After a few days in Kansas City, we drove three hours north to Omaha, Nebraska. This clean city really packs a punch with all it has to offer! Omaha is the birthplace of Malcom X, home of the Reuben and considered to be the “Gateway to the West.” I have to say this was my favorite part of the trip. Here is a list of our favorite things to do in Omaha with kids.
1. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
Known as one of the best zoos in the world, people from all over the country travel to Omaha just to experience it. It is very large and spread out so prepare for lots of walking and wear good shoes. You could easily spend an entire day at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.
Some of our favorite things were the Desert Dome, feeding sting rays, and eating at lunch at Durham TreeTops Restaurant. At TreeTops, you can enjoy your lunch while looking out over the Lied Jungle. We had so much fun watching the gibbons swinging around and causing mischief.
2. The Durham Museum
This is such a fabulous stop! You will feel like you went back in time entering what was once a bustling train station. The ceilings of the Durham Museum loom over head and the architecture is beautiful. We had so much fun with the statues that are placed around the station.
There is a woman purchasing a ticket and a family waiting to board. It’s like a day in history frozen in time. Head downstairs to the platform and walk through train cars from the 1940s and 50s including a Pullman car, lounge car and caboose.
There was a wonderful special exhibit about Nelson Mandela while we were there. Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition is the major new global touring exhibition that takes visitors on a personal journey through the life of the world’s most iconic freedom fighter and political leader.
On the way out, we stopped in Union Station’s original Soda Fountain for a chocolate malt shake with a cherry on top!
3. Bob Pedestrian Bridge
The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is a 3,000-foot footbridge across the Missouri River between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska. As you reach the middle of the river, you can “go bobbing” with a foot in each state. Be sure to go under the bridge to look for OMAR, the friendly blue troll that lives there.
4. Old Market
Stroll the many shops and restaurants along the cobblestone streets of the Old Market. Pop into the Old Market Candy Shop for a mudball (just trust me on this one). Get nostalgic in Hollywood Candy and get a cone at Ted & Wally’s.
There is a beautiful view inside the Old Market Passageway where Trini’s Mexican Restaurant is.
On Saturdays, there is a farmers market so the area will be extra busy.
5. Joslyn Castle
Take a walk through the former home of the Joslyn Family who had a long lasting impact on the city of Omaha.
George Joslyn made his fortune running the Western Newspaper Union. When he passed away in 1916, he left behind a $10 million legacy (over $200 million today). His wife Sarah continued their philanthropy doing everything she could to better the surrounding area. They say you can’t throw a stone in Omaha and not hit something that was impacted by them.
The 35 room Scottish Baronial mansion sits on a hilltop on the outskirts of the city. While you don’t need a reservation, do check the website to see what time tours are being offered. Tours last about an hour and it’s really interesting to learn about this influential family.
6. Lauritzen Gardens
The botanical gardens and arboretum are located just a few minutes away from the zoo. While geographically it makes sense to visit on the same day, realistically, you may not want to. We were so tired after a day at the zoo.
Lauritzen Gardens has a tram that will drive you through the gardens. It is $5 and I highly recommend doing it. The gardens are spread out and the tram will allow you to view the gardens from the comfort of your seat while letting you off for short periods of time to view the highlights.
Our favorite part was the model railroad garden. I could have watched the trains zoom over bridges and through the trees all day.
If you visit during the spring, don’t miss the blanket of yellow daffodils. Their goal is to plant a million bulbs and they are getting pretty close!
7. The Omaha Children’s Museum
The Omaha Children’s Museum is a nonprofit learning and exploration space for young people located in downtown Omaha. The museum has received a national award from the Association of Science and Technology Museums.
8. Stay at the Historic Cottonwood Hotel
Staying at the Cottonwood Hotel is an experience in itself. Once we saw the pool area, we literally crossed off half of the things on our list of activities. We ended up eating dinner at the hotel every night because it was just too hard to tear ourselves away from this place. You can have a luxury experience at this boutique hotel for a surprisingly affordable price. It is also pet friendly and has a free wine hour daily.
9. Eat Butter Brickle Ice Cream
This old-fashion ice cream has delightfully buttery toffee pieces and smooth vanilla flavoring. Not only was the flavor invented in Omaha, but it was created in the very hotel we stayed at. The Orleans Room at the Cottonwood Hotel is credited with creating butter brickle ice cream in the 1920s. For historic and cultural purposes, we ate it every night we were in Omaha.
Word on the street is that Coneflower Creamery has the best butter brickle ice cream in town.
10. The Amazing Pizza Machine
The Amazing Pizza Machine is a kid-friendly destination featuring assorted arcade games, laser tag & a no-frills buffet.
I hope you enjoyed this list of the best things to do in Omaha with kids. Let me know your favorite activity in the comments below!
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