“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.
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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.
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!
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 TD Ameritrade Park
TD Ameritrade Park 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.
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
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.
Walk Around 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.
Experience the Old Market
The Old Market neighborhood is in the heart of Omaha and 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.
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.