Omaha, Nebraska & South Bend Stop: Traveling with a Newborn

When we first got the invite to my husband’s cousin’s wedding in Omaha, Nebraska, where his fiancé is from, my first thought was, “awesome, a new city to visit!”  My next thought was, “oh wait, the baby is due 6 weeks before then.”  I was determined to continue traveling even after our son was born, so we committed early on to going to the wedding.  Fortunately, our little guy was measuring big so I was induced early (or unfortunately, since he actually WAS big and I needed to have a c-section after almost 20 hours of labor for my 9 lb 7 oz “chunker,” as the nurses called him.)  I booked a flight on Southwest, knowing I could always change it later, but for some reason that extra week we had with our son made me feel better about the trip.

The city of Omaha totally surprised me in a good way.   It wasn’t really on my radar until our cousin’s wife joined the family, and Nebraska probably would have been about #49 on the list of 50 U.S. states for me to visit. The people were super nice as you would expect from the midwest, and the area we stayed in (Old Market) had a fun vibe and was very walkable with a bunch of kid friendly restaurants.

Getting to Omaha, Nebraska

 The thought of flying both ways with a layover and almost 7 hours of travel time was a little terrifying for our first trip.  Instead, we decided that I would fly out with Will (and my amazing sister-in-law, thank goodness!) and Frank would make the roadtrip both ways for us to drive back with him.  Since it was our first time traveling that distance with Will, we clearly thought we needed enough stuff to fit a studio apartment, so I was glad to have the car full at the time. Will did a great job on the flight, and despite the “before” photo on the left, I think he actually liked it.

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The closest airport is the Epply Airfield and it’s only a few miles away from downtown Omaha.  Many hotels in the area offer free shuttles given that it’s so close, and taxis or Ubers are also available to get downtown.  Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, Nebraska is a great middle of the country location to do a road trip and see several states along the way, regardless of where in the US you’re coming from.

Where to Stay in Omaha

Embassy Suites by Hilton Omaha Downtown Old Market: Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of the Hilton brand hotels and especially Embassy Suites for families or groups.*  The rooms are usually about the same price as a typical hotel room and the separate sleeping and living area is ideal so you can have your own space while the baby is sleeping.  Plus the included hot breakfast, nightly reception and indoor pool aren’t bad either!  This hotel was in the perfect location, accessible to restaurants and shops in the old market area.  Aside from going to the zoo we didn’t have to use the car once.

Where to Eat in Omaha

  • Wheatfields Express Restaurant & Bakery– My sister-in-law and I decided to eat breakfast out with Will one morning and this place was totally worth it.  We snagged a seat outside before the hot midwest sun set in.  We split the berries & brûlée waffle and eggs benedict.  Our breakfast was the best combo of sweet and savory and the coffee was so good too.  Tip: The place gets super crowded so they have a “no stroller” rule.   You can still bring a stroller in, they just ask that you fold it up and leave it near the entrance of the restaurant versus bringing to your table. 
  • Plank Seafood–  This place was so good that we went to the 3-6:30 happy hour twice during our three night stay.   I can’t argue with a restaurant that has the mantra “eat well and travel often.” And despite catering to the happy hour crowd, they were totally baby and kid friendly, especially when traveling with the amazing auntie on the right that gave Mom a little break : ) They had a decent selection of oysters that changed daily, and the chowder fries, hushpuppies and fish tacos were all yummy and surprisingly super fresh for being so far from the ocean. The spiked lemonade was so good too- not too sweet or too strong- although it was my first drink out after having Will so I think anything would have tasted good at that point.
  • Jams American Grill– It’s basically an pub with more of a sports bar vibe so I’d definitely recommend going earlier for dinner or for lunch with kids.  The food and beer menus where huge so there’s something for everyone.  There was also a big outdoor seating area with a covered patio that was perfect for us to get away from all the loudness inside.
  • Upstream Brewing Company– The rehearsal dinner/ welcome reception for the wedding was here. We didn’t eat from the standard menu but the hors d’oeuvres were yummy, the beer is all brewed on-site and it didn’t hurt that our little babe slept through the entire thing so mommy and daddy could have some adult time.  Tip: The stairs are a little tough to get up and down, and since we were walking everywhere we had the stroller with us, but thankfully there’s a hidden elevator that the staff were more than happy to let us use.
  • Ted & Wally’s Ultra-Premium Homemade Ice Cream– This old fashion ice cream shop had rave reviews and didn’t disappoint.  They change their flavors daily and you can’t go wrong with any of them.  The line moves quickly so if you’re visiting with a bunch of kiddos just make sure everyone is prepared to order before stepping up to the counter.  As a bonus, the kitschy decor is almost as good as the ice cream and Will loved looking up at all the colors.
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What to Do in Omaha

  • Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium– No surprise this zoo is ranked #2 in the country.  I’ve always loved the zoo and couldn’t wait to check this one out.  It’s huge and is separated into several different ecosystems, so if you want to do it right you should really take the whole day.  At 7 weeks old, Will didn’t make it that long but we did get to see plenty of tigers, monkeys, giraffes and elephants while we were there.  Will’s favorite was the aquarium with tons of colorful fish.  When we were there they were working on a children’s adventure trail that’s now open and makes me want to go back when Will is older.  Tip: There are 2 nursing rooms available and several family restrooms.  Check the FAQ on the zoo’s website for more info.
  • Walk around Old Market – The area itself is only a few square blocks but its jam packed with cute shops, art galleries, live music, restaurants and bars.  The cobblestones were a little rough on the stroller but they definitely added to the charm of the place and we made it work.
  • TD Ameritrade Park is home to the College World Series and it happened to coincide with the wedding while we were there at the end of June. With Will being so young we didn’t go to the games, but the other kids (and adults) in the family had a blast cheering on their favorite teams.
  • Be in two places at once by walking across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge that connects Nebraska and Iowa, overlooking the Missouri river.  The scenery is beautiful and this is one of those touristy things to check off your list that doesn’t take any real effort.
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The wedding itself took place on our third night in Omaha.  It was beautiful and we had a great time, but of course we were exhausted from our first long distance trip with a newborn.  Even so, I was thankful we made the trip and got to spend time with our extended family as well as our new little family of three.

On the way home from Omaha, we made the decision to stop at Notre Dame in Indiana, which was almost exactly half way between Omaha and Pittsburgh. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn South Bend and had enough time to take Will for his first dip in the hotel’s indoor pool and walk around the beautiful Notre Dame campus before heading home the next day.  It was a quick stop, but we got just enough of a glimpse to make me want to go back.

This trip definitely opened my eyes to the sacrifices of traveling with a baby, between the early yet sleepless nights, rushing through meals to nurse a “hangry” newborn, the unexplained crying from possible overstimulation and the stress of packing ALL of the stuff for that first long trip.  The excitement on Will’s face though when he was in an airport for the first time or when he saw the animals at the zoo or sat on our laps at a new restaurant looking around with newfound awareness- along with the relief I felt when he did such an amazing job on the flights and long drive- made up for any of the potential pitfalls of traveling with a baby.  In the end it made me so much more excited to travel more with him in the future knowing that we had a lot to look forward to and a lot to be thankful for.

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The map above is in Will’s room to capture all of he places he’s been.  You can see all the states we hit in our road trip from Nebraska back to Pennsylvania!  


Will’s Trip Stats: Omaha, Nebraska & South Bend, Indiana// June 2017// 7 Weeks Old

Book Inspiration: Good Night Nebraska by Adam Gamble & Mark Jasper

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