Living in Omaha offers access to some of the country’s most beautiful sights, best food, oldest traditions and most noteworthy attractions. And every year, the list of things you can do in the city gets longer.
To help make sure you can do it all, we created an Omaha bucket list for you to complete in 2020. It includes a few of those old traditions and iconic landmarks alongside some of the city’s newest attractions and events. How many will you check off this year?
Go Ice Skating
This year, take advantage of the many ponds and ice rinks around the Omaha area by going ice skating! Whether you’re looking to have a wintery outdoor afternoon at the Railyard Ice Rink in Lincoln or want to enjoy a cool, indoor activity during the summer, skating is a great way to spend a couple hours. A few of our favorite spots include Grover Ice, Baxter Area, the UNMC Rink and the Ralston Arena—which all allow you to rent skates on-site for a small fee.
See the World’s Largest Ball of Stamps
While a lot of places claim to have the largest ball of rubber bands, twine and yarn—only Omaha can claim the ownership of the world’s largest ball of stamps! You can marvel at this wonderful achievement in Boys Town. Afterward, spend the day exploring the rest of this historic area including the Hall of History, the Boys Town Visitors Center and the Father Flanagan House—all for free!
Explore Everything in Old Market
The Old Market area is one of Omaha’s most popular neighborhoods for its historic charm, an abundance of shops, restaurants and businesses, and thriving residential scene. Located on the eastern edge of downtown, the area gets its name from its original development as a wholesale and retail grocery center. Today, many of these buildings remain and their first floors are the sites of art galleries, restaurants, boutiques and specialty stores, while many of the upper floors have been renovated into upscale apartments and condominiums. This year, take a day to explore everything these historic streets have to offer! Don’t know where to start? No problem—we have a complete guide to the area.
Be in Two Places At Once
The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge (more fondly known as “Bob the Bridge”) is one of Omaha’s most famous and cherished landmarks. The 3,000-foot steel structure spans the Missouri River and connects Omaha to Council Bluffs via a pedestrian walkway. And because the bridge crosses the state line that separates Nebraska from Iowa, you can claim to be standing in two places at once!
There’s always something beautiful to witness at the Lauritzen Gardens! The space is an urban oasis, allowing visitors to explore hundreds of unique plant species right in the heart of Omaha. Check out the events page to see if there is anything fun scheduled during your visit!
The Maha Music Festival is one of the biggest independent music festivals in the country, and one of the most popular annual events in the city. Every year, the event features an impressive selection of local food, drinks, games, rides and activities along with some live performances from plenty of remarkable bands. Click here to stay updated on the lineup and to get your tickets!
Get a Bloody Mary At Krug Park
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Nationally renowned Krug Park, nestled in the desirable Benson neighborhood, is one of Omaha’s greatest achievements. The bar earned the title of one of Draft Magazine’s 100 best bars in America three years in a row and is known for its impressive draft beer selection. But while you can’t go wrong with any of the beers on tap, it’s their out-of-this-world Bloody Marys that should be on the top of your bucket list this year. They offer an extensive Bloody Mary menu that includes toppings like thick-cut bacon, cheese, pickles, celery, lil’ smokies, peppers and so much more. Seasonal specials rotate often, so stop in to see what the clever mixologists have thought up lately!
See Omaha in a whole new way—from the water! May through September, you can take a ride on a Heartland Gondola. It costs $15 per person while children are free with a paying adult! And if you want to make it a more romantic outing, you can rent a private gondola and take a quiet ride throughout Conagra Lake.
Practice Yoga in the Park
Visit Midtown Crossing during the summer for an energetic blend of outdoor yoga, live music, community artists and performers. Yoga Rocks the Park is free and open to yoga enthusiasts of all levels. Plus, dogs and children are welcome!
Omaha has an incredible dining scene full of farm-to-table restaurants, tantalizing steakhouses, brunch spots and more—so why not get a taste of all of them in one convenient location? At Taste of Omaha, you can enjoy food from top-notch local restaurants along with free live performances all day long. This annual event usually happens in the middle of summer. Follow them on Facebook to keep up with the growing list of vendors and event updates.
This local favorite features over 200 acres of water, a concrete boat ramp and a wheelchair-accessible fishing pier. And if you aren’t the biggest angler, Zorinsky Lake also offers an abundance of fun outdoor activities from swimming and fishing to picnicking and biking! Interested in learning more about this stunning area? We just happen to have a complete guide!
Visit the Zoo
If you still haven’t visited one of Omaha’s most famous attractions, 2020 is the time! The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is not just another zoo. In fact, it was recently ranked as the second-best zoo in the country by USA Today! Plants, animals and unique habitats from all over the world sprawl over more than 160 acres, and it’s all available for you to explore. The interesting exhibits are probably what lands this spot on every “best of” list—when you visit the Lied Jungle, you actually feel like you’re walking through a South American rainforest. And the Desert Dome is a spectacular indoor desert spanning 84,000 square feet, and featuring plants and animal life from the Namib Desert of southern Africa, the Red Center of Australia and the Sonoran Desert of the southwestern United States.
The Joslyn Castle isn’t technically a castle at all, but rather a spectacular mansion located in the Gold Coast Historic District. The home was built by Sarah and George Joslyn, Omaha’s first millionaires and philanthropists. You can take a tour of this historic home several times throughout the week—just check out their calendar to see when they’ll be open. They also feature several fun events throughout the year including the Joslyn Castle Unlocked tour, monthly speakeasy series, and the annual Joslyn Castle Art and Literary Festival in the fall.
Fort Atkinson was the first U.S. military post west of the Missouri River. Today, much of the historic outpost has been reconstructed and is open for visitors looking to get a little taste of American history! Bring the whole family to enjoy one of the living history demonstrations, which take place throughout the summer and fall and typically includes actors playing fur traders, coopers, blacksmiths, carpenters and more. You may even witness a cannon blast.
Omaha is home to some larger-than-life art displays spread out throughout the city. The Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park consists of more than 100 individual bronze pieces that cover more than six city blocks! Each of them allows you to visualize what it must have been like to journey like a pioneer. You could spend an entire day exploring the city and hunting down these stunning structures—and you should! This year, take a day to try to locate them all; you can find a map of all of their locations here.
Lionesses dance in THE LION KING North American Tour ©disney. Photo by Deen van Meer courtesy of Orpheum Theater
Omaha’s Orpheum Theater has been around nearly a century and has recently been restored. The venue hosts nationally renowned performers, Broadway shows, local plays, concerts and more. On any day of the week, you’ll likely find something to entertain. Check the schedule and book your tickets in advance to ensure seating—some of these shows sell out fast!
Hot Shops Art Center is located just north of Old Market and contains 50 art studios, four art galleries, four anchor “Hot Shops”—including Crystal Forge, Bruning Sculpture, C.K. Fabrications and Hot Shops Pottery—and many other exhibition spaces. This center provides space for artists to work on their craft, therefore supporting the local art community. Peruse the art galleries, workspaces and even watch a demonstration or two for free. For those wanting to take something home with you, there’s always the option to purchase some of this amazing local art!
Experience Nebraska’s wild side at Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari. This unique park is located just 30 minutes outside of Omaha and houses more than 350 animals and 53 species from all over the world. You can see a selection of these species on a drive-through safari, during which you can roll your windows down, whip out the cameras, and feel like you’re in a different world!
Enjoy Oktoberfest Without Having to Go to Germany
Just because we’re not Germany, doesn’t mean we can’t be German just for a day! Every year, you can don your lederhosen and indulge in a variety of beers, brats and music. Events happen throughout Omaha during these two weeks, at the German American Society and Beer Corner USA. Check back in with the event website as September grows closer to see what events are planned for this year!
This small hotel chain (only in six cities across the US) has made a name for itself with stellar service, artfully restored historic details and modern flair. The Omaha location is situated in the former Aquila Court Building (built in 1923), which was designed to mimic the Bargello, a palace in Florence, Italy. You’re sure to feel like royalty as a guest here, as the hospitality is second to none. Enjoy made-to-order, locally sourced meals, free warm cookies from 8-10 p.m., a 24-hour fitness center, an on-site bar and so much more. Additionally, the hotel is centrally located in Omaha’s arts and entertainment district, within easy reach of Old Market, the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, the Joslyn Art Museum, the CenturyLink Center and more.
Go on an Art Walk
Artistry lives and breathes in the Greater Omaha area, which is evident in the spectacular artwork found all over the city. Not only are we home to the Joslyn Art Museum, which houses thousands of works of art from all over the world, but our area boasts incredible art galleries, art festivals and public art installations. The best way to see all of these amazing art displays is to take part in an Art Walk! Luckily, our city is home to several—many of which happen monthly. Visit our guide, Inspired Art Walks + Annual Events in the Omaha, Council Bluffs & Lincoln Area, for a full list of local art walks to take part in along with a few annual artsy events you should attend!
What will you do first?
Which of these items are on the top of your 2020 bucket list? Let us know in the comments!