Omaha offers plenty of family-friendly entertainment, whether one wants to view works by renowned artists, walk through Fontenelle Forest or see a performance at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
Deborah Ward, director of marketing and communications at the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Omaha has become a great place for family entertainment.
“Omaha enjoys a constantly evolving entertainment scene, which continues to grow and provide distinct experiences for visitors,” she said.
“For example, Midtown Crossing’s impact has completely transformed the city’s landscape and revitalized the area into an entertainment hot spot.
“Omaha’s Benson neighborhood, with ... new restaurant offerings makes this area one of Omaha’s newest nightlife attractions,” Ward said. “Dundee, with eCreamery, Pitch, Dario’s, Marks and other foodie fun spots, makes it another great place where visitors can enjoy a uniquely Omaha experience. And Omaha’s North Downtown entertainment scene continues to grow since the addition of TD Ameritrade Park and the Saddle Creek development (Slowdown, Film Steams, etc.).”
Here’s a selected list of venues.
These places are the ones people talk about across the nation and around the world.
Joslyn Art Museum
2200 Dodge St.
This pink marble Art Deco building, which opened in 1931, holds a permanent collection of nearly 20 galleries with ancient pottery and other treasures, including European art ranging from the Renaissance to Impressionism, American art from the 18th to 20th centuries and contemporary art. Admission is free.
801 S. 10th St.
The Durham Museum is in another art deco building, the former Union Station, and features permanent exhibits explaining Omaha history. Traveling exhibitions rotate every few months and feature a variety of topics, from “1968” to “Into the Wild Blue: Omaha Aviation History in Photographs.”
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
3701 S. 10th St.
Kids of all ages love this world-renowned zoo, which features animals from large cats (including a group of lion cubs born last spring), to reptiles and butterflies.
The zoo also includes the Desert Dome, Lied Jungle, Expedition Madagascar, Simmons Aviary, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Pavilion, Hubbard Gorilla Valley, Kingdoms of the Night and much more. The Lozier IMAX Theater shows nature documentaries and other films.
100 Bancroft St.
Lauritzen Gardens features botanical exhibitions, from orchid displays in the early spring to the annual poinsettia show. The Spring Flower Show and the Sweet Corn Festival in August are among special events that provide even more fun.
Omaha Children’s Museum
500 S. 20th St.
Bring the youngsters to this museum for hours of age-appropriate fun. The museum contains a permanent playground with a child-sized firehouse, grocery store, a two-story play farmhouse and a Wiggle Room for children under age 3. Other permanent exhibits include Zooland and a science and technology center. Traveling exhibits have focused on bugs, dinosaurs and things that go.
The Old Market
10th to 14th Streets from Farnam to Leavenworth
Take a leisurely walk, and shop or dine in this historic district, a former fruit-and-vegetable market. In the summer and fall, people flock to the Saturday farmers market. During the Christmas season, Dickens in the Market delights people young and old. Shops range from candy stores to record shops, plus restaurant options from quick service to fine dining.
Omaha’s theatrical scene thrives through the annual Shakespeare on the Green festival, “A Christmas Carol” at Omaha Community Playhouse, productions at smaller community theaters and more.
409 S. 16th St.
This grand, Rococo-inspired theater brings in touring Broadway musicals. Big hits for 2014 include “Sister Act” and the return of “Wicked.”
Omaha Community Playhouse
6915 Cass St.
America’s largest community theater produces musicals and dramas for all ages. The current season includes everything from the fun “Young Frankenstein” to the more serious “Race.”
2001 Farnam St.
This professional children’s theater is nationally known for original and familiar productions.
Blue Barn Theatre
614 S. 11th St.
Contemporary, professionally produced plays are staged in this space, which is situated downtown.
Shakespeare on the Green
Elmwood Park, 60th and Dodge Streets
This nonprofit professional theater production delights families each summer on the “green” near the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Running one comedy and one tragedy in repertoire, the series celebrates its 28th season in 2014.
Along with Joslyn, Omaha boasts several other family-friendly art galleries.
Artists’ Cooperative Gallery
405 S. 11th St.
This gallery is managed by members and features art in all mediums. Exhibits rotate frequently.
Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
724 S. 12th St.
International artist in residency programs and art talks are featured in this space, along with edgy exhibits.
El Museo Latino
4701 S. 25th St.
Omaha is home to the first Latino art and history museum in the Midwest, which features exhibits from Latino artists in a variety of mediums, along with lectures, classes and demonstrations.
Hot Shops Art Center
1301 Nicholas St.
Omaha’s current hot spot features art from glass to pottery to welded sculpture. The area also houses the workspace of nearly 70 studio artists.
1111 Jones St.
Art, science and philosophy are the highlights of this nonprofit art space, established by internationally known artist Jun Kaneko.
Kent Bellows Studio and Center for the Visual Arts
3303 Leavenworth St.
Guests can view exhibits, and young people can discover their creative side at this venue through mentorship with professional artists.
Even in winter, there’s plenty to experience, explore — and enjoy.
Desoto National Wildlife Refuge
1434 316th Lane, Missouri Valley, Iowa
This 8,326-acre refuge includes a lake, woods, wetlands and grasslands. The area is a go-to spot for bird-watching during migrations. The refuge also includes nature trails, biking trails, fishing and picnic facilities. A popular feature is the visitor center, which features an exhibit of artifacts from the Bertrand, a steamboat that sank north of Omaha in 1865 and was unearthed in the late 1960s.
1111 Bellevue Blvd. North, Bellevue
This national landmark features 1,400 acres of woodlands and 19 miles of trails. The Katherine and Fred Buffett Forest Learning Center is open to the public.
Hitchcock Nature Center
22792 Ski Hill Loop, Honey Creek Iowa
This center includes 22 acres of campsites, a playground, an archery range and skiing/snowshoeing trails. The Loess Hills Lodge Interpretation Center features interactive exhibits and a children’s area.
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Visitor Center
601 Riverfront Drive
Situated at Lewis & Clark Landing in downtown Omaha, this center teaches visitors about the Lewis and Clark expedition, which passed through this area.
Mormon Trail Center
3215 State St.
The visitor center commemorates the difficult circumstances the Mormon community faced while living in this area during the winter of 1846-47. Features a full-size log cabin and a covered wagon.