Omaha, Nebraska. Home of the College World Series, Berkshire-Hathaway and Omaha Steaks. The River City, The Big ‘O’, the 402. This city, my city, is like a beautiful tree, with deep roots in the past, and branches that keep growing and expanding every day. I’d love to share some of the must-see, must do places here, if you only had 48 hours to experience it all.
Arrival: 5:00 PM
I recommend lodging at Hotel Deco, it's an Omaha landmark, renovated from being an office building (originally the Redick tower designed in 1930 by Joseph G. McArthur), and its conveniently downtown. Book the two-queen suite with 2 comfortable beds and a separate living area and get luxurious amenities like bathrobes, a private bar stocked with locally sourced goodies and complimentary chauffeured trips in the house car. Nice!
Dinner: 6:00 PM Culinary Tour with Nebraska Tour Company
There are few better ways to get a feel for the cuisine of Omaha than to take a culinary tour. You get to enjoy bites from the some of the city’s premiere restaurants while exploring the beauty of the downtown area, plus you meet some really amazing people. You really can’t go wrong!
Relax because the next two days are going to be busy.
Breakfast: 9:30 AM at Culprit Café Downtown
Right on the corner of 16th and Farnam, it’s the quintessential café with the green and white awnings. They have great coffee, pastries and breakfast items like quiche, whole egg sandwich or their decadent beignets (the chocolate is a personal favorite). It’s a great spot for people watching as well.
Adventure #1: 11:00 AM, stop and smell the roses at Lauritzen Gardens
It’s a 100-acre oasis, filled with flowers and plants of all kinds. There’s an indoor area that features tropical plants and flora native to Nebraska, and the grounds feature different areas like the rose garden, perfect for photo ops. You can join the 1 hour tram tour to see the sights with less walking. Don’t miss the beautiful gift shop as well.
Lunch: 1:15 PM in Little Italy
Formed by immigrants from Southern Italy and migrants from the East Coast, Little Italy has been a community since the late 1800’s. The architecture is special to this part of the city, and it’s a great place for lunch. Check out Orsi’s Italian Bakery & Pizzeria on Pacific St. (open since 1919) for a slice of history and a slice of pie. They also feature authentic deli and grocery items chosen with love. For a modern take on Italian classics, check out Via Farina right off 10th and Pacific; go for the atmosphere, stay for the pasta and a glass of Chianti.
Adventure #2: 2:45 PM, history at The Durham Museum
After lunch, why not head back up 10th St. and check out the Durham? This museum makes its home in what was once Union Station, and the beautiful design of times past can still be seen from floor to ceiling. It’s a great place to learn about the history of Omaha, see some amazing trains and enjoy many other historical exhibits.
Adventure #3: 4:00 PM, exploring The Old Market
No doubt you spied some great shops while on the Culinary tour, now’s the perfect opportunity to really take a look and score some unique gifts for your friends and family (or even just for yourself!) There are so many cool stores, galleries and eateries in this area, you’re sure to find something you love. The Passageway in the Old Market is a can’t miss, the space feels so tranquil and inviting with its artisanal shops nestled right in among the bricks.
Dinner: 7:00 PM Le Bouillon
A French inspired restaurant in Nebraska? The answer is absolutely yes! This famous Old Market classic eatery is located in the building which was home to an Old Market original restaurant called the French Cafe. Chef Paul Kulik brought the former cafe back to life with a space that is bright and historic with a unique sculpture taking center stage. The food is well executed and reasonably priced along with an inspired wine and cocktail selection. There is even a wonderful patio to watch the evening progress in the Old Market.
Adventure #4: 9:10 PM, cocktails in the Old Market
Ready to enjoy an adult beverage or two? The Laka Lono Rum Club on Howard St comes highly recommended; catch the island vibe with the colorful décor, swing chairs and tiki drinks. You might also try The Berry and Rye where craft cocktails are their specialty; it has an old school meets new school ambiance with the glass, brick and outstanding artwork.
Breakfast: 9:45 AM at 11-Worth Cafe
For breakfast today, allow your GPS to lead you to an Omaha institution, the 11-Worth Café; it’s a sure-fire bet for a hearty and delicious breakfast. Think crispy bacon, fluffy omelets and fantastic coffee. Here you’ll find a little bit of everyone, from business professionals to families, millennials to retirees. Whatever you do, do not miss the pancakes!
Adventure #5: 11:15 AM, fun times at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
After a hearty breakfast, you’ll be fueled up for a full day at the zoo, where there’s plenty to see, enjoy and experience. The Lied Jungle is an indoor rainforest (with a waterfall!), and the Suzanne & Walter Scott Aquarium features a beautiful tunnel with all sorts of sea creatures. There are areas for Lions and Tigers and Bears oh my and a fantastic desert dome. The Butterfly and Insect pavilion is a favorite, as well as the Imax theater.
Late Lunch: 4:30 PM at Block 16
Hungry after a busy day at the zoo? Didn’t grab anything from the Tree Tops restaurant? Block 16 may be the perfect solution. It’s practically next door to Culprit Café, and they have a ridiculous menu of farm to table street food items that take familiar classics and elevate them way beyond expectations. This place has been recognized for greatness by USA Today, the Food Network, MSN and Yahoo, and boasts a burger that’s a personal favorite of Alton Brown.
Dinner: 8:00 PM at Stirnella
Not too far from the downtown area, in the vibrant Blackstone neighborhood you’ll find Stirnella, and everything about it is inviting. Sophisticated yet approachable, you’ll find seasonally inspired dishes full of color and flavor, not to mention its laser focus on local ingredients. The all seasons patio also sets them apart, creating a very memorable dining experience.
Adventure #6: 9:40 PM, explore the Blackstone District
Farnam Street is alive this time of night, with great places to hang out, enjoy some libations or even a tasty snack. Stop by Scriptown, a local brewery with a vibe that may remind you of Cheers, or stop next door at Kathmandu Momo Station for delicious dumplings (and a ramen pop up!) Nite Owl also comes highly recommended (totchos anyone?) with a menu and ambiance that may remind you of the best of your college days, with a breezy patio to boot. Uncork a bottle of wine might be your choice; so stop by Corkscrew.
Breakfast: 9:35 AM at Olsen Bake Shop
With an early evening flight, you’ve got a little time to still get a taste of Omaha. Follow our insider’s tip and treat yourself to some doughnuts for breakfast from Olsen Bake Shop. It’s a family-owned fresh and flaky emporium of all things delicious, and it won’t break the bank. Everything is good here, but a gold star if you go for the frosted croissants, they are simply divine.
Adventure #7: 10:15 AM, artistic stop at Joslyn Art Museum
All packed? Stop by the Joslyn Art Museum, it’s simply beautiful, inside and out. This pink marble masterpiece houses a variety of classic and modern art and a stunning sculpture garden that’s sure to get you inspired.
Before you go, experience 2 food creations that Omaha is famous for.
Lunch: 12:30 PM The Reuben sandwich
This popular sandwich was created for a poker game at the historic Blackstone Hotel. Stop in to Barret’s Barleycorn Pub & Grill to experience an Omaha original sandwich stacked full of corned beef, swiss cheese and sauerkraut.
Snack: 2:00 PM End the day with something sweet
That same hotel created the delicious end to your visit: Butter Brickle ice cream which originally contained toffee candy by nearby Fenn Bros. Candy Company. Before heading to Eppley Airport, grab your cone full of buttery sweet ice cream with toffee at the city’s famous Coneflower Creamery.
Omaha, the beautiful, the historical, the city by the river. These are just a few highlights of what makes this place special. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the vibrance of South Omaha and the history of “the Deuce” aka North 24th St; not to mention Benson, Dundee, Florence and the Field Club area. Why not create your own adventures by using one of the
written by Alan Rust, with Nebraska Tour Company, in collaboration with Adriene Archibald a lifelong resident of the city. photos by Adriene Archibald.