The Omaha metro area teems with family-friendly things to do. Plenty are free or nearly free, too. This sampler is heavy on fun but lean on the budget.
Catch a flick outdoors
Flix at the Chef is an outdoor movie night with loads of vintage charm. It takes place on select Saturdays of summer behind Dairy Chef in Elkhorn. Movies start at dusk. There’s free popcorn, and if that doesn’t satisfy your appetite, well, there’s food, drink and ice cream at the Dairy Chef. Save the dates: July 13, Aug. 10 and Sept. 14. Bring a lawn chair or blanket; bug spray too.
3223 N. 204th St.; flixatthechef.com
Cool off under a cool spray
What better way to beat the summer heat than by getting wet? Metro area parks and recreation departments offer plenty for toddlers and youngsters to enjoy. These spray zones are free; try a new one each week.
Play for pins, splits and strikes
Bowling centers across the country are part of the Kids Bowl Free program to advance the sport and encourage some family togetherness. Children in specific age brackets are eligible to register for two free games a day, all summer long. Find a lane near you at kidsbowlfree.com.
Read for fun and learn
Summer reading programs at public libraries nurture a love of reading and help kids do better in school. Omaha branch libraries list their programs at omahalibrary.org. The South Omaha branch has a bilingual storytime while the Florence branch invites families to wear their pj’s and bring blankets to its Wednesday night storytime!
Catch a concert
Every Saturday at Aksarben Village’s Stinson Park there’s a concert and it’s called… you guessed it…Saturdays@Stinson. The family atmosphere rocks, so text some friends, gather up the kids and some chairs, and find the perfect listening spot. Shadow Lake Towne Center hosts a Music & Memories Concert Series in the amphitheater. SumTur Amphitheater — with plenty of green space for kids to run — presents free concerts May through September. Summer concerts from city to suburbs are listed on omaha.com/go.
Hunt for yummy treasure
Head for a farmers market and teach kids about fresh, healthy food. Turn it into a game with a scavenger hunt for fruits and vegetables you love or want to try. Find a purple food with an interesting shape. Find a green food that is bigger than your fist and a brown food that grows in the ground. Add a math lesson by counting the number of items on a farmer’s scale, paying with cash, etc.
Meet Renoir and Monet
Get in free (really!) at Joslyn Art Museum and spend a couple of hours exploring the collections and talking about what you see. Then head for the museum’s Art Works: A Place for Curiosity, for activities that draw connections to the art that you just encountered in the galleries. Take a quick tour of the sculpture garden, then continue downtown to 14th Street and Capitol Avenue to see First National Bank’s “Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness & Pioneer Courage Park” featuring bronze depictions of a pioneer wagon train, bison and water fowl. If you have an hour more, head for Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs for a picnic lunch and splash pad fun.
Be an Original
The Union for Contemporary Art offers year-round arts and cultural enrichment programs for children age 7 to 14. Priority enrollment is given to youth living or attending school in North Omaha. Any remaining spots in the program are open to youth in greater Omaha who qualify through an application process. Youths get to explore printmaking, ceramics, gardening, painting, cooking and more in weekly workshops, art clubs and open studios. And it’s all free!
2423 N 24th St.; u-ca.org/youthengagement
Soak up the sun
Omaha is home to more than 200 parks, many with playgrounds, trails, tennis courts, fishing ponds and bike trails. Check out the list and maps at parks.cityofomaha.org/parks .