There’s a lot going on along the Omaha RiverFront, and two big developments are the reopening of Lewis & Clark Landing and the Heartland of America Park. The Omaha RiverFront has undergone an incredible transformation in the past years, starting with the reopening of Gene Leahy Mall in summer 2022 and the opening of the Kiewit Luminarium in spring 2023.
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The Omaha RiverFront is quickly becoming a place that celebrates community spirit. I’m absolutely thrilled to encourage you all to visit the area! The first area I recommend you check out is Lewis & Clark Landing. I’ll be writing about Heartland of America Park soon!
Quick history of the Lewis & Clark Landing
The Lewis & Clark Landing is located on the western side of the Missouri River, just south of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. For years (even decades), it’s been under-utilized, often because of issues with the soil quality and flooding. There was once a restaurant called Rick’s Boatyard on the landing, and briefly, a brewery. Festivals have been held there, and there is a large statue honoring the labor movement that’s worth checking out. But generally, there wasn’t much to keep people in the area.
It all started back in 2018 when it was announced that The RiverFront was created with the intention of massive renovations to make a new, vibrant space within the three existing parks that would naturally link the Old Market to North Downtown Omaha. The first phase, the reopening of Gene Leahy Mall, was in 2022. The next phase was in August 2023, with the reopening of Lewis & Clark Landing and Heartland of America Park.
Why it’s a must-visit location in Omaha
I brought my kids to Lewis & Clark Landing about a week after it reopened and it was busy. Like, really busy. I’d never seen the area so full of people. And that was a good thing!
Depending on your interests, there are a few reasons you’ll want to visit:
- The fantastic playground for kids of all ages
- An urban beach to sink your toes in sand or play sand volleyball
- The Kiewit Luminarium is in the area, and it’s one of the city’s newest attractions and it is a marvel to explore!
- Plenty of paved walkways for walking and biking.
- You can easily get to The Bob, the pedestrian bridge that spans the Missouri River, which has a great photo opp with the state line in the middle of it. There’s also a blue troll you’ll want to look for living underneath the bridge on the Omaha side.
- It’s easy to walk to the other two parks nearby, Heartland of America Park and Gene Leahy Mall.
- It’s also easy to walk to Omaha’s only National Park. OK, it’s technically only the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters and Visitor Center, but it counts, right? It’s free to visit, and the visitor center has some hands-on things kids will like. Plus, it’s air-conditioned.
Tip: Park hours are 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Getting to Lewis & Clark Landing
There are a few options for getting to Lewis & Clark Landing. If you drive, I find it’s easiest to access the park if you come from the north, driving along Cuming Street and turning south on Riverfront Drive. There is free parking in the parking lot of the Kiewit Luminarium. As you drive further south along Riverfront Drive, you’ll find a mix of free and metered parking.
The nearest Omaha Metro Bus Route to the Lewis & Clark Landing is Route 16. ORBT, Omaha’s rapid bus that drives along Dodge Street, does come pretty close to the area, with a stop at Eighth and Farnam near Heartland of America Park.
You can walk to Lewis & Clark Landing, as well. There is a pedestrian bridge from the CHI Health Center Omaha, as well as a bridge from Heartland of America Park.
What’s new at the Lewis & Clark Landing
There are two new things in the area that will stand out first above all other things: The giant new Kiewit Luminarium and the colorful new park. Let’s look at those two things first.
Since the start of the announcement of The RiverFront, there was always going to be some sort of building/attraction in the plan, and it quickly was determined that a science center would be best suited for it. The Kiewit Luminarium is a science center, but much more than that. It’s for kids and adults, for sure, with hands-on exhibits and activities. It’s a ton of fun and artfully designed, and you can read more about it here.
The playground at Lewis & Clark Landing is unlike any in the Omaha area. The large space, known as the Discovery Playground, is fenced-in with a single entrance/exit. There are rocket-like climbing structures with slides, water features, swings, musical instruments to play, and a ton of turf to run on. With a kid wants to crawl, climb or fly, they can do it here.
OK, not fly for real. There’s a mini zipline for them to play on.
A few parents have expressed uneasiness in the park’s design, in that some structures are steep to climb up or slide down. For littles who aren’t the steadiest on their feet, you may want to stick close to them.
A few key things to point out:
- There are bathrooms inside the fenced-in playground area, as well as outside of it.
- Dogs are not allowed into the fenced-in playground area. The closest dog park is at Gene Leahy Mall.
- There are picnic tables inside the fenced-in playground area and outside of it. The closest restaurant in the area is Fig, located inside the Kiewit Luminarium.
- There is some gravelly areas, and sand at the urban beach.
- Those slides are metal. They look hot to me, though I can’t confirm it since I’m way too big to try one.
- There is also one crazy, steep slide that I’ve seen kids shoot out of at a dangerous speed and landing close to the sidewalk.. It’s the slide located furthest south in the playground.
Other things to see and do at Lewis & Clark Landing
What once was a huge stretch of cement along the riverfront is now a lot more welcoming. My favorite new addition is the urban beach, with seating, some canopies and firepits. It’s not a beach in the sense you can wade into the river or anything (you do not want to do that). But, it’s a nice place to relax, at least.
There’s also nearby sand volleyball courts. Landscaping is new, too, and it gives the area a touch of the prairie.
There is a running trail just to the west of the landing that has been there for years, but now there are a few sculptures added along it. The most notable is a statue of Big Elk, designed by Benjamin Victor. The details are impressive.
Tips for visitors
It’s completely free to visit Lewis & Clark Landing. The busiest times are going to be on the weekends, but the only place you’re going to ever feel crowded is at the playground. I’d recommend going in the morning for minimum crowds, plus it will be the coolest part of the day.
Planning around meal time, you can easily grab a tasty sandwich or treat at Fig, the restaurant inside the Kiewit Luminarium. It’s a bit of a walk, but there are frequently food trucks parked on the west end of the Gene Leahy Mall. And of course, there are a number of excellent restaurants in the downtown Omaha/Old Market area.
Want ice cream after a day outdoors? The closest places I recommend are either Ted & Wally’s at 12th and Jackson streets in the Old Market or Coneflower Creamery at 1214 Millwork Ave. at the Millwork Commons. You’ll want to drive to either of those places.