April 22, 2018

8 Great Parks In Omaha

There was a great Facebook conversation going on about parks in Omaha recently. Everyone has an opinion about parks and what makes them the best: Sand vs. non-sand, themes, variety, location, crowd levels. So I’ll chime in below with my favorite parks.

This “8 Great” list is the first in the series I’ll be doing on the blog with reader input on what to include. Check back for future ones on breweries, restaurant patios, and more! If you’re bored with your neighborhood park, here are some of my family’s favorite parks in Omaha. If you’re looking for parks with hiking trails, here’s a list of seven great trails for families near Omaha.

Omaha parks

Benson Park & spray ground

Where: 7002 Military Ave.

Size: 217.3 acres

Why: This park’s playground is outstanding–and a no-sand playground to boot–and it’s next to a fun (and popular) splash pad. The small lake is nice for a stroll and fishing is allowed.

Sand: No

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Summer time at Benson @omahaparks!

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Elmwood Park

Where: 802 S. 60th St.

Size: 216.4 acres

Why: This park’s playground was recently updated, with some nice climbing areas added to it. Elmwood is one of my favorite parks because of the open space and the trails surrounding it. Take a short walk through the woods to imagine a little escape from the city. And if you’re so inclined, there is a fitness area right next to the playground where you can sneak in some weight-bearing exercises in while the kids play (I’m never so inclined).

Sand: Yes

Hanscom Park

Where: 3201 Woolworth Ave.

Size: 58 acres

Why: Omaha’s oldest park often gets overlooked by shinier new parks. However, its playground was updated in 2017, and it’s a great one. This park also has the perk of lots of gorgeous trees, a nice little lake, a pool, and a dog park.

Sand: Yes

Hummel Park

Where: 3033 Hummel Park Road

Size: 202 acres

Why: This is our favorite city park for hike! It also has the best special events (so check the city’s calendar from time to time). The playground consists of rather large metal slides. They look cool, and my kids love them, but if you’re a nervous parent, I’d stay clear until your kids are steady climbers.

Sand: No

Lawrence Youngman Park

Where: 192nd Street and West Dodge Road

Why: This lakeside park has a pretty sizeable playground, a boat ramp, and fishing is allowed. And the covered picnic area is a nice bonus.

Sand: Yes

Standing Bear Lake

Artist rendering of the new Standing Bear Lake playground.

Where: 6404 N. 132nd St.

Size: 685 acres

Why: I like Standing Bear Lake for the lovely trail, but soon, it’s getting a new playground with a Native American them. The good news is: It won’t have sand.

Sand: No

Zorinsky Lake Park

Where: 3808 S. 156th St.

Size: 1,023 acres

Why: This is my absolute favorite park to run the trails, and they’re good for bike rides, too. The trail to the west of 168th Street is so wooded, you’ll feel removed from the city. The main playground near the boat ramp is huge and a hit with kids.

Sand: Yes

Plus one beyond Omaha

If you look beyond the Omaha metro, you’ll encounter more fun parks to visit. One to keep on your radar is in Council Bluffs:

Dreamland Park

Where: Lake Manawa State Park, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Why: This large, wooden park located in Lake Manawa State Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was originally designed by kids’ submissions of what the perfect playground would look like. It’s currently under construction to be updated, so stay tuned for details on when it’s reopened (or just check this page Dream Playground Reimagined). Lake Manawa State Park also has trails and a small beach.

Sand: Yes

I’d love to know your favorite parks in Omaha! Please leave a comment with your favorites.

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September 18, 2017

Best Parks In Omaha For Quick & Easy Picnics

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #ServeWithACoke #CollectiveBias

My kids love picnics. Any night is a good night for a picnic–to them, at least. Weekday picnics? Tough. But I have a way to make quick, weekday picnics manageable and easy: Get a picnic meal to go at Hy-Vee and head to the nearest park. 

Shopping at Hy-Vee Omaha deli
Hy-Vee makes it easy to get a picnic meal to go. We went with fried chicken for ease of eating with kids.

We stopped by our usual Hy-Vee, picked out three sides to go with a 12-piece chicken meal, grabbed a 2 Liter of Coca-Cola  and headed to Elmwood Park. Hy-Vee has a few meal deals that include a 2 Liter of Coke for $24.99. You can check out current store promotions here.

Coca-Cola display at Hy-Vee
Hy-Vee has meal deals that include a 2 Liter of Coca-Cola or other Coke product. Our local store had a Coca-Cola display conveniently near the hot food.

Our favorite picnic area in Midtown Omaha is at Elmwood Park. We like to pick a table in the shade near the playground.

Picnic at Elmwood Park in Omaha
Impromptu picnic in the park means mom forgets the plates.

Our quick, weekday picnic at the park was a success, even if I did forget plates!

Ready to get an easy meal to-go and find the nearest park? Here’s a list of the best Omaha parks that are near a Hy-Vee for quick and easy picnics.

Parks guide - Best parks in Omaha for picnics, including tips on where to buy quick picnic food nearby #Omaha #Nebraska

Elmwood Park

Where: 802 S. 60th St.

What makes it a great picnic park: There are several picnic tables available, most are shaded. The playground was updated last year and is a hit with kids. There’s also a nice, short walking trail in the trees along a creek that leads to a small grotto. Plenty of green space to run and play sports.

Nearest Hy-Vee: 7910 Cass St., about 2.5 miles away

Note: This Hy-Vee is also very close to one of the few sandless playgrounds in Omaha, Stinson Park in Aksarben Village. It’s about 3.5 miles from Hy-Vee.

Standing Bear Lake

Where: 6404 N. 132nd St.

What makes it a great picnic park: This lake might be the best picnic-with-a-view spot in Omaha. It is out of the way for most people, but its remoteness is what makes it appealing.. There plenty of green space, a playground, and trails that are particularly nice for bikes. If you plan ahead, you can bring fishing gear and enjoy the lake.

Nearest Hy-Vee: 10808 Fort St., about 3 miles away

Zorinski Lake

Where: 3808 S. 156th St.

What makes it a great picnic park: This pretty lake has two playgrounds, and miles and miles of trails for bike riding or long walks. There are a few picnic areas (many with covered shelters). The picnic area nearest the largest playground on the south side of the lake is covered.

Nearest Hy-Vee: 17810 Welch Plaza, about 2 miles away

Lawrence Youngman Park

Where: 192nd Street and West Dodge Road

What makes it a great picnic park: This is a large playground that is sure to tire your kids. There is a covered picnic area and the lake is nice to walk around or fish.

Nearest Hy-Vee: 1000 S. 178th St., about 4 miles away

Walnut Creek Lake & Recreation

Where: 11601 S. 96th St., Papillion, Neb.

What makes it a great picnic park: This Papillion park has a large lake with about 3 miles of paved trail, making it a fun spot for an easy bike ride. There is a playground and picnic areas, including some covered shelters.

Nearest Hy-Vee: 11650 S. 73rd St., Papillion, Neb., about 4 miles away

Elmwood Park in Omaha
When you’re short on time, a picnic meal to go from Hy-Vee paired with Coke does the job.

Want some additional idea for a good picnic in Omaha? Here are four more of our favorite  Picnic Spots In Omaha (and they’re not all parks!).

Where’s your favorite park in Omaha for picnics?

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May 5, 2015

5 Things About Big O Bocce

I’ve been thinking about getting in some sort of sports league lately. One to be social but maybe a little active.

So I joined a bocce ball league.

Spoiler alert: My team isn’t going to win this league.

This year.

Didn’t know people played bocce ball in Omaha? And they’re like, our age?

There are 70-odd teams in the Big O Bocce league at Midtown Crossing this spring.



Bocce panoramic


Bocce ball is not a physically demanding sport, and can be played with a beverage in your hand – making it appealing to older folks and college-aged kids alike.

(Wait, does that make me an “older folk”?)


5 Things To Know About Big O Bocce


Bocce title


1. Anyone can play it.

I’ve never played bocce ball until last Tuesday. Nor had any members of my glorious bocce ball team, Joanie Loves Bocce, played. We had to google how to play.

So you can bet we were worthy adversaries.

Luckily our opponents had never played either, so there wasn’t a whole lot of pressure.

In case you were wondering, we lost to Balls Deep. I’ll let you come up with a joke right here.

Joanie Loves Bocce has serious game face, though.

Joanie Loves Bocce has serious game face, though.

Take heed, though, there are some competitive souls out there.

2. Anyone can play it but that doesn’t mean everyone’s good at it.

There is some skill to bocce, so even though we can all throw a ball, it’s not so easy to master. Being a competitive person, I had a hard time coming to terms with this. Kim wants to win.

3. League play is at Turner Park 

Put two and two together – sports and a public park – and you wonder if alcohol is involved. Well. Yes and no. People brought coolers, people purchased beer from Brix. But, it’s a public park so no one was throwing a kegger in Court No. 3. Everyone seemed pretty responsible, but having fun.

Not only can you play with a beverage in hand, you can pretend to measure distances as well.

Not only can you play with a beverage in hand, you can pretend to measure distances as well.

4. The real fun is afterward.

Sponsors of Big O Bocce – Cantina Laredo, Black Oak Grill and Chicago Dawg House – rotate offering post-game specials. We went to Cantina Laredo last week, and they offered $2 tacos and $2 Tecate beers. I’m excited to see what the other places will offer teams.

5. Summer league is on the horizon.

Will Joanie Loves Bocce be back? Who knows. But if you’ve got 5-8 friends, pool together your registration fee of $35 each and join the summer league. Registration starts May 25. You guys get a tshirt and an invite to the end-of-the-year party, and if you’re any good, maybe a trophy. Top scoring fees get money to donate to charities of their choice in addition to a trophy.


Disclaimer: I was provided complimentary registration in exchange for telling you about Big O Bocce. It was kinda unspoken that I wouldn’t tell you any rules or provide any “how to” tips because clearly, I have no idea what I’m doing out there.


April 17, 2014

Fun Things To Do In Omaha April 18-20

This weekend will be crazy busy for most of you. If yours is the Easter-egg-hunting or Earth-saving sort of family, you will not be bored this weekend. I’m lazy and won’t be listing all of them here, just my favorites. Deal with it.

Earth Day

earth day omahaWhen: Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Elmwood Park, 808 S. 60th St.

Why: It’s FREE, it has things that appeal to you and other things that appeal to your kids, and if all else fails, it’s right next to a playground. Full schedule here (new this year – tree climb and a slack line course).

Who’d like this: Outdoorsy folk; those looking for new ways to save the planet; kids preschool on up (thought that park is a draw for all ages); fans of live music

Hummel Hunt

When: Saturday, 10:30 a.m.

Where: Hummel Park, 3303 Hummel Road

Why: The kids want an Easter egg hunt but you don’t want to pay for them to do one. Plus, they have FREE egg dying and craft activities.

Who’d like this: Outdoorsy folk; families on a budget; kids of all ages

Tip: This event is FREE but you should RSVP at your nearest Community Center or online.

Party for the Planet

When: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St.

Why: The zoo’s always fun to visit, but when they add activities, it spices things up.

Who’d like it: Those out to save the planet; kids of all ages;

Tip: Event is FREE with paid zoo admission


Looking for more FREE Easter egg hunts or hunts at really fun places? Want more options for this weekend? Go check out outwithsprout.com for a complete list of things to do this weekend.

April 10, 2014

Fun Things To Do In Omaha April 11-13

You know what I like? Free things. I don’t really like the crowds that free things attract, but the thrifty penny-pincher in me can’t resist a bargain.

‘Lo and behold, three fun things to do in Omaha that are all FREE. Having gone to events at each of these places before, I know they’re worth braving the crowds.

Check these out:

Hummel Spring Discovery Day

When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Hummel Park Nature Center, 3303 Hummel Road

Why: You’re ready for nature in spring time (and you’re delusional enough to think the weather will be spring-like in Omaha this time of year. Plus, the guided hike, activities, refreshments and s’mores are all FREE.

Who’d like it: Outdoorsy folk; families on a budget; active families; kids of all ages (the nature center has a great activity center for toddlers and preschoolers)

Easter Extravaganza

When: Saturday, 1 to 3 p.m.

Where: Downtown YMCA, 430 S. 20th St.

Why: Egg hunts, face painting and and total exhaustion after spending too much time in a bounce house. The subsequent solid nap makes it all worth it. And it’s FREE.

Who’d like it: Active kids of all ages; parents plotting to steal Easter candy

Tip: There is also a celebration at the Maple Y, 7502 Maple St., that day from 10 to 11:30 a.m. It’s FREE to members, $5 for non-members.

Family Fun Day

A vase in the exhibit "Poseidon and the Sea." Your kid will not be making one of these at one of the craft tables.

A vase in the exhibit “Poseidon and the Sea.” Your kid will not be making one of these at one of the craft tables.

When: Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.

Where: Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge St.

Why: A kid-friendly festive atmosphere at Joslyn, featuring hands-on activities and neat demonstrations like a wood-fueled kiln firing pottery (read about all activities here http://www.joslyn.org/visit/kids-programs/family-fun-days/). Always a popular event and crowded event, Family Fun Days are some of my favorite times to go to the museum.

Who’d like this: Art enthusiasts; creative kids; families on a budget

Tip: Museum admission is always FREE. During this event, you can get into the temporary exhibit “Poseidon and the Sea” for $5 (FREE for kids 17 and younger).

Need more options for your weekend? Head over to Out With Sprout to see their awesome calendar of events in and around Omaha.

March 18, 2014

The Ultimate Nebraska Adventure This Summer

Maybe you don’t have the time to sit down and think of a whole Nebraska bucket list like the one I did yesterday.

No biggie.

Turns out, others have made a check list for you this year.

Great Park Pursuit

First up is the Great Park Pursuit – A Nebraska Outdoor Adventure. Get the rules here.Great Park Pursuit

Basically, you get a team together (AKA, your family). You pick a park. You print the Park Page and take it with you. Following some clues, you find the GPP post in the park and then put your Park Page over the post and make a tracing of the impression (so you’ll want to bring a crayon or pencil – and being a mom, I’m pretty sure I already have one of those in my purse).

It begins May 1. Send all of your completed nature impressions in by Sept. 17 in order to be entered in for the prize drawings.

This would be a load of fun to do with kids – maybe combine it with some camping or hiking?

Nebraska Passport Program

PrintThe Nebraska Tourism Commission recently the 80 stops in the 2014 Nebraska Passport Program. This one goes beyond parks and into towns, businesses and – a little mom and dad high five here – breweries.

The gist of this great hunt is that you go to the participating attractions, collect stamps and then you earn prizes. This year, they divided the 80 stops into 10 themed tours: Sips and Suds, Patchwork Passion, Rare Finds, Home Grown Nebraska, Fork in the Road, Hit the Snooze, Without Walls, Stars and Stripes, How We Move and Can’t Get Enough.

Now this could be a fun family activity all summer long, or I could see it as a great list to check off with your mate. I’m particularly eyeing the Sips & Suds list as something I could see me and Mr. Wonderful taking care of without the kids (of the breweries and wineries listed, we’ve only been to one so it’s almost all new to me).

This fun program runs from May 1 through Sept. 30. For each completed tour, participants win a Nebraska Passport T-shirt. Travelers also can receive 20 $1 Nebraska Lottery Scratch coupons (for 20 stamps) and a digital picture frame (for 40 stamps) and a Pebble Smartwatch (for all 80 stamps). The grand prize is a TV. If you turn in a passport with at least one stamp (and you’re 19 or older), you qualify for a drawing for 300 $1 Nebraska Lottery Scratch tickets.

Passports will be available at participating stops in May or can be pre-ordered by emailing info@NebraskaPassport.com.

Combine Them For The Ultimate Nebraska Summer?

Lucky me, some destinations on my bucket list are part of these two programs, or near them. If I were a planning woman – and I am – I could see checking off several stops from both the  Great Park Pursuit and Nebraska Passport Program in one outing.

Your Turn: Do you plan on doing either of these programs this summer? Where do you want to go?