Omaha is often overlooked by tourists and commonly planned into an itinerary as a quick stop off point. These opinions and plans soon change however when visitors set foot in the historic Old Market area of the cit, stroll along the riverfront or walk in the Dundee neighborhood and get a whiff of what’s cooking.
In the past Omaha was an important hub for transport but now it is one of the top ten cities in America with the most billionaires per capita. They are catered for well with great food and culture but all that can be enjoyed by us with less money to burn anyway.
Here is our list of the 25 best things to do in Omaha!
1. Visit the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Omaha’s zoo boasts not only one of the worlds largest indoor deserts but also North America’s largest indoor rainforest.
That’s not all; there is also over 7 acres of indoor exhibits, thousands of animals and underground caves covering a total of 130 acres! Plus the zoo is open all year making it great for rainy days too!
2. Sample beer at the Omaha Craft Brewery Tour
Stopping at nine breweries the Omaha craft brewery tour is the best way to sample the tastiest beer you are ever likely to find. All the featured beers are produced by dedicated locals who have made beer their entire lives.
Request a free explorer journal and you will receive all the information you need plus coupons for nine free beers, cheers!
3. Explore the historic Dundee Neighborhood
The Dundee Neighborhood offers a true culinary adventure making it one of the best places in Omaha to find top notch flavors. You will find a mix of garlic filled pasta, juicy burgers, tender pork belly and to finish; the sweetest, saltiest desserts.
The streets are filled with tempting scents thanks to hard working chef based restaurants who source all their ingredients locally. Not hungry? Then head on down to Dundee Dell where you will find the nations largest collection of Scotch whiskey.
4. Ride a Historical train at The Durham Museum
Found in the stunning 1931 art deco union station, The Durham Museum offers numerous exhibits including an extensive range of refurbished trains, 1940’s shops, an array of artifacts featuring some of the worlds rarest coins and documents.
Be sure to visit the soda fountain for an authentic phosphate or perhaps a malt.
5. Potter around at The Old Market
The Old Market stretches across several blocks and is jam packed with charming buildings hosting obscure shops, art galleries, restaurants and flea markets. Winning itself a certificate of excellence on Tripadvisor the market is bursting with life day and night.
For breakfast why not head on down to the traditional diner on the corner of 12th st. and after a stroll choose from a variety of restaurants welcoming you in with a daily specials menu. Locals boast about the fun, friendly vibe no matter the time of day making it a great stop off for families of all ages and sizes.
The Old Market is large enough to keep yourself busy but small enough to feel like you have conquered it in a day. Be sure to sit and soak up the atmosphere and while you’re at it why not indulge in a craft beer whilst listening to some of the top rated street musicians in Omaha.
6. Relax at the Lauritzen Gardens
A truly unique museum offering an all year round plant display, the Lauritzen Gardens is a hidden oasis in the heart of the busy city. Wonder the 100 acres of breathtaking beautiful displays featuring themed gardens such as the Victorian garden of the brand new Marjorie K. Daugherty conservatory.
Be sure to hop on a tram for a tour, its the best way to get a feel for the calming atmosphere the garden provide. Its a great day out for all the family, Kids will love the model railroad and children garden!
After a mornings exploration why not take a long relaxing lunch in beautiful surroundings at the Lauritzen garden cafe, and don’t forget to visit the great little get shop offering a range of novelty fun gift for children and an extensive botanical book collection.
7. Learn about Nebraska’s wildlife at the Wildlife safari park
With a petting zoo and a very hands on approach children are sure to have a great day out at The Wildlife Safari Park. stretching across four miles the park is a drive-through adventure, customers boast about their close encounters with animals such as sandhill cranes and bald eagles.
Why not make a day of it and take picnic in the dedicated picnic area located at the wolf woods parking lot or stop off at the visitors center which offers a wide range of refreshing drinks and snacks.
The park is host to an amazing variety of beasts from Elk to bison and wolfs to eagles. don’t forget to visit the gift shop on your way out where you will find animal themes quality merchandise including stuffed toys, sweatshirts and more.
8. Stroll across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
This artsy 3,000 ft pathway crosses the Missouri river offering an on foot tour of Omaha’s beautiful skyline. Relish in the 3 acre plaza where you will find a whole host of entertainments from an interactive water fountain to the River Critters Environmental play area.
Connecting over 150 miles of outdoor trails and walks the Bob Kerrey Bridge offers a whole host of activities whether you visit by bike or on foot you are sure to have a great day!
If you are visiting in May or June why not pop down on a friday and catch some live music in the Plaza area which is surrounded by an amphitheater style grassy meadow. take a few blankets and chairs for a great day of music and adventure!
9. Visit the Joslyn Castle
Joslyn castle officially named “lyndhurst” is a 1903 mansion located on 3902 Davenport st (the Gold Coast historical district of Omaha). George and Sarah Joslyn were among the elite in Nebraska earning their fortune in the ready-print news industry, between them they built a home that mirrored their success in the business world.
The grounds are rich with a rare and exotic botanical collection from all over the globe. The plan for the property was designed by John McDonald and involved a carriage house, large green house, lily pond and more.
10. See a submarine at the Freedom Park Navy Museum
Located on the banks of the Missouri river and far off the beaten trail Freedom Park is an outdoor museum better suited to warm dry days. On display you will find a whole host of exciting historical military artifacts and many including the thrilling cold war era training submarine which has a dedicated tour.
The submarine is the only target a training USN submarine still around today. There is plenty more to see, freedom park is home to a large collection of aircraft including a helicopter, jets, a captains gig, lots of rocket launchers and more.
11. Hit the shops
Hosting a wide range of specialty shops Omaha is a great place to bag a quirky gift. One shop which rouses particular interest is the Tannebaum Christmas Shop rammed with everything jingly and wintery to get you in the festive spirit.
Jackson street booksellers offer a great selection of literature and art books, with a friendly cozy atmosphere and a special area for children, this little bookshop shop is well worth a visit. Sample the cities favorite fudge at the Old Market Candy Shop described on Tripadvisor as “Fun inside and in your tummy”
12. See a concert
The CHI Health Center, situated in the North Downtown area of Omaha, is one of the city’s top venues for seeing a concert, game of sports or even visiting a convention. The modern appearance of the building is striking and hosts a variety of performances such as concerts and stand up comedy.
The conventions that take place at the Center include award ceremonies, work events and motivational speakers.
13. See the iconic fountain at the Heartland of America Park
The star of the show at the Heartland of America Park is its water fountain which springs from the ground to a towering height of 320 feet. The accompanying light show is also worth seeing and regularly attracts large crowds.
The park also has a World War 2 memorial and gondola rides courtesy of Heartland Gondolas.
14. Visit Boys town
Boys Town is the name of the National Historic Landmark District home to the Hall of History and Father Flanagan House. Annually, over 100,000 visitors from around the United States visit the town where Father Flanagan’s vision for a better America was founded.
Children were saved from lives of misery in the village and they begin new lives with better opportunities and hope.
15. Witness history at Florence Mill
The Florence Mill, in the Northeast of Omaha, is another of the city’s landmarks that has found its way onto the National Register of Historic Places. It is also a Nebraska State Historic Sight.
The mill is believed to have been built in 1846 and operated well into the mid 20th Century. The area of Florence is believed to have been inhabited by European settlers long before Nebraska existed. The settlers in the area made their livelihood from trading fur.
16. Pop round to General Crook House
The former, now restored, home of General George Crook is situated at Fort Omaha and is a top example of a 19th Century American home. The building has won awards in the past and is authentically restored to fit the period of General Crook’s residence.
The garden is also somewhat of a draw for visitors and has 110 different species of prized flowers and plants within. Entry to the house costs a reasonable $7 and it is open seven days of the week.
17. Visit the birthplace of a former president
President Gerald R Ford, the 38th President of the United States, was born in the city of Omaha and is honored by this tactful memorial on Woolworth Avenue. Information about the memorial, and the president’s birth site, are housed in a building based on the design of the original house’s turret.
The memorial also features a rose garden which is modeled on the White House’s own. Entrance to the memorial is free.
18. Visit the birthplace of Malcolm X
Another famous birthplace within the city of Omaha is the birthplace of Malcolm X which was built, and continues, to pay respect to the Omaha native.
The memorial spans 14 acres and has an official marker which allows guests to pay their respects to the human rights activist. Nearby, and also worth visiting, is the Afroamerican bookstore.
19. Walk the Mormon Trail
The Mormon Trail is located at the Historic Winter Quarters in Omaha. The trail and Trail Center explore the history of 90,000 migrating Mormons on their way to the Rocky Mountains.
Displays in the Trail Center include a full sized log cabin that Mormons would have inhabited at the time as well as handcarts, oxen and wagons that would have also been part of the mass migration.
20. Admire some contemporary art
The best place to see contemporary art in the city of Omaha is without a doubt the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art. The center is an artist in residence program and is located in the Old Market area of the city.
Artists from all over the world live, work and showcase their talent in the studios on the second floor of the building. Entrance is free but donations are welcomed.
21. Admire some Jewish art
An art gallery with a difference, the Jewish Community Art Gallery is home to some of world’s leading art from the Jewish community. The gallery is also a great place to learn about Judaism in general and regularly hosts educational and historical exhibits to complement the artwork collections.
The gallery changes it exhibits on a monthly basis so there are always fresh and interesting things to see here.
22. Experience the country
A trip to Omaha wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the Nebraskan countryside. The Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch offers tourists the perfect chance to do just that.
The ranch allows visitors the chance to pick their own berries and pumpkins as well as seeing the livestock of the ranch up close and personal.
The children’s play areas at the ranch allow kid’s to experience what it was like at a play area 50 – 100 years ago. Other activities include hay rides through the woods and tree houses.
23. Watch Herons
Heron Haven is, as you would expect from the name, a great place to see herons. The sanctuary is spring fed and is one of the last Oxbow wetlands in the Big Papillion Creek.
The area is a great place to chill out during your time in Omaha and the birds are beautiful. The area is within Omaha city limits.
24. Watch the Missouri River go by
Lewis and Clark Landing provides 23 acres worth of space to relax, sit back and admire the views of the Missouri River passing by.
The landing also plays host to a number of concerts and events throughout the year. There is also a firefighter memorial monument and the largest labor monument in the United States. The riverfront walk here is a great way to access the Bob bridge.
25. Ponder some fine art
The Anderson O Brien Fine Art Gallery has been the go to venue for the art community in Omaha for over 30 years now.
The gallery is regularly changing its exhibits which feature some of the best fine art from local artists in the Midwest region. Works on display here range from painting to sculpture.