Kids Bowl Free

Who here likes to bowl?

Who here likes any family outing that’s free for kids?

If you answered yes to either of those, head on over to the Kids Bowl Free website.

kids-bowl-free-headpinz-88This annual and legit deal involves select bowling centers and schools around the United States (and some in Canada). It’s “designed to give back to the community and provide a safe, secure and fun way for kids to spend this summer.”

As long as your kids are younger than the age limit set by the participating bowling center, they are eligible for two free games a day, all summer long. Every. Day.

You don’t have to go every day, but isn’t that a nice, free option when you just want to get out of the house? Shoe rental fees may apply, but that’s never much.

The program also offers a family pass. It’s $24.95 and it allows two games per person per day, covering up to four adult family members.

My family’s not a bowling family by any stretch of the imagination, but I jumped all over this opportunity.

There are three bowling centers in Omaha participating: Maplewood Lanes, Mockingbird Lanes and Western Bowl. There are 11 cities in Nebraska with at least one participating venue. Check it out here.

Dad-Approved Outings in Omaha

My husband sometimes pokes fun at me because he suspects I may be an 80-year-old stuck in a 30-something’s body. On more than one occasion, I’ve planned dates to places where we were the youngest in the building by 40 years.

So I question my judgement on things sometimes.

Omaha dad Aaron checks out the butterfly pavilion at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.
Omaha dad Aaron checks out the butterfly pavilion at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.

When it comes to this blog, I wonder if dads read it or find it helpful. In case I don’t “speak” to that male demographic, I’ve enlisted some Omaha dads to help me out. They provided a lot of ideas that suit all budgets and all ages.

Here are dad-approved outings in Omaha:

“Our son loves trains, cars and planes, usually in that order. We recommend:

– Kennefick Park (next to Lauritzen Gardens)

– Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs

– Durham Museum

– The car show at the CenturyLink Center

– SAC Museum

Also, and this is our most regular stop when the weather cooperates, we love hiking at Hitchcock Nature Center, about 20 minutes northeast of Omaha on the Iowa side of the river.

What else… We eat on South 24th Street … shop the Old Market when we need to get mommy a gift … go sledding at Memorial Park.” – Shane, father of one boy, age 2 (and another boy on the way)

* * * * *

“We like going camping at Two Rivers and Platte River State Park … going to the zoo, walking through Cabela’s (never buy anything, just look at the fish and gear), and sitting on the berm at Storm Chasers games.” – Matt, father of two boys, ages 4 and 2

* * * * *

One dad asked his 4-year-old daughter for her favorite daddy-daughter outing.

“Some of her favorite memories were me taking her to the ferris wheel inside of Scheel’s (that she had been waiting to get tall enough to ride – ever since she first laid eyes on it.)…

“Other than that, we have taken her to the children’s museum, Fontenelle Forest, the zoo and the Rose Theater a couple times, all of which I know she really enjoyed. And really not too expensive.

“Ultimately, most of our outings are just close to home, though – like trips to the park inside our neighborhood development, or along the trails that span along the tree lines.” – Aaron, father of two girls, ages 4 and 1

* * * * *

Rob with future Creighton sports stars.
Rob with future Creighton sports stars.

“We liked walking around the farmer’s market downtown last year.

“These aren’t free but they are this dad-approved: Stormchaser games, Creighton basketball games, the zoo and the children’s museum.” – Rob, father of two boys and a girl, ages 7, 4 and 6 months

* * * * *

“When it’s just me and the girls, we mainly go to the Amazing Pizza Machine,” said one dad, whose daughter in the background also suggested she enjoyed going to the Olive Garden with him. “Yes, if we’re not at the movies, we’re at the Amazing Pizza Machine.” – Dan, father of two girls, ages 11 and 8

* * * * *

“Now that they’re 16, it’s tough to get my kids out of their bedrooms, but before that we liked hiking at Neal Woods; we enjoyed monthly trips to Joslyn Art Museum, HotShops and of course the zoo, which they never seem to outgrow. Now, at 16, they like exploring the Old Market, Benson, South 24th Street and the Slowdown area. As teens, it’s more about unique shopping experiences.” – Fred, father of two boys and a girl, all 16

Omaha Parades

Drums are going, horns are honking. Must mean it's nap time.
Drums are going, horns are honking. Must mean it’s nap time.

Omaha loves a parade. Once or twice a year, I drag my family to one only to realize I don’t really like it (I’m talking about the parade, not my family). I have parade-induced amnesia.

But for most normal folk, parades are fun, and you can enjoy one almost every season in Omaha. Maybe when my kids are a little older, I’ll remember the joy in watching their excitement. At 3 and 1½, they’re still overwhelmed by the whole experience. But I will forget this and take them to the next one that comes along.

You can't tell by the picture, but Farley was a walking billboard for politicians at the Benson Parade in 2012. Lots of stickers. Lots of stickers...
You can’t tell by the picture, but Farley was a walking billboard for politicians at the Benson Parade in 2012.
Seriously, how many stickers are you gonna give the kid?

Here’s a rundown of some Omaha parade options:

  • Septemberfest – Falling on Labor Day weekend, this one has the benefit of having somewhat enjoyable weather. Who knows with Omaha You know, on second thought, maybe donuts from Petit’s is a bad idea during a parade.

    weather, though, right? It’s the longest parade (or just feels like it) in Omaha, with the most inflatable characters. Tons of community organizations participate in it and most throw candy, so if you’re OK with Halloween-levels of sugar entering your home, be sure your kids bring a bag for their haul. The big draw for Farley were the fire engines and other service vehicles. Arrive at least 30 minutes before the start of the parade to find a good spot, preferably one that isn’t by stop lights; I learned from experience that the cool factor of large inflatables is negated when they have to be brought down to ground level to go under stop lights. We staked out a spot by Petit’s Pastry, 502 N. 16th St., so I could get us donuts. There will be a line at Petit’s, but it’s worth it.

  • St. Patrick’s Day – Here’s one I revisit every few years thinking “This year, it’s going to be fun!” It’s held on the coldest day of the year – maybe that’s just how I remember it since it’s in March. We went this year with the kids and left early because I lost feeling in my fingers and Mooch was approaching meltdown level. This one does get bonus points for having the most entertaining people watching, though. And I’m talking about the spectators. Crazy Irish.
  • Neighborhood and Smaller Parades –
    Benson Parade
    Benson Parade

    We’ve checked out Benson’s annual parade (held during Benson Days in July), it’s shorter than the two biggies above, but there’s enough candy thrown to satisfy a third-grade classroom. It’s also crazy loud, but maybe that was just me since Mooch decided that a parade made for perfect napping conditions. Other parades around Omaha include Cinco de Mayo (in May, duh), Florence Days (May), Native Omaha Days (bi-annual event held at the end of July) and Millard Days (August). Some smaller neighborhoods have parades, like Dundee, and Omaha Children’s Museum has one to kick off summer each year at the end of May.

What else am I missing? Do you have a favorite that you can endorse, because I’m doing a terrible job!

10 Secrets Of Omaha Libraries

Your local library. You hit it up for free books, a storytime here and there, maybe a free DVD or CD to mix things up at home.

Farley and Mooch have been frequent visitors to a couple branches of the Omaha Public Library from a very young age.
Farley and Mooch have been frequent visitors to a couple branches of the Omaha Public Library from a very young age.

If that about sums up your family’s experience with the library, this post’s for you.

Here are some things you might not know is available – for free – at a nearby library.

1. Yoga for kids – Yoga is used to bring stories to life at the A.V. Sorenson branch. It’s recommended for preschoolers and grade schoolers.

2. Acting classes – Elementary school-aged kids can take story acting classes with a local storyteller at the Charles B. Washington branch.

3. Movies – Several branches offer family-friendly movie screenings (and free popcorn, yum!).

4. Video games – Head to the Millard and South Omaha branched if your older kids want to play video games.

5. Lego Club – The name pretty much says it all, right? Check out this club at the Saddlebrook and Sorenson branches

6. For budding engineers – If your little one finds building materials in your kitchen cabinets and hall closet, here’s an activity for him or her. The Millard branch has a class for small architects where they’ll build, erect, sculpt and create things with provided materials. Children younger than 5 must be supervised by parent or guardian.

7. Arts & Crafts – Several branches offer crafting opportunities for all ages, even teens. Check to see when yours has one. Many pair it with storytime.

8. Writing workshops – For teens bitten by the writing bug, have them check out the Teen Writers Workshop at Saddlebrook..

9. Character visits – Few things excite children more than meeting their favorite literary or movie characters in real life. Check the Omaha Public Library’s calendar for the next visit (and don’t forget to bring your camera).

10. Storytimes – You probably already knew about these, but did you know the extent of what they offered? Storytimes offered at various branches are signed, bilingual, infant, stay-at-home dad, read with dogs, tied into crafts (these aren’t offered all at once … could you imagine what a bilingual infant dog storytime would be like?). Most branches offer toddler-specific and preschooler specific storytimes. If you’re going to one of these, stick to your kid’s age group just so he or she gets the most out of it. A few years ago, I brought Farley to one and he was very timid around the bigger kids. But you know your kids so if they could give two farts about sitting next to a Big Kid, then pay no attention to me.

To find when and where these activities are held, visit the Omaha Public Library’s website.

Please share your favorite offering at your neighborhood library! What am I missing?

P.S. If you want ideas on how to raise a reader, visit my Pinterest board. I’ve found some great ideas online!

3 Ways To Score Cheap Tickets to Shows

Updated: July 9, 2018

In my former life, I was a theater and movie critic for a newspaper. I got to go to shows for free, bringing giddy nieces, tipsy friends and Mr. Wonderful to many a good show. Alas, my freeloading days are over. What’s a girl to do?

You figure out where the discounts are and you hunt them down. Challenge accepted, right?

Farley's first Broadway tour show was "Shrek." I recommend not timing your kid's first musical to coincide with the week you begin potty training.
Farley’s first Broadway tour show was “Shrek.”
I recommend not timing your kid’s first musical to coincide with the week you begin potty training.

Assuming you aren’t looking to buy a season ticket anywhere, here are some tips to help you afford your entertainment habit:

Follow them on social media

Organizations like Omaha Performing Arts (disclosure: I worked for this organization, but they are not endorsing or sponsoring this blog), Omaha Community Playhouse, Film Streams and The Rose are all active on different platforms. Find the place that offers shows that interest you and follow them on Facebook, Twitter or if they have a blog, follow that. If they offer discounts, especially last-minute ones, you can be sure they offer them to their fans first. You’ll even find giveaways on these platforms.

Giddy niece on her way to The Rose.
Giddy niece on her way to a show at The Rose.


Know the discount days

Omaha Community Playhouse offers $10 tickets on the first Wednesday night of a performance, $7 tickets for students on weekends and half-off tickets if purchased the day of the performance. Visit here to get all the details. The Rose offers discount tickets if purchased at Hy-Vee; they’re good for up to $5 off each ticket.

And, Omaha Performing Arts often offers $5 off discounts and other promos on certain shows, so be on the lookout for those. They’ll probably let you know via email.

NET Supporter

If you donate $80 or more to Nebraska Public Television, you receive the NET MemberCard that gets you tons of discounts throughout Nebraska. While many of them are 2-for-1 discounts to museums and restaurants, you will find some great deals for performances.

Metro Arts & Culture Pass

Editor’s update: This program no longer exists, unfortunately.

Check here  before buying a ticket ever again (or better yet, check here). Each month, two organizations offer a discount or freebie. If you are a season subscriber or member to any of the participating organizations, you can enjoy those benefits! It’s not a physical pass, if you’re wondering.

Do you know of any discounts? Share your tips in a comment, please!

15 Outdoor Concerts For Your Family

Crowd at Jazz on the Green in Midtown Omaha

Updated: July 9, 2018

I love summers in Omaha, and a big reason is that there is always free, live entertainment every weekend. No matter where you live in Omaha, a free outdoor concert is not far away. I have a list of free 2018 concerts if you’d like to see who’s playing where this summer.

We’ve been taking the kids to outdoor concerts since they were little. Some of my family’s favorite memories include dancing by the stage at Jazz on the Green.

Let’s head east to west, shall we?

Downtown. On the weekends, you’re almost guaranteed to stumble upon a festival with live music. Most festivals are free. Most. Check before going if that’s a concern. Sure bets are Taste of Omaha and the Omaha Summer Arts Festival, as well as the smaller ethnic events (Greek and Italian festivals are fun ones).

If you head toward the river, there’s a series of concerts by the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge called Bridge Beats.

Midtown. Stinson Park at Aksarben Village has live music on Saturdays beginning at 7 p.m.  Plenty of green open space and there’s a sand-less playground and small water splash area.

Farley and Mr. Wonderful kick back at Stinson Park.
My son and husband hanging out at a concert in Stinson Park, a large green space at Aksarben Village.

Midtown Crossing’s Turner Park is home to Jazz on the Green (disclosure: I work for Omaha Performing Arts, who helps put this shindig on), the Thursday night throwdown every mid-July to mid-August. Music starts at 7:30 p.m.; the green opens at 5 and people are there waiting to claim a good spot. Expect a big crowd – so if that overwhelms you, stay clear.

Mooch wasn’t quite 1 when she went to her first Jazz on the Green concert.

Turner Park has more concerts throughout the summer, so check back at Midtown Crossing’s site to see who’s playing the End of Summer concerts.

Free concerts near Omaha

– In Springfield, you can enjoy free concerts year-round at Soaring Wings Vineyard. Summer time is my preferred time to go since it’s outside then and it just seems more kid-friendly (plus you can bring your own food to the outdoor concerts – not your own beverages, though). Loose Cannon had a blast last year begging for food from tipsy strangers (I had a “blast” not sitting down the entire time while I chased the little stinker).

– Head out to Papillion’s Shadow Lake Towne Center, 72nd Street and Nebraska Highway 370, for free concerts on Fridays this summer starting at 6:30 p.m. Papillion also has a Concerts in the Park each summer. These are held on Wednesday nights to coincide with the farmer’s market at City Park, 84th and Lincoln streets.

LaVista has a cool movie and concert combo each month in the summer. The series is held on select Friday nights starting at 7 p.m. outside of the La Vista Public Library, 9110 Giles Road.

– Ralston has concerts on Thursdays starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Downtown Gazebo, Main Street and 77th.

– Bellevue holds concerts at Washington Park, 20th and Franklin streets, on Thursdays starting at 7 p.m.

– Council Bluffs is growing its music scene and a big part of it will be held at River’s Edge Park, located on the east side of the pedestrian bridge over the Missouri River. It’s grand opening celebration will include a free live concert by the Beach Boys on May 25 and a free Memorial Day concert put on by Playing With Fire on May 27 with the headliners the Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.

** Many of the above concerts – in fact, most – involve musicians from the Omaha Musicians Association. They put on more concert than I listed here, and in more parks and surrounding communities. So, visit this site if you want to find the concert closest to you.

A category of their own is the mega one-night-only free concerts in Omaha. You’ve got the Bank of the West: Rocking Omaha Concert at Memorial Park (usually the first Saturday in July). Playing With Fire is a blues mainstay that has expanded beyond one-night-only, and now includes multiple free concerts.

What to bring to an outdoor concert?

Seating is generally not provided, so bring along chairs or a blanket. Most allow you to bring food and drinks, but double check before you haul your massive cooler with you. Toys or other things to entertain your kids once they’re done busting a move (have you seen my busy bag post, mmm?). Do kids still say busting a move? Never mind.

Did I miss any big outdoor concerts? What’s your favorite?