Omaha, NE Area Guide
Welcome to Omaha, Nebraska—America’s "Gateway to the West”! Adventure and excitement are waiting for you, here in Douglas County! Omaha is Nebraska’s largest city, and 42nd largest nationwide, with a population estimated at half a million. Omaha is the big city with a small-town feel, whose stable economy and diverse population welcome residents from all walks of life to join us and become our neighbors! Nestled alongside the Missouri River, just north of the Platte River, Omaha invites you to explore the ever-changing cityscape, or lose yourself in the world’s largest indoor rain forest. We invite you to come shop in Omaha’s Old Market District, whose historic cobblestone streets are lined with restaurants, pubs, galleries and locally owned boutiques. In 2008, Omaha was ranked third-best place in the United States to live, work and play by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine. Entrepreneurs and professionals are drawn to the city for its strong economic community and its business acumen; Omaha is home to four Fortune 500 companies, promoting a city-wide prosperity that translates into a higher quality of life for Omaha residents. Our city prides itself of the comprehensive selection of conveniences it offers its residents while still maintaining an affordable cost of living. In Omaha, residents appreciate and uphold small-town values while benefiting from big-city efficiencies and a cosmopolitan world view. Fusing excitement with simplicity, urban with natural and history with progress, Omaha is the perfect place to start a family, have a college experience, begin or further a career, retire or vacation in. So visit one of our city’s historic sites and travel back in time, exploring Nebraska’s roots and culture, or pull up to the table at one of our restaurants, savoring the steak that’s put Omaha on the culinary map. Omaha maintains the sense of vast opportunity befitting its roots as a depot for pioneers travelling westward to brighter futures. Hitch your wagon and ride into the “Gateway to the West”—come see what’s waiting for you in Omaha!
The land that would eventually become the city of Omaha was originally
inhabited by a variety of Native American communities, most notably the Ioway,
Missouri, Otoe, Pawnee, Ponca and Omaha tribes. The city’s name, Omaha,
is derived from the Dhegian-Siouan-language of the area’s earliest inhabitants,
meaning “dwellers on the bluff”. European settlement came to Nebraska with the
1804 Lewis and Clark Expedition, which passed by the riverbanks where Omaha
would eventually be built. During this expedition, Meriwether Lewis and William
Clark, along with the members of their expedition party, met with the leaders
of the Oto and Missouria at the Council Bluff, 20 miles north of present-day
Omaha. Following this historic meeting, fur trading outposts were established
south of the area, with fierce competition among traders that resulted in the
creation of John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company. A series of 26 United
States federal government treaties with the Native American tribes gradually
ceded ownership of the lands that would be organized into the state of Nebraska
to the United States government, with the treaty and cession of the Omaha
region taking effect in 1854.
Omaha’s early economy was especially prosperous, as its ideal location positioned the city as a stopping point for settlers and prospectors on their way west through the overland or by way of the Missouri River. This earned Omaha the nickname, “Gateway to the West”. The introduction of stockyards and the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1863 brought more jobs and industry to an already thriving economy, securing Omaha’s success into the twentieth century, which saw a substantial amount of growth for the city. Since the 1970s, Omaha has grown and expanded westward, rejuvenating its downtown area to keep businesses thriving and promote a sense of civic pride. In the 1980s, the fruit warehouses of Omaha were converted into the Old Market District, providing Omaha entrepreneurs a new opportunity and venue to do business, while revitalizing and re-purposing historic buildings no longer in use. Our city is home to over a dozen distinct historical districts, including Fort Omaha Historic District, Gold Coast Historic District, Omaha Quartermaster Depot Historic District, Field Club Historic District, Bemis Park Historic District, and the South Omaha Main Street Historic District, each of which provide a unique perspective on Omaha’s past. To learn more about Omaha’s history and historic destinations, visit:
Parks and Recreation
Omaha, though the largest urban area of Nebraska, isn’t all concrete and skyscrapers—in addition to the meticulously landscaped parks and open space areas supported by our community and city parks systems, our region is also home to both state and national parks and wildlife preserves across a variety of our natural habitats. The grasslands, wetland and forests of Nebraska are considered America’s “Heartland”, whose geography is exceptionally beautiful—treat yourself to a weekend adventure and experience the painted sunrise over the bluffs while exploring the singular beauty of Nebraska’s unique prairies and bur oak savanna habitats. Omaha area tributaries and rivers provide habitats and nesting territories for beaver, frogs, belted kingfishers, wood ducks, northern rough-winged swallows, killdeer, bank swallows and spotted sandpipers. The swift fox, heron and the rare northern redbelly dace are just a few of the types of wildlife you may be lucky to spot on a trip to one of our parks, so remember to bring a pair of binoculars and a camera—take only pictures and leave behind only footprints! Birdwatchers will delight in our abundant avian life, present throughout our nature preserves and parks, which include Pergrine falcons, American kestrels, catbirds, song sparrows, a variety of warbler species, and pileated woodpeckers. Sportsmen and fishermen enjoy the variety of hunting game and plentiful fish of the area. Sport fish, including several varieties of trout and bass, as well as Chinook salmon and a diverse population of sunfish, panfish, bait fish and commercial fish are plentiful in the rivers. Upland game, elk, deer, antelope and big horn sheep, as well as waterfowl and turkey, are among some of the game that are legally hunted seasonally in Nebraska with a valid permit. The mission of the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department is to provide our residents and guests facilities and park spaces to enjoy the beauty of our natural bounty in a safe, well-maintained atmosphere. Our community and city parks feature recreation centers and programming, parks, public access marinas, municipal golf courses, community pools, ice rinks, sports leagues, trails, playgrounds and picnic areas to enjoy all our area has to offer. Additionally, there are ample venues for camping, hiking, water sports and other outdoor excursions in the immediate locality, allowing nature lovers the chance to enjoy sunsets over the Missouri River or canoe down the crystal blue waters of the Platte River at their leisure. City parks, too, are places where families or individuals can enjoy the outdoors and relax in the rugged natural beauty of Nebraska—many Omaha area destinations are also pet-friendly, so grab the leash and the ball when you pack for a visit. For more details on area parks and recreation, please visit:
Attractions and Activities
Though Omaha traces its roots to its position as an outpost and gateway to the opportunities of the west, today, the city is the destination itself, not simply a stopover on the way. Contemporary Omaha revolves around education, government, healthcare, tourism and the service industry, with a progressive cultural climate of diversity and sophistication. A thriving arts scene, forward-thinking attitude and sense of civic pride come together in Omaha’s population of urban professionals, families, students and retirees. Art, music and theatre are prevalent throughout the city, with a number of art galleries, museums, historic sites and theatrical venues to entertain the mind, while the body is kept busy at the parks, zoos, botanical gardens and attractions the city offers residents and guests. Pack up the family and get ready to make the memories together when you visit one of Omaha’s favorite destinations, such as the Omaha Zoo, the Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium, Historic Fort Omaha, Pooley’s Pumpkin Patch or Fun Plex. Golfers enjoy a wide variety of verdant golf courses to choose from, with everything from municipal golf courses and luxurious country clubs available to enjoy under the clear Nebraska skies. Power shoppers and gourmands take note: Omaha’s revitalized downtown area and Old Market district are home to a number of some of the most interesting shops, bookstores, coffeehouses and fine dining destinations in Nebraska, so wear your shopping shoes and come hungry; you’re sure to leave happy! Omaha is also home to four unique “entertainment districts”: Old Market, Midtown Crossing, North Downtown and Village Pointe, which offer everything from independent breweries and restaurants to spas and nightlife hotspots. The Omaha Farmer’s Market features the freshest locally grown produce, organic selections, locally produced grocery items and crafts from local vendors, setting up weekly during season at Old Market and Aksarben Village. With everything from nightclubs and spas to world-class art galleries available, Omaha residents always have a packed calendar. Musical performances, theater events, dance recitals, art exhibits, festivals, and crafts shows are scheduled throughout the year, so you’ll never have a dull moment in Omaha!
For a detailed list of Area Attractions, please visit the following website, and take a moment to browse some of our favorites, listed below for your convenience!
Our Favorite Attractions
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo features a great number of animals and exhibits. Come visit the Butterfly/Insect Pavilion, the Cat Complex, Cheetah Valley, the Giraffe Complex, Hubbard Gorilla Valley, Lagoon Island and many other exhibits.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Aquatic Education Program is about water, how fish live, and what they need to survive. Aquatic education at Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium is about fun. It is about learning or teaching fishing skills.
Since 1986 the Aquatic Education Program has been providing high quality teaching materials for classroom use, free educational field trips at the Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium and fishing skills workshops to Nebraska youth through our Youth Fishing Program.
Ameristar Casino is a leading Las Vegas-based gaming and entertainment company known for its premier properties characterized by innovative architecture, state-of-the-art casino floors, superior dining and lodging. The Company has eight casinos in seven markets: Ameristar Casino Resort Spa St. Charles; Ameristar Casino Hotel Kansas City; Ameristar Casino Hotel Council Bluffs; Ameristar Casino Hotel Vicksburg; Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago; Ameristar Casino Resort Spa Black Hawk; and Cactus Petes Resort Casino and The Horseshu Hotel and Casino in Jackpot, Nevada.
The mission of the Historic Fort Omaha is to collect, preserve, and present
to the public the history of Douglas County, Nebraska. Historic Fort Omaha
features the National Indian Wars Library, tours of the General Crook House
Museum, public lectures, exhibits, classes, seminars and much more.
Memories of an era gone by combine with gorgeous architecture at Union Station, one of Omaha’s state treasures. Take a look at the history of the region and the traveling exhibits that take you back in time for a look at the history and culture of Omaha. The Durham Museum offers a broad range, thanks to its affiliation with the Smithsonian Institute and strong alliance with the Library of Congress, National Archives and Field Museum. Come gaze in wonder at our ties to the past!
Since 1931, the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha has been the premier center for visual arts in Omaha with its collection of works from antiquity to the present with attention on 19th and 20th century European and American art. Highlighting the works of Lorenzi di Credi, El Greco, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Hart Benton, they are complemented by American masters like Grant Wood, Jackson Pollock, Dale Chihuly and George Segal. Long celebrated for its collection of American West art and celebrated worldwide for its collection of Karl Bodmer’s watercolors, The Joslyn also displays prints documenting his 1832-1834 journey to the Missouri River frontier with German Prince Maximilian of Wied.
An outstanding example of Art Deco, the original building was built of 38
marbles from seven countries. In addition to the art galleries, Joslyn boasts a
1,000 seat concert hall, fountain court, lecture hall and library as well as an
education technology gallery, café and gift shop.
Each year, several special exhibitions are presented to complement the permanent collection and offers a broad range of art for everyone. Musical performances, education lectures and art classes for all ages bring fullness to the Joslyn experience not found anywhere else in Omaha.
Make your escape to the Lauritzen Botanical Gardens and visit a living museum with four season plant displays. Make your own discovery of a hidden sanctuary, in the heart of Omaha and enjoy. Rest your body while you relax your soul and visit this gorgeous botanical garden located in the beautiful riverfront hills.
Come visit the Old Market and enjoy a myriad of activities from shopping to
fine dining, corporate meeting facilities to sought after real estate. Just
minutes from Omaha Eppley Airport, its location in downtown Omaha puts in close
to nearby attractions including the Henry Doorly Zoo, the Durham Western
Heritage Museum and the Omaha Civic Auditorium. Old Market is home to the new
Holland Performing Arts Center, The Omaha Symphony calls Old Market home as
Crucial to the commercial development of Omaha during the 1880’s, The Old Market has continued well into the twentieth century, and now it has blossomed into a multi block collection of beautifully renovated brick warehouses, whimsical storefronts, and is accented by old fashioned lampposts, uneven brick streets and horse drawn carriages, taking you back to a simpler time.
Walk in the steps of history as you make your way down brick paved streets, enjoying an area rich in history and alive with the flavor of modern times.
Explore the artist inside you with a class or workshop at Hot Shops! Over 80 local artists are housed at the Hot Shops studios, with gallery space available and special showings scheduled year-round. Hot shops classes and workshops include bruning sculpture, crystal forge and pottery, hence its unique moniker. Blacksmithing, painting, drawing and glass blowing classes are also scheduled, so be sure to check the calendar to see what’s available. Get ready to get get creative at The Hot Shops!
Kerry Pedestrian Bridge
Named for former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, who was key to securing funding for the new bridge, it connects Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska. Originally called the Missouri River Pedestrian Bridge, for die hard Omaha-Council cyclists, it’s known as “the new bridge.”
Every day, new residents, tourists, retirees and seasonal residents choose to call Omaha “home”—the amount of community, local and regional events are one of our city’s main draws, keeping friends and family entertained and linked in a shared sense of community. The events calendar our area has to offer draws more and more people to Douglas County daily—art, culture, literature, sports, athletics, nature, history and civic events make our area desirable as a place of both relaxation and excitement. Omaha is home to events as varied as the. Events representing the cultural, natural, historical, artistic, sporting and civic sides of Omaha’s community guarantee something for everyone to enjoy. From Omaha Fashion Week, Nebraska Balloon and Wine Festival, the Intertribal Powwow and Native Omahans Days to the Riverfront Jazz and Blues Festival, there’s always something happening in Omaha.
For a detailed list of community events, please visit:
For your convenience, we’ve listed a few of our favorite local events!
Come revel with your neighbors and celebrate the art of cuisine! The annual Taste of Omaha festival has been going strong in Omaha since 1997, the three-day event showcases the best recipes, restaurants and unique creations Omaha’s chefs and restaurateurs have to offer. Taste of Omaha is as much about community as it is about food, with live music, cooking demos and special events scheduled throughout the weekend. Taste of Omaha is held at the city’s riverfront parks, the Heartland of America Park and Lewis & Clark Landing, and presents free performances on five stages for the main event’s duration. Both national performers and local entertainers headline the stages, so be sure to check the website to see who’s featured when you visit Taste of Omaha. The festival is a family-friendly event, with a dedicated KidZone Stage offering continuous performances of music, comedy, magic, dance and other exciting entertainment for the kids to enjoy. Other Taste of Omaha event highlights include amusement rides for the kids, balloons, face painting, and a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the Festival from the top of the Big Ferris Wheel. Come with an appetite—cuisine at the Taste of Omaha is known for its diversity. Whatever your taste buds crave, you’re sure to find it at “The Taste”—American, Continental, Polish, Greek, Mexican, Asian, Italian, Mediterranean, Indian and the classic barbecued ribs that put Omaha on the map are just a few of the tantalizing flavors available for you to sample. Don’t forget to leave room for dessert, because the selection of sweet treats, such as artesian candy, cheesecake and ice cream at “The Taste” are just as impressive as the main courses.
Come purchase fresh produce, flowers, plants, baked good, meats, crafts and community services. The market is located between on Military Avenue at Maple between 61st and 62nd Streets. Pancake Feed May 1 from 8-10:30am. Cost is $4 for adults and $2 for children.
Established in 2006, the Omaha Rollergirls are Omaha’s all-female flat track roller derby league, consisting of their well-seasoned All-Stars travel team and their AAA home team. Each season, the All-Stars represent the Omaha Rollergirls league in the regional and national circuits, while AAA defends the league’s status close to home, competing in Midwest bouts. The Omaha Rollergirls annual concerts feature live music and prizes from local vendors, so be sure not to miss out on the fun. Cheer on Omaha’s sweethearts and become one of the Omaha Rollergirls’ 3,000+ fans by going to one of this fast-paced, unique sport’s events!
The Nebraska Renaissance Faire is the featured event at the region's newest theme park. See a full-scale pirate ship, faerie tree houses, the enchanted pond, horseback jousting, four stages of entertainment, a children's realm, a beer garden, and dozens of unique merchant shops, various historical displays and exhibits.
For a detailed list of community events, please visit:
For more details about Omaha, NE please visit the official city website: