Who doesn’t love a good road trip? You don’t have to go too far from Omaha to have a fun getaway. I’ve collected some of my favorite Midwest destinations for this post to give you a variety of options near and far. All road trips from Omaha on this list are within a day’s drive, and most are much closer than that. Happy travels!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
Road Trips From Omaha
These getaways are just a car ride away. Read on for destinations to consider for your next overnight or weekend trip.
Honey Creek, Iowa
Home to one of my favorite places to hike in the Loess Hills of Iowa, Honey Creek is my go-to destination on a sunny weekend day. Hike at Hitchcock Nature Center, visit the goats and try goat yoga at Honey Creek Creamery, or ski at Mount Crescent Ski Resort.
Tip: Don't skip the visitor's center at Hitchcock Nature Center. It's full of interactive exhibits for kids. In the winter, you can rent snowshoes there. It's next to the lookout tower.
Distance from Omaha: 17 miles
Home to the Sarpy County Fair in the summer and just south of Omaha, Springfield is an easy day trip for Omaha families. I usually pair a visit to Springfield with a trip to a nearby state park.
You could visit Louisville SRA for water time at the beach and inflatable obstacle course and end the day at the old-fashioned soda fountain at Springfield Drug for ice cream. Or, hike Schramm Park and then sip the afternoon away at Soaring Wings Vineyard & Brewery.
Tip: Soaring Wings often has live music, especially on the weekend. Pack a picnic and lawn chairs, and then buy a bottle of wine to enjoy an evening overlooking the vineyard.
Distance from Omaha: 20 miles
Scatter Joy Acres was a popular petting zoo in Omaha, and it relocated to Murray, Neb., for more spacious digs. Visitors can enter the pens of various animals including the typical -- goats, horses, cows -- to the more exotic -- porcupine, kangaroos, and a zebra.
Distance from Omaha: 26 miles
Enjoy a mix of history and nature on a visit to Ashland, Neb. Exit 420 off Interstate 80 will take you to three of the state's big attractions: Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, Wildlife Safari Park, and Mahoney State Park. Just beyond those attractions, you'll find Platte River State Park (look for the waterfall!).
If you're visiting in the summer, Mahoney State Park offers a full day of activities, including horseback trail rides, an aquatic center with a wave pool and water slides, and putt-putt golf.
Tip: Ashland is home to two great wineries. My favorite, Glacial Till, has a tasting room on the main street of town. Try the cider.
Distance from Omaha: 30 miles
Nebraska City, Neb.
It doesn't matter the season, Nebraska City is a favorite day trip for my family. We'll spend a few hours at an apple orchard like Kimmel, and a few more hours at Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure. You can also tack on a visit to Arbor Lodge to explore the historic mansion.
Tip: Have a blast exploring the Treetop Village treehouses tucked inside the Tree Adventure.
Distance from Omaha: 45 miles
Most Nebraskans make the trek to Lincoln at least once, if only to attend a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Huskers football game. The city has a college town feel to it, with affordable local restaurants, charming shops, and plenty of museums.
Learn about Nebraska's unique history and see giant Mammoth fossils at Morril Hall. If traveling young kids, a stop at the Lincoln Children's Zoo and Lincoln Children's Museum is a must.
Tip: Don't skip the charming Haymarket district!
Recommended Hotel: Graduate Lincoln
Distance from Omaha: 60 miles
Branched Oak State Recreation Area, Neb.
There aren't too many lakes in Nebraska with sandy beaches, but this is one of them. Bring your RV or tent for a low-key, beachy-y getaway.
Tip: Branched Oak is a large enough lake for boating.
Distance from Omaha: 75 miles
For such a small town, Brownville packs in a lot of history and arts. Bookstores, galleries, and one excellent winery can found in the town of a population just over 100, as well as a vibrant seasonal music and theater scene.
Tip: Brownville is pretty close to Indian Cave State Park, which has horseback riding, great hiking trails, and an interesting little living history area.
Distance from Omaha: 75 miles
Lake Icaria, Iowa
For a relaxing lake getaway, Lake Icaria near Corning, Iowa, is a well-known secret to Omaha families. This is the place for fishing and water fun in the summer. The cabins are affordable, but RV and tent camping is also available.
Tip: Food trucks stop by on the weekends, seasonally. We lucked out and found a barbecue truck on the Saturday we were there.
Recommended stay: If you can't snag a cabin at the park, stay in town at a cozy rental home.
Distance from Omaha: 85 miles
Sioux City, Iowa
Sioux City has two of my favorite things: A gorgeous state park in town, and museums. Stone State Park has wonderful trails and is near the Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center, which has a great nature playscape. For museums, families with young kids will want to go to LaunchPAD Children’s Museum.
Art lovers should check out the Grant Wood corn room at Sioux City Art Center. And music lovers should check out the memorabilia scattered throughout the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Tip: Don't leave without a visit to Palmer’s Old Tyme Candy Shoppe, home to the Twin Bing.
Recommended hotel: I've stayed at the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel in Sioux City - and it's great - but I wouldn't recommend it for families. Check outt the highest rated hotels for families on booking.com like the Courtyard.
Distance from Omaha: 95 miles
Loess Hills National Scenic Byway
One of the most rare ecological landforms in the world is found along western Iowa – the Loess Hills. For some of you, simply viewing the bucolic scenes of the rolling hills will be enough reason to visit. For the rest of, you’ll want some fun or historical stops for the trip.
Tip: For great weather for hiking, late May isn't too rainy or hot, and October is great for seeing fall colors.
Distance from Omaha: Varies (5 miles to about 100 miles)
The town nestled in midst of Madison County is Winterset, Iowa – and there’s a lot more to do than just see its famous bridges. If you have kids, seek out Clark Tower for your own Rapunzel-like experience or any of the nearby parks.
Without kids? Check out the wineries and breweries in town or a museums. And plan an overnight in a B&B.
Tip: The Iowa Theater, which dates back to 1899, is still showing movies,
Distance from Omaha: 125 miles
Des Moines, Iowa
Indoors or outdoors, Des Moines has a lot for young (and young at heart) to enjoy. Favorites of my family include the Science Center of Iowa, Adventureland, and Living History Farms.
Tip: One location of my favorite Des Moines restaurant, Fong's Pizza, is within walking distance of the science center. If you time it right, the large Des Moines farmer's market takes place in front of Fong's too in the summer.
Hotel recommendation: There is no shortage of hotels in downtown Des Moines, but if you're looking for a hotel near Adventureland, we liked the Fairfield Inn (technincally in Altoona).
Looking for an RV or campsite near Des Moines?
Distance from Omaha: 135 miles
Boone and Perry, Iowa
Boone is your winter and summer destination for activities, and the Hotel Pattee in Perry is where you'll want to stay. We've been to Boone in the summer to wander around the beautiful Ledges State Park and ride on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad. In the winter, we had a blast skiing and tubing at Seven Oaks Recreation.
Tip: Hotel Pattee's rooms are all themed, and you can request specific family suites with fun themes.
Recommended Hotel: Hotel Pattee in Boone
Distance from Omaha: 155 miles
Ames is a college town, so no doubt you can catch an Iowa State game somewhere. But, if sports isn't your thing, visistt a quirky shop, stroll around Reiman Gardens, or drop by a museum or art gallery.
Tip: If you’re craving pizza, Great Plains Sauce & Dough Co. is an Ames institution.
Distance from Omaha: 170 miles
Kansas City, Mo.
My family has had many great adventures to Kansas City, from wild rides at Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, to hours on end spent at Science City and Nelson-Atkins Art Museum. Oh, and the barbecue is pretty tasty too!
Tip: The City Market is a lively year-round farmer's market that's free to explore. While there, stop at the Steamboat Arabia Museum, another free attraction.
Recommended hotel: For the location and the sweet rooftop pool, stay at Sheraton at Crown Center.
Distance from Omaha: 185 miles
Honey Creek Resort, Iowa
Rathbun Lake is one of Iowa's largest man-made lakes, and nestled on its north shore is the family-friendly resort, Honey Creek Resort. During your stay, nearly every activity is included! That includes the indoor water park, the inflatable obstacle course on the lake, kayaks, SUPs, bikes, and daily children's activities.
Tip: While bile rentals are included, I highly recommend bringing your family's own bikes if you can. My kids struggled with the bikes provided.
Recommended hotel: Honey Creek Resort has both lodge and cabin options!
Distance from Omaha: 190 miles
Excelsior Springs, Mo.
I found Excelsior Springs more of a couples or friends getaway than a family destination. Why? The gorgeous Elms Hotel has a fantastic spa with a grotto where you'll just want to relax the hours away.
The hotel is within walking distance of two great stops: A great barbecue joint that offers live music on some summer evenings and the excellent microbrewery, Dubious Claims Brewing Co.
Tip: There are a couple of wineries near Excelsior Springs, including Van Till Family Farm Winery. Order one of their artisan pizzas and a bottle of wine and grab a table on their covered patio for a low-key date.
Recommended hotel: You'll definietly want to stay at The Elms Hotel & Spa.
Distance from Omaha: 195 miles
I have so many childhood memories of canoeing the Niobrara River in north-central Nebraska. This calm river flows through some scenic cliffs that will surprise you, plus the state's famous Smith Falls. I dare you to stick your head in the falls!
This is a popular river for tubers and can take on a bit of a rowdy, party atmosphere on some weekends. Which may or may not appeal to you.
Tip: Valentine is one of the closest cites to use as a homebase. Alternatively, outfitters often offer campsites along the river.
Looking for a campsite near Valentine?
Distance from Omaha: 200 miles
A collection of interconnected lakes, you can have as relaxing or active of a getaway as you want. You want to waterslide into the lake at a waterfront bar? You can find it there. Want to sit on a beach by a firepit watching the sunset? There's a place for it.
Our favorite activities we did at Okoboji included a trip to historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park, a bike ride, kayaking, and playing at Dickinson Country Nature Center.
Tip: The Arnolds Park Funhouse Museum is home to the large wooden slide that used to be in the amusement park. You can take all the rides down you want if you have the day pass or just pay per ride.
Distance from Omaha: 210 miles
Abilene, Kansas has its place in America’s Old West history: It’s the end of the Chisholm Trail, that led cattle from Texas to Kansas for years. Learn alll about it at Old Abilene Town, where reenactors will stage gunfights throughout the summer.
Explore the area's history and the city's most famous resident at Dickinson County Heritage Center and Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.
Tip: If you're traveling with kids, be sure to ride the 1901 C.W. Parker Carousel at the heritage center! Each horse is hand-carved and hand-painted.
Distance from Omaha: 215 miles
Go to Waterloo for thrill rides, stay for the good food. Waterloo is home to the ultra-popular Lost Island Water Park, as well as the just-opened Lost Island Theme Park (opened in 2022). You'll be too tired to visit both in one day, so I highly recommend a two-day ticket.
Try breakfast at the old-school diner, Morg's. For lunch or dinner, I suggest Basal Pizza in the downtown area. While downtown, be sure to take a stroll the paved path along the river called RiverWalk.
Distance from Omaha: 245 miles
Clear Lake, Iowa
Clear Lake is best known for the Surf Ballroom, the last place Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens performed. Once you explore the music history of the ballroom, now a museum, you've got to hit the lake and one of several sandy beaches around it.
Time your visit for the Fourth of July for a small-town celebration you won't forget.
Tip: Want a lakeside dining option? Try PM Park. We had a delicious breakfast indoors and then returned later during our trip to have lunch at the outdoor tiki bar. Yes, tiki bar.
Distance from Omaha: 250 miles
New Day Dairy GuestBarn (Iowa)
For a unique getaway, head to Clarksville, Iowa, and stay a night or at a dairy farm. You'll get to tour the dairy and if you're up for it, you can take the Dairy Farmer Challenge (which involves both cute calves and shoveling cow poop).
Tip: Make it a weekend and add a visit to nearby Hawkeye Buffalo Ranch to feed bison and Rector Llamas to hike with a llama.
Distance from Omaha: 260 miles
Lucas earns the title of oddest road trip destination on this list, and I say that affectionately. It's a weird little town filled with more art by self-taught artists than you can imagine possible.
Must-see places include Bowl Plaza (the public restroom building is shaped like a toilet), Garden of Eden, Deeble House and Garden of Isis. They're weird creations, but in a good way.
Get the background on the artiss who created the aforementioned places and see even more bizarrely beautiful artwork at Grass Roots Arts Center.
Distance from Omaha: 280 miles
This large city in Kansas is full of surprises, from the exciting children's garden at Botanica Wichita to the amazing animal encounters at Tanganyika Wildlife Park.
Tip: Make plans to watch the lighting of the Keeper of the Plains. This nightly program is awe-inspiring and free.
Distance from Omaha: 300 miles
Quad Cities (Iowa & Illinois)
Located along the Mississippi River and split between Iowa and Illinois, the Quad Cities are a getaway for families. We visited on a particularly rainy weekend, so we spent a fun weekend indoors at Putnam Museum and Science Center, the Family Museum, the John Deere Pavilion, and Figge Art Museum, which has a wonderful space for hands-on art activities for kids.
Tip: There’s a surprising amount of hands-on opportunities at the hidden gem, Fryxell Geology Museum, in Rock Island, Ill. And, bonus, it's free.
Recommended hotel: We've stayed at a few hotels in the Quad Cities. My favorite was the Element in Moline, Ill. I'm a sucker for exposed brick in rooms, but it had a pretty central location to the places we wanted to visit.
Distance from Omaha: 300 miles
Lake Of the Ozarks, Mo.
Lake of the Ozarks is a giant, man-made reservoir in Central Missouri, and there's more than one place to pick as your home base to explore the area.
My home base for exploring the region was Osage Beach, which put my family near attractions like Bridal Cave and Ha Ha Tonka State Park, as well as plenty of restaurants.
Our hotel, Margaritaville Lake Resort, was lakeside - yay! But for rainy weather, we had the Jolly Mon Indoor Waterpark connected to the hotel to keep the kids happy.
Distance from Omaha: 330 miles
As much as I want to tell you all to go to Decorah for the outdoor experiences, the awesome dining there almost trumps the outdoors. I know!
OK, first the outdoors. Bike, climb a little waterfall, or kayak down one of the most scenic rivers in the Midwest. For food, get a taste of the Norwegian cuisine the city is known for at Ruby's or have delicious wood-fired pizza on a farm where the ingredients were grown and raised (experience it at called Luna Valley Farm).
Tip: Decorah is home to microbreweries that bring in beer aficionados from around the Midwest, including Toppling Goliath. I particularly enjoyed having a beer after a long bike ride at Pulpit Rock Brewing Co.
Recommended hotel: I was on a girl's trip to Decorah, and we stayed at Fairfield Inn & Suites. It was a good location for us, but not within walking distance to anything.
Distance from Omaha: 335 miles
Allamakee County, Iowa
Allamakee County is right in the heart of the Driftless Region - of those regions you never hear of until you’re in it and then you wonder why it’s so unknown. It’s a beautiful region of the Midwest, and in Iowa.
If you want to hike and take in the views, head to Effigy Mounds National Monument or Yellow River State Forest, both in Harpers Ferry.
Stay the night in a cabin at Upper Iowa Resort in Dorchester. It has its own kayak launch into the Upper Iowa River and a lake for swimming, plus it's ridiculously scenic there.
Distance from Omaha: 350 miles
Minneapolis & St. Paul, Minn.
If all my destinations could be as bike-friendly as the Twin Cities, I'd be a happy mama. One memorable place to bike around the park at Minnehaha Falls. Indoor fun includes Can Can Wonderland, Science Museum of Minnesota, and the hidden gem, the Bakken Museum.
Oh, and there's a little place called Mall of America. Perhaps you've heard of it.
Tip: One of my all-time favorite brewery experiences was at Surly Brewing Co, where we had dinner and beer with friends. The large brewery is surprisingly family-friendly and if the weather is nice, you can enjoy the immense patio and green space.
Distance from Omaha: 375 miles
Live music and food are often associated with Branson, Missouri, but there’s a lot more to see and things to do when you’re there. The city has fun attractions like Silver Dollar City and The Shepherd of the Hills.
And restaurants! You will overeat in Branson, and that's OK. Kids will enjoy Dolly Parton's Stampede and Dinner and will be amazed by the size of the pancakes at Billy Gail's.
Branson also has hundreds of hotels for every budget.
Tip: Because there are so many attractions vying for tourists, you can get some great ticket deals! Check ticketing sites like tiquets.com and viator.com before you go and while you're there.
Distance from Omaha: 394 miles
Fort Robinson State Park, Neb.
A fun place to experience the west without leaving Nebraska, Fort Robinson has trail rides, jeep rides, and stagecoach rides, plus a chance to do a chuckwagon dinner or watch a rodeo.
Tip: Plan ahead if you want to stay at the state park. Their lodging fills up fairly quickly so you'll want to reserve your accommodations early.
Distance from Omaha: 460 miles
Hot Springs, S.D.
Perhaps you remember old family trips to Mount Rushmore, with a stop at Evans Plunge, the indoor water park that uses mineral water from nearby thermal springs. It's still open after all those years (with several updates) in Hot Springs!
Hot Springs is a less touristy stop in the southern Black Hills. Nearby, visit Mammoth Site is a must-visit.
Tip: Hot Springs is a short drive from two beautiful parks, Wind Cave National Park (10 miles away) and Custer State Park (20 miles away). Don't skip Sylvan Lake and the begging burros at Custer!
Recomomended hotel: Check out Hills Inn. Great location, and a budget-friendly motel option. And my kids liked the free donuts at breakfast.
Distance from Omaha: 490 miles
Mount Rushmore Road Trip
It's the quintessential summer experience: Road trip to Mount Rushmore. Head straight there or make stops along the way, as we did on our exciting western Nebraska and South Dakota road trip.
We explored everything from the fascinating Toadstool Geological Park in Nebraska to Reptile Gardens in Rapid City. Other stops on this road trip included Wall Drug, Badlands National Park, Mammoth Site, Chadron State Park, and Fort Robinson. It's a long trip and the distance below doesn't factor in the extra stops.
Tip: Everyone has to stop at Wall Drug, if only for the photo ops, right? While you're there, don't forget to order one of their fresh donuts.
Hotel recommendation: We opted to stay in Rapid City at the Comfort Inn & Suites. You can find hotels much closer to Mount Rushmore for a higher price, but we liked this hotel's proximity to Rapid City attractions.
Distance from Omaha: 545 miles
Related post: Winter day trips from Omaha
Find more inspiration for road trips
Sky’s the limit on these bucket list for Midwest destinations:
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