Planning a trip to Nebraska this summer? Don’t miss any of the best things to do in Omaha! Known as the original “Gateway to the West,” Omaha is an underrated Midwest gem with great museums, delicious restaurants, and historical attractions that delight visitors. With a vibrant downtown scene and plenty of places to enjoy the outdoors, Omaha, Nebraska, is a must-visit American city for travelers.
Downtown Omaha is easy to navigate and features tons of cute shops and restaurants where you can spend your days sipping tasty cocktails or dining on organic cuisine. Exploring the 19th-century architecture throughout the Old Market District or diving into the history of pioneer-era America are just a few of the top tourist attractions in Omaha, Nebraska.
Still wondering what to do in Omaha? Start planning the ultimate trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Omaha, Nebraska!
Must-see places to visit in Omaha, NE
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Need a day away from the city buzz? Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is one of the city’s top attractions, with locals and tourists flocking here to experience its many unique exhibits.
The Henry Doorly Zoo is exceptional thanks to its many indoor exhibits, including Lied Jungle, North America’s largest indoor rainforest. It’s also home to the world’s largest indoor desert, Dome Desert. Creatures of the night come out to play in the massive nocturnal exhibit, allowing visitors to see some of the mysterious night-dwelling animals up close.
After enjoying the creatures of the land, head to the aquarium, where you can walk through a 70-foot-long tunnel full of sharks! Animal lovers will adore the in-store experiences at Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
Omaha Children’s Museum
Traveling to Nebraska with kids? Head to the Omaha Children’s Museum for a day full of educational fun. The museum has a rotating schedule of special exhibits and tons of permanent interactive exhibits that’ll ignite their imaginations.
The exhibits at Omaha Children’s Museum focus on creativity and inspiration, with dedicated spaces for science and technology, zoology, and the arts.
In the summer, cool off in the museum’s outdoor water park; it’s a great place for kids to splash around and escape the summer heat.
The Durham Museum
A fantastic example of urban revitalization, The Durham Museum serves as one of the top Omaha tourist attractions for history buffs and architecture fanatics.
Originally built in 1931 on the edge of Downtown Omaha, the Durham Museum’s building served as the city’s Union Station, one of the country’s bustling and busy train stations. A total renovation in the 1990s restored this Art Deco masterpiece to its former glory.
Visitors can now visit The Durham Museum to learn about local history and everything Art Deco. One of Omaha’s must-visit museums, the museum features an impressive collection of permanent exhibits, including train cars and hands-on interactive activities. It’s the perfect place to learn about the changing technology during the age of locomotion.
Craving some nature on your Omaha itinerary? Head to Lauritzen Gardens for an impressive display of rare and native plants. Omaha’s premier botanical garden, Lauritzen Gardens, was established in 1995. The center has since expanded to cover over 100 acres in the riverfront hills area of Omaha.
Stroll through the various themed gardens at Lauritzen Gardens, including English, Victorian, and Nebraskan Prairie-themed areas. Bird watchers will adore the bird sanctuary while everyone will learn something at the educational center.
Lauritzen Gardens can’t be missed for a lovely day immersed in the beauty of flowers and plants!
In the center of Omaha’s midtown, visitors can feel as though they have stepped into a fairy tale at Joslyn Castle. Once the private residence of Omaha’s philanthropic duo, George and Sarah Joslyn, the magnificent mansion is now open for tours as well as private and public events.
The construction of Joslyn Castle was finished in 1903 using wood, stained glass, mosaic tiles, and wrought iron. The entirety of the stone in the home and carriage house were completed in just 11 months! It’s a fabulous example of Scottish Baronial style that will leave architecture fans in awe.
Joslyn Art Museum
With a grand reopening scheduled for 2024, the Joslyn Art Museum is Omaha’s premier destination for the arts and remains a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike. The fine arts museum & gallery was a gift from Sarah Joslyn to the people of Omaha in memory of her husband and in celebration of their mutual love for the arts.
The Joslyn Art Museum space centers around a concert hall surrounded by various art galleries and is another fine example of Art Deco architecture in Omaha. Designers also incorporated various Native American cultural elements into the design.
The museum is free and open to the public, providing opportunities for everyone to experience the beauty of art.
Fort Omaha has served a variety of functions throughout its history, at times a prison and at others a balloon school. It was initially an Indian-War era military institution built by the United States Army established in 1868.
The Metropolitan Community College now occupies the former Fort Omaha space. Still, it makes for a great place to explore on a trip to Omaha, especially for those interested in United States military history.
Six unique 19th-century buildings remain intact on the campus, and the grounds are one of the best places to go in Omaha for a long walk.
One of the primary attractions at Fort Omaha is the General Crook House, built as a residence in 1879. The historic home now serves as the museum for the Douglas County Historical Society.
Pioneer Courage Park
Located on the First National Campus, Pioneer Courage Park is a lovely homage to the pioneer families who made their way west to Omaha.
Created by sculptors Blair Buswell and Ed Fraughton, Pioneer Courage Park features huge sculptures, including figurines of pioneer families and 12-foot-tall covered wagons.
The scenes depict four pioneer families on their way west, along with a party of hunters. The park demonstrates the constant need and difficulty the pioneers faced in finding food on their long journey.
Lewis & Clark Landing
The Lewis & Clark Landing stretches along the Missouri River on the north end of Omaha’s riverfront. The public park will open in the spring of 2023 and features extensive green spaces and plenty of places to relax and play.
With an urban riverfront beach complete with fire pits and beach volleyball, a large prairie garden, and a playground that’s perfect for kids to enjoy a day outside in the sun, the Lewis & Clark Landing makes for the perfect spot to spend a beautiful afternoon outdoors in Omaha.
Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens
Celebrating the birthplace of the former U.S President, the Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens sits upon the site of his grandparents’ former home, where he lived for a short time after his birth.
The Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens serves as a memorial to the former president. It features a large rose garden modeled after the White House’s famous rose garden.
The space can be rented for private events and is also open for the public to explore; it’s worth a stop on your visit to Omaha.
Located at the Greater Omaha Marina, Freedom Park is an outdoor park and a museum celebrating the United States Navy. For military history buffs, it’s one of the top points of interest in Omaha.
A variety of retired military aircraft is on display for visitors to appreciate, including the WWII minesweeper, the USS Hazard. Besides the aircraft, you can also explore a variety of artillery vehicles and a cold-war submarine at Freedom Park.
Since Freedom Park is entirely outdoors and located on the banks of the Missouri River, it makes for a wonderful place to soak up some sunshine while learning about the United States Military.
General Crook House Museum
The General Crook House Museum shines as the star attraction within Fort Omaha. Once the home of the celebrated war hero, General George Crook, the historic home has been painstakingly restored to retain all of its historical authenticity.
Constructed in 1879, the General Crook House Museum is an excellent example of the Italianate architecture style. All of the furnishings within are authentic Victorian Era pieces. Visitors will feel as though they’re stepping back in time the moment they set foot through the door.
If you’re visiting during the winter holiday season, you’re in for a rare treat: The General Crook House Museum is decorated for Christmas—and they really go all out! Each and every room reflects a look back in time at Christmas celebrations from previous generations.
Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is a true engineering marvel. Stretching across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska, to Council Bluffs, Iowa, the bridge will leave visitors feeling as though they’re on top of the world. Crossing the bridge creates an almost weightless experience and offers beautiful views of the Omaha skyline.
On the Nebraska side of the river, there’s an expansive riverfront park with splash fountains and a National Park Visitor Center. During the summer months, there’s live music every Friday at the large amphitheater.
The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge also connects to more than 150 miles of nature trails.
Heartland of America Park
When it comes to stunning riverfront parks, Omaha takes the cake. Heartland of America Park, located along the Missouri River, was designed as a pastoral park with a large central lake. It’s currently undergoing a massive revitalization project, with a scheduled reopening date of 2023.
The new and improved Heartland of America Park will have more river access, recreation opportunities on the lake, and a huge lake-side amphitheater for performances and events.
The Old Market District
The Old Market District in Omaha is another wonderful example of historic preservation in the heart of downtown. With buildings from the 19th century and cobblestone streets, this entertainment district will have visitors feeling as though they’re traveling back in time. Farnam Street is the district’s main street, but all of the offshoots are also lovely!
The area features a variety of adorable shops, cafes, and tasty restaurants to stop in and enjoy a bite or a drink. Or you can simply choose to wander the brick-paved streets of the Old Market District and enjoy the architecture.
Photographers will especially love this neighborhood; it’s colorful and lively, with great people-watching and street performers.
Regardless of when you visit Omaha, the Old Market District is a must-see spot. It’s beautiful in every season and is often decorated for the holidays.
The Old Market District is the perfect place to spend a half day walking around and getting to know Nebraska’s biggest city.
Fun-Plex Waterpark & Rides
Fun-Plex Waterpark and Rides is Nebraska’s largest amusement park and is the perfect place for fun-loving folks of all ages to enjoy a day full of thrilling rides and attractions.
Located just outside of downtown Omaha, Fun-Plex Waterpark and Rides has remained a favorite amongst locals and visitors since it opened in the late 1970s. Originally, it was nothing more than a go-cart track; today, it includes a barrage of exciting rides and a huge water park.
There are plenty of kiddie rides for families with small kids, and the whole family can enjoy the go-cart races and mini-golf course, making Fun-Plex Waterpark and Rides a perfect choice for a day out in Omaha for the entire family.
Locals love Crescent Moon, Omaha’s original ale house. After a day of exploring all of Omaha’s exciting tourist attractions and activities, it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy a few craft beers or a tasty meal.
If you’re able to, visit Crescent Moon during happy hour from 3 pm to 6 pm for a great appetizer menu and lots of discounts on drinks. The food menu features crowd-pleasers like burgers, cheese curds, and elevated items like Blackstone Rueben. Every visitor can find something they will love on the Crescent Moon Menu.
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For travelers who love a good brunch, Crescent Moon hosts an amazing morning meal on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 3 pm. Best of all? Bottomless mimosas! Some of the brunches even have fun-themed events, like Broadway show-tune singalongs and pop-culture bingo.
Recommended places to stay in Omaha for sightseeing
If you want to get the most out of your vacation, the most popular places to stay in Omaha are in & around Downtown Omaha and the Old Market area. There’s a wide range of accommodations here, from traditional chain hotels to vacation rentals. To save a bit of money, expand your lodgings search to areas & neighborhoods outside of the city center like Midtown or across the state border in Council Bluffs.
With its stunning Art Deco design, the boutique-style Hotel Deco is the perfect choice for solo travelers and couples alike. The comfortable rooms offer plenty of space, including vintage writing tables when inspiration strikes. Up the relaxation by booking an in-room massage for the ultimate romantic escape.
Occupying a historic building dating back to 1915, the Hotel Indigo Omaha Downtown transports you back to a bygone era with a unique blend of modern touches. Fit in a workout in the fitness center, showcasing the original exposed brick walls. After a long day of sightseeing, sip craft cocktails in the prohibition-inspired Anna’s Place Speakeasy.
Add a dash of luxury to your vacation with a stay at The Farnam. This 4-star hotel pulls out all the stops, with art-forward common areas, an outdoor fireplace lounge, and panoramic windows with beautiful city views. Start your morning with a cup of java in the on-site coffee house to enjoy the evening air with a drink at the hotel’s rooftop bar.