Midwest Travel: Family Vacation in Omaha, NebraskaJan 06, 2014 01:33PM ● By Julie Henning
Once a site of warehouses and packing plants, the historic Old Market is now a vibrant shopping, dining, and entertainment destination. If you bring the kids, make sure to enjoy an ice cream cone at Ted & Wally's or a "real" Cherry Coke at Hollywood Candy just across the street. Adults will enjoy a trip down memory lane (think candy cigarette's and Atomic Fireballs), while the bright lights and shiny things will add to the sugar-induced over stimulation.
Hopefully you don't need to take a ride in the hot pink Candy Rescue ambulance! (Hint: If you do visit the Old Market, bring spare change as you'll need to either feed the parking meters or find a spot in a paid parking lot.)
Nebraska’s most visited attraction, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is home to thousands of animals and 130 acres of exhibits and gardens. Zoo highlights include the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium, the Desert Dome (the world's largest indoor desert housed above the world's largest nocturnal exhibit, Kingdoms of the Night), and a trip through the rainforest in the Lied Jungle.
Housing an impressive collection of military aircraft and artifacts in a combined 300,000 square feet of space, the Strategic Air and Space Museum in nearby Ashland, Nebraska is a popular destination for students, teachers, and tourists interested in aviation. For more information on the Strategic Air and Space Museum, listen to this episode of the Midwest Travel Podcast.
Encompassing a botanical gardens and arboretum on 100 acres, Lauritzen Gardens is enjoyed by visitors all year-round. With plans for expansion in 2014, current exhibits range from a Children’s Garden to a Japanese Garden and traditional Victorian and Rose Gardens (until the expansion, Lauritzen Gardens may be better enjoyed in the warmer months). If you visit Lauritzen Gardens and also enjoy trains, make sure to visit Kenefick Park (park in the same parking lot and look for steps leading to the top of the bluff) and marvel at two of the greatest locomotives to ever power the Union Pacific Railroad. "On grand display are Centennial No. 6900—the largest and most powerful diesel-electric locomotive ever buil— and Big Boy No. 4023, the world's largest steam locomotive."
Omaha’s original Union Station, the Durham Museum features the restored art-deco craftsmanship of the train depot instrumental to our country’s expansion in the 1930s.
Nebraska Crossings is Omaha’s newest high-end shopping mall. If you go, make sure and pop in to Cuppy Cakes for coffee and a delicious treat.
Considered Omaha’s first suburb, the historic Dundee Neighborhood is known for a resurgence of restaurants serving local food and libations. Featuring independent shopping with an eclectic flair, a visit to 50th and Underwood is better suited to families with older kids (if you have teenage girls, a visit to Scout Dry Goods & Trade for some vintage clothes shopping).
If you need to spend the night, families with younger children might want to consider making a reservation in the same building as the CoCo Key Water Resort; the Ramada Plaza Hotel in South Central Omaha. Families interested in a location more convenient to the attractions, restaurants and city life of downtown Omaha might want to consider the Embassy Suites Downtown Omaha location (offering a pool, evening reception, and cooked-to-order breakfast that sets Embassy Suites apart from the traditional "continental" meal).
On the outskirts of town is Boys Town (a former orphanage founded during the Great Depression and operated with a mission to instill a sense of social responsibility in orphan boys) as well as Mahoney State Park (for all the campers and outdoor enthusiasts).
For more information on planning a trip to Omaha, make sure and consult the Visit Omaha website.