Weekend Getaways Near Omaha

There’s much to do and see within 200(ish) miles of Nebraska’s largest city. 

Omaha is the gateway to the West, a solid Midwest destination unto itself in the Cornhusker State. The city hugs the Missouri River, boasts famous residents and an even more famous zoo, and is home to the venerated College World Series. But when you need to get out of town, whether for a quick day trip or a weekend away, these nearby escapes are just the ticket. From classic lake towns like Okoboji, Iowa, to major metropoles like Kansas City, here are the best quick getaways from Omaha, all within about a 3-hour drive.

lua brewing patio
Lua Brewing. Jason Donnelly

Des Moines—134 miles from Omaha

To get acquainted with Iowa's capital just two hours east of Omaha, start with a tour of its hottest food neighborhoods. Discover inventive and veggie-forward small plates at fine-dining spot Harbinger; slow-pours and funky sours from Lua Brewing; and all-day breakfast with an Australian twist at St. Kilda. Between feasts, pick up art and local wares in Valley Junction and the East Village, two historic districts dotted with diverse boutiques. Rest your head at the newly renovated Hotel Fort Des Moines, which glistens like it did at its 1919 opening.

Ashland, Nebraska—31 miles from Omaha

Located halfway between Omaha and Lincoln, Ashland is a charming respite from city life. Its movie-set Main Street features expertly curated, locally owned shops, plus visitors enjoy easy access to two state parks—Eugene T. Mahoney State Park and Platte River State Park—and their many recreational activities. During a day trip, sample Nebraska-crafted cider at Glacial Till Cider House & Tasting Room, browse books and paper goods at Postscript, and stock up on French pastries and craft coffee at Fariner Bakery. Consider an overnight at Kimberly Creek Retreat to extend your stay. This glamping paradise includes a mix of cabins, domes and pods for any size party.

Lied Lodge in Nebraska
Lied Lodge. Courtesy of Arbor Day Farm

Nebraska City, Nebraska—44 miles from Omaha

Trees are (naturally) a main draw to this town south of Omaha known as Home of Arbor Day. Beyond its famous annual AppleJack festival, Nebraska City is known for Arbor Day Farm, where visitors can explore the Treetop Village, shop at the Apple House Market, hike through forested acres and spend the night at the Lied Lodge. Off the property, Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard offers tours that combine art, nature and family fun. Or you can visit Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, the former home of J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day. Follow your appetite to a lunch of classic comfort dishes at The Keeping Room or to pub fare at Little Ted's Pub and Grill, both locally owned.

Lewis and Clark Recreation Area
Lewis and Clark Recreation Area. Chad Coopess

Yankton, South Dakota—160 miles from Omaha

This South Dakota riverfront destination is revered as a recreational paradise. Lewis and Clark State Recreation Area, a dammed reservoir, draws boaters, anglers, birders and campers. Downtown, cross the storied Meridian Bridge, a pedestrian-only passage over the Mighty Missouri River; the bridge serves as the symbol of Yankton and offers beautiful views while connecting to nearby Nebraska. The adjacent Meridian District boasts bright murals and ample shopping. Join locals for the 50-foot all-you-can-eat buffet and dessert bar at JoDean's, sample locally crafted snacks at Crazy Daisy's Gourmet Popcorn, or spend a casual evening sipping brews like Dakota Thirst at Ben's Brewing Company. Bed down at Twist of Pine Bed and Breakfast, a luxe timber-frame lodge with serene views of Lewis and Clark Lake.

Haymarket District
Haymarket District.

Lincoln, Nebraska—59 miles from Omaha

As Omaha's capital and second-largest city, Lincoln bustles with collegiate energy. But even if you don't have ties (or allegiances) to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, this destination is worthy of exploration. Consider scheduling a trip for a home game day, one of the best ways to experience a classic college football game. Enjoy family time at Lincoln Children's Zoo, with more than 400 animals including Humboldt penguins, giant anteaters and giraffes. Also not to miss: scooping hand-poured candles from Wax Buffalo and savoring buttery pastries from Goldenrod. Near campus, check out the Graduate Hotel (and its celebratory corn-printed wallpaper) for an overnight stay in Lincoln's historic Haymarket District.

The Elms Hotel and Spa
Courtesy of The Elms Hotel and Spa

Excelsior Springs, Missouri—195 miles from Omaha

Thirty miles northeast of the KCMO metro, Excelsior Springs has been a refuge for those seeking healing and health for more than a century. Stay at The Elms, a regal hotel that dates to 1888, and be sure to reserve some time for a treatment starring the area's famous mineral waters at its spa. After detoxing, re-tox with ale and pizza at Dubious Claims Brewing Company. Check out a self-guided history tour of Excelsior Springs that includes part of the Hall of Waters, an Art Deco showpiece and site of the first spring found in the area.

Walnut, Iowa—51 miles from Omaha

With nearly 20 antique stores open year-round, Iowa's Antique City is a rewarding day trip from Omaha for treasure-hunting, browsing vintage wares and finding decor inspiration. The Granary Mall, Barn Mall and Walnut Antique Mall are all good places to start the day. For active adventure, the West Nishnabotna Water Trail is close to Walnut for paddling and float trips.

Crossroads Hotel, Kansas City
Courtesy of Crossroads Hotel

Kansas City, Kansas—182 miles from Omaha and Kansas City, Missouri—185.1 miles

The Kansas City metro straddles Kansas and Missouri, and makes an impressive weekend destination for cuisine, art, culture and pampering hotels. On the Kansas side, combine sightseeing with urban hiking, learn about local immigrant stories in an eclectic museum at Strawberry Hill Museum and Cultural Center (and stay for tea time) or get your BBQ fix at Slaps. Grab a spot on the patio for brunch or a cocktail at Mockingbird Lounge for stellar patio views of the skyline.

On the more expansive Missouri side, nicknamed "Paris of the Plains," the most relaxed (and easiest) way to zip around downtown is via the free streetcar, which travels 2 miles through the heart of the city and runs near popular destinations like Crossroads Art District, where you'll find some of the best boutiques, craft breweries and murals. It's worth the drive in your own car to see Country Club Plaza, a 100-year-old shopping district and home to high-end stores and some of the city's signature fountains. Follow the city's music roots in the historic jazz district at 18th & Vine. Make one of the city's beautifully designed hotels your basecamp for weekend exploration. The Raphael, Hotel Kansas City and the Crossroads Hotel artfully combine creature comforts and historic charm.

falls park big sioux river south dakota
Falls Park. John Noltner

Sioux Falls, South Dakota—181 miles from Omaha

Falls Park, a thundering triple urban waterfall and public space, is a magnet for visitors to Sioux Falls—especially families. Public art enthusiasts can check out SculptureWalk, a year-round display of outdoor sculptures downtown. Stay at Hotel on Phillips, a boutique hotel with a former bank vault-turned-cocktail lounge. Culinary highlights abound in the state's largest city. Downtown CH Patisserie has earned high praise for its decadent macaron menu. At James Beard Award-nominated Sanaa's Gourmet, savory Mediterranean fare (with an emphasis on vegan and gluten-free offerings) fuels lunch patrons for afternoon pursuits.

arnold's amusement park west lake okoboji iowa boat shoreline
Tom Gustafson

Okoboji, Iowa—209 miles from Omaha

In a region known as "Iowa's Great Lakes," Okoboji is the ultimate lake destination within an easy drive from Omaha. The city is home to Iowa's largest natural lake, Spirit Lake, and five interconnected others; it's also a popular second home spot for many Iowans and other Midwesterners. Arnolds Park has been a family tradition on the edge of the lake since the late 1800s. The park's highlights include Legend Roller Coaster—the 13th-oldest wooden roller coaster in the world— and carnival-style games. Beyond the park, Yesterdays is a standout with its Japanese-fusion cuisine. At Prime Boji, Chef-owner Juliana Domoras knows how to transform steak, seafood and cocktails into memorable meals, with prime views of West Lake Okoboji. Nearby, several state parks and recreation areas offer public beaches, hiking and biking trails, fishing spots, picnicking opportunities and campgrounds.

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