Have you ever been to “Beautiful Nebraska?” This state at the heart and center of the U.S. is filled with amazing landmarks, historic sites, and unforgettable experiences. As travelers, we believe that the state is a better tourist attraction than the likes of Nevada, California, and Florida. Of course, as this is a large state, we’ll narrow down the list of unforgettable spots into smaller bits. This time, we are going to talk about the largest city in the state which is Omaha, also known as the Gateway to the West. This lush and lively city is arguably one of the places to be in while in Nebraska so read on ahead for a new adventure.
Omaha’s boom into a major city started during 1854 when the city was founded by people from the neighboring area of Council Bluffs, Iowa. The city itself was founded along the Missouri River and a crossing in the area called the Lone Tree Ferry. Because of its accessibility to the west, the city acquired the moniker, Gateway to The West.
One of the key turning points in Omaha’s history was when it held the World’s Fair in 1898. During the event, the city introduced the “new west” to the world. People from all over the U.S. visited Omaha when it hosted the World’s Fair and through it, the city was able to showcase its potential and create ties with others around the U.S.
Another key factor that helped Omaha grow into the bustling city that it is today is its strategic location which puts it at the center of the U.S. During the 19th century, the city became a transportation hub for the U.S. through its railroads and breweries. Then in the following century, Omaha took advantage of its geography and it opened the Omaha Stockyards which was the world’s largest meatpacking plant.
As a tourist attraction, Omaha has everything from historic landmarks to cultural experiences. Its primary source of tourism, however, is the Henry Doorly Zoo and the College World Series. Another major tourist attraction in the city is the Old Market in Downtown Omaha which also serves as an important player in the city’s retail economy.
According to an assessment on the city’s leisure and hospitality sector, Omaha is on the same level as cities like Kansas City, Missouri, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Denver, Colorado, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The city is placing more funds on the development of its tourism sector which will further improve the attractions and accommodations in the state.
Now that we’ve gotten a glimpse of the city and its tourism industry, let’s get right down to the things you need to know before exploring the city of Omaha.
- 1 How To Get To Omaha
- 2 Getting Around Omaha, Nebraska
- 3 Best Time To Visit Omaha, Nebraska
- 4 Omaha’s Most Interesting Activities
- 4.1 Explore the Old Market
- 4.2 See the OPPD Arboretum
- 4.3 Go on a culinary tour
- 4.4 See what’s inside the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
- 4.5 Go on a river cruise with River City Star
- 4.6 Visit the Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park
- 4.7 Stroll around Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
- 4.8 Go on a food crawl at the Dundee Neighborhood
- 4.9 Tour the Durham Museum
- 4.10 See a submarine up close
- 4.11 Experience the countryside
- 4.12 Explore an indoor desert at a zoo
- 4.13 Sift through the aisles of Hollywood Candy
- 4.14 Count the cursed stairs
- 4.15 Eat cinnamon rolls… with chili
How To Get To Omaha
Whether you are coming from major U.S. cities or from international cities, getting directly to Omaha is easy thanks to the Eppley Airfield. This international airport is located three miles away from Downtown Omaha so from it, you can book a taxi or a rental car to get to the city proper.
It handles over 100 flights daily from various airlines such as Air Canada Express, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and more. These will take you to and from the city to major locations around the U.S. and other parts of the world. The top destinations of the airport include Denver, Colorado, Chicago-O’hare, Illinois, and Atlanta, Georgia.
Alternatively, you can also take Amtrak to get to the city. Omaha’s Amtral station is just 0.5 miles away from the city. If you are already near or are in Nebraska, then you may want this option instead as it a lot cheaper. Just be sure to book your tickets early as the trains can get crowded during peak season.
Getting Around Omaha, Nebraska
In the city itself, ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft are immediately available. If you want a hassle-free way to get around the city, you should consider taking this or taxis instead. However, do keep in mind that it will be more expensive on your end. Other than renting a car at the airport, there are cheaper and more convenient alternatives as well.
Your best option when it comes to public transportation is the Omaha Metro. This is the city’s own mass transit bus system and it will get you to all of the key spots in the city. It runs on a schedule however, so when it’s late at night, you’ll have to take taxis instead. For the rest of the day, you’ll have no issues getting around using the buses.
Best Time To Visit Omaha, Nebraska
One of the best things about Omaha is that rooms are cheap regardless of the season. However, if you really want to save up on your room rates, you may want to visit during the winter season as it is a lot cheaper than other seasons around. Moreover, the city and the state is beautiful during this time of the year. Do take note that temperatures can get extremely cold so bring thick clothing.
Unless you are visiting during Christmas week, you don’t have to worry too much about the crowd. Speaking of tourists, the peak season for tourism is during spring while the season with the least visitors is Summer. If you’re not a fan of long lines, then you may want to consider a summer escapade instead.
Omaha’s Most Interesting Activities
There are a lot of popular activities and attractions in Omaha that many locals and tourist love and frequent. However, it can get boring sometimes, especially when everyone has already tried those activities that you’re about to try. If you want to see some real hidden gems, you’ve come to the right place as we will give you a rundown of some of the most interesting things to do in Omaha that will really pique your curiosity and give you the best unique travel experience. Here are some of them.
1Explore the Old Market
Exploring the Old Market is one of the first most interesting things to do in Omaha. This is because this place alone has a lot of activities and attractions to offer that will already fill you with fun memories. The Old Market practically has everything – from museums to various shops, you will definitely find something that you will surely enjoy. There’s even a children’s museum for when you’re traveling with kids.
2See the OPPD Arboretum
A lot of cities around the world has an arboretum or two where you can relax, get closer to nature, and see different species of trees and plants. But OPPD Arboretum is much more different than the others. This is because aside from seeing different plants and trees and learning how to care for them, this place also serves as an outdoor education area where you can learn more about electrical safety and the important steps to take when planting trees and other plants near power lines. You’ll not just get to enjoy the beautiful scenery but you will also get to learn more – which is one of the most interesting things to do in Omaha too.
3Go on a culinary tour
You’ve probably heard of walking tours, historical tours, and even ghost tours but have you heard of a culinary tour? In Omaha, you can experience it and it’s one of the most interesting things to do in Omaha. With this, you can get to know the Omaha food scene as you tour more than 50 restaurants, cafes, and other business partners of the tour’s organizer, the Omaha Culinary Tours. Needless to say, you can also get a taste of their specialty dishes. And what’s even better is that some of them also offer classes if you are interested in preparing a few culinary masterpieces that show off the city’s unique culinary style. Whether you’re an aspiring chef or you’re a foodie this activity is a must-try so don’t forget to add this to your travel itinerary.
4See what’s inside the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
As its name suggests, you don’t have to think about what you should expect to see in the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. Thus, you might wonder how the museum made it to this list of the most interesting things to do in Omaha. Apparently, while you can expect to see some contemporary artworks displayed here, the museum’s displays and collections are constantly changing. That said, you’ll always be surprised when you visit this place. What also sets this museum from the others is its history and the unparalleled support that it gives to the field.
Back in the 1980s, the museum opened by four artists with a mission of providing art by artists for artists. They started out in a mere warehouse with other artists experimenting at industrial sites. Today, it has already become a huge success, taking pride in their outstanding residency programs and they support research and experimentation in the field.
5Go on a river cruise with River City Star
Going on a river cruise is also one of the most interesting things to do in Omaha. Here, you can get to explore the river city and take in the beautiful views that it has to offer. What’s even better is that you can admire the passing scenery as you enjoy your favorite drink from its bar. At first glance, it might be a common activity as other cities offer river cruises too. But what makes this cruise all the more interesting is that it is the city’s sole riverboat. On top of that, it is also uniquely designed that will make you feel as if you’re in the 1940s era. You can also get to feel the fresh breeze in its upper deck. It is really an activity that you shouldn’t miss when traveling to the city.
6Visit the Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness and Pioneer Courage Park
By looking at its name, you might think that this place is just an ordinary park with a statue of a notable person or two from the city. However, this isn’t your ordinary park as this place shows a unique permanent outdoor art installation. And it is the first of its kind in the nation too. Here, you can get to see statues made with bronze and stainless steel that spread to more than five city blocks that depict what life was like back then in the city. You’ll see series of statues that are 1.25 times life-size with a wagon train, as well as a herd of bison and a flock of geese making their way through the muddy and hilly terrain.
7Stroll around Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
You might just pass on the idea of strolling and/or biking around Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge because what’s so interesting about a mere bridge, right? But don’t pass on this activity just yet. This is because aside from the fact that it has some of the picturesque views to offer, especially as the sun sets, what makes this interesting is that it is one of the rare footbridges around the world that connect two states. It’s even more perfect after a dinner or snack at the Old Market. In addition to that, the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is also a stone throw away from the Lauritzen Gardens where you can find beautiful flowers that and other plants.
8Go on a food crawl at the Dundee Neighborhood
At first glance, you might not find anything interesting about this place just by looking at its name. But apparently, this place is lined with plenty of restaurants that serve good food that you wouldn’t want to miss. In fact, aside from going on a culinary tour, this activity is one of the most interesting things to do in Omaha, especially for foodies who want to discover the city’s culture through its dishes. Here, you can find a mix of juicy burgers, garlic-filled plates of pasta, tender pork belly dishes, and even the saltiest desserts. In case you still want to have more after going on a culinary tour in the city, this place is a must-visit.
9Tour the Durham Museum
Like some of the attractions on this list, the Durham Museum is easy to just pass on because it sounds like a common museum. However, this isn’t your ordinary museum filled with mere memorabilia, paintings, and other artifacts. Sure, you can still find a number of exhibits here that features rare artifacts including the rarest documents and coins in the world but this place is also often the talk of the town because it has an extensive range of refurbished trains from the 1940s and 50s as well. To top it all off, it has a soda fountain where you can taste authentic phosphate and soda water. They also have delicious malts plus hard-to-find candies which kids will definitely love.
10See a submarine up close
Have you seen a submarine up close? Well, if you will travel to Omaha, you can; and it is one of the most interesting things to do in Omaha that draws a lot of tourists and locals alike. You will not see it submerged in water, though, as it is displayed just literally at the Freedom Park Navy Museum. Aside from that, you can also get to see other military artifacts, including jets, a helicopter, rocket launchers, and a captain’s gig to name a few. Guided tours are also being offered so you will not just get to marvel at the artifacts that the museum houses but get to learn more about them, as well as the history of the city too. There are special tours too. And the best part of it all is that they’re all for free.
11Experience the countryside
Needless to say, to experience the city’s countryside is also one of the most interesting things to do in Omaha. In fact, your Omaha trip won’t be complete without this activity. Luckily, Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch offers the perfect chance to do that. Here, you can pick your own berries and pumpkins. You can also get to see the ranch’s livestock up close and personal. And if you have kids traveling with you, don’t worry much as they will surely enjoy the trip to as the place has play areas for children and at the same time make them experience what it was like in the countryside 50 to 100 years ago. There are hayrides available through the woods as well plus tree houses for everyone to enjoy.
12Explore an indoor desert at a zoo
In Omaha, you won’t have to travel far and wide to experience what it’s like to be in a desert as it has its own desert. And what’s even more interesting is that it’s an indoor desert. If you’ll head to the Henry Doorly Zoo, you can explore it. Yes, the zoo apparently doesn’t just have various animals on exhibit but it is also frequented by many because of its indoor desert. And top it all off, the zoo doesn’t just boast of one desert but three. In fact, it is named as the largest indoor desert in the world that makes visiting it one of the most interesting things to do in Omaha too.
Its desert dome is actually divided into three: the Namib Desert, where a 30-foot tall sand dune and more than 20 reptile species; the Red Center of Australia, one of the world’s unique isolated deserts; and the Sonoran Desert that also houses several reptiles and amphibians.
13Sift through the aisles of Hollywood Candy
Hollywood Candy is a haven for kids, kids at heart, and candy lovers. You have endless options of candies to choose from. But what makes this place more interesting is not just the sweet treats that you can find but the antiques and more collectibles that you will find if you explore the back of the store. You’ll definitely find some treasures to take home with you as a souvenir for your fun and memorable Omaha trip or as a gift for your loved ones back to your hometown in more than 30 vendors that somewhat hidden behind Hollywood Candy.
14Count the cursed stairs
Not to scare you but Omaha has “cursed” stairs and visiting it is also one of the most interesting things to do in Omaha. Don’t worry, though, you will not go home carrying some bad luck or whatnot. Rather, you will take home a unique experience.
Apparently, rumors say that the stairs at the Hummel Park are morphing. According to some people who have already been there, you will not be able to count the same number of stairs going down. Is it just a mere rumor to draw in more visitors? Or is it actually true? Be the judge and add this to your travel itinerary so you can count it for yourself.
15Eat cinnamon rolls… with chili
Most of us are probably used to having cinnamon rolls cooked with apples. But have you heard of chili and cinnamon rolls? It might sound weird but for the locals, they call it dinner. In a restaurant in Omaha called Runza, you can try this unusual combination and it’s definitely one of the most interesting things to do in Omaha. While there are other restaurants and shops that sell such unusual combination, Runza is one of the restaurants that we highly recommend as their chili and cinnamon rolls are, by far, the tastiest we’ve ever tried. Get out of your comfort zone and try this one out if you’re traveling to Omaha. It’s definitely worth the try.