Directly over the border from Iowa along the banks of the Missouri River, Omaha is a gem of a midwest city filled to the brim with things to see, do, and experience. With a population of almost half a million and attractions that have gleaned superlative status in America and the world at large, anyone who’s spent any time in Omaha knows it’s anything but the middle of nowhere.
Of course, even if you’ve called a place home for years, it’s easy to forget how wonderful it is — or to overlook how many beautiful things there are to do, try, and eat right in your own backyard. That’s why in this post, we’re going to talk about our very favorite places to explore in Omaha, no matter what brings you to town or how long you’re staying.
Why We Love to Travel
So why do we love to travel in the first place? Getting to experience cultures that are different from our own or eating cuisine that’s different than what we’re used to are amazing ways to grow as individuals and learn about others. Seeing how other people live helps us keep an open mind and even gather inspiration to bring back into our daily lives.
Travel is also a great way to get away from the day-to-day. Breaking up our routines with a fun trip definitely recharges the batteries and helps prevent us from getting burnt out.
But again – you don’t have to go far from home to get this perspective! Sometimes the best adventures are just around the corner.
Benefits of Traveling Locally
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
- More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and local parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
- Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
- Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
- Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
- More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being close by definitely has its benefits.
Explore Local: Omaha, Nebraska
Founded all the way back in 1854 and located along the trail of the famed Lewis & Clark expedition, Omaha has a long history of greatness. These days, Omaha is home to a variety of big-name businesses in agriculture, food processing, and other industries — and is also the birthplace and continued stomping grounds of none other than Warren Buffett.
Given that one of the richest men in the world, who has his pick of any place to live he might like, still calls this place home, that should give you a sense of how great a place it really is to experience and enjoy. Without further ado, let’s dive into the very best to-dos in Omaha, Nebraska.
State Parks in Omaha
If you’re looking to get outside, Omaha is a great place to be. Here are some state and national parks in the Omaha, NE area.
Eugene T. Mahoney State Park
This park is equal parts natural escape and well-curated recreational area; along with trails fit for hiking and horseback riding, the park also hosts a golf course, spacious aquatic center, indoor playground, and more. It’s also only a half hour’s drive from downtown Omaha, making it a great option for a quick weekend getaway!
Lake Manawa State Park
Just over the state lines in westernmost Iowa, Lake Manawa is a popular destination for all sorts of water-based activities from boating and swimming to fishing. The park also offers modern campgrounds with lots of amenities, so it’s a good option for RVers!
Platte River State Park
It might not be the biggest park in the books, but it’s a great one: covering a little over 450 acres on the southern banks of its namesake waterway, this park is known for its steep, rolling hills, which stand in opposition with much of the flat prairie and grassland surrounding it.
At just about two hours north of Omaha in the northeasternmost corner of the state, this park is nestled along the banks of the Missouri River. It’s known for its wide range of geological diversity, with the landscape rolling from prairies into mountains into forested ravines.
Two Rivers State Recreation Area
This park is one of the most popular wildernesses in the state — and for good reason. As its name suggests, it’s tucked into the fork of two rivers, the Platte and the Elkhorn, and it’s also home to ten renovated Union Pacific cabooses that have been recreated into spacious, unique cabins that sleep six!
Best Hiking Trails
Sometimes, the very best way to get familiar with an area is to see it with your own two eyes — and feet. Here are some of the best hiking trails near Omaha, Nebraska.
Wehrspann Lake Full Loop
If you’re looking to amble for a whole afternoon, the Wehrspann Lake Full Loop is a great option. Meandering about seven miles all told and seeing very little in elevation change (this is Nebraska, after all), this loop is heavily trafficked but still offers a great opportunity for exercise and tranquility. (Oh, and dogs are allowed, too — just be sure to keep Spot on a leash!)
Running about five and a half miles round trip and with less than 400 feet in elevation gain, Tranquility Trail is just that: a great option for beginning hikers looking to get their feet underneath them. You’ll find a great mix of landscapes and trail types to explore, from tight switchbacks through pine canopy to rolling, open grasslands. Do be sure to watch out for mountain bikers, though, as they use this trail too!
Neale Woods Nature Center Trails
The Neale Woods Nature Center encompasses about 600 acres in northern Omaha, and its main trail loop is an excellent adventure for the whole family. Measuring a little over three miles round trip and seeing about 500 feet in elevation gain, this is a bit more of a rugged trek, so be prepared to work up a sweat. Bring lots of water!
Zorinsky Lake West Trail
A peaceful, relaxing stroll along a lakeshore, traveling about three miles and seeing less than a hundred feet of elevation gain, the Zorinsky Lake West Trail is the perfect place to take in an Omaha sunset — or sunrise, if you’re the early bird type!
Best Restaurants in Omaha
All the adventure this area has to offer means one thing: you’ve gotta eat to keep up your strength and endurance! From Italian to Mexican and everything in between, here are some of the very best restaurants in Omaha.
Good food, good wine, good eating — Spezia Omaha offers all that and more. Whether you’re looking for steaks, seafood, or pasta dishes, this Italian eatery is a standby for a reason. Sit back and enjoy your meal in house at a spacious booth or table, or take it to go!
La Poblanita Mexican Restaurant
Whether you’re dining in or taking your meal to go, La Poblanita Mexican Restaurant offers generous — and more importantly, delicious — takes on all of your south-of-the-border favorites. While the entrees themselves are delicious, be sure to leave plenty of room for the refried beans and rice they serve on the side. Yum!
You might be forgiven for thinking fresh sushi would be hard to come by in the dead center of our country — but one trip to Yoshitomo would set you straight. This upscale Asian dining experience is available for weeknight dinners (except Monday) and lunch and dinner on the weekends. There’s an excellent wine list, too!
You could call it a sandwich shop, but that would be missing something of the spirit of Block 16, which is about casually elegant, farm-to-table street food in a comfortable but chic environment. Offering creative twists on straightforward favorites (think: a bacon-and-brie sandwich with regional fruit spread; loaded fries with duck confit and gooseberry gastrique), this joint is sure to be a hit if you’re looking for something hearty.
Easily one of the best vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Omaha, Modern Love has created plant-based versions of indulgent comfort foods from zucchini “crab” cakes to pop tarts (yes, seriously). Specials and innovative creations change on a day-to-day basis, so be sure to swing by to see what’s cooking!
Fun Things to Do in Omaha
Once you’ve fed your belly and filled your spirit with the great outdoors, there’s still plenty to explore! Here are the top things to do in Omaha this weekend — for couples, families, singletons, and everyone else.
For Kids and Families
The midwest is a great place for kids and families, and Omaha is no exception. Here are some places to add to your itinerary if you’re bringing the kids along for an adventure.
Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Known as one of the best zoos not only in the state of Nebraska but in the entire country, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is committed to conservation and educational efforts — and is also a plain old fun place to spend an afternoon. The zoo takes up a generous 130 acres and is home to almost 1,000 different species of furred and feathered friends. They also host fun events like an annual zoo run and trivia nights, making this a gathering space for any season.
Wildlife Safari Park
Tucked a short drive outside of the city, Wildlife Safari Park is waiting for families who want to take an even longer walk on the wild side. Drive and hike through conservation areas that give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with bison, elk, and other area denizens.
There’s tons to do in Omaha during the day — and no shortage of things to see and do after darkness falls, either! Here are some ideas for a hot date night or just a plain old Tuesday.
The Old Market
One of the most famous and bustling neighborhoods in all of Omaha, The Old Market district is a great place to visit any time of day — but it really gets hopping once the sun goes down. Choose from dozens of bars, restaurants, and other locations with live entertainment, food and drink, and more. One thing’s for certain: you won’t be bored!
What’s better than arcade games? Arcade games with access to a great tap list! Beercade is a great venue to get your game on while also enjoying a relaxing buzz. They offer arcade classics like Ms Pac Man and Tekken as well as pinball, a party room, and more.
Cheap and Free Things to Do
Hey, even though Warren Buffett calls it home, not all of us are lucky enough to have such a fortune. The good news is, you can still explore Omaha even if you’re not made of money — here are some cheap and free things to do in town!
Joslyn Art Museum
Opened all the way back in 1931 and serving as the premier art destination in the city, the Joslyn Art Museum is home to a wide array of permanent and temporary exhibitions alike. It’s also, unlike many other art museums, absolutely 100% free to visit — so what are you waiting for?
Stroll the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
Want to walk to another state? The 3,000-foot-long Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge means that is, indeed, possible in Omaha (and Council Bluffs, Iowa) — and no, there’s no fee to do it. Just amble on across the river during the day or as a fun after-dinner excursion come nighttime. Psst: If this option sounds romantic, that’s because it is; taking a relaxing walk across “the Bob” is one of the top things for couples to do in Omaha.
Mormon Trail Center
Serving as a major settlement for the Latter-day Saints is just one curlicue in Omaha’s varied history. Stop by the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters to learn more about this unique religion’s legacy in Omaha.
Spas in Omaha
Want to look and feel your best? Sometimes, it takes a little bit of help — and besides, who can say no to a massage? Here are the best day spas and places to get pampered in Omaha, Nebraska.
Oasis Massage & Spa
Ready to destress and soothe your senses? Oasis Massage & Spa is committed to being just that for its clientele: and oasis. Customized, advanced facials and body treatments are available, as well as a range of massage modalities and convenient, affordable packages. Be sure to have a look at their retail space, as well; at-home facial and pedicure kits make it easy to pamper yourself even at home.
Gloss Salon & Day Spa
Haircare, nail care, massages, facials, lash extensions, makeup, tanning, waxing… basically, if it’s beauty-related and you can think of it, you can probably get it done at Gloss Salon & Day Spa. (And by a friendly, smiling, warm professional caregiver at that!)
Urbane Salon & Day Spa
Aveda salons are well known for their unique attention to detail and their line of high-quality products. Urbane Salon & Day Spa is an Aveda salon in Omaha, Nebraska where you can get the full range of services: haircuts, hair color, professional makeup, hair removal, manicures, pedicures, and other spa treatments like massage, chakra balancing and more. Be sure to check out their new client offer, which gets you a $10 credit for select treatments and services.
Best Gyms & Yoga Studios
Health is about so much more than how you look — it’s how you feel in your body, your strength, and your mental health, too. Here are some of the best places to get a sweat on in Omaha, Nebraska, no matter how you like to do so.
Sure, you can go to the big box chain gym — or you can go to the locally-grown, down-home, no-fuss, no-muss fitness facility that will help you achieve your goals without anybody shaming you for grunting or dropping your weights. Omaha Barbell offers comprehensive fitness facilities open to absolutely anyone with a passion and drive to create real and lasting change in their habits. Drop by and give it a look for yourself!
Elevate Cycling and Fitness
Ah, boutique fitness. It isn’t cheap, but it is fun… and it can help you get the results you want (even if those results are just shutting your brain off for one, solid hour each day). Elevate Cycling and Fitness Studio offers so much more than spin classes, as its name suggests; you can also try out boxing, TRX, rowing machines and so much more.
Karma Yoga Omaha
Yoga is for everybody — and every body. At Karma Yoga Omaha, you’ll find a wide range of classes suited to whatever your needs may be in the moment, taught by gracious and loving teachers who want to help you achieve your personal best.
Omaha Power Yoga
If your first reaction to most yoga classes is, “Meh, not sweaty enough for me,” chances are you’ve yet to step foot inside of Omaha Power Yoga. This studio offers powerful practices that will strengthen your body and mind through effort, but they do also balance the scales with yin and restorative options. All of them take place in beautiful, well-curated spaces; try hard but also remember to breathe!
Day Trips in Omaha
There’s certainly enough to keep you busy without stepping foot outside of the Omaha city borders… but there’s plenty more to see and explore in this area, too! Here are some suggestions for day trips and getaways.
Nebraska’s capital city is actually smaller, by population, than Omaha, but still well worth the hour’s drive it takes to get there. Enjoy a trip to Sunken Gardens or traipse through the Lincoln Children’s Zoo — or just have dinner at a new restaurant!
Kansas City, MO
You might take a train, you might take a plane — but if you have to walk, Kansas City is still well worth visiting. Straddling the border between two midwestern states, much like Omaha and Council Bluffs, Kansas City is renowned for its barbecue, craft breweries, jazz music and so much more. (And yes, you should visit the Kansas side as well.)
Badlands is about a six-and-a-half hour drive across the South Dakota state border. That said, if you’re looking for an incredible weekend getaway with views, wildlife, and more, you don’t want to miss this one-of-a-kind national park!
Note: some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Omaha that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Omaha? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.