The Top 11 Things to Do in Omaha

Since its founding in 1854, Nebraska's largest city has never been content to merely rest on its laurels. With a name that means “those going against the wind or current,” Omaha proudly embraces its strong Native American roots, with echoes of the pioneers, railroad workers, and meat packers who’ve settled here also contributing their own valuable pages to the diverse local heritage and history.

The CHI Health Center Omaha convention center, lots of public art, museums, festivals, sporting events, opportunities for outdoor recreation, and other community projects provide plenty of incentives to pay Omaha a visit. If you go, here are just a few of the stops you’ll want to consider adding to your Omaha itinerary:

01 of 11

See the World's Largest Indoor Desert Habitat

Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo

Courtesy of Nebraska Tourism

Address
3701 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68107, USA
Phone +1 402-733-8400

With a strong focus on conservation, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium consistently ranks among the best facilities of its kind in the country. Established in the late 1800s and renamed in 1963 to honor local philanthropist and businessman Henry Doorly, this zoo has enjoyed many updates and refurbishments through the years to become one of Omaha’s crown jewels. It’s easy to spend an entire day discovering the animals of the Asian Highlands, Lied Jungle, African Grasslands, and Expedition Madagascar, but the true centerpiece is the landmark geodesic dome that contains the world’s largest indoor desert habitat. Underneath the structure, check out the bat caves and indoor swamps of the Eugene T. Mahoney Kingdoms of the Night.

Keep the animal experience going with a leisurely cruise through the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari. Along the 4-mile driving loop, you’ll (safely) encounter bears, wolves, bison, elk, deer, sandhill cranes, and bald eagles. The Hollis and Helen Baright Foundation Visitor’s Center holds more birds and small mammals to observe, along with a gift shop.

 

02 of 11

Shop Eclectic Boutiques in a Historic Neighborhood

Old Market Omaha, credit Nebraska Tourism

Nebraska Tourism

The Old Market neighborhood is actually Omaha’s most vibrant arts and entertainment district, full of funky art galleries and studios, diverse dining options, charming local shops, trendy boutiques, and residential properties set amid a storied backdrop. At one time, Old Market was the beating heart of the city’s late 19th-century railroad community and these buildings and structures live and breathe Omaha’s true character and culture. While away a few pleasant hours just strolling these cobbled streets and soaking up the colorful atmosphere accented by street performers, pubs, patios and a seasonal farmers’ market. If you'd like to learn more about the neighborhood's history, sign up for a historic Old Market walking tour.

03 of 11

Stand in Two States at Once

people walking on the Bob Kerrey suspension bridge

Rick Neibel / Nebraska Tourism

Address
705 Riverfront Dr, Omaha, NE 68102, USA
Phone +1 402-444-5900

Stretching 3,000 feet across the Missouri River to link Omaha and Council Bluffs, Iowa, the showy Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge—“the Bob” or “the footbridge” if you want to sound like a local—offers some of the best skyline views in town. Take a breather at the riverfront Omaha Plaza on the Nebraska side of the $22 million pedestrian walkway, where you can cool down with live music and an interactive jet fountain through the summer months. If you’re in the mood for a more active workout, the cable-stayed bridge also connects to more than 150 miles of nature trails for running, hiking and biking expeditions. Keep an eye out for Omar, the blue troll who lives in a cottage beneath one of the pillars near the National Park Service building.

04 of 11

Learn About Omaha History

entry lobby with benches at Durham Museum

Courtesy of Nebraska Tourism

Address
801 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68108, USA
Phone +1 402-444-5071

Right at home in Omaha’s stately Art Deco-style Union Station train terminal (a designated National Historic Landmark), the Smithsonian-affiliated Durham Museum takes guests on a deep dive into regional Nebraska history through its fascinating permanent and traveling exhibits. Highlights of the experience include the homes of Native Americans and workers’ cottages and in the Baright Home and Family Gallery, depictions of how local landmarks took shape in the Bishop Clarkson Community Gallery, rare coin holdings in the Byron Reed collection, STEAM-based displays for kids at the Platform, and an O-scale model trains in keeping with the setting.

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05 of 11

Enjoy Blooms All Year at Lauritzen Gardens

red flowers infront of a brick wall

Rick Neibel / Nebraska Tourism

Address
100 Bancroft St, Omaha, NE 68108-1752, USA
Phone +1 402-346-4002

Lauritzen Gardens bloom all through the year with four seasons worth of gorgeous plants, flowers, and foliage. The verdant grounds showcase a number of distinctive garden styles and plantings, from herbs, roses, and peonies to English perennial borders, a Victorian garden, and a dedicated children’s green space. The Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory houses temperate tropical palm trees and lush greenery to drink in, no matter what the weather outside might be doing, and the model railroad garden fascinates and delights visitors of all ages with working G-scale trains that run through intricate miniaturized vignettes.

06 of 11

Cheer on the Home Team

view of baseball field on a clear day with crowds filling the stands
Peter Aiken / Getty Images
Address
1200 Mike Fahey St, Omaha, NE 68102, USA
Phone +1 402-546-1800

In addition to serving as the home field of the Creighton University Bluejays baseball program, the 24,000-seat TD Ameritrade Park has hosted the College World Series every year since it opened in 2011, as well as concerts, fireworks, and community events. Buy a box of Cracker Jack, a cold drink, and a hot dog, then sit back and settle in for an afternoon or evening of all-American fun.

07 of 11

Gawk at the Incredible Architecture of Saint Cecilia Cathedral

St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska; seen from the southeast.

Ammodramus, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Address
701 N 40th St, Omaha, NE 68131, USA
Phone +1 402-551-2313

You don’t have to be Catholic to duck into the beautiful Spanish Renaissance Revival-style Cathedral of Saint Cecilia and admire the breathtaking architecture and Charles Connick stained glass windows. It’s impossible not to be awed by the soaring 80-foot vaulted ceiling and the stunning white Carrera marble altar that holds the “Victorious Christ.” Groundbreaking on the cathedral took place in 1905, with construction lasting more than 50 years before the building was finally consecrated in 1959. The site also includes an art gallery, history museum, and gift shop to round out your visit.

08 of 11

Appreciate Fine Art

View of the neo-classical Joslyn Art Museum on a hill
RiverNorthPhotography / Getty Images
Address
2200 Dodge St, Omaha, NE 68102, USA
Phone +1 402-342-3300

The Joslyn Art Museum makes a strong first impression even before you enter thanks to its 1930s Art Deco exterior and colorful Dale Chihuly glasswork visible through the atrium windows. Further inside, the series of galleries offer a window into the museum’s encyclopedic collection of European, American, Asian, Native American, Latin American, and contemporary art. If the kids start to get antsy, take them outside and let them run through the Discovery Garden while you explore the outdoor sculptures or make a beeline to the Mind’s Eye Gallery where they can see original pieces from familiar children’s book illustrators.

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09 of 11

Immerse Yourself in Czech and Slovak Culture

Czech Days, Omaha

Quentin Farley / Nebraska Tourism

Eastern Nebraska is home to a large Czech and Slovak community thanks to an influx of immigrants who journeyed to America in search of a new life and decided to settle in this Midwestern part of the country. An educational center and cultural museum celebrates this ethnic heritage through costumes on display, books, artifacts, polka music, traditional glass beads, ornaments, and Easter eggs. Make sure to sample a delicious kolache pastry or three in the on-site cafe. If you can time your visit to attend, Omaha also hosts an annual Czech-Slovak Folklore Festival each spring.

10 of 11

Honor Father Flanagan's Mission at Boys Town

Boys Town Omaha, credit Rick Neibel / Nebraska Tourism

Rick Neibel / Nebraska Tourism

Address
Boys Town, NE, USA

It takes a village to raise a child, and that’s exactly what Irish priest Father Edward Joseph Flanagan had in mind when he established Boys Town in 1917. The operation has since grown from a single boys-only boarding house into a multi-location, co-ed residential village system that aims to improve the lives of troubled youth through compassionate care, education, and social opportunities. Guests are welcome to explore the Boys Town campus through guided tours that lead off from the visitor center and include coverage of the Hall of History, Dowd Chapel, the Garden of the Bible and the historic Father Flanagan House to give a sense of the noble work that continues to be performed here.

11 of 11

Follow in the Footsteps of American Adventurers

Along the Missouri River in downtown Omaha, Nebraska, is the Lewis and Clark Landing. In the distance, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge leads to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Address
601 Riverfront Dr, Omaha, NE 68102-4226, USA
Phone +1 402-661-1804

Starting from Washington D.C., Meriwether Lewis and William Clark blazed a 4,600-mile trail across America in the early 1800s with the task of discovering the great American west. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters and Visitor Center now commemorate the explorers' Nebraska portion of their journey through interpretive exhibits, hands-on activities, outdoor sculptures and park ranger consultations for those who want to retrace their path.

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The Top 11 Things to Do in Omaha