While Omaha may not top a typical list of vacation hot spots, the Midwestern city has much to offer visitors, most notably a friendly face just about any time you turn around. The largest city in Nebraska, Omaha has a population of about 466,000 in an area of about 141 square miles. Located on the Missouri River, the city has a number of cultural and historic buildings interspersed with open space and an abundance of public art.
Sculptures can be seen along city streets and throughout parks, quietly indicating that Omaha is very artist-friendly. The Joslyn Art Museum has displays both indoors and out and like other world-class museums, has both permanent and visiting exhibits. The Art Deco building dates back to 1931 and houses artwork from around the world including Degas’ “Little Dancer” as well as works by Monet, Renoir, Rodin and Rembrandt. The museum’s “Art Works” provides 1,500 square feet of interactive space for young art aficionados to experience and learn about art.
The downtown Old Market is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a popular area for shopping and dining. The area is home to over 45 restaurants and drinking establishments as well as many unique shops and galleries.
Just down the street is the Durham Museum, located in the old train station. Dedicated to preserving the history of the area, this museum tells the story of Omaha’s immigrant origins and provides a walk back in time with its life-sized replicas of everything from a rawhide tepee to the original Buffett Grocery Store (the place a young Warren Buffett once worked). The rail history is not forgotten, with a section dedicated to trains, including the opportunity to walk through rail cars and experience changing times and fashions.
Omaha also has some presidential history. President Gerald Ford was born in the city and a small portion of a block with gardens and sculpture mark the location. Betty Ford is also honored here, with a garden in her name.
A visit to Omaha wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Henry Dooly Zoo and Aquarium. Considered one of the best zoos in the world, animal habitats have been created with such thought and authenticity that visitors may forget they are in the middle of the US rather than the animals’ natural habitats. While you wouldn’t think an aquarium would be in a landlocked state, here too, animal exhibits mimic native habitats. The penguin exhibit in particular is a place where visitors pause and watch these birds swim and play.
Omaha is also home to the Lewis & Clark Historic Trail Headquarters, near the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, a 3000-foot pedestrian bridge that spans the Missouri River, the first ever to connect two states. (Council Bluffs, Iowa sits on the other side of the bridge.) There, displays provide information about the explorers discovery and an outdoor garden provides a relaxing walk through native plants identified with small signs as well as hints of what wildlife calls this place home.