Omaha: A guide to the best things to do in the Big O

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Prepare to be surprised and enchanted by a midwestern gem packed with outdoor escapades, fascinating museums, striking architecture and mouthwatering culinary delights. These are the best things to do in Omaha.

Downtown Omaha during the day.
A view of downtown Omaha. Photo credit: Canva.

Best things to do outdoors in Omaha

Step outside and feel the sun on your face. Omaha is calling you to explore its natural beauty and open-air wonders

A cheetah in tall grass at the Omaha Zoo.
A cheetah in tall grass at the Omaha Zoo. Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

As one of the world’s largest and most highly-rated zoos, it’s no wonder Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is the most-visited attraction in the state. Whether it’s the comedic penguins waddling in their Antarctic habitat or the majestic lions sprawled lazily across the African grasslands, this 160-acre zoo never fails to impress.

Visit anytime from late spring to early fall for optimal weather, but don’t cross the zoo off your itinerary for a bit of drizzle or chill. Several fantastic indoor exhibits are clustered near the main entrance, including the Lied Jungle, Scott Aquarium and the world-renowned Desert Dome. Feeling tired? Hop on the park’s train or tram, or even better, float over the zoo on the Skyfari chairlift.

Wildlife Safari Park

For additional animal encounters, the Wildlife Safari Park is a 30-minute drive southwest of Downtown Omaha, roughly halfway between Omaha and Lincoln. This drive-through park is home to bison, elk, sandhill cranes and other awe-inspiring wildlife.

A hummingbird in a lush garden in Omaha.
A hummingbird at Lauritzne Gardens. Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Lauritzen Gardens

While the Omaha Zoo and Wildlife Safari Park covers fauna, Lauritzen Gardens presents a marvelous journey through Omaha’s flora. Wander through various themed gardens, including English, Victorian and prairie-themed areas to enjoy colorful tulips and daffodils in spring, stop and smell the roses in summer and watch the garden transform into a winter wonderland with the onset of snow.

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge — or just “Bob” as the locals call it — stretches 3,000 across the Missouri River. Take a comfortable stroll to Iowa and back, or continue to explore the 150 miles of nature trails connected to the bridge on foot or bike.

Omaha RiverFront

In Bob’s shadow, a verdant oasis of three connected riverfront parks spreads out from the Missouri River like a lush T-bone. As the Lewis & Clark Landing, Gene Leahy Mall and Heartland of America Park connect downtown Omaha to the river that runs through it, visitors can enjoy live music, public art displays and impressive play areas for children and pets.

“My favorite part of the city to show off to visitors is downtown Omaha. There’s so much to see and do, from the fun shops and restaurants in the Old Market and the incredible museums to the impressive new green space to stroll along the Omaha RiverFront.”

— Kim Reiner, Oh My! Omaha

Charles Schwab Field Omaha

A trip to Omaha in June isn’t complete without the thrilling College World Series. Even if you miss the series, join the locals in cheering for the Creighton Bluejays, the home team, from February to June.

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Best museums in Omaha

Step into Omaha’s vibrant past and artistic grandeur in this tour of its top museums. Whether you are a history buff, an art lover or simply curious, you’ll be impressed by Omaha’s wealth of museums.

An old Wells Fargo stagecoach at the Durham Museum in Omaha.
An old Wells Fargo stagecoach at The Durham Museum. Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Omaha’s Union Station and The Durham Museum

Explore Omaha’s rich history at The Durham Museum. From Omaha’s Native American tribes to the expansion of the railroads, this museum takes you on a journey through time. A definite must-see is the replica of Warren Buffet’s family grocery store, where the billionaire earned his first nickel.

Joslyn Castle

Once the home of Omaha’s first millionaires, George and Sarah Joslyn, Joslyn Castle is now a Scottish Baronial Revival mansion open to visitors. Marvel at the Spanish mahogany staircase, stained-glass windows and opulent details that still impress today as you explore the four-story, 35-room limestone mansion built in 1903. 

Joslyn Art Museum

In addition to being Omaha’s first millionaires, the Joslyns were some of the city’s foremost philanthropists. The Joslyn Art Museum bearing their name, is an ode to art and music, offering a variety of exhibits surrounding a beautiful atrium and concert hall. Take a tour of the picturesque gardens, enjoy a musical performance or admire the museum’s stunning art deco architecture.

Other things to do in Omaha

Between its outdoor adventures and architectural marvels, there’s more to see, taste and experience in Omaha.

St. Cecilia’s Cathedral

Built on one of the city’s highest points with rounded bell towers and a terracotta roof, the Spanish Renaissance style of St. Cecilia’s stands out in a region full of European Gothic-style cathedrals. People of all faiths are welcome to enter this impressive Omaha landmark and gaze up at the mosaic ceiling, listen to the Pasi organ and admire the detailed stained-glass windows.

Eat locally at the Old Market

With its paved brick streets, this historic district has an Old World feel. Enjoy the area by browsing the art galleries and boutiques, sipping a latte in one of the coffee shops and indulging in a leisurely brunch, a fine Omaha steak or a boozy beverage. Then cap it off with a scoop of ice cream at Ted & Wally’s.

A cottonwood tree "growing" by the bar at the Kimpton Cottonwood.
A cottonwood art piece at the Kimpton Cottonwood. Photo credit: Sage Scott.

Stay at the Kimpton Cottonwood

Steeped in history, the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel is where modern luxury meets Omaha’s past. According to local lore, the Reuben sandwich and butter brickle ice cream were invented here. And John and Jackie Kennedy celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary at the hotel. Whether the history or convenient midtown location draws you in, you will surely be impressed by the accommodations, amenities and on-site dining options. 

With a variety of exciting experiences, Omaha is a hidden gem in America’s heartland of America, offering unique outdoor attractions, rich historical museums and delicious culinary delights.

Sage Scott was bitten by the travel bug as a preschooler when her family moved abroad for the first time. Now settled in America’s Heartland, Sage is a travel writer, world wanderer, and photographer whose favorite color is golden hour.

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