Staycation 2012: Enjoying Omaha on a Budget

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After the suc­cess of the 2011 Stay­ca­tions series, a group of blog­gers have teamed up again to bring you more great budget-friendly, family fun ideas for this sum­mer! Just like last year at this time, gas prices still seem to be rather high (over $4/gallon in some places). So, once again, many fam­i­lies will be look­ing for ways to save money on vaca­tions or may even find them­selves stay­ing closer to home this summer. I covered Omaha in the Staycation series last year & am thrilled to do it again!

If you didn’t know from reading Mom Endeavors previously or from all my college football posts (Go Big Red!), Mr.“Mr. Mom Endeav­ors” and I are col­lege sweethearts–we met at the Uni­ver­sity of Nebraska.

He grew up in Omaha and his par­ents still live there. So, although we live in the Phoenix area now, we’re rather famil­iar with (and quite fond of) the largest city in Nebraska! We go back at least once each year & now especially with the little guys, we always enjoy finding budget-friendly, family fun things to do! So, whether you’re local to the Omaha area (or will be vis­it­ing some­time in the near future, like us), here’s a high­light of some of the great things to check out this summer:


Special Summer Events

  • Omaha Summer Arts Festival: June 8th – 10th in downtown Omaha (from 10th to 15th on Farnam Street). This annual event features artists from around the United States, restaurants from around Omaha, a festival and live concerts!
  • 88th Annual Santa Lucia Festival: June 7th – 10th.  The free celebration features Italian food, rides and a parade!
  • NCAA Men’s College World Series Opening Celebration Day – The free Opening Celebration Day includes team autograph sessions, team batting practice, Opening Ceremonies and fireworks.
  • USA Olympic Swim Trials: June 25th -July 2nd. This is by no means free and not even close to the most budget-friendly option. But, I HAD to mention it! Mr. Mom Endeavors and I had the pleasure of attending in 2008 and it was AWESOME!! We ended up going on a fabulous night and got to see SO many great names in swimming–Amanda Beard, Dara Torres, Natalie Coughlin, Aaron Piersol, Ryan Lochte, and of course, Michael Phelps. It was extra exciting as we watched Michael Phelps set a new world record, Aaron Piersol tie a world record, and Dara Torres become the oldest woman to qualify for an Olympic swimming competition! I was on swim team for years growing up, so was really excited to go. So, if you’re looking for something unique to do & love the Olympics, I highly recommend splurging a bit on this!!
  • Omaha Jazz & Blues Festival: July 13th & 14th at the Omaha Riverfront. This weekend long event features jazz and blues artists from around the United States and features food, fun and entertainment for the whole family!
  • Railroad Days: July 14th & 15th.  For just $15, families can hop on a trolley that takes them to railroad themed attractions like the Durham Museum, the UP Railroad Museum, and the Historic General Dodge House.
  • Playing With Fire:  another jazz and blues festival held on July 28th at the Lewis & Clark Landing.
  • The Maha Music Festival: Omaha’s indie rock festival held on August 11th at Aksarben Village, featuring a variety of alternative rock & indie bands like Garbage and Desaparecidos!
  • Riverfront Wine Festival: August 24th & 25th on the Omaha Riverfront.  This event includes fabulous wines and beers, along with excellent food in a beautiful setting.

Favorite Places & Special Exhibits:

 The Durham Museum – The newest exhibit is “Mindbender Mansion”,  running from May 26th to September 2nd.  Mindbender Mansion is an eclectic place full of brainteasers and interactive challenges guaranteed to test the brain power and problem solving skills of even the most experienced puzzlers.

The Joslyn Museum – Omaha’s fabulous Art Museum! The Joslyn has free admission every Saturday from 10 am – noon!

The Omaha Children’s Museum – we took Big Brother there for the first time last fall and he loved it! A definite must-do with kids!

For added fun there, from May 26th to September 9th, the Omaha Children’s Museum hosts The Wonderful Wizard of Oz! In this exhibit, you’ll get to follow the yellow brick road to 10,000 square feet of Oz fun including the glimmering Emerald City, Tornado Twister, Glinda’s Bubble Magic, a Fantastical Farm and much more!!

Henry Doorly Zoo

This is our personal Omaha favorite–WELL worth the cost of admission! It is consistently rated one of the top zoos in the country. And, from my personal zoo-going experience, it’s on par with the World Famous San Diego Zoo (and some special things–like the aquarium, rainforest, and desert dome, actually beat out San Diego). Yes, it’s really THAT good!! 🙂

For some added zoo fun this summer, you can check out Moo at the Zoo. It’s a fun-filled country and agriculture themed event on June 30 and July 1, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Get up close and personal with different species of dairy cows, join in the watermelon and pie eating contests, plus enjoy games, live music and much more.  This event is free to members or with the cost of general admission.

Outdoor Activities

If it’s not too hot nor humid out, sum­mer is prime time to enjoy the many state parks and out­door recre­ation facil­i­ties around Nebraska! Whether it’s hik­ing, camp­ing, fish­ing, boat­ing, or just a nice pic­nic, there are numer­ous possibilities–many of them FREE or very inexpensive!

In Omaha:

Some of my husband’s favorites are Zorin­sky Lake and Wehrspann Lake/Chalco Hills. Grow­ing up, he spent many hours bik­ing, fish­ing, and play­ing soc­cer in these areas. There are also play­grounds and now Zorin­sky has an aquat­ics area!

There are many things to enjoy in the downtown Omaha area as well (in addition to some of the special events listed above). You can find a lot of great things (& great food) to check out in the Old Mar­ket.  And, while you’re down in that gen­eral area, you can have some fun at Heart­land of Amer­ica Park, Lewis & Clark Land­ing, or take a stroll along Gene Leahy Mall and slide down the slides!

This year, the Omaha Downtown Improvement District (DID) has kicked off a whole season of summer events & free activities! Activities will be held from 5:30-6:30 p.m., Mondays-Thursdays during the months of May, June, August and September at 14th & Farnam Streets. Click here for more information & a downloadable calendar.
Near Omaha:
There are quite numerous along the Platte River that are great for fam­ily fun. Some of our favorites are Platte River State Park and Mahoney State Park (both located between Lin­coln & Omaha).
A lit­tle further…

If you’re look­ing for some­thing a lit­tle far­ther from home, but still within a cou­ple hours of Omaha, Ponca State Park and Indian Cave State Park are great options. These options take you closer to Nebraska City where you could also stop by and check out Arbor Day Farm, Lied Lodge, and/or Arbor Lodge State His­tor­i­cal Park & Arboretum.

General Omaha Information:

The Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau website is You can download an Omaha Visitors Guide and map here. Plus, the site is smart phone enabled, so if you just check it out from your phone, a mobile app will appear complete with restaurants, hotels, and special offers.

And, speaking of special offers, if you’d like to score some discounts to some of the places listed (and many more), here’s a chance to WIN IT!!!


THREE (3) lucky Mom Endeavors’ readers will win an Omaha Adventure Coupon book, with more than $50 worth of savings inside!


Congratulations to lucky comments #2, #5, & #9!!! Cat, Cody, & Jen–hope you enjoy some fun in Omaha! 🙂

To Enter: Closed!

1. Just leave a com­ment telling me your favorite place(s) in Omaha (or what you are most excited to see if you’ll be visiting)!

Get extra entries (leave a sep­a­rate com­ment for each)

2. Share about this give­away on the social media chan­nel of your choice, then leave a link to your “share” in the comments.

3. Fol­low @Momendeavors on Twitter.

4. Fol­low @VisitOmaha on Twitter.

*If you’re not already a fan, be sure to like Mom Endeav­ors & Visit Omaha on Facebook!

(up to 4 entries per per­son): Give­away will end on June 11th at 10pm PST. Win­ner with a valid entry will be selected at ran­dom using and be noti­fied via email (win­ner will also be posted on this post). They will have 48 hours to claim their prize before a new win­ner is selected. Open to U.S. Res­i­dents, 18 years and older.

Dis­clo­sure: I received a com­pli­men­tary copy of the coupon book for the pur­poses of review. All opin­ions are my own.

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I’m Sara, a mom to three adorable boys living in the Arizona desert. As a former teacher, I love sharing my passions with others. So, have a look around for creative inspiration about cooking, creating, celebrating, traveling with kids, and more everyday mom endeavors!


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25 Responses

  1. This is awesome! We have lived in Bellevue NE for almost 9 years now and this may be our last summer here so I wanted to see all the things we have put off so this list is just what I needed!!
    Oh and we LOVE the Zoo!

  2. Thank You for the great Omaha vacation idea list. Living on the east side of IA and often traveling west we have stopped in Omaha many times. ALWAYS at the Henry Doorly Zoo, LOVE that zoo! 🙂

  3. We used to live in Omaha, but now live a couple hours away. Hopefully we’ll take the kids there this summer…we love the zoo! I think this might be the first year we’ll check out the Children’s Museum – with a 2 year old and a 4 year old, it will be fun!

  4. I’m super excited for all of the concerts that take place in the Big O! Jazz on the Green, Playing with Fire, Memorial Park, you name it, we’ve got it!

  5. I agree. Zorinsky Lake is beautiful! I run around it as much as possible!!! One of my favorite places in Omaha!

  6. Omaha is an awe­some city and has so many budget-friendly things to do! I love your exten­sive list for a visit here. I recently started a blog on free and inex­pen­sive fam­ily friendly activ­i­ties and events in Omaha and I invite you to check it out the next time you visit Omaha or to plan your next Staycation!

        1. I was replying to the post above mine – Julie @ the Spirit of Saving because she said she had started a blog about events in the Omaha area. Do you have her blog address? Can you forward my request to her? Thanks!

          1. Ha! Sorry, Noelle! I saw it in my email and didn’t realize what the reply was too. Usually on blog comments, people’s names are linked to their website (if they have one). So, you can just click on her name & it will take you straight to her site! :)

  7. My family and I are coming to Omaha next week for vacation! We are so super excited! we are doing the zoo, going to a Stormchasers game and checking out some other things. Does anyone know where we can find some coupons? also, where are some must eat at places? Thanks!!

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