Top 10 Things to Do on a Budget in Omaha
With cheap eats, a free art museum, spacious parks and vibrant historical areas, Omaha makes a fun and affordable Midwest weekend getaway.
1) Joslyn Art Museum Nebraska's premiere art museum wows with gorgeous Art Deco architecture and an exterior of 38 kinds of marble from around the world. Inside, the 11,000-piece permanent collection includes Greek pottery, Impressionist master works, 20th-century paintings and modern art. Scavenger hunt-style activities and tips fill backpacks for kid fun, and the outdoor sculpture gardens are a don't-miss. Best of all, general admission is free. joslyn.org
2) The Old Market Set aside a few hours to check out this arts and entertainment destination, with cobblestone streets and dozens of shops, studios and restaurants. If you time your trip for the first Friday of the month, browse new shows at art galleries and catch a free ride on Ollie the Trolley; street musicians, sidewalk artists and horse-drawn carriage rides round out the First Friday scene. oldmarket.com
3) Boys Town The Rev. Edward Joseph Flanagan established an Omaha home for wayward boys in 1917 to encourage and guide them to lead productive lives. Through the 1920s and 1930s, his project grew into a village, encompassing a school, administration buildings and even its own government. The Boys Town campus has since been declared a National Historic Landmark District; today, the Hall of History, a visitors center and the Father Flanagan House offer an inspiring look at the difference one person can make in the lives of so many. Attractions are free; small donation suggested for tours. boystown.org
4) Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Named for a former Nebraska senator, this curved cable bridge connects Omaha and Council Bluffs, Iowa. Walkers, runners and bikers get stunning views of the downtown skyline and the Missouri River that flows 60 feet beneath (bring your camera for a photo op). If the 3,000 feet across aren't enough for you, the bridge also links to 150 miles of trails on dry land. visitomaha.com
5) Hot Shops Art Center Once a mattress factory, the brick building that anchors the NoDo (North Downtown) district is now home to more than 50 studios, showrooms and galleries. The center has several "hot shops" with high-temp furnaces, ovens, kilns and a foundry that artists use to turn out ceramics, glass and ironwork. Visitors can watch blacksmithing, glassblowing, bronze casting and other creative pursuits, then find-or make-one-of-a-kind souvenirs to take home. hotshopsartcenter.com
6) Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters Learn about the difficulties Mormons encountered during their westward migration in the mid-1800s. Exhibits include a full-size log cabin, a covered wagon, artifacts and a handcart you can try to pull. lds.org/locations/mormon-trail-center-at-historic-winter-quarters
7) Heartland of America Park The walking path, pretty lagoon, and World War II and Heartland Memorial monuments at this city park are fine to visit any time of year, but the showstopper is the fountain, which puts on flashy water and light shows several times a day between May and October. Gondola rides around the 15-acre lake are an added draw during summer visits. visitomaha.com
8) Over Easy A wall-size jigsaw puzzle of scrap barnwood covers any evidence that Over Easy used to be the home of a Blimpie sub shop. Ingredients sourced from area farms, gardens and dairies flavor custardy pancakes served in skillets with homemade jam and the bread pudding-like cranberry-almond French toast. In a hurry? Grab a buttery homemade Pop-Tart for under $4 at the drive-through. overeasyomaha.com
9) St. Cecilia Cathedral Gawk at its architecture, stained-glass windows and the stunning Martin Pasi Opus 14 pipe organ during guided tours of this Spanish Renaissance-style cathedral. Built in 1905 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, St. Cecilia hosts a glorious flower festival each January that fills the church with fresh blooms and fragrance. stceciliacathedral.org
10) Lewis and Clark heritage Omaha's 23-acre Riverfront Park marks the landing site of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 1800s.Check out interpretive exhibits on the famous explorers at Lewis and Clark Landing (visitomaha.com) and Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Visitor Center (nps.gov/lecl).