Top Things to Do on a Budget in Omaha
A $300 million revitalization is transforming Omaha's downtown along the Missouri River into an area called The RiverFront, encompassing three downtown parks: Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park and Lewis and Clark Landing. Gene Leahy Mall reopened in July 2022 with a performance pavilion, sculpture garden, dog park, playground and other features; the other two spaces are expected to reopen in 2023.
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.
Related: Top Things to Do in Omaha
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. Special events include a seasonal farmers market on Saturday mornings.
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, sign up for classes, or find-or make-one-of-a-kind souvenirs to take home.
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. Free admission.
St. Cecilia Cathedral
Gawk at St. Cecilia Cathedral's architecture, stained-glass windows and the stunning Martin Pasi Opus 14 pipe organ during free guided tours of the 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.
Lewis and Clark heritage
The Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled through Omaha in the early 1800s. Check out interpretive exhibits on the famous explorers at Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Visitor Center. Another site, Lewis and Clark Landing, is expected to re-open in 2023.
Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
In the Old Market, see free exhibits, events and performances; check the Bemis Center's website for the current schedule.
First National Spirit of Nebraska's Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park
Sculptures in Omaha's central business district pay tribute to pioneer spirit with larger-than-life figures that visitors are encouraged to interact with—and imagine what it was like to embark on the long journey to the West.
Two of Union Pacific Railroad's most powerful locomotives stand on display on Bancroft Street, close to Interstate 80, with interpretive signage, plazas and seating areas. Free.
Joslyn Art Museum
Closed for construction and renovation until 2024. 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.