Durham Museum Summer Camps

While on the hunt for the most fun summer camps for my kids, I kept returning to The Durham Museum summer camps list. There are so many to choose from! There are 27 camps there this summer, and they’re all so different from any place else in Omaha. I’ve partnered with The Durham Museum to tell you about them.

Choosing Camp

From time travel to wizardry to spies, there are some super fun themes for summer camps at The Durham Museum. There’s even Meet the Metr’O’ camps, where kids visit things like a courthouse to meet a judge and the First National Bank Tower to get a sky-high view of the city. Check all the summer camps out here.

Summer camps at The Durham Museum are taught by certified, professional educators. Photo courtesy The Durham Museum

I had a hard time figuring which camps my 7-year-old would love best. He is really into history, which is perfect for all of the camps at the museum – camps combine history and science for a balance that turns out to be fun and educational. I’m told they strike a perfect chord for summer – kids have so much fun, they don’t realize they’re learning.

Some of the popular camps at The Durham Museum include Mischief Managed, a wizardry camp that will surely appeal to the “Harry Potter” fans of Omaha; Lego Apprentice, Lego Builder, and Lego Master, camps for the three age groups that are focused on building; and the camp tied with the summer exhibit at the museum, Top Secret, will likely be popular.

New Camps At The Durham Museum

The Durham Museum has added some unique new camps this summer. I think Road Trip! sounds fun. Without leaving the museum, kids will imagine themselves on a Nebraska adventure. It’s great timing for the state’s 150th celebration.

Campers at a Durham Museum summer camp. Photo courtesy The Durham Museum

There’s also a camp called History With Heroes, blending learning about superheroes and real life heroes. The museum is also trying out a camp that’s going to feel like the traditional outdoor summer camp, again without leaving the museum. Think, “campfire” with s’mores kinds of stuff.

What Makes Durham Camps Different

 

Teachers – What impressed me about The Durham Museum summer camps is that they’re all taught by certified, practicing teachers, who also create the camp curriculum. The camps also have what’s called summer facilitators, who assist in the summer camps and many are studying to become educators.

One-Day Camps – Here’s the conundrum for working parents: What do you do with holiday weeks where no place in Omaha is offering week-long camps then, but you still have to work most of those days? The museum has created day-long camps for each day of those holiday weeks (Memorial Day and Fourth of July). Kids can go to just one all-day camp or all four that week (there’s a discount if you sign up for all four).

Variety – Very few camps are repeated in the summer. Many parents working downtown sign their children up for summer camps at the museum all summer long and never have repeated week. There are 27 camps in all.

Extended Hours – The museum offers “Beyond the Camp” Experience, which is before care and after care with planned games and activities with camp staff. It’s such a huge help for me, when my work day starts well before 9 a.m. camp does. Full-day campers also have supervision during the lunch hour, and they get the added perk of having the option of purchasing lunch (they can also bring a sack lunch).

Age Groups – The Durham Museum summer camps are divided by grade levels, so the camp content suits the abilities of the campers all the time. Camps are available for Grades 1-2, Grade 3-4, and Grades 5-6. Note: This is for the grade level kids will be entering in the 2017-2018 school year.

Ready For Durham Museum Summer Camp?

Where: The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St.

Cost: Half-Day Week, $80/members and $90/non-members; Full-Day Week, $160/members and $180/non-members; Summer Fun Days (full-day camp), $40/Day or $140/four days for members and $45/day or $160/four days for non-members; Meet The Metr’O’ (weeklong, full-day), $170/members and $190/non-members.
“Beyond The Camp” Experience: $15/day or $60/week

Register:

Online at Durham.org

Call 402-444-5027

Email Education@DurhamMuseum.org

Write The Durham Museum, Education Dept., 801 S. 10th St., Omaha, NE 68108

Fax 402-444-5397, Attn: Education Dept.

 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary camp registration in compensation for writing this post.

 

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Exploring The Durham Museum With Kids

If you have a kid that has even a remote interest in trains, chances are, you’ve been to the Durham Museum in downtown Omaha. We’re going on five years of visiting the museum, and while we still hit the train stuff at the museum, the kids have progressed to exploring the rest of the museum.

This post was written in 2015 and updated in 2019 to reflect current prices and events. Disclosure: The Durham Museum provided complimentary admission for my family so we could explore the museum, and I could tell you about it. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

If you haven’t been to Durham in a while – or ever – here’s what you’re missing:

Visiting Omaha? Here's what you need to know about visiting The Durham Museum in downtown Omaha, especially if you're visiting with kids. Tips include things to look, special events to attend, and more! #familytravel #omaha #nebraska #guide

Activities to do with children at the Durham Museum

1. Explore the trains – The Durham Museum used to be Omaha’s Union Station, where 10,000 people passed through each day. It’s only natural that trains are a huge part of the museum.

Things to do at The Durham Museum - Walk around real trains.

The Durham has a huge model train exhibit that kids can interact with, as well as real train cars families can walk through. And, being the loudest thing in the museum, kids just love ringing the train bell.

Things kids can do at The Durham Museum - Kids like to ring the bell on the bottom level of the museum.

When I asked Jessica Brummer, director of marketing and public relations, for a little inside scoop on the trains, here’s what she suggested: Be on the look out for train car hosts. These volunteers are uber-knowledgeable about trains so ask them questions! “Some have worked here back when it was a train station. They’re great at explaining what it was like to ride the train.”

Along a similar vein as the train car is the streetcar. We’ve never been to the Durham and NOT ran through the streetcar at least once.

Things to look for at The Durham Museum - Kids love running through the old streetcar.

2. Visit the soda fountain – Here’s a trip back into time: The Durham has a functioning soda fountain, where the staff wears soda jerk uniforms and pour tasty phosphate (the original soda).

Where to eat at The Durham Museum - Visit the working soda fountain at The Durham Museum and get a phosphate, root beer float or a full lunch.

We ordered a chocolate malt, vanilla coke phosphate soda, and a rootbeer float during our recent visit. The malt and rootbeer float were hits with the kids

Treats at The Durham Museum - The soda fountain at the museum has root beer floats, popcorn and candy for purchase, as well as more substantial food for lunches.

Kids can also order at the candy counter. They’re not quite priced for the 20th century, but the candies are still pretty inexpensive.

Things you'll find at the Durham Museum soda fountain - Kids will always find the candy on display and available for purchase at the soda fountain.

3. Check out the teepee and earth lodge – Brummer said both are popular exhibits. My kids enjoyed running in and out of them several times.

4. Pose with the statues – Come on, everybody does it. The Durham’s gorgeous main hall features several statues of people doing what you’d expect people would be doing at a train station: Checking out departure times, saying their goodbyes, waiting for a loved one.

The grand hall is the first thing you see when you enter the Durham Museum. Look for statues scattered around the hall.

5. Head to the “Coin Room” – Brummer has noticed kids like looking at the ancient coins in the Byron Reed Exhibit.

6. Look for Scout the Buffalo – Being an actual buffalo, he’s pretty easy to find. Since you can’t touch Scout, the museum thoughtfully put a coat on display that you can touch.

7. Play! – You can’t miss the kid’s area set up near the elevators on the bottom level of the museum. Build with LEGOs, play with toy trains or construct your own marble run on a magnet wall.

More things to look for at the Durham Museum

There are a few places in the galleries I think families find interesting (at least, my family finds interesting). Be sure to check out the display of the Trans-Mississippi & International Exposition of 1898.

The Durham Museum has a room dedicated to The Trans-Mississippi & International Exposition of 1898.
A museum docent tried explaining to Farley how buildings and bridges just like the ones in this display once were real and existed for a short time in Omaha. The Durham Museum has a room dedicated to The Trans-Mississippi & International Exposition of 1898.

This large model has incredible details, and it gives you a peek at what downtown Omaha looked like for a brief period more than 100 years ago!

Also, as you walk around the museum, be on the lookout for old cars, a one-room schoolhouse, and other interesting sculptures.

There are few antique vehicles in the museum in addition to trains.
There's a model of a one-room schoolhouse in the lower level of the Durham Museum.
The Durham Museum incorporates sculpture art throughout the museum.

Hidden gems

There’s a photo archive in the basement that is open to the public. You can purchase prints there, or just take a look at really old photos of Omaha. I found a lot of photos here for my book, “Lost Restaurants of Omaha.”

It’s probably more interesting to adults to see what familiar haunts used to look like, though.

Annual special events at Durham Museum

In July – Railroad Days. Durham Museum is one of five participating venues and you can get up close to train on the railroad tracks outside.

Special events at The Durham - One of the most popular annual events is Railroad Days every July. The Durham Museum is one of the stops for the event.
Photo courtesy the Durham Musem

In July – Wild Wild West Days. Celebrate all things Wild West, and learn to lasso, watch a shootout and other fun activities.

In August – Root Beer Float Day. FREE root beer floats at the soda fountain!

In October – Great Halloween Haunt. Trick or treat to historical figures, join in a dance party, and make crafts. It ties in Halloween fun with a little historical education.

Nov. 23 through early January 2020 – Christmas at Union Station kicks off with the area’s largest indoor tree lighting celebration the day after Thanksgiving, and continues through the holiday season with family-friendly events like visits from Santa, concerts, the Ethnic Holiday Festival, the popular Noon Year’s Eve and many more.

The Durham Museum celebrates the New Year each year with a Noon Year's Eve celebration in the afternoon on Dec. 31.
Photo courtesy The Durham Museum

If you go

The Durham Museum

Where: 801 S. 10th St.

When: Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (during the summer, the museum is open on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.); Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Closed major holidays.

Cost: Adults, $11; Seniors (62+), $8; Children (ages 3 – 12), $7; children 2 years and under, FREE; Members, FREE.

A note on memberships: If you’re going to visit the Durham Museum more than once a year, it pays to get a family membership. It’s $60 for 12 months, and includes admission to the special events like the Great Hall-oween Haunt and all the Christmas festivities.

It also gets you discounts to the gift shop, soda fountain and summer camps.

Website 

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