15 Best Day Trips from Omaha

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Omaha is Nebraska’s largest city and is located on the Missouri River border with Iowa. Omaha offers tourists nature, history, and cultural experiences.

This unique city has a well-deserved reputation for hospitality; the people here are polite and friendly.

Most of the delightful attractions around Omaha are only a short distance from the city center.

This makes them perfect for anyone who has the itch to get out of town and wants to make it back for bedtime.

In this article, we have compiled a list of the 15 best day trips from Omaha.

1. Lincoln

Lincoln, NebraskaSource: Mihai_Andritoiu / shutterstock
Lincoln, Nebraska

The English county town of Lincolnshire is nestled between two portions of the Lincoln Edge; this cathedral city sits on the steep escarpments that dominate the mostly flat countryside. From the bottom of the hill, there is a street that leads to a more modern part of the city, towards the beautiful University of Nebraska.

Lincoln is famous for its castle and cathedral that are housed within a Roman-medieval street plan. Lincoln offers tourists a look into history and some great nature choices.

One major highlight of your trip to Lincoln is the Lincoln Children’s Museum. This museum is incredible for young kids – it’ll leave them in awe.

2. Lauritzen Gardens

Lauritzen GardensSource: Matthew J Brand / shutterstock
Lauritzen Gardens

For anyone with an interest in floral displays or just looking to take a break in beautiful surroundings, the Lauritzen Gardens is your escape. The Lauritzen Gardens was founded in 1982, although its construction started in 1995. The gardens are also known as the Omaha Botanical Gardens.

Located just a short pedal away from Omaha, these gardens are the perfect place to rediscover nature in its purest form. The gardens cover an area of 100 acres and feature a 4.6-acre arboretum, as well as a herb garden with future plans for a Japanese garden. The Lauritzen gardens are also home to an education center, a spring flowering walk, a parking garden, and a sanctuary for birds. This makes it a great tourist destination to explore the many different themes.

The small, domed botanical garden wouldn’t be a bad thing to check out on a day trip from Omaha.

3. Des Moines

Des Moines, IowaSource: Henryk Sadura / shutterstock
Des Moines

Des Moines has so many things to see on a day trip from Omaha and should definitely be on your list. This capital city of Iowa is about a two-hour drive to the east of Omaha. Des Moines is located in the western region of the American Midwest.

The word is pronounced as “duh MOIN,” although the origin of the name “Des Moines” is not known. Some say it came about due to burial mounds that are quite popular in the region. Other people believe that the name came from “De Moyn,” which translates to “middle”; the term was used on an explorer’s map to assist people to locate the area.

On your day trip to this attractive downtown area, you can tour the state capitol building grounds. If history interests you, you definitely need to check out the statue of President Lincoln reading to his son, Tad.

4. Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian BridgeSource: Melissa A. Woolf / shutterstock
Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

This interesting bridge is special in that it’s the only footbridge that connects two states. The 910-meter long bridge was opened on 28th September 2008; groundbreaking for construction occurred on 26th October 2006. The Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge is named after a former Nebraska Senator who secured $18 million of federal funding for the bridge back in 2000.

On the bridge, there is a plaque that marks the exact location where the two states join.

The stunning walkway stretches across the Missouri River and offers pedestrians an almost airborne experience.

Take a stroll across this long bridge and enjoy spectacular views of Omaha’s skyline.

5. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in AshlandSource: Nicholas Stankus / shutterstock
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland

This recreation area is located on the Platte River. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park features an aquatic center, a marina, conference facilities, multi-purpose trails, a 70-foot observation tower overlooking the Platter River Valley, a marina, and the Kountze Memorial Theater.

The Eugene T. Mahoney State Park has so many tourist attraction sites, including outdoor miniature golf and a water park.

If you have extra time on your hands, make a visit to the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari or the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum; both are less than a five-minute drive away.

6. Columbus, Nebraska

Columbus, NebraskaSource: duckeesue / shutterstock
Columbus, Nebraska

Columbus is the place where the history of the west originates. The city once served as the main outfitting headquarters for pioneers between 1860 and the 1870’s.

The Platte County Museum does a great job of preserving the city’s rich heritage. Tourists come here to travel through history by exploring the monuments located here.

There’s something of interest for everyone here. For example, you will find recreational trails for cycling, walking and jogging throughout the region. The main trail offers recreational opportunities for bikers, runners, hikers, and even those in wheelchairs.

7. Platte River State Park in Louisville

Platte River State Park in LouisvilleSource: Aspects and Angles / shutterstock
Platte River State Park in Louisville

The State Park is a recreation area located in the bluffs of the Platte River on the southern end. It covers an area of 210 hectares. The park is located about halfway between Omaha and Lincoln and was created on 13th August 1982.

The state park boasts an observatory, a shooting range, a swimming pool, an amphitheater, and hiking trails. Platte River State Park is an excellent location for bird-watching. It has a relatively steep landscape compared to the neighboring areas.

8. Freedom Park Navy Museum

Freedom Park Navy MuseumSource: civilengtiger / Flickr | CC BY
Freedom Park Navy Museum

This outdoor museum is located on the banks of the Missouri river, at the Greater Omaha Marina.

Some of the items that you will find on display include a host of historical military aircraft and artillery pieces, lots of rocket launchers, and jets. The two major exhibits here are WWII Minesweeper USS Hazard and the USS Submarine that was used for training in the Cold War era.

In 2011, the park closed after the Missouri River flooded; it was reopened in October 2015 after four years of restoration.

9. Honey Creek Resort in Moravia

Honey Creek Resort in MoraviaSource: Honey Creek Resort / Facebook
Honey Creek Resort in Moravia

The Honey Creek Resort is located in Appanoose County in Iowa, just under four hours from Omaha. The park boasts a hunting unit, fish hatchery, resort, dirt trails, an 18-hole championship golf course, and an amazing indoor water park. The fish hatchery was started in 1979.

You can still find some mounds in the area; these were left by the Native Americans of the Woodland period who lived in the area that is currently occupied by the park. Visit the park to learn more about these early inhabitants.

10. Ponca State Park

Bird WatchingSource: Rawpixel.com / shutterstock
Bird Watching

This is one of Nebraska’s most visited parks; it lies just two hours away from Omaha. This park is also located on the banks of the Missouri River, about 6.4 km from Ponca.

There is no reason whatsoever why you shouldn’t visit the 970-hectare state park that is situated astride the picturesque Missouri River bluffs and high hills that are next to the Missouri National Recreational River.

Bird-watching is extremely popular in this park in the spring, thanks to the migration patterns. Winter is also a good time to view a variety of songbirds at the park’s bird feeders.

11. Indian Cave State Park in Shubert

Indian Cave State Park in ShubertSource: Charles G. Haacker / shutterstock
Indian Cave State Park in Shubert

The Indian Cave State Park is located about an hour-and-a-half from Omaha. This hidden gem is a pristine area that is devoted to nature and wilderness activities.

The cave has a variety of trees, shrubs, and other flora. It also boasts 22 miles of dust trails that are perfect for hiking. These trails take you to the large sandstone cave that gave the park its name.

History buffs will enjoy the restored schoolhouse and the general store. Old time crafts are demonstrated here every weekend from May through October.

The interesting cave has stairs that make it easy for you to reach. It overlooks the beautiful Missouri River and offers magnificent views.

12. Lake Okoboji in Dickson County

Lake Okoboji in Dickson CountySource: Jacob Boomsma / shutterstock
Lake Okoboji in Dickson County

The picturesque Lake Okoboji is located in Iowa, three hours north of Omaha. This natural water body covers an area of 3,847 acres. The lake’s maximum depth is 136 feet, making it a popular regional destination for water skiing, motor boating, swimming, and sailing.

The lake forms part of the chain of seven lakes that make up the Iowa Great Lakes. People come from all over the world to enjoy these lakes.

13. Joslyn Art Museum

Joslyn Art MuseumSource: Matthew J Brand / shutterstock
Joslyn Art Museum

This art museum was built in around 1920. It was, however, officially opened in the year 1931. It is the largest art museum in Nebraska and was gifted to the residents by Sarah Joslyn as a commemoration of her husband and businessman, George Joslyn.

The museum’s interior is covered in marbles, which give off a pink tint when hit by light.

The museum is known for its notable collection of Greek pottery and Baroque art. Also, part of the collection includes works by El Greco, Karl Bodmer, Degas, Renoir, and Monet.

At the museum, you will also see a glass sculpture hanging in the atrium; the sculpture is by the famed Dale Chihuly.

14. Willow Lake Recreation Area

Willow Lake Recreation Area, IowaSource: JTLLC / shutterstock
Willow Lake Recreation Area, Iowa

Willow Lake is located about one hour away in the northeastern end of Omaha. The lake has a recreational area that is a beautiful place to visit. It covers 700 acres and is managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

Here, you will also find the Nature Conservancy with a plethora of wildlife.

If you have kids, make sure they also tag along on your day trip. There are a lot of family activities that you can engage in. For example, you can take a boat ride as you relax on the 27-acre fishing lake, hike through the six miles of trails located throughout the park, or head to the beach for a swim.

15. Kansas City

Huron Indian Cemetery, Kansas CitySource: Mark Michalovic / Wikimedia | CC BY-SA 3.0
Huron Indian Cemetery, Kansas City

This city is located 165 miles from Omaha and is the third-largest in Kansas. There are many places to visit in this beautiful city, especially for people who have an interest in American history. On your day trip to Kansas City, make sure to drop by the Huron Indian Cemetery. This burial place was established in 1873 and most graveyards date back to the 19th Century.

Another highlight of the trip is a visit to Strawberry Hill, which is home to quite a number of European bakeries.

15 Best Day Trips from Omaha:

  • Lincoln
  • Lauritzen Gardens
  • Des Moines
  • Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
  • Eugene T. Mahoney State Park in Ashland
  • Columbus, Nebraska
  • Platte River State Park in Louisville
  • Freedom Park Navy Museum
  • Honey Creek Resort in Moravia
  • Ponca State Park
  • Indian Cave State Park in Shubert
  • Lake Okoboji in Dickson County
  • Joslyn Art Museum
  • Willow Lake Recreation Area
  • Kansas City