March 29, 2016

10 Outdoor Adventures Near Omaha

Great outdoor adventures are less than an two hours away from Omaha.

Here are my 10 favorite spots to go and why they’re so fun:

Outdoor adventures near Omaha

Glenn Cunningham Lake

Standup paddleboards on the shore of Lake Cunningham in Omaha.

Standup paddleboards on the shore of Lake Cunningham in Omaha.

Where: Omaha

Distance from Omaha: In the city limits

Cost: Free to go to the park; $12/hour to rent a paddleboard or $40 for the day

What’s not to miss: Rent standup paddleboards from The Neighborhood Offshore Outfitters and have fun exploring the lake with your older children. Younger kids can stay with an adult and play at the small beach.

More about standup paddleboarding at Cunningham

 

Fontenelle Forest

Playing at Fontenelle Forest.

Playing at Fontenelle Forest.

Where: Bellevue, Neb.

Distance from Omaha: 9 miles

Cost: $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for children (ages 2-17), and FREE for children younger than 2 and members

What’s not to miss: If you’re hiking with small kids, make sure you include plenty of time to play at Acorn Acres.

More about the forest

 

Lake Manawa State Park

Where: Council Bluffs, Iowa

Distance from Omaha: 14 miles

Cost: $3 per person enter the beach area, plus extra cash for renting a canoe or kayak.

What’s not to miss: This is one of the closest lakes to Omaha that has a swimming area roped off from the rest of the lake, which is busy place in the summer with boats. You can rent a canoe or kayak there, as well. I steer my kids to Dreamland Park, though. It was pretty much designed by engineers who asked kids what they’d love to have in a park and then they built it. It looks like a giant splinter waiting to happen, but the kids survive and love it.

 

Hitchcock Nature Center

The tower at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa.

The tower at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa.

Where: Honey Creek, Iowa

Distance from Omaha: 21 miles

Cost: $2 for a daily pass or you can buy a year pass for Pottawattamie County Parks

What’s not to miss: Check out a free backpack from the nature center. It provides kid-friendly supplies like a magnifying glass and animal ID chart to enhance your kids’ adventure in nature.

More about Hitchcock

Side note: If you have older children, plan a stop at nearby Mt. Crescent Ski Area, which has a zipline for the truly adventurous.

 

Schramm State Recreation Area

Distance from Omaha: 25 miles

Cost: A Nebraska State Park Permit is required to enter this park area (an annual permit is $25).

What’s not to miss: Find the trail that takes you to the suspension bridge. Kids love crossing it.

 

Mahoney State Park

One of the lakes at Mahoney State Park.

One of the lakes at Mahoney State Park. It’s pretty even in the dead of winter.

Where: Ashland, Neb.

Distance from Omaha: 27 miles

Cost: A Nebraska State Park Permit is required to enter this park area (an annual permit is $25).

What’s not to miss: Horseback trail rides for 6 and older (pony rides for the youngins); train-loving kiddos will like the short hike near the lookout tower that gives them a decent view of passing trains.

More about going to Mahoney State Park with kids

 

Platte River State Park

A short hike at Platte River State Park is all it takes to find one of the few natural waterfalls close to Omaha.

A short hike at Platte River State Park is all it takes to find one of the few natural waterfalls close to Omaha.

Distance from Omaha: 28 miles

Cost: A Nebraska State Park Permit is required to enter this park area (an annual permit is $25).

What’s not to miss: The little waterfall that you can usually walk across and the teepee.

More about exploring Platte River State Park with kids

 

Great Tree Adventure

The Great Tree Adventure has a trail lined with bird cutouts. You can make a game looking them for with kids during your hike.

The Great Tree Adventure has a trail with two bridges, some climbing structures and lots of areas to explore.

Where: Nebraska City, Neb.

Distance from Omaha: 45 miles

Cost: Adults are $7, kids 3-12 are $5 and kids 2 and younger are FREE. Hayrack ride is extra.

What’s not to miss: Take the hike into the woods and try to find all 50 wooden bird (and one squirrel) cutouts, and enjoy the foot bridges over the creek.

More about the Great Tree Adventure and other fun things to do in Nebraska City

 

Branched Oak State Recreation Area

Playing on the beach at Branched Oak Lake.

Playing on the beach at Branched Oak Lake.

Where: Raymond, Neb.

Distance from Omaha: 68 miles

Cost: A Nebraska State Park Permit is required to enter this park area (an annual permit is $25).

What’s not to miss: The sand beach and boating

Details on planning a camping trip to Branched Oak

 

Indian Cave State Park

Indian Cave, one of the attractions of this Nebraska state park.

As close as you’ll get to the cave at Indian Cave State Park.

Where: Shubert, Neb.

Distance from Omaha: 92 miles

Cost: A Nebraska State Park Permit is required to enter this park area (an annual permit is $25).

What’s not to miss: You thought I was going to say Indian Cave, but that “cave” isn’t what you’re expecting. Hit the trails and the living history cabins for a more memorable experience.

More about exploring Indian Cave State Park with kids

 

Your turn: What are your favorite outdoor activities near Omaha? What will you drive two hours away to do?

Comments

  1. I’d like to check out: Branched Oak State Recreation Area. I’ve never been there before.

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