Omaha is a great city day or night. When the sun goes down, there’s plenty of things to do indoors and outdoors – including free things. Whether you choose free or ticketed events, or something in between, you’ll find it here. So grab your coat and get ready for a night out in Omaha.
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UPDATE: This post was published in February 2023 and was updated in March 2023 following the closure of Monster Club.
Exploring the nightlife of downtown Omaha
The cultural heart of the city is downtown Omaha. It’s where the city was founded and grew from there. I lived in the Old Market for most of my 20s, so it also has a special place in my heart. And since most visitors tend to stay somewhere in the downtown area and visit the Old Market, it makes sense to start with the nightlife there.
Sure there are a lot of bars downtown, that’s a given. If you’re looking for something a little different than the standard bar, you can head to Laka Lono Rum Club for a tiki experience or La Buvette for a Parisian bar feel. If you can find the Wicked Rabbit near the Orpheum Theater, you can have a speakeasy kind of night out.
There’s also a non-alcoholic bar, Dry Spokes, that recently opened downtown. They serve craft mocktails and hold events ranging from concerts, trivia nights, and open mic nights.
Venture a few blocks south of the Old Market, and you’ll find some interesting nightlife in the Little Bohemia neighborhood. For a cozy spot, find a couch at Tiny House Bar or in the winter, reserve the heated igloo on their patio. For a bit of fun playing old school pinball and arcade games at night, there’s the nearby Beercade 2.
If you want to listen to some live music, many downtown bars double as live music venues. The Dubliner Pub is a fun option, and it’s not always Irish music (thought that’s my favorite kind to listen to there). Nearby is Harney Street Tavern, and they’ll have anyone on stage from blues to rock.
If you plan ahead and get reservations, you can hear some world-class performances downtown. The Jewell specializes in jazz. Omaha Performing Arts manages two downtown venues, the Holland Performing Arts Center and Orpheum Theater (and a third opening this spring, Steelhouse Omaha). At the Holland Center, there are two stages where you’ll catch touring bands, comedians, as well as the Omaha Symphony. At the Orpheum, you may find a Broadway touring show on stage or perhaps a production by Opera Omaha or American Midwest Ballet. Another great live performance venue downtown is just south of the Old Market, Bluebarn Theatre.
The city’s largest arena, CHI Health Center Omaha, is also downtown, and that’s where major music tours perform, as well as Creighton basketball and other major sporting events like the FEI World Cup™ Finals. Not far from the CHI Health Center is Charles Schwab Field, itself home to some major sporting events, most notably the NCAA Men’s College World Series each year.
Downtown Omaha has plenty of other options besides the bars, music clubs, and music. There are escape rooms like House of Conundrum and The Escape Omaha. There are even a couple of axe-throwing venues: Flying Timbers Axe Throwing and Craft Axe Throwing. You can have some coffee and pay retro Nintendo games at CTRL Coffee & Cereal Bar (though they stay open late only on certain weekdays). Watch a new release independent film or if you’re lucky, a classic, at Film Streams at Ruth Sokolof Theater.
Enjoying an evening at Omaha’s outdoor attractions
Starting in the summer of 2023, there will be quite a bit more things to do outdoors in downtown Omaha. The next phase of the Omaha Riverfront is set to open, including the revamped Lewis & Clark Landing which is supposed to have a playground and sand volleyball courts, among other new additions. Nearby, Heartland of America Park is set to reopen and that should have a skating ribbon for in-line skating when it’s warm, and ice skating when it’s cold.
Gene Leahy Mall is a part of the Riverfront, and the park is already open. It’s a pretty and well-lit place to visit at night. There’s a large grass lawn and stage for performances there, as well as play areas and slides, fire pits, swings and hammocks. If you visited the Gene Leahy Mall a few years ago, it’s changed A LOT. It’s especially pretty in the winter when the lights are strung in the trees.
The most recognizable landmark in downtown Omaha, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, is also open at night. It’s well-lit and on a warm summer evening, there’s always a lot of groups of people strolling the bridge (better known as The Bob). There are paved bike and walking paths on the Omaha and Council Bluffs sides of the bridge.
The ropes course at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, managed by TreeRush Adventures, offers night sessions with the last climb starting at 6:15 p.m. during the season. Lights are strung up in the surrounding trees to add to the mood.
Fontenelle Forest also hosts guided evening hikes timed with full moons, so check their online calendar for the next one. Sometimes, Fontenelle staffers will have an evening hike at Neale Woods located in North Omaha. A bit out of the city in Honey Creek, Iowa, you can also find occasional guided night hikes at Hitchcock Nature Center.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium is not typically open late, but occasionally will have seasonal late-hour events for families like around Halloween. For the 21 and older crowd, the zoo has other evening events like Late Nights at the Zoo on select Thursdays when there are food trucks, music, and drinks. You’ll want to keep tabs on the zoo’s Facebook page for announcements. You’d be surprised at some of the things you can do at the zoo!
During the summer, several shopping centers and entertainment districts have outdoor events and concerts (usually free), including Midtown Crossing, Village Pointe, Rockbrook Village and Shadow Lake Towne Center in Papillion. Aksarben Village also has concerts outdoors at a small green area as well as the much larger Stinson Park, which is the place for several outdoor festivals that last well into the night, including the annual Maha Festival.
Outdoor amusement parks like Papio Fun Park and Fun Plex stay open into the evening during the season, though not too late. Papio Fun Park is open until 9 p.m. sometimes, and Fun Plex is open until 7 p.m. Other seasonal attractions like Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Apple Orchard and Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Ranch stay open until 9 p.m., or later in the case of the haunted attractions at Bellevue Berry & Pumpkin Ranch.
Experiencing local arts & culture
I’ve already touched upon a few of my favorite theater and music venues, but there’s a lot more. For live theater, see what’s on stage at Omaha Community Playhouse (one of the nation’s oldest community theaters) or Rave On Productions. For excellent live music venues, look to The Waiting Room in Benson, The Slowdown in North Downtown Omaha (NoDo), or The Admiral in Little Bohemia.
The Omaha art scene has several fun evening events, including First Fridays in Benson and the Old Market, when several galleries and businesses host artists and performers and street vendors and buskers set up outdoors. The Culxr House hosts Art Battles frequently, a competitive painting event that the audience helps pick out the winners.
Omaha museums don’t typically stay open late, though sometimes there will be an odd night you can visit. The Bemis Center for Contemporary is open until 9 p.m. on Thursday nights, and will occasionally have performances in the gallery’s LOW END. The KANEKO stays open until 7 p.m. some nights, and The Durham Museum will occasionally have late nights on Tuesdays. Lauritzen Gardens will have later hours during the holiday season and sometimes for summer events, like on some Mondays, you can bring your dog to the gardens until 8 p.m. Art galleries like the Split Gallery will have evening hours, especially for an exhibit opening.
For a more pop culture night out, try your hand at music bingo or a trivia night at one of the city’s bars. Some of the places I’ve been to recently with trivia are Edge of the Universe, a themed cafe in Benson, and Backlot Taphouse at Aksarben Village. And if board games or card games are more of your speed, Spielbound Board Game Cafe in Midtown Omaha is open until 11 p.m. and midnight.
If you’d like to create, there are several night-time venues for painting and making. The Makery is open until 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays. The Corky Canvas at Midtown Crossing is open until 10 p.m. and Painting With A Twist in West Omaha has sessions that start at 7 p.m.
Dance clubs and venues are scattered throughout Omaha. For line dancing, head to Bushwackers in Ralston. If you’re new to line dancing, go on a Friday night for a free lesson. The Omaha Jitterbugs put on a weekly Friday night swing dance at the Eagles Ballroom on South 24th Street. For salsa dancing, head to Howard’s Charro Cafe on South 13th Street on Saturday nights; free lessons start at 8 p.m.
For comedy, you have a few late-night options. In West Omaha, there’s the Funny Bone at Village Pointe. In downtown Omaha, there’s the improv comedy spot, The Backline Comedy Theatre.
One of my favorite things to start up in the past year were adult book fairs that harken back to the Scholastic Book Fair days of our childhood. These have been held at a bar like Tiny House Bar or a brewery like Site-1 Brewing, and typically have one of our local independent bookstores bringing in the goods for us to browse. For now, I’ve only found out about these book nights at the bar through social media, so you’ll want to follow any or all of these: Tiny House Bar, Site-1, The Bookworm, and The Next Chapter. They’ve all been involved in book fairs I’ve attended.
Dining on late night food in Omaha
Hungry? The kitchen is open late at a lot of places around Omaha.
If you’re in the Blackstone District, check out Crescent Moon, home to a tasty Reuben Sandwich; Nite Owl, with their tasty tots; and Bob & Willie’s Wonderbowl, where you can also bowl while satisfying the munchies. In Omaha’s midtown area, check out Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob in the Dundee neighborhood or Barchen Beer Garden in the Benson neighborhood. I’m also partial to the variety found at the food halls in Omaha, and if you go to the Inner Rail in Aksarben Village, there’s also some fun outdoor activities.
Food trucks can be spotted all around Omaha now, and you can bet the food will satisfy late-night hunger. El Rey is a Mexican food truck found at several locations in Omaha, and their massive burritos hit the spot. You’ll find a variety of food trucks at the West Omaha Trucks and Taps, usually The Dire Lion (British fish and chips), Izzy’s Pizza Bus, and Wonton Jon, and sometimes a guest truck or two.
Finding cheap eats that are open late isn’t too difficult if you know where to look. I’ve gathered a list of Happy Hours around Omaha, and several places do the Reverse Happy Hour thing late into the night. Brewski’s and Railcar Modern in West Omaha have cheap late night specials on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and Pizza West offers specials on Saturday nights. Hiro 88’s Old Market and West Omaha locations have a Friday and Saturday night Reverse Happy Hour that includes some sushi. That’s just a sample of the restaurants; check out the Happy Hour lists for Friday, Saturday and Sunday to see other late night possibilities.
Finding fun nighttime activities for families & kids
The age-old question: What is there to do with kids at night? I’ve written about things to do in Omaha for years and I still wonder about that sometimes. Once I sit down and start writing about all the places I know about, though, I realize there’s plenty to do for families and groups of tweens and teens, even at night.
A hit for all ages, Amazing Pizza Machine in West Omaha is open until 9 or 10 p.m. most nights. Dave and Buster’s stays open even later. My kids right now are really into virtual reality, so luckily, places like Infinite Loop VR are open until 9 or 10 p.m. most nights too. Gather some of your kid’s friends together for a fun night of friendly competition at Archery Games.
What’s late for teens isn’t going to work for tweens or younger kids, though. Some night outings for kids include attending a Friday night performance at The Rose, which are at 7 p.m. (on Saturday, the show is at 5:30 p.m.). There’s also public ice skating at Moylan Iceplex from 7 to 10 p.m. on most Fridays and saturdays. The Kroc Center’s aquatic center (which has a waterslide and lazy river) has open swim on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m.
There are a few fast food restaurants with indoor play places in Omaha. McDonald’s locations at 132nd and Maple and the one near Omaha’s zoo (on South 13th Street) also has one. Some Chik-fil-A locations also have indoor playgrounds, like the one at 76th and Dodge streets.
For creative types, The Makery is open until 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays. It’s Yours Pottery is open until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays and until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
What are some free things to do at night?
There are free outdoor concerts at night in various areas of the city, especially in the summer. Check the event calendars at Midtown Crossing, Village Pointe, Rockbrook Village, Shadow Lake Towne Center in Papillion, and Aksarben Village for dates and times. Outdoor festivals are often free, as well, and some that are great for nighttime visits include Taste of Omaha and the Omaha Summer Arts Festival.
The Bemis Center for Contemporary is open until 9 p.m. on Thursday nights, and will occasionally have performances in the gallery’s LOW END. Admission is always free there. The KANEKO stays open until 7 p.m. some nights, and will occasionally have performances too. Admission is usually free at KANEKO.
Is there a nighttime planetarium in Omaha?
Yes, the Kountz Planetarium is located on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha in Midtown Omaha. Public showings are temporarily closed due to renovations. Expect evening public performances to resume in 2024.