Have you ever Omaha is such an amazing place to explore. We originally planned to go for a day or 2, but stayed longer since there was so much to see. While it is the largest city in Nebraska, it is located near the State of Iowa border. This city is a great stop if you are traveling cross country, but it’s a great weekend trip too. It was one of the stops on The Lewis and Clark Trail. Omaha is also the hometown of the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, and the birthplace of civil rights leader Malcolm X.
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With a population close to 480 thousand, there are so many great neighborhoods to explore, places to eat, and things to do. Some highlights of neighborhoods/districts we explored:
- The Old Market (@oldmarketomaha): This historic district is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Omaha and is 9 square blocks in the downtown area located on cobblestone and brick streets in mostly older revitalized brick buildings. You may get to ride in a horse drawn carriage if you want an interesting tour of the area. It is a great area filled with restaurants, upscale boutiques, art galleries, etc. It is a lively area with apartments and condos as well. There are so many great choices here, but to name a few unique ones. The district is on the National Register of Historic Districts.
- Jam’s Old Market restaurant (@jamsoldmarket): While there are all types of restaurants, we went to eat at Jam’s Old Market restaurant. It’s an upscale restaurant with a great outdoor area serving globally influenced new American dishes. We had the Grilled Parmesan Sandwich with Sea Salt Fries. It was delicious with aioli sauce, mozzarella, spinach toppings on a ciabatta roll. Highly recommend this for lunch. You may want to make reservations since they are popular and have 2 other locations outside of the Old Market.
- Trini’s Mexican Restaurant : The restaurant serves Tex-Mex food and is located in a unique spot among other shops and galleries. It is located in the building very popular with many Instagrammers for the unique passageway kind of between buildings where patrons sit.
- Hollywood Pinball & Arcade and Hollywood Candy
(@hollywoodcandyomaha): This brightly colored place houses an eclectic mix of pinball game collection, arcade games, candy and soda bar. This is a cute place to take the kids or pick up some candy to enjoy on your walk through the neighborhood.
There is so much more to see in The Old Market and it’s a great place to take a walk too.
- Bohemia Neighborhood (@lilbohemiaomaha): This is another famous older area to explore. It’s smaller and many of the stores close early, so it’s mostly a daytime activity. Many of the original neighborhood buildings still remain on the main street in the neighborhood, which is great to see.
Two things to try:
- Lil’ Bohemi Fizzy’s Fountain & Liquors – It’s a bar with food that looks like a dinner with a fountain counter from the 50s with all the historic fixings. Really unique and eclectic.
- Archetype Coffee also has a location here.
- The Blackstone District (@blackstonedistrict) This is another great area to explore, but one of our favorite reasons was to go for the best ice cream at:
- Coneflower Creamery – The ice cream is handmade and so unique, plus it does have the classic flavors if you are old school. They use even local items and flavors in their concoctions, like from neighboring Archetype Coffee.
They call this a “Farm to Cone” ice cream shop and you can see why when you visit the shop. Be prepared, it’s popular.
- Crescent Moon Alehouse – Crescent is known for the best Reuben sandwiches in Omaha. While we didn’t get to try one since we ate at the best Food Hall noted below, they do look awesome.
Favorite Food Halls:
- Our favorite food hall was Inner Rail Food Hall (@innerrailfoodhall) located in Aksarben Village part of town (which historically was a horse racing facility)..It only opened in 2019 and is noted to be a “live, work, or play” food hall with both indoors and outdoors eating areas. The night we went, there was a free Music Bingo game going on, with a disc jockey, etc. We even won a gift certificate to buy some food there. This has a family friendly atmosphere with 9-10 food purveyors on site around a central bar called the Backstretch. You are sure to find something to eat or drink here and there is ample parking.Highly recommend it!
- Another up and coming food hall is The Highlander Accelerator (@highlanderomaha). There are 3 restaurants including Big Mama’s Kitchen & Catering, Pico (Mexican street food), and The Highlander Accelerator Dining Room. We were lucky enough to have a well-price meal here. The building houses a few eating places, plus a bar and coffee shop. There is also a large greenhouse as part of the facility and satellite campuses for area colleges. This was developed on the former site of a large housing project demolished in 2009 and is helping to revitalize this North Omaha neighborhood. Big Mama’s Kitchen was previously shown on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” in 2008.
Favorite Coffee Stops:
- Zen Coffee Company – @zencoffeeco This cafe was great. Loved the ambience and the zen mood. We had great lattes and there were places to sit and do a little work if you are a digital nomad and need a good coffee break. They also had an interesting menu including a coffee flight to try the choices. There was also a food flight with a small selection of interesting items to try along with the coffee. Highly recommend it.
- Archetype Coffee – @archetypecoffee – This cafe had 3 stores in the Blackstone District, Bohemia Neighborhood and Millworks Commons. You can’t go wrong with this popular place.
Places to Go: The top places to go in the city include
- The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge: Just north of downtown is the bridge often referred to as “Bob” and it is a great place to get a view of the Missouri River and city and connects the city to neighboring Iowa. You can walk, take a bike or scooter across the 3,000 ft pedestrian bridge and be in two states at one time; the state line is easy to see on the bridge. Before you enter the walkway, you see a troll along the trail. It’s about a 1.4 mile round trip walk. (Note: The bridge is named after Senator Bob Kerrey)
The entrance to the walkway is through The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Headquarters Omaha Visitor Center.
- The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium (@henrydoorlyzoo): This zoo/aquarium is often voted one of the top zoos in the country. We were able to visit this fantastic zoo and aquarium. There was so much to see though in one day and the park is large with many rolling hills, etc. My favorite find was the domed indoor jungle, rainforest and desert habitat combined under one roof. It was great to stroll part of the park to see the apes, elephants, zebras, etc. The park is massive and you may want to buy tickets for the small tram that can drive you to certain parts of the park. Before going, check to see if some parts are closed; when we visited some of the bird exhibits were closed due to bird flu.
- Lauritzen Gardens / Omaha’s Botanical Center (@lauritzengardens): The outdoor garden and botanical garden were both so pretty. We bought tickets also to the shuttle that takes you through the gardens and small train village, it has all been done from donations from folks. The indoor botanical garden was also beautiful to walk thru as well. Well worth the visit.
- Fontenelle Forest part of the National Park Service (@fontenelleforest): This forest is just a few miles from town along the Missouri River. It was unique with its pathways through the forest, its bird sanctuary for (hawks, 2 eagles, etc.) and a separate outdoor ropes course. It was a great way to get some cool walking in for the day.
- Oracle of Omaha: If you are a Warren Buffett fan, this is where his residence is located. You can go by, but there is security throughout his neighborhood. Omaha is the home of Berkshire Hathaway started by Mr. Buffett.
Where to Stay in Omaha, Nebraska:
There are many places to stay in Omaha, but this trip we stayed in the beautiful and historic The Peregrine Omaha Downtown, a Curio Collection Hotel by Hilton (@theperegrineomaha and @curiocollection). The hotel is beautifully decorated after its namesake Peregrine Falcon with lovely details throughout the hotel and rooms. It also has a great restaurant and rooftop outdoor bar detailed below.
History of the Peregrine: The hotel is decorated in the nouvelle art deco styled hotel and is an Omaha Designated Historic Landmark. The name sake of the hotel is homage to the adjacent Woodmanlife tower that started a peregrine falcon breeding program. Now you can stay in the Falcon view room like I did and see a 6 story mural of a peregrine falcon as well.
- The Habitat Restaurant and Bar is located on the first floor and was great for meals and breakfast. We loved eating here. I really loved the Chicken n Waffles for breakfast and the Seared Red Snapper for dinner with crispy brussel sprouts.
- The Take-Off Rooftop Bar is located on the rooftop and is open seasonally depending on the weather. You can get an awesome view of the sunset while winding down a busy day.
The Peregrine also has free wifi and workout facilities. It is also well located near The Old Market that is also Downtown. It’s no wonder why the hotel was recently voted The Winner of the Best Hotel for 2021 by the Omaha World Herald Awards.
And if You Still Have Time, Visit the Following:
- College World Series – While we were visiting the area, many were preparing for the College World Series that have taken place there since 1950.
- Boys Town – This was founded by Father Flanagan in Omaha over 100 years ago. While I really wanted to see this, I had run out of time. I do have this on my list for a future visit. It is dedicated to caring for families and children. He was one of the first to help homeless children. This non-profit is highly rated by Charity Navigator. Even after he died from a heart attack, his mission was carried on.
- Museums: A number of other museums and galleries in the area are also available depending on your interests. After a long winter, the spring/summer activities were so awesome. Some favorites include The Joslyn Art Museum, The Durham Museum, and the Museum of American Speed.
Other Resources to Consider and Day Trips
Visit Omaha (@visitomaha): A great place for information is Visit Omaha’s website and office. Their great staff may have additional suggestions and information on the area.
Visit Nebraska (@visit_nebraska): For day trips in Nebraska, additional information can be found here!
State Capitol- Lincoln Nebraska (@visitlincoln): Lincoln is the Capitol of Nebraska and only about 59 miles away via I-80. Some spots we visited before Omaha
- Nebraska State Capitol building: The interior of the building was awesome, all the work and craftsmanship that went into the design. They offer free tours and great views of the city from the top. We loved seeing the State Capitol,
- Pioneers Park Nature Center: This preserve is a smaller unique setting with some Bisons that you can observe in the fields. There is also a small original school house and cabin that gives you a glimpse into life on the prairie.
- University of Nebraska: The State’s largest college, home of the Cornhuskers (Huskers). It is a busy place during the sports season, we were told.
To summarize, Omaha is quite diverse and a unique place to see “where the city meets the prairie”. I really enjoyed visiting and could have stayed longer; there was just so much to see. I hope this gives you some ideas of things to do and places to visit along the way in the Cornhusker state.
Odd Trivia Fact: While not reported on its website, Boys Town Stamp Center is home to a massive, 600-pound ball of over 4.6 million canceled stamps, the worlds largest. (Given the use of email now, no one likely will beat that record.)
I hope this guide and unexpected journey to the mid west and Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska shows you just how much there is to do in Nebraska. This journey already has me wanting to come back. If you want to learn more about what to see and do in the Midwest check out my guide to another amazing city Oklahoma City.