Our guide on where to eat, sleep and play in this Midwestern city
Omaha, Nebraska’s largest city, represents one of the most family-friendly, affordable and attraction-rich destinations in the Midwest.
Busy Kansas Citians can drive a mere three hours north and find a compact downtown that is easy to navigate and rich with things to do and places to eat.
Omaha is proud of its pioneer heritage and connections to the railroads that built the West, while keeping a keen eye on the future as a business and commercial hub. There are plenty of reasons that billionaire Warren Buffett chose Omaha as his business headquarters.
And for a short time, Omaha can be your headquarters for a fun vacation.
It’s Happening at the Zoo
The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is home to all kinds of unique exhibits. Among the zoo’s claims to fame are the Dome Desert, known for being the largest indoor desert in the world, and the Lied Jungle, North America’s largest indoor rainforest. The Kingdoms of the Night exhibit, touted as the largest nocturnal exhibit of its kind in the world, allows for a close-up look at creatures of the dark. The zoo is also home to the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium, where visitors can walk through a 70-foot-long shark tunnel. 3701 S. 10th St.
Old Market District
In the heart of downtown Omaha is the Old Market District where a variety of historical buildings from the 19th century line cobblestone streets, hearkening back to the city’s agricultural roots. It’s a wonderful place to wander around, and some of Omaha’s best and most interesting cafés and restaurants are in this area. Galleries abound, and their offerings are diverse, ranging from eclectic to more contemporary. The Old Market attracts both locals and tourists and is relatively compact and well-marked for easy navigation.
Bring the Kids
The Omaha Children’s Museum is popular with locals and visitors alike. The museum has eight permanent indoor exhibits and one outdoor exhibit that focus on creativity, arts, science and technology, zoology and more. During the summer months Sandy’s Splish Splash Garden, which is outside and typically open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, offers a refreshing escape from the summer heat. 500 South 20th St.
The Joslyn Art Museum
The Joslyn Art Museum opened in 1931 as a gift to the people of Omaha from Sarah Joslyn to commemorate her husband, George. The impressive exterior is clad in Etowah Fleuri marble, which shows a pink hue in the light, and the interior displays a mix of international marble. This is Nebraska’s largest art museum, with notable collections of Baroque art and Greek pottery. The museum is also known for its giant Dale Chihuly glass construction, as well as its collection of works by Alfred Jacob Miller, Karl Bodmer, Charles Bird King and Henry Inman. On display through May 15 is William Joyce: Guardian of Childhood, the works of the children’s literature illustrator. 2200 Dodge St.
The Durham Museum
Originally one of the nation’s busiest train stations, the 1931 building was restored to its former glory in 1995 and is home to the Durham Museum, which showcases local history and much more. Many exhibits are displayed in the fully restored main hall, which features impressive Art Deco architecture. Also of note are the steam locomotive displays where the inner workings of the engines that put Omaha on the map are illustrated with hands-on demonstrations. The Durham Museum is an easy stroll southwest from the Old Market area. 801 S. 10th St.
The Curtain Rises
The Omaha Performing Arts Center is actually two venues: the Orpheum Theater, 409 S. 16th St., and the Holland Center for the Performing Arts, 1200 Douglas St. The Orpheum, originally an ornate vaudeville theater, is the host to traveling Broadway shows, dance shows and traveling comedians, among others. The Holland Center for the Performing Arts is housed in a modern, architecturally acclaimed building noted for its fine acoustics. It has hosted some of the world’s premiere musicians and is the home of the Omaha Symphony. The Book of Mormon runs May 31-June 5 at the Orpheum.
Blooms in the City
The Lauritzen Gardens are just a short pedal away. These 100-acre gardens are in the Riverside Hills area of the city and make for a pleasant escape. In the 21 years since their founding, the gardens have grown and expanded from the initial rose, herb and hosta gardens to now include gardens focusing on many themes, from English and Victorian to one on Nebraska prairies. 100 Bancroft St.
Cross Over the Bridge
The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is unique because it’s one of the only footbridges to connect two states. A plaque marks the spot where the two states meet over the Missouri River. The 3,000-foot long bridge makes for a great stroll after dinner. On the far side of the “S” curving bridge is the city of Council Bluffs, Iowa. Bicycle enthusiasts will be pleased to know that the bridge connects to a large trail network in both cities.
For exclusive designer wear and cutting-edge labels, don’t miss She.la, 1150 Sterling Ridge Dr., a destination for residents and visitors alike. shopshela.com. Christel’s, located at 633 N. 114th St., has for more than 30 years been a haven for Omaha’s most fashionable women. christelsclothing.com. And for the guys, don’t miss Lindley Clothing Co., 707 N. 132nd St., Omaha’s premier provider of men’s fashion. lindleyclothing.com. Jackson Street Booksellers, 1119 Jackson St., near the Old Market, is a huge place with thousands of volumes in virtually every category. For a bibliophile, it’s nearly heaven. Find regional and national artists’ works at Anderson O’Brien Fine Art in the Old Market at 1108 Jackson St.
Where to Dine
Located in the iconic Flatiron Hotel, this is one of the more unique dining rooms in town. Devoted to New American cuisine.
11722 St. Mary’s Ave., 402-344-3040
The Grey Plume
Seasonally driven contemporary cuisine from locally grown produce and livestock. Chef Clayton Chapman’s menu changes daily.
220 S. 31st St. in Midtown, 402-763-4447
A classic, old-school steakhouse in the Old Market. Serves prime beef with all the trimmings. Don’t miss the blue-cheese potatoes.
415. S. 11th St., 402-341-7040
Sleek, vibrant eatery featuring Italian specialties fired in a coal oven. Check out the rooftop deck.
5021 Underwood Ave., 402-590-2625
Tucked away in an Old Market passageway, this intimate restaurant prides itself on its contemporary American cuisine.
1022 Howard St., 402-345-8980
Where to Stay
Cornerstone Bed and Breakfast
You might want to linger in this magnificent old mansion during your stay. Under new ownership. Rooms from $125/night.
140 N. 49th St.
Directly adjacent to the Old Market and backing up to a park, this makes an excellent headquarters for your Omaha stay. From $149/night.
555 S. 10th St.
Hotel Deco XV
A renovated vintage office building is the home of this sleek, contemporary boutique hotel. Rooms from $190/night. Centrally located.
1504 Harney St.
Old Market location makes you just steps away from shops, restaurants and museums downtown. Rooms from $151/night.
540 S. 12th St.
Well located for the theater crowd, in a restored 1923 building. Rooms from $125/night.
1615 Howard St.