Looking for the best things to do in Omaha? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Before we get into all that good stuff, let’s do a bit of background. Omaha is the largest city in the Midwestern state of Nebraska. It’s located on the far eastern edge of the state, close to the border with Iowa. Omaha is the base for the headquarters of four Fortune 500 companies, and five Fortune 1000 companies, providing a wealth of jobs and investment for the city. The population of Omaha is approximately 466,000 people and has the nickname ‘The Big O.’ The name ‘Omaha’ is a native word for ‘upstream people,’ which is due to its location on the banks of the Missouri River. Omaha is responsible for the creation of the Reuben sandwich, which is a mix of corned beef, sauerkraut, and cheese on rye bread, and it’s illegal to visit the city and not have one. Honestly. Well, OK, maybe not, but do you really want to take that chance?
So, now that we’ve covered that, let’s run down all the best things to do in Omaha, NE on your vacation.
The Durham Museum
This museum is located in Omaha’s old Union Station in downtown and is tasked with preserving the history of the western part of the United States. As the museum is housed in an old train station, it has many locomotives on display, but other modes of transport include stagecoaches and streetcars from back in the day. There’s a huge range of precious coins and currency, which were donated to the museum by numismatist, Byron Reed. One of the highlights is a restored replica of Union Station’s main waiting room, called the Suzanne and Walter Scott Great Hall. It’s quite fabulous, and it’s difficult to imagine a more beautiful setting in which to hang around and wonder why your train’s running so late. A trip to the museum is a fun thing to do in Omaha with kids as they’ll have a ball climbing on board all the trains and carriages.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $7-$11
The Old Market
The Old Market is a downtown neighborhood known for its many bar’s restaurants and high-end shopping. It’s a popular location for visitors, because of the range of dining options and the general feel of the place. The neighborhood looks like it’s from a time gone by – which is entirely on purpose. A huge percentage of the buildings in The Old Market are on the National Register of Historic Places, and many dates back to the late 1800s. It’s a great thing to do in Omaha with your SO. You can wander through the streets, take in the gorgeous buildings before stopping for dinner and drinks.
Lauritzen Gardens and Kenefick Park
This 100-acre park in South Omaha is split into various themed gardens and is a great thing to do in Omaha if you fancy a leisurely walk and some fresh air. The arboretum is 4 acres and contains 7 regional native plants areas. The rest of the garden has many beautiful areas, including Rose and a Victorian garden. There have been annual additions over the years, including a brand new $20 million greenhouse in 2014. The majority of the plants and flowers in the garden are four-season, meaning it’s a frequent riot of color, regardless of when you visit. One of the current projects being run at Lauritzen is the planting of 1 million daffodils for a dazzling display in Spring 2020. If 100 acres seem too much to walk (and it is), grab a seat on the tram and get a fully guided tour of the site.
Tickets required, available from the entrance, $5-$10
Joslyn Art Museum
The Joslyn in the premier arts museum for the state of Nebraska and was founded in memory of George A Joslyn by his wife. It has an extremely impressive permanent collection, and is renowned for its ancient Greek Pottery, and its immensely important works of Western American and Native American art. It has a diverse range of European and American art from names everyone is sure to recognize. These include Pissarro, Degas, Monet, El Greco, and Jackson Pollock. One of the most beautiful pieces is by master of glass, Dale Chihuly, and hangs above the cafe. This means you can have your coffee beneath a pretty expensive chandelier. We don’t know what your house is like, but we don’t have that in ours, so we like to make the most of the situation when it arises. The museum is a wonderful thing to do in Omaha and a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.
Omaha Children’s Museum
This award-winning downtown museum is one of the best things to do in Omaha, NE with your kids. Some of the permanent exhibits include Zooland, where kids can play on the original, vintage fiberglass animals that were once housed in Gordman’s department stores in the city. The Splish-Splash garden is an outdoor area where kids can cool off under jets of water and have a great time doing it. The highlight of the museum is the brilliant Art Smart Center, where the little ones can let their imaginations run wild, creating, painting, and learning. It’s best not to plan any other activities for the day of your visit because, once your children are in, it’s going to be pretty difficult to get them back out.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance, $12-£13
Heartland of America Park
This 800-acre park sits in the downtown area and has a large lake, multiple walking trails and is a great place to chill out on a sunny day in the city. One of the most popular attractions in the park is the computerized fountain, which shoots water up to 91 feet in the air and is timed with a colorful evening show. Heartland is a lovely place to take a walk and one of the best things to do in Omaha for free.
Off-beat things to do in Omaha
Are bombs off-beat enough for you? Excellent. In that case, head to the Dundee neighborhood and check out where Japan dropped a balloon bomb during WW2 on the unsuspecting people of Omaha. The bomb was one of 300 found across the US, and there’s a plaque on a wall, marking when it fell. Fortunately, the bomb caused no damage, and the neighborhood people were largely unaware of what they’d luckily avoided.
If bomb sites aren’t quite weird enough for your tastes, we have possibly the oddest thing ever to be found in a library. Yes, folks, the good people at Omaha Library have kept the scalp – yes, you read that right – the *scalp* of a British man. In 1867, William Thompson, a railroad employee, was on a train that was attacked by a tribe of Cheyenne Indians. Thompson was scalped (he was also shot, but that doesn’t seem that exciting in comparison) but lived to tell the tale. He tried to have aforementioned scalp fixed back on his head, but to no avail. It now lives in the library, still attached to quite an impressive head of hair. We told you it was weird.
FAQs About Omaha
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the city and things to do in Omaha. These will help your research, planning, and general education about all this Midwestern city has to offer residents and visitors alike.
What is there to do in Omaha NE?
Saunter on over to Lewis and Clark Landing at the downtown riverfront and take a leisurely walk along the banks of the Missouri River. Or head over to the Historical Marker which marks the spot where Nation of Islam member, Malcolm X, was born.
What is there to do in Omaha at night?
Book yourself and your vacation buddies a spot over at House of Conundrum escape room and see if you can make it out in the 60-time limit. It’s a really fun thing to do in Omaha at night and will test your gray matter to the limit.
What is Omaha famous for?
Omaha is famous as the home of legendary investor and ultra rich guy, Warren Buffet and his company Berkshire Hathaway. It’s also known for its bars and beer. In fact, it once earned the title of ‘the most hungover city in America,’ which should tell you all you need to know about how much alcohol it consumes. Omaha has some fantastic breweries, and it would be rude not to check them out while you’re in town.
Is Omaha safe?
The crime rate in Omaha is higher than the national average for the US, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great vacation there. Like every big city, it has some areas that are safer and others you would want to avoid. As a visitor, you should always keep your wits about you, regardless of where you travel. Ensure your valuables safely hidden at all times, take a cab or Uber if you’re out late at night and, generally, take a sensible approach to any activity you undertake.
Omaha is what we hate to call a ‘hidden gem,’ but it’s the only words we can currently think of to describe it. Our travel writing professors will be shaking their heads in disbelief that we’ve actually written the words down, but we can only hope they’re not reading this. Anyway, Omaha really does seem to fly under the radar when it comes to major US cities for the most part. This is such a shame because it’s a really fantastic place to spend time in. Omaha is also in a great geographical position in the US, close to the borders of both Ohio and Kansas. This means once you’re done in Omaha, you can easily move on to another great city. The city is served by Eppley Airfield, just 3 miles from downtown and the biggest airport in the state of Nebraska. Accommodation options are plentiful, both in the city center and further afield, for those who like things a little quieter. We hope we’ve convinced you of all the great things to do in Omaha and hope you’ve added it to your bucket list.