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The Top Museums In Omaha: A Curated List For 2024

Whether you’re visiting Omaha for the first time or you’ve lived here for 20 years, there’s a museum that’s perfect for you that you’v yet to discover. Whenever someone asks for suggestions on things to do, I almost always recommend visiting an Omaha museum – we have something for everyone!

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Omaha has so many great museums and art galleries! From art and history to science and creative processes, here's what you should know about the must-visit museums in the city. #Omaha #Nebraska #Museums #Midwest

Top Omaha museums to visit

Below I share some of my favorite museums in Omaha and the ones that are considered the must-visit cultural attractions. They’re the ones that are the most-visited and happen to be the ones I’m most familiar with.

For the museums featured in this post, I share tips on what’s the must-see thing at each and what makes each unique. You’ll also find some other tips that I think are helpful for planning, like roughly how much time you may spend there and if there is food available for purchase.

The second section includes museums and galleries that are notable but I may not be as familiar with or haven’t visited yet. I’m not about to give you tips for museums I haven’t visited yet, so for the list, I provide a description on what you can expect. At the end of the post, you’ll find a section of museums near Omaha that are easy enough to include in your itinerary if you’re a visitor, though technically, they’re not in Omaha.

Things to know about to Joslyn Art Museum

** Joslyn Art Museum is temporarily closed until Sept. 10, 2024 for renovations and expansions**

Top museums in Omaha - Omaha's largest art museum, Joslyn Art Museum, is a free attraction you should visit.
Joslyn Art Museum

Where: 2200 Dodge St. (downtown Omaha)

What makes it unique: A beautiful building, a visit Joslyn Art Museum is one of the best free things to do in Omaha. 

Must see thing: I’m a particular fan of the small Impressionist collection, which include Degas, Monet and Cassatt. The museum has a large collection of American West and Native American art. Don’t leave without dipping your toes in the fountain out front. In the summer, kids often will wade through it. 

How much time: Allow between 2 to 3 hours; if you’re there with kids, expect to spend about an hour in the Art Works area.

Cost: FREE, though special exhibits are often an additional fee. Often, there is a discount to see the special exhibit on Thursday nights. One recent exhibit was free on the first weekend of each month.

Is it kid-friendly? It can be very kid-friendly. Head to the lower level to visit Art Works, an interactive space for making art related to exhibit pieces. Also, you can check out themed backpacks with activities for kids.

Cafe? Yes, it’s located in the atrium. The food is pretty good, if a bit pricey. No special food items that are necessarily just for kids. Do not try to bring your own food in. You can picnic in the sculpture garden.

Things to know about The Durham Museum

Omaha's best museums - Learn about local and regional history and railroading history at The Durham Museum in downtown Omaha.
The Durham Museum

Where: 801 S. 10th St. (downtown Omaha)

What makes it unique: Housed in Union Station, The Durham Museum is a large museum celebrating the region’s history, with a particular emphasis on the railroad. 

Must see thing: Walk through the restored trains on the lower level. 

How much time: You can easily spend at least 3 hours at the museum (more if you like to read descriptions).

Cost: $15, adults; $12, seniors/military/veterans; $8, children (ages 3-12); FREE, children 2 and younger

Is it kid-friendly? Yes, there’s a hands-on play area on the lower level, plus no kid can resist the huge model train display. Read my guide to visiting The Durham Museum with kids.

Cafe? Yes, Union Station’s soda fountain is the cafe. Don’t leave without trying a root beer float or phosphate. Outside food is not permitted.

Things to know about Kiewit Luminarium

A boy builds a bridge at the Luminarium
Kiewit Luminarium

Where: 345 Riverfront Drive (downtown Omaha)

What makes it unique: The Luminarium fills a need that Omaha had been missing. We didn’t have a science center. The Luminarium is a science center in a sense, but also something less tangible. It is very community-focused, in addition to all the hands-on STEM exhibits.

Must see thing: Don’t skip the museum’s maker space, tucked in a corner of the first floor near the Dig Deeper exhibit.

How much time: Expect to spend at least 3 hours there.

Cost: Tickets are $19.95 for kids (ages 5-17), teachers, students (ages 18+), active military, and seniors; $24.95 for adults ages 18+; and FREE for kids 4 and younger. Admission is also FREE for Indigenous Peoples.

Is it kid-friendly? Absolutely, yes. The great thing about the Luminarium is that adults have as much fun as kids do there.

Cafe? Yes, the restaurant Fig. operates inside the museum. The pastries are delicious, and they also offer salads and sandwiches.

Things to know about Omaha Children’s Museum

Museums of Omaha to visit with kids - The top museum to visit with young children is Omaha children's Museum.
The Imagination Playground at Omaha Children’s Museum

Where: 500 S. 20th St. (downtown Omaha)

What makes it unique: Omaha Children’s Museum is the best place to go for hands-on play with an educational emphasis for kids under the age of 10.

Must see thing: The Imagination Playground is the most popular permanent exhibit. I personally think the Tinker Lab is pretty unique and worth a stop. Read my tips for visiting Omaha Children’s Museum.

How much time: You could spend a day here, but kids may start to tucker out after 3 hours. If your kids don’t take naps anymore, expect to spend at least 4 hours here.

Cost: $16 for kids and adults ages 2 and older; $15 for seniors; free for children younger than 24 months. If you have a membership to another science center or children’s museum, you may get a discounted admission (or FREE!). Read more about reciprocal museum admission here.

Is it kid-friendly? Of course! There’s a family bathroom near the Imagination Playground, as well as a nursing room.

Cafe? There is a small cafe upstairs offering pizza by the slice, hot dogs and other kid-friendly fare. You’re also welcome to bring your own food.

Things to know about KANEKO

Kaneko Omaha Temporary
Temporary exhibit at KANEKO

Where: 1111 Jones St. (downtown Omaha)

What makes it unique: KANEKO is truly a creative space that’s hard to define. It’s part gallery, part performance space, part gathering space for creatives.

Must see thing: KANEKO is an ever-evolving space so the must-see thing is usually whatever the special exhibit happens to be. When I visit with my family, there’s usually at least one area that appeals to the kids, something they’re allowed to touch. And every so often, it’s much like an art gallery where everything is “no touch.”

How much time: Expect to spend about 1 hour here.

Cost: General admission is $10; $5 for Military, Seniors, Student IDs, Educator, 17 and under. Admission is free every Friday.

Is it kid-friendly? Some special exhibits are more accessible to kids than others. We almost always find something pretty cool there that’s OK to touch and therefore OK for kids. There are occasional family-friendly events there.

Cafe? No

Things to know about Bemis Center For Contemporary Art

Bemis Center For Contemporary Art is an Omaha art gallery to visit near the Old Market.
Bemis Center for Contemporary Art

Where: 724 S. 12th St.

What makes it unique: The Bemis Center For Contemporary Art has an excellent artist residency program. Take advantage of the open studio days to meet the artists and see what they’re working on.

Must see thing: Much of this space is temporary art exhibitions, so you never know what you’re going to find. But, one thing you can find there is the Art-o-Mat, an art vending machine that dispenses real, one-of-a-kind art!

How much time: You can expect to spend about an hour here unless you’re visiting during one of their special events like open studios or a family day. Then, plan on about 2 hours.

Cost: FREE

Is it kid-friendly? The art itself may or may not appeal to kids when doing a self-guided tour, so try to visit during open studios where things are livelier. I find the art here to be more thought-provoking than other places, which sometimes just doesn’t register with younger kids.

Cafe? No.

Things to know about Boys Town Hall of History

Learn about this history of Boys Town by visiting the Hall of History, Father Flanagan's home and stopping by the Visitor's Center (which is home to the world's largest ball of stamps).
Hall of History at Boys Town

Where: 14057 Flanagan Blvd, Boys Town, Neb. (West Omaha)

What makes it unique: What was started by Father Flanagan in 1921 for a few orphaned boys is now the National Historic Landmark Boys Town. Visit the Hall of History, tour Flanagan’s home and stop by the Visitor’s Center to learn all about it.

Must see thing: Everyone says the world’s largest ball of stamps at the Visitor’s Center is a must-see, but I prefer the Hall of History with its replica bus to climb aboard and the memorabilia from the Spencer Tracy movie “Boys Town.”

How much time: Plan about an hour to visit.

Cost: FREE

Is it kid-friendly? Yes, kids are welcome but it’s not very hands-on.

Cafe? Yes, breakfast and lunch is available at a cafe in the Visitor’s Center.

More galleries and museums in Omaha to visit

Hot Shops Art Center in NoDo Omaha features dozens of work studios and galleries of work made by local artists.
Hot Shops Art Center

Omaha has a lot of smaller galleries and museums that are worth visiting. Many on the list below are quite niche. Expect to spend about an hour or less at each.

Art galleries and creative spaces in Omaha

Artist Co-operative Gallery – This Old Market art gallery features more than 30 artists and artisans. Expect to find unique paintings, sculptures, textiles and more. Exhibit openings are a great time to visit and meet some of the artists. Admission is free. Address: 405 S. 11th St. in the Old Market

Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center (Council Bluffs, Iowa) – The Hoff is a hub of creative activity in Council Bluffs. There is an exhibition space, artist studios, classes, and a stage for performances by Chanticleer Theater, American Midwest Ballet, and Janesville Orchestra. Fourth Fridays is a fun time to visit since there are added activities for the community. Address: 1001 S. Sixth St., Council Bluffs, Iowa

Hot Shops Art Center – Located in NoDo (North Downtown), this multi-level building is home to galleries and working spaces of more than 80 artists of every imaginable medium. Time your visit during the May or December open house and see demonstrations like glass blowing. Admission is free. Address: 1301 Nicholas St.

Modern Arts Midtown – This art gallery is an extension of Modern Arts Midwest in Lincoln, Neb., and features local and regional contemporary artists. The exhibition space features abstract and traditional art forms ranging from paint, sculpture, photography and textiles. Address: 3615 Dodge St.

Samuel Bak Museum: The Learning Center – One of the newest art galleries to open in the Metro area, the Bak Museum features decades-worth of work by Bak, a world-renowned artist and Holocaust survivor. It’s free to visit. Address: 2289 S. 67th St.

The Union For Contemporary Art – The North Omaha nonprofit’s mission is to “strengthen the cultural and social landscape of our community by using the arts as a vehicle to inspire positive social change.” In addition to hosting art exhibitions and theatrical performances, the Union offers workshops, studio space, and programs for youth. Address: 2423 N. 24th St.

Colorful, mixed media paintings line a hall at Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center in Council Bluffs
Hoff Family Arts & Culture Center

History museums in Omaha

Fort Atkinson State Historical Park (Fort Calhoun, Neb.) – The main draw is the actual fort, though there is a visitor’s center to explore as well. I recommend visiting on one of the living history weekends when they have re-enactors demonstrating what life was like in the early 1800s. Address: 201 S. Seventh St., Fort Calhoun, Neb.

Gen. Crook House – This beautifully restored home of the Civil War hero is found on the North Omaha campus of Metro Community College. Address: 5730 N. 30th St.

General Dodge House (Council Bluffs, Iowa) – This stately home of Grenville M. Dodge was built in 1869. Dodge was a major figure in the railroad history of the area, as well as a Union Army general and politician. Address: 605 S. Third St., Council Bluffs, Iowa

The exterior of the Historic General Dodge House in Council Bluffs
Historic General Dodge House

Historic Florence Bank and Depot Museums – The Florence Bank is Nebraska’s oldest bank. Learn about the Florence neighborhood history at the bank, plus visit the depot that dates back to 1888 and has a caboose and railroad displays. Address: 8502 N. 30th St. (temporarily closed)

Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters – The museum and visitor’s center at Winter Quarters tells the history of the migration of 90,000 pioneers to the Rocky Mountains. Displays include a log cabin, covered wagon, oxen and handcart. Address: 3215 State St.

Squirrel Cage Jail (Council Bluffs, Iowa) – This historic landmark is one-of-a kind, a three-story lazy Susan type jail. Only 18 of these rotating jails were ever made, and this is the only one that’s three stories. Tours offer visitors a glimpse into the past, by not only peeking into cells, but seeing officer offices, the kitchen and other rooms in the building. Address: 226 Pearl St., Council Bluffs, Iowa

Omaha’s Cultural heritage museums

Czech and Slovak Educational Center and Cultural Museum – This museum in LaVista is dedicated to the history of Czech and Slovak immigrants. Address: 8106 S. 84th St., La Vista, Neb.

El Museo Latino – Located in South Omaha, this is the Midwest’s first Latino art and history museum. The museum has several special events worth checking out. Address: 4701 S. 25th St.

Great Plains Black History Museum – Located in North Omaha on historic 24th Street, the museum preserves the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout middle America. Address: 2221 N. 24th St.

A tour guide at Great Plains Black History Museum stands in an exhibit space
Great Plains Black History Museum

Transportation museums

Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum (Ashland, Neb.) – Get up close to aircraft and space travel memorabilia at this Smithsonian affiliate. This large museum is home to to the largest collection of Cold War aircraft and artifacts in the United States. Address: 28210 W. Park Highway, Ashland, Neb.

Union Pacific Railroad Museum (Council Bluffs, Iowa) – This free museum celebrates the long history of Union Pacific. The interactive exhibits, like pretending to operate a train, at Union Pacific Railroad Museum appeal to kids. Address: 200 Pearl St., Council Bluffs, Iowa

Omaha is home to world class museums and galleries. Here's a guide to visiting the most popular art and history museums and the hidden gems of Omaha. Read this post for tips for visiting the biggest museums in Omaha, as well as suggestions on nearby museums to include on an itinerary. #Nebraska #history #art

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