Whether we’re talking about the artsy, outdoorsy, foodie, or the craft cocktail sipping crowd, one thing is for sure: Omaha has it. The “Gateway to the West” is so much more than a gateway; it’s a happening destination in its own right. Not only does Omaha offer a rich legacy of vibrant Americana in its historic buildings and businesses, but its relative affordability also draws plenty of creatives—and things keep getting cooler. Year after year, more nationally-acclaimed restaurants, hipster music haunts and art galleries emerge throughout Omaha’s trendy neighborhoods.
Located in Midtown Omaha’s buzzy, pedestrian-friendly Blackstone District, The Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel is a stone’s throw from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and a launching point to all Omaha has to offer. Let your hotel stay be the first stop on your historic tour; the original Blackstone Hotel dates back to 1916. The swanky Orleans Room restaurant was Omaha’s top dining destination for years and now it’s back on the map with a fresh new take.
Eat Your Way Through Omaha
Legend has it that the Reuben sandwich was born during a Blackstone Hotel poker game in the twenties. You can taste the original recipe just across the street at Crescent Moon, and it will be back on the menu when the hotel opens. Believe us—this sandwich is good.
Make sure to save room for an oyster stop later. If you’re thinking “Oysters in Omaha?”, let us make the following, airtight argument: No ocean? No problem. No-coast Omaha gets fresh plane deliveries from both coasts every day, and it’s awash in fresh oysters. Go swanky in Old Market at Plank Seafood Provisions, or hit one of the longtime favorite Shuck’s locations.
If you’ve got a sugar craving to satisfy, then you’ll want to head to Coneflower Creamery for “farm to cone” ice cream or Bob’s Donuts—where “square” takes on a new, sweet meaning. Get caffeinated at Archetype Coffee in the Blackstone District. Archetype is the place for high quality, fastidiously made coffee in a laid-back atmosphere.
Shop Like a (Hip) Local
Head to Old Market for old and new tunes at Homers Record Store. In Little Bohemia, you’ll find a finely curated menswear selection at Vincent Outfitting and explore the far-ranging, ever-changing collection at Lucky’s Vintage. Not to mention all the options right outside your door in the revitalized historic Blackstone District—where you’ll find the best in local shops including Ground Floor Guitar.
Heartland of America Park sprawls across 31 acres, offering a peaceful retreat just steps from Old Market. In the afternoon, you might even hear music drifting over the Missouri River from a soundcheck at Iowa’s Stir Cove venue. If you’re looking to get farther from the city energy, drive about twenty minutes to southwest Omaha to see some local flowers, jog or picnic at Chalco Hills.
Omaha is arts-rich. The Joslyn Art Museum’s permanent collection (Pollock and Renoir, anyone?) lives alongside exciting rotating exhibitions. The Bemis Center for Contemporary Art features exhibitions in all media, and artists-in-residence also host open studios. Keep an eye out for events at local artist workspaces Outr Spaces and Bench Omaha. And if you’re looking for nightlife, you can catch live music any night of the week. Start by checking out the lineup at the Waiting Room Lounge, a Benson car dealership turned music venue hosting local and national bands. For another type of music experience, check out social listening room and music library Hi-Fi House, which hosts album release parties, intimate performances, and casual chats with touring artists.
Soak in Some (More) History
Stroll the gardens and grounds of the impressive Joslyn Castle – the early-1900s home of some of the city’s early philanthropists – and take a peek inside on a Monday or Sunday tour. Housed in beautiful Union Station, the Durham Museum is also a must-see for lovers of trains, architecture, and history.
Grab a Nightcap
There are no shortage of cool places to grab a drink in Omaha. Sip a craft cocktail or draft beer at the Benson hot spot Krug Park, named for an amusement park that one drew crowds to the neighborhood. Grab a beer at a former theater, now Benson Brewery. Or, make your way back to the Blackstone District for the distilled spirits at literary-themed Inkwell or classic cocktails in a 100 year old space at Red Lion Lounge.