Situated by the Missouri River, Omaha takes its name from one of the many Native American tribes who lived in the area for thousands of years before European colonization, chief among them the Omaha and the Ponca. Initially called the “Gateway to the West” by white settlers as they moved onto Plains Indian land in the early 1800s, Omaha soon grew to become Nebraska’s largest urban area.
While the Old Market neighborhood is a charming glimpse of Omaha’s beginnings, Nebraskan entrepreneurial spirit is alive and kicking in the Blackstone District and the NoDo District (north of downtown).
Old Market’s cobbled streets and late 19th- and early 20th-century brick mercantile buildings form an alluring location for nightlife and dining, offering a glimpse of its pioneering past. Don’t miss the Passageway on Howard Street, a cute alleyway turned maker market.
Imaginarium Old Market Mercantile
1113 Howard Street
One place not to miss while wandering the Old Market neighborhood is the Imaginarium, a dizzyingly colorful store with extensive racks of graphic novels, all manner of items to create costumes, and unique collectibles from your favorite sci-fi shows and horror and fantasy films.
302 South 36th Street
Located in the blossoming Blackstone District, the magnificent Kimpton Cottonwood is steeped in Omaha history. Formerly, the Blackstone Hotel, a massive renovation updated the building whilst retaining the original architectural glamour via beautiful tiling, terra cotta columns and the marble staircase in the lobby.
The Blackstone, which opened in 1916, welcomed guests like Marlon Brando, President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who celebrated their fifth anniversary at the hotel, and Richard Nixon, who announced his candidacy for the presidency from the rooftop ballroom in 1967.
The Reuben sandwich was supposedly invented at the Blackstone, as was butter brickle ice cream. Along with three different dining and drinking options on site, there is the lavish pool club terrace with its own cafe.
1001 Cass Street
One thing that sets up a traveler’s day is a fine breakfast and a seat at the big, central marble-topped bar in Hilton Omaha’s BARoom is where you’ll enjoy one of the finest breakfasts in the Midwest. BARoom also offers a relaxing seat for lunch, and drinks and dinner later, of course.
The grab-and-go Corner/Market gives busy guests several healthy options, as well as standard snacks and candies. Then, cozy up in one of the newly renovated rooms, all just steps from the CHI Health Center.
10000 California Street
Flagship Commons, the first food hall to open on the Nebraska Plains, comes courtesy of the minds behind Blue Sushi Sake Grill, a sustainably sourced seafood restaurant group, which also offers vegan and vegetarian sushi options. Flagship Commons gathers together around half a dozen dining options, each with specialty cocktails, wine and beer, all set around a central lounge with a cozy fireplace.
Omaha Community Playhouse
6915 Cass Street
Notably, this is the largest community playhouse in the nation and, perhaps even more remarkably, it also happens to be where Oscar-winning actor Henry Fonda made his acting debut in 1925. The playhouse is home to two state-of-the-art performance spaces: the 560-seat Howard and Rhonda Hawks Theatre and the 200-seat black box Howard Drew Theatre.
Joslyn Art Museum
2200 Dodge Street
Opened in 1931, this beautiful art deco building houses Nebraska’s premier fine arts museum comprising a permanent collection that includes works from Paolo Veronese, El Greco, Titian, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jackson Pollock and William-Adolphe Bouguereau. However, its collection of American Western and Native American art adds an individual interest.
The Joslyn Art Museum has expanded many times, including adding the Joslyn Sculpture Garden in 2009. (Note: the museum is undergoing another extension and reopens in 2024.) General admission is free.
1114 Dodge Street
Another sign of the city’s booming performance arts scene is Omaha Performing Arts’ new live music venue, Steelhouse Omaha. It’s due to open in spring 2023, as part of the expansion of Omaha Performing Arts’ art and entertainment campus near the Holland Center.
Charles Schwab Field
1200 Mike Fahey Street
Check out a game or a band at the Creighton University Bluejays baseball team’s home field, which is the host venue of the College World Series. Formerly the TD Ameritrade Park, Major League Baseball, football and ice hockey matches have played out here. And so have big-name country, rock and pop artists, too!
The Homy Inn
1510 North Saddle Creek Road
Let’s just say that the owners of the Homy Inn state, nay, boast that this vintage neighborhood bar is open until 2 a.m., 365 days of the year. Founded in 1956, the place is decorated with kitschy memorabilia like baseball cards, old restaurant menus, Beatles memorabilia and old newspapers. However, perhaps its greatest claim to notoriety is having champagne on tap!