64oz (BYOB). The rest of the week, you can get a free 10-oz bottle, one per person.

Try: I'm partial to their Red Lager.

Where: 1116 Jackstom St.

Farnam House Brewing Company

This spacious brewery in Midtown Omaha offers both food and beers. The basement is where the brewing magic happens. Farnam House's typical lineup on tap includes farmhouse ales, German Lager, Bock, Stout, and sours, as well as some pretty creative brews.

COVID-19 Update: They offer delivery through GrubHub. Beer is available in cans and growlers.

Try: Give the Rye Peppercorn Saison a try.

Where: 3558 Farnam St.

Infusion Brewing Co. 

Infusion is steadily becoming a favorite of mine, especially since our pool carries my favorite beer on tap. The original location in Benson is in the former Olson's Meat Market, and has an awesome restored, vintage look to it. The brewery has opened additional taprooms in West Omaha and in Little Bohemia in downtown Omaha.

COVID-19 Update: All taprooms are open for to-go orders only.

Try: You'll want to try the Vanilla Bean Blonde.

Where: 6115 Maple St.; 6271 S. 118th St.; and 1406 S. 13th St.

Jaipur Brewing Company and Restaurant

Jaipur is first and foremost a restaurant serving delicious Indin food. However, they also brew their own beer.

COVID-19 Update: Jaipur offers carry-out and delivery for the food menu only.

Try: The Jalapeno Ale is delicious but has a kick to it.

Where: 10922 Elm St. in Rockbrook Village

Jukes Ale Works

One of the newer breweries in the metro area, Jukes Ale House opened in the fall of 2019.

COVID-19 Update: Jukes offers food and crowlers curbside to-go.

Try: Jukes is a brewery I have yet to visit, so looking over their menu, I'd go with the Little Lady Grisette, one of their core beers. The beer is made with a simple grain bill of pilsner and wheat and a blend of French Strisselspalt and German Perle hops. What sells me on it, though, is that it's made with a special strain of saison yeast. I love Saisons.

Where: 20560 Elkhorn Drive, Elkhorn, Neb.

Kros Strain Brewing Co.

The interestingly named Kros Strain Brewing Co. is a La Vista brewery formed by two beer lovers, Bobby Kros and Scott Strain. Their style of brewing is to always tinker with flavors, so you'll always find something wholly unique on tap there.

COVID-19 Update: Kros Strain beers are avaialble for pick-up only at the brewery. It's 20% off for now and can be ordered online.

Try: Fairy Nectar London Double Dry Hop, my husband's favorite local beer. It's a tad too hoppy for me, but the beer did earn second place at that 2018 Juicy Hazy IPA category at the Great American Beer Festival.

Where: 10411 Portal Road, La Vista, Neb.

Lazlo's Brewery and Grill and Empryrean Brewing Co.

The first location of Lazlo's Brewery and Grill, Lincoln’s Historic Haymarket District, opened in 1991, making it Nebraska's first brewpub. There are now three locations, including one in West Omaha.

Their in-house brewery is called Empyrean Brewing Co.

COVID-19 Update: Lazlo's offers curbside pick-up and delivery of food as well as beer, wine, cocktails and gift cards.

Try: My favorite Empyrean beer is Third Stone Brown Ale.

Where: 2425 S. 192nd Ave.

Lucky Bucket Brewing Co.

My first introduction to Lucky Bucket was right after the brewery opened in 2008. Raising money for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training, my then-fiance and I decided to have a beer tasting fundraiser and Lucky Bucket was the first enthusiastic brewery to donate beer for it. I've been grateful to them ever since.

They've branched out and added a distillery (Cut Spike), but the beer is what we're talking about here. Lucky Bucket offers brewery tours once a month.

COVID-19 Update: The brewery offers pick-up on its beers, as well as discounted growler refills. The distillery recently started making hand sanitizer for first responders but may have it available to the public later in April.

Try: You've got to try the brewery's first beer, Lucky Bucket Pre-Prohibition Lager.

Where: 11941 Centennial Rd, La Vista, Neb.

Nebraska Brewing Co.

Nebraska Brewing Co. formed in 1997, is the state's most award-winning brewer. I've rarely encountered a dud there.

I haven't been to the new taproom, but they say it's kid-friendly, just like their old the old brewpub used to be.

They offer brewery tours.

COVID-19 Update: Nebraska Brewing Co. offers custom can ordering for pickup, plus some nifty mixed drinks in a can, like margaritas.

Try: Brunette Nut Ale, an English-style beer that's not too hoppy, but just right.

Where: 6950 S. 108th St., La Vista, Neb.

Pint Nine Brewing Co.

One of the newer breweries in the Omaha area, Pint Nine has a devoted following. Popular Omaha food trucks are often parked in front of the brewery.

This brewery offers tours.

COVID-19 Update: They offer to-go orders via email, phone or text.

Try: Give the Session Red a try.

Where: 10411 Portal Road, suite 104, La Vista, Neb.

Scriptown Brewing Co.

The Scriptown brewery is located in the trendy Blackstone District. Scriptown does a great job partnering with other Omaha small businesses, offering Noli's pizza deals, a Kathmandu Momo Station, and they've been known to do beer floats using Coneflower Creamery ice cream.

COVID-19 Update: You can order online for pick-up.

Try: Nut Job Brown Ale is a smooth beer to try.

Where: 3922 Farnam St.

Soaring Wings Vineyard & Brewery

Yes, Soaring Wings is a winery and vineyard, first and foremost. And while the whites there are pretty nice on a warm summer day, I've taken to their beers even more.

While it's a bit more of a drive to Soaring Wings versus others on this list, it's worth it to enjoy the view.

COVID-19 Update: They offer takeout and local deliveries.

Try: Pegasus Pilsner, a German-style pilsner.

Where: 17111 S. 138th St., Springfield, Neb.

Thunderhead Brewing

Thunderhead Brewing started in Kearney, Neb., but they've opened three more locations, including two in Omaha. The West Omaha location is beer-only, but you can bring your own food and kids are welcome. The downtown Omaha location is also beer-only, and kids and fur babies are welcome.

In April 2020, the folks behind Thunderhead opened Nebraska's largest liquor store in Omaha, Wine, Beer, and Spirits.

COVID-19 Update: Omaha taprooms are closed. They offered carry-out in March.

Try: I'm partial to the wheat beer, Golden Frau.

Where: 1037 Jones St. (downtown) and 13304 West Center Road, suite 126 (West Omaha)

Upstream Brewing Co.

Omaha's oldest brewpub, Upstream has been around since 1996. The large restaurant/brewery in the Old Market is surprisingly kid-friendly - every Tuesday there's a hilarious roving magician.

COVID-19 Update: Upstream Brewing Co. announced plans to reopen with a socially-distant floor plan sometime in mid-May.

Try: I usually order the Dundee Export Scotch Ale.

Where: 514 S. 11th St.

Vis Major Brewing Co.

Consider Vis Major your friendly, Omaha neighborhood brewery. They offer food along with beer and cocktails, including the pretty interesting specialty pizza, The Goonie.

Free tours are available on select days.

COVID-19 Update: You can order food and beers online for carryout or curbside pick-up.

Try: Taste the Highland Brown Ale.

Where: 3501 Center St.

Zipline Brewing Co.

Zipline Brewing has grown over the years, expanding from Lincoln into Omaha with two locations, a NoDo taproom in downtown Omaha (conveniently by Film Streams and The Slowdown), and a lounge in West Omaha.

COVID-19 Update: Zipline offers no-contact pick-up of its beers at both Omaha locations. You must place your order online.

Zipline started Workforce Wednesday, where every Wednesday in May, furloughed members of the restaurant and bar industry can get a free glass growler. You must purchase the growler to be filled with the beer of your choice or bring a Zipline growler you've already purchased. *must be pre-ordered online!

Try: Copper Alt is a must-try.

Where: 721 N. 14th St. (downtown) and 3808 S. 203rd Plaza (West Omaha)

Stay in the know

Subscribe to the Oh My! Omaha newsletter to receive free emails with travel inspiration, Omaha events, and giveaways. Emails are about twice a month.

A guide to the best microbreweries in Omaha, Nebraska - Including which brewpubs welcome pets and families. #Omaha #beers #Nebraska #brewery #Midwest

15+ Omaha Organizations Who Rock Virtual Experiences For All Ages

I don’t know about you, but I’m about to throw out the remaining month of schoolwork for my kids. Is it worth the battles getting it done? Especially when I’ve discovered an abundance of educational, creative, and fun activities online created by Omahan organizations! They can learn science, history, art, biology and more…plus they can get some physical activity in there as well!

My kids watching a virtual history lesson through a Zoom session hosted by The Durham Museum.

My kids have enjoyed tinkering challenges from Omaha Children’s Museum, learning about Omaha history with The Durham Museum, and creative movement lessons with The Rose. How about your kids? Need some ideas? Here are a few of the Omaha groups putting on fantastic classes, sessions, and videos online:

American Midwest Ballet

  • They’re sharing online dance classes for different ability levels on their Youtube page. Classes include ballet and other forms of dance and conditioning.

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

  • The Bemis Center’s Facebook page frequently has live videos featuring lectures, studio tours, and dance parties. They also started sharing “Liv Schulman: The Gobernment,” a six-episode video installation, on Vimeo. Each episode is online for only seven days.

City Sprouts

  • Visit City Sprouts’ Facebook page every Friday at 10 a.m. to catch Little Sprouts Live, featuring kid-friendly, virtual lessons on food, gardening, and the natural world. The supply list is posted

Do Space

  • Do Space is offering several different webinars for various age groups, including Little’s Lab, Junior Makers, and Kid Coders. Keep track of when these free webinars occur by viewing Do Space’s online calendar.

The Durham Museum 

  • Digital Learning at home every weekday morning at 10 a.m. Sign up for the Zoom session at the museum’s website. It’s free, but you need to register to get the Zoom meeting invite.
  • STEAM Storytime every Monday at 10:30 a.m. on their Facebook page.

Fontenelle Forest

  • Visit the forest’s Facebook page for educational virtual talks, some live, and some you’ll have to register to attend via Zoom (it’s free but you need to pre-register), like the upcoming one about American beavers.

Don’t forget to show your support for the organizations you follow and watch. Donate to show your appreciation! The museums and organizations on this list are all nonprofits.

Joslyn Art Museum

  • Art Adventures Live! Is held every Friday at 10:30 a.m. on their Facebook page.
  • The museum offers a lot of short, virtual classes online, curator talks, and family-oriented art prompts. See all of their offerings on their website.

Kaneko

Kerfuffle 

  • Kerfuffle is theater for the really young. They’re holding weekly donation-based, interactive movement classes on Zoom for children under the age of 6. Register by searching Kerfuffle on Eventbrite or email kerfuffletvy@gmail.com
  • They also have daily storytimes on their Facebook page.

Omaha Children’s Museum

  • Every morning at 8:30ish, the museum posts a new video on their Facebook page featuring either a Tinker Challenge, Kitchen ABCs recipe, storytime, or a game. 

Omaha Community Playhouse

  • The community theater’s Henry Fonda Theatre Academy will hold its spring session online. Children attending a class during the spring session earn a scholarship to attend a class during the fall session.

Omaha Conservatory of Music

  • Kids can keep up with practicing their instruments or learn a new one through virtual lessons through Omaha Conservatory of Music. Hourly sessions are available.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

  • Offering small, $10 virtual classes for different age groups. Register on the zoo’s website.
  • Keepers are sharing videos on the zoo’s Facebook page, offering up-close looks at different animals and lots of great learning.

Omaha Performing Arts

  • Omaha Performing Arts has movement warm-ups led by Disney Musicals in Schools Teaching Artist, Aaron Derell Gregory, every Wednesday at 10 a.m. The virtual sessions are on YouTube
  • Each Saturday at 11 a.m., tune to O-pa’s YouTube channel for Jazz Academy Teaching Artist, Shawn Bell, who leads short video lessons for students of all ages on different concepts behind jazz improvisation. 

Omaha Symphony

  • Omaha Symphony offers a vast Virtual Classroom, featuring downloadable packets, and informative videos on instruments, techniques, and helpful tips.

Opera Omaha

  • Check the Opera Omaha Facebook page for daily creativity prompts including drawing, creating music inspired by something like the weather, and more.

Pottawattamie Arts, Culture and Entertainment

  • The Pottawattamie County arts organization in Council Bluffs shares #ArtFromHome videos on their Facebook page featuring fun art projects.

The Rose Theater

  • Follow their Youtube channel for brief acting workshops, theater craft workshops, and movement workshops for kids. There are also videos of readings of stories.

Union Pacific Railroad Museum

  • The museum holds free Zoom sessions occasionally, teaching historical lessons connected to the railroad. An upcoming one explores the railroad’s connection to National Parks. Register so you can get the free invite to the Zoom meeting.
  • UPRM also holds virtual family events in place of their usual month First Friday events. During these events, the staff will share history, activities, and other fun stuff virtually on Facebook. The next two themes are “Under The Big Top” and “Celebrate Summer.”
Virtual lessons, workshops and activities are fun ways to keep kids connected with their community. Here are the Omaha organizations who are doing a great job creating virtual experiences for kids (and adults) at home!

Sample Weekly Schedule Of Virtual Classes

It is possible to plan a fun virtual activity each day of the week. Here’s one possible weekly schedule:

  • Monday – Watch The Durham Museum’s STEAM Storytime at 10:30 a.m. Find it on their Facebook page.
  • Tuesday – Visit Omaha Children’s Museum’s Facebook page after 8:30 a.m. to see what fun activity they have planned for kids today. It could be a tinker challenge, craft, or a game.
  • Wednesday – Do a 10-minute movement warm-up at 10 a.m. on Omaha Performing Arts’ Youtube Channel. It’s led by a Disney Musicals in Schools Teaching Artist.
  • Thursday – Let’s see what is today’s creative prompt on the Opera Omaha Facebook page.
  • Friday – Make some art with Joslyn Art Museum during Art Adventures Live! at 10:30 a.m. on their Facebook page.
  • Saturday – Sign the kids up for Little’s Lab through Do Space. The webinar is in the morning.
  • Sunday – Feeling limber? Let’s take a beginner dance lesson on the American Midwest Ballet YouTube page.

Get ideas for more virtual experiences around the state of Nebraska!

Stay connected to the Omaha creative community with virtual experiences! Here are 15+ organizations who offer fun workshops, dance lessons, and informative Zoom sessions for kids and adults. It's a great way to keep learning and stay involved with your favorite Omaha nonprofits and organizations!

How To Help Unemployed Neighbors In Omaha

We all know someone who’s lost their job in the last month, right? And, perhaps you’re like me, and want to offer more than just the suggestion that they file unemployment and read the Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s huge Crisis Response Resource page. There is a way you can help people laid off from popular Omaha restaurants and stores – donate to a fund (donate money and/or time).

Below you’ll find neighborhood funds set up for the following parts of Omaha: Dundee, Blackstone, and Gifford Park & Joslyn Castle neighborhoods. I’d love to add more, so if you know of another fund set up, please let me know!

Dundee neighborhood fund for unemployed workers

Employees who’ve lost their job in the Dundee neighborhood are receiving funds from the Dundee-Memorial Park Association and Dundee Merchants Association. You can donate to the fund here.

Both part-time and full-time employees who’ve been laid off will receive $100 checks every two weeks to unemployed people.

One of my favorite restaurants, Mark’s Bistro, had to lay off 40 people.

Many restaurants in Dundee are still open, as are some shops (to a certain degree). Here’s a list of all Dundee businesses, with phone numbers so you can call in an order for food or maybe other items.

Blackstone District fund for the service industry

The Blackstone District Association has set up a similar fund to provide association member employees in the service industry up to $1,000 every 30 days. You can donate through PayPal to contribute to the fund.

Blackstone has some of the best restaurants in Omaha, as well as bars and Coneflower Creamery. Most are still open to some degree, so you can still order take-out and delivery.

Midtown Mutual Aid Network

This network is a little different set up from the funds mentioned above. Here, residents of Gifford Park and Joslyn Castle neighborhoods can offer to help with different needs including:

  • – Childcare
  • – Cooking
  • – Delivery (buying groceries/supplies and dropping them off for folks)
  • – Petcare/dogwalking
  • – Internet subscriptions
  • – Medical advice (medical professional only)
  • – Storage Space
  • – Art, music, writing
  • – Mental health counseling
  • – Conversation/companionship
  • – Housecleaning
  • – Legal representation/advocacy (specifically labor & housing)
  • – Social services guidance (filing for medicare, unemployment, etc.)

People who live in those two neighborhoods can also volunteer to be a neighborhood point person.

Other Omaha area business associations

There are a lot of business associations out there, and while they didn’t have funds set up at the time of writing this post, they may eventually change. Here’s where you can find the latest updates on some of these associations (these are their Facebook pages, which seem to be updated more frequently than their websites):

Benson Neighborhood Association

Old Market Association

Leavenworth Neighborhood Association

Millard Business Association

North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance

Peony Park Neighborhood Association

South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance

Some of the associations have drives going for food, books, supplies, etc., so if you live in one of the neighborhoods above, go ahead and check out the Facebook page to see how you can help your neighbors. The association in North Omaha was particularly active!

More ways to help Omaha businesses

I want to make sure the small businesses in Omaha survive this crisis, so I created a list of 20+ ways you can help Omaha right now. The list includes locally-owned businesses and nonprofits like:

  • – Shops where you can order toys, puzzles, games, gardening supplies, and clothes online or by phone and pick-up curbside.
  • – Restaurants and bars that have take-out, curbside pick-up, and delivery.
  • – Nonprofits and what their current needs are.

30+ Ways To Help Omaha Right Now

The joke going around about the global pandemic is that our grandparents were called to serve in the war and we’ve been called to sit on our couch. But, being stuck at home leaves me feeling a bit helpless. And I wonder, How can I really help? This morning, my husband had a great idea to start a fundraiser, “because we all wish we could do something to help.” And that got me thinking – there are so many businesses, people, and nonprofits in Omaha that need are help. How can we help?

And, so, this post was born. If you wish there was a way you could help the Omaha community, here’s a proactive guide to helping your Omaha friends and neighbors:

Want to shop and support the community but can't leave the house, Omaha? Here's how you can shop and support local businesses! List includes shops, restaurants, craft stores, boutiques, and nonprofits.

How to support Omaha stores

Oh, I know. It’s tempting to go to Amazon or Target to get everything delivered for free. But you can find most things you need locally, keeping the money local and businesses open.

What are you wanting to buy that you can buy locally?

Games – You can browse the game inventory of Spielbound and purchase online. You can opt for free curbside pick-up or get it delivered. I tried the pick-up option, and it was super easy. You can also order coffee drinks to-go and six-packs with your game order.

Puzzles, games, geeky stuff – City Limits in the Old Market is open and full of the funniest, weirdest stuff you didn’t even know you need. Head to their Facebook page to see some videos of what they have in stock, then call them to place in your order, and they’ll bring it out to the curb for you.

Toys – Fat Brain Toys’ storefront is closed but you can still order awesome kids’ toys and games online at FatBrainToys.com. And even better, order it by 3 p.m. and they’ll ship it the same day to your own doorstep.

Omaha Children’s Museum has opened a virtual museum gift shop where you can purchase themed gift bags for kids. They’ll be available for curbside pick-up on select days.

Garden supplies – This dreary weather is going to end soon and before you know it, it will be spring gardening time. Mulhall’s has devised a gardening to-go plan for customers to order online and then pick-up your items (they’ll put it in your car for you).

Candy – Already planning Easter baskets? Or are you just stressed out parent who needs chocolate? You can order candy to-go from Hollywood Candy. Chocolat Abeille has to-die-for chocolate creations just in time for Easter. You can order online for pick-up.

Cookies – Because cookies deserve their own category separate from candy. You can order sugar decorating cookie kits to be delivered from Master’s Hand (technically not in Omaha, but close enough).

Clothing – The Four Sisters Boutique storefront is closed but you are still able to order clothes online to pick-up (and even try on before getting them). Gramercy offers local delivery, curbside pickup, and shipping options. A few Regency Court retailers also have some creative ways for getting you your goods.

Books – Books are getting me and my family through these long days at home (after homeschool stuff is finished, of course). The Bookworm has an online store set up, though you can still get curb-side delivery and home delivery within zip codes 68106, 68114, 68124, 68132, 68144, and 68154.

Urban Abbey in the Old Market also has curbside pick-up. Just call ahead to order your books and/or coffee drinks.

Interior decorating Spruce Interiors & Gifts now offers curbside pickup. In addition to interior design items, there are cute items to gift to a friend (or yourself).

How to support Omaha restaurants and bars

Some Omaha restaurants and bakeries have closed temporarily to weather this pandemic, but many have found ways to stay open and serve customers. So, the obvious way you can help is to continue to be patrons at your favorite restaurants…only do it safely (eating at home seems to be the way to go).

Oh, and tip generously.

Leah and Jay at Gastronomblog wrote the best round-up of Omaha restaurants that are still open – whether they deliver, allow walk-ups, or curbside pick-ups.

Blackstone Business Association has set up a fund to distribute monthly support to service industry members in the neighborhood who’ve been affected by business closures or layoffs. If you love restaurants like Stirnella, Butterfish, Mula, Coneflower Creamery — wow, there are so many great places in that neighborhood — then consider donating to the fund.

Related post: More ways you can help Omahans who’ve lost their job

Omaha Blackstone District Takeout Guide

Love the bakeries and shops at Countryside Village? Check out the neighborhood’s Facebook page for updates on individual restaurants and bakeries that offer frozen food to-go, take-out, and more. Restaurants include Le Quartier Bakery Co., Camille’s Bakery, Swartz’s Deli, and Timber Wood Fire Bistro.

And I can’t forget to mention that Midtown Crossing has a lot of places open, too. You remember that fun day I had with my family at Midtown Crossing? I do, and I can’t wait for the day when we can head back there.

Papillion also has a handful of great restaurants to patronize, including those found at Shadow Lake Towne Center. Here’s what’s open now:

Dining guide for Shadow Lake Towne Center

My tip: Don’t forget you can buy gift cards from restaurants and save them for dining out once it’s safe to do so!

How to support Omaha nonprofits

As many of you know, my day job is at a nonprofit, so this is a biggie for me. There are dozens of nonprofits that have had to suspend operations, events, fundraisers, etc. in March. ShareOmaha has a fantastic list of nonprofits that have been impacted and how you can help. It’s not just how to help financially, either.

My tips?

  • – Renew your memberships to the places that are important to you. I’m talking about places like Omaha Children’s Museum, The Durham Museum, Joslyn Art Museum and the like. If you buy or renew your membership to Fontenelle Forest, you can get access to the trails even while they’re temporarily closed to the general public!
  • – Donate to causes that resonate with you – be it art, animals, literary, history, food scarcity, or children.
  • – And if you have the means, donate without restrictions so nonprofits can apply the funds where they need them most.

So what sort of things can you help with? Here’s a few ways I found on the ShareOmaha site:

  • – Food insecure Omaha neighbors through organization like Abide, Catholic Charities, Food Bank of the Heartland, New Visions Homeless Services, Salvation Army and more.
  • – Donate cleaning supplies to youth shelters via Child Saving Institute, MICAH House, Open Door Mission, Stephen Center, and more.
  • – Support seniors whose families can’t visit them by sending them puzzles, craft supplies and more at Florence Home. I’m sure there are others.
  • – Volunteer. Places that need volunteers include Big Brothers Big Sisters, Heartland Hope Mission, Keep Omaha Beautiful, NorthStar Foundation, The 712 Initiative and many more.
  • – Have a talent for online shopping (don’t we all?). Some organizations have set up Amazon lists including Down Syndrome Alliance, Hope Center For Kids, Siena Francis House and more

How to help seniors in Omaha

AARP has Mutual Aid Groups that you can join. These groups are informal groups of volunteers who help pick up groceries, provide financial assistance, or lend emotional support to neighbors. You can look up local groups or start one.

Feed your creativity with Omaha crafts

Omaha craft stores and creative spaces are, well, creative, so they’ve found ways for you to stay crafty at home.

Mangelsen’s offers DIY craft kits that you can order online.

The Makery sells activity kits for kids and adults, like painting and string art. They range from about $12-$34 and include almost everything you need (find your own hammers). You will have to call in your order and pick it up, curbside!

That Pottery Place offers pottery kits to-go for kids and adults. You’ll be able to bring your pottery back for glazing and firing after you’re finished painting.

It’s Yours Pottery in West Omaha offers Creativity To-Go Kits that can be ordered online. The kits include pottery selection(s), glaze colors (up to five) paint brushes, and an instruction sheet. You can call the studio when you arrive for curbside pickup.

Send a gift from Omaha businesses

Since social distancing is the buzz phrase of the month, we can’t visit our friends and loved ones like we want to. So, we can send them our love in the mail or with a special local delivery.

Hardy Coffee Co. has set up one sweet package: Homemade cinnamon roll delivered with a bag of coffee.

Made In Omaha has a way to support local artisans: Send a care package with locally-made products. There are premade packages to choose from or you can select the items to include.

Urban Abbey is selling care packages that can be delivered locally for $5. Packages are themed and include Easter, Mega Mom, and Girl Power.

Watch movies at home while still supporting your local movie art house

Netflix, you guys. I’m getting a little tired of it. Luckily, Film Streams has come up with a solution for film buffs: They’re offering home movies of the indie film variety. Purchase virtual tickets to stream at home and get more information at filmstreams.org.

How to support the businesses that will be impacted by CWS & Swim Trial cancellations

Can you imagine having the majority of your profits earned in a small window each summer? That’s how many businesses near TD Ameritrade Park and the CHI Health Center Omaha operate. So, the restaurants and stores in NoDo, Capitol District and the Old Market are all facing a rough year financially without all the tourist dollars coming in.

Want to make sure these districts continue to thrive?

NoDo has a mix of restaurants, a brewery, and businesses that need continued support. Slowdown shared a list of their NoDo neighbors that could use your business.

The Capitol District is full of restaurants. Here are the restaurants that are offering carry-out.

Here’s a list of Old Market businesses that are open and what services they continue to offer (and when).

Old Market Omaha Takeout Menu

How to support local farmers

Just a quick drive outside of Omaha and you’ll find a lot of farms, as well as CSAs to sign up for. Here are a few to consider: Plum Creek Farms (who has a discount offer for a limited time due to the excess of chickens they have from restaurant closures); Wenninghoff’s Farm, which tentatively plans to open mid-April, but either way, consider signing up for their CSA by April 10 to get a $10 credit to use in their greenhouse in May; and Big Muddy Urban Farm, which has a CSA that starts at the end of May.

Omaha Farmer’s Market has been deemed “an essential service,” but they’re gathering the public’s opinion on when to open. You can share your thoughts on the survey here.

Help me update this post! If you know of more ways to help Omaha businesses, artists, nonprofits, or neighbors, please leave a comment.

Stay in the know

Subscribe to the Oh My! Omaha newsletter to receive free emails with travel inspiration, Omaha events, and giveaways. Emails are about twice a month.

20+ ways to help Omaha businesses and neighborhoods today!

Going Out In Omaha When You’re Worried About Getting Sick

There’s a lot of unknowns at this time about COVID-19, more commonly known as the Coronavirus. Because of the unknowns, people are understandably being cautious and practicing social distancing. This is going to have a huge, negative impact on our local community as the medical advice has been saying, it will help “flatten the curve.”

Updates: I thought I was going to be able to update this post daily, but things are changing faster than 24 hours.

To get up-to-the-minute information, keep tabs on the Omaha Tourism Update on COVID-19. Additional resources locally include Nebraska Medicine, Douglas County Health Department (this one is helpful as it lists where community exposures have occurred) and Nebraska Department of Health.

I encourage you to keep tabs on what local health officials are recommending, as well as following your own gut. If you don’t want to go out, don’t go out. If you do…and wash your hands. The current advice, as of March 16, is to avoid crowds of 50 or more people.

Things to do in Omaha when there’s a pandemic

Well, not surprisingly, there isn’t much recommended. Many attractions and tourist destinations, from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium to Omaha Children’s Museum, and many performing arts venues have halted shows at least through the end of March. Most theaters and arenas are offering refunds or will be rescheduling the shows.

With the weather starting to warm up, I’m making plans to be outside with my kids more.

Biking by The Bob, the pedestrian bridge over the Missouri River

Here are some go-to parks in Omaha that my family likes and kid-friendly trails and hikes near Omaha. I’m also partial to the nearby state parks, including Platte River State Park and Mahoney State Park.

We’re also big on biking, so if you’re looking for a couple of bike trails to explore with your kids, I’ve got you covered.

Omaha events that are cancelled due to Coronavirus

So in a matter of 24 hours, things change quite a bit. Here’s just some of the Omaha events that have been canceled:

  • – Opera Omaha has postponed the 2020 ONE Festival slated to begin March 25. Patrons with tickets are encouraged to can contact the box office at 402-346-7372 x2 between the hours of 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday to discuss options. Subscription sales will continue for our 2020-2021 Season.
  • – NCAA canceled the entire men’s basketball tournament, which was going to have first- and second-round men’s basketball games on March 20 and 21 at the CHI Health Center.
  • – NCAA’s Men’s College World Series has been canceled. It was going to be from June 13 through June 23/24 at TD Ameritrade Park.

The fate of the U.S. Olympic Team Swim Trials from June 21-28 at CHI Health Center is still unknown. From what I’ve heard, it’s still going as planned.

Precautions you can take if you need to go out

OK, let’s say you have to run to the pharmacy or you’re out of toilet paper (good luck with that). Now what?

CDC wash your hands sign

Here’s what the CDC is recommending to protect yourself if you go out:

– The best way to avoid getting COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to it. Sound advice. But if you have to go out, what can you do. Well:

– Keep calm and wash your hands.

– Seriously. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. No soap and water available? Use hand sanitizer.

– Follow regular preventative measures:

  1. Don’t touch your mouth, nose or eyes, especially with unwashed hands.
  2. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing – DON’T cough or sneeze into your hands. Wash your hands afterward. 
  3. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects in your home and car.

– If you are part of a high-risk group (or your child is), stay home.

– If you’re sick, stay home.

Link to more Omaha stories

Stay in the know

Subscribe to the Oh My! Omaha newsletter to receive free emails with travel inspiration, Omaha events, and giveaways. Emails are about twice a month.