Three downtown Omaha parks have been updated in recent years, and the transformation to the area has been incredible. The three parks – Gene Leahy Mall, Lewis & Clark Landing, and Heartland of America Park – are all a part of The RiverFront, an incredible must-visit place in Omaha. One of my favorite additions within those parks is the Skate Ribbon located in Heartland of America Park. Here’s a look at that new feature and all the need-to-know details about it!
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Heartland of America Park in downtown Omaha
Since 1990, Heartland of America Park has been a lovely green space in Omaha, but largely an underutilized one. It was built on the ConAgra campus, which is (still) a sore subject for many Omahans of a certain age. Long story short, the campus was built on what was once Jobbers Canyon Historic District and people never forgave them.
Anyway. For the longest time, Heartland of America Park consisted of a man-made lake with a fountain with a paved walking path around it. It was connected to Lewis & Clark Landing by a walking path. Both areas were nice, but nothing too special. In 2019, the park was closed for renovations for the highly-anticipated RiverFront development. In August 2023, the park’s updates were unveiled with the updates to the Lewis & Clark Landing.
The lake remains at Heartland of America Park, and now there are a few additions to make it more of a destination. There’s a small playground (nothing compared to the ones at Gene Leahy Mall and Lewis & Clark Landing, though), as well as lots of seating areas to relax and gaze at the lake.
One of the most-photographed additions is the Farnam Pier that stretches out high above the Missouri River. The other addition is the Skating Ribbon.
Key features of the Omaha Skate Ribbon
Heartland of America Park is a fairly sprawling park, but it’s easy to locate the Skate Ribbon: It’s at Eighth and Farnam streets, on the northwest edge of the park. The Skate Ribbon is designed to be used in all seasons, so in the warmer months, it’s for rollerskating. And then, in the winter, it becomes an ice skating ribbon.
UPDATE: Ice skating season starts Nov. 22, 2023 in the evening.
Unlike a typical skating rink, the Skate Ribbon isn’t an oval, but rather a path. There is only one entrance and exit to it. There is a plaza in front of the Skate Ribbon, and a green space nearby.
There’s also a small building next to the Skate Ribbon where you can rent skates for a small fee. If you bring your own skates, you can skate on the Skate Ribbon for free (but you must still sign a waiver form). The building has bathrooms inside it.
There is no restaurant on-site, though when I went with my family, there were two food trucks parked at the park’s plaza. Luckily, for my kids at least, one of those food trucks was a shaved ice truck. It was perfect for the warm September day.
There are a few picnic tables near the Skate Ribbon, as well as many other tables and chairs set up along the green space nearby. You’ll also find a few fire pits with adirondack chairs near the Skate Ribbon, as well as some hammock. The park has several trash and recycling containers.
I didn’t notice any water fountains near the Skate Ribbon, so I highly recommend bringing a full water bottle with you.
Tips for visitors
The Skate Ribbon is still pretty new at this time, so I imagine there will eventually be some changes after this blog post is published. For the time being, here are a few key things to know and tips from my experience:
- The Skate Ribbon’s current hours are
- Mondays through Thursdays from 2 to 9 p.m.
- Fridays from 2 to 10 p.m.
- Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Skate Ribbon hours are subject to change due to weather.
- Weekends will be the busiest time to go to the Skate Ribbon. As I discovered, it’s also very busy when there’s a concert at the CHI Health Center Omaha. Double check concert listings if you hate having to look for parking!
- Speaking of parking, there is very limited on-street parking near Heartland of America Park. There are free parking spots at the Luminarium and Lewis & Clark Landing, but expect those lots to be full on the weekends. You may have luck finding metered parking along Farnam Street as you head west toward Gene Leahy Mall. There is one parking garage near Eighth and Farnam streets – it’s a garage for an apartment/condo building but it is open to the public. I ended up parking on a surface lot closer to the Old Market on one visit.
- The rollerskates that are available for rent run large, I heard, so ask for a size smaller than your usual shoe size, especially for women and kids.
- If you or your kids are new to skating, I highly recommend bringing a bike helmet and, maybe, knee pads. The Skate Ribbon is concrete.
- If you’re unsteady on skates, put them on as close to the Skate Ribbon as possible. There is a slight downward slope at the entrance to the Skate Ribbon, and I watched several beginners take a hard fall before even racing the Ribbon.
- You cannot be on the Skate Ribbon while wearing shoes.
What to expect at the Skate Ribbon in Downtown Omaha
Being located in a park, the atmosphere of the Skate Ribbon is rather casual and lively. Skaters of varying abilities are in the Ribbon, and outside the Ribbon, so be cautious as you move around.
My daughter celebrated a birthday party at the Skate Ribbon, so I had plenty of time to make some observations. It was a Saturday in the late afternoon and there was a short wait to pay and to sign waivers.
Tip: While you can fill the online waiver in advance, employees at the Skate Ribbon were unable to look up the waivers. I had parents of the girls coming to the birthday party fill them out in advance, but then discovered I still needed them to send me the confirmation information so I could show the skating employees. A mild annoyance but it all worked out in the end.
The Skate Ribbon was busy but it’s such a large place that it didn’t feel crowded. I noticed there is at least one Skate Ribbon employee on skates monitoring activity most of the time. There was more than one fall that required quick, minor medical attention from the staff.
In the first month of the Skate Ribbon being open, there were themed music events on Friday nights. They were by decades, so ‘70s Music Night, ‘80s Music Night, and ‘90s Music Night kind of thing. I’m looking forward to seeing what else they announce! There were no additional fees to skate during one of the themed nights.
FYI: There is music playing on speakers even when it’s not a themed night.
Downtown Omaha has become a very lively place, and it seems more businesses keep opening up each time I check. In addition to Gene Leahy Mall and Lewis & Clark Landing, there are a lot of other attractions and things to do near the Skate Ribbon at Heartland of America Park.
You can hope for food trucks near the Skate Ribbon and Gene Leahy Mall (check around 13th Street), but it’s always good to know what brick-and-mortar restaurants are also nearby. Fig is a restaurant located inside the Luminarium, which is part of The RiverFront and located next to Lewis & Clark Landing. That will be your closest option.
The Capitol District is a few blocks northwest of Heartland of America Park, and you’ll find several different kinds of restaurants there from burgers to pizza, as well as the popular Brazilian steakhouse, Fugo de Brazil.
You’ll find a lot of dining options a few blocks southwest of Heartland of America Park, too, in the Old Market. My family’s favorite ice cream shop is there (though you’ll probably want to drive to it from the park): Ted & Wally’s. If you want a really unique dining experience, go to CTRL, it’s a cereal bar on 10th Street that has old-school Nintendos and Segas at the tables.
Other attractions in Downtown Omaha
You can pair a visit to the Skate Ribbon with other nearby activities easily! The first few that come to mind are Kiewit Luminarium (it’s like a science museum), The Durham Museum (great for history and train buffs), or The Fat Putter (a super cool putt putt spot).
The city’s biggest concert and sporting venue, CHI Health Center Omaha is located near Heartland of America Park, as well. The Holland Performing Arts Center and The Jewell are also live music venues in the area.
Are there things we can’t bring to park or rules to know about?
Yes! Here’s what is not permitted at any of the parks at The RiverFront:
– Smoking, vaping, alcohol and drug use
– Water guns
– Climbing on permanent park structures or trees
– Disorderly behavior, unreasonable noise or intrusively amplified music
– Panhandling, solicitation, distribution or sampling without a permit
– Adding bubbles, soaps, food or other substances to The RiverFront’s various water features
– Attaching or affixing items to park signs, trees, plants, fences or structures
– Staking or adding signage within park property
– Obstructing entrances or pathways
– Riding bicycles, skateboards, rollerblades or scooters in the park’s pedestrian right of way, which includes all interior walkways, paths and amenities unless otherwise denoted
– Personal property such as carts, furniture, tents or other structures
– Open flames including cooking or grilling
– Defacing park property
– Glass bottles or containers
Are the restrooms wheelchair accessible?
Yes! Wheelchair accessible facilities are available in both the public and family restrooms with locations in each of The RiverFront’s three parks. In Gene Leahy Mall, the restroom is located by the Arches Playground near 11th and Farnam streets. In Heartland of America Park, a restroom facility is attached to the Skate Ribbon Kiosk near Eighth and Farnam streets.
What are the hours for the Skate Ribbon?
Since it’s outdoor, the Skate Ribbon hours are subject to the weather. When I last checked, the hours were:
– Mondays through Thursdays from 2 to 9 p.m.
– Fridays from 2 to 10 p.m.
– Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
– Sundays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
What are the Heartland of America Park’s hours?
The Heartland of America Park is part of The RiverFront, and The RiverFront is open daily from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Is there Wifi at the Skate Ribbon and Heartland of America Park?
Yes! Yes, there is free Wi-Fi in Heartland of America Park. Connect to The RiverFront Network to log in.
In the heart of Downtown Omaha, the revitalized Heartland of America Park beckons locals and visitors alike to experience the Skate Ribbon. This charming addition has already woven itself beautifully into the city’s fabric, offering a lively sanctuary where laughter echoes and memories are crafted with each glide and spin.
Whether you’re savoring the scenic views, indulging in treats from nearby food trucks or restaurants, or embarking on an adventurous day with a blend of skating and exploring surrounding attractions, the Skate Ribbon promises an ensemble of joy and discovery.