When my son told me he was packing up his family and moving to Omaha, Nebraska I was flabbergasted. What’s in Omaha? I didn’t even know where it was located in Nebraska. Pulling out a map, I found this little Midwestern town in the middle of Nebraska. After some research, I discovered that Omaha is the largest city in Nebraska. In fact, it is located on the Missouri River and is comprised of eight counties. Three of the counties represent urban areas, and five are rural areas, with populations of less than a thousand people. A little known fact, Omaha is home to many major “Fortune 500” companies. One of these Fortune 500 companies hired my son in their computer department. My daughter-in-law assures me everything is just 25 minutes away (it seems pretty true!). Pack your car and head on out to Omaha, Nebraska for family fun with these five area attractions.
My List of the Top 5 Places to Experience in Omaha:
Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Omaha, NE
3701 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68107
One of the most delightful zoo’s I have ever encountered in my travels. I enjoy how the zoo has been remodeling the habitats to be more like the animals natural habitats. This will provide the animals with more places to roam and a natural place to spend lazy days. Not only are the animals relaxed and healthy, but the layout of the zoo is easy to maneuver. You will have plenty of time see and do everything in one day. Being handicapped accessible is one of the zoos major benefits. They even have an elevator to assist you back up the hill, if you have any breathing or walking issues.
The Desert Dome:
My favorite part of this zoo is the desert dome, but hold your nose when you enter…it has a pungent smell of reptiles. The exhibit houses many of the deserts animals and plants in a natural setting. The most stunning area of the hemisphere is the 55-foot-tall mountain that spans the center of the dome. Walking around the mountain you will encounter three unique desert hubs. These include the desert of Namib, Red Center of Australia, and my favorite the Sonoran Desert. Winding through the dome, you will see waterfalls, palm trees, succulents, meerkats, klipspringers, snakes, and many more species from the deserts around the world.
When leaving the upper level of the sun and heat, head on down under the dome. In this area you will find the Kingdom of the Night. Let your eyes adjust, this exhibit is known as the largest nocturnal exhibit in the world. Take your time to discover all the animals as they prowl the night. From caves to swamps this area has it all!
The Berniece Grewcock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion:
Upon entering the butterfly room you will stand on a number and wait for staff to open a huge glass door. Once the door opens you are ushered into a tiny, all glass room. In this small room you will be given a speech to be careful! You do not want to step on any butterflies, don’t touch and enjoy. Then the doors open and you are immersed in a room of butterflies, fluttering around your heads. Graceful butterflies, from blue to orange and every color in between, swoop around the room. Be careful, they like to land on you! The plants are always blooming and the hues in the room are impressive. It is a quaint, beautiful area of sunshine and colors. After wandering through the butterfly walk, you leave through another glass door, into another glass room. This is where you check yourself in the mirror. Don’t forget to shake your booty to make sure there are no butterflies hitchhiking, out of their home.
On to the next room in the exhibit, the Insect Pavilion. Here you will come in contact with insects from all over the world. Well, contact is a little extreme, all the insects are securely in their glass cases. However, we raced through this room quickly; my grandson is not a fan of bugs! We were off to the aquarium next.
The Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium:
When you enter the aquarium you will find a sink to wash hands. Then, stop by the touch tank with starfish and other aquatic creatures. Once you are finished touching, take off to see the puffins and penguins dance in the water. The most stunning experience in the aquarium is the stroll through the beautiful tunnel of the ocean. In this location you will encounter sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, and many other ocean creatures swimming above and beside you. This is an extraordinary experience! Wander off to the adjacent area and observe all the brilliant blues, purples, and oranges of the jellyfish. Stop and say, “Hello” to and my favorite sea creature, the seahorses. Saunter off to see the warm water fish of the Caribbean and Amazon. You will be astounded by the colors of these reefs, rivers, and pools. This is one of the most attractive aquariums I have ever observed!
Strolling through the zoo, you will encounter one of the most recent additions to the park, the African Grasslands. Observe the zebras, elephants, and giraffes in their native habitat. Off to the Gorillas Valley and Orangutan Forest where monkeys, gorillas, and orangutans hang out. Don’t forget taking a ride on the train around the park. Stop by the Sea Lion Pavilion to see some playful sea lions swimming and sunning. In the Lied Jungle you will walk through a tropical rainforest with monkeys, tapirs, macaws, and hippos. Allow the kids a chance to explore the new Bay Family Children Adventure. Your children will love the chance to climb, slide, and run to their heart’s content. Relax at the at the lagoon and watch the birds in the aviary.
When you visit the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium it will be a full day of fun and a chance to sight over a thousand species of animals. If you still have energy, take a 10-minute ride over to the Durham Museum. You can wait and go tomorrow, but you won’t want to miss this one!
The Durham Museum, Omaha, NE:
801 S 10th St, Omaha, NE 68108
Who doesn’t like railroads? In this museum you will get to observe, walk through, and have contact with Union Station, several railroad cars, and model railroads. In addition, they have excellent exhibits featuring Omaha’s past. Meander through homes, markets and schools from yesteryear, you will experience it all.
When you come back to the present, take a stroll through their featured traveling museum. This exhibit changes frequently bringing a bit of history about Omaha from places like the Smithsonian and The Library of Congress. You can experience the Durham Museum in about a half a day. Before you leave, stop by their old-fashioned soda fountain and enjoy an old-fashion phosphate, root beer float, shake, or malt. Then pick out some nostalgic candy at the candy store. All sugared and ready to go? Take off to the Union Pacific Museum.
Union Pacific Museum:
200 Pearl St, Council Bluffs, IA 51503
When you are through with Durham Museum take a fifteen minute ride over to the Union Pacific Museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This museum focuses on everything Union Pacific from the timetables of trains to the Union Pacific firearm’s collection. Don’t forget to stop by Footprints in Time a dinosaur exhibit and stop by to see Lincoln’s rocking chair. This is a fascinating place for children to learn and play! As you leave the museum, stop by Bayliss Park across the street to see the fountains. If you time it just right you can witness the nightly display of lights and water shows. Need more of the great outdoors? Venture to the Lauritzen Gardens about 15 minutes from the Union Pacific Museum.
Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE:
100 Bancroft St, Omaha, NE 68108
Take a stroll through this beautiful 100 acre botanical garden that boasts flowers and trees from the area. Amble past bird aviaries and waterfalls, then wander the trails inside their domes, and stop to spend some time watching their model railroads. Relax at their cafe for a quick bite to eat and support them by shopping in their gift shop. This place is welcoming and magnificent!
Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum:
28210 W Park Hwy, Ashland, NE 68003
About a half hours drive from the Lauritzen Garden and the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. If you love airplanes and spacecrafts, this is a must see in Ashland, Nebraska. In this museum you will experience everything from World War II bombers to the Apollo Command Space module. Additionally, you can take time to learn in their Children’s Learning Center. In the learning center your children will experience everything from the principles of airflow to geometry. It is fun for all ages!
Omaha is the ideal place for a family vacation with wildlife, butterflies, birds, airplanes, trains, and flowers!