Omaha, Nebraska, is a quintessential Midwestern city with a rich history of western trailblazers, wagon trains, and railroading pioneers. For tourists, it’s home to a fascinating array of nature centers, nationally famous zoos and botanical gardens, museums, and artist communities. Whether you’re a fan of history, culture, or the great outdoors, there’s something for everyone in this bustling riverfront city, where state-of-the-art 21st-century architecture mingles with Gilded Age manor homes and Art Deco office buildings. With its abundance of well-maintained destination locales, coupled with intense civic pride, it’s not surprising that more than 13 million people visit Omaha each year.
One of America’s finest zoos, Henry Doorly Zoo, is packed with the unexpected — such as the fabulous Desert Dome, which houses the largest indoor desert in the world. You’ll also find the country’s largest aquarium-in-a-zoo, plus a Gorilla Valley, Lion Pavilion, and the breathtaking Kingdoms of the Night exhibit.
Lauritzen Gardens is a 100-acre wonderland of garden flowers — think peonies, roses, bluebells, and lilacs — brimming fountains and exquisite landscaping. Themed gardens showcase Japanese flowers, Victorian landscaping, and even model trains. For true nature lovers, there's also a bird sanctuary and woodland trail.
No review of exciting things to do in Omaha, NE is complete without including the city’s most distinctive landmark, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. Measuring 3,000 feet long, it’s a striking example of 21st-century bridge-building, with its S-curve design and a multitude of cables. Locals especially enjoy taking nighttime strolls while enjoying the stunning light display.
The Durham Museum celebrates Nebraska’s vibrant midwestern history with permanent exhibits that showcase homes, farmhouses, and businesses from a bygone era. There’s also a massive photo archive, with more than a million images and a model train layout honoring the Union Pacific.
Omaha’s Old Market is famous for its original cobblestone streets and picturesque vintage brick buildings. Shoppers will find everything from antiques and books to clothing, jewelry, and decorative items crafted by local artists. Old Market also has an abundance of charming art galleries, food markets, restaurants, and live music venues.
Billed as a living museum, Hot Shops Art Center features more than 80 artists working in 50 studios. For visitors, Hot Shop artists provide classes, seminars, and hands-on demonstrations where you can watch glassblowers, potters, sculptors, and blacksmiths practice their crafts.
Chalco Hills Recreation Center is home to one of Omaha’s most popular fishing spots, Wehrspann Lake. You’ll also find 940 acres of native trees, grasses, and wildlife (including whitetail deer), plus plenty of areas for hiking, biking, playing sports, and picnicking.
Omaha Children’s Museum features a wealth of kid-friendly interactive exhibits. Highlights include Fantastic Future Me, where kids can create their “future self,” and the Super Graviton, a massive hydraulic creation that allows kids to manipulate flying balls across the room.
Pioneer Courage Park and Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness are two sculpture gardens merged to form the world’s largest bronze sculpture installation. It features more than 100 bronzes replicating a wagon train, complete with pioneers and bison. Visitors are encouraged to walk along and envision life as it was lived on the western trail.
Built-in 1903, Joslyn Castle is a beautifully renovated 35-room mansion built in the style of a Scottish castle. Its Gilded Age amenities include a grand ballroom and library, sweeping staircases, rare wood paneling, and stained glass windows. This exquisite time capsule also features a meticulously landscaped walkway and garden, making it a favorite wedding venue.
Located in the city center, Heartland of America Park and Fountain is home to one of Omaha’s crowning glories, a dazzling 250-foot fountain that dances to a light show each evening. The 31-acre park features an extensive walking trail, plus boat rides on the lake.
A local favorite, Fun-Plex Waterpark is famous for two sheer-drop water slides — the 1,200-foot Rockin’ Rapids and the heart-thumping Typhoon Falls. The adjoining ride park has go-karts, bumper boats, a Tilt-A-Whirl and Ferris wheel, plus an 18-hole mini-golf course.
Home to one of Nebraska’s last remaining native tall-grass prairies, Zorinsky Lake and Recreation Area features hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails as well as multiple playing fields. The showpiece is the glassy 255-acre lake, a popular locals venue for fishing and boating.
Staffed by knowledgeable park rangers, The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters features maps and photographs that enable you to envision the iconic Lewis and Clark Trail to the West. Outside the museum, you can stroll along the river bank and watch the boats chugging along the Missouri River.
Kenefick Park is home to two of the Union Pacific’s most powerful locomotives, the Centennial No. 6900 — the world’s largest diesel-electric locomotive, and the Big Boy No. 4023 — the world’s largest steam locomotive. The park is beautifully landscaped with native plants and grasses by staff from nearby Lauritzen Gardens.
Omaha's brewing scene is a hidden gem, waiting to be discovered by beer enthusiasts. The Omaha Craft Brewery Tour takes you on a journey through nine distinct breweries, each with its own unique flavor profile and brewing techniques. From hoppy IPAs to smooth stouts, the tour offers a wide range of tastes to cater to every palate. The tour guides are knowledgeable and passionate, providing insights into the brewing process that add depth to each sip. This is a must-do experience for beer lovers visiting Omaha.
Steeped in history and culture, the Joslyn Art Museum is a treasure trove of artistic masterpieces. With a collection spanning from ancient times to the present, the museum showcases works from the Americas, Europe, and Asia. The museum's grand architecture and beautifully maintained gardens add to the overall experience, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts and casual visitors alike. The Joslyn Art Museum is not just a place to see art—it's a place to experience it.
Nestled in the heart of Omaha, the Dundee neighborhood is a vibrant and bustling area filled with unique boutiques, antique emporiums, and top-notch restaurants. The neighborhood's charm lies in its historic cobblestone streets and vintage brick buildings, which house a variety of businesses. Whether you're looking to shop for unique finds, enjoy a gourmet meal, or simply soak in the local culture, Dundee offers an authentic Omaha experience.
The birthplace of civil rights leader Malcolm X, this site is a poignant reminder of Omaha's role in American history. While the original home no longer stands, the site is well-maintained and features a monument detailing Malcolm X's life and achievements. This site offers a chance to reflect on the struggles and triumphs of the civil rights movement, making it a significant stop for those interested in history.
Pushing the boundaries of traditional art, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts is a hub for innovative and thought-provoking works. The center hosts a variety of exhibitions that challenge perceptions and inspire conversations. Whether you're an art connoisseur or a casual observer, the Bemis Center offers a unique and engaging experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Zorinsky Lake Park offers a variety of recreational activities. The park's centerpiece, a 255-acre lake, is perfect for boating and fishing. Surrounding the lake, you'll find lush landscapes ideal for hiking, picnicking, and bird-watching. The park's serene environment makes it a perfect escape from the city's hustle and bustle.
Located in downtown Omaha, the Gene Leahy Mall is a green oasis amidst the city's concrete jungle. The nine-acre park is perfect for picnics, sports, or simply relaxing. At night, the park comes alive with dazzling lights, adding a magical touch to the cityscape. Whether you're looking for a place to unwind or a scenic spot for a photo8. Gene Leahy Mall (Also known as Central Park): Nestled in the heart of downtown Omaha, the Gene Leahy Mall, also known as Central Park, is a verdant oasis amidst the urban landscape. This nine-acre park is a perfect retreat for those seeking a respite from the city's hustle and bustle. With its lush greenery, serene water features, and winding walking paths, it's an ideal spot for picnics, sports, or simply a leisurely stroll. As the sun sets, the park transforms into a magical spectacle with twinkling lights, making it a picturesque backdrop for evening walks.
Step back in time at The Durham Museum, a testament to Omaha's rich history. Housed in a beautifully restored Art Deco train station, the museum showcases a range of exhibits that tell the story of the region's past. From a replica of a vintage cottage to a collection of ancient coins and medals, the museum offers a fascinating glimpse into different eras. Whether you're a history buff or a curious traveler, The Durham Museum promises an enriching and educational experience.
Unleash your inner adventurer at Urban Air Adventure Park. This indoor park offers a plethora of thrilling activities for all ages. From trampoline arenas and climbing walls to obstacle courses and indoor skydiving, there's something for every level of adventurer. Whether you're looking for a fun family outing or an adrenaline-pumping experience, Urban Air Adventure Park guarantees a day filled with excitement and laughter.