8 Great Parks In Omaha

Quirky slide at Hummel Park Omaha

There was a great Facebook conversation going on about the best parks in Omaha. Everyone has an opinion about parks and what makes them the best: Sand vs. non-sand, themes, variety, location, crowd levels, and the type of playground it had. There were some consistently favorite Omaha parks, so I’ve compiled those and narrowed that list down with some of my picks, too.

Note: This post was written in 2018 and updated in 2019 to reflect the new playgrounds opened at Standing Bear Lake and Dreamland Park at Lake Manawa State Park.

If you’re bored with your neighborhood park, here are some of my family’s favorite parks in Omaha. These are all ones with playgrounds. If you’re looking for parks with hiking or biking trails, here’s a list of seven great trails for families near Omaha and family-friendly bike trails in Omaha.

One of the most popular spray grounds in Omaha is in Benson Park, which also has a great playground for kids ages 12 and younger.

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. It’s great in all seasons, but especially fun in the summer when the popular splash pad is open. The small lake is nice for a stroll and fishing is allowed.

Sand: No

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 is Omaha's oldest park, but its playground was updated in recent years.

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

Where: 6404 N. 132nd St.

Size: 685 acres

Why: I like Standing Bear Lake for the lovely trail, but it recently opened new playground with a Native American them. The good news is: It doesn’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 great playground near Omaha

If you look beyond the Omaha metro, you’ll encounter more fun parks to visit.

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.

In 2019, it reopened with an updated look and long-lasting material. There are several elements that draw from Council Bluffs history. Plus, it’s just awesome.

Lake Manawa State Park also has trails and a small beach.

Unlike other parks on this list, Dreamland Park is in a state park that does charge an entrance fee for out-of-state visitors. It’s $5 per vehicle.

Sand: Yes

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

Looking for the best playgrounds in Omaha? Here the best Omaha parks, including tips like which ones have sand and which ones don't. Have fun outdoors (and for free!) at the Omaha parks. #Omaha #Nebraska #outdoors

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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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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.


4 Picnic Spots in Omaha

Most families have a favorite go-to spot for picnics. Looking for a new one to try? Here are four Omaha parks that are great for picnics.

Elmwood CollageWMElmwood Park

Where: 58th and Happy Hollow Boulevard

What makes it fun: There is a great sandy playground area and lots of green space, but the uniqueness of this park is the grotto and the short wooded trails that are fun to explore.

Where to sit: There are lot of picnic tables, though one cluster has the option of being reserved (FYI – great for reunions and birthday parties). A few picnic tables near the tree line make it more likely to find some shade.ZorinskyWM

Lake Zorinsky

Where: Main entrance to park is at 156th and F streets

What makes it fun: The trail around the lake is a huge draw to active families, so bring along a bike or walking shoes for everybody. There are two playgrounds, I prefer the bigger of the two, so enter the park at 156th and F and head west, you can’t miss it. This playground has one area for smaller kids that I appreciate in addition to the huge play area for all ages.

Where to sit: There are picnic tables under a shelter (both playgrounds, actually have tables under shelters).

Heartland of America Park is a downtown Omaha park with a nice trail and plenty of ducks and geese to feed. This winter picture doesn't do it justice, just trust me.
Heartland of America Park is a downtown Omaha park with a nice trail and plenty of ducks and geese to feed. This winter picture doesn’t do it justice, just trust me.

Heartland of America Park

Where: Eighth and Douglas streets

What makes it fun: It’s an anomaly for parks, since there’s no playground yet kids enjoy themselves here. There’s a fountain to watch (complete with light show) and lots of ducks and geese. Bring old bread to feed the feathered mob that will surely check you out if you have food.

Where to sit: There are some picnic tables but they aren’t really shaded well. If it’s a blazing hot day, you’ll want to bring a blanket to dine under a tree.

In case you were wondering, you can get into the fountain at Joslyn Art Museum. Mooch is crying not because she's in water, but because she was told not to run. She's not a Gremlin ,or anything.
In case you were wondering, you can get into the fountain at Joslyn Art Museum. Mooch is crying not because she’s in water, but because she was told not to run. She’s not a Gremlin ,or anything.

Joslyn Art Museum, children’s sculpture garden

Where: 2200 Dodge St.

What makes it fun: There is a lot of colorful art to touch and explore for little ones – children are encouraged to explore the fanciful sculptures with hands. The stick hut you might remember is no longer there (bummer, Farley loved that), but a new piece has been added since we last visited, Fletcher Benton’s “Folded Square Alphabet O.”

Where to sit: Bring a blanket and find a flat patch of green to set up shop.

Picnic Without Sippy Cups

Need a little romance? I spotted a couple having a picnic in the rose garden at Memorial Park recently (not-so-hidden bottle of wine and everything). Didn’t know there was a rose garden there? Exactly. It’s a quiet place with beautiful scenery, and best of all, very little foot traffic to disturb you.

Surely, you all have some favorites. (I do, and don’t call me Shirley.)

Please comment and share with the rest of us!