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Nebraska, the heart of the Midwest, is often thought of as a quiet plain state full of cornfields. While that can certainly be true for most of the state, its biggest city Omaha is in contrast bustling with all kind of people and is a prominent place of business. Many major companies have offices in Omaha, making it a popular destination for business travelers. While many Omaha museums and other tourist attractions close midday, there is no shortage of things to do after five. Here are just eight of the things you can do during your time off.
Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
Does your hectic work schedule ever make you feel like you’re in two places at once? After you get off of work in Omaha, you actually can have each foot in a different state! The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, sometimes playfully called “Bob the Bridge,” spans the Missouri River.
You can choose to walk or bike across. Partway through the long walk on the long, curvy bridge, you’ll come across a line that separates Nebraska from Iowa. Pause for a photo op, and then continue into the large riverside park in Council Bluffs, Iowa. While the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is open 24 hours a day, there are occasional closures for safety in cold weather if the bridge gets icy. An added advantage to visiting late in the day is that it’s an excellent place to view the sunset.
Boys Town is officially a city in its own right, but is surrounded entirely by Omaha. This city-within-a-city was founded by Father Flanagan as a home for troubled youth. Today, Boys Town is a nationwide organization that helps children, families, and individuals, but it still holds tight to its original roots. You can learn even more about the foundation as you take a driving tour around Boys Town.
Ahead of time, download the Boys Town Visitor Tours app, then play it in your car to guide you to the interesting sites. Not all of the locations are open after five, and for the safety of the children living there, some buildings are never open to the public. However, you can take this tour any time of day and see places like the iconic Brother statue and the Dowd Chapel. The Garden of the Bible, which includes over 150 plant species mentioned in the Bible, and the Rose Garden outside the Father Flanagan House contribute to making this a picturesque town.
Lewis & Clark Landing
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s expedition to discover the west is now a National Historic Trail spanning 11 states. Nebraska is one of those states, and Lewis and Clark just so happened to explore the Missouri River near modern-day Omaha. Become a part of the historical legacy of travelers as you visit the exhibits at this artful riverside landing.
While here, be sure to check out the Monument to Labor, a collection of large bronze statues representing industrial America. If you park at the Lewis & Clark Landing, you’ll be centrally-located and within walking distance of the other riverfront attractions in Omaha, such as the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge and Heartland of America Park. Even the Old Market and Gene Leahy Mall aren’t too far away.
Want Omaha nightlife? Want good eats? Want simply a fun place to walk around downtown? Old Market is the place to spend your evenings in Omaha. The city’s arts and entertainment district has a variety of places to visit. The Artists’ Cooperative Fine Arts Gallery is open until 6 Tuesday-Thursday (as well as Sunday) and 10pm on Friday and Saturday. The “Get Out” escape room is open late every night.
There are plenty of restaurants in Old Market for a good dinner out. Pick your own meal or arrange a food tour through Nebraska Tour Company. This is just a sampling of all there is to do in the Old Market district. To see all there is to explore, you’ll have to go there yourself. Even if your budget is tighter than your schedule, the walk alone to get a glimpse of the local culture and history is worth it.
Gene Leahy Mall
Nope, this isn’t a shopping mall. Gene Leahy Mall is a long park situated around a lagoon. Go here for a sense of urban oasis: here you’re surrounded by concrete and tall buildings, but you can simultaneously enjoy the gardens and modern art statues sprinkled around the park. The highlight of Gene Leahy Mall is the Downtown Slides. Both the young and young-at-heart will enjoy the big downhill ride! At the eastern end of the park, take the pedestrian overpass to Heartland of America Park.
Heartland of America Park
Conagra is a major business headquartered in Nebraska, so there’s a good chance that some of your work in Omaha will take place at their building. Thankfully, it’s situated along the Heartland of America Park, an ideal place for a picnic lunch break or after-work walk. Be sure to check out Conagra Lake, a manmade lake between the Conagra Building and the Missouri River, where you can hire a gondolier to take you for a gondola ride.
The giant fountain stays on until 11:00 pm at night. For visiting in the evening, you’ll be treated to a stunning light show on the water. You may even come across a statue of the prepared-foods mascot Chef Boyardee, due to Conagra being responsible for many of the food brands available in grocery stores across the nation.
Joslyn Castle Grounds
Did you ever think you’d see a castle in the American Midwest? The name Joslyn is well-known around Omaha as this wealthy family made many philanthropic contributions to improve the city. The design for their mansion was inspired by Scottish castles. After the passing of Mr. and Mrs. Joslyn, the castle was passed onto the local school district, then the state of Nebraska, and finally today owned by the Joslyn Castle Trust, with listings on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum.
While you may be lucky enough to be in Omaha during one of Joslyn Castle’s evening events, you can always view the castle while visiting the surrounding gardens. You’ll be in awe of how such an intricate structure took only 11 months to build back in 1903. Then stroll around the variety of beautiful flowers and trees and perhaps enjoy a picnic dinner.
Malcolm X Birthplace
If you’ve had a long, exhausting day, but want to make a super quick sightseeing stop, this is it. Malcolm Little was a Nebraska native born in Omaha as the middle of seven children. However, due to racist threats, the Little family didn’t live in Omaha for long. Malcolm grew up, changed his name to Malcolm X, and became one of the key leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.
Unfortunately, the family home where Malcolm X was born was torn down by owners who did not know the celebrity connection, coincidentally the same year as his death. However, the property is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Today it is a park with a historical marker and memorial that visitors are welcome to look at any time of day.