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10 Best Things to Do in Omaha, Nebraska

“Honestly, it’s not for everyone,” is a tongue-in-cheek slogan in Nebraska to show off the state’s sense of humor about its status as a tourism destination. It’s a clever campaign that’s drawing attention to Nebraska’s surprising landscapes and under-the-radar attractions. Omaha is Nebraska’s largest city and a great place to get to know this Great Plains state. Here are the top things to see and do when you take a trip to Omaha.

Spend Time in Gene Leahy Mall City Skyline in Downtown Omaha, Nebraska
Credit: City Skyline in Downtown Omaha, Nebraska by © Paul Brady | Dreamstime.com

Spend Time in Gene Leahy Mall

One of the most beautiful and friendly places to visit in Omaha is the Gene Leahy Mall area. This is a large 9.6-acre park in downtown Omaha that is undergoing renovations to make the riverfront area more accessible with public spaces. Private philanthropists and businesses have been pouring money into making this park even better than it was before to include children’s play area, an urban beach, ice skating area, trails, concert spaces, exercise class areas, and more. This area has been touted as the “future of downtown Omaha,” so make sure to check it out in the future when you’re in town.

Visit the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Credit: Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium by Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Visit the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is one of the best places to visit in Omaha for families and couples. It’s easy to spend a few hours here seeing all the animals and getting some good exercise while you’re at it. The zoo has a huge indoor rainforest, a desert dome, and an IMAX theater for movies. The zoo is south of downtown and spans 160 acres of exhibits and gardens, including seven acres of indoor exhibits. Stingray Beach, Skyfari, and Sue’s Wildlife Carousel are top attractions here. The zoo and aquarium are open year-around, with times varying depending on the time of year.

Catch a Game at Charles Schwab Field Omaha Charles Schwab Field Omaha
Credit: Charles Schwab Field Omaha by Charles Schwab Field Omaha

Catch a Game at Charles Schwab Field Omaha

Charles Schwab Field Omaha is a baseball stadium in Omaha that was opened in 2011. It has a total seating capacity of 24,000, and the home plate to first-row seat distance is 52 feet. The stadium is home to the Creighton Bluejays baseball team from Creighton University in the Big East Conference. Try to catch a game while you’re in town, and check the venue’s events page to see what’s happening during your visit.

Experience the Old Market The Old Market in Omaha
Credit: The Old Market in Omaha by Omaha Old Market

Experience the Old Market

The Old Market neighborhood is in the heart of Omaha and is known for its brick streets and horse-drawn carriages for tourists. This is also where some other top sights in the city are located, such as the Omaha Children’s Museum and the Joslyn Art Museum. As you walk around the Old Market area, stop in some of the art galleries, restaurants, and coffee shops. There are also some nice bookshops, furniture stores, jewelry shops, and museums in this area to keep you busy for an entire day or weekend.

Stroll the Lauritzen Gardens Lauritzen Gardens
Credit: Lauritzen Gardens by Lauritzen Gardens

Stroll the Lauritzen Gardens

The Lauritzen Gardens is a botanical garden center in Omaha that is definitely worth checking out while you’re in town. Take in the natural beauty of roses, herbs, and other plants as you walk along the three miles of trails. There is an indoor conservatory and model railroad garden in addition to the outdoor displays. This is a family-friendly activity and also a romantic spot for couples to go for a leisurely stroll. The gardens are northeast of the local zoo and along the river. Depending on when you visit, you may be able to check out a local performance or event being hosted by the gardens.

Indulge in a Local Eats in the Blackstone District Reuben sandwich at Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel
Credit: Reuben sandwich at Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel by Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel

Indulge in a Local Eats in the Blackstone District

Most foodies might believe that Reubens were created in the deli kitchens of New York City, but actually, it was invented in Omaha. The story of the famous sandwich dates back to the 1920s in the city’s historic Blackstone Hotel, where the owner’s weekly poker game invented the tasty creation as a hearty midnight snack. If you’re a fan of Reubens, tasting the legendary sandwich in its birthplace at Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel is a must, as this modern reimagining of the Blackstone Hotel offers a twist on the signature sandwich, pairing the trademark corned beef and sauerkraut with Gruyère cheese and spicy mustard. Have a sweet tooth? Along with the Reuben, The Blackstone Hotel also lays claim to the original recipe for butter brickle ice cream, which is toffee-flavored ice cream mixed with crunchy bits of toffee. The “farm-to-cone” artisanal ice cream shop Coneflower Creamery is located just a few blocks away from the flavor’s famed birthplace in the Blackstone District.

Take a Scenic Drive Beautiful skyline at dusk over farmland in Omaha
Credit: Beautiful skyline at dusk over farmland in Omaha by © Matthew Omojola | Dreamstime.com

Take a Scenic Drive

If you didn’t grow up around farms or just crave a break of simplicity in your busy life, then carve out some time on your Omaha trip to take a scenic drive through the countryside. The Boys Town area is a popular place to take a drive to see farms and cornfields near Omaha. Boys Town is a suburban village near Omaha in Douglas County. Another scenic drive route that ends in Omaha is the Lewis and Clark Scenic Byway. This is a great 100-mile route between Sioux City, Nebraska and Omaha that winds along the Missouri River on the state’s eastern border and passes through woods, Native American reservations, parks with outdoor recreation, and birdwatching areas.

Explore the Durham Museum The Durham Museum
Credit: The Durham Museum by The Durham Museum

Explore the Durham Museum

Omaha is home to some excellent museums, including the Smithsonian-affiliated Durham Museum. Here you’ll learn about historic life on these rugged plains, see restored train cars, and learn a lot about local history. Permanent exhibits include an authentic streetcar, replica grocery store, ancient coins, and antiques.

See the Bob Kerrey Suspension Bridge Bob Kerrey Suspension Bridge
Credit: Bob Kerrey Suspension Bridge by © Matthew Omojola | Dreamstime.com

See the Bob Kerrey Suspension Bridge

One of the most recognizable sights in Omaha is the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, which spans 3,000 feet long across the Missouri River. From here, you can get an awesome view of the city skyline. There’s the three-acre Omaha Plaza with its jet fountain below, as well as a play area and National Park Service visitor center. You can use this bridge to access over 150 miles of trails for walking and biking. It’s also pretty spectacular to see the bridge lit up at night. Meanwhile, the plaza down below hosts live music on Fridays in May and June, so bring your blankets and lawn chairs!

Admire Fall Foliage View of fall colors in a park at sunset with reflections in the lake in Omaha
Credit: View of fall colors in a park at sunset with reflections in the lake in Omaha by © Matthew Omojola | Dreamstime.com

Admire Fall Foliage

There’s also something very special about visiting Omaha in the fall because this is when the fall foliage becomes colorful and spectacular. The Lewis and Clark Scenic Byway is a great place to see the fall colors, as well as Fontenelle Forest and the Ponca Hills. You can also see beautifully colored trees in the Nebraska City area, which is just south of Omaha. Along this day trip drive, you can make stops for wine tastings and hiking trails as well.

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