Omaha, the largest city in Nebraska, brims with cultural richness and historical depth. Often hailed as the gateway to the West, this bustling metropolis holds many secrets waiting to be uncovered. With its location in the heart of the Midwest, Omaha also serves as a launching pad for countless family adventures that lie just a short drive away. From the tranquil gardens of Lincoln to the vibrant city vibes of Kansas City, prepare to embark on an unforgettable journey through the Midwestern charm and beyond.
Lincoln: A Journey Through Time and Nature
An hour’s drive from Omaha, Lincoln, Nebraska’s capital, unfolds as a tapestry of history and natural beauty. Begin your day at the University of Nebraska State Museum, fondly referred to as Morrill Hall. As the state’s largest natural history museum, it houses a range of captivating exhibits. The most enthralling of them all is the Elephant Hall, which showcases the evolution of elephants and their relatives over the past 12 million years, with massive fossil skeletons of mammoths and mastodons that will leave your kids in awe. Morrill Hall also houses the Mueller Planetarium, where you can journey through the cosmos without leaving your seat.
After this prehistoric adventure, retreat to the serenity of the Sunken Gardens. This public garden, one of the best in North America, offers a refreshing contrast with its cascading waterfalls, vibrant floral displays, and thematic garden beds. With its peaceful atmosphere, it’s the perfect place for a family picnic or a leisurely stroll to soak up the natural beauty.
Des Moines: A Cornucopia of Culture and History
Venture east to Des Moines, the dynamic capital city of Iowa. It’s just a two-hour drive from Omaha, but it feels like entering a different world. Begin your exploration at the Des Moines Art Center, which boasts an impressive collection of modern and contemporary artworks. It houses pieces from famous artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, and Jasper Johns. Not only are these art pieces fascinating, but the building itself is an architectural marvel designed by renowned architects Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei, and Richard Meier.
Then, head over to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, an open-air gallery that features over 30 unique, larger-than-life sculptures. Lay down a picnic blanket amidst these captivating sculptures and enjoy a family picnic. As the day winds down, immerse yourselves in Iowa’s rich history at the State Historical Museum of Iowa. This museum covers everything from Native American culture to the importance of agriculture in the state’s history, offering interactive exhibits that will keep your kids engaged and learning.
Kansas City: A Melting Pot of Music, Art, and Cuisine
Kansas City, a vibrant blend of Midwestern charm and big city atmosphere, is a mere three-hour drive from Omaha. Start your family’s Kansas City adventure at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a premier art institution featuring a vast collection spanning thousands of years. This museum is home to more than 35,000 art pieces, including works from ancient cultures, Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, and contemporary art.
After immersing yourselves in art, let your family experience wildlife at the Kansas City Zoo. Spread over 202 acres, it’s home to more than 1,300 animals from all over the globe. Be sure not to miss the Polar Bear Passage or the African Sky Safari. For a dose of history, visit the National World War I Museum and Memorial, America’s only museum dedicated to preserving the objects, history, and personal experiences of World War I.
When the day’s adventures have built up an appetite, head over to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, a local favorite. Let the family savor some of the city’s best barbecued meats in a casual and family-friendly setting. Finish your day with a sweet treat from Betty Rae’s Ice Cream, where innovative flavors like lavender honey and goat cheese apricot thyme are sure to surprise and delight.
Family Fun Within Omaha
If you decide to explore the heart of Omaha itself, the city offers a plethora of family-friendly activities. Kick-off your day of fun at the Amazing Pizza Machine, where 60,000 square feet of indoor fun await. Here, you can unleash your inner child with activities like laser tag, go-karts, bumper cars, mini-bowling, and over 170 arcade games. Not only does this place offer a plethora of games and attractions, but it also boasts a diverse food menu, making it a perfect spot for a day-long visit.
For a unique photo opportunity, head over to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. Known as ‘Bobbing,’ this activity involves taking a picture while standing in two states at once – Nebraska and Iowa. It’s a fun way to make a memory and a great geography lesson for the kids. During the summer, let the kids cool off at the splash park located on the Omaha side of the bridge, featuring water sprays shooting into the air.
For nature enthusiasts, a float down the Elkhorn River with Tubing & Adventures is a must. As you gently cruise down the river, take in the sights and sounds of the surrounding nature. It’s a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend a day in the great outdoors.
Family-Friendly Dining in Omaha
All these activities are bound to work up an appetite! Luckily, Omaha is home to a wealth of kid-friendly restaurants that cater to a variety of tastes. Start your day with a hearty breakfast at 11 Worth Café, a family-owned restaurant known for its delicious breakfast and lunch items, including kid-friendly food options like cereal and thick, creamy milkshakes.
For lunch, consider heading to Bob’s Donuts, which, despite its name, offers more than just sweet treats. Here, your family can enjoy homemade donuts along with savory options like chicken sandwiches and handmade subs.
Finally, cap off your day with a visit to the Amazing Pizza Machine, which, in addition to its fun-filled activities, also offers an enormous buffet restaurant complete with pizza, pasta, salad bar, soups, bread, nachos, desserts, and ice cream. You can choose from four themed rooms to dine in based on cartoons and other characters your kids will recognize.
Whether you choose to venture out on a day trip or decide to explore the numerous attractions within Omaha, you’re sure to create lasting memories with your family. These experiences not only offer fun and entertainment but also opportunities for learning and growth. They are a testament to the rich culture, history, and diversity of the region. So pack your bags, fasten your seatbelts, and prepare for an exciting journey filled with adventure and joy in and around Omaha!