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Quick, think Omaha. If only lush fields of corn come to mind, think again. This Midwest metropolis brims with rockin' local music, Art Deco digs, and, yes, some of the country’s best steaks. Our guide brings you from a bat cave to an art studio, and offers plenty of chances to soak up this city's festive spirit along the way. Big O, here we go!
By Amanda Gleason
The Magnolia Complimentary milk and cookies at bedtime will thrill younger guests of this Italian-inspired boutique hotel, modeled after the Bargello Palace in Florence.
Hotel Deco XV Housed in a 1930 brick-and-terra-cotta Art Deco building, this historic hotel's posh appeal is evident everywhere from its dramatic lobby to its super-sleek guest rooms.
Hilton Omaha Pets up to 75 pounds are welcome in the newly renovated rooms of this downtown getaway, the only hotel in the city to offer spa services.
Animal enthusiasts can spy rare species on a…
Home to the world’s largest indoor desert, swamp, and nocturnal exhibits—not to mention the country’s largest indoor rainforest—it’s a no-brainer wildlife fans flock to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, the state’s most visited attraction. Unleash your inner Tarzan in the Lied Jungle, where you’ll encounter pygmy hippos and spider monkeys. Then make your way through the Desert Dome exhibit, a 137-foot-tall geodesic dome where stone cliffs house bobcats, rattlesnakes, and venomous lizards. Still feeling adventurous? Descend beneath the desert into the eerie Kingdoms of the Night exhibit to eye nocturnal critters like parma wallabies and alligators. Legend has it that locking eyes with a white gator, or “swamp ghost,” brings good luck. Just make sure he’s had his nap.
Holland Performing Arts Center Home of the Omaha Symphony, this striking venue also showcases comedy acts, jazz ensembles, and more.
Omaha Children's Museum The science behind floating, flaming, and jumbo-sized bubbles is just one of the interactive shows visitors can soak up at this hands-on playplace.
Get ready to Go “loco” on a…
The moment you step onto the terrazzo floor inside The Durham Museum, a train depot turned history mecca, you’re transported to a bygone era. This grand structure, now home to 30,000 artifacts related to Omaha’s past, served as the city’s bustling Union Station from 1931 to 1971. Begin your journey as passengers once did in the gleaming Great Hall, adorned with 2-ton chandeliers, and see who can spot the giant birds hidden in the limestone walls. (Hint: Look at the clocks.) For more bells and whistles, hop onboard the Mt. Doane car (later named the Cornhusker Club) which tagged along with President Truman’s train as he toured the country in 1948. Or get sidetracked in one of the country’s rarest coin collections, which includes a dekadachm from ancient Greece. How’s that for time travel?
Treat yourself to a stop at…
Lot 2 The married sommeliers at this freshly corked wine bar in the hip enclave of Benson dish out knowledge on the café’s global assortment of reds and whites.
Drover Savor the juicy flavor of this rustic eatery’s whiskey-marinated steaks; after you order, each one's soaked in a bath of secret ‘sauce’ for 15 minutes before being seared to perfection.
eCreamery Fussy frozen treat eaters can customize their own gelato, sorbetto, and ice cream—right down to the name and packaging— at this unique shop.
Stretch your imagination during a…
Not an artist? Not a problem. The nonprofit Omaha Creative Institute invites anyone with an inkling of inspiration to attend a “Come Create It” workshop to learn from professional artists of every stripe. In the Hot Wax/Cool Art class, you’ll put your mark on a wooden slab using a technique called encaustic painting: Beeswax-based paint is kept molten on a toasty palette as you cover the canvas. The best part? The school supplies the materials and you get to take your handiwork home. The roster of classes is constantly changing, but workshops are typically held Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. “If you don’t know anything about art, come with a playful attitude,” says Margaret Berry, a workshop instructor. That we can do.
Then pay a visit to…
Slowdown Rock concerts and comedy acts regularly steal the show at this hip hangout, opened by the owners of indie label Saddle Creek Records.
Film Streams Movie buffs rejoice! This two-screen cinema shows documentaries, independents, and foreign films.
Joslyn Art Museum The state’s largest art museum’s collection includes ancient Greek pottery, Hudson River School landscapes, and contemporary works by American Indians.
Take in the soulful spirit of the city during a…
Where do Omaha's music mavens go for a rollicking good time? The downtown neighborhood of Benson, of course. Let your dancing shoes lead the way to the Waiting Room, a funky lounge that hosts local and touring bands, where you can jam to everything from indie to hip-hop. For a more subdued scene, follow the good vibrations to the cozy performance room at Barley Street Tavern. Here, folk, jazz, and blues musicians deliver original material against a backdrop of hundreds of twinkling holiday lights that stay up year-round. When it’s time for a nightcap (or your second wind), make your way to the newly opened Krug Park, where you'll find a global mix of 59 draft beers, or kick back on the sprawling back porch of The Sydney, a watering hole known for its country and rock shows.
Getting There Fly into Eppley Airfield (OMA), about four miles northeast of downtown Omaha.
Getting Around The Omaha Metro ($1.25 per ride) operates 31 bus routes throughout the city. For further exploring, visit the Omaha Visitors Center to reserve wheels for cycling the 150 miles of trails lining the Missouri River.
Getting Out Browse ceramic vases, wooden toys, and more as 135 artists transform downtown into the Summer Arts Festival, June 8-10.
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