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Exploring Omaha's Lauritzen Gardens with Kids

I recently had the opportunity to visit Lauritzen Gardens with my family in Omaha after winning passes from the Walking Tourists (who are the Omaha-based parents of a Morningside grad and you should totally check out their blog!), and it was so cool! Here's a quick look:

Isn't it beautiful? We went in early May, so many things were not yet in bloom, but it was still so gorgeous (and I'll update with more pics if I get a chance to go back later in the year!) Here's a more in-depth look at Lauritzen Gardens if you're considering going with your family: 

What is Lauritzen Gardens?

a grandfather and his young grandson walk near a bench and a waterfall at Lauritzen Gardens
Beautiful water features like this waterfall are everywhere!

Lauritzen Gardens is Nebraska's largest arboretum and consists of 100 acres filled with thousands of plants, from tiny flowers to towering trees, arranged in a variety of themed gardens.

Where is Lauritzen Gardens?

Lauritzen Gardens is at 100 Bancroft Street, just south of downtown Omaha, a few blocks from the Henry Doorly Zoo.

Lauritzen Gardens has its own large parking lot and there is no cost to park there--plus the gardens in the parking area are beautiful!

Lauritzen Gardens Visitor & Education Center

souvenirs of all kinds, most embellished with floral patterns, adorn a well lit gift shop at Lauritzen Gardens
So many floral souvenirs!

When you first enter Lauritzen Gardens, you start at the Visitor & Education Center, where you'll find the ticket desk, gift shop, café, indoor floral display hall, restrooms, rooms for special events and educational programming, an activity area, and hallway access to the conservatory and other indoor gardens.

Floral Display Hall at Lauritzen Gardens

tropical plants and ferns in the floral display hall at Lauritzen Gardens
the floral display hall in May 2019

The Floral Display Hall at Lauritzen Gardens is a 5000 square foot indoor garden featuring rotating botanical exhibits. When we went, it featured giant tropical plants and dinosaur sculptures as part of the Dino Roars event.

The Conagra Café at Lauritzen Gardens

The café at Lauritzen Gardens is located inside the Visitor & Education Center, with a gorgeous view of the Floral Display Hall and is open daily from 10am to 2pm.
The café sells a variety of lunch options including soups and sandwiches, plus an entrée of the day, sides like chips, apples, and rolls, and elaborately decorated sugar cookies. My family and I tried some sandwiches and the daily special, which was teriyaki chicken with rice and vegetables the day we were there. I would love to see them include some herbs or edible flowers grown at Lauritzen Gardens in the future to make it a really special experience, but none of us had any complaints at all about our meal. All of our food was fresh and tasted really good, the staff was friendly and helpful, and the prices are remarkably good!

teriyaki chicken with rice and vegetables from the Conagra Cafe in Lauritzen Gardens
Teriyaki Chicken

The Conservatory

glass conservatory at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha
the conservatory is so pretty...and I'm so glad I'm not their window cleaner!

When people picture Lauritzen Gardens, they typically picture the huge class conservatory building. Inside this iconic building two "houses" are found--temperate and tropical--with temperature and moisture carefully controlled to provide optimal growing environment for the thousands of plants within to flourish.

A grandfather and his young grandson lean over a bush to smell purple flowers at Lauritzen Gardens
Stop and smell the flowers!

A Bird of Paradise flower in the conservatory at Lauritzen Gardens
Birds of Paradise!

grayish green palms in the conservatory at Lauritzen Gardens cool are these gray-green palms?!?

The Gardens

an open gate in an ornate brick wall reveals a victorian garden at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha
Grand entrance to the Victorian Garden

The outdoor portion of Lauritzen Gardens is mostly arranged into over a dozen themed gardens including:

  • Children's Garden
  • English Perennial Border Garden
  • Festival Garden
  • Founders' Garden
  • Garden in the Glen
  • Garden of Memories
  • Herb Garden
  • Japanese Garden
  • Model Train Garden
  • Peony Garden
  • Rose Garden
  • Song of the Meadow Lark Garden
  • Victorian Garden
  • Woodland Trail
  • Woodland Waterfall
a stone bench sits at the bottom of a small hill with bushes and flowers behind it and a sculpture atop the hill
This kinetic sculpture sits atop the Garden in the Glen

Extensive pergola and crane sculpture in Lauritzen Gardens
Beautiful sculptures and architecture are everywhere you look in Lauritzen Gardens

We saw most of them (the Japanese Garden is still being completed) and all that we saw was beautiful. I'll share a bit more about some that aren't as self-explanatory:

Model Train Garden

One of my family's favorite gardens at Lauritzen Gardens is the model train garden, which features a winding, looping model railroad that goes through treehouse depots, across bridges, through tunnels, and amongst a variety of plants.

a model train drives over a wooden bridge in Lauritzen Gardens' Model Railroad Garden
We love the wooden bridges!

a small boy looks on in interest as a yellow model train car zooms along tracks in the Model Railroad Garden in Omaha's Lauritzen Gardens
He's captivated!

My son adored watching the trains go by and could've probably spent hours there watching!

Children's Garden at Lauritzen Gardens

a bright teal fence with a sign reading "Children's Garden" provides the entrance to the childrens garden at Lauritzen Gardens
Even the entrance to the Children's Garden is cheerful and bright!

The Children's Garden at Lauritzen Gardens is an interactive area where kids can play and explore. There were so many cute details everywhere! When we went, not much was in bloom yet, but it was obvious how cute it was going to be later in the summer! The play cabin, giant birds nest, and tipi village are always fun no matter what season you go, and my son had a blast exploring! One thing I wish we could go back and see was the sunflower forest path--it looked like later in the year it will be almost like a corn maze but made of sunflowers, which sounds really adorable and fun! I would definitely try to plan for at least a half hour in the Children's Garden if you visit with kids--you could easily spend several hours there, but would have a hard time actually seeing it in less than a half hour.

a wooden sign that says "smell" sits amongst mint plants in the childrens garden at Lauritzen Gardens
Mint and other smelly plants provided a feast for noses!

a giant bird's nest with sign that says "bird's nest" in the Childrens' Garden at Lauritzen Gardens
I bet Big Bird stays here when he visits Omaha

tulips surround a large black vase water feature in the Childrens Garden at Lauritzen gardens
There were tons of beautiful tulips when we went!

a stick tipi provides a bit of shelter in the Children's Garden at Lauritzen Gardens
There were three tipis in the Children's Garden 

a sign that says "sunflower garden path" sits next to garden fence and planted dirt
The future home of the sunflower garden

a metal frame of a stegosaurus in the childrens garden in Lauritzen gardens

a dark pink tulip in the children's garden at Lauritzen Gardens
I love these tulips in the children's garden!

Seasonal Displays

a mom and son smile together in front of an apatosaurus statue and tropical plants at Lauritzen Gardens

We went during the Dinosaur Uproar event, so the indoor gardens were filled with amazing dinosaur sculptures. Summer 2019 at Lauritzen Gardens will bring gnomes, patriotic displays, and more--check the Lauritzen Gardens website and social media for the latest information on what seasonal displays are happening when you plan to go!
a woman roars while a boy laughs, and a tyrannosaur statue and large tropical plants are visible in the back
Mama Roar!

a man and boy sit together on a stone wall with dinosaur statues and plants behind them
Relaxing by a dino nest

Educational Programming at Lauritzen Gardens

Lauritzen Gardens is home to a wide variety of educational programming for all ages, from storytime, yoga, and summer camps for kids to botanical lectures for adults. Check the Lauritzen Gardens website for their full calendar of events.

Tips for Visiting Lauritzen Gardens with Kids

Based on our trip I would say definitely pack sunscreen, hats, and clothes kids can get dirty in, because they will want to be able to climb all around the children's garden! You should also bring anything you would need for a diaper or pull-up change, but be aware that there are not real restrooms beyond the visitors center--there was a porta potty near the children's gardens, and that was it. There was a nice sort of plaza area where the pathways to the million daffodils, Japanese gardens, children's gardens, and rose garden all met, and I would love to see Lauritzen Gardens create a nice restroom facility there with a changing table for parents to use. I would also definitely recommend a stroller, because it is a long walk to the children's garden, with a steep hill on the way back. And bring your camera--you will want to remember how much fun your kids are having!

grandparents hold hands with their grandson as he balances on a low wall
Even the parking areas are scenic places to make memories!

For More Information

To find out more about Lauritzen Gardens, visit the Lauritzen Gardens website or connect with them on Facebook or Twitter.

As of May 2019, Lauritzen Gardens is open from 9am to 5pm most days except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day, and is open late until 8pm on Mondays and Tuesday from mid-May through mid-September. Admission is $12 for adults and $5 for kids 6-12, and free for kids 5 & under. Memberships are also available. Check their website for the most up to date information on hours and admission costs.

Have you been to Lauritzen Gardens? If you go, I'd love to hear what your favorite garden there is!


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