May 10, 2019

The Inspiration Behind ‘She Rocks’

There’s usually a great music-based show at Omaha Community Playhouse each summer. The music is familiar, the local performers is phenomenal (Example A: Last year’s “Rock Twist” with Billy McGuigan). This year, the show is “She Rocks: The Women of Rock” and the star is Tara Vaughan. Vaughan has been in McGuigan’s band for six years and this is first time having a summer residency at OCP! “She Rocks” runs June 13-30, 2019 and tickets are available now.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by “She Rocks: The Women of Rock” and Rave On Productions. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Tara Vaughan performs "She Rocks: The Women of Rock" at the Omaha Community Playhouse June 13-30, 2019. She says her mother is the inspiration behind the show.

To Vaughan, “She Rocks: The Women of Rock” is more than simply a show celebrating female singers and songwriters from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Vaughn’s inspiration for “She Rocks” comes from her Mom, LeeAnn. LeeAnn not only helped share the show, but she also remains a constant source of encouragement as Vaughan prepares for her first residency at the Omaha Community Playhouse before taking the show on its maiden tour across North America in the fall.

Vaughan shared with me her thoughts on her mother just in time for Mother’s Day. Enjoy!

A Mother’s Day Note From Tara Vaughan

As a little girl growing up in 1960s South Omaha, my mom would wrap herself in a bath towel, pretending it was an opulent evening gown, and sang the hits of Diana Ross and Petula Clark to the dolls and stuffed animals she’d lined up on her front porch. Did she see a little of that child in me 30 years later as I’d clomp around the living room in her high heels, singing Paula Abdul for her and my dad? Now another 30 years behind us, does she feel a twinge of that child again as she watches me onstage? She’s my biggest cheerleader, so it’s very easy for me to conjure up a mental image of her in the audience; nervously biting her lip, silently mouthing along the words to each song and probably internally praying I won’t make a joke
too awkward for this crowd.

Tara Vaughan and her mother, LeeAnn, the inspiration behind Tara's show "She Rocks: The Women of Rock"
Tara and her mother, LeAnne. Photo courtesy Tara Vaughan

As I developed my stage show “She Rocks,” I knew that I wanted to pay tribute to the women who have inspired me. I wanted to play the songs that have been the soundtrack to my life, and tell stories of the women who performed and wrote those songs, overcoming odds and adversity to be voices for women everywhere in a male-dominated industry. So sure, “She Rocks” is about Carole and Aretha and Stevie. But for me, it’s also about the original rock goddess in my life. She may not have the gold records or Grammys of some of the other women I pay tribute to, but LeeAnn Vaughan is a total and complete badass.

In addition to raising four of us kids (no easy feat; somewhere in the Omaha World Herald archives is a photo of the three oldest of us proudly sporting synchronous broken right arms), my mom is a science teacher for Omaha’s public schools. After going to college in her 30s when she felt a calling to education, she became a pioneer in the field, developing Nebraska’s first biotechnology program for high schoolers at Omaha North and the Air and Space Academy at Burke. She’s been recognized nationally for her teaching,
earning the Christa McAuliffe Prize for Courage and Excellence twice, receiving the Presidential Award for Excellence, and even being invited to join a NASA flight to observe infrared astronomy.

Tara Vaughan, her siblings and their mother, LeeAnn. Tara credits her mom for inspiring the show "She Rocks: The Women of Rock"
Tara Vaughan and her three siblings with their mom, LeeAnn. Tara credits her mom for inspiring the show “She Rocks: The Women of Rock.” Photo courtesy Tara Vaughan

I haven’t gotten to learn physics or rocketry from my mom like some students, but she’s taught me so much. She’s shown me by her example that each day brings a series of rich moments to relish, each set of challenges a set of lessons worth learning, and each stranger in line at the grocery store, a new potential friend. She’s shown me to be at once fierce and vulnerable, in love with all the beauty that this world has to offer and angry at its injustices, bold and defiant but ferociously loving. She’s shown me that all of these things, all these gloriously vexing parts and pieces, are what it means to be a woman.

Tara Vaughan and her parents. Tara credits her mom for inspiring the show "She Rocks: The Women of Rock"
Tara Vaughan and her parents. Tara will perform “She Rocks: The Women of Rock” June 13-30 at Omaha Community Playhouse. She credits her mom for inspiring the show. Photo courtesy Tara Vaughan

My mom has had a big hand in “She Rocks,” planting the seeds of its set list as she cranked KGOR in our family minivan, and putting the final touches on it as I modeled different hats options for her, asking “Is this one too hipster?” She has shaped and inspired me immeasurably, and I hope that when she sings along with me to “Downtown,” she’s taken back to that little girl on the front porch, wrapped in a towel. Happy Mother’s Day, Marm.

About ‘She Rocks’ & Tara Vaughan

“She Rocks: The Women of Rock” celebrates women artists and songwriters of the 1960s to the 1980s, woven together with songs and stories. Backed by an all-star band, Tara Vaughan performs music from artists like Janis Joplin, Linda Ronstadt, Aretha Franklin, Blondie, Heart, and many more. In this unique review, Vaughan masterfully presents an evening of classic rock and roll with the focus on female artists and songwriters.

Vaughan’s influences can be heard throughout the show. In her vocal style, you can hear echoes and influence of legends like Patsy Cline and Sam Cooke. Her abilities on the piano are strongly influenced by rock icons like Carole King and Elton John.

A graduate of Tufts University, Vaughan is a singer-songwriter who has independently released three albums, the most recent of which, “Dandelion Wine,” was nominated for several Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards. Vaughan’s extensive touring history has lead her to open for such artists as Lifehouse, Ben Kweller, and James McCartney. Most recently, she has been touring internationally with “Billy McGuigan’s: Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience,” “Rave On! The Buddy Holly Experience” and “Rock Twist.”

"She Rocks: The Women of Rock" begins its North American tour soon. It starts with a run at Omaha Community Playhouse in June 2019.  Tara Vaughan says her mother is the inspiration for the show. Read her words about her mother's influence on her.

If you go

“She Rocks: The Women of Rock”

When: June 13-30, 2019; performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Where: Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St.

Cost: $30. Tickets are available online at TicketOmaha.com or calling the box office at 402-552-0800.

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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 10, 2019

Best Omaha Restaurants For Families

Omaha is enjoying an explosion of great, locally-owned restaurants opening up. The food is creative and delicious. But just because I have kids–and I often take them out with me to restaurants—there are just some that I wouldn’t dare take my kids to. But others? I’ve learned how to spot the restaurants that welcome families AND have good food. Here’s my list of the best Omaha restaurants for families, where you’ll find good food and a kid-friendly environment. I’ve asked a couple of friends who dine at far better places than I typically go to with kids, and they’ve added their recommendations to the list. Bon appetite!

Local's tips on the best restaurants in Omaha for families - Where to go for a special family night out or the restaurants that offer something good for adventurous diners. #Omaha #Nebraska #USA #restaurant

Big Green Q & Ted & Wally’s

Where: 6023 Maple St.

Why: It’s no secret that I have an undying allegiance to Ted & Wally’s – they have the world’s best Dutch chocolate ice cream. If you venture to the ice cream shop’s Benson location, you’ll find Big Green Q sharing the building. This barbecue place has a following from its food truck days. The food is pretty good, the kid’s meals are reasonable, and then you have to get ice cream for dessert, right? One thing that makes Big Green stand out is that its effort at sourcing ingredients locally AND everything is compostable. And the tots are good too.

Blatt Table + Beer

Where: 610 N. 12th St.; 2835 S. 170th Plaza; inside Westroads Mall at Flagship Commons, 10000 California St.

Why: Blatt is on just about every restaurant list I make. The food is just that good, plus they have a great craft beer selection. But, for the purpose of this post, I’ve been a fan of the restaurant since my early parenting days when I discovered the original NoDo location had a changing table in the bathroom. The kid’s menu offers substantial servings, similar to what adults can order.

Related post: Looking for more downtown Omaha restaurants that are kid-friendly? Check out this list of 8 Great Downtown Omaha Restaurants For Families.

Bob’s Donuts

Where: 3824 Farnam St.

Why: What kid is going to resist the chance to order an Oreo donut or one topped with cereal? Not even a big kid. But, creative flavors aside, Bob’s Donuts is on this list because they also serve chicken sandwiches. For breakfast. I love them. I may have my favorite donut shop elsewhere in Omaha, but Bob’s is great for my family because the kids can have their donuts, and I can force a little protein into them by having them split a chicken sammie, too.

FarmHouse Cafe & Bakery

Where: 3461 S. 84th St.

Why: This is my extended family’s go-to place for breakfast out with a large group. They also offer lunch and dinner, but breakfast is my jam there. The variety of food is great (portions are ginormous) and there are usually coloring pages offered to occupy kids. Even with the large portions, you may want to order a pecan roll to split with the rest of the table. The only downside to the restaurant is that on the weekends, there will likely be a wait. But, the good news is that FarmHouse is connected to Mangelsen’s, a craft shop that’s fun to explore while you wait. You’ve got to check out the Halloween and Christmas sections.

Korean Garden

Where:  5352 S. 72nd St., Ralston, Neb.

Why: So one of my friends is Korean and I trust her taste in food, so if she says a Korean restaurant is good, I’m going to believe it. And, knowing she’ll take her three kids there means it has a spot on this list. And as a bonus, Korean Garden has tabletop grilling there. My kids will eat anything if they’re allowed to cook it themselves.

Lalibela Restaurant

Where: 4422 Cass St.

Why: If you have adventurous eaters, head to Lalibela. It’s an Ethiopian restaurant where traditionally, you eat from shared plates (and you eat with your hands). If you’ve never experienced it, basically, you’ve got injera, the bread, and you tear off a piece and scoop up the food. Some kids are going to love it (mine did not). The food is fantastic and the service is prompt.

Louie M’s Burger Lust

Where: 1718 Vinton St.

Why: This is a meat eaters’s kind of place, where you’ll find more creative burger options than you thought possible. The real reason we go here, though, is that it’s one of the closest restaurants to Omaha’s zoo. There are closer restaurants, but the food at Louie M’s is better. It’s not a big place, so you might have a wait. The kid’s menu has some activities on it to help pass the time.

Mar Cafe

Where: 4646 Dodge St.

Why: This is one of my friends’ picks for restaurants, especially for breakfast. This Mexican restaurant is pretty unassuming on the exterior, but the food, I hear, is fantastic. The chef at Mar Cafe hails from the province of Michoucan, Mexico.

Pitch

Where: 5021 Underwood Ave.; 17808 Burke St.

Why: Handmade dough and a great Happy Hour? Pitch doesn’t quite sound like a family-friendly place. But it is. I always see kids there, because…pizza. Now this is the type of pizza my kids balk at – it’s what my kids call “Fancy Pizza.” I like it very much, but it’s not your chain restaurant type of pizza.

Related post: Pitch made it onto this list, Where To Find The Best Pizza In Omaha.

Plank Seafood Provisions

Where: 1205 Howard St.

Why: This is one of the few Old Market restaurants where you can get good fish entree, and as a bonus to parents, there’s a kid’s menu. Kid’s meals at Plank come with a little bag of goodies, including tattoos.

Shuck’s

Where: 1911 Leavenworth St.; 16901 Wright Plaza; 1218 S. 119th St.

Why: Like Plank Seafood Provisions, Shuck’s is a fish lover’s destination. It’s preferred by my family to Plank (for the price, it can’t be beat). Tables typically have brown paper on them, making it ideal for kids and adults to color and play tic-tac-toe while you wait. If you go during Lent, expect a wait on Fridays.

Upstream Brewing Co.

Where: 514 S. 11th St.

Why: Rare is a brewpub that welcomes families, but Upstream Brewing Co. is a good one. Kids get little bendy sticks to play with while you wait. If you visit on Tuesday nights, you may encounter Joe Cole, a roving magician who’s highly entertaining. Kid’s portions are large and they come with a choice of vanilla ice cream or a root beer float for dessert. And, for adults, the standard beer Upstream brews is superb and they have a few seasonal ones that can be pretty creative flavors.

Zio’s Pizzeria

Where: 1109 Howard St., 7834 Dodge St., 12997 West Center Road, and 18110 Wright St.

Why: Zio’s is a favorite of my family’s (but not of mine). However, it’s one of the few places that I know of that you can ask for a ball of dough and they’ll bring it to you. When my kids were younger, this was better than Play-Do to them. There is a kid’s menu, but we usually order pizza by the slice. The Old Market location on Howard Street is convenient to most tourists visiting Omaha, but if you ask me, the Dodge Street location has better pizza.

11-Worth Cafe

Where: 2419 Leavenworth St.

Why: 11-Worth Cafe is the quintessential greasy spoon on an unappealing street, yet, people love it. They’re doing something right. This is a good place for breakfast near the Old Market, where the service is quick, the food is good, and sometimes, your kid leaves with a balloon. It’s also the last of the Caniglia-owned restaurants, which probably means something only to those who’ve lived in Omaha for decades. If you’re looking for healthy breakfast options, this isn’t going to be your place.

Restaurants to go to on off-hours

So the following are restaurants that aren’t going to snub you if you bring well-behaved kids, but they’re in this category because they may either be typical “date night” places or they’re just a little fancier than the run-of-the-mill family restaurants. Don’t overlook them, just know that the dining experience is a little more formal.

Avoli Osteria

Where: 5013 Underwood Ave.

Why: I’m going to take my foodie friends at the word for Avoli being family-friendly (at off-hours) because I’ve been saving it up for a special date night occasion and haven’t been. I’ve heard it’s “impress-your-date” good. But my friends have brought their kiddos to this Dundee staple to enjoy the northern Italian cuisine, so at least one family has pulled it off.

Dario’s Brasserie

Where: 4920 Underwood Ave.

Why: While I have’t brought my kids here–yet–the thought has crossed my mind to do so. (I have gone for date nights and it’s fantastically casual and yet romantic). Featuring fine Belgian cuisine and the best fries in Omaha, Dario’s a remarkable restaurant that reminds me of charming European cafes I visited in my 20s. My friends and their kids have gone during quiet hours and can vouch that it’s suitable for families. And, by the way, this place has one of the best beer selection in Omaha, if you love Belgian stuff.

M’s Pub

Where: 422 S 11th St.

Why: Introduce your kiddos to an Omaha institution. M’s has had quite a history, being one of the first restaurants to open in the Old Market after it was revitalized decades ago, only to suffer a terrible fire that nearly ended its run. It’s a beloved restaurant by many, and I’ve been there for date nights (pre-fire). It’s a rather small place, so go during off-hours if you don’t have a reservation.

Via Farina

Where: 1108 S. 10th St.

Why: Via Farina serves wood-fired pizza in an impeccably designed space. If you’re the Instagramming kind of person, you’ll feel at home. I love it for hanging out with friends before a show at the Bluebarn Theatre. I wouldn’t have thought of it as a place to bring my kids since they usually snub yummy wood-fire pizza, but my friends have brought their kiddos. The pizza here has more adventurous ingredients (by my kids’ standards).

From fine dining to casual, local Omaha restaurants welcome families. Here are our top picks for family-friendly restaurants in Omaha. #Nebraska #dining #eatlocal

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March 20, 2019

Ultimate List Of Things To Do In Omaha This 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 opened 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 Omaha in the summer? 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.

Create – Head to Board and Brush to make your own personalized board, do a drop-in mini workshop, or make something alongside your kid. Details on the experience may be found here. Save $10 on your project with the promo code OHMYOMAHA!

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 4, 2019

Guide To ONE Festival For Families & Opera Beginners

Opera Omaha is bringing back the ONE Festival to Omaha for its second year running March 30 through April 14, 2019. It’s unlike any festival I’ve ever been to, and I think if you appraise good storytelling, you’re going to want to check it out. There is a full lineup of events, and it can be hard to figure out which one is good for someone new to opera and which one is good for families, so I’ve written a guide to the ONE Festival to help.

Disclosure: This post is a partnership between Opera Omaha and Oh My! Omaha. I was not paid to write the post. Opera Omaha provided passes for the giveaway. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

What you need to know about the ONE Festival in Omaha if you're new to opera - What's kid-friendly, what's accessible to opera newbies and how to get tickets #Omaha #Nebraska #opera

Related: Looking for more festivals and events in Omaha? Check out this post with an updated list of kid-friendly events, exhibits and festivals in the Omaha Area.

What is the ONE Festival?

The ONE Festival explores opera in all its forms. Sure there are two operas in the festival, but the rest of the festival deconstructs it into concerts, installations, social gatherings, dance and exhibitions. There’s an exhibition in 2019 that I think most families are going to love (more on that in a little bit).

The focus of the ONE Festival is experimentation and new work. The festival is held at different venues around Omaha. Some of it is free, some of it requires tickets. Here’s a list of all the performances and events in the 2019 ONE Festival.

Is the ONE Festival for families?

The full operas in the ONE Festival are not going to appeal to young kids or elementary aged kids. They can last up to three hours long and are quite often performed in an other language. However, there are a couple things at this year’s ONE Festival that I think will appeal to a younger audience.

A performance during the 2018 ONE Festival presented by Opera Omaha
The unique thing about the ONE Festival in Omaha is that it deconstructs opera with performances that range from dance and instrumentals to vocal performances. Of course, the festival also includes full operas. Photo courtesy Opera Omaha

One truly exciting exhibition, that I think will appeal to adults and kids alike is called “Playground.” You’re going to want to check out this operatic sound sculpture at Joslyn Art Museum March 30 through April 14. It’s pretty much a playground set inside the museum curated by Ellen Reid. What that means is you can swing on this playset and create music while someone else is accompanying you on the slide.

The performance part comes in on select days and times when “Run” is performed. This 15-minute original composition for voice features ONE Festival soloist Naomi Louisa O’Connell and International Contemporary Ensemble artists. “Run” is performed at select times on March 30 and 31, as well as April 4, 6 and 13.

Families may want to look into attending one of shows in the CINEsound operatic film series at Film Streams (at both the Dundee and Ruth Sokolof theaters). The one in particular that I’m told is family-oriented is called “Sights on Sounds.” It’s a documentary-style compilation that explores the connection of music and film.

Is the ONE Festival accessible to opera beginners?

I think the entire idea of the ONE Festival is to introduce opera to people who’ve never been to a traditional opera. With that said, there are some performances that are more accessible to newbies than others.

The first performance to check out happens before the festival event begins. “An Evening With Paul Barnes” on March 15 will be a good one to check out since it will give you a glimpse at what’s planned for the 2019 festival, as performed by pianist Paul Barnes. He’s famous for his collaboration with Philip Glass and has been called “ferociously virtuosic” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

An opera performance at the 2018 ONE Festiva in Omaha, Nebraska
The ONE Festival in Omaha explores operas in all its forms — from full operas to instrumental performances, dance and cinema. Photo courtesy Opera Omaha

Reid + Concert on April 4 is another one I’m told is good for those new to opera. It’s a chamber concert featuring Ellen Reid (the artist behind “Playground”), as well as performances by Holland Community Opera Fellows, Creighton University Chamber Choir and members of the International Contemporary Ensemble. The performance is on the shorter side, so it gives you a taste of things without having to sit for a three-hour performance.

“For Research Only” is a dance exhibition that puts you in the middle of the performance (which may appeal to some and not to others, right?). This performance at KANEKO takes place April 6, 10, and 11. Due to the intimate nature of it, seeing is limited. The performance tries to put the audience into the thoughts of the performers, offering a glimpse into how a performance is made. It involves contemporary dance, live music and projection mapping.

I also think the “CINEsound” series sounds pretty interesting, especially the midnight screening that kicks off the festival. The score will be performed live with the movie.

About the operas in ONE Festival

There are two full opera experiences at the 2019 ONE Festival. “Les Enfantes Terribles” is the shorter of the two, if you base your opera viewing on time. It’s a twisted twisted opera by Philip Glass based on the 1929 novel. “Les Enfantes Terribles” is April 3, 5, 7, 13 and 14 at The Mastercraft. It’s definitely not suitable for kids.

The other opera is “Faust,” and due to its 3 1/2-hour-long run time, it’s going to be one for the seasoned opera fans. It sounds visually cool, with a Vegas-y feel to it, though. This performance will feature music that hasn’t been heard in more than 150 years, which is cool. “Faust” is on April 12 and 14 at the Orpheum Theater. Like the other opera, it’s not for the kiddos.

Going to the ONE Festival

The ONE Festival is March 30 through April 14, 2019 at various locations around Omaha. You’ll want to check if the performance you’re going to attend requires tickets, and if so, you’ll probably want to get them early (especially for performances with limited seating like “For Research Only). “Playground” is one that is FREE to attend, but you’ll want to time it right to see the performance of “Run” while you’re there. See all the performance and event dates and times here.

Tickets range in prices. Be sure to follow Oh My! Omaha on Facebook because I’ll be giving away a pair of Festival ONEpasses! The Festival ONEpass gets you into “An Evening with Paul Barnes” (VIP option available), “Les Enfants Terribles,” and “For Research Only” plus gives you discount codes for “CINEsound” and “Faust.”

Opera Omaha's ONE Festival is held each spring in Omaha. Here's what you need to know about taking kids to a performance or attending your first opera #Omaha #Nebraska #opera

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