This post is part 1 of 5 in the series Quick Trips from Des Moines.
Are you tired of looking at the insides of your walls? Sick of driving the same slushy roads, past the same dreary sites every. single. day. of this never-ending Iowa winter? Ready to get out of town for Spring Break, but don’t really feel like spending an arm and a leg on plane tickets, or driving a day and a half to get somewhere fun and exciting? Never fear, your travel recommendations are here! Pack your bags and budget a whopping $14 for the gas it will take you, and head west. Omaha is calling.
We love Omaha. We’ve blogged about it before, and here we are talking it up again! Seriously, having lived in Omaha for five years pre-children, I know there is a LOT to do there. But seven years and four kids later, traveling today will likely look quite a bit different than it did back in our DINK (Double Income No Kids) days! But I promise, if you’re looking for a not-too-far-from-Des Moines but still-feels-like-a-vacation destination for Spring Break, Omaha will not disappoint as a family-friendly destination!
There are so many things to do and see, you could easily spend a week in Omaha with the fam; but even if you only have a weekend away, it’s still worth the trip! Visitomaha.com has a wealth of information on things to do, places to stay, and food to eat, and there’s no way I can compete with all the resources compiled on that site, so I’m not going to try! For the purposes of this post I’ll try to highlight the must-sees with kids and establishments that are particularly family friendly. Because we all know that “traveling” and “traveling with kids” are two entirely different beasts.
Coco Key Water Resort will be open for Spring Break, March 6-22. This would definitely give everyone a taste of summer fun!
If water isn’t your thing, choose a hotel in the Old Market District. The charm of this neighborhood will not disappoint, with gobs of shopping and restaurants literally within walking distance. In the summer months enjoy street musicians and horse-drawn carriage rides. If you visit between May and early October, make sure to walk through the Farmers’ Market, and eat a piece of baklava for me!
Midtown Crossing is a newer development near downtown Omaha that has a number of nice hotels to choose from, too, and would also keep you close to many museums and restaurants.
*One thing to note when traveling to Omaha—make sure to check the annual Berkshire-Hathaway shareholder meeting dates. When they descend upon the city, hotel rooms are hard to come by!
Henry Doorly Zoo. Bottom line, if you haven’t been here before, GO. It’s open year-round and it’s amazing, rain or shine. Bring a stroller, as the grounds are extensive. And wear good walking shoes; Omaha has HILLS.
Joslyn Art Museum. It’s free! And great for kids of all ages, with lots of hands-on activities. They even offer STROLLER TOURS. Direct quote from their website: “Tandem strollers and crying babies welcome!” Can I get an amen?
Train lovers and history buffs in your family? Visit The Durham Museum.
Active kiddos who need to burn some energy? Walk across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, or take a trip through the Old Market to the Gene Leahy Pedestrian Mall. Stop for a latte while you watch the kiddos enjoy the HUGE slides, then explore the waterfalls, sculpture gardens, and walking paths. Stroll across the street to Heartland of America Park. If you visit during the summer months, catch a ride on a gondola!
Omaha’s Botanical Center, Lauritzen Gardens, currently has a Lego exhibit! And kids under age six are free.
The Mormon Trail Center is another free museum great for older kids and history buffs. Learn about pioneers and see some covered wagons.
The Rose is a beautiful theater offering productions geared towards children. I took two of my nieces to see Beauty and the Beast on stage there 10 years ago, and it was magical!
The Omaha Children’s Museum isn’t free like the Joslyn, but it’s certainly worth the cost of admission, offering tons of hands-on exhibits for little ones.
Spaghetti Works is sure to please the kiddos’ palates, and located in the Old Market, it would be a convenient place for dinner if that’s where you’re staying or spending the day.
The Upstream is a bar and grill, so while it’s not exactly a kid-restaurant, it’s loud enough that no one would mind if your kids are a little rowdy at the table, like mine! (Anyone else EVER have that issue eating out?!?!) Plus, mom and dad can enjoy a locally brewed beer with dinner.
Kids only eat hot dogs? Check out Chicago Dawg House in Midtown Crossing. I haven’t eaten there personally, but kids + hot dogs… how can you go wrong, right?
If you’re a bread lover, stop into Great Harvest Bread Company and pick up a few loaves to bring home. I sometimes dream about the cinnamon chip bread—it makes AMAZING French toast!
Jones Bros Cupcakes is just delightful. Cafe meets cupcake shop. Stop here for lunch, coffee, and dessert, then turn the kids loose to burn off the sugar at Stinson park just outside!
Zio’s Pizza – family friendly, with multiple locations in Omaha, so choose the one you’re closest to and enjoy!
Ted and Wally’s – my personal favorite ice cream in the Midwest. Homemade and new flavors daily. Once my husband actually ordered Guinness-flavored ice cream there. It was amazing.
The Amazing Pizza Machine is more than a restaurant. Go here if you’re looking for an arcade experience. Includes laser tag, bumper cars, bowling, and more!
Enjoy Your Trip!
I hope you find this information helpful if you decide to head west for Spring Break! And remember, my two cents above just barely scratched the surface. If you decide to visit in the summer months, be sure to check out Jazz on the Green or Shakespeare in the Park, then catch a game of the College World Series. And please, be sure to stop back here and comment to let us know how much you enjoyed your trip! Happy travels!
Thanks to the Omaha Visitor’s Center, one lucky mama will win this awesome Omaha Prize Pack.
Enter to win below and note that this contest ends at 11 p.m. CST TONIGHT so be sure to enter ASAP. Prize pack includes:
- 4 Tickets to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
- 4 Tickets to Omaha Children’s Museum
- 4 Tickets to Durham Museum
- 4 Tickets to Lauritzen Gardens
- $50 gift certificate to Flagship Restaurant Group – This includes Blue Sushi Sake Grill, Roja Mexican Grill, Blatt Beer & Table & Plank Seafood and Provisions
Prize Pack Descriptions:
- 4 Tickets to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. Visit the world’s largest indoor desert and nocturnal exhibits along with one of the world’s largest indoor rainforests. Other world-class exhibits included the Scott Aquarium, Hubbard Orangutan Forest and Gorilla Valley, Lozier IMAX® Theater, Durham’s Bear Canyon, Berniece Grewcock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion and more. Experience Skyfari, the aerial tram that transports guests to a new view of the Omaha’s Zoo. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium has been ranked the #1 Zoo by Trip Advisor.
- 4 Tickets to Omaha Children’s Museum. Get ready for the whole family to learn through play! Omaha Children’s Museum is the most visited museum in Nebraska and features outstanding interactive permanent exhibits focused on art, science, and early childhood education. Exhibits include giant ball machines, a kid-sized grocery store, tire and auto service center, science and technology lab, maker-space, art studio, and much more! Traveling exhibits, daily educational programs, special events, food, and gift shop are also featured.
- 4 Tickets to Durham Museum. The Durham Museum, making its home in Omaha’s beautiful art deco Union Station, houses an extraordinary array of permanent exhibits including restored train cars, 1940s store fronts, numerous artifacts showing the history of the region, and the Byron Reed collection which includes some of the world’s rarest coins and documents. There are also impressive traveling exhibits through The Durham’s affiliation with the Smithsonian and close ties with the Library of Congress, National Archives and Chicago’s Field Museum. During your stay, be sure to stop by the authentic soda fountain and enjoy a phosphate or malt.
- 4 Tickets to Lauritzen Gardens. Discover 100 acres of inspiring horticultural displays, including the rose garden, Victorian garden, children’s garden, model railroad garden and the all-new Marjorie K. Daugherty Conservatory, featuring indoor tropical and temperate garden spaces. Amenities include tram tours, gift shop, café, and meeting spaces.
- $50 gift certificate to Flagship Restaurant Group. Flagship Restaurant Group are passionate restaurateurs committed to delivering innovative food and exceptional dining experiences. Restaurants in the Flagship Restaurant Group include Blue Sushi Sake Grill, Roja Mexican Grill + Margarita Bar, Plank Seafood & Provisions, and Blatt Beer & Table.
Connect with Omaha’s Visitor’s Center
Read more from our Quick Trips from Des Moines series!
- A Weekend Getaway in Kansas City
- Take a Lake-cation: Clear Lake, IA + Giveaway
- Family Fun in the Amana Colonies
- Pella: America’s Dutch Treasure