Flanked by the Missouri River, with a beautifully consolidated downtown, Omaha is scenic and easy to explore. Omaha boasts a rich history, from Plains Native Americans, to Lewis & Clark and the Pioneer era. This is shown with the 19th-century buildings in the city’s Old Market, which is now a modern day shopper’s delight and foodie haven.
From this central position, it’s a breeze making your way around Nebraska’s largest city on foot. Within minutes, you can be at waterfront parks and botanical gardens or even walking across a bridge to another state. Many of the things to do in Omaha are family friendly with plenty of attractions to keep the whole crew happy.
In this post, we'll cover:
14. Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters
In the 19th century, the Latter-Day Saints forged their way west through Nebraska on their way to Utah. The Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters is an example of 90 such settlements used on their journey.
Visitors will be able to learn about the trials and tribulations on their westward track, which helps to explain the difficulties of life during this era. The visitor center is incredibly insightful, with historic maps and artifacts from the expedition.
Around Historic Winter Quarters, you’ll also find the Tragedy of Winter Quarters, a sculpture by Avard Fairbanks along with the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery.
13. Lewis & Clark Landing and Riverfront Park
A brief stroll south of Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is where you’ll find the Lewis & Clark Landing and Riverfront Park. It’s common to combine your trip across the bridge with some time in the pristine park that celebrates the historic expedition of the famous explorers.
Through the park, you’ll uncover informative signs that take you back to the expedition and through the major events. You can also visit the park’s visitor center for a captivating 20-minute film.
And with its position on the Missouri River, it’s also a lovely place to sit under the park’s umbrellas and take in the splendid views.
12. TD Ameritrade Park
Also known as Charles Schwab Field, TD Ameritrade Park is the home of the Creighton University Bluejays. The stadium first opened in 2011, replacing the historic Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium and has a capacity of 24,000 seats.
Locals flock to watch the Bluejays play on the diamond, however the stadium is best known for hosting the College World Series. This major event has been held in Omaha since 1950. This brings fans in from around the country, with the crowds reaching over 20,000 for each exciting game.
If you want to catch some live baseball while in town, the Creighton Bluejays play from February to June.
11. Kenefick Park
Home to the world’s largest diesel-powered train, Kenefick Park is an interesting roadside attraction that will pique your curiosity. If you drive west along Interstate 80 from Omaha, you’ll find the park and immediately want to walk among the duo of giant locomotives.
Alongside the record-breaking piece of diesel machinery, visitors will also find the biggest steam train, aptly named Big Boy. Beyond the main features, you’ll be able to take in the beautiful views from the park benches and peruse the informative plaques. With its proximity to the Lauritzen Gardens, combine the two for an afternoon of amazing nature and human feats.
10. St. Cecilia’s Cathedral
After using over three million stones, construction of St. Cecilia’s Cathedral was completed in 1907. In the century since, it has become one of Omaha’s defining landmarks.
Perched on a hill in the Gold Coast Historic District, the cathedral is best known for its embellished facade that features two flanking bell towers. Inspired by Spanish Renaissance architecture, it’s a striking sight that stands over 220 feet tall.
From the outside, look up to the stained windows that are over five centuries old. One of which depicts the Virgin Mary. If you can, wander inside to admire the equally resplendent interior.
9. Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness & Pioneer Courage Park
Spanning five blocks, the Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness & Pioneer Courage Park is a startling outdoor gallery. You’ll find the memorable park along Capitol Avenue. The range of art installations flow into one another, creating a captivating story along the way.
A unique tribute to the pioneer era, the park celebrates the bravery and entrepreneurial spirit of all who crossed the plains. From beginning to end, you’ll see the tales of wagons, men, women, and children crossing the rugged environment, along with a herd of bison. They combine to create the largest bronze and steel installation in the United States.
8. Omaha Children’s Museum
If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll love Omaha Children’s Museum. Not only is it great for the little ones, but it will give you a well deserved break. The museum has nine exhibits, eight of which are indoors. So it’s also a great option on a rainy day.
Each exhibit has a distinct theme that will stoke your kids’ curiosity, creating a fun and educational environment. Some of the themes include arts, tech, zoology, and science. There is also a range of temporary exhibits and family-focused programs, especially in the busy summer months.
7. Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
There are only a handful of pedestrian only bridges that connect two states in the U.S. One of those is the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. Spanning 3,000 feet across the Missouri River, the bridge takes you from Omaha to Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The spectacular cable-stayed bridge has been a major landmark since 2008. In the years since, it’s been a beloved spot for exercise and getting to and from either city. The best way to experience the bridge is with a bike rental and timing your ride to coincide with a beautiful sunset.
After returning, enjoy a dinner within the nearby Old Market District.
6. Heartland of America Park
Between the Old Market District and the rolling Missouri River, Heartland of America Park has fountains, boat rides, and a man-made lake. It’s an urban oasis that cuts between downtown and the historic body of water, offering locals and travelers alike a local, natural escape and the perfect spot for a picnic.
With a loaded picnic basket, make your way to the Heartland of America Park and find yourself a lush patch of grass. With the rug laid down, kick back with some cheese and bread and watch the walkers, joggers, and cyclists move along the path.
Soon, it’ll be your turn. The walking path envelopes the man-made Conagra Lake. It takes you through the beautiful park, among the trees, to views of the Missouri River. You can rent a boat and get out on the lake and be sure to stick around for the water’s nightly light show.
5. Joslyn Art Museum
Featuring a storied collection of modern art, the Joslyn Art Museum has been a prominent part of local culture since the 1930s. The museum is found on the end of a narrow, man-made pond, surrounded by lush grounds. The peculiar piece of Art déco architecture, however, wouldn’t feel out of place in the hills around Florence, Italy.
Since opening, Joslyn Museum’s collection has grown to over 10,000 pieces from the 19th and early 20th centuries. These feature local artists and international luminaries, such as works by Auguste Renoir, Jules Breton, and Veronese.
The gallery also has a significant collection of Native American art that especially explores life on the plains. Along with some ancient European art, it’s a thorough gallery that will take you through the ages.
4. Durham Museum
In the years after the Durham Museum was built in 1931, it was one of the busiest railway stations in the United States. The beguiling Art déco building would welcome commuters in record numbers before falling by the wayside.
In 1995, the building was restored to the stature of its heyday and is now home to the insightful museum. This is the place to go to learn about Omaha and its local regions. Affiliated with the Smithsonian, the museum takes you back to the world of Native Americans on the plains, to the Westward Expansion, and scale replicas of 19th century cottages.
You’ll find the museum within walking distance of the Old Market District and with its past as a train station, you won’t be surprised that you’ll see historic train cars on display.
3. Lauritzen Gardens
On the banks of the Missouri River, the Lauritzen Gardens is a tranquil, well-planned paradise. Not far from downtown, it’s the perfect way to experience some peace and quiet while admiring the beauty of nature.
The sprawling botanical garden is a sight to see year-round, with a number of perennials growing throughout. But in the spring especially, the flowers bloom in unison, creating vibrant layers of colors that make your stroll down the paths feel like a parade.
The gardens were founded in 1995 and have continued to grow so that regular visitors can appreciate something new. Among the blooming flowers are themed gardens and landscapes, like the Nebraska prairies, plus an aviary and education center to learn more about Lauritzen Gardens.
2. Old Market
Wanting to do some shopping or bargain hunting while in Omaha? You can’t go wrong at the Old Market. Situated in the center of downtown, the Old Market is lined with historic red-brick buildings, symmetric windows, and cobblestone streets. Replace the cars with some old Fords and you’d think you were in the 1920s.
Travelers will find a number of eclectic stores selling everything from clothes to trinkets. Begin by wandering into one of the cozy cafes for a morning coffee. With a cup ‘o Joe in hand, wander by the many windows and see what takes your interest.
Beyond the jewelry, fashion, vintage wear and souvenirs, you’ll spot several art galleries and charming book stores, plus the Omaha Children’s Museum.
1. Henry Doorly Zoo
Did you know that in Omaha you can visit the largest indoor desert in the world? It seems out of place in the Midwest, yet it‘s a big part of why the Henry Doorly Zoo is a must visit. The sprawling zoo is like few others in the United States, making it a fun place for everyone to visit.
Aside from the record-breaking Dome Desert, the Henry Doorly Zoo features other beloved attractions such as the biggest indoor rainforest in the country, known as the Lied Jungle. Here, you can watch the charming gibbons swing through the canopies.
Other highlights include the Hubbard Orangutan Forest, teeming with banyan trees and the adorable creatures. You can even venture up to the polar regions or wander through a shark tunnel at the zoo’s aquarium. It’s an enormous space and a way to travel to some memorable ecosystems around the world.