By Anna Lynch and Kristin Rogers, Entertainment Editor / Contributor
Home of the NCAA Men’s College World Series and one of the largest zoo attractions in the world – calculated by a combination of land acreage and species -Omaha’s activities, destinations and events create a hub of excitement for locals, as well as those visiting the metro area. And, as college students, we’re continually looking for a good time on a cheap dime, thus, Omaha’s activity options offer affordable thrills that fit most budgets.
Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo is the largest in the world. Home to 17,000 animals from 962 different species, the Henry Doorly Zoo is comprised of 130 acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits, including a recently renovated aquarium that features sharks, jellyfish and stingrays. The Desert Dome is another popular exhibit and holds the world’s largest indoor desert, chock full of exotic species. These are just two of the many amazing exhibits that have helped make Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo a prime destination.
Cost: $13.50-$15 (Depending on time of year)
If a day of shopping, eating and enjoying an urban environment sounds fun, then the Old Market is the place to go. Placed in the heart of downtown Omaha, the Old Market offers a wide-variety of food options that can feed just about any craving, such as the fast-favorite, long-standing eateries, Spaghetti Works and Ted & Wally’s Premium Homemade Ice Cream. Horse drawn carriage rides are also offered, which adds a romantic touch to Omaha’s downtown appeal. The popular urban destination has many unique shops that line the streets, from vintage clothing to eclectic music stores. Full of history and charm, the Old Market is a true tourist destination for anyone visiting the Omaha area.
Aside from the Old Market, Omaha provides residents and visitors vast shopping options, from Westroads Mall to Oakview Mall. But, a trip just a little further west – near 168th and West Dodge roads -brings visitors to an outdoor shopping complex popular to locals and those visiting the Omaha metro. Village Pointe shopping center appeals to nearly every age demographic, as the shopping destination has plenty of restaurants and shops, as well as a movie theater. Shopping needs are easily met when visiting Village Pointe, as stores from Finish Line to Bath and Body Works, to higher-end shops such as Coach and Fossil, provide many choice options for customers.
Vala’s Pumpkin Patch
Fall in Omaha would not be complete without a visit to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch. Located in Gretna, just nineteen miles from campus, Vala’s provides festive dÃ©cor, caramel apples, haunted houses and activities for all ages, yet differs from typical pumpkin patches. Vala’s features a corn maze, pig races, pumpkin cannons, bonfires and, of course, pumpkins. This year Vala’s Pumpkin Patch will be opened Sept. 20 to Oct. 31. Hours are 9 a.m.- 9 p.m., with a 10 p.m. extension on Friday and Saturday.
ConAgra Foods Ice Skating Rink
Starting in December, ConAgra Foods opens the ConAgra Foods Ice Skating Rink in downtown Omaha. The outdoor rink is open during the Omaha Holiday Lights Festival, which adds a festive charm to the ice rink. Admission to the rink benefits the Food Bank for the Heartland and the Shine a Light on Hunger campaign. The rink will be open Dec. 14 to Jan. 6.
Cost: $5 (Skate rental included)
Aksarben Cinema -located in Aksarben Village, just south of campus – offers a modern-movie viewing experience equipped with a full-service bar. Party rooms are also available for celebrations. Theatres also provide an auditorium-style experience designed with “the digital experience in mind,” according to Aksarben Cinema’s website. The locally owned and operated cinema center has reasonable prices and is open 365 days year-round.
Cost: $5-$9.50 (Depending on the day)
With all this fun to be had, where else would you rather be than Omaha?