Omaha skyline
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

9 Free Things to Do Around Omaha

No misery by the Missouri.

Let’s face it: while Omaha may not be the first thought which comes to mind for a vacation destination, you might be surprised at what you might find in the largest city in the state of Nebraska. Consider partaking in at least some of these 9 things to do around Omaha.

9 Free Things to Do Around Omaha

Important to note is that the greater Omaha metropolitan area includes Council Bluffs and Carter Lake in Iowa as well as the city itself. Everything is not that far from each other if you have a motor vehicle available to you.

This list starts in Council Bluffs and works its way through Omaha. Admission is free of charge to every place of interest.

1. Golden Spike Monument

Golden Spike Monument
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Approximately 100 times the size of a typical spike used on railroad tracks, the Golden Spike Monument is 56 feet tall and commemorates when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869 at the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad. The monument was built in 1939 — 70 years after the Golden Spike ceremony — for the release of Union Pacific, which is a movie directed by Cecil B. DeMille.

Parking is available at no charge in a small parking lot near the monument.

2. Union Pacific Railroad Museum

Union Pacific Railroad Museum
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

If you are rail-ly into trains, you are on the right track when visiting the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, which should tie-d you over. Interactive exhibits and memorabilia from greater than a century will keep you fascinated for hours. Activate the toy train to barrel down the track above you as you peruse at your own pace in this historic building.

3. Lewis and Clark Monument Park

Lewis and Clark Monument Park
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark gathered atop a bluff in 1804 as they explored the newly-purchased Louisiana Territory. Approximately 35 acres was set aside in 1936 to create the Lewis and Clark Memorial Park. Enjoy views of the skyline of Omaha and Eppley Airfield from atop this very same bluff today.

4. Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Named for the former governor of Nebraska, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is the first pedestrian bridge to connect two states. Cross the Missouri River at your leisure. This unusual bridge — whose nickname is Bob — even has a blue troll named Omar “living” underneath it.

5. Gene Leahy Mall at the River Front

Gene Leahy Mall
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Located on the River Front in downtown Omaha, Gene Leahy Mall has fun activities for everyone. Relax in one of several hammocks as the children enjoy a colorful playground. Walk along the tranquil lagoon. Warm up as you sit by one of several fire pits. Kids of all ages can slide down a small hill or swing with a companion. Or, simply take in some people-watching as you munch on a snack from a nearby vendor.

6. Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens

Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Located in a quiet neighborhood in Omaha, visit the birthplace of Gerald Rudolph Ford, Junior and learn more about the 38th president of the United States at the Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens. For example, did you know that the former member of the House of Representatives from Michigan was born with the name Leslie Lynch King Junior?

7. Boys Town

Boys Town
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Father Edward J. Flanagan had a unique vision to which he devoted much of his life: Boys Town was created to help young troubled boys who needed love, attention, and care. A movie was even created about his mission, which has since expanded to include girls as well. Countless dreams have since come true and better futures have been realized. Do not miss visiting the Hall of History, which contains interesting exhibits that document the history and progress of what is now a municipality.

8. Omaha Public Power District Arboretum

Omaha Public Power District Arboretum
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Locating an arboretum next to an electrical power grid might seem bizarre — until you realize that the Omaha Public Power District Arboretum is named after the electric power utility. Explore different types of trees and shrubs — and especially learn to conserve energy with them — as you wander along meandering landscaped paths.

9. Drive on Lincoln Highway — Paved With Brick

Lincoln Highway
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

Drive approximately three miles on one of the earliest paved sections of historic Lincoln Highway, surfaced with restored red clay bricks. Concrete markers and stripes painted red, white, and blue on poles indicate the path of one of the earliest marked highways across the United States.


Blatt Beer & Table
Photograph ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

You are bound to work up an appetite after visiting the aforementioned sites. Unfortunately, the food at restaurants is not offered free of charge — but any of the following choices should be satisfying: try the Neptune Avocado at Caddy’s Kitchen & Cocktails or the Brussels Sprouts with roasted tomato, honey mustard, parmesan cheese, and parsley at Blatt Beer & Table. If you are in the mood for a good midwestern steak — after all, Omaha is in the midwestern United States — consider either the wood-fired filet mignon at J. Gilbert’s; or the whiskey rib eye at The Drover.

Final Boarding Call

The greater Omaha metropolitan area offers more to see and do than you might think. Take in as much as you can.

All photographs ©2023 by Brian Cohen.

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