It's summertime which means families are beginning to plan their summer vacations. Choosing your getaway destination is half the battle. Finding the best attractions, hotels, and restaurants to please the whole family can be a daunting task. Don't worry! We are here to help. We've consulted with local parents to recommend the best family-friendly activities in the Council Bluffs area so you can spend more time relaxing than stressing this summer.
Use our interactive trip planner tool to help you plan your unforgettable getaway in Council Bluffs! As you browse the website, look for the pin icon to save things to do, places to eat, events to attend, blogs, and more. Once you've curated your list, you can send it to yourself, share it with friends or family, and easily access it at any time!
Hours: Thursday through Saturday from 10:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Tickets/Admission: Free, self-guided general admission
As mile zero of the Transcontinental Railroad, Council Bluffs is rich in railroad history. Uncover the past at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum, where you can explore using hands-on, interactive technology and exhibits that detail the struggles of building the Transcontinental Railroad, President Abraham Lincoln's involvement, the history of passenger rail service, and more. Housed in the city's original public library – built at the turn of the 20th century – the museum itself is a historic delight to behold!
Hours: Open 24 hours
Stand in two states at the same time on the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge! This 3,000 foot long and 15 foot-wide bridge connects Council Bluffs to Omaha, Nebraska, across the Missouri River and was the first pedestrian bridge built that connected two states. "Bob" serves as a way for walkers, runners, and bicyclists to access 150 miles of trails within the metro. Are you looking for a fun photo op on the bridge? Don't forget to go "bobbing" – striking a pose while standing in two states at the same time!
Every bridge needs a troll, right? So under the bridge on the Omaha side, be sure to meet OMAR, the friendly blue troll that all the local kids love. Read all about OMAR's adventures in his book "OMAR finds a home" available for purchase online. He loves having his picture taken with the kiddos, so don’t forget your camera!
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily
Cost: Adults (ages 12 and over): $29.95, Children (ages 3 -11): $22.95, Seniors (65 and over): $28.95, Children (2 and under): Free
Tickets/Admission: Reduce your wait at the gate and purchase your tickets ahead of time online.
Did you know that the world-famous Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is just minutes away from Council Bluffs? Explore 160-acres of unique habitats, animals, plants, and exhibits that will surpass your wildest dreams. Families can even book backstage experiences, which allow you to go behind the scenes to explore the aquarium and meet giraffes and elephants!
Exhibits at the Zoo: Owen Sea Lion Shores, Asian Highlands, Scott African Grasslands, Desert Dome, Mahoney Kingdoms of the Night, Lied Jungle, Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium, Bernice Grewock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion, Hubbard Expedition Madagascar, Gorilla Valley, Orangutan Forest, and more!
Hours: Pools: 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. Monday through Sunday. Splash pads: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily during the summer months
Cost: Pools: $5 admission. Splash pads: free
Tickets/Admission: Pools: cash or check only
The best way kids can burn off energy in the summer without overheating is by playing in the splash pads! There are three splash pads in Council Bluffs; Fairmount Park, Bayliss Park, and River's Edge Pavilion. Not only are the splash pads super fun and safe, but they're also completely free!
Council Bluffs is also home to two waterparks perfect for families! Both parks include zero-depth areas, play features, sand areas, water slides, shaded seating, concessions, and more! Check out our Pools and Splash Pads blog for more information.
Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. daily
Cost: Single admission $5
Tickets/Admission: Pay the admission fee at the beach
We may be located in the middle of the country, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy a beach day with the family! The beach at Lake Manawa State Park is perfect for sandcastle building, kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming. Admission for the beach area is $5 per person, and children younger than 2 years old are free. Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards are available to rent as well.
Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m., Wednesday 2:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m., Sunday 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Cost: Ranging from $13 - $23
Tickets/Admission: Book a jump time on their website!
Experience a night of non-stop family fun at The Hub! The Fly Zone Trampoline Park features an open bounce area, dunk hoops, dodgeball court, a large arcade, and so much more! Food and drinks are available on the premises, so you don't have to leave to refuel.
A new addition to The Hub is Axe Throwing! They offer five lanes of axe throwing with an interactive game system for those 12 years and older.
There are so many family-friendly things to do in Council Bluffs that we weren't able to fit it all into one blog! So, uncover and connect with the people, places, history, and happenings that visitors love and locals can't get enough of. Check out our recent blogs to get the insider's scoop on all things Council Bluffs.
For a complete list of attractions, visit our play page!
For a complete list of places to eat, check out our restaurant listings!
Don’t forget to book your hotel stay with one of our properties by using our Book Direct tool!
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