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Omaha, Nebraska is located in the heart of America’s heartland. That’s right, smack in the middle of it all. Now you might be thinking that with no coast, no mountains and no large body of water, Omaha is a hopeless case. We would encourage you to pull back the curtain a little bit and give Omaha a chance. We think you’ll find that the list of top things to do in Omaha is pleasantly surprising.
A longstanding commercial and telecommunications hub, Omaha’s economy is impressive. Home to a few Fortune 500 companies and even a few billionaires (most notably Warren Buffet, the third-wealthiest person in the world according to Forbes) Omaha is hardly sleepy. With all this money coming in and out of the Midwest hub, the city has become much more than a stopover point.
1. The World’s Largest Indoor Desert
Part of the famed Henry Doorly Zoo, the Desert Dome houses sections meant to imitate America’s Sonoran Desert, Australia’s Red Center and southern Africa’s Namib Desert. With incredibly realistic terrain and animal species native to each desert, the Desert Dome is one of a few zoo experiences that truly transports you to the wild. You’ll find rock faces, sand dunes and desert plants and animals all living in the natural light that shines through the dome.
Below the desert, you’ll find the “Kingdoms of the Night” exhibit which is the world’s largest entirely nocturnal exhibit. Just remember to stay on the lookout for the crocodiles that prefer to move about in the dark! You can even explore underground caves. Kids and adults alike will surely be wowed. In 2014, TripAdvisor went as far as to name the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo the greatest zoo in the world. We’ll leave it to you to verify that claim.
2. Dine in Dundee
Dundee is up there with the best of ‘em when it comes to Midwest culinary capitals. Being the Midwest, the burgers and steaks are on the highest level. The desserts are excellent as well. And if you’re a drinker you won’t want to miss Dundee Dell’s, home to the largest collection of Scotch Whiskey in the U.S or some Local Beers.
Just a walk around the neighborhood will leave your following your nose to the next food destination.
3. Explore the Old Market
A throwback to early 20th-century Omaha, in the Old Maret neighborhood you’ll find everything from horse-drawn carriages to street vendors to art galleries to some of Omaha’s best eateries (the ones that aren’t in Dundee). The old stone buildings and narrow brick alleys are an attraction by themselves.
If you go on Friday you can start with a self-guided tour through the neighborhood that features local creative art then finishes up with sampling craft beers at one of the neighborhood’s breweries. If the kids are coming along you can hop from one odd shop to the next looking for souvenirs.
4. The Rainforest and the Aquarium
We’re headed back to the Henry Doorly Zoo. We thought it would be unfair to put all of the zoo’s attractions as just one activity. Trust us, there’s a lot to take in. The Lied Jungle is America’s largest indoor rainforest. If that’s hard to picture, imagine walking through an indoor jungle complete with waterfalls, massive plants, parrots flying from tree to tree and gibbons staring at you from above.
Change gears quickly and find yourself walking through a 70-foot tunnel as sharks swim overhead. Pop out and watch the penguins interact and follow the aquarium staff at feeding time.
5. Travel Back in Time at the Durham Museum
Set in a 1930’s train station, the Durham Museum is full of refurbished trains and artifacts from Omaha’s past. Hop from one interactive exhibit to another, sit on a bench and chat it up with statues of servicemen returning from the War or grab an old-fashioned malt at the museum’s soda fountain. The Durham Museum is a terrific way of going back to Omaha’s roots.
6. Escape the City at Lauritzen Gardens
A botanical garden and arboretum located in the city, Lauritzen is an excellent way to escape the city streets. You’ll certainly learn a few new things about plant life while you’re at it. Maybe your city tour has been all urban adventuring or maybe you’ve been in the car too long on your cross-country trek. Either way, Lauritzen Gardens is an excellent way to stretch your legs and smell the flowers.
7. Take In the Joslyn Art Museum
For those whose interest was peaked at Old Market’s galleries, the Joslyn Art Museum can’t be missed as far as top things to do in Omaha go. From journal drawings from early 19th-century explorers to exhibits on British Art and collections from author and illustrator Mark Teague, culture geeks dive in!
8. The College World Series
If you can time it up right (June is the window), you can catch America’s best college baseball teams compete in the NCAA College World Series. Teams often feature future MLB stars and this is a great chance to see them competing on college baseball’s biggest stage. There’s also something to be said for taking in some of America’s favorite pastime at the center of the American Heartland.