We drove up to Omaha for a couple of days as a mini-summer vacation/early celebration of Gretchen’s 3rd birthday.
Where we stayed: Homewood Suites downtown. We got a 2 room suite which I thought meant we’d have a living room and then a bedroom. Instead we got 2 bedrooms and a living room/kitchen in between! Gretchen had 2 queen beds in her room but slept in her pack n play 🙂 The living room and kitchen were great. Having a full fridge/freezer was perfect since we brought our own food for lunches. We got a good rate thanks to our AAA membership. This was a really nicely appointed hotel with complimentary breakfast AND complimentary dinner (Monday-Thursday) that includes beer/wine. It was pretty standard continental breakfast fare: fruit, cereal, muffins/bagels, eggs, sausage, waffles, juice, coffee, etc. We did not try out the complimentary dinner. This hotel has an indoor pool and hot tub which was a big hit with Gretchen.
Where we ate: Since it was only a 3 hour drive from home we packed sandwiches, fruit, and other lunch fare to take to the zoo with us on Monday and Tuesday. This was a time and money saver and we avoided the typical zoo fare of chicken fingers and fries. We dined out for dinner both nights and had lunch at a restaurant before leaving town on Wednesday.
Monday night: Upstream in the Old Market followed by dessert at Ted and Wallys which was just around the corner. Ted and Wallys was worth the wait, truly amazing ice cream!
Tuesday night: La Casa Pizzeria followed by dessert at eCreamery (Shark Tank fans will probably recognize this brand of ice cream that you can personalize and have shipped to your friends).
Wednesday: lunch at Wheatfields in the Old Market. Next time we go to Omaha we will eat here again, this was our favorite of the 3 restaurants we went to.
Henry Doorly Zoo: We spent two half-days at the zoo since we knew Gretchen could only do a few hours before she’d be a mess. Happy with that decision especially since we got discounted admission with our KC Zoo membership.
Day 1: On Memorial Day we got there at about noon and it was packed, not surprising for a beautiful day that also happens to be a holiday. We bought basic admissions tickets (Gretchen was free and Tyler and I got in for half price with our KC Zoo membership). We stopped and ate our lunch first and then visited the aquarium, giraffes, and the jungle exhibit. The aquarium was nice but so incredibly crowded. Gretchen loves fish so she loved it. I definitely think the penguin exhibit at the KC Zoo is superior, however as a whole, the aquarium was is much better than KC’s Sea Life aquarium. The giraffes will be moved into the new Africa exhibit when it opens but when we visited they were all indoors. Gretchen said at the end of the day that the giraffes were her favorite. Tyler and I really enjoyed the jungle exhibit. It was way bigger than we initially realized and had so many great animals including otters (Tyler’s fave), pygmy hippos (my fave), and a sloth, which I don’t think I’d ever seen before. Gretchen was kind of freaked out by the waterfalls and I was definitely freaked out by the bats, ick. By 3pm she was getting fussy so we checked in to the hotel and she took a nap.
Day 2: Rain was in the forecast but we decided to go anyway because we figured it would keep the crowds away. Gretchen got in free again and Tyler and I got half off admission. We did pay full price for the transportation/sting ray package as our zoo pass didn’t get us a discount on those. For the first hour we practically had the zoo to ourselves, it was awesome. We visited the big cats, the bears, the orangutans (so loud!) and gorillas on our way down to the train depot. After checking out the kid’s area and riding the carousel we took a ride on the train. Tyler fed a sting ray and Gretchen chased some peacocks around. At this point it started raining. We walked through the bird aviary but the decking was extremely slippery from the rain. I managed to avoid any major wipe outs. We also visited the Madagascar exhibit before stopping for lunch and then heading up to the Desert Dome. The Desert Dome was unlike any zoo exhibit we’d visited before but it was a bit crowded by that point and Gretchen was getting cranky. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the underground exhibit, Kingdoms of the Night. We hauled our whiny kid out and took her back to the hotel for a much needed nap.
Omaha Children’s Museum
This place did not disappoint at ALL and I wish we’d had more time to explore. The 3 of us got in free as our Union Station/Science City membership gets us 100% reciprocity. Saved us over $30 on admission! Oh how I wish Kansas City had a children’s museum of this caliber. Wonderscope and Science City just aren’t nearly as magical. Gretchen LOVED the HyVee grocery area. She shopped, had her daddy check out and bag her groceries, made me pizza in their pizzeria, and then had to be bribed to leave the area and see the rest of the museum. She flipped burgers and dogs at the Omaha Steaks grill area like a pro, played at the water tables, and pretended to drive a fire truck. The ball room was huge and made me wish I were a kid again. Before leaving we went upstairs so she could ride the carousel. This is where we discovered MY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES RESURRECTED! It was the Richman Gordman zoo animals, fully restored and ready for my kid to play on just like I did as a kid when we shopped at the store in Topeka.