Thursday, January 5, 2017

Beckees Top Five Omaha Places to hang with the family

As I mentioned in this post, I often wonder where the locals really hang out in the places I visit (or when I move to a new place). So, I am going to share my top five local hang out spots from the places I have lived. 

First Up: Omaha

My family lived in Omaha twice. Once for 4 years while my husband attended medical school (from 2003-2007), then we moved to Spokane, WA for a year before moving BACK to Omaha for another 4 years while my husband was in a radiology residency. So, we spent a total of 8 years in Omaha. 
BUT last lived there in 2012. So I am CERTAIN there are new places that are locals hangouts. I tried to pick the places I loved when I was there that I think are timeless! :) 
And again, I just want to emphasize that this is my personal top 5 faves in Omaha for places to hang out with a family. The list would look different if I was listing fave adult hang outs obviously! 
Without any further ado, here are my top five Omaha places to hang with your family (In no particular order).
1. Lake Zorinsky park and pool

What is it? Lake Zorinsky is a Lake surrounded by trails, a couple playgrounds, and an aquatic center. There are also soccer fields, basketball hoops, and lots of areas to explore.

My Experience with it: When we lived in Omaha during medical school we lived kind of in midtown, but during residency we lived in West Omaha near Lake Zorinsky. It was SO nice to live right where we could walk to this park and pool! But even before we lived near it, we would drive over to walk or play there. And the Pool opened when we were living nearby during residency which made the whole area even more awesome for us!

Where is it? 3808 S 156th St, Omaha, NE 68130

What can you do there and what does it cost?  
  • Walk, run or ride (non motorized) the 7.9 mile trail around the lake. FREE
  • Take the kids to one of the parks. Bring a picnic!  FREE
  • Bring a soccer ball or basketball and play a game (In winter, dress warm and build a snowman or have a snowball fight). FREE
  • During the summer season you can swim at the Zorinsky Aquatic center (See fee schedule here) You will see on the fee schedule at the link above that as of today (1/5/2017) the cost is $4-5 for a day pass per person (except kids 2 and under are free), or you can get a  $175 Family Pass (2 or fewer adults, 6 total) + $20 for each extra child. We literally lived a few blocks away, so we wanted to be able to go to the pool every day. Plus I have 5 kids. At the time one of them was under 2, so we bought the $175 family pass. (If you do the math, it would cost us $10 per day for the 2 adults plus $16 per day for the 4 kids over 2. That is $26 per day. So, If I was going to the pool 7+ times, which I was, then the pass was totally worth it!) 
Click here for my review of it on Trip Advisor

2. Henry Doorly Zoo & Wildlife Safari

What is it? OK, so this is two different places. The Henry Doorly Zoo (which is probably the number one tourist attraction people would recommend for families in Omaha) and the other is the Lee G Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari (which is technically in Ashland). I am including them both because the Zoo is kind of the big show and the think you should not miss as a tourist. It is also a place that locals with kids (especially stay at home parents) really do hang out. But I am including the Wildlife Safari because it is my favorite! And when we were there, the two were connected so you could get into the Wildlife Safari for really inexpensively if you were a zoo member. 
My Experience with it:  As mentioned, I love the wildlife safari. My husband does too, but honestly, the zoo was my husbands favorite! If he was the stay at home parent I bet he would have been there daily even though it was a bit of a drive.
Where are they? Henry Doorly Zoo is at 3701 S. 10th Street Omaha, NE 68107. Wildlife Safari Park is located off Nebraska’s I-80, Exit 426. 16406 N. 292 Street, Ashland, NE 68003

What can you do there and what does it cost?
  • Zoo: There is SO much to do and a lot of it is indoors, so you can absolutely go year round. There is a jungle area, a desert dome, and tons of other exhibits.  My favorite is to see the baby animals in the nursery area. Besides the animal exhibits, there are also a few rides/attractions, and an IMAX theater. So, here's the rub though-they all cost $$$. The zoo is not cheap for a daily pass, and you pay extra for rides, movies, etc. So, plan ahead. The zoo has a great site that can help you plan your day and see all the prices. When I lived in Omaha, I bought an annual pass each year and we always used it more than enough to make it worth our while! Daily admission fees are posted here and membership options (which I highly recommend if you will be there more than once or twice) are here
  • Wildlife Safari Park: Here you get to drive through where the animals live! I love it! But you need to know that it is only open for the summer season. Prices are listed here. Note that if you have a Zoo membership, you can add on a membership to the wildlife park at a discounted rate (making it $45 instead of $55), or you can pay the daily price if you'll just be there one day. Make sure you bring your camera to this one!!!

3. Omaha Children's Museum
What is it? Exactly what it says it is-a Children's museum. It has a farm area, grocery store, ball/science area, art area, traveling exhibits and more. It is hands on and is basically a big indoor discovery center that is a God-send in the middle of a cold, snowy Nebraska winter! 
My Experience with it: As soon as I discovered the Children's museum I wanted a membership! If you have young kids, especially preschool age, so not miss this! Seriously! Even older kids will have fun here, but it is PERFECTION for the kids from like 2-10. We spent a lot of time here when we lived in Omaha and even took advantage of some of their special programs (my oldest daughter got to meet an astronaut for a special program!) I love it.
Where is it? 500 S 20th St, Omaha, NE 68102

What can you do there and what does it cost? Tons of activities for kids including a farm area, grocery store, ball/science area, art area, traveling exhibits and more. As with the Zoo, you can pay a daily use fee OR you can join as a member. We always had a membership when we lived there. Admission, which includes special exhibits, is Free for Members and kind under 24 months, $12 for Adults and Kids, $11 for Seniors. Membership Prices are listed here. Just an FYI, when we lived there we would get the Family Membership (currently listed as $119/year) and we'd get the add 2 guests add on since we often had friends or family visiting that would come with us. 
4. Elmwood Park

What is it? A park. It has a big playground, huge fields/grassy areas, and a pool open during the summer.
My Experience with it: I met friends here and we'd let our kids play all the time. It is a nice big park, somewhat centrally located where kids can run and play! In winter, dress warm and plan to play in the snow! 

Where is it? 802 S 60th St

What can you do there and what does it cost? I only did the FREE things here-play on the playground, on the baseball fields, grassy areas, etc. But there is an outdoor pool open during the summer that is not free.  
5. Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

What is it? It is a Pedestrian bridge where you can walk from Nebraska to Iowa (or the other was around) over the Missouri river. Bob (the bridge) is basically awesome. 
My Experience with it: We would drive to the Omaha side of the bridge often for family walks. Not only is it family friendly, it is also some of the most breathtaking views you can get! 
Where is it? 705 Riverfront Dr Omaha, NE 68102

What can you do there and what does it cost? FREE. It is free-go for a walk or ride and just enjoy!! Walk it at sunset. You won't regret it. Bring a camera and get the famous picture of you standing in 2 states! Oh also, in the Omaha plaza (on the Nebraska side) there is a spray ground that is guaranteed to by full of frolicking kids during the hot summer days and the Iowa side has a fun park to play at as well. Lots for the family to do here! P.S. Here's Bob's website to check out.

Bonus Ideas:

Those are my top 5 hang out areas for a family in Omaha, but there are a few honorable mentions to look into if you are headed to Omaha anytime soon.
First, If you are going to Omaha in September/October, DO NOT miss Valas Pumpkin Patch, the Disneyland of Pumpkin Patches! See my review of it on TripAdvisor here. 
Here are my other honorable mentions: