[y] Omaha Visitors Guide
Omaha is the name of the Indian tribe that settled in the area of the modern-day Omaha, Nebraska as early as 1500. In the Native American Language, it is defined as “upstream people” or the oldest word known for “innovative.” Visitors and residents alike must learn the modern local lingo. O! is the symbol of this great city. Developed in 2003 as an image campaign to help residents become more involved and excited about their city, the O! represents a passion for progress and excitement about the future. When ordering a soda in any restaurant in Omaha will earn the patron soda water. No matter the brand or type, it’s all pop!
Omaha Fast Facts
Well-known across the country for offering animal lovers one of the best zoo experience possible, Omaha is home to the Henry Doorly Zoo and its world’s largest indoor rainforest, IMAX theater, rare white tigers and saltwater aquarium. But beyond the lions and tigers and bears lies 193 square miles of rich heritage and a higher quality of life for its residents. As a matter of fact, it has been said that if a pin is stuck in the middle of a map of the United States, the pin would come close to hitting Omaha 100% of the time. Home of the legendary billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Frontier Omaha once served as the gateway to the West.
As Nebraska’s largest city, Omaha’s population stands at over 404,000 and constantly growing. This four-season city offers temperature ranges from 12.7 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and nearly 88 degrees in the summer. The median household income is over $48,000 and Omaha is home to more millionaires per capita than any other US city.
Whatever the reason for examining Omaha as a possible permanent destination, the city has so much to offer with its excellent job and housing markets, friendly residents and year-round recreation and leisure events. This would be the perfect city to call home.
People of all ages can find something to their liking in Omaha’s Old Market shopping district. This trendy hot spot is Nebraska’s largest tourist attraction and a source of pride for Omaha residents. For those seeking brick streets, specialty boutiques, horse-drawn carriage rides, Victorian storefronts, sidewalk cafes, and ethnic restaurants, the Old Market can offer them in abundance.
The Strategic Air and Space Museum is a 300,000 square foot facility, displaying more than 30 aircraft. This celebration of aviation features the SR-71 “Blackbird” and the “Peacemaker.” Visitors can take tours, view films and audio/visual programs, experience interactive exhibits and an Aircraft Restoration Gallery.
The National Historic Landmark of Girls and Boys Town offers to tell its story from the humble beginning in 1917. Started as a small home for troubled and abandoned boys, it has grown into a country-wide movement with programs and residences in many cities and is one of the United States’ largest providers of services for troubled children. The site features a Hall of History, Leon Myers Stamp Center and Spencer Tracy’s Oscar from the movie “Boys Town” on display. The best part – admission is free.
Several famous birth sites can be found while in Omaha. Visitors to the Gerald R. Ford Birthsite and Gardens will learn that the former president was not only born in Omaha, but he was also given the name Leslie King, Jr. Other little-known facts are available, as well as views of the Betty Ford Rose Garden. Malcolm X, the African American activist, was also born in Omaha and while the home of his childhood no longer exists, a historical marker points to this National Register site.
Omaha Recreation & Leisure
In addition to the zoo, there is the Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha’s Botanical Center, Memorial Park with its abundant rose gardens and Zorinksky and Cunningham Lakes in West Omaha. Families can relax in the 230 city parks covering 8500 acres like Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods. Fitness buffs can explore the biking and jogging trails with over thirty miles of hard surface terrain. Championship golf courses such as Benson Park and the Champions Club offer something for the novice to the self-proclaimed professional.
When it comes to spectator sports, college or professional, it would be a challenge to find more loyal fans than Cornhusker fans. Unofficially called the ‘Huskers’, the University of Nebraska at Omaha-Lincoln touts a nationally ranked football team, drawing record-breaking crowds. If football isn’t on the agenda, catch a game of the Omaha Royals AAA baseball team, the NCAA Men’s College World Series or the Omaha Lancers of the US Hockey League at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Omaha offers a way for everyone to celebrate for any reason or season. Between the firework shows, outdoor markets, fairs, and festivals, there’s bound to be something for even the most reluctant participant.
Omaha is proud of its own unique style when it comes to art. Exceptional works of current and past Omaha residents are on display at The Bemis Center for Contemporary Art. To find a bit of everything, The Hot Shops Art Center offers approximately 92,000 square feet of art studios, showrooms, and various gallery spaces. For something on the more traditional side, try Nebraska’s only fine art museum, the Joslyn Art Museum, and the Durham Western Heritage Museum.
For those in search of the performing arts, the Omaha Community Playhouse and the John Beasley Theater turn-out nationally-recognized productions. The new $291 million convention center, Qwest Center Omaha, draws top-rate performers like U2, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones. Ballet, opera, symphony, choral and Broadway productions can often be found at the Orpheum Theater and the Holland Performing Arts Center, a new $90 million addition to the downtown construction.
A recent wave of art explosion in Omaha has been of the vocal persuasion. Indie-rock fans across the country are focusing eyes and ears on the city as it has become a new source for promising young bands. One band, in particular, Bright Eyes, has already been featured twice in Rolling Stone magazine and rumor has it that record labels are calling.
Omaha Restaurant Guide
With over 1000 restaurants to choose from, deciding between four-star and finger linking barbeque won’t be the only obstacle. In fact, Omaha has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the United States. Omaha is a well-known beef town, but it also offers excellent choices for Italian, Thai, Indian and Continental cuisine. With so many choices, start with location.
The Old Market in downtown Omaha can entice the hunger patron with a corner hot dog stand, a steak dinner or fine French dining. Choose your own steak from the tableside at Omaha Prime. For big plates of homemade pasta and mouth-watering risottos, don’t miss Vivace. When an ice cold beer and a big juicy burger are the only things to satisfy, Billy Froggs won’t disappoint.
Beyond the downtown scene, midtown can offer extensive steakhouse choices like The Drover and Gorat’s Steak House. West Central Omaha features the Imperial Palace with outstanding Chinese cuisine. To the north of Omaha, new and established restaurants abound to offer a full range of eat-in or take-out like the Surfside Club and Thai Spice. Authentic Mexican, Italian and Old World cuisine can be found on the Southside with such favorites as El Alamo, Sole Mio Ristorante Italiano and the Bohemian Café.
Omaha is an interesting mix of several communities that combine to make up this great city. The central district houses older, more established neighborhoods that cater to both the family environment and the retirement-minded. Head a little bit west to the West Central area to find big, expensive homes and upscale shopping destinations. This area is home to the many well-to-do residents and community events are a little bit more on the sophisticated side.
Travel back in time to North Omaha. Much of the city’s history is captured here with several landmarks. More of a ‘country’ atmosphere is felt here with its open spaces and wildlife close by. Travel a little bit to the west to find the fastest developing areas of the city and young families dominate the population. While still in close proximity of the bustling metro, the down-home country feel is ever-present in these communities.
For a melting pot of ethnicity and culture, travel south to the Bellevue area where the city’s Polish, Italian, Hispanic and Czech population have prospered for generations. This neighborhood was still considered its own city until the early 1900s. While the infrastructure has changed some, the close-knit community has remained as tight as ever.