Omaha, NE

Destination Location

Overview

Omaha has long been a magnet for entrepreneurs and pioneers seeking riches, stretching back to the early settlers who set up trading posts to wheel and deal with local tribes, to the modern day “Oracle of Omaha”, Warren Buffet, whose fortunes and Midas touch are well documented. The city currently has the most millionaires per capita in the United States. Visitors will find that Omaha offers a wealth of activity, history and culture.

Renowned explorers Lewis and Clark travelled through the area that would become Omaha in the early 1800s, during which time the city gained the nickname “Gateway to the West”. Many of the travellers must have liked what they saw – and stayed – because Omaha grew into the largest city in Nebraska and the nation's centre for meat packing. Warehousing, food distribution and railway lines became important to Omaha's economy.Packaged goods giant ConAgra is headquartered in Omaha, with its focus on American mainstays like the frozen dinner and other prepared foods.

If you are looking for fresher fare when visiting, Omaha is divided into several unique ethnic neighbourhoods including Little Italy, Little Bohemia and Little Mexico – each with its own flavour. Looking to get the best bang for your buck? Omaha's stockyards are said to produce some of the greatest steaks you can find and the city is known for having a wide range of restaurants suiting all tastes and budgets.

The Old Market is a major historic district in Downtown Omaha with shops, bars, restaurants, galleries and museums running along cobblestone streets. Omaha has many historically preserved areas along its sprawling parks and boulevards, including sites from the 1898 World's Fair. The Henry Doorly Zoo is regarded as one of the world's prominent zoos, with claims to the world's largest geodesic dome, indoor desert, and nocturnal exhibit.

Omaha's entertainment scene boasts a strong music history stretching from its early days as a blues, jazz and funk hotspot to the well-developed independent rock labels present in the city today. The weekend is a great time to catch one of the local acts in a live show. Movie goers can also see a film at Dundee Theater, a classic one-screen theatre. If you're lucky, you just might happen to catch a movie featuring one of Omaha's great actors including Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando and Nick Nolte.

Speculating on a trip to Omaha? WestJet can help get you on the right path with flights with our partner airlines.

Airport served by: Omaha, NE (OMA)

Destination basics

Omaha lacks a close, large body of water to temper its weather. This leads to sometimes cold, dry winters and hot summers. The area is prone to thunderstorms during summer months. Humidity is relatively low, making any unusually hot summer days manageable for visitors.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Omaha, NE

 

When the first settlers set up camp on the western banks of the Missouri River, the city of Omaha was born. What was once the site of these early dirt roads and crude, makeshift buildings is now a bustling urban area.

Downtown
The Old Market, located just minutes from Eppley Airport, is a multi-block conglomeration of renovated brick warehouses occupied by restaurants, shops, bars, apartments, condos and art galleries. Quaint, old-style lampposts, uneven brick streets, horse-drawn carriages and street side musicians make the area a favorite with locals and tourists alike. Enjoy an intimate dinner at V. Mertz, down a cold brew at Mr. Toad or shop for the latest fashions at Nouvelle Eve.

Downtown is also a haven for the arts. The Joslyn Art Museum, the Orpheum Theater, the Durham Western Heritage Museum and the Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Center are all located here.

Central
This district hosts the city's older, more established neighborhoods, including the Bemis, Gold Coast and Blackstone areas, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Dundee, a charming neighborhood with tree-lined streets, quaint homes and a small shopping district, is also popular. Here you can stroll down to the Dundee Dell for fish and chips. The University of Nebraska at Omaha, Elmwood Park, Memorial Park, the Omaha Community Playhouse and Crossroads Mall make Central Omaha a cornucopia overflowing with exciting things to do.

West Central
Known for big, expensive homes and abundant shopping centers, West Central Omaha is home to many of the city's well-to-do residents. Shopping malls are everywhere, with One Pacific Place, Regency Court, Westroads Mall, Countryside Village Shopping Center and Rockbrook Village all located in this well-traveled area. Sightseers shouldn't miss visiting Girls and Boys Town, the world-renowned residential facility founded by Father Flanagan. Excellent restaurants are also plentiful. Enjoy a leisurely brunch at the Market Basket, or relish Tex-Mex food and ambiance at Stokes Grill and Bar.

North Omaha
Take a trip back in time in historic North Omaha. The Mormon Pioneer Cemetery is located on the site where the Mormons camped during their cross-country trek in the mid-1800s. Fort Omaha, originally built as a military post in 1878, is now the main campus for Metropolitan Community College. Straddling North Omaha and Downtown is Creighton University, a well-respected Jesuit university with medical, dental, law and liberal arts programs. Located along the river is Freedom Park, a naval/military museum with an impressive outdoor display of WWII ships, submarines and military artifacts. N.P. Dodge Park offers picnicking, sports fields and a large Missouri River marina. Travel a bit west to the North Hills and you'll find wide-open spaces, grazing horses and frolicking deer. The American Gramaphone recording label is also located here. Right around the corner is Cunningham Lake, a favorite boating and fishing spot.

Northwest Omaha
Welcome to the fastest growing area in the city, the land of swing-sets and minivans, where housing developments and shopping malls occupy every corner. If Thai food is your passion, try Thai Spice. Golfers, meanwhile, will find the Champions Run, Eagle Run Golf Course, Benson Golf Course and Indian Creek Golf Course in the area. For a day in the sun, try Standing Bear Lake.

South Omaha/Bellevue
If Omaha has a melting pot of ethnicity and culture, this is it. The city's Polish, Italian, Hispanic and Czech populations have thrived here for generations. The neighborhood was considered its own city until the early 1900s. Many South Omaha residents settled here because of its proximity to the meatpacking plants, the area's main source of business. Most of these plants are long gone, having been replaced by bustling shopping centers and business parks. Some of the city's most popular attractions are located in South Omaha, including Henry Doorly Zoo, Sokol Auditorium and Hitchcock Ice Rink. If Mexican food is what you're looking for, be sure to try the enchiladas and margaritas at El Alamo. Bellevue, Nebraska's third largest city, is located just south of South Omaha. Originally a riverside fur trading post, Bellevue now boasts a thriving residential community and business district. The United States Strategic Air Command, located at Offutt Air Force Base, brings military families from all over the world to the area. Tucked in the rolling hills is Fontenelle Forest Nature Center, a lush nature reserve filled with hiking trails.

 

Entertainment abounds in Omaha. No matter what your interest, be it opera or country line dancing, you'll find an event to satisfy. Omahans love supporting local events, so you'll most likely find a sizable crowd wherever you go, but don't despair...the more the merrier! Most visitors and newly settled citizens are amazed at the breadth of the Omaha entertainment scene.

Live Music
Live music has always been an Omaha mainstay. The Omaha Symphony, lead by world-renowned music director Victor Yampolsky, consistently offers a season packed with classic symphonic fare and popular favorites. National touring acts including Elton John, Melissa Etheridge, Prince and Jackson Browne have also visited Omaha in recent yearsIf it's Sunday night, head down to Mr. Toad for some cool jazz by Luigi Inc.

Theater
Omahans love theater. Comedies, dramas, musicals, interactive theater, mysteries and children's theater: Omaha has it all. Splashy, Broadway-style touring productions find temporary homes at the Orpheum Theater , but although it's always exciting to welcome a Phantom or some Cats to town, the shows produced in Omaha often rival the best of the Great White Way. The granddaddy of local theater is the Omaha Community Playhouse, the largest community theater in the nation. If you're in town during the holidays, the Playhouse's annual production of A Christmas Carol is a must see. Other community theaters worth a peek include the Blue Barn Theater, the Bellevue Little Theatre, SNAP Productions and the Brigit St. Brigit Theatre Company. Younger audiences are welcomed with open arms at the Omaha Theater Company for Young People, one of the nation's most respected children's theaters.

Museums and Galleries
Visual art is alive and well in Omaha. Whether your tastes run toward Impressionism or Realism, you'll find an artistic feast in the many museums and galleries that dot the Midwestern landscape. All creative roads lead to the Joslyn Art Museum, an extraordinary facility with works ranging from antiquity to the present. Breathtaking collections of 19th- and 20th-century European and American art, exciting traveling exhibits, Degas' Little Dancer Aged Fourteen sculpture and a newly acquired, 35-foot-tall, multi-colored glass "tornado" by world-renowned sculptor Dale Chihuly are just a few reasons to visit this world-class museum.

The Durham Western Heritage Museum celebrates Omaha's past with an unforgettable collection of photos, artifacts and sculptures depicting River City in days gone by. For more artsy pieces, a trip to any of the city's many galleries is in order. The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and the Artists Cooperative Gallery are all worth a stop. If you're feeling patriotic, be sure to visit Freedom Park and the Strategic Air Command Museum. Don't forget the kids! The Omaha Children's Museum is as fun for grownups as it is for youngsters.

Cinema
If you'd rather view your art with a big bucket of popcorn and a Coke the size of Rhode Island, Omaha can accommodate you, too. Most of the major movie theaters are located west of 72nd Street, If megaplexes are your thing, Omaha's got them, too. If you think bigger is better, don't miss the Lozier IMAX Theater at the Henry Doorly Zoo.

Festivals
It wouldn't be summer in Omaha without Shakespeare on the Green, Jazz on the Green, the Summer Arts Festival, the Commercial Federal Celebrates America outdoor concert or the World-Herald Fireworks Extravaganza. When the leaves change from green to gold, River City Roundup, the Nebraska City Apple Jack Festival, La Festa Italiana and the many area, state and county fairs fill crisp autumn days with fun.

 

If there's one thing Omahans love to do, it's eat. You'll find more restaurants per capita in Omaha than in any other U.S. city. Most visitors come looking for steak, and they don't go away disappointed. But Omaha is more than a beef town, as the city also boasts excellent Italian, Mexican, Thai, Indian and Continental cuisine.

Downtown
If you find yourself downtown at mealtime, head to the Old Market, where you'll find everything from fine French dining to a corner hot dog stand. If you're looking for an outstanding steak dinner, try Omaha Prime, where you'll select your steak from a table-side array of cuts. For eclectic Italian, try Vivace, where big plates of homemade pasta, irresistible risottos and an extensive Italian wine list are the order of the day. M's Pub, one of Omaha's favorite spots, offers an outstanding array of options.

If you're craving a big, juicy burger and an icy cold brew, stop into Billy Froggs. For special occasions, try V. Mertz, two Old Market mainstays featuring romantic ambiance, exceptional service and some of the best food in town. Just west of the Market sits the Flatiron Cafe, the perfect place for a business lunch or a romantic dinner.  

Central
When you're ready to enjoy that famous Omaha steak, try one of the many traditional steakhouses in midtown. Anthony's Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge and Gorat's Steak House are two of the oldest and finest in the city. Locals flock to The Drover to enjoy the Whiskey Steak and the freshest salad bar around. And for a quick bite, try the Dundee Dell or Goldbergs.

West Central
A cluster of excellent restaurants is located in and around the major West Omaha shopping malls, so you don't need to hit the food court to reenergize. At Kobe Steakhouse of Japan, diners experience the art of table-side Hibachi cooking. If a more subdued atmosphere is what you have in mind, try the elegant Cafe Di Copia. For food with a little sizzle, try Stokes Grill and Bar.

Northwest
Many excellent restaurants, both new and established, are ready to serve the many residents and visitors of Northwest Omaha. A little more upscale is the Thai Spice, a wonderful choice for Thai lovers.

South Omaha
The streets of South Omaha are dotted with restaurants known and loved for generations. This area is the best place to find authentic Mexican, Italian and Old World cuisine. Put some spice in your life with the mouthwatering enchiladas, tacos and margaritas at El Alamo. Lo Sole Mio Ristorante Italiano, a neighborhood favorite, offers heaping bowls of pasta in a friendly atmosphere. South Omaha is also known for its impressive list of traditional steakhouses, including Johnny's Cafe, Cascio's and Gorat's. Another mainstay is Joe Tess Place, a greasy fish-and-fries spot popular with the locals.

Southwest
The dining options here include an exciting blend of tried-and-true eateries and newly opened cafes. Big Fred's Pizza Garden whips up a mean combo topped with "the works." Brother Sebastian's Steakhouse & Winery serves outstanding food in a dark, comfortable atmosphere. For great Indian cuisine, try the Jaipur, where the Chicken Tika Korma is out of this world. Some of the newer restaurants include the likes of Charlie's on the Lake.

Omaha

State: Nebraska

Country: United States

Omaha by the Numbers
Population: 446,600
Elevation: 1090 feet / 332 meters
Average Annual Perspiration: 31 inches / 79 centimeters
Average Annual Snowfall: 26 inches / 66 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 24°F / -4.4°C
Average July Temperature: 77°F / 25°C

Quick Facts

Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT-6; Central Standard Time (CST)

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 402; 531

Did You Know?

Omaha is the hometown of the famous actors Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando and Nick Nolte.

Orientation

Omaha is the biggest city in Nebraska and is located in the eastern part of the state near the Iowa border. Des Moines lies 126 miles (203 kilometers) to the east, Kansas City 181 miles (291 kilometers) southeast, and Denver 540 miles (869 kilometers) west.

What was once a vast expanse of prairie land and home to the native Omaha, Otoe, Pawnee and Ponca tribes is now one of the fastest growing urban areas in the Midwest. One of the first documented explorers in the area was Sieur de La Salle, a Frenchman who traveled the wilderness in the late 1600s. He named the area Louisiana and claimed the entire region, including Nebraska, in the name of France. For years, possession of the land shuffled between France and Spain, with ownership eventually granted to France by the Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1800.

Three years later, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory under the Treaty of Paris for $15 million. This acquisition opened the area for exploration and eventual colonization. Two of the first Americans to experience the beauty of this vast prairie wilderness were Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Their legendary 1804 expedition along the Missouri River brought their party of explorers to Omaha's front door when a council was held with the Otoe and Missouri Indians, in the area now known as Fort Calhoun.

When reports of Lewis and Clark's journey reached the already-tamed East Coast, adventurous men and women alike packed up their homes and families and began the treacherous trek westward. The abundance of wide-open land, the endless supplies of food and furs, and the possibility of striking gold were attractive to these dream seekers and fortune hunters. Referred to as the "Gateway to the West," Omaha had a proximity to the Missouri River that made it the perfect stopping-off point during the long journey west. The Oregon Trail crossed through Omaha, bringing millions of travelers through the area. Deep ruts carved by the covered wagons are still visible today. Mormons heading westward toward Utah set up Winter Quarters just north of town in what is now known as Florence. The harsh winter of 1846-1847 claimed more than 600 lives, and the Mormon Cemetery still stands on the site.

In 1854, the Omaha tribe relinquished its hold on the land, and with the assistance of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, the Nebraska Territory was opened for settlement. With this bill, the city of Omaha was founded. Omaha, which means "above all others upon a stream," was named for the outcast Indian tribe. Initially, housing lots were free to anyone who would make improvements on them, but within three years, these same lots were sold for $4,000 each. As more people streamed into Omaha, shops, hotels, saloons and restaurants began springing up in and around the area now known as downtown. In 1860, Omaha drew national attention when Edward Creighton, for whom Creighton University is named, strung the first telegraph wires west. The Omaha-to-San Francisco line was completed two years later. In 1863, President Lincoln chose Omaha as the eastern terminus for the first transcontinental railroad. These historic developments would impact Omaha for years to come: Omaha currently boasts more than two-dozen telecommunications centers and is considered the "800-number capital of the nation." It is also home to the Union Pacific Railroad, one of the biggest railroad organizations in the country.

Nebraska was granted statehood in 1867, at a time when Omaha's population had grown to more than 30,000. The city's astonishing growth continued with the opening of the area's first meat packing plant in 1871, the founding of Creighton University in 1878, and the formation of warehouse and shopping districts and the establishment of the Union Stockyards in the 1880s.

1888 saw the opening of Fort Crook, a military establishment that would later become part of Offutt Air Force Base, home to the Strategic Air Command. Located within the Fort Crook facility was Martin Aircraft Corporation, builder of the legendary B-29 bombers the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, and Bock's Car, which was used to drop the atomic bomb on Nagasaki three days later.

The 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition brought worldwide attention to Omaha and is considered the start of the "Golden Age" for the Nebraska farmer. In 1917, Father Edward Flanagan founded Girls and Boys Town, "a city within a city" for disadvantaged and troubled youth. Omaha continued to experience tremendous growth during the 20s, 30s and 40s. By 1948, Omaha was the largest supplier of meat products in the nation, generating more than $5 billion dollars for the city's thriving economy.

Modern-day Omaha offers the best of both worlds, in that it combines the benefits of big city life with the warmth and friendliness of a small town. With more than 700,000 citizens, the city is a cosmopolitan urban center with scores of excellent restaurants, a world-class zoo, a regional medical center, 11 colleges and an active entertainment community. Builders recently broke ground on a multi-million dollar arena/convention center located just north of downtown, a testament to the exciting future that awaits those visiting and living in Omaha.

Points of interest in Omaha, NE

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