Omaha, known for its rich pioneer history, is the perfect blend of urban buzz and Midwestern charm, standing at the crossroads in the heart of America. Being so well-located, Omaha is also an ideal launchpad for exploration with its proximity to picturesque landscapes, charming towns and iconic cities just a drive away.
On our list of 18 best road trips from Omaha you will find amazing adventures from day trips to picturesque towns and weekend trips to beautiful lakes, to long weekend journeys to metropolitan cities and even longer trips to famous national parks.
From scenic byways to beaches, the possibilities are endless on a road trip from Omaha in all directions! Read on to find out about what makes each of these road trips special, the must-see things and places on each, hidden gems you might not know about and our top travel tips.
Below you will find a shortlist of our favorite road trips from Omaha, followed by the full list of 18 amazing adventures on the road!
Best road trips from Omaha
|Some of our favorite road trips
|Admire the Sunken Gardens in Lincoln; or enjoy scenic byway vistas to Sioux City
|Marvel at lakeside views in Okoboji; or treat yourself to a delicious barbecue in Kansas City
|Relax at the beach by Lake of the Ozarks; or take photos with "The Bean" in Chicago
|Be amazed by the majesty of Mount Rushmore; or go wildlife-spotting in Yellowstone National Park
Day trips from Omaha (under 3 hours each way)If you're seeking a day trip from Omaha, you're in luck! Omaha is perfectly situated for quick getaways, offering everything from charming small towns to scenic nature spots, all within a three-hour drive.
via Springfield, Louisville and Ashland
1 hour 20 minutes from Omaha (70 miles)
Why you should visit: This is the shortest drive on this list, which makes for a perfect day trip out of Omaha. On the way to Lincoln, you can stop at lovely small towns such as rural Springfield, Louisville with its charming parks, and Ashland for the authentic small-town experience.
Lincoln, as capital of Nebraska, is full of historic sights and cultural attractions. The city contains beautiful parks, and it has a vibrant arts and live music scene.
How to get here from Omaha: Head out of Omaha on Interstate 80 (I-80) and then switch to NE-50 to drive south towards Louisville. From here, follow NE-66 west to reach Ashland. I-80 will then take you all the way into Lincoln.
Our highlights: Since this is a shorter trip, we recommend making a few extra stops on your way to Lincoln. Platte River State Park in Louisville is a beautiful park with forests and waterfalls. It is a wonderful place for hiking, biking or bird watching, as well as other outdoor activities.
In Ashland, there are many sights to see. Put aside some time to take a walk along the town's central street with lovely shops and breweries, and why not visit the fascinating Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum while you are here?
Once you arrive in Lincoln, the Nebraska State Capitol is an impressive building and the seat of the government of the state of Nebraska. Any architecture lover would be in for a treat during their visit!
Sunken Gardens is another stunning place to visit in Lincoln. These gardens offer a quiet space to be, with ponds, walkways, and lots of beautiful flower beds. It has been, quite unsurprisingly, listed in the "300 Best Gardens to Visit in the United States and Canada".
If you're interested in history of transportation, you can also visit the Museum of American Speed. This museum is dedicated to preserving America's automotive history, and it has an impressive collection of artifacts.
Did you know? Lincoln, Nebraska, has strong ties to American history and the city was even named after the iconic leader Abraham Lincoln in 1867.
Things to note: As with all road trips in Nebraska, if you're making this trip in the middle of winter, be prepared for possible snow and ice on the roads.
2. St Joseph and Atchison
2 hours 30 minutes from Omaha (155 miles)
Why you should visit: This is a road trip you could enjoy as a day or weekend trip. A visit to Atchison, Kansas, will allow you to admire the Missouri River flowing through the city, walk along the tree-lined brick streets, and admire the city's architecture.
Atchison is deeply rooted in history. The city is well known for its impressive Victorian-era architecture, and over 20 sites here are on the National Register of Historic Places. The city is also known for its lovely boutique shops and quaint restaurants.
The trip to Atchison from Omaha will also take you to St Joseph in Missouri along the way.
How to get here from Omaha: Follow I-29 all the wat south into St Joseph and then hop onto US-59 to reach Atchison.
Our highlights: St Joseph, Missouri, along the way, is full of fascinating historic places to visit. For example, the award-winning Glore Psychiatric Museum hosts extensive collections of artifacts that chronicle the early history of psychiatric treatment.
The Pony Express Museum here is also worth a visit and this quaint museum documents the history of the first fast mail line across North America!
Once in Atchison, you can visit the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum. This is a Gothic Revival home dedicated to honoring Earhart's aviation legacy.
Looking for something more artistic? Muchnic Art Gallery is located in a beautiful, historic building, and it is used for art exhibitions and community events. Make sure to check their schedules ahead of time.
St Benedict's Abbey is a private community for monks of the Order of St. Benedict. You'll have a welcome experience here during your visit, and you can admire the big church and view the amazing architecture.
In Downtown Atchison, you may take in the historic feel of the city, visit charming shops, or get refreshments at the city's lovely restaurants and cafés.
Did you know? Atchison is considered one of the most haunted cities in Kansas, with many buildings here that attract the attention of paranormal investigators and visitors alike!
Things to note: The stretch between Omaha and Atchison is frequented by people traveling between Omaha and Kansas City. Be extra careful in traffic if driving this stretch in the wintertime and try to avoid the weekends, if you can.
3. Sioux City
via Loess Hills National Scenic Byway
2 hours 40 minutes from Omaha (125 miles)
Why you should visit: Sioux City is a wonderful weekend destination from Omaha, with much art, culture, and green spaces to explore. Taking this road trip, you'll have a chance to enjoy the beauty and peace of the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway.
These roads pass through a unique land formation, a 15-mile-wide and 200-mile-long collection of Loess Hills that are part of the eastern edge of the Missouri River floodplain. Along the way, you can enjoy breathtaking scenery, restaurants, lovely walks, and fascinating attractions.
Sioux City is known as a river city - located along the Missouri River, it has plenty of green spaces and parks that are wonderful for hiking, biking, scenic views and more. It is also known for interesting historic landmarks, museums, and art.
How to get here from Omaha: Head out of Omaha northeast to get on Loess Hills National Scenic Byway. Follow this scenic byway all the way north through Preparation Canyon State Park and Turin. You will soon reach Sioux City, heading northwest.
Our highlights: As you are driving along Loess Hills Scenic Byway on your way to Sioux City, you can visit Harrison County Historical Village & Iowa Welcome Center. Here, you will learn about the history of the pioneers at this museum straight from the 1800s.
Another sight to see along the byway is Murray Hill Scenic Overlook. The beautiful, diverse nature area offers panoramic views of the Missouri River Valley.
If you have a little more time to spare, you can also enjoy picnicking, camping, or hiking at the relatively undisturbed Preparation Canyon State Park.
In Sioux City, one of our favorite places to visit is the Sioux City Art Center, where you can view artworks by Upper Midwest artists. Learning about local artists in a place that shaped their background is one of the best ways to learn about a community.
While you are here, you might also want to learn more about Sioux City. If this is the case, you can explore displays of local history and try your hand at a replica of a fossil dig site at Sioux City Public Museum.
Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center is another fascinating place to visit; here, you can learn about the famed expedition that took place in the early 19th century.
Did you know? Sioux City actually has 58 public parks for you to explore! They range from small green areas to wilder-looking spaces, and offer something for every visitor, from river views to mini golf, and from children's playgrounds to rustic walking trails.
Things to note: Driving sections of the Loess Hills Scenic Byway is truly a wonderful way to get out of the city. If you wish to enjoy the scenery and take your time, explore this byway rather than driving the busier highways from Omaha to Sioux City.
Be prepared for driving on gravel roads should you wish to explore the beauty of the Loess Hills Scenic Byway. Be extra cautious during winter months, for snow and ice may heavily influence driving conditions.
Weekend trips from Omaha (3-5 hours each way)For those planning a weekend escape from Omaha, an array of enticing destinations awaits within a 3-5 hour drive. These spots are perfect for an overnight stay or a full weekend adventure, offering a blend of picturesque landscapes, cultural experiences, and the best opportunities to unwind.
4. Grand Island and Kearney
3 hours from Omaha (190 miles)
Why you should visit: Whether you wish to enjoy the great outdoors, spend time in fascinating museums, or go shopping, Kearney has you covered. Kearney is the 5th largest city in Nebraska, and it is called the "cultural heart" of the state.
On this road trip to Kearney, you can visit two amazing cities rich in both culture and history, Lincoln and Grand Island, the latter of which is also home to stunning nature spots to visit.
How to get here from Omaha: Drive southwest out of Omaha on I-80 and follow this interstate through Lincoln. Use Exit 314 towards Grand Island and then keep heading southwest on US-30 to reach Kearney.
Our highlights: Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center southwest of Grand Island is a wonderful place to take a walk, admire the butterfly garden, and view migrating sandhill cranes along the Platte River.
Great Platte River Road Archway Monument is a well-known attraction just to the east of Kearney. It has a historical display telling the story of Nebraska and the Platte River Valley.
If you are looking to spend some time outdoors, Yanney Heritage Park has a lake with boat rentals, and you can take a walk along the shores of the lake or visit a lookout tower.
The Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA) has an amazing collection of regional art from the Midwest. It is set in a 1911 Neoclassic building.
Did you know? Kearney is also known for the fact that 80% of the world's sandhill crane population comes together every spring in Nebraska's Platte River Valley, close to Kearney. There are various crane viewing opportunities in this area.
Things to note: Interstate 80 is known as a major truck route - so it is a good idea to be aware of heavy traffic, especially if you're making the road trip in the winter months when Nebraska frequently experiences snowy and icy conditions.
The best months to view the sandhill cranes in Platte River Valley is between February and April, when the birds fly up from their southern wintering grounds. The best times of the day to see these birds are at sunrise and sunset.
5. Sioux Falls
3 hours from Omaha (190 miles)
Why you should visit: A drive from Omaha to Sioux Falls takes you north along the Missouri River, past Sioux City, to the land of sprawling prairies, South Dakota. Sioux Falls is a friendly city with lots of beautiful green spaces and exciting attractions for visitors to explore.
Sioux Falls is definitely best known for the waterfalls that the city is named for, as well as stunning parks and recreation areas. It is also the most populous city in South Dakota, and has a vibrant cultural scene.
How to get here from Omaha: Following I-29 from Omaha and heading north will take you directly to Sioux Falls.
Our highlights: Fort Atkinson State Historical Park is a green space where you'll find a reconstruction of the historic fort. During the summer, there are living history demonstrations at the park, portraying life in the 1820s military fort.
Stop off at Sioux City to visit one of the many fascinating museums here; for example, go and explore the displays and stories about an exciting exploration at Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
At Sioux Falls, you'll certainly want to visit the waterfalls that the city is so famous for. The falls are found at Falls Park, at a spot where the Big Sioux River tumbles over a series of rock faces.
Butterfly House & Aquarium is a mesmerizing place, with hundreds of active butterflies, sea life displays, and fun, educational aspects for the whole family.
Old Courthouse Museum is located in one of the oldest buildings in Sioux Falls. It hosts three floors of exhibitions about local history.
Sculpture Walk is an exciting exhibition of 65 statues in downtown Sioux Falls. We highly recommend setting aside some time to explore this unique experience.
Did you know? Sioux Falls was the place where the very first four-door automobile was invented in 1908.
Things to note: Sioux Falls is known to receive more snow in winter than Omaha; be sure to prepare for this road trip with good winter tires should you be doing it in winter, and keep an eye on the weather forecast and warnings to be well prepared for your journey.
3 hours 20 minutes from Omaha (210 miles)
Why you should visit: Okoboji is a city in Iowa's Great Lakes region and is a great road trip destination from Omaha. It is located on the eastern shores of West Okoboji Lake, and is a popular resort city. This road trip out of Omaha is a wonderful option for a long weekend holiday.
Okoboji is famous for its beautiful lakeside condo living, for boating, swimming and other water-based activities, a community spirit and live music, among other things.
How to get here from Omaha: Follow I-29 to reach Sioux City and then switch to US-75 and IA-60 to reach Sibley. From here, head east towards your destination in Okoboji.
Our highlights: West Okoboji Lake offers countless pastime and sports opportunities, from walking on the shores to fishing, boating, and swimming. Swimming in the lake takes some getting used to, though, for its waters are considered unusually cold. A lovely refreshment in the summertime, in any case!
Arnolds Park Amusement Park is a historic amusement park with 23 rides, Go-Karts, and a River Cruise, so you will have plenty to do here during your visit.
Okoboji Classic Cars is a unique trip back in time. There is a collection of about 80 classic cars, as well as a set of one-of-a-kind artworks, on display.
Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum features a large collection of local photographs and artifacts celebrating the maritime history of the Iowa Great Lakes area.
Did you know? West Okoboji Lake is a natural body of water and is said to have an exceptionally blue hue. The water in the lake is cold and clear, and this is largely due to underground springs that help feed the lake.
This popular Iowa lake was originally formed by the retreating ice glacier at the end of the last ice age.
Things to note: Although favored as a holiday destination during summer for obvious reasons, Okoboji is also a wonderful winter holiday destination. In and around the city, you'll find opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, as well as indoor and outdoor ice skating.
The University of Okoboji Winter Games Festival is a well-loved tradition in Okoboji. The event takes place at the end of January, and is an event where lots of fun activities take place, all celebrating the snowy landscape and the frozen waters of West Okoboji Lake.
7. Kansas City
via Nebraska City, Brownville and Indian Cave State Park
3 hours 45 minutes from Omaha (215 miles)
Why you should visit: This road trip down south from Omaha keeps you close to the scenic Mississippi River. Your destination, Kansas City, is known for its jazz heritage and delicious barbecue, this colorful city is the place to be to enjoy some amazing music and delicious meals! colorful city is the place to be!
Along the way, you can visit Nebraska City, with its beautiful historic architecture, farms, and ranches, as well as the similarly historically interesting village of Brownville.
How to get here from Omaha: Heading out of Omaha, follow US-75 to drive through Nebraska City and then make a detour to Indian Cave State Park on NE-64E. From here, head southeast to merge onto I-29 to reach Kansas City.
Our highlights: Along the way, visit Arbor Lodge State Historical Park in Nebraska City. This former estate features a mansion, an arboretum, and a beautiful trail you may explore.
Brownville is known for its historic Greek Revival-style buildings. There are also lovely small shops, cafés and galleries to visit in this small, quaint Nebraska town.
Indian Cave State Park is a recreation area along the Missouri River, wonderful for nature and wilderness activities. This park is home to stunning sandstone caves and formations, and we highly recommend paying it a visit on your way to Kansas City.
Kansas City's downtown area is home to the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District, and the city has several museums well worth exploring.
While here, we recommend exploring the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, with its extensive collections of art from various periods and parts of the world. The museum is especially known for its collections of Asian Art.
Arabia Steamboat Museum is another unique attraction, displaying historic artifacts from a steamboat that sank in the Missouri River in 1856.
Excelsior Springs is a charming small city just half an hour from Kansas City. It is surrounded by idyllic countryside, and there are lovely attractions to visit in the city. One of them is the Hall of Waters Visitor Center, the site of the first spring discovered here in 1880.
Did you know? Kansas City is also known for its fountains, parks, and boulevards. There are around 200 fountains found here and over 130 miles of boulevards and parkways that provide green connections in this fascinating city.
Things to note: Note that at Indian Cave State Park, most roads are closed to cars during winter but remain open to hikers and skiers.
8. Des Moines and Cedar Rapids
4 hours from Omaha (260 miles)
Why you should visit: Take a road trip through central Iowa and its farmlands, quaint towns, and vibrant metropolises. Visit Des Moines on the way, the capital city of Iowa State. You'll end up in Cedar Rapids, an arts and cultural hub of eastern Iowa.
Cedar Rapids is especially known for its colorful arts and culture scene. Here, you can enjoy fabulous theater performances, live music, and museums, and there is also a growing culinary and craft brewery scene in the city.
How to get here from Omaha: Following I-80 east will take you through Des Moines and then to Iowa City. From here, head directly north on I-380 to reach Cedar Rapids.
Our highlights: Halfway along this road trip option you'll end up in the capital city of Iowa, Des Moines. While visiting this buzzing metropolis, you can visit the golden-domed Iowa State Capitol building or enjoy live music and local produce at the Downtown Farmer's Market.
In Cedar Rapids, you will have the opportunity to visit the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art to view artworks by a local painter, Grant Wood.
You might also want to visit the fascinating National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, where you can view exhibits that tell historical stories of 19th-century immigrants.
If you have time, explore Brucemore, a 26-acre estate in the heart of Cedar Rapids. It has formal gardens, pond, orchard, and woodland, around a Queen Anne-style mansion built in the 1880s.
Did you know? Cedar Rapids is the largest corn-processing city in the world, as Iowa is the state where most corn is grown per year out of all the states in the US.
Things to note: If doing this road trip in the months between November and April, be prepared for snowy weather on the roads with proper winter tires, and check the weather forecast to try and avoid the worst snow storms.
Long weekend trips from Omaha (5-8 hours each way)When you have a long weekend to spare and Omaha is your starting point, you will be spoilt for choice regarding where you can visit. Whether you're drawn to the allure of bustling cities or famous natural parks, these longer journeys will be the talk of your dinner parties for a long time.
9. Lake of the Ozarks
via Topeka and Kansas City
6 hours 15 minutes from Omaha (370 miles)
Why you should visit: This road trip will lead you to the scenic views and holiday atmosphere of Missouri's most popular lake destination, Lake of the Ozarks. The route takes you via Topeka, the capital city of the state of Kansas, and Kansas City, known for its jazz music heritage.
Lake of the Ozarks is known for its public beaches, fishing, and other water-based recreational activities. You'll find more than 1,100 miles of shoreline here! You'll also find fascinating caves and nature areas, as well as wineries, breweries, and cultural attractions in the surroundings of the lake.
How to get here from Omaha: Use US-75 to head south through to Topeka and then switch to I-70. This highway will take you to Kansas City and then I-49 and following MO-7, you will reach Lake of the Ozarks.
Our highlights: You can visit the mesmerizing Bridal Cave by Lake of the Ozarks, where you can admire beautiful rock formations including stalagmites and stalactites.
While on this drive, why not treat yourself to a special cultural experience and go watch a nostalgic musical at the Main Street Music Hall in Osage Beach? Make sure to check the program ahead of time to see if you'd like to book any tickets ahead of time.
Ozark Distillery and Brewery is also a go-to place when visiting Osage Beach. You can taste the local beers at this family-owned brewery, as well as enjoy lunch or dinner.
Beer's not your thing? No worries; you will find Shawnee Bluff Winery, a small and quaint winery overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks nearby. If you are lucky, you can even catch a live music event during your visit.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park is also a popular attraction in the area: overlooking the lake, this park features the stone ruins of a 20th-century castle, and you may walk along 15 miles of trails that allow you to view caves, natural bridges and the lake itself.
Did you know? The lake covers an area of 54,000 acres in size. From above, the lake's shape looks like a slithering serpent, giving it its nickname, "The Magic Dragon."
Things to note: Lake of the Ozarks gets partially frozen during winter. Even during this colder period, there is much fun to be had at Lake of the Ozarks! Some of the hikes remain open; you can go winter camping or ice skating, or you can enjoy the many restaurants in the towns surrounding the lake.
You can also visit the Bridal Cave during the winter months - the inside of the cave remains at a constant 60-degree temperature. If it's bad weather, access to the cave may be restricted, so calling ahead will avoid any disappointment if this is the case.
Via Perry and Boone
6 hours 20 minutes from Omaha (400 miles)
Why you should visit: This road trip from Omaha to Minneapolis is the quintessential American journey, a drive that will take you through the picturesque Midwest. As you drive, you'll be greeted by the beauty of rolling hills and vast farmlands.
Renowned for its remarkable park system, Minneapolis is a green haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The city's love for lakes adds to its unique character, offering an array of activities from peaceful lakeside walks to water sports. Minneapolis is also a hub for arts and culture.
How to get here from Omaha: Follow I-80 but instead of entering Des Moines, head north past Stuart to visit Perry and Boone before merging onto US-35. This interstate will take you all the way to Minneapolis.
Our highlights: On your way to Minneapolis, we recommend taking a break and visiting Perry's Historic Town Square. This charming area is perfect for a leisurely stroll.
For adventure seekers, Seven Oaks Recreation is a year-round paradise. In the winter, it transforms into a snowy wonderland where you can snow tube, snowboard, and ski to your heart's content. Come summer, the Des Moines River calls for canoeing, kayaking, and river tubing.
Next, step back in time in Boone with an excursion on a vintage train at the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad. Don't miss the opportunity to hike the trails at Ledges State Park, where you'll be treated to stunning views of sandstone cliffs and serene streams.
Once in Minneapolis, you can walk the trails at Minnehaha Park and discover the captivating beauty of its waterfall.
You can also explore the city's rich art scene with visits to the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, each offering a diverse array of artistic wonders that will leave you inspired.
Did you know? Louis Armstrong performed 6 miles outside Perry in the 1950s. He stayed at Hotel Pattee that night, and now there's a suite dedicated to the famous musician.
Things to note: Winter in this region can bring snow and ice, making driving conditions potentially hazardous. It is a good idea to ensure your vehicle is winter-ready and check weather forecasts regularly.
If you're looking forward to winter sports in Seven Oaks Recreation, note that the season's start depends on the weather. Always check their website before you go to ensure the slopes are open and ready for snowboarding, skiing, or snow tubing.
Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad features various types of train excursions, including special seasonal rides, so it is a good idea to look into your options beforehand.
Via Springfield and Ozark
6 hours 20 minutes from Omaha (400 miles)
Why you should visit: Branson is lovingly called “Live Entertainment Capital” by the locals, and the road trip from Omaha will be full of fun gigs to enjoy. Here, you'll be treated to many theatre shows, comedy acts, and great music performances.
As you travel, you'll pass through the stunning Ozark Mountains, a scenic masterpiece that's a gateway to numerous outdoor adventures. From hiking to exploring hidden trails, the Ozarks provide a beautiful contrast to the bustling entertainment in Branson.
How to get here from Omaha: From Omaha, use I-29 to reach Kansas City and then keep heading southeast to reach Springfield, Missouri and then Ozark. From here, hop onto US-65 to arrive at Branson.
Our highlights: Make a pit stop in Springfield, where you can visit the Fantastic Caverns. Here, you can also enjoy a tram tour through these magnificent caves.
Don't miss the Route 66 Springfield Visitor Center, a perfect spot to soak in some classic Americana and gather inspiration for your journey. Another historical gem is the Pythian Castle, built in 1913, offering a fascinating peek into the past.
When passing through Ozark, enjoy a guided tour at the Smallin Civil War Cave in Ozark. And for a blend of history and nature, Finley Farms is a must-visit. Dating back to 1833, this urban farm hosts special events and features a fabulous riverside restaurant.
As you approach Branson, make sure to spend some time at Table Rock Lake. Known for its serene lakeside beaches and trails, it's a haven for relaxation and outdoor activities. Moonshine Beach is a fantastic place to spend some time with its public swimming areas and sandy shores.
In Branson, the entertainment options are endless. Step back in time at the 1880s-inspired Silver Dollar City, or dive into history at the Titanic Museum. Branson is a family-friendly destination where everyone, regardless of age, can find something exciting and fun to do.
Did you know? The Titanic Museum in Branson has over 400 objects from the original Titanic. It also has a replica of the Grand Staircase that cost around $1M to build!
Things to note: Branson's popularity means that tickets for shows and attractions can sell out quickly. To avoid disappointment, book your tickets well in advance, especially for the most sought-after performances.
To beat the crowds and enjoy a more relaxed visit, consider traveling to Branson on a weekday. Weekends tend to draw larger crowds, which can affect both availability and your overall experience.
12. St Louis
Via Kansas City and Columbia
6 hours 35 minutes from Omaha (435 miles)
Why you should visit: This road trip from Omaha to St Louis is a Tri-City experience where you'll explore three vibrant cities in one go! Kansas City, Omaha, and St Louis, all located on this drive, each offer a unique charm and urban landscapes to explore.
As you cruise towards Kansas City, prepare yourself for a deep dive into its famous barbecue scene. And at the end of this drive, you will visit the beautiful city of St Louis, home to the iconic Gateway Arch, a symbol of America's westward expansion.
How to get here from Omaha: Follow I-29 south to reach Kansas City and then head east on I-70 to drive through Columbia before reaching St Louis.
Our highlights: Begin your adventure in Kansas City at the Country Club Plaza. This Spanish-inspired shopping district is a picturesque blend of unique shops and restaurants.
While in the city, wander among the numerous fountains and see for yourself why Kansas City is fondly nicknamed "The City of Fountains." And of course, no visit to Kansas City is complete without indulging in its famous BBQ!
As you continue, make a stop at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Take a leisurely stroll through the campus, admiring the lush lawns and historic stone columns. Nearby, the Museum of Art and Archaeology offers an intriguing cultural experience.
Before reaching St Louis, you can also visit Forest Park, an expansive green space that is much more than just a park. Spanning 1,300 acres, it hosts attractions like the St Louis Zoo and the St Louis Art Museum.
In St Louis, the Gateway Arch National Park is a must-see. Make sure to take the tram ride to the top of the iconic Gateway Arch, where you'll enjoy breathtaking views and a unique perspective on the city.
Did you know? Did you know the Gateway Arch is just as impressive underground as it rises above? This iconic monument has foundations 60 feet deep into the ground!
Things to note: To ensure a hassle-free visit to the iconic Gateway Arch, purchase your tram ride tickets online in advance.
Take some time to explore the diverse neighborhoods of Kansas City. You'll find hidden gems throughout, especially in the Jazz District of 18th and Vine. While there, don't miss the opportunity to savor some legendary barbecue at Arthur Bryant's.
13. Badlands National Park
6 hours 30 minutes from Omaha (460 miles)
Why you should visit: This road trip offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a landscape dotted with geological wonders. The park's striking rock formations, including pinnacles, buttes, and spires, create a stunning backdrop that feels almost otherworldly.
As you explore the Badlands, you might also encounter majestic wildlife such as bison roaming the vast expanse. And if you love the night sky, Badlands National Park is a certified Dark Sky Park, offering incredible stargazing tours.
How to get here from Omaha: You will head north on I-29 to reach Sioux City first, and then switch to I-90 to head west all the way to Badlands National Park.
Our highlights: On the way, visit Falls Park in Sioux Falls and enjoy the beauty of cascading waterfalls and meandering walking trails. Take advantage of the viewing platform and the observation tower for a spectacular view of the dramatic water drops.
This drive will also take you to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. This site provides a fascinating insight into the Cold War era, where you can learn about the nuclear weapons that were once stationed here.
As you approach Badlands National Park, make your first stop at the Big Badlands Overlook. Located just off the Northeast Entrance, this viewpoint offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the park's distinctive jagged rock formations.
As you approach the national park, don't miss out on a chance to drive along the Badlands Scenic Loop on SD 240. Entering from the North Entrance, this famous route allows you to fully immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes of the Badlands.
Did you know? Badlands National Park was a filming location for parts of the movie "Dances with Wolves." With its majestic landscape, it is not surprising that this national park has been featured in movies!
Things to note: The Badlands region is known for its sudden weather changes, so be prepared for varying conditions. Also, be vigilant for potential wildlife encounters while driving, as the park is home to a variety of animals that may cross your path.
The Badlands Scenic Loop is a must-see, open year-round. However, keep in mind that during winter, the road can become icy and may sometimes close for safety reasons.
Remember that all vehicles entering the park must have a pass. You can purchase this pass either in person or online, but note that only credit or debit cards are accepted for payment.
14. Oklahoma City
Via Abilene and Wichita
7 hours 30 minutes from Omaha (470 miles)
Why you should visit: Pack your bags and get ready for a road trip from Omaha to Oklahoma City, a journey that weaves through the heart of America's cowboy heritage into a vibrant urban landscape. Oklahoma City is famous for its deep cowboy roots and Western heritage.
Oklahoma City is home to the Bricktown District, an entertainment hub that truly comes alive at night, offering an array of dining, shopping, and entertainment options.
How to get here from Omaha: To reach Oklahoma City from Omaha, first head to Lincoln on I-80 and then switch to US-77, heading south. Hop onto KS-15, which will take you to Abilene and then Wichita. Follow I-35 all the way south to Oklahoma City.
Our highlights: Start your journey with a visit to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum in Abilene. Here, you can learn more about the life and legacy of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and visit his Boyhood Home.
As you travel to Wichita, make sure to explore Old Town, the historic heart of the city. This area is perfect for shopping and dining, with its charming blend of history and modernity.
Don't miss The Keeper of the Plains in Wichita, a stunning 44-foot statue of an Indian chief, which becomes even more magnificent when lit up at night.
In Oklahoma City, a visit to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is a must. This institution is renowned as the premier center of Western history, art, and culture, offering a deep dive into the cowboy era that shaped much of American folklore.
The Bricktown District in Oklahoma City is another vibrant spot, especially in the evening. Stroll along the picturesque canal, lined with boutique shops, upscale dining options, and a lively nightlife scene.
The Myriad Botanical Gardens in the city offer a serene escape in the heart of downtown. Spanning 15 acres, these green gardens include a Tropical Conservatory with elevated walkways and waterfalls, providing a tranquil retreat amidst the urban buzz.
Did you know? The hospitable nature of Oklahoma City earned it the nickname "The Big Friendly," so you can expect a warm welcome from the locals during your visit.
Things to note: Given that Bricktown truly comes alive in the evening with its vibrant nightlife, consider booking your hotel in this area ahead of time. This will allow you to enjoy the lively atmosphere and enjoy the district's offerings without worrying about a late-night commute.
If you're planning to tour Eisenhower's Boyhood Home, keep in mind that tours are limited to only 10 people per session. These tours run from Tuesday to Sunday and can only be booked onsite. Due to the limited capacity, we recommend arriving early to secure your spot.
Via Des Moines and Cedar Rapids
7 hours 45 minutes from Omaha (510 miles)
Why you should visit: This road trip is a journey that will take you to one of the world's most renowned cities on the shores of Lake Michigan. Chicago, a melting pot of culture and history, is famed for its iconic architecture, world-class museums, and a culinary scene as diverse as its population.
As you explore Chicago, you will be captivated by the stunning lakeside views, particularly from the famous Navy Pier.
How to get here from Omaha: Following I-80 and heading directly east from Omaha will take you to Iowa City, where you can head north to make a detour to Cedar Rapids. Afterwards, return back on the interstate and keep following east to reach Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Our highlights: As you drive from Omaga to Chicago, you will pass by Des Moines. Here, you can explore the Living History Farms. This outdoor museum offers a unique glimpse into Iowa's agricultural history.
Next, you can visit the Amana Colonies near Cedar Rapids. Here, you can experience the charm of the historic German villages in person. This self-guided tour will make you feel like you are in Germany, with its authentic architecture, crafts, and cuisine.
Upon reaching Chicago, Millennium Park is one of our favorite places to visit. Admire the impressive sculptures and landscape design of this urban park. The highlight here is the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture, affectionately known as "The Bean," a marvel of modern art and a favorite photo spot.
Also in Chicago, make your way to the bustling Navy Pier, an entertainment hotspot on the shores of Lake Michigan. This area features a Ferris wheel, numerous bars, shops, and theaters, making it a perfect spot for family fun or a romantic evening stroll.
On your way to Chicago, embrace the flavors of the Midwest by trying the region's favorite, the pork tenderloin sandwich. It's a classic dish that's beloved in this area.
Once you're in Chicago, indulging in a deep-dish pizza is an absolute must. This iconic Chicago culinary staple is a delightful experience for any food enthusiast.
Did you know? Chicago was home to the first-ever Ferris Wheel. Making its debut in 1893, it set the stage for all the Ferris wheels we see today. While the original was destroyed by controlled demolition and sold for scrap, the wheel found at Navy Pier serves as a tribute.
Things to note: It's wise to book your accommodations in advance, not only to save money but also because Chicago frequently hosts major events, which can cause hotels to fill up quickly.
Longer trips from Omaha (Over 8 hours each way)Setting out from Omaha on a longer journey unlocks the door to some truly epic road trip adventures. Whether it's the familiar faces of Mount Rushmore or the world-famous geysers of Yellowstone, our list is brimming with fantastic destinations to explore.
16. Mount Rushmore
Via Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park and Valentine
9 hours from Omaha (540 miles)
Why you should visit: This road trip will be one for the books; Mount Rushmore sits in the Black Hills of South Dakota and in its granite cliffs are four 60-foot-high monumental sculptures depicting the faces of US presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
Not only a majestic view, you can also explore the trails through the Black Hill Mountains and marvel at the iconic masterpiece sculpture from different angles.
How to get here from Omaha: Follow US-275 northwest towards Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. After your visit, keep heading northwest to Valentine and then US-18 and BIA Highway-41 will allow you to reach your destination in Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Our highlights: This is a relatively longer journey from Omaha, and you can make several stops before you reach your destination, such as Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park in Royal, Nebraska. Here, immerse yourself in the region's prehistoric past and marvel at the paleontological wonders.
Next, you will get a chance to explore the charming town of Valentine, Nebraska. Known for its beautiful parks, Valentine is a picturesque stop. Make sure to walk across the Niobrara River Bridge on the Cowboy Trail, where you can enjoy scenic views and a sense of tranquility.
Undoubtedly, a major highlight of your trip will be visiting Mount Rushmore. Marvel at the colossal sculptures of four American presidents, an iconic symbol of the country's history and achievements.
After a long drive, a hike will be a welcome change of pace, and you can enjoy some time outdoors by walking the Presidential Trail. This well-maintained boardwalk meanders through pine forests, offering different angles and perspectives of the monument.
Did you know? Mount Rushmore appears in many films, some of which you might be familiar with. These include Alfred Hitchcock's 1950s film "North by Northwest", the 1980s film "Superman II" and "Mars Attacks" in 1996, when Martians took over and replaced the presidents with their own faces.
Things to note: The Black Hills region experiences varying climates. While January and February are the coldest months, remember that March often sees the most snowfall. It is a good idea to check the road conditions before setting off.
The grounds of Mount Rushmore are open year-round, but the opening times can vary depending on the season. Additionally, some attractions within the area, like the Sculpture Studio, are closed from October to April.
While entrance to Mount Rushmore itself is free, there is a parking fee of $10 per standard vehicle (calculated at the time of writing).
17. Denver and Colorado Springs
9 hours 20 minutes from Omaha (630 miles)
Why you should visit: Denver, the Mile High City, is a cultural hotspot with a vibrant mix of world-class museums, art galleries, and a flourishing music scene. Its urban landscape is complemented by its proximity to the Rocky Mountains, making it an ideal gateway for outdoor enthusiasts.
The city's location offers easy access to hiking trails and skiing opportunities, drawing tourists who seek both city exploration and mountain adventures. Then, as you venture into Colorado Springs, you will have many more opportunities to continue your adventure outdoors.
How to get here from Omaha: To reach Denver and Colorado Springs from Omaha, follow I-80 out of Omaha, heading west and then merge onto I-76 to reach Denver. From here, I-25 will take you all the way south to Colorado Springs.
Our highlights: In Denver, don't miss the Denver Art Museum, renowned for its rich collection of art spanning various cultures and times. For a taste of the city's urban vibe, ride the free shuttle along 16th Street Mall, where you'll encounter iconic spots like Union Station and the LoDo District.
A short drive to Morrison will take you to the Red Rocks Amphitheater. This iconic music venue is nestled in a stunning natural setting. Whether you catch a show or simply stroll around during the day, the experience is unforgettable.
Next, the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs awaits with its awe-inspiring red rock formations. The park's iconic Balanced Rock, seemingly defying gravity, is a sight to behold.
If you'd like to learn more about the most photogenic spots in the Garden of the Gods, you will find all of them listed in our detailed guide.
A visit to Pikes Peak here will offer breathtaking views from the summit of one of Colorado's famous Fourteeners. Choose to drive up the scenic Pikes Peak Highway or take the more leisurely Pikes Peak Cog Railway. Either way, the panoramic views from the top are spectacular.
You can also spare some time to explore the stunning Rocky Mountain National Park while visiting this area.
Did you know? Denver has the nickname the Mile High City for obvious reasons. But where the city meets exactly one mile, or 5,280 feet above sea level, is marked on the steps of the State Capitol. See if you can spot it during your visit!
Things to note: Colorado's weather can change rapidly, so it's important to check the forecast regularly. If you're traveling in winter, be aware that tire chains may be required due to snowy conditions.
Both Denver and Colorado Springs are at high altitudes, which can affect people not accustomed to higher elevations. It's important to stay hydrated and give yourself time to acclimatize. If you feel any discomfort, make sure to rest and take it easy.
If you're planning to indulge in outdoor activities, pack accordingly. Sturdy footwear is essential for exploring mountainous regions. Depending on the season and activities, also consider packing layers, sun protection, and any specialized gear you might need.
If you're interested in attending an event at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, try to book your tickets in advance, as popular shows often sell out quickly.
Rocky Mountain National Park uses a reservation system to book entry slots, make sure to check the official website to book one to avoid any disappointment.
18. Yellowstone National Park
Via Jackson and Grand Teton National Park
16 hours 25 minutes from Omaha (1,055 miles)
Why you should visit: Yellowstone National Park earns the crown of the nation's first national park and is also widely accepted as the world's first national park, having been established in 1872. It's home to geothermal features, diverse wildlife, and alpine meadows.
Here, you can witness the Earth in full force and see an erupting geyser or spot fascinating wildlife including grizzly bears, elk, wolves and bison, all roaming the national park.
How to get here from Omaha: On this road trip, you will follow I-80 west to Rawlins on this longer road trip and then switch to US-287 and US-26 to arrive at Grand Teton National Park and Jackson. From here, followID-33 and then US-20 to reach West Yellowstone, your gateway to Yellowstone National Park.
Our highlights: Start your adventure at Grand Teton National Park. Take a moment at the turnout to absorb the breathtaking majesty of the Teton Range. If time permits, venture deeper into the park to admire the serene crystal blue lakes, like Jenny and Jackson Lake, set against the backdrop of stunning alpine scenery.
A visit to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park is one of the most popular things to do here. This geyser's eruptions are among the most predictable natural phenomena in the park, offering a spectacular display of nature's power.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is another highlight not to be missed. Marvel at the grandeur of this 20-mile-long canyon, with its stunning Lower Falls and the cascading Yellowstone River.
Keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife that inhabits these parks. From bison to elk and even wolves, areas like Lamar Valley are hotspots for wildlife spotting, offering unique opportunities to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
Did you know? Yellowstone has been used as a prominent filming location for movies and TV shows alike. However, most recently, the Kevin Costner-led TV series "Yellowstone," has propelled the popularity of the National Park as it showcases the region's rugged beauty.
Things to note: Keep in mind that while the parks are open year-round, some roads close during winter due to snow. The North Entrance to Yellowstone is the only one open all year, so you may need to adjust your route accordingly.
To learn more about how to drive to Yellowstone National Park in different seasons, you can access our detailed guide here.
Yellowstone is one of the most popular national parks, so it's wise to book your accommodations and any planned activities well in advance.
While wildlife sightings are a highlight of these parks, always observe animals from a safe distance. Follow the park's guidelines for wildlife interactions to ensure both your safety and the well-being of the animals.
If you're planning to visit multiple national parks, consider purchasing a National Park Pass. Entry to Grand Teton and Yellowstone requires separate passes, each costing around $35.
However, an annual pass, priced at $80 (both prices calculated at the time of writing), grants access to all US National Parks and can be more budget-friendly for extensive exploration.