The city of Omaha, Nebraska, is bigger and brighter than you’d think. A stop on the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, Omaha is known for its rich pioneer history, as well as cultural stops like Lauritzen Gardens, Love’s Jazz & Art Center and the award-winning Henry Doorly Zoo.
Though Omaha’s celebrity heyday was back in the time of Count Basie and Duke Ellington, the city remains a prime location for star-spotting of another sort. Look up from outside the Magnolia Hotel Omaha and you’ll see a night sky glittering with stars. The hotel is perched at the center of the city, in a historic building constructed to resemble an Italian palace. While you’re vacationing with us, here are a few of the places near Omaha where the stars are brightest.
Inside the City
While much of the city has too much light to see the stars, there are still a few places in Omaha to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way. Head to Zorinsky Lake Park at 156th and F streets for one of the best nighttime views in town. With more than 1,000 acres of wooded lakeside property and low lighting, the park is an ideal spot to look for planets and familiar constellations. Set up a telescope or spread out a blanket and play “spot the stars” with your sweetie. Which star is at the tip of the Big Dipper? Can you find Ursa Major, or Bootes the herdsman? The park is open year-round, typically till 11 p.m. or later, making it a great place to stargaze in any season. Tip: Visit near a new moon for the greatest assortment of stars visible with the naked eye.
Observing on the Outskirts
Because Omaha is well-lit at night, you’ll have better luck stargazing in the outskirts of town and nearby suburbs. Located in Ashland, about 30 minutes from Magnolia Omaha, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is a prime stargazing location just outside the city. Here, you’ll be able to see most of the major constellations with the naked eye; bring a portable telescope to make star-spotting even easier. Mahoney Park has more than just clear skies. Visitors who stop by earlier in the day can catch movies in the indoor theatre, play a round of mini golf, or enjoy outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, ice skating and fishing, depending on the season.
Star Parties with the Pros
Nebraskans are keen on stargazing. Once a year, amateur and professional astronomers flock to a site near Valentine, NE, for their annual Star Party. There’s a beginner’s class for those looking to up their star game, plus stargazing challenges, photo contests and a light-pollution-free sky sweep for experiences observers. The next event is scheduled for August 5-10, 2018; CLICK HERE for details. If you’re in Omaha during the rest of the year, consider a visit to the Behlen Observatory. Located about 40 minutes west of Omaha, the center features a 30-inch Cassegrain Reflector primarily used for research. Several times a year, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln owned center opens to the public for star tours. See the Behlen Observatory website for details. Travelers can also check-in with the Omaha Astronomical Society to see if there’s a local star party going on during your visit.
Whether you’re in Omaha on business, vacationing with loved ones or heading to a family reunion, Magnolia is here to welcome you home. Our location in the city center is convenient to the area’s major attractions, as well as parks for stargazing and hikes. Call 402-341-2500 or visit us online to get your star-studded vacation started.