Skip to main content

Visiting Omaha's Durham Museum with Kids

in background, art deco style grand hall of Omaha's Union Station, in foreground "visiting Omaha's Durham Museum with kids"

I received free admission to Omaha's Durham Museum so that I could check it out and share my experience with you! We went on a recent rainy day, and it was a perfect place to enjoy a few hours of family time! Take a quick look:

Doesn't it look fun? Here's a bit more in-depth info on the Durham Museum and what to expect if you visit the Durham with your kids:

What is the Durham Museum?

The Durham Museum is Omaha, Nebraska's premier history museum, featuring an impressive assortment of historical exhibits, mostly focused on local and regional history, but also special exhibits covering a wider variety of topics. The Durham Museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian Museum and the Field Museum.

Where is the Durham Museum?

The Durham Museum is in Omaha's old Union Station, at 801 South 10th Street. It's about an hour and a half drive from downtown Sioux City.

Permanent Exhibits at the Durham Museum

The Durham Museum has a large number of permanent exhibits including:

    a boy poses with statues in Omaha's Durham Museum great hall
    It's basically against the rules to *not* pose with the statues
  • The Great Hall- Omaha's Union Station was built to be a beautiful starting or ending point to journeys on the Union Pacific train line, and was elaborately decorated in art deco perfection. The great hall and its 60 foot ceilings have been preserved mostly in tact to give visitors a feel for what it would've been like to use the station. The ceiling, windows, and walls are all works of art in their own right, and sculptures scattered throughout depict people behaving as they would've in a train station--some look like soldiers off to World War II, some look like as if they are waiting for someone to arrive, and others look as if they are hugging loved ones who just arrived.
Stunning Art Deco style architecture and d├ęcor on display in the Great Hall

  • Example homes from various periods of Omaha history including Native Americans, pioneer settlers, a turn of the century "worker's cottage", and an upscale 1940's home! You can also catch a wide variety of other exhibits showing daily life in the Omaha area, like a covered wagon, and a general store from about 1915. 
a covered wagon and wooden barrels on display at the Durham Museum in Omaha, Nebraska
Covered wagon

an animal skin covering drapes across a reproduction of a clay and wooden doorway in the style of pre-19th century Omaha area Native Americans
reproduction of Omaha area Native American home

  • Restored real, full-size train cars and street car that guests can walk through! 
  • An amazing coin and currency collection gathered by an Omaha realtor Byron Reed in the mid to late 1800's including ancient Roman and Greek coins, as well as early American coins and paper bills!
rare coins from the Byron Reed Collection at the Durham Museum in Omaha, Nebraska
Most impressive coin collection I've ever seen!

  • A huge model train exhibit that kids will love watching!
The model train exhibit was so cute!

Temporary Exhibits at the Durham Museum

There's always something new at the Durham in their rotating exhibit hall! When we went in June 2019, there were two temporary exhibits happening: American Democracy, and Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family:

American Democracy

No photography was allowed in the American Democracy exhibit, but I took this cute selfie right outside it.
The exhibit was full of artifacts and information about the democratic process in the US, from our colonial roots, to suffrage movements to modern elections and political protests. My husband has a history degree and a law degree, and I have a political science degree with a mass comm minor, so we are pretty well versed in historical and modern US politics and campaigns, and there were things neither of us had seen. One of our favorite elements of the exhibit was a wall playing tv ads that had been run in presidential elections, including many from before we were born. Even when you've read about them in books, it's hard to get the full impact of the commercials without actually seeing them on an actual screen. Our youngest kids were not very interested in this exhibit, but there wasn't anything inappropriate for kids, and our 9 year-old was pretty excited about it. The American Democracy exhibit at the Durham Museum is probably most enjoyable for adults and for kids ages 10+.

Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family

Scotty is so big they had to use their workshop space to fit him in!

The Tyrannosaur exhibit was probably our family's favorite thing in the Durham Museum on this trip. This travelling exhibit on loan from Australia features fossils from a variety of tyrannosaurs, from tiny dinos the size of a chicken, to the largest T-Rex fossil ever found, Scotty. My kids (and husband and I) loved seeing the wide variety of fossils. Because most tyrannosaur skeletons that are found are incomplete and in delicate condition, the actual fossils tend to be kept in climate controlled labs, and museums instead display casts. That's what was used for the large models in this exhibit  as well. But there were several actual fossils on display as well, which was pretty amazing to see!
Real T-Rex fossil!!

The fossils and skeletons would've been amazing on their own, but the Tyrannosaur exhibit at the Durham didn't stop there. They also had a ton of interactive screens where visitors could find more information and even play games! One in particular near Scotty was to test your grip strength--and then the screen would show how your grip strength compared to the bite strength of a T-Rex and other powerful creatures like sharks! It was a fun and memorable way to illustrate the strength of a T-Rex with the allure of a carnival game...when we were there, not just the kids, but every dad in the room also lined up at some point to test their strength!
My kids loved the dinosaur models and interactive info panels!

Because of the wonderful combination of dinosaur skeletons, visual displays, information panels, and hands-on activities, I highly recommend Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family at the Durham Museum for all ages.

The Durham Museum Gift Shop

Shopping time!

The Durham Museum Gift Shop is near the front entrance along the side of the grand hall and featured a wide variety of typical museum souvenirs, plus some unique items like Durham t-shirts and postcards from specific exhibits.

The Durham Museum Soda Fountain & Candy Counter

On the edge of the Durham Museum's great hall is a vintage soda fountain and candy counter. It was so busy when we went that we decided not to get drinks, but I'm hoping to next time. They look delicious! The soda fountain offers authentic phosphates and ice cream floats like visitors to Omaha's Union Station could've bought 75 years ago. It's fun to imagine people sitting there at that same counter, drinking similar drinks, decade after decade!

What to bring to the Durham with Kids

I would recommend bringing standard museum-trip gear to the Durham Museum if visiting with kids including:
  • Diaper change bag if needed. There were good bathrooms on each floor. 
  • Play clothes, including practical clothes to climb up in trains. The museum is well climate-controlled to preserve artifacts, so you don't need to worry too much about the weather! 
  • Baby carrier rather than stroller if you plan to take a baby/toddler with you in the trains (there was an elevator, and everything other than the inside of the big trains seemed to be stroller accessible)
  • A camera, because you will definitely want to take pictures of the exhibits and your kids enjoying them!

a boy in a blue shirt peers inside the window of a large black steam engine with the Union Pacific logo on it from a platform at the Durham Museum
Peering inside a huge train!

The Platform

Along the tracks where visitors can climb aboard real trains, you'll also find "the platform," which is the Durham Museum's most interactive area for kids! At The Platform you'll find a marble run, train tables, a Lego-style brick zone, and other hands-on activities for kids. The Platform is right behind the Durham Museum's main guest elevator, so it's easy to find and access.

play trains with a view of real train tracks!
brick building zone!

Scheduled Kids Activities at the Durham Museum

Besides the fascinating exhibits and hands-on fun that happens every time the Durham Museum is open, the Durham also has a full programming schedule to provide learning and entertainment to kids, including camps, classes, storytimes, and crafts. Check the schedule on the Durham website to see the full list of events you and your kids can enjoy. Many are free with regular daily admission or a membership!

For more information:

To find out more about the Durham Museum, visit the Durham Museum website or connect with the Durham on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. In June 2019, admission to the Durham is $11 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $7 for kids 3-12. Kids 2 & under receive free admission to the Durham Museum. Memberships start at $30 for individuals and $60 for families. 

a boy in a blue polo shirt poses with two bronzed soldiers resembling world war ii soldiers

Deals on Durham Admission

If the Durham sounds like something your family would love, but is too much of a stretch for your current entertainment budget, here are a few ways you can save:
  • $5 after Five:
    • On Tuesdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Durham Museum is open late, until 8pm, and admission after 5 is only $5!
  • Railroad Days:
    • Every summer, a group of Omaha and Council Bluffs attractions with ties to railroad history host Railroad Days. Omaha Railroad Days 2019 will be July 13th & 14th from 9am to 5pm.
    • Family passes to Omaha Railroad Days are just $15 per family, which includes admission to and transportation between the Durham Museum, Lauritzen Gardens, the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, the Historic General Dodge House, the Railswest Railroad Museum, and the Union Pacific Home Plate where guests can see the only functioning Big Boy steam locomotive left in the world! 
    • You can find out more on the Omaha Railroad Days website.

Thank you to the Durham Museum! We had a wonderful visit and can't wait to go back!


Popular posts from this blog

Sioux City & Siouxland Christmas

Christmas is coming! The Sioux City area has so many fun and festive events to celebrate the Christmas season, and this post will be updated throughout the coming weeks as new events and details announced. I'm thrilled to share all the festive fun with you! You might also enjoy my posts on Christmas Road Trips (Christmas fun in Omaha, Sioux Falls, Okoboji, and more!) Christmas Tree Farms in Siouxland , Family Friendly New Year's Eve , Experience Gifts for Siouxland Families , and Last Minute Christmas Gifts You Can Buy in Siouxland ! This post features the best Christmas events in Siouxland, the best places in Siouxland to see Christmas lights , and some of the best places in Siouxland to see Santa !  Sioux City & Siouxland Christmas Events November 2023 Christmas at the Homestead  at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Saturday 11/11/23 November 11th from noon to 4pm at  Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve  in North Sioux City, South Dakota Historical building

Best Places to Play Inside in Sioux Falls

When extreme weather means outdoor play is off the table, there's still tons of fun to be had inside in the Sioux Falls, South Dakota area, where kids can climb, explore, and learn about history, science, art, animals, and much more, all year round. Here are some of the best places to play inside in Sioux Falls:

Siouxland Fourth of July Fireworks & Fun

Fourth of July falls on a Tuesday in 2023 and there is lots of patriotic fun happening. Here's where you can catch fireworks and celebrate the USA this year: