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Omaha may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of fun, but there's a lot to do here. For starters, the city is home to a thriving arts and culture scene. There are several museums and art galleries, as well as several theatre companies and musical venues. Omaha is also home to various festivals and events throughout the year, ranging from the well-known College World Series to more niche celebrations like the Nebraska State Fair.
And of course, let's not forget about the food. Omaha is home to several excellent restaurants, including a few James Beard Award-winners. So whether you're looking for a fun night out or a chance to explore something new, Omaha has something to offer.
Top 10 Attractions & Things To Do in Omaha
This capital city of Nebraska has often been overshadowed by its larger neighboring cities – Kansas City and Des Moines. But that doesn't mean there aren't many things to do in Omaha! In fact, we think it makes the city more charming and unique. Here are the top 10 things to do in Omaha:
1. Visit the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
The Omaha Zoo is a popular attraction in Nebraska, known for its large size and unique exhibits. The zoo covers 160 acres and contains several different sections, each with its own theme. The Dome Desert is the largest indoor desert in the world, while the Lied Jungle is North America's largest indoor rainforest. The Kingdoms of the Night exhibit allows visitors to look closely at nocturnal animals, including bats and beavers.
In addition, the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium has a 70-foot-long shark tunnel. Glacier Bay Landing is a recreation of an Alaskan port town with dining options and a children's play area.
2. Stroll through Lauritzen Gardens
The Lauritzen Gardens is a must-see for anyone visiting Omaha. The gardens span 100 acres and offer a variety of different gardens to explore, including a rose garden, an herb garden, and a shade garden. In addition to the gardens, the Lauritzen Gardens also feature a model railroad, an education center, and a bird sanctuary. You can easily spend a day exploring all the Lauritzen Gardens offer. With so much to see and do, the Lauritzen Gardens are a great place to enjoy nature at its finest.
3. Take a Picture at the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
Hailed as one of the unique bridges in the country, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spans across the Missouri River to connect Nebraska and Iowa. A plaque on the bridge marks the spot where the two states meet, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
The Old Market district, located just a short walk from the bridge, is a beautifully restored town area perfect for grabbing a bite to eat or doing some shopping. Down from the Old Market is Lewis & Clark Landing, an open space with a National Park visitor center detailing Lewis & Clark's journey. It's a 3,000-foot walk from one side of the bridge to the other, with stunning views of both Omaha and Council Bluffs. The bridge is also popular with cyclists as it connects to a large trail network in both cities.
4. Learn about History at the Durham Museum
Laid out in a grand Art Deco style, the Durham Museum is a striking building that used to be one of America's busiest train stations. The museum offers an insight into the local area's history, with one of the most popular attractions being the Suzanne and Walter Scott Great Hall. This hall has been fully restored to its former glory, and visitors can admire the beautiful Art Deco architecture while learning about the area's past.
Other museum highlights include the Steam Locomotive Stations, where visitors can see how these early engines worked and even try their hand at operating them. The Durham Museum is located southwest of the Old Market area and is well worth a visit.
5. See a Show at the Theater
Founded in 1927, the Orpheum Theater is a world-renowned performing arts venue located in Omaha, Nebraska. The theatre has hosted various events over the years, including Broadway shows, dance performances, and stand-up comedy acts. In addition to the Orpheum Theater, Omaha is also home to the Holland Center for the Performing Arts.
The Holland Center is a modern facility with excellent acoustics and has been praised for its architecture. The center has played host to some of the world's most talented musicians and is the primary performance space for the Omaha Symphony. Whether you're looking to enjoy a Broadway show or experience a live symphony performance, the Omaha Performing Arts Center has something to offer everyone.
6. Spend Time with Your Kids at Omaha Children's Museum
Geared towards children, the Omaha Children's Museum was first established in 1976. It has eight indoor exhibits with themes ranging from creativity and art to science and technology. There is also an outdoor exhibit open during the summer months. Sandy's Splish Splash Garden is a water-themed area that provides relief from the heat for both kids and adults. You can also find special exhibits at the museum, which change on a regular basis. Be sure to check the website before you visit to see what's currently being offered.
7. Explore the Old Market District
The Old Market district in Omaha is a must-visit for those who love exploring different cultures and cuisines. This historic area is lined with cobblestone streets and 19th-century buildings that house an array of cafes and restaurants serving up local and international dishes. There are also plenty of galleries to explore, offering everything from eclectic to contemporary art. The Old Market is relatively compact, making it easy to navigate, and it's a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. You'll find a wide array of hotels located nearby.
8. Visit Saint Cecilia Cathedral
Brick by brick, this stunning cathedral took shape on a hilltop in the city. With its two bell towers, it quickly became one of the most recognizable landmarks. It's said that more than three million bricks were used in its construction, and each one had to be dipped in water before being used.
The gorgeous stained glass windows are some of the oldest in the world, with one section dating back over 500 years. It depicts the Virgin Mary holding an ear of corn. You can get a glimpse of the beautiful interior from the outside, but it's well worth taking a tour to see it up close.
9. Hike throughout the Fontenelle Forest
Nestled in the Bellevue area, Fontenelle Forest is a nature lover and birdwatcher's paradise. The forest offers miles of hiking trails for all skill levels and stunning views of the Omaha skyline. The Raptor Woodland Refuge is home to many rescued birds and is a must-see for any visitor. The nature center is also a great place to learn about the wildlife in the area.
In the winter, visitors can rent snowshoes to explore the forest. No matter what time of year, Fontenelle Forest is a beautiful place to enjoy the great outdoors.
10. Visit the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts was founded in 1981 by a group of four artists to provide art and opportunities for other artists. The center takes pride in its outstanding residency programs and supporting research and experimentation in the arts and art education. The website features information on what is happening at the center on a particular day, or visitors can simply show up and be surprised. The displays and collections are constantly changing, something that keeps visitors coming back time and time again. The center is dedicated to furthering the art scene in the community.
Top 4 Day Trip Ideas from Omaha
With so much to see and do in Omaha, it can be hard to know where to start. If you're looking for some ideas on day trips from the city, here are a few of the top options:
1. Visit the Strategic Air and Space Museum
The Strategic Air and Space Museum is located just a short drive from Omaha in Ashland, Nebraska. The museum features a wide array of aircraft, missiles, and space vehicles and an IMAX theatre. Visitors can also participate in interactive simulators, making it a great choice for kids and adults. It's the perfect place to learn about the history of aviation and space exploration. You can easily spend a whole day at the museum and still not see everything.
2. Go for a scenic drive on the Loess Hills Scenic Byway
The Loess Hills Scenic Byway is a 200-mile stretch of road that winds through the Iowa countryside. The route takes you past farmland, forests, and small towns, with plenty of opportunities to stop and explore along the way. The Byway is a great way to see some of Iowa's natural beauty and learn about the state's history. You can do the drive in one day or take your time and explore the area for a few days. It's the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Mahoney State Park is located just outside of Omaha in Ashland, Nebraska. The park features many activities, including hiking, biking, fishing, and swimming. There's also a lodge and cabins if you want to stay overnight. Mahoney State Park is a great place to get away from it all and enjoy the outdoors. The park is a popular spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. You can easily spend a day or two exploring all the park offers.
The Let's Roam Scavenger Hunt is the perfect way to explore Omaha and learn new facts along the way. With challenges designed for everyone, this activity is perfect for bachelorette parties, birthday parties, corporate team-building events, and more. Gather your team and see who can answer the most trivia questions and solve the most challenges. With Let's Roam, you're guaranteed to have a memorable experience. On your hunt, you'll explore several landmarks as well.
It can be tough to find the perfect place to stay in Omaha, but here are three of the best options:
1. Residence Inn by Marriott Omaha
An all-suite hotel located on Highway 6, the Residence Inn by Marriott Omaha is perfect for travelers wanting modern accommodations. The bright and airy studios come complete with free Wi-Fi, a kitchenette, and a flat-screen TV. The 1- and 2-bedroom suites offer separate living spaces for longer stays. Additional hotel amenities include an indoor saltwater pool, a fitness center, BBQ grills, and coin-operated laundry facilities. Guests can also enjoy a complimentary hot breakfast each morning and evening socials with snacks (Monday-Wednesday). Parking is also free for all guests.
You'll find all the comforts of home at this casual, all-suite hotel situated off I-80. You'll have plenty of space to relax with down-to-earth studios and 1-bedroom suites featuring kitchenettes. Flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi keep you entertained, while the heated indoor pool is perfect for a refreshing swim. Meeting space is available if you need to get some work done, and breakfast and parking are both included in your stay.
Housed in a low-key building between I-680 and US 275, the Townhouse Inn provides easy access to the Oak View Mall (a 12-minute walk) and Fun-Plex amusement park (8 miles away). You can expect unassuming rooms with basic amenities like flat-screen TVs and microwaves or upgraded rooms and suites with kitchens, fireplaces, and whirlpool tubs. Parking is always free.
You can have a lot of fun in Omaha, whether you're exploring the great outdoors or enjoying some urban activities. The city has something for everyone, and there are plenty of places to stay to suit your needs. Whether you're looking for a luxurious hotel or a more casual option, you'll be able to find it in Omaha. We wish you all the best on your adventures, have fun, and take care!
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