10 Fun Things to do in Omaha in the Winter

Are you looking for fun and unique things to do in Omaha in the winter? You’ve come to the right place!

The largest city in Nebraska, Omaha is often overlooked by tourists and regarded as a “stopover destination” by many. However, it’s home to many amazing sites including one of the world’s best zoos, a thriving food scene (hello, Reuben sandwiches!), and plenty of unique museums and attractions.

In fact, the city’s abundance of family-friendly activities and laid-back environment has made it one of the nation’s fastest growing cities.

Read below to learn more about 10 fun things to do in Omaha in the winter, and why it’s one of the top 10 cities in America!

Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with Visit Omaha. It may contain affiliate links that I make a small commission from if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. All recommendations and opinions within this post are my own and are based on first-hand experiences. 


1. Unwind at the Lauritzen Gardens

One of the most beautiful and peaceful places in Omaha are the Lauritzen Gardens. This educational living museum and botanical garden is a stunning display of four-season plants that are maintained through the highest level of eco friendly practices.

This 100-acre indoor-outdoor urban sanctuary is a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Omaha. You’ll take in sweeping views of beautiful riverfront hills while you learn about hundreds of species of flora and fauna. These species include orchids, water lilies, and The Goldenrod (the Nebraska state flower).

If you’re visiting during the winter months, don’t let the colder temperatures deter you from exploring the outdoor exhibits. There are fire pits with plenty of lounge chairs around them to warm up!

Lauritzen Gardens Omaha

The Conagra Cafe at Lauritzen Gardens

After exploring the gardens, head to the beautiful glass-enclosed Conagra Café that overlooks the floral display hall. Choose from freshly prepared deli and hot sandwiches, soup, salads, smoothies, and coffees for a light snack or lunch.

The Lauritzen Gardens are open from 9am to 5pm daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The cost of a ticket is $15 for adults, $9 for children ages 3-12, and free for children 2 and under.

2. Visit the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Consistently ranked one of the world’s best zoos, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (“The Omaha Zoo”) is one of the best things you can do in Omaha in the winter. This interactive zoo and biological park leads the nation for its conservation efforts in saving and protecting species around the world.

What You’ll Find at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

The Omaha Zoo is 160-acres (7 acres of indoor exhibits) of family-friendly, travel-worthy experiences and exhibits.  You can explore the Desert Dome, the world’s largest indoor desert, stroll through North America’s largest indoor rainforest (the Lied Jungle), and view thousands of unique animals in their natural habitats.

The Omaha Zoo is home to more than 35,000 animals. Some animals you might encounter during a visit there include gorillas, alligators, Atlantic Puffins, African Lions, African Bush Elephants, Cheetahs, Red Pandas, and Snow Leopards!

The Desert Dome

What has undoubtedly become a landmark of Omaha, the geodesic dome features thousands of plant and animal life from three of the most famous deserts around the world. You can walk through the Namib Desert of southern Africa, the Red Center of Australia, and the Sonoran Desert of the southwest United States — all in less than an hour! For an added surprise, take to the underworld beneath the Desert Dome to experience Kingdoms of the Night, the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit.

The Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium

If the world of water is more your forte, head over to the Scott Aquarium for a chance to get up close and personal with the creatures of the deep. Walk through the 70 foot shark tunnel and come nose-to-nose with sea turtles, fish, and sharks. As you walk through the indoor exhibits, you’ll encounter habitats ranging from polar regions and temperate oceans, to coral reefs and the Amazon. Make sure you set aside extra time at the Antarctic habitat to watch the Emperor penguins play and interact with each other.

View the full list of live animal exhibits and habitats currently on display at The Omaha Zoo.

3. Stay at Magnolia Hotel

If you’re looking for a centrally-located hotel with historic flair, look no further than the Magnolia Hotel. Within easy walking distance from the historic Old Market, this stunning boutique hotel resembles the Bargello palace in Florence, Italy.

best hotels in Omaha Nebraska

About the Magnolia Hotel Downtown Omaha

Formerly the Aquila Court Building constructed in 1923, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and has remained an important piece of Omaha history ever since.   The hotel offers plenty of amenities and complimentary services including free airport transportation, a full American breakfast buffet, a fitness center, Wireless Internet, and a beer & wine reception.

At the hotel’s on-site Restaurant, The District, you can enjoy a full breakfast menu with local delicacies, a lunch and dinner menu, room service, and a to-go menu from 4pm to 10pm daily. Try the “Nebraska Frittata” for breakfast and the Prime Rib French Dip Sandwich with Au Jus made from local beer!

Magnolia Hotel Omaha

Book Your Stay at Omaha’s Premier Boutique Hotel

The Magnolia Hotel is near some of the city’s most important sites including Charles Schwab Field, the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, the Orpheum Theater, the Omaha’s Children’s Museum, The Durham Museum, the Joslyn Museum, CHI Medical Center, and others.

Magnolia Hotel offers lavishly decorated deluxe rooms, two-story suites, and even houses Omaha’s largest Presidential Suite. Guestrooms include an executive work desk, one King or two Queen beds, refrigerators, and upscale bath toiletries.

Learn more about the Magnolia Hotel including room rates, dining options, and amenities.


 

4. Stroll through the Old Market District

It’s not a trip to Omaha without a stroll through the historic Old Market District. With both indoor and outdoor boutique shops, restaurants, and nightlife venues, it’s a great activity even during the colder months.

You’ll discover street artists, musicians, jazz clubs, original steakhouses, adorable cafes, and quirky local boutique shops. The best part, is the Old Market is within walking distance to most downtown Omaha hotels (re: the Magnolia Hotel). This makes it extremely accessible and a great place to spend an entire afternoon. If you’re hotel is not within easy walking distance, don’t worry! Many hotels in the city offer free shuttle service to-and-from the market. 
Old Market Omaha

Best Things to See and Do at The Old Market

One of the best ways to spend an afternoon at the Old Market is to eat and shop your way through its alleyways and smaller enclaves. Some of the most popular stores and restaurants are below:
1. Old Market Candy Shop

This adorable little candy shop as been selling handmade chocolates, fudge, and hard candies since 1977. You can not only buy delicious candies here, but you can watch the candy-makers-in-chief craft them! Everything here is delicious, but don’t leave without buying a few of their famous “Mud Balls” which are crushed Oreos with cream cheese dipped in chocolate.

2. Imaginarium Old Market Mercantile
If you’re looking for a store that has a little bit of everything, Imaginarium is where you go. They sell literally everything relating to pop culture including Marvel toys, collectible 1980’s toys, records, and vintage clothes. The interior of the store alone is a vibe and is definitely a trip back in time.
3. City Limits

This unique greeting card and gift shop is the perfect place to find birthday cards, quirky t-shirts, or a special birthday gift. It’s widely considered one of Omaha’s top gift shops, and is a great spot for professional gift wrapping services and customized gifts.

Old Market Passageway Omaha

Old Market Passageway

Don’t forget to look for the Old Market Passageway! Once an abandoned alleyway, it underwent a massive transformation three decades ago and is now a thriving series of shops and restaurants. Not only is it one of the most Instagrammable places in Omaha, it’s the perfect place to escape the winter cold. Get lost in a book at Jackson Street Booksellers, or stop for a margarita and fish tacos at Trini’s. It’s one of the longest standing restaurants in the Passageway!

5. Grab Lunch at Pitch Pizzeria

Calling all pizza fanatics: Pitch Pizzeria is more than just your typical pizza pie. In fact, it’s downright insane the toppings they put on their dough! The whole place is a vibe, especially on a weekend for brunch with the lively energy of the historic Dundee neighborhood.

best restaurants in Omaha Nebraska

About Pitch Pizzeria

Pitch is full of wooden walls, unique low lighting fixtures, a bourbon whiskey wall, and an open kitchen concept. The ambiance alone is enough to bring someone in for a hand crafted cocktail — and the tantalizing menu just puts it over the top.

Pitch makes all of their pizzas from scratch, and the pies offered on the menu change regularly. At the time of publishing this blog, their weekly specialty pizza was a lobster pizza with garlic olive oil, mozzarella and goat cheese, oven roasted tomato, and scallions.

best restaurants in Omaha Nebraska

Choose Your Dining Experience

You can choose your own dining experience at Pitch. You can either make a reservation or walk in to dine, or, you can reserve an exclusive two-top table overlooking the kitchen. Throughout the course of the meal, the chef will fill your plate with multi-course cuisines and pair each with lively culinary commentary.

If you want to dine with a larger group, don’t worry! The chef’s team can create a curated coursed dinner with wine pairings for the ultimate dining experience. Whatever you order and however you choose to order it, it’s sure to be delicious.

6. Explore the Joslyn Castle

At 3902 Davenport Street in the Gold Coast Historic District of Omaha, you’ll find one of the most stunning homes in the city: The Joslyn Caste & Gardens.

This Scottish Baronial style 35-room mansion was built in 1903, and is special to the Omaha community for many reasons. The property has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972, and has been a designated Omaha landmark since 1979. Aside from it’s exterior beauty, the home honors the philanthropic legacies of the property’s original residents, George and Sarah Joslyn.

The four-story mansion was built for a total cost of $250,000—about $7 million USD in today’s dollar. Construction of the home took just 11 months. This is extremely impressive given the interior details of carved wood, stained glass, chiseled stone, mosaic tiles, and wrought iron.

Today, the Joslyn Castle & Gardens provides local community and visitors alike opportunities  to enjoy theater, art, history, nature, music, architecture, and the literary arts. Joslyn Castle also provides public and private tours, rental opportunities, and a free public green space.

Learn more about the hours of operation, ticket prices, and upcoming events at The Joslyn Castle.

7. Savor Seafood at Plank Provisions

Omaha likely isn’t the first city that comes to mind when you think of fresh seafood, but hear me out. In the heart of downtown’s Old Market, you’ll find Plank Seafood Provisions providing the coastal character everyone in this landlocked state is craving.

It may surprise you, but you can enjoy the highest-quality, responsibly-sourced seafood in Omaha including oysters, lobster, calamari, fresh fish, and shrimp. At the Edison-lit bar, you can sip on plenty of craft cocktails including the Sea Foam Margarita or the Strawberry Surfer.

restaurants in Omaha Nebraska in Old Market

You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but favorites include the New England Clam Chowder, Oysters Rockefeller, and the Potato Crusted Calamari.

It’s easy to walk to from most downtown hotels. Or, if you drive, there’s plenty of metered street parking zones and parking garages off 12th and Harney streets. Did I mention the interior of the restaurant is super dreamy, too?

Pro tip: Go during happy hour to enjoy $1 oysters and special prices on drinks!

8. Step Back in Time at the Durham Museum

One of the best things to do in Omaha in the winter is to explore the stunning interior of the historic Durham Museum. Inside one of Omaha’s most cherished treasures, Union Station, the history of America’s “old west” comes to life.

Omaha is the thriving city it is today due to its position as the eastern terminus of the transcontinental railroad. The Durham Museum preserves and displays this history focusing on American Indian culture, the Mormon movement out West,  and the role Omaha played in the Louis and Clark expedition.

best activities to do in Omaha Nebraska

With numerous exhibits and educational displays, it’s family-friendly and a great learning experience for all. It’s also a National Historic Landmark brimming with Art Deco architecture, model trains, and even an operating soda fountain from the 1930’s!

Learn more about hours of operation and ticket prices to The Durham Museum.

9. Eat the best burgers in America at Block 16

There are plenty of great places to eat in Omaha, but one you absolutely can’t miss is Block 16 in the heart of downtown. Here, they are up to something extra special in the kitchen!

With a wait line down the block most days, it’s not hard to see why. The owners Paul and Jessica create dishes that are fresh, fun, and even a little risky at times. But it obviously works!

It helps that they source only the freshest ingredients from local companies that share their philosophy: to buy local, support humanely raised, and eat preservative-free food. In fact, their 100-year-old family farm is one of their main sources for produce that they use in the restaurant.

best burger in Nebraska

What to Order at Block 16

Block 16’s constantly evolving menu always features something quirky and unique. For example, they recently put an upscale version of a  sandwich called the “Ethan Special” on the menu. It was inspired by Paul’s 10-year-old nephew’s lunch: white bread, bologna, mayo, and cheese with smashed Doritos. Their version was slightly elevated with Grey Plume’s mortadella with slaw on an onion roll (Doritos on the side), but it’s just a taste of their creative genius.

They’ve come out with so many amazing specials in just four short years(1,400 to be exact), and only a few have been repeats. Perhaps that is why they have won just about every food competition in the U.S. since 2020. It’s won awards for  “Best Locally Sourced Dining”, “Best Burger” by Yelp in 2021, and “Best Fried Chicken in Nebraska” by Insider in 2020, just to name a few.

Menu Recommendations

Don’t leave without trying a burger. The Belgian Smash2 Burger and the Block Burger are two great choices. Get a side of Dragon Fries topped with cheese curds, dragon sauce, and crushed fortune cookie to go with both!

10. Take a Day Trip to Iowa

Just four miles away (a short 10 minute drive), you can find yourself in a completely different state: Iowa. The town of Council Bluffs is the largest city in Southwest Iowa, and was named by Lewis and Clark for a bluff where they met the Otoe tribe on August 2, 1804. The town is most famous for its casinos and ties to the transcontinental railroad.

With a population of 65,000 people, there’s plenty to do in Council Bluffs, especially if you are a lover of art, history, and a little gambling. It’s the perfect half-day or day trip from Omaha and one of the top things to do in Omaha in winter!

day trip from Omaha Nebraska

Below are a few of of the best indoor activities to enjoy during a trip to Council Bluffs during cold weather months:

  1. Explore the Union Pacific Railroad Museum.

    Located inside of the beautiful Carnegie Library building, the museum contains historic Union Pacific items from 150 years of the nation’s western history. Explore artifacts, photographs, documents, and railway equipment. The museum also showcases numerous exhibits including the Lincoln collection, which celebrates the life of President Abraham Lincoln who was the founder of the Union Pacific Railroad.

  2. Win big at Harrah’s Casino

    One of the most popular activities you can enjoy in Council Bluff is the Harrah’s Casinso. Not only can you play slots, you can enjoy hand crafted cocktails and both upscale and casual dining options. Savor a nice steak dinner at 360 Steakhouse, or grab a slice or burger at Slice Pizzeria or Guy Fieri’s Kitchen + Bar which will open in May 2023.

  3. Eat dinner at 712 Eat + Drink

    Using the most ethically sourced ingredients, 712 Eat + Drink serves some of the freshest and most flavorful dishes in Council Bluff. Their menu item features cuisines from numerous cultures including Asian, Mediterranean, Korean, and New American. Try menu favorites like the crab rangoon tots, crab Rangoon fries, pork shoulder tacos, and the elote fries.

FAQ’s about Things to Do in Omaha in the Winter

What is Omaha like in the winter?

I won’t sugar coat it: Omaha can get very cold during the winter. With a continental climate, average daily high temperatures hover around 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Daily low temperatures hover around 12 degrees Fahrenheit. If you visit in January, it’s the coldest month of the year.

Omaha in winter

Omaha can also experience a lot of snow during the winter months, especially in January and February. Given Omaha’s elevation of 1,090 feet, it usually sees an annual snowfall of 27 inches after 21.7 snow days. However, if you’re a traveler who doesn’t mind colder temperatures and is looking for a bit of fresh powder, there’s plenty of fun things to do in Omaha in the winter! For example, you can visit the Mount Crescent Ski Area which is about 15 miles northeast of Omaha. If you want to relax at a ski resort for the weekend, visiting Gretna Resort is a great option. Gretna boasts 20 acres of skiable terrain for skiers of all levels.

What is the best time of year to visit Omaha, Nebraska?

There are plenty of fun things to do in Omaha year-round, so it really just depends on what type of experience you’re looking to have. The summer months naturally see more crowds and hotter days, but there are plenty of outdoor and water activities to enjoy such as concerts, marathons, and parks. The winter months see colder temperatures and more snow, but offer opportunities for fun winter activities and cozy afternoons by the fire.

Many consider mid-September to mid-November the best time to visit Omaha. The city experiences very comfortable temperatures, and the landscapes surrounding the city are vibrant with the changing colors of the leaves.

Does it snow a lot in Omaha, Nebraska in the winter?

Yes and no. Different regions of Nebraska see varying levels of snow during the winter months and Omaha is no exception. December, January, and February are the months that see the highest level of snowfall. December sees 5 inches of snow, January sees 6.2 inches of snow, and February sees 10 inches of snow on average.

Is Omaha worth visiting?

Without a doubt, yes! From an established food scene to plenty of historical landmarks, Omaha is a must-see destination in the United States. The city is easy to get around using a rental car, Uber, or public transportation. Visit to explore the world’s best zoo, take a weekend trip to a luxe ski resort, or simply go for a Reuben sandwich. It is the birthplace of the delicacy, after all, no matter what New Yorker’s claim!

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10 fun things to do in Omaha in the winter

10 replies to “10 Fun Things to do in Omaha in the Winter”

  1. I just love to shop in the old historic district or markets when I visit a new city. Omaha looks so appealing.

    1. I think aside from the zoo, the old historic market was definitely another favorite of mine. The Old Passageway was just so charming and great for photos!

  2. I have not been to Omaha but it looks like a great winter destination…never thought about that! Will save this and all your great ideas for future trip.

    1. I was surprised by how much the city had to offer, even in winter! There are a lot of indoor museums and attractions which is great to beat the cold. I hope you get to visit soon!

    1. The desert dome was honestly SO impressive. The entire zoo was! I had no idea that Omaha had one of if not the best zoo in the entire world. Crazy!

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