When I was a teenager Omaha seemed like the most boring place to live. And, bad teenage attitude aside, it kind of was a boring place to live back then. But during my teens and twenties this city seems to have grown and changed as much as I did. The skyline is different and we have a noteworthy music scene. As a mother, it thrills me to report that Omaha was named Movoto’s #1 city to raise a family. You can read more about that here.
One of the most controversial changes in Omaha this decade was the demolition of Rosenblatt Stadium. The baseball stadium where I grew up
eating cotton candy watching baseball games with my dad has been replaced by TD Ameritrade Park, which is just north of the Old Market Omaha. TD Ameritrade Park now hosts the College World Series each summer. Rosenblatt, to the chagrin of many a native Omahan, is now a parking lot.
The parking lot was a necessary addition to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, which has always been just east of the old Rosenblatt. Henry Doorly is off the heezy fo’ sheezy!. Simone and I visit weekly and there’s always something exciting to do. You can hand-feed birds in the Budgie House, cross a covered bridge over a koi-packed pond, or take a Skyfari ride above giraffes and rhinos all the way up to the elephant exhibit at the zoo’s highest point.
The zoo is one of my favorite places in this city, especially now that I’m a parent, but Omaha offers families much more than their top notch zoo. The girls and I frequent our city parks and splash pads in the summer. Zorinsky Lake is one of our favorites even though it’s all the way out in West Omaha. It has a great sand park for Simone. On a stressed-out day, I’m happy to restrain the children in the car and make the hour-long round trip drive to Zorinsky. Not an issue. We also love the saucer swings at recently-renovated Metcalfe Park, which is only a few minutes’ drive from our house.
One of the cooler things about our neighborhood, Midtown Omaha or Dundee, is that it’s nestled next to two of the most-happeningest parks in the whole damn city: Elmwood and Memorial. Each year Memorial Park hosts a Summer Concert at the end of June. This summer Pat Benatar headlined (C’mon, hit me with your best shot!). The concert is followed by a fireworks show and all of this practically takes place right in our backyard.
If you live in Omaha then your children will definitely be exposed to the arts. Can you see that weird, cement butthole-looking thing in the grass to the left of the path? That right there is something else that I love about Omaha–the public art projects. These cement buttholes are actually called Sounding Stones and they were created by artist Leslie Awai. There are seven sounding stones peppered throughout Elmwood Park and each one has a word (such as “simplicity” or “brokenness”) embossed inside. According to Awai, the words are the “answers” to each of the seven deadly sins. Very interesting.
Sounding Stones was funded with proceeds from an earlier “John Doe” project. And the city is currently participating in a project called Play Me, I’m Yours. The Omaha Creative Institute placed ten beautifully-decorated pianos throughout the Omaha and Council-tucky area (“Council-tucky” is a cute lil’ nickname for Council Bluffs, IA). Playing the pianos is on my family’s to-do list, but you can check out the photos, below, of a piano located at the Lewis and Clark Landing in Downtown Omaha. That particular piano overlooks the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge which was built five years ago across the Missouri River.
Because exposure to the arts is important to me, I’m grateful to the city for helping me out in such a major way with their public art projects. However, you don’t need a big city budget to express your artistic side, as one inspired R.V. owner demonstrates with this “Awkward Family Portraits: Jungle Edition” Mural. Only in Nebraska!
Omaha’s list of family-friendly attractions grows from year to year. This summer was the first annual Midtown Crossing Outdoor Movie Festival. The free Festival featured some awesome movies including Up, the Goonies, and E.T. We took lawn chairs and some popcorn and had a nice evening in the park watching Ghostbusters.
I’ve listed just a few reasons that Omaha’s a wonderful place to raise a family, but there are many more. Stay tuned and I’ll fill you in on what Omaha has to offer families during the fall and winter months! Keep your fingers crossed for more buttholes! ; )