They call it flyover country, but it’s actually one of the main thoroughfares of America. Comprised almost entirely of Interstate 80, the route between Denver and Omaha is traversed by thousands of vehicles every day.
I’ve actually made the drive between Omaha and Denver many, many times, as my family lived in Colorado while I was attending college in Iowa. I even drove it this past summer, when my husband and I moved from California to Ohio. To say it’s a common route across the country is almost an understatement!
If you’re planning to make the drive between Denver and Omaha or vice versa, this post will help. After reading, you’ll know the basics of the route, places to stop and stretch your legs, plus a few other tips to make your drive more comfortable and interesting. Trust me that you’re going to need those breaks while driving the 600 miles of the Platte River Valley…
TL;DR: How long is the drive between Denver and Omaha? The direct drive from Omaha to Denver (or vice versa) is 536 miles (863 km) and should have a drive time of 7 hours, 47 minutes in normal traffic.
Distance Between Omaha & Denver
If you’re thinking of making a road trip out of your drive between Denver and Omaha, you might be wondering how much distance separates both cities.
As the crow flies, it is around 488 miles one-way between both cities. However, we can’t travel as the crow flies most of the time. Unlike other cities, the route connecting Omaha and Denver isn’t a straightforward path. By land, you’ll have to cover roughly 540 miles without making any detours or stops.
Remember that where you start and finish in each city also influences the final driving distance.
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Drive Time Between Denver & Omaha
The direct drive between Omaha and Denver takes around 7 hr 30 min in normal traffic, either via I-80 W and I-76 W.
As you can see, the Omaha to Denver drive requires a significant amount of time. So, it is highly unlikely for anyone to complete it on one day or without stops along the way. Spending seven hours in a car isn’t easy, and your body and mind will be screaming for a stop to rest a bit. Unless you’re driving with someone or you have a commitment urging you to make the drive on a day, you’ll need a few pit stops.
Also, as I always say, this driving time is an estimate. Your final driving time depends on the stops you make along the journey, where you leave from in Denver, and where you arrive in Omaha.
8 Stops to Make on Your Drive Between Omaha & Denver
If you have decided to pursue the road trip, here’s a sample itinerary for a drive from Omaha to Denver. At 540 miles, you’ll certainly find something that sparks your interest.
1. Strategic Air & Space Museum
Aviation geeks can’t miss the Strategic Air & Space Museum along the drive between Omaha and Denver. The Strategic Air & Space Museum shares with visitors the history and legacy of the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command. Their two hangars house dozens of aircraft. So, you’ll get to see some modern and classic aircraft, including iconic fighter planes from WWII.
While a big part of the collection focuses on the legacy of the Strategic Air Command, they also house collections with space and science artifacts. The Strategic Air & Space Museum is also an excellent pitstop if you have little ones, as the venue has fun, hands-on activities, and even flight simulators!
2. Nebraska State Capitol
Home of the Nebraska unicameral, the Nebraska State Capitol is a wonderful stop to make if you appreciate fine architecture. Like state capitol buildings, New York architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue also got inspiration from the U.S. Capitol to design Nebraska’s state capitol. However, Nebraska’s state capitol is an architectural masterpiece all on its own with a unique Neo-Byzantine style. It was the first state Capitol to incorporate a tower in its design, which rises 400 feet high. Another characteristic feature is the 19-foot bronze image of “The Sower” sitting on top of the building.
The façade is delightful, featuring engravings that pay tribute to Native American nations. However, the crowning gem is the building’s interior, with exquisite marble mosaic ceilings and floors and a gorgeous Great Rotunda. Head to the observation deck for unparalleled views of the city of Lincoln.
3. World’s Largest Time Capsule
Are you looking for a picture-worthy stop along your drive between Denver and Omaha? The World’s Largest Time Capsule is your place! Set in Seward, Nebraska, the World’s Largest Time Capsule is Harold Keith Davisson’s work of art. A local writer, store owner, and historian, he built the time capsule in 1975.
The time capsule is a gigantic concrete vault weighing 45 tons and with over 5,000 relics inside. The opening of the time capsule will be in 2025, the 50th anniversary of when Davisson sealed it.
4. Wessels Living History Farm
Set in the 1920s, the Wessels Living History Farm is a hands-on, working farm in York. The owners drew inspiration from David Wessels’s vision, a York area farmer who dreamed of creating a living history farm where future generations could learn what it was like to live on a Nebraska farm in his time. The farm is just one mile south of Interstate 80 (Exit 353) and Highway 81. So you won’t have much trouble finding it along the Denver to Omaha drive.
The 145-acre farm is an excellent spot if you have children. The farm’s goal is for everyone to have an authentic “living history farm” experience. It features a frame barn, granary, machine shed, garage, chicken coop, and a large windmill typical of the 1920s. It even has the home David Wessels shared with his brother! There are also plenty of farm animals roaming around.
5. Kearney Archway
The grandeur of the Kearney Archway over I-80 is hard to miss. The Kearney Archway is one of those road attractions you can choose to see while driving or stop and visit on the drive from Denver to Omaha.
Opened in 2000, the Archway is a tribute to the people who traveled the Great Platte River Road across Nebraska and helped to build America. So far, they’ve welcomed and inspired over 1.5 million visitors with this chapter of U.S history. Their exhibition is highly interactive and fully immersive. You can choose a guided tour or a self-guided headset tour if you wish to discover their award-winning historical exhibit at your own pace.
It is a fascinating and interpretive journey through the development of American culture itself. The Archway hosts events and activities throughout the year, so make sure you check out their website.
6. Pony Express Station & Museum
Pony Express Station sits just off I-80 and makes an excellent place to stretch your legs and get into the western vibe. Located in Gothenburg, the Pony Express Station was a donation to the City and now is in Ehemen Park Arboretum. It opens seasonally from April to October, and it is free.
The museum has lots of memorabilia, including a pony metal cut out, a historic rock, plus an original cabin that was part of the Pony Express Station. Those who visit during the off-season can tour the station by appointment. There’s also a cute little gift shop where you can buy some fun or educational pony express souvenirs. The area has nice green space, bathrooms, picnic tables under a pavilion, and a playground, too.
7. Golden Spike Tower
North Platte is home to every train buff’s dream: the Golden Spike Tower. Just off the highway in North Platte lies the world’s largest rail yard and the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center. Golden Spike Tower offers the best seats to appreciate the action going at the world’s largest classification rail yard, the Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard. Every day, around 10,000 railcars depart to their next destination.
Besides the observation decks, the tower also features multimedia exhibits and tours on the history of the railroad. The best part is that retired Union Pacific employees give the tours, entertaining visitors with their knowledge and anecdotes of the rail.
8. The Wild Animal Sanctuary
The Wild Animal Sanctuary is our last stop on the drive between Omaha and Denver. It’s an interesting place to learn about wild animals, but most importantly, it’s a place to reflect on the exploitation and abuse some animals suffer at the hands of humans.
With over 10,500 acres, The Wild Animal Sanctuary is a gorgeous sanctuary that has recreated the natural habitat of its rescued animals to rehabilitate them. They rescue animals from horrific captive situations and rehabilitate them to live and roam freely in large natural habitats with others of their own kind.
Currently, over 460 rescued animals live in the sanctuary, and their facilities represent the largest carnivore sanctuary in the world. They have designed elevated walkways and decks, stretching for 1.5 miles, so visitors can see the animals without stressing them.
Other Tips for Your Drive Between Omaha & Denver
Here are some final tips to help you plan your drive between Denver and Omaha
- The route between Denver and Omaha crosses two states: Colorado and Nebraska.
- Some of the major cities between Omaha and Denver are Lincoln, Grand Island, Kearney, and North Platte. North Platte is roughly halfway between these two cities, about four hours from each.
- There are plenty of rest stops along the route between Denver and Omaha. In Nebraska, rest stops are available every 34 miles on average, which is a nice cadence if you need to take a few leg-stretching or restroom breaks along the way.
- There are also plenty of gas stations and truck stops along the entire route if you need fuel, toilets, snacks, or other services.
Don’t forget: join our Great Plains Travel Tips group for even more travel inspiration!
Should You Fly Between Denver & Omaha Instead?
Perhaps, you’re unsure whether you should make the Denver-Omaha road trip and want to check out fly options.
Having said this, let’s begin the comparison. As I said above, the drive between Denver and Omaha is about 540 miles, and it takes around 7 hr 30 min to complete it.
When flying, the distance shortens to 488, and it takes 65 minutes. If you add the time you’ll spend to get to the airport, the check-in, plus the time you’ll spend in the air and getting back out of the airport, flying between Omaha and Denver takes a total travel time of around 4 hours.
Cost-wise, driving and flying cost about the same. You’ll spend about $150 round trip on gas if you drive, whereas the cheapest airfare costs $150 round trip. However, the flexibility of driving may be a perk if you have the time.
The truth is that choosing to drive or fly to a destination mostly depends on the cost, time, and preferences. Nonetheless, if you’re in for an adventure on wheels, you won’t regret making this road trip.
Have any questions about making the drive between Denver and Omaha, or vice versa? Let me know in the comments!