Did you know that one of the best things to do in Council Bluffs, Iowa is to cross over the Missouri River and spend the day in Omaha? Top things to do in downtown Omaha include visiting all of the art galleries in Old Market Omaha and going on a craft brewery tour. Another great neighborhood to visit is Dundee. The best things to do in Dundee, Omaha revolve around food – pizza, kebabs, and scoops of homemade ice cream included.
As for things to do in Omaha with kids, visit Fun-Plex Waterpark and Rides or the Wildlife Safari Park. If you’re wondering what else to do in Omaha this summer, visit Jazz on the Green, one of the best Omaha events and free things to do in Nebraska. For more inspiration, here are 21 things to do in Omaha this weekend.
1. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
With around two million annual visitors, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is one of the city’s top attractions. In fact, it’s consistently named one of the world’s best zoos. There are thousands of animals from around the world to visit in both its indoor and outdoor exhibits. Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is also home to several record-breaking highlights, like the world’s largest indoor forest, North America’s biggest indoor rainforest, and Kingdoms of the Night, the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit.
2. Lauritzen Gardens/Kenefick Park
A hidden gem in the heart of the city at Kenefick Park, Lauritzen Gardens is the state’s premier botanical garden. Open year-round, the 100-acre living museum is known for its four-season plant displays. Top attractions include the Children’s Garden, the tropical plants inside the Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory, and the Model Railroad Garden. Meanwhile, Kenefick Park is home to two of the greatest Union Pacific Railroad locomotives, including Big Boy No. 4023 – the world’s largest steam locomotive.
3. The Durham Museum
Housed in the former art deco Union Station, The Durham Museum is dedicated to the history of the Western United States. Step inside a replica Worker’s Cottage and sit on an authentic 1940s streetcar at the Baright Home and Family Gallery; see the replica Buffett Grocery Store in the Bishop Clarkson Community Gallery; visit the Byron Reed Gallery and stroll through 20th-century train cars. Kids will also love The Platform – the museum’s interactive STEM-based space.
4. Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
Have you ever wanted to be in two places at once? Well, your dreams can come true at the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. Established in 2008, the 3000-ft cable-stayed footbridge crosses the Missouri River, connecting the Nebraskan city to Council Bluffs in Iowa. From the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, you can also enjoy spectacular skyline views. On the Nebraska side, the bridge begins in Omaha Plaza, which is home to the NPS Visitors Center and weekly live music concerts in summer.
5. Fun-Plex Waterpark & Rides
Fun-Plex Waterpark and Rides has been the state’s premier summertime destination since 1979. It’s home to both the state’s largest waterpark and its only rollercoaster. Some of the attractions waiting for you at Fun-Plex Waterpark and Rides include the Motion Ocean Wave Pool, the exhilarating Rockin’ Rapids waterslide, Speedway Go-Karts, and an 18-hole mini-golf course. Fun-Plex Waterpark and Rides also features the adults-only Breakers Bay Swim-Up Bar, which will transport you directly to the Caribbean.
6. Heartland of America Park
Bordered by the Missouri River and Interstate 80 in the city’s downtown district, a visit to Heartland of America Park is one of the top things to do in Omaha. Its primary attraction is the man-made Conagra Lake, which features a 320-ft interactive water fountain that comes alive with nightly light shows from spring to fall. You can also take to the lake on a gondola ride. Heartland of America Park has plenty of open space, walking trails, and Lewis and Clark interactive exhibits too.
7. Joslyn Art Museum
A fine art museum, the Joslyn Art Museum was opened in 1931 by Sarah Joslyn, in memory of her husband, George. It features an extensive collection of American and European artwork from the 16th century to the present day; with a strong emphasis on Western and Native American artists. Visitors will find masterpieces hanging at the Joslyn Art Museum by renowned artists like Claude Monet, Rembrandt, Henri Matisse, and Jackson Pollock. The Joslyn Art Museum is one of the city’s best free attractions.
8. Old Market
Old Market is a historic downtown neighborhood overflowing with art galleries, entertainment venues, shopping boutiques, antique stores, and over 30 restaurants. Some of the top things to do in Old Market include visiting the Saturday farmers market in summer; enjoying a locally-brewed beer alongside American pub grub at Upstream Brewing Company; and seeing live music at Harney Street Tavern. The Artists’ Cooperative Gallery also sells paintings, jewelry, sculptures and more from over 30 local artists.
9. Horseshoe Casino
Operated by Caesars Entertainment, Horseshoe Casino is located across the river in Council Bluffs. It features 60,000 square feet of gaming space, which includes nearly 1500 slot machines and over 60 table games. Horseshoe Casino also hosts a World Series of Poker event every August and the annual Horseshoe Poker Championships in February. Furthermore, the casino is home to three restaurants (from buffet to upscale dining) and the Whiskey Roadhouse – a bar, nightclub, and concert venue.
10. Village Pointe Shopping Center
If shopping is on the agenda, head to Village Pointe Shopping Center, the city’s number one shopping destination. The traditional outdoor mall houses over 60 shops and restaurants, including popular name brands like Old Navy, Sephora, and Kendra Scott. Dining options include LOCAL Beer Patio and Kitchen, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse. Village Pointe Shopping Center is also home to the Funny Bone Comedy Club, a Saturday farmers market in summer, and the Marcus Village Pointe Cinema.
11. Omaha Craft Brewery Tour
One of the most fun things to do in Omaha with friends is a craft brewery tour, as the city is home to around 20 different locally-owned breweries. Hop on the Omaha Brew Bus, which will take you on a four-hour guided tour of two of the city’s best breweries and The Casual Pint Craft Beer Market. Don’t worry, beer samples are included. An alternate option is the Old Market Beer Walking Tour, which takes you to three breweries and includes both beer and food samples.
12. Wildlife Safari Park
Operated by the aforementioned Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, the Wildlife Safari Park is an animal adventure with a difference. The four-mile drive-through safari experience allows you to get up close and personal to many North American animal and plant species, including bison, elk, white-tailed deer, and wolves. The Wildlife Safari Park has designated viewing spots along the driving route, as well as walking trails and a farm animal petting area. So for a fun family day out, head to the Wildlife Safari Park.
13. The OPPD Arboretum
Located adjacent to an OPPD power station, the OPPD Arboretum is an outdoor education area. Kids can follow the paved walking trail through the outdoor classroom to learn how trees conserve energy and the safety issues regarding planting trees near power lines in the Electrical Safety Education Area. The OPPD Arboretum also features the Substation Overlook and a variety of different gardens, including the Formal Garden, the Nebraska Native Collections, and the Native Grass and Wildflower Area.
14. Jazz on the Green
One of the best things to do in Omaha every summer is to attend Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing’s Turner Park. Organized by Omaha Performing Arts, Jazz on Green features free weekly jazz music performances in July and August (dates differ year to year). An outdoor event, attendees are encouraged to bring their own blankets and chairs. The soothing jazz music is accompanied by pop-up food booths set up by Midtown Crossing’s best restaurants.
15. River City Star
The River City Star is a multi-use entertainment venue located at Miller’s Landing on the city’s riverfront. It features various entertainment spaces, including an air-conditioned atrium and a large tent. Then there’s the Dam Grill and Bar, a casual restaurant serving cheap drinks and food alongside riverfront views. The final piece of the River City Star puzzle is its 1940s paddlewheel-style riverboat. It offers a selection of public cruises along the Missouri River, including a sightseeing cruise and an Irish-themed dinner with entertainment.
16. CHI Health Center
CHI Health Center is the city’s largest arena and convention center. Featuring a nearly 19,000-seat arena, a 194,000 sq ft exhibition hall, and 62,000 square feet of meeting space, the multi-purpose entertainment venue hosts a range of fun events every year, including music concerts, sporting events, and conventions. CHI Health Center is also the home ground for the Creighton University men’s basketball team. Renowned musicians like Nickelback and Matchbox Twenty have graced the stage at CHI Health Center.
17. Florence Mill
The state’s oldest mill, Florence Mill (also called Weber Mill) just so happens to sit in the city’s Florence neighborhood. Built in 1846 and in operation until the 1960s, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Weber Mill. Today, it’s a preservation project where agriculture, history, and art converge, as it’s home to both the Winter Quarters Mill Museum and the ArtLoft Gallery. Florence Mill is open Wednesday through Sunday from May to October.
18. Nebraska Crossing Outlets
Welcome to the Midwest’s favorite outlet shopping destination. An outdoor mall, Nebraska Crossing Outlets is home to more than 80 retail and dining options, which includes nine anchor stores. Get set to shop at the likes of Banana Republic, Coach, Michael Kors, Kate Spade New York, and the country’s largest Under Armour store. With over four million annual visitors, it’s clear a visit to Nebraska Crossing Outlets is one of the most popular things to do in Omaha.
19. Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens
The 38th President of the United States, the Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens is located where his boyhood home once stood. He lived in the three-story, 14-room Victorian mansion following his birth in 1913, as it belonged to his paternal grandparents. Today, the Memorial Gardens feature the spectacular Rose Garden, a portico resembling the north side of the White House, and a kiosk modeled after the original home, which contains insightful information and presidential artifacts.
20. Dundee Neighborhood
Established in 1880 and classified as the city’s first suburb, the Dundee-Happy Hollow Historic District is primarily known these days for its plethora of dining establishments. Take your tastebuds on a journey and try local favorites like coal-fired pizza at Pitch Pizzeria, Amsterdam Falafel and Kabob’s multiethnic European cuisine, Dundee Dell’s extensive Scotch whiskey collection, and a scoop of hand-churned ice cream from eCreamery – Oprah’s favorite. Dundee’s most famous resident is none other than Warren Buffett, the world’s fourth-wealthiest person.
21. Joslyn Castle
Built in 1903, this Scottish Baronial-style mansion was once home to George and Sarah Joslyn, the family behind the Joslyn Art Museum mentioned previously. Located in the city’s Gold Coast Historic District, Joslyn Castle sits on landscaped grounds and features 35 rooms over four stories, including a music room, a gold drawing room, a ballroom, and a basement that was once a bowling alley. With public tours readily available, visit Joslyn Castle’s website for more information.