April 14, 2019

10 Things Your Daycare Provider Wishes You’d Ask

Earlier this year, I shared insight into the world of local daycares, thanks to a partnership with Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center. I remember far too well how stressful it was to find a good daycare, and I hope it’s been a helpful series for you! If you missed earlier posts, check out these tips for things to look for when searching for a daycare provider and then discover how kids are learning through play.

Disclosure: This is sponsored post by Premier Academy. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Looking for a daycare center and wondering if you're asking the right questions? Read what a real daycare director wishes you'd ask! #sponsored #daycare #premieracademy

Ever wonder what daycare providers wished you knew…if only you knew what questions to ask? I asked Jewelyn McKercher, the Center Director at Premier Academy, to share some things daycare workers wished you’d ask.

Are background checks completed on your employees?

According to McKercher, daycares should follow the minimum requirements for the state of Nebraska, so ask about them. Requirements include: Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Central Registry Check; Nebraska State Sex Offender Registry; and the Nebraska State Patrol Criminal History.

What training are the teachers required to have?

You’re curious about teacher training, right? (I was) So, McKercher said you should ask about it. The training she said is important for providers to have includes training for: Pediatric CPR; Pediatric First Aid; Child Abuse Prevention (ie. being able to recognize the signs of child abuse and knowing how to report it); Safe With You training (required by the State of Nebraska); and Continuing Education in the field of Early Childhood Education.

How is your employee turnover?

This was one of the few questions I remember asking when searching for daycare. McKercher said “Consistency is extremely important to children and the environment in which they learn best. Getting used to new teachers takes time and energy that could be spent learning.”

Things daycares wished you'd ask - "How do teachers communicate with parents?" When looking into a daycare, ask how they tell parents about their kid's day!
Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

How do teachers communicate with parents?

Do you like a full write up or do you like to just talk about your kid’s day? It’s a good thing to ask potential daycares how they communicate with parents.

“Each day you should receive a daily report of your child’s day,” said McKercher. “It should include highlights of that day, what they ate/drank, lessons/curriculum, and if the children are younger diaper changes.”

What is the teacher to child ratio?

Ask how many children there are for each teacher. McKercher said the fewer the children to a teacher the better.

“You want your child to get plenty of attention and care,” said McKercher. “The younger your child, the more important this is. Babies need a teacher to child ratio of 1:4 (one teacher to four infants), while 4-year olds can do well with a ratio of  1:12 (one teacher for 12 children).”

Is the program licensed or regulated?

Licensure ensures that the center is registered and has met or exceeded the state’s local requirements.

“It also advisable to contact the state to see if they have any outstanding complaints filed against them,” said McKercher.

Things daycares wished you'd ask - "How healthy are the meals?"
Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

How is the food prepared and how healthy are the meals served?

In addition to asking about the food, go ahead and ask to see a menu. Additionally, you can ask if they serve a variety of fruits and vegetables. McKercher said serving a variety will “encourage the children to expand their taste for different types of foods.”

Is there a fenced-in outdoor play area with safe equipment?

I didn’t realize how important this was to me until I started looking around daycare and seeing how drastically different outdoor spaces were. Additional questions to ask in this area, include

  • Can the caregivers see the entire playground and all of the children playing?
  • How often do the children go outside?
Things daycares wished you'd ask - "Do you have a curriculum?"
Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

Do you have a curriculum?

Yes, even childcare centers have curriculum! McKercher encourages prospect parents to ask about it when touring and to ask if the center incorporate the Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines.

She suggested a couple other curriculum questions to ask: What is your Kindergarten readiness rate? How prepared or advanced are your students when beginning Kindergarten?

What are your hours of operation?

Seems like a pretty important question, right? But go beyond the weekday hours, and ask about holidays and bad weather, too.

About the post sponsor

I hope this post helps you if you’re looking for a daycare provider. If you thought McKercher was helpful, and you happen to be in the market for childcare, I encourage you to check out her employer, Premier Academy. There are locations in West Omaha and Elkhorn.

Exterior of Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center, which has locations in Omaha and Elkhorn, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

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April 5, 2019

Discount Tickets To ‘School Of Rock’ In Omaha

My favorite thing about the Omaha Performing Arts Broadway Series (OK, one of my favorite things), is that there’s one show each season picked to be a part of Kids’ Night On Broadway. The 2018-2019 Season show is “School of Rock,” which will be at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha April 23-28, 2019. What’s special about Kids’ Night On Broadway is that you can get BOGO tickets to the show that select night. So, buying one ticket for you, the adult, to “School of Rock” Kids’ Night On Broadway (which is April 24), you get one FREE ticket for your kid!

(Be sure to read to the end of this post – I have a ticket giveaway for readers!)

Omaha Performing Arts presents the Broadway touring production of “School Of Rock” April 23-28, 2019 at the Orpheum Theater. Kids’ Night On Broadway is Wednesday, April 24. Photos courtesy Matthew Murphy

Disclosure: The tickets for the giveaway are provided by Omaha Performing Arts. I was provided complimentary tickets for this post. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Kids’ Night On Broadway In Omaha

Kids’ Night On Broadway is a tradition across the country that celebrates Broadway musicals and makes it easy for you to bring a kid aged 18 or younger to a show.

What’s extras special about Kids’ Night On Broadway is that before the show, there will be kid-friendly activities and photo opportunities at the Orpheum Theater. Doors open early — at 6 p.m. — exclusively for kids and their guardians to enjoy the pre-show lobby activities. Additionally, the first 150 kids to the theater will receive a swag bag of goodies!

Photo courtesy Matthew Murphy

The performance of “School Of Rock” begins at 7:30 p.m. on April 24. If you aren’t familiar with Broadway musicals, they tend to be lengthy (maybe 2 hours or longer), so keep that in mind for kids.

How to get the KNOB tickets: There is a limited number of buy one, get one free tickets for one adult and one child for the April 24 performance of “School of Rock” using the code SORKIDS at checkout at TicketOmaha.com. Don’t wait if you want to get this discount!

If you read nothing else about this special deal, read this paragraph: Kids’ Night On Broadway tickets are limited, so to take advantage if the BOGO offer, you should buy them soon. The promo code SORKIDS is valid for the buy one, get one tickets in all price levels for the April 24 performance while supplies last.

About ‘School Of Rock’

Based on the hit film, “School Of Rock” follows Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star who turns a class of straight-A students into grade-A rockers. The movie was funny, so you can bet the Broadway musical of it is, too (plus it has the added feature of including musical theater’s first-ever kids rock band). Plus, it has new songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber, in addition to the original songs from the movie.

As Vanity Fair puts it: “Fists of all ages shall be pumping!”

How to get tickets to ‘School Of Rock’ in Omaha

“School Of Rock” is performed at the Orpheum Theater, 4109 S. 16th St., in Omaha April 23-28, 2019. Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. The Kids’ Night On Broadway performance is on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., with pre-show activities in the lobbies starting at 6 p.m.

Rob Colletti and Phoenix Schuman in the “School of Rock” Tour. Photo courtesy Matthew Murphy

Tickets are available through Ticket Omaha, the official ticket seller for shows at the Orpheum Theater. Tickets range from $32-$92. The buy one, get one Kids’ Night On Broadway ticket offer is only available for the Wednesday night performance, and you must use the ticket promo code SORKIDS when purchasing your tickets. This is good for the purchase of one adult ticket and one ticket for a child age 18 or younger. The promo code works for any price level, and there are limited tickets available.

Ticket tip: If you want to avoid ticket fees, buy your tickets at Ticket Omaha in person. The Ticket Omaha box office is located inside the Holland Performing Arts Center at 1200 Douglas St.

What's Kids' Night On Broadway? Learn about this program and how families in Omaha can save money on one Broadway touring show a year - and enjoy kids' activities in the lobby. The 2019 Kids' Night On Broadway show is "School of Rock"!

Giveaway!

I’ve teamed up with Omaha Performing Arts to give one lucky reader FOUR tickets to see “School Of Rock”! Tickets are for the Wednesday performance of the Broadway musical, which starts at 7:30 p.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If unusable to see the giveaway form, the giveaway is also found here.

No ticket purchase is necessary. Must be 18 or older to enter. The deadline to enter is April 18 at 11:59 p.m. CST; a winner will be contact on April 19 via email and will have 48 hours to respond before another entry is drawn. Tickets valid only for the April 24 performance and may not be exchanged for another show date. Ticket package valued at $300.

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April 3, 2019

Top Family-Friendly Things To Do At Midtown Crossing

One of Omaha’s best neighborhoods for date night and girl’s night out also happens to be perfect for a family night out. Midtown Crossing has been my go-to for the best summer festival in Omaha – Jazz on the Green – for years. Now, with the new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, it seemed like the perfect time to visit and share with you my favorite family-friendly things to do at Midtown Crossing.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Midtown Crossing. All thoughts, opinions, and typos are my own.

Family Guide to Midtown Crossing in Omaha - Here are the top things to do with kids at Midtown Crossing, including which restaurants have kid's menus, where to go for fun activities, and what special events you'll want to go to with the family #Nebraska #USA #family

Things to do with kids at Midtown Crossing

Quite possibly the coolest movie theater in Omaha (at least, in close competition to its LaVista sister location with the “Star Wars” theme), Alamo Drafthouse Midtown is going to be your go-to for family activities. It has an “Iron Giant” theme that strikes a bit of nostalgia in you if you’re a certain age.

Things to do at Midtown Crossing with kids - Find the huge Iron Giant inside Alamo Drafthouse
The Alamo Drafthouse at Midtown Crossing has a giant Iron Giant. The lobby it’s in also has few Instagram-worthy decor, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Alamo’s endless bowl of popcorn is great for families – though that first bowl was enough for us. You can also order off the menu, which includes appetizers, entrees, and milkshakes (both regular and adult versions). There is no kid’s menu, but in the past, we’ve ordered pizza for the kids and they split it.

The one thing that separates Alamo Drafthouse from other theater chains is the age policy. Kids under the age of 6 aren’t allowed into shows except for select shows. The movie description page will specific if it’s one of those shows.

Fun things to do with kids at Midtown Crossing - Play games at Speilbound Board Game Cafe
Speilbound Board Game Cafe has thousands of games to play, many are great for families. We stopped at Speilbound during a weekend event called Unlock Midtown.

You’ll also want to bring your kiddos to Speilbound Board Game Cafe, especially if you’re the gaming sort of family. There, you’ll find more than 2,400 of games of all types to play. Incidentally, this nonprofit has both a cafe and bar, so it also makes for a great night out with friends, just sayin’.

Corky Canvas has been on my daughter’s radar, and if you plan ahead, it makes a great stop to add to your family day out at Midtown Crossing. Check their calendar as at least once or twice a month, they’ll have paint sessions where kids are welcome. They’ll list the minimum age recommendation for the particular painting you’ll be painting.

Things to do at Midtown Crossing with kids - Play chess or checkers at Turner Park
Outdoor game tables at Turner Park at Midtown Crossing. Game pieces are available to check out from the nearby tea shop called Thirst-Tea.

There is also the large green space known as Turner Park. While there isn’t a playground to play on at Turner Park, when the weather’s nice, you’ll come across some fun things to play with. In the past, we’ve found a giant chess game as well as an outdoor ping pong table. On our recent spring visit, the large chess game was replaced with more permanent chess tables. Game pieces can be checked out from Thirst-Tea.

Family-friendly restaurants at Midtown Crossing

At first glance, you might think that only the sandwich shop, Pickleman’s, is going to be the lone place to that’s family-friendly. Wrong! Among the restaurants at Midtown Crossing with kid’s menus are Cantina Laredo, Leadbelly and Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings. Ray’s has a sports bar feel to it, with a small game area that’s going to appeal to most kids.

Things to do at Midtown Crossing with kids - Find the kid-friendly restaurants like Ray's Original Buffalo Wings
If there’s a claw machine in a business, my daughter will find it. This one is at Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings at Midtown Crossing.

We had lunch at Leadbelly with the kids. Leadbelly is known for its burgers, so start looking at the part of the menu first. Their children’s portions are huge, which is a bonus for some kids, but meant leftovers for us. Kid’s drinks came in plastic cups with lids.

Things to do at Midtown Crossing with kids - Find the kid-friendly restaurants like Leadbelly
Leadbelly was one of the first Midtown Crossing restaurants we took the kids.

Dinner at Cantina Laredo was a treat with the kids. On the back of the kid’s menu is a list of questions to ask each other, and it kept us occupied while we waited. Another bonus: The chips and salsa are complimentary (and delicious).

For treats, you have a few great choices. For ice cream, look no further than Cold Stone Creamery. There is a kid’s size available that isn’t listed on the menu – just ask for it in any flavor or specialty. I wish I could say Cold Stone was a great stop for the family on our night out, but to put it gently, one young employee needed to freshen up on her customer service skills.

Things to do at Midtown Crossing with kids - Find the kid-friendly places for treats like Cold Stone Creamery
Cold Stone Creamery is Midtown Crossing’s only place for ice cream.

For baked goods, we always love Culprit Cafe. While there’s always a variety of pastries and delicacies, my kids always pick the donuts.

There’s also Thirst-Tea for sweet drinks, like bubble teas.

Kid-friendly events at Midtown Crossing

Midtown Crossing is the ultimate place to find free, kid-friendly events throughout the year. See what events are coming up at Midtown Crossing here.

My favorite time for events at Midtown Crossing is summer. My all-time favorite Thursday night activity is Jazz on the Green, a free outdoor concert that’s attended by thousands. It’s like one big lawn party with friends. My kids love dancing up by the stage at Jazz on the Green. It’s very busy, though!

Family-friendly things to do at Midtown Crossing in Omaha - Check out the annual Midtown Car Show!
Midtown Car Show in May 2014 with my kids. The car show is an annual favorite for families and car enthusiasts.

What Midtown Crossing excels at is outdoor concerts thanks to a permanent stage in Turner Park. In the past, I’ve heard Zydeco, blues and similar concerts there (for FREE!). Other awesome events to be on the look out for: The Midtown Car Show, on select Sundays; the Night Market, on select Fridays; and usually, there are free outdoor movies on select nights in the summer.

Things to do at Midtown Crossing with kids - try a free yoga session in the summer
Yoga Rocks The Park is a summer exercise series at Midtown Crossing that’s kid-friendly and free.

With older kids, bring them with you to the free summer program, Yoga Rocks The Park.

In the winter, there’s Miracle on Farnam, where windows are decorated by different organizations for a little friendly competition.

Other good things to know about Midtown Crossing

One of the best things about Midtown Crossing is FREE. The parking, that is. The parking garage allow up to three hours of free parking. Just validate your ticket at any of the businesses at Midtown Crossing. I love this, as free parking is getting harder to come by, at least, in downtown Omaha.

Things to know about Midtown Crossing in Omaha, Nebraska - There's free parking!
Midtown Crossing has covered parking garages with three hours of free parking. Alternatively, there’s metered street parking.

Midtown Crossing also happens to be home to some of the best restaurants in Omaha, in my opinion. Though I’m sure they wouldn’t turn your kids away, Grey Plume and Modern Love are ideal for a date night.

Things to do with kids at Midtown Crossing in Omaha, Nebraska - Guide to Midtown Crossing's best kid-friendly restaurants, annual special events, and fun things to do. #Omaha #Nebraska #USA #familyfun

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March 20, 2019

Ultimate List Of Things To Do In Omaha In The Summer

Omaha is, in my opinion, a great place to live and a great place to visit. And no season is packed with more things to do than summer. I’ve gathered a list all the great things to do in Omaha this summer, including top places to go, things to do, and water activities that will help you stay cool in Omaha.

Kim’s note: While a large portion of Omaha was spared from devastation from the 2019 floods, please note to double check your routes and the location’s hours before visiting this year.

Tons of things to do in Omaha this summer! This list includes water activities, things to do at nearby parks, plus concerts, festivals and other summer events in Omaha. #Nebraska #USA

Water activities in Omaha

Bumper boats – The only place you can find bumper boats is Fun Plex.

Float Trips – You’ve heard of tubing, sure, but we also tank in Nebraska. You can rent tubes and tanks from RiverWestPark; just tubes from Tubing & Adventures and Uncle Scott’s Outfitters; and just tanks from Tank Down The Elkhorn.

Inflatable water obstacle course – Just outside of southwest Omaha is Louisville State Recreation Area, which opened an inflatable obstacle course on one of its lakes in 2018.

Paddling – You can kayaks classes through Neighborhood Offshore and Omaha Parks and Rec. For rentals, you can rent kayaks and canoes at Lake Manawa Beach (located inside Lake Manawa State Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa), the University of Nebraska at Omaha Outdoor Venture Center (open to the public, not just students), and Neighborhood Offshore.

Paddle boats – Two state parks have paddle boat rentals by the half-hour: Mahoney State Park and Platte River State Park. Before going to either park, check out these guides: Mahoney State Park For Families and 7 Reasons To Visit Platte River State Park.

Pools – Omaha parks has several outdoor pools – Gallagher Leisure, Miller Water Park, Camelot Traditional, Elkhorn Traditional, Lee Valley Traditional, Roanoke Traditional, Elmwood Leisure, Hanscom Leisure, Hitchcock Traditional, Karen Traditional, Spring Lake Traditional, Cryer Traditional, Deer Ridge Leisure, Oak Heights Leisure, Zorinsky Aquatic Center – as well three indoor pools (Montclair, Mockingbird and Common Ground). Council Bluffs has two outdoor pools, including Pirate Cove Water Park (with water slides) and Katelman Water Park. Goldfish Swim School has feature afternoon Family Swim sessions that are open to the public.

Spraygrounds – Omaha Parks and Recreation Departments has 9 spraygrounds open Memorial Day to Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The best part? They’re free. Find them at: Benson Park, Fontenelle Park, Kountze Park, Orchard Park, Seymour Smith Park, Upland, Morton, Westwood Heights, and Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Plaza. You’ll have to pay admission to Omaha’s zoo for this next sprayground, but it is, hands down, the coolest of them all: Alaskan Adventures. On the busiest of summer days, there may be a wait to get into it. Other spraygrounds can be found at: Council Bluffs’ Bayliss Park and Fairmount Park, Shadow Lake Towne Center in Papillion, First National Bank Tower in downtown Omaha (more of a fountain you can play in), and Omaha Children’s Museum. Located a few miles south of Omaha, Platte River State Park opened a two-level spray ground in 2018.

Standup Paddleboard (SUP) – You can rent SUP equipment or take classes through Neighborhood Offshore.

Looking for things to do in the summer in Omaha, Nebraska? Omaha's zoo is a popular destination! Some of the add-on activities include feeding animals. #Nebraska
When the weather allows, you can feed giraffes at the zoo on the weekends. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Omaha Attractions That Are Great In The Summer

You may have to brave summer vacation crowds at the following attractions, but I think it’s worth it. A good rule of thumb is to get there first thing in the morning, or at the end very of business hours. Here’s what some Omaha attractions and landmarks has planned for the summer:

The Bob – The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spans the Missouri River and it goes by the name “Bob” or, “The Bob.” Crossing it is “Bobbing.” We usually ride our bikes across it, as there are trails on both sides of the river. Be sure to take a picture straddling the state line for Iowa and Nebraska – it’s right in the middle of the bridge.

Do Space – Head to Do Space for hands-on tech activities for kids. There’s a room for younger kids and one for teens (that has a huge video game screen). Check out kits to play with robots and try new games. Adults may use the computers, all the available software, and 3D printer (there’s a fee for materials). Best of all – it’s FREE!

Durham Museum – Expect the Durham Museum to be busy this summer due to the temporary exhibit, “Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family,” which runs until Sept. 1. The Durham Museum is a great place to spend the afternoon, crowds withstanding, since it’s so spacious and air conditioned. If your kids love trains, this is the place to be.

Joslyn Art MuseumJoslyn Art Museum is my go-to for a calming experience indoors. When I’m with my kids, we head to Art Works or check out an activity backpack and do all the activities. When we’re done, we head out to the water sculpture in front, where kids (and adults) can splash in. The outdoor sculpture garden is nice to explore, as well.

Lauritzen GardensLauritzen Gardens is a colorful and serene place to visit in the summer. The kids’ favorite garden is open (the model train garden), for one thing. If it’s extremely hot, the conservatory is a refreshing place to explore, especially the more temperate room with the water feature.

Lewis & Clark National Park Head Quarters – At the base of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is the small building for the Lewis & Clark National Park Head Quarters. Inside, you’ll find a gallery of hands-on activities created for families (and adults who are kids-at-heart). A ranger may be available to talk about the artifacts and animal pelts on display. When we visited the national park headquarters, the kids played dress up, learned about the animals Lewis & Clark encountered, and tried writing with a quill.

Old Market – The charming few blocks of brick road in the Old Market is worth a stroll when the weather’s right. Check out this post about free things to do in the Old Market or learn about this urban walking labyrinth that takes you on a self-guided tour of the district.

Omaha Children’s Museum – Each summer, the museum has two temporary exhibits that make a visit exciting even for regular. This year, the exhibits are “Enchanted Kingdom,” featuring animatronic dragons and a unicorn, as well as “Attic Adventures.” Both end Sept. 1. This place is best for kids under 10. Don’t miss building something in the Tinker Lab. Before you go, check out these insider tips for OCM.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium – Some of the zoo’s best attractions for kids are open in the summer, including Alaskan Adventure (a huge spray ground) and Children’s Adventure Trails. The zoo’s other seasonal activities, from Stingray Beach to the zipine, are in full swing in the summer, too. The second phase of Asian Highlands opened in May, so expect big crowds in that area. Oh, and there are a lot of animals. Plus, check out all the things you did’t know you could do at Omaha’s zoo!

Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum – Technically, it’s not in Omaha, but don’t overlook an afternoon at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Neb. If your kid loves planes (or you do), it’s worth exploring. There’s also an educational kid’s area to check out.

Union Pacific Railroad Museum – Another one that’s not technically in Omaha, but close enough. The Union Pacific Railroad Museum in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa, is a FREE museum, so if you have a train-loving kid, it’s a no-brainer place to visit.

Water parks & aquatic centers If you’re looking for water slides, there are just a handful of water parks/aquatic centers to add to your list. Fun Plex is Omaha’s largest water park, and the closest we get to having a theme park with rides. It has a wave pool, slides, and a large water feature, as well as a small rollercoaster, go carts, and rides. Zorinski Park is a city park pool that has water slides. At Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Neb., is a great aquatic center with a regular pool, wave pool, slides and a sprayground. Kroc Center in South Omaha has an indoor aquatic park with slides, a little lazy river, and zero-depth entry pool.

Looking for things to do in the summer in Omaha? This list includes places to go indoors and outdoors, attractions to see and things to do, including hiking to this waterfall at Platte River State Park. #Nebraska
This waterfall at Platte River State Park is my favorite destination of any Omaha metro trail.

Things to do at parks near Omaha

FootGolf – It’s soccer. It’s golf. It’s FootGolf. Find FootGolf courses in nearby towns including La Vista Falls Golf Course in La Vista and Elkhorn Ridge Golf Course in Elkhorn.

HikeHummel Park has a few trails, some for moderate skill levels. The park has a hiking club that heads out on the first Saturday of the month. The nature center is great, too.

Playgrounds – Hummel Park has the most unique slides you’ll find in the area, but they’re for slightly older kids. Looking for a sand-free playground? Head to Stinson Park at Aksarben Village. For a large, wooden playground, check Dreamland Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa. For more park ideas, read about the 8 Great Parks In Omaha.

Trail Rides – Guided horseback rides are available at Mahoney State Park and Platte River State Park. There are age and weight limitations and they differ per park. Mahoney also has pony rides for younger kids. Rides are seasonally offered.

Waterfall – There is only one natural waterfall near Omaha, and it’s located just off a trail at Platte River State Park. It’s not large, by any means, but it’s a favorite of mine and it’s an easy hike for kids. The water is shallow, so you can walk in the water around it to cool off.

Zip line – There’s only one place to zip line in Nebraska and it’s near Omaha. Go Ape has a zip line course at Mahoney State Park in Ashland, Neb. This summer, Fontenelle Forest will open TreeRush Adventure Park with two courses (one being great for kids ages 4-6). In Iowa, there’s a zip line at Mt. Crescent in Crescent, Iowa. It’s close enough to the Omaha metro (just about 20 miles) to count, I say.

Looking for things to in the summer in Omaha? Head indoors! Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park is West Omaha has a ropes course. #Nebraska #familyfun
The Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park has a ropes course is suitable for kids and adults.

Things To Do Indoors In Omaha

When the temperature hits 90 or hotter, I start looking for things to do indoors. Here are some fun indoor places to visit on hot summer days:

Axe throwing – This is a fun thing to do with a group, older children or as a couple. Some places, like Axe Games, allow younger kids to throw if they’re supervised, but let them know ahead of time that you’re bringing a kid. Other places to look into include Flying Timber Axe Throwing and Craft Axe Throwing.

Archery Games – I tried out Archery Games with friends, and it’s a workout…but a fun one! Figuring out a bow and arrow in the archery arena may frustrate younger kids, but older kids may get the hang of it pretty easily.

Bowling – Bowling alleys in Omaha include Maplewood Lanes, West Lanes Bowling Center, The MARK, Papio Bowl, Chops Bowling Alley, and Western Bowl. Some are straight forward bowling allies; others offer additional activities like laser tag. If your family regularly bowls, be sure to sign them up for the Kids Bowl Free program.

Climbing Walls – Mahoney State Park has a climbing wall and a bouldering wall at the park’s Activity Center (must pay state park admission fee, as well as fee for climbing). Approach Climbing Gym is another option for the public. UNO also has a climbing wall and its free for UNO students, and pretty inexpensive for non-students (kids must be at least 5 years old). Omaha Children’s Museum’s special exhibit, “Attic Adventures,” has a small wall for young kids. The exhibit runs through Sept. 1, 2019.

Entertainment centers – These entertainment centers cater to different ages. For arcade games, laser tag, and other activities that may appeal to older children and adults, go to the Amazing Pizza Machine,  The MARK and Dave & Buster’s. For families with younger kids, there is a Chuck E. Cheese in Midtown Omaha.

Escape rooms – Escape rooms in Omaha include Get Out Omaha, House of Conundrum, The Escape Omaha, Entrap Games, and Locked Room Omaha. Escape rooms, generally, are better for older kids or going there with a group of your friends. Younger kids will like the occasional escape rooms held at the Millard branch of the Omaha Public Library branches (check the calendar for when these one-day programs are held).

Gyms – More for younger kids, gyms are popping up everywhere to give kids a chance to run, tumble, and climb safely. Gyms with public play hours include GO! Kids Gym, KIDS body shop, Kids Warrior Gym, and PE 101 Kids Gym. Premier Gymnastics’ open gym will appeal to older kids, especially those training in gymnastics, tumbling or parkour. You don’t have to be a member to go to the open gym.

Mini Golf – Like the idea of playing putt putt around a pirate ship or dinosaurs? Omaha has several indoor putting options. See where you can putt indoors (and outdoors) in Omaha in this post.

Trampoline parks & other places to jump – For trampoline parks, Omaha has three places to go to in Omaha: Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park and Altitude Trampoline Park. Urban Air is the more expensive option for trampoline parks, but it also has an indoor ropes course and a ninja course (as well as a large play area). The Hub in Council Bluffs is another indoor trampoline park option. Pump It Up and BounceU are large, indoor bounce house centers. You’ll have to sign wavers before playing at any of these places.

This list of things to do in Omaha in the summer includes indoor and outdoor ideas, like attending an Omaha Storm Chasers baseball game.
The berm section at an Omaha Storm Chasers baseball game.

More ideas for summer fun in Omaha

Cheap movie series – Two cinemas I keep an eye are Film Streams and Marcus Theaters. Film Streams‘ Forever Young Family & Children’s Series is high quality new films or films from our childhood, and kid tickets are only $2.50 for the series! These are screened at the Ruth Sokolof Theater in downtown Omaha. There are three locations of Marcus Theaters in the metro area that usually run the low-price kids’ movie series Check the website for upcoming series. The locations that run these films usually are at Village Pointe, Majestic and Twin Creek.

College World Series – This kind of goes without saying, right? For a few weeks every June, Omaha attracts thousands for the NCAA Men’s College World Series. Beyond the games, there’s the Opening Day Celebration, Fan Fest, a fun run, live music and so much more.

Free outdoor concerts – Every weekend (and many weekdays), you’ll find a free outdoor concert. Some of my favorites series include Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing, Bridge Beats and the Saturday concerts at Stinson Park. There are also free concert series at Village Pointe, Rockbrook Village, and more. Check out this post for additional free concert ideas. Don’t forget the big, free concert held usually the Saturday before the Fourth of July at Memorial Park. I have a huge list of free summer concerts in this post.

Nebraska Passport – Start collecting stamps for the 2019 Nebraska Passport right here in Omaha. There are three stops in Omaha this year: Crystal Forge at Hotshops Art Center, General Crook House Museum and
the Lithuanian Bakery (if you go there and don’t order a slice of the apricot napoleon torte, can you even say you’ve been there??).

Omaha Storm Chasers Baseball – Attending an Omaha Storm Chasers game is more than just watching a game of baseball. For kids, Werner Park has a play zone and a mini golf area. You can read more family-friendly things to do at Storm Chasers games here. Plus, there’s all the good food. I compiled a list of locals’ favorite ballpark foods.

Summer festivals – Every weekend seems to have competing festivals to attend. Some of the big ones that are free include Omaha Summer Arts Festival and Taste of Omaha. For major music acts, snag tickets to Maha Music Festival.

Looking for things to do in Omaha and nearby during the summer? This list includes fun things to do indoors and outdoors, plus a few day trip ideas, like a visit to Indian Cave State Park. #Nebraska
Indian Cave State Park is a popular park to hike. It’s south of Omaha.

Explore beyond Omaha

If you’re an outdoorsy person, check out this post about 10 outdoor activities near Omaha, including sand beaches, the Great Tree Adventure and Indian Cave State Park.

If you’re looking for more ideas, here’s a post listing the top family-friendly outdoor activities near Council Bluffs, Iowa. Most on the list are just a day trip away!

Huge list of things to do in Omaha in the summer - Water activities, parks to visit, museums & exhibits, and free activities for families and visitors. #Nebraska #outdoors #vacation

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March 18, 2019

How Kids Learn Through Play At Premier Academy

For the last few years, I’ve been immersed in the world of play at Omaha Children’s Museum. I’ve learned that play is the best way for young children learn. Daycare centers like Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center have the same philosophy in teaching children.

Disclosure: This is sponsored post by Premier Academy. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Find out how childcare centers incorporate play and state early education guidelines into each day | This Omaha childcare center has it figured out! #premieracademy #partner #Omaha

“Play is the child’s work.”

I chatted with Jewel McKercher, a director at Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center in Omaha and Elkhorn, to get a better understanding at what sets the center apart from others.

While it’s a fact that Premier incorporates Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines into the curriculum, the center also believes that play is the child’s work, she said.

Play is great way to develop gross motor skills and develop social skill like taking turns and cooperative play. Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

“Teacher need to encourage the child’s natural curiosity and eagerness to learn,” said McKercher. “The Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines does a fantastic job of training teachers to allow for exploration and discovery.”

Related post: 7 Things To Look For In Omaha Childcare

How they include play at Premier Academy

According to McKercher, there are different techniques to building happy and strong foundation in early childhood education. She said this can be done by “balancing active time with quiet time, teacher directed activities with child selected ones, and structured learning with fun-time.”

This is where it’s pretty interesting to me, as this is how I see my co-workers at Omaha Children’s Museum trying to strike a similar balance when planning programming. It’s why the museum encourages open play in each exhibit, but also has daily programs offered for a guided learning and play experience. Both forms of play are important.

Classroom science experiment at Premier Academy Child Enrichment
Center in Omaha, Nebraska
A volcano science experiment at Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center. Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

In an early childcare classroom like at Premier Academy, the teachers understand this too. They embrace that play is the child’s work, but they also incorporate facets of early childhood learning.

In the preschool classrooms, for instance, there are different centers that incorporate play-based learning into play. The centers include the Dramatic Play Center, Blocks Center, Large Motor Center and the Creative Arts Center. As kids play, they’re learning important social and emotional skills.

All the children at Premier also get to spend time outdoors, weather permitting. Both the West Omaha daycare and Elkhorn daycare have a 5,000 square foot outdoor playground!

About the post sponsor

Exterior of Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center, which has locations in Omaha and Elkhorn, Nebraska
Photo courtesy Premier Academy Child Enrichment Center

I learned a lot just interviewing McKercher from Premier Academy in Omaha. If you thought she was helpful, too, and you happen to be in the market for childcare, I encourage you to check out her employer and see if Premier is the right fit for you!

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March 11, 2019

Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do At Omaha’s Zoo

I’ve been a member of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium for nearly a decade, and like many residents of Omaha, I feel like I’ve got every inch of the zoo memorized after visiting countless times. And so, I still am surprised by things there. The zoo updates exhibits, adds exhibits, adds animals and adds programs, so it’s forgivable if you don’t notice all of them. Here are things that you may not know you could do at the zoo:

Get the scoop on all the tours, animal encounters and camping opportunities available at the Omaha zoo! #Nebraska #familytravel #USA

Eat not-so-typical zoo food

Sure, you can find popcorn, hot dogs and hamburgers at the zoo, but if you want to try something different, head to one of these concession stands:

Inside the Tusker Grill dining hall at Omaha's zoo
Tusker Grill is located in the African Grasslands at Omaha’s zoo. Some of the food available to purchase are African favorites. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Tusker Grill: The food includes African favorites. Some of the dishes are perri perri chicken, a beef brai sandwich and boerewors sausage, which is a farmer’s sausage. You can also get sweet potato fries there, and they’re great. (It’s open seasonally). Find the Tusker Grill in the African Grasslands.

Sea Turtle Café – You can add some candy mix-ins with your soft serve ice cream at this cafe. (It’s open year-round).

Camp at the zoo

There are a couple options for camping at the zoo, and all of them sound awesome (if you like camping, that is). The lower price option is called Family Sleeping Bag Safaris, and they range from $45 to $48 per person. With these, depending on the date you choose, you might sleep in the aquarium, African Lodge, or the Wild Kingdom Pavilion. A few require you bring a tent, and for those, you can sleep in the Desert Dome or the Lied Jungle. The Family Sleeping Bag Safaris include zoo admission, an evening snack, breakfast and a visit from one Animal Ambassador.

One of the Family Sleeping Bag Safaris allows families to stay overnight inside the zoo’s Desert Dome. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

For something a little fancier, you can also stay overnight at the Safari Tent Camp near the African Grasslands, right by the lion enclosure. This sounds a bit more like glamping, where you’ll get a tent with cots, a rug, night stand, lantern and an electrical outlet. For Family Safaris, the cost is $100 per person (two-person minimum and a five-person maximum in the tent). Included with that cost is zoo admission, educational programming, snack, breakfast, a morning hike, and a visit from Animal Ambassadors.

The Safari Tent Camp at Omaha's zoo
The Safari Tent Camp is located near the lion enclosure at the zoo. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

There are requirements for each of these camps. For most, if you bring a child, he/she must be at least 4 years old. If you bring many children, you need one adult per 10 youth. And some camps

Camp with no kids around

I bet a few of you like the sound of this (I know I do). Similar to the Family Safaris above, it offers all the programming, animals, hike and such, but one-ups it by adding a gourmet dinner, drinks, and an additional hike. It also costs more ($120 per person). And you have to be 21 or older.

One of the tents at Omaha zoo's Safari Tent Camp with a view inside
The zoo has adults-only camping options where you can stay at the Safari Tent Camp overnight. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

There’s also a Photography Safari for those 18 or older. Camps for adults are held a few times a year so check the zoo’s website for details.

Be a keeper for a day

Learn how to take care the zoo’s animal ambassadors in the Animal Programs Keeper experience. You’ll work side-by-side with keepers in the Wild Kingdom Pavilion. These happen only on select days of the month. Kids under the age of 17 will need to be accompanied by an adult.

Workout at the zoo

Yoga sessions take place in the aquarium on select Saturdays and Sundays in the morning. The cost includes an hour of yoga and admission to the zoo. Participants must be 16 years old or older.

A yogi holding a pose in the aquarium at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
Yoga in the Aquarium is held on select weekend mornings at Omaha’s zoo. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Each September, there’s a fun run in the zoo. This one’s open to all ages. Watch out, though, there are more hills than you think.

Runners at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
The Zoo Run is held each September at the zoo. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Feed animals

One of the oddest experiences is feeding a giraffe; though, it’s second only to feeding a stingray. You can do both at the zoo each summer (for an added fee, of course). Giraffe feedings are $3 and happen on the weekends, weather permitting.

Crowd at the Stingray Beach pool at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
At the Omaha zoo’s Stingray Beach, you can touch stingrays as well feed them.

Admission to Stingray Bay is $3 for members and $4 for non-members; feeding cups are $1.50 and they limit the quantities daily.  Keep in mind that you will have to pay admission into Stingray Beach AND pay for a feeding cup. You don’t have to feed stingrays if you don’t want to.

Other food experiences include feeding a budgie (parakeet) in the Children’s Adventure Trail area. It’s only $1 a stick. The feedings are on the weekends, weather permitting.

Feeding a giraffe at Omaha's zoo
You can feed giraffes at the zoo on the weekend, weather permitting, for a small additional fee. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Have a beer at the zoo

Little known fact, alcohol is available for purchase at the zoo. Beer is available at the Durham TreeTops Restaurant (and you can’t take it out of the building). Some special events also have alcohol available for purchase.

Watch monkeys while you eat

Durham TreeTops Restaurant is the restaurant to go to if you want to eat with a view of the indoor rainforest. Stalk the tables near the windows for the best views.

Diners at TreeTops Restaurant sitting at tables by the windows overlooking the indoor rainforest at Omaha's zoo
The TreeTops Restaurant at Omaha’s zoo is one of the best places to eat for one big reason: The tables located by the windows overlooking the indoor rainforest.

Go behind the scenes

The zoo has a program called Backstage Pass. My son was gifted a chance to go on the Octopus Backstage Pass, where he got to meet a keeper and go behind-the-scenes at the aquarium.

Behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
The Backstage Pass takes visitors behind-the-scenes at Omaha’s zoo. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Other options include an aquarium general one where you can watch a feeding of sharks, Kingdoms of the Night, and a Lied Jungle experience. These happen only on select days and are limited to a small group. Kids under the age of 17 will need to be accompanied by an adult.

Catch the bats at their most active moments

Love bats? You’ll want to head to the Lied Jungle at the end of the day to see them when they’re most active (aim for 4 p.m. or later). Me? I don’t personally like having bajillion* or so bats flying even remotely close to me, but my kids love it.

*My estimate may not be exact

Walk around lemurs

Back in my newspaper days, many years ago, I attended the grand opening of Lemur Walkway (located in front of the Expedition Madagascar exhibit). At that time, the lemurs were pretty curious creatures, and they got pretty close to us.

Family is near lemurs at the Lemur Walkway at Omaha's zoo
Lemur Walkway is located at Expedition Madagascar at Omaha’s Zoo. Photo courtesy Nebraska Tourism

The walkway is one to definitely visit, but I’ve yet to see the lemurs get very close to people since that first day. Keep your expectations in check for this one.

Ride the rides all day long

If you wanted to, there’s the option of having unlimited rides all day long at the zoo, seasonally. This is for unlimited rides on train, tram, Sue’s Carousel and Skyfari.

Tons of animal encounters

You probably knew the zoo had animal encounters each day, but did you realize how MANY they had?

Kids touch a tortoise at Omaha's zoo
The zoo has animal encounters with Animal Ambassadors as well as regularly scheduled feedings and enrichment programs to watch. Photo courtesy Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Here’s what I’ve come across:

Touch Tank Open, Scott Aquarium
African Animal Discovery, Kopje Outcropping – African Grasslands
Antarctic Penguin Feeding, Scott Aquarium
Elephant Enrichment (Memorial Day – Labor Day), Lower Elephant Yard – African Grasslands
Sea Lion Training (Excluding Wednesdays), Sea Lion Pool
Shark Feeding (Wednesdays and Saturdays), Scott Aquarium
Animal Discoveries, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Pavilion
Meet a Reptile Keeper (Saturday – Sunday)
Orangutan Enrichment (Memorial Day – Labor Day), Hubbard Orangutan Forest
Lion Training (Memorial Day – Labor Day) Lion Viewing – African Grasslands
All animal encounters are weather and staff-dependent. Check the website for specific times.

There are a ton of experiences, tours & food you didn't know you could have at Omaha's zoo! #Nebraska #USA

Before you plan your next outing to Omaha’s zoo, check out Experts’ Tips For Visiting Omaha’s Zoo.

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