Wildcat Wanders: Exploring the Big O on a Small Budget


A picnic is a great way to get outside with friends.

Madelyn Anderson, Opinions Editor

As high school students with the looming pressure of college tuition approaching, the cost of weekend entertainment must be kept to a minimum. Thankfully, the city of Omaha has plentiful opportunities for free or low-budget activities. Whether you enjoy art, music, or nature, there’s always something interesting to do just a couple of miles away.

As the weather begins to warm and ice melts away, outdoor activities are a primary source of free entertainment. Memorial Park, located near 60th and Dodge, is a vast area of green perfect for a picnic, game of ultimate frisbee, or occasional outdoor concerts. This summer, the park featured Kool & The Gang as their free Fourth of July performance followed by an exciting display of fireworks.

At Fontenelle Forest just outside of Bellevue, for a small admission fee of $7.50, the park offers hiking trails, wildlife encounters and even yoga classes in the forest. Kids and adults alike will find educational and immersive experiences with the wildlife native to Nebraska.

Turner Park at Midtown Crossings is another Omaha favorite — an expanse of green space in the middle of the city. This area offers several outdoor, free activities like larger-than-life board games, outdoor movies on Monday’s during the summer and yoga classes in the park. A couple times a year, Turner Park features Jazz on the Green and other music events, all set against the background of downtown Omaha.

The Mount Vernon Gardens (for free) and Lauritzen Gardens (for ten dollars) both offer breathtaking views of flora and fauna. In addition to beautiful gardens, Lauritzen hosts various travelling art galleries and local bands for the Tempo of Twilight concert series. Designated days are set aside for bringing pets for a stroll through the garden.

The panoramic outlook offered at Mount Vernon gardens, named for the similar view George Washington had over the Potomac, are coupled by the Lewis and Clark Scenic Lookout just across the Missouri River. This monument/trail hybrid displays a perfect view of the Omaha skyline and beautiful Nebraska sunsets.

For rainy or cool early-spring days, museums and art displays offer an indoor alternative for low cost fun. The instagram-worthy, free-to-view light sculptures at KANEKO are a sensory stimulating experience. One room features 360 degree coverage of mirrors that projects light patterns at various speeds — creating a dizzying, yet unique experience.

The Joslyn Art Museum offers free admission with a student ID to view a variety of beautiful art pieces. Regions from across the world are represented in sculptures, paintings and centuries-old journals that make a trip to this museum a worthwhile experience.

Public shows at the Kountze Planetarium on UNO’s campus allows viewers to transcend the city of Omaha and explore the stars. For only four dollars, a multimedia program will portray seasonal and current astronomical events. They highlight star patterns, mythology and planets visible in the current sky — creating an awe-inspiring hour long experience.

Beyond designated “things to do,” the Omaha area offers plenty of interesting neighborhoods and architecture perfect for simply wandering around. The historic neighborhood of Dundee features gorgeous homes from the early twentieth century, quick access to Memorial Park, and even a glimpse at Warren Buffett’s house. Picking up a BCylce for six dollars a day creates a healthy, eco-friendly transportation alternative to roam the streets of downtown and midtown Omaha.

Whether it’s exploring the design of the Old Market Passageway, strolling down South 24th Street or taking a hike across Nebraska’s natural landscape, there is no shortcoming of low cost experiences offered by the city we call our home.