Omaha, Nebraska. Let’s be honest. It’s a place I have never considered visiting. It’s cold, and it’s in the middle of the heartland with nothing to do there. Right?
I couldn’t have been more wrong. With the exception of the cold part, I was overwhelmed with how much cultural and fun there was to be had in Omaha. I visited in October for a business trip and was able to spend an afternoon on a quick tour of the city. It was enough to make me want o go back and bring my kids. Here’s why:
5 Reasons to Visit Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
Voted the #1 Zoo in the World by TripAdvisor in 2014, I loved how Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo made you not really feel like you were in a zoo. Huh? This zoo does an excellent job of placing you into the animals’ environments so you feel as if you are not just looking into a cage. Open year round, many of the animals are indoors to withstand the winter, but with open aviaries and biomes to roam around in, you don’t feel like you are inside.
One of my favorite exhibits, the Desert Dome, contains the world’s largest indoor desert under the world’s largest geodesic dome. Underneath the dome is Kingdom’s of the Night, which places you in the world’s largest nocturnal exhibits. Featuring another world’s largest, the indoor swamp is on reverse hours, so the animals are all awake – bats, beavers, alligators, and more. This was an outstanding exhibit.
The Joslyn Art Museum
One of the best collections of art I have seen in a long time – both modern and classic – was at the Joslyn Art Museum. The Joslyn is home to 2 Monets, a Renoir, Degas’ Little Dancer, as well as many other European pieces. It also houses a gorgeous Chihuly – Chihuly: Inside & Out – in it’s atrium. I could stare at this piece forever.
I was very impressed with what they offered for children. ART WORKS just recently opened and features 9 hands-on activity stations for children to really learn about art. They also offer Art Packs, backpacks filled with age-appropriate activities to help enhance your visit to the Joslyn.
The Durham Museum
A great place for history of Omaha is the Durham Museum. Located in the historic Union Station, the Durham features fun, interactive exhibits, great for families. Children will be thrilled to climb through the 6 train cars and walk through the early-American life exhibits. The Durham Museum also features several temporary exhibits, such as the upcoming one on Katherine Hepburn. Though I didn’t have a chance to try one, I hear a must-do is to enjoy a milkshake at the Soda Fountain & Candy Shop.
Take a Walk
Though walking during the winter is not ideal in Omaha, if you are lucky enough to visit in another season, you must make time to walk around this great city. Old Market District features some great restaurants and shops to get lost in. And right across the street is the Heartland of America Park, which features Lewis & Clark Interpretive exhibits, WWII and Airborne Memorial Sculptures and the Heartland of America Fountain with its 300-ft water jet and light show. During warmer weather, you can take a gondola ride around the park.
The next time we visit, a walk across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is on the list. This 3000 foot walking cable bridge crosses the Missouri Bridge and connects Iowa to Nebraska. The National Park Service Visitors Center is right there, featuring information on Lewis & Clark’s Expedition.
Have a Great Meal
If you would have told me I’d have some of the best food in Omaha, I’d have laughed. But I did. Omaha has many amazing choices of great cuisine. Try the lavosh, an Armenian cracker with havarti cheese and other goodies, at M’s Pub in the Market District. And if you can, get to Wilson & Washburn, a “comfort station” that features 24 craft beers and a chef that is out of this world – the beet burger and the smoky peanut butter is unbelievable. See why my friend Dana says Wilson & Washburn is a Must-do here.
There are many other great things to do when visiting Omaha, we just didn’t have time for them. Make sure to peruse the Visit Omaha site for more ideas. And believe me, your going to be amazed at what a fun city this is!
Disclosure: I was invited to visit the Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and the Joslyn Art Museum. I was not paid for this article. All opinions are my own.