Growing up, I always thought there was nothing to do in Omaha. I want to make sure that my kids don’t feel the same way about this city that I love so much. A staycation is a great way to explore the things we so often overlook about our local area…and the best part is, you don’t even need to pack!
Things to see in Omaha
People come to Omaha for vacation. That alone is proof there is a lot to see and do here, and I think we sometimes take that for granted. Of course, there’s the obvious stuff to do like the zoo and the children’s museum, but there is so much more! You could easily fill an entire week with sightseeing just in Omaha!
Lauritzen Gardens is a hidden gem near downtown Omaha. We visited it for the first time a few weeks ago and our only regret is that we hadn’t gone sooner. You can’t go wrong with 100 acres of gorgeous gardens and a model train set complete with wooden replicas of Omaha’s landmark buildings!
Joslyn Art Museum has a great interactive area called Art Works where you can get hands-on experience with visual arts! My boys could spend hours in there exploring the nine different activity stations. Admission to Joslyn is always free, so it’s hard to pass up a visit there. Note: It is currently closed for construction and is scheduled to reopen in 2024.
Heartland of America Park and Gene Leahy Mall are both located downtown and are great places to get some outdoor time with some beautiful scenery! (Gene Leahy Mall is the park with the huge slides!) Pack a picnic and make an entire day out of it and then head over to Ted & Wally’s for some delicious ice cream before calling it a day.
Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is also near downtown. You can’t beat a place that allows you the opportunity to be in two places at once! My kids love standing half in Iowa and half in Nebraska!
Omaha also has several places that are steeped in history, such as Lewis and Clark Landing, Pioneer Courage Park, Crook House Museum, and more. They offer a chance to learn about our city and how it came to be what it is today.
The Durham Museum is located in Omaha’s Union Station and offers a great look at the history our region. They also welcome traveling exhibits and temporary exhibits to further enhance your experience. You can’t visit here without a stop at Union Station’s original soda fountain!
I can’t wait to take my boys to the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs. Admission is free and it’s a great way to learn about the history of the Union Pacific Railroad and (of course) see some old trains!
Arbor Day Farm is just a short drive away in Nebraska City. I can still remember my school field trip there as a third grader! It is a National Historic Landmark and the birthplace of Arbor Day. There are 260 acres to connect with nature as you explore and learn more about the Morton family as well as the origins of Arbor Day.
When we travel out of town, one of our favorite things to do is eat at local restaurants and skip the chains as much as possible. (Another great perk of vacation is not having to cook dinner for a few nights…I’d definitely take full advantage of that perk for a staycation, too!)
Did you know the Reuben sandwich is from Omaha? Don’t listen to those other towns that try to claim our sandwich–We here in the big O know the truth! To fully experience an Omaha staycation, a Reuben is a must! According to my extensive research (ie Google) The Crescent Moon has the best Reuben in the state!
Omaha has other specialties, too. You can’t experience Omaha without a nice steak or a Runza! And there are so many wonderful local restaurants to try all around town. Some of my favorites are Twisted Fork, Jones Bros, Amato’s, Joe Tess’s Place, and Broncos!
What are your favorite things to do in Omaha?
*this post was originally written in 2018 and updated in 2023.