Every once in a while I still get nostalgic for places I have been in the past. I suppose after this laid back Thanksgiving weekend enjoying my little family of two plus dogs, it seems like a good time for fond memories. Today it happens to be Omaha. Omaha has its quirks and definite down sides. It also has some gems that should anyone visit, would be well worth a visitor’s time. It appears that I enjoyed my time in Omaha without taking pictures, but the memories of the city and its gems are still vivid.
The Omaha Zoo is one of the best in the country. If you visit I would suggest a comfortable pair of shoes as you will do a lot of walking. There are so many great exhibits from the butterfly house to the penguin room with its own amphitheater. I could spend all day at the Zoo quite easily. The aquariums there are interesting. I love watching the sea life. One room I think I will continue to steer clear of is the room with the alligators. They made it look like you were in the bayou at night. Although the fences were strong, I’d rather stay away from adult alligators that close to my feet. More time for watching the dozens of penguins on the back row of the small amphitheater and enjoy them frolicking with each other. Just don’t miss out on the jungle and desert exhibits. This zoo is well worth the costs to visit and to park your car. Time and time again one of my favorite zoos ever.
Mind you when I was last there there was an historical stadium nearby which housed the Omaha Royals (now the Omaha Storm Chasers) and the College (University) World Series (Baseball). The city was well on their way to building a new stadium in the midtown area of Omaha the last time I was there. If you are interested in a Minor League baseball game, I would suggest attending a summer game at their new stadium. I prefer minor league baseball to major league baseball due to the more apparent family atmosphere and cheaper prices.
Down the road from the old stadium location and the zoo, is Old Market. Old Market is in the downtown area right next to the Missouri River. The streets are still cobblestones. There are nice small galleries, eateries, gift and clothing shops and other quirky places. Even though it too is a major tourist trap, it is well worth an afternoon or evening. In one of the older buildings, there is a hidden courtyard that seems like a secret garden. Go ahead and splurge on the horse driven carriage ride around the market. Finally, for those interested in cinema trivia, A few of George Clooney’s scenes from “Up in the Air” were filmed in Old Market.
When you have finished a nice meal and a bit of shopping in the Old Market and willing to take a bit of a walk, you can walk to the Pedestrian Bridge. It is a bridge over the Missouri River. On the bridge made mainly for pedestrians, you can have one foot in Iowa and one foot in Nebraska in the center shown by the line across the bridge where the border of Iowa and Nebraska is at over the river. Some great photos can be had from this bridge.
If you feel a bit more adventurous and willing to leave the downtown area there are other places to explore. One being a massive family owned craft store called Mangelsens. This craft store has many sections like many large box size craft stores. They have a separate entrance for the party themed items and candy shop. Right next door is a family style restaurant. In the summer a farmer sets up a temporary stand on the road side of the parking lot/car park. Some how the farmer had my favorite jelly/jam, Muscadine jelly. Muscadine grapes are local to the American South. This was an unexpected treat.
While you are there, find the Papio Creek. It is a short walk from the Craft store. It is not the prettiest creek just near by the store, but going a bit north or a bit south there are unique photo opportunities. Watch out though as it is a popular bike path.
Then again for those who love art of many generations and centuries, there is a lovely art museum. The Joslyn Art Museum is a three floors high museum of art. The entry has a massive, wonderful, hanging glass sculpture. They have different style of traveling exhibits as well. It is well worth attending their special events.
If you are more interested in seeing artist studios with art works in progress, then you need Hot Shops. They have open house events periodically in the year. You can meet the artists, see their work and even purchase an item you might like from their works for sale. This is a short drive just north of downtown/city center. It is quite cool to see the various media being worked in a single building.
If you are more interested in history and social work than art, then Boy’s Town is your stop. They have tours given by older youth that have graduated from the program. At the end of the tour they have a simple shop of post cards and other souvenirs. The tour includes Father Flanagan’s house, older dorms, the chapel and a small exhibit of antique items out of use on campus. One such item is the original post office desk from a century ago. This is still a working program with youth in the program. Confidentiality is an issue so ask before taking photos. More Omaha cinema trivia includes a movie based on Boys Town starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. Boys Town is on the western side of Omaha. It is a drive along Dodge.
These are only a few stops in the city of Omaha. Omaha has much more for different groups of people and different interests. The places I mentioned are tourist traps, but tourist traps that genuinely are worth a stop. The typical big box shops, shopping malls, chain restaurants are here as well as a host of mom and pop/family owned businesses. It is an average Midwestern city. I just wanted to share the places that could fill a long weekend in Omaha. I would recommend renting/hiring a car for the trip should you go. Just make sure you don’t get confused when Dodge Street and the companion Dodge Expressway split in western Omaha.
Bye for now.