Must Do: Downtown Omaha in a Weekend
I've spent a LOT of time in Omaha these last few months. It's no surprise to me that most people's reaction to that is, "Oh, wow. I'm sorry." (Or some variation.) I had a similar thought my first time out. But, Omaha is actually a pretty awesome city, and one that I never get tired of visiting.
Omaha has a rich history for such a young city. Officially founded in the 1850s, Omaha played a pivotal role in Westward expansion, serving as the Eastern end of the Transcontinental Railroad. Today, visitors to Omaha can enjoy a world-renowned zoo, a blossoming art scene, a growing craft beer presence, and an incredible amount of top-notch eateries. Nebraska is known for beef, sure, but if you're a foodie you'll want to take advantage of Omaha's diverse culinary options.
Plus, it's just full of wonderful people.
You could spend a week in Omaha and not even scratch the surface of all there is to see and do. But what if you only have a weekend? Read on to find out how to make the most of just three short days, no car needed.
Day 1: Try to get an early morning flight so you can get to Omaha mid-afternoon. It'll leave you more time to explore. If you can't make it work, never fear: you can still squeeze most of this in on Saturday, if you push a little.
Check in to your hotel, the Residence Inn Downtown Omaha. Housed in the old Federal Building, you’ll be in a great location within easy walking distance of the Old Market, and just a quick 5-minute Uber from North Downtown, Blackstone, and Midtown Crossing. The rooms here are spacious and well-appointed, with full kitchens, and the staff are downright incredible. Check out our YouTube channel for a quick walk-through of the standard room!
Once you’ve unpacked, grab some comfortable shoes and a camera – you’re going on foot.
You’re heading to the Bob Kerrey Bridge, but there’s plenty to see along the way. First up is the Gene Leahy Mall, 10 acres of walkways, gardens, and more. You can walk along the street up top, or head down into the mall itself for a close-up view. Keep an eye out for the metal slides, and if you’ve got a jacket, use it as a sliding mat for a little bit of fun!
Keep walking, crossing 10th Street and heading into Heartland of America Park. Follow the walkways around the fountains and man-made lake, and keep going North (or, left).
You’ll pass Lewis and Clark Landing and eventually make your way to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge is about 3000 feet long, and joins Nebraska and Iowa over the Missouri River. Which means, the state line runs right across the bridge. No first-time visit to Omaha is complete without a “state line selfie,” so straddle that line and snap a photo! Make sure you stop back by the Omaha Visitor’s Center to get your sticker for crossing the Bob, and to pick up a visitors guide (complete with coupons).
After all that walking (about 3 miles round-trip) you’re bound to be hungry, so head on over to Upstream Brewing for pub food and beer flights, Plank for great seafood (yes, in Nebraska!), or Himalayas for scrumptious Indian food.
Finish off the evening with cocktails at the Wicked Rabbit, where you’ll forget you’re not *really* in a 1920s speakeasy. Feel free to let the bartenders make something unique for you - they're excellent mixologists.
Day 2: Saturday morning, head on over to Himalayan Java for a great cup of coffee. It’s just a couple of blocks from your hotel! Then, make your way to the Durham Museum to learn about the history of the area.
Housed in Union Station, there are rotating exhibits and even a couple of old train cars. Allow a couple hours here, easily.
For lunch, take advantage of farm-to-table fare at Kitchen Table.....
Or falafel at Oasis.
Or, both. Because choosing between the two is nearly impossible.
After lunch, head back to the Old Market, and spend a few hours wandering the shops. Tannenbaum is a Christmas ornament lover’s dream, and Old Market Candy Shop has wonderful dark chocolate salted caramel fudge if you need a pick-me-up. Other can’t miss spots include the Artists’ Cooperative, City Limits, Flying Worm Vintage, and the Fairmont Mercantile, where you can gaze lovingly on an entire wall of Pez dispensers.
My favorite, though, is the aptly named Iron Decor and More. I still regret not buying this guy.
Seriously, isn't he the cutest?
Shop til you drop until it's time to eat again! There’s no shortage of great dinner spots in the Old Market, so either hit one of the ones you didn’t last night, or choose from Stokes for Southwestern/TexMex, Blue for sushi, or Craft Sliders and Beer for….craft sliders and beer.
You’ll hit up Mercury for after-dinner drinks tonight. Or, if a quiet evening sounds more your style, head back to the hotel and ask them to shuttle you up to the 3700 block of Farnham Street. Make a quick run in Beertopia, then dash in Modern Love for the best you-won’t-believe-it’s-vegan takeout you’ll ever eat. Trust me. Get the Mac & Shews and you won't miss the dairy OR the meat. Yes, I dream about this meal constantly. Bring it all back, and enjoy your favorite Netflix show (Residence Inn’s TV will allow you to log in!).
Day 3: If you have time, take an Uber up to Blackstone and prowl around. Before heading to the airport, grab a Runza for a true Nebraska delicacy. I recommend the original, but you do you.
When you arrive, try a cup of Scooter’s coffee – another tried and true Nebraska thing. After all, if you leave Omaha without having Runza and Scooter’s….have you really been to Omaha?
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