RoadTripFilter: Philadelphia to Omaha. What's fun to do?
May 14, 2014 6:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm bringing a car to Omaha in very late June, early July. Dates are flexible. We're planning to take 2-3 days of driving split between two people. What are the best routes in terms of scenery and attractions to do overnight along the way? We are staying for about a week and flying back one-way to PHL. Ideas for what to do in Omaha are also needed. At least some of the activities in or around Omaha should be suitable for people under 21, although they don't all have to be. Museums, parks, sciency stuff, and hotel and restaurant recommendations all welcome. Assume an upper limit of $200 per person per day for 2-3 people, although this is fairly flexible both directions.
posted by skyl1n3 to Travel & Transportation around Omaha, NE (4 answers total)
I can speak for the Iowa portion of your trip. You'll most likely be coming in on I-80, which means you'll be going through the Quad Cities. These, in my opinion, are not the most beautiful cities on earch--if you're willing to take a detour North, I'd recommend hitting Galena, Illinois and then continuing through my hometown of Dubuque, IA for some Driftless Area scenery. Eagle Point Park in Dubuque is particularly beautiful. The hiking at The Mines of Spain will make you forget you're in Iowa, and America's River Museum is a Smithsonian-affiliated museum dedicated to the Mississippi River.

If you do end up going the Quad Cities route, I recommend a visit to the John Deere Headquarters. Disclaimer: They're my employer so I'm somewhat biased, but if you have any interest in mid-century architecture, you really shouldn't miss it. If you happen to have children with you, they tend to love checking out the huge machines there and at JD Pavilion across town.

Traveling down I-80 will bring you past Iowa's best college town, Iowa City. I haven't spent enough time there in recent years to tell you where to go or what to see there, but heading towards the downtown and pedestrian mall area should be a good way to find something interesting to have for lunch.

If your interests skew towards the quaint and old-timey, you'll be traveling near the Amana Colonies as you head down I-80. Go a little further to Grinnell, and there's another architectural landmark--Louis Sullivan's Jewel Box Bank.

Des Moines is where I live, so I can give a few more recommendations here. Definitely check out The Pappajohn Sculpture Garden and The Des Moines Art Center. They're better than you think they will be, and they're both free. Have the best Vietnamese food you'll ever taste at Pho All Seasons. Or if that's not to your liking, have lunch at The Cheese Shop. If you have kids with you, the Science Center of Iowa will be fun. If you're thirsty for a beer (you are in the Midwest, after all) El Bait Shop has over 100 microbrews on tap to choose from.

Well, my typing hands are getting sore, and there's not much I'd recommend doing in Western Iowa beyond checking out the Loess Hills, so I'll stop here. Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions.
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:12 PM on May 14, 2014

No trip to the Omaha area should be done without a visit to the squirrel cage jail. It is weird and fun for all ages.
posted by Sheppagus at 9:47 AM on May 15, 2014

Rambling and in no particular order:

Once you're in Omaha you would do worse than to visit the Henry Doorly Zoo. Unlike most zoos I've been to this one does a lot of integrated environment exhibits. I'm pretty much a native of the area and it still floors me we have something like this in the area.

The Durham Museum has some good exhibits with some local flair.

The Old Market area is kind of a nice place to spend an afternoon if shops, coffee, and dinner are your kind of thing. My two favorite places there are La Buvette and Ted & Wally's. The first is a great way to spend an afternoon with some great wine and cheese that magically and seamlessly transitions into dinner. The second is the best ice cream known to man.

Upstream is a local brewery that does a passable job and has a nice menu as well. Nebraska Brewing Company and Lazlo's/Empyrean are the other good local beer crafters of note.

Unless you're into the frat bar scene the Old Market starts getting more boisterous as the night progresses.

You might be in time for the College World Series. If so and you like baseball, this can be a fun day. It's way more corporate than it used to be, but what isn't? Your other option for baseball is the Stormchasers. But, honestly, if you're going to watch AAA baseball do it in Des Moines.

If you have a hankering for a full-on Eastern European feast then get yourself over to the Bohemian Cafe. It is my wife's most favorite comfort food and I can't argue with that. The collection of commemorative Jim Beam bottles is both quaint and interesting. Lori is a great waitperson.

South Omaha is a neighborhood in the middle of an immigrant-fueled revitalization. Oddly enough, my favorite-ist steakhouse in all of Omaha is right there too. It's where the Berkshire-Hathaway folks flock to when they're in town so you know it is good value for the money.

Midwestern hipster chic can be found in the Benson neighborhood. Shows that are not arena-rock shows will probably play one of the bars here. The Slowdown and Sokol are probably the only exceptions to that rule. Who knows for sure though? I'm getting long in the tooth and am probably missing the hot new awesome.

The most incongruous restaurant in the metro area? Mother India. How the hell did this get here? Don't expect fancy or friendly or even fast. Do expect some really damn good Indian food however.

I know this is mostly food oriented. I'm more of a beer on the porch kind of guy these days. Also the Omaha metro is mostly a suburban sprawl wasteland featuring everyone's national chain establishment entertainments. I mean that in the nicest possible way...which really isn't all that nice I guess. Familiarity breeds contempt. If you have other questions, would like more pointed suggestions, or want a home brew beer served to you while sitting on a porch swing feel free to MeMail.
posted by Fezboy! at 1:40 PM on May 15, 2014

Depending on how long you want to take time off from driving, you have some options along Ohio's north coast. Cleveland has more museums than I care to mention (beyond the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a national park, if you want to stretch your legs. Cedar Point, if you want to stop for some thrills. If you're interested in further ideas, check the Ask Metafilter tag on Cleveland. (Speaking of which, this previous question might be of use)
posted by miguelcervantes at 2:15 PM on May 15, 2014

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